If you have been keeping current with what is going on in the portable gaming scene, you no doubt know that Nintendo will be releasing its next handheld, the 3DS, by March 2011. While the device will offer an array of new features not seen in any previous incarnation of the current DS, it is obvious by the name that the biggest selling point will be the fact that it offers stereoscopic 3D images without the need to wear glasses. That’s right. Unlike any other 3D display currently available for gaming, you will not need any additional hardware in order to experience glorious 3D gaming right in the palm of your hand.
There always is a catch, isn’t there? Well, the catch with the 3DS is that you must be viewing the device straight-on in order to see the effects of 3D. That’s right. Nintendo’s latest device has a ‘sweet spot’. Look at the screen from too far on either side and you will end up with anything from ‘not quite right’ to full on blurry images, depending on the angle. Luckily there is a wide enough range which allows for a certain amount of freedom. But what about playing with friends? That will not really be in the cards unless they decide to stand directly behind you and peer over your shoulder.
By now you might be asking yourself, “Will I have to worry about positioning my 3DS just right every time I play?” And the short answer to that question is yes. Yes you will. But is that so bad? No. No it is not. And the main reason why I say that is because that is how one typically holds such a device while using it. It is not as if you are expected to position it in an unnatural way or do anything out of the ordinary. Play it as you normally would, and you will be seeing all it has to offer without thinking twice about it.
What has changed with the 3DS is that Nintendo is forced to position it as more of a personalized experience, which is a complete 180 from what they were trying to do with the DSi XL, which was marketed as a system where others can join in and watch your playing experience. But as Nintendo has surely accepted, it is either that or do not make the 3DS at all. And with portable gaming, let us face it, for the most part it is a very personal experience versus what one might expect from a home console where everyone can gather around the couch and play together.
Of course there will be naysayers. Skeptics will surely view this as a negative about the device, and truth be told it is. But every piece of hardware has its drawbacks. Of course that is not necessarily the best excuse, but one must remember that with the 3DS you are getting fully realized stereoscopic 3D images without wearing any glasses! That is quite a breakthrough no matter how you put it. Personally, I would rather have to stay within a ‘sweet spot’ when viewing 3D than have to wear cumbersome glasses every time, which I can see getting old really fast. Once every few months in the theatres is fine, but daily? No thank you.
Now about the issue of playing with others. As mentioned, it will be one of the drawbacks for the 3D aspect of the 3DS. However, all is not lost. I, for one, do occasionally enjoy looking onto the screen of my significant other while they play a game on the DSi; maybe we will solve a sudoku or crossword together. In cases like these, it will definitely still be a possibility thanks to a neat little feature of the device. The 3DS offers a slider on the top screen that lets you adjust the intensity of the 3D effect. Turn it all the way up for ‘eye popping’ effects, and conversely all the way down, which will bring you back to good old fashioned 2D. That’s right, Nintendo realizes that 3D will not be for everyone and has conveniently enabled users to adjust it to their liking.
Because 3D is just an effect and for the most part should not affect the actual gameplay, all games should still be able to be enjoyed in 2D if one should desire – which happens to fit perfectly into the scenario of sharing a game with someone on the new device. Remember, the 3DS will offer better graphics, a new control scheme, an internal gyroscope, and more. 3D is like another option. And while a great option at that, it is not a necessity to play the games. Sure, I will have my 3D turned on most of the time, but if the situation calls for it, it is nice to know I can switch it off at any time.
It is good to know what you are getting into any time you invest in a new piece of hardware, gaming or otherwise. For me, the ‘sweet spot’ of the 3DS is not a deal breaker. I am aware of it, and I will probably even notice it from time to time while playing. I also know it is part of the territory for where we are technologically with 3D in this day and age. Judging from the numerous hands-on experiences coming out of E3 and the recent London event, it is nothing to be really concerned about for most gamers. It has been mentioned by a few, sure, but as more of a note than a serious obstacle. I know I will be lining up on day one ready to enjoy a whole new type of gaming!