Nintendo 3DS: Extended Play Impressions (Star Fox is Back!)

While earlier today we had a quick hands-on with the 3DS, I've now had the chance to play a number of actual games. My verdict? It's a clever, occasionally brilliant system. And no, you haven't seen anything quite like it.

I''m going to gloss over the feel of the hardware. It's not really anything you haven't seen—in build and design feels just like a DS Lite. However, in addition to the 2D/3D slider which allows you to tweak the level of 3D depth on screen, there's a new analog nub. That nub works wonderfully—it's far, far more comfortable to use than the old D-Pad.

But maybe you're interested in 3D.

Star Fox, which wasn't shown during the press conference, seems like the type of game that the 3DS was born to play. You fly Fox McCloud's starfighter, firing laser blasts at enemies and dodging through obstacles at high speeds.

The experience translates well to the 3D screen. But I had an issue similar to the one I had when I watched certain scenes of Avatar: my eyes didn't always know where to focus.

In 2D, your eyes can focus on everything in sight. But in 3D, at least on the 3DS, I found myself focusing on multiple planes, which was bit of workout for the ol' eyes. And on top of that, my brain was a bit confused between perspective cues (objects growing larger as I approached them) and these new, stereoscopic 3D cues.

What exactly does that mean? It's simple. I crashed more than I'd expected, and keep in mind, I'm historically really, really good at Star Fox.

And it wasn't just Star Fox, the same could be said for the new Pilotwings and Kid Icarus titles. (Which to be fair are a similar type of gameplay. )

Nintendo 3DS: Extended Play Impressions (Star Fox is Back!)

But shooters are just one type of game you'll find on the 3DS. Other titles work much, much better.

Take the new Nintendogs. Just like the original Nintendogs, you can pet a virtual puppy with the stylus. But the new version on the 3D screen is considerably more engaging. There was a moment when the dog jumped up to the screen and his head actually popped out at me.

Call it cheesy, but you know what? It was really cool and it connected me to this lame virtual pet in a way I hadn't anticipated. And I may have giggled.

DJ Hero, too, was a perfect example of what games on the 3DS could do at their best. Whether it was the crisp logo magically floating from the screen or the turntable notes flying toward me, I was seriously impressed. And while the 3D had nothing to do with gamplay (as toggling the 3D slider proves), it was an effect that, once I saw it, I didn't want to lose.

Metal Gear Solid? Glancing around the jungle, spotting a snake? Not quite terrifying, but you know, neat!

And the 3D animated movie clip I watched—sorry, I don't remember the name, it involved a princess and stuff though—looked fantastic. I could imagine watching a mini Shrek 3D on the thing and finding it intolerable only for the diminutive size of the screen (and the fact that I'm not all that into ogre fart humor).

Even though the system's increased processing power hasn't created the games that look leagues better in terms of texture and resolution, the most clever 3D designs were still pretty remarkable. Holding a little 3D screen in your hands has moments of immeasurable cool.

As I finished up this article after playing or watching every last demo Nintendo had available, my astigmatism flared up a bit. Jumping game to game was a bit exhausting, just as it can be in movies. (Literally. I can't focus on this text as I type it.) I imagine many will find themselves begrudgingly turning off the 3D, torn between amusing visuals and functional eyesight.

Yet I'm happy to say with confidence: Just as Nintendo changed the industry with the imperfect but watershed Wiimote, they've undeniably done the same with the 3DS. Holding a 3D display without any stupid glasses is what we'll all be doing soon, whether we buy the 3DS or not.

Illustration: Wendy MacNaughton

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