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E3 2010: Hands-on with Nintendo 3DS

Barely announced 24 hours ago, the Nintendo 3DS already has over70 gamesin development. And even more shockingly, several of them are on display right now on the E3 2010 showfloor. Some are actual games, some are trailers, some are target demos, but the point is there’s so much going on for a system that’s not even a week old.

I was able to duck behind the scenes and play/watch/gasp at the new tech plus a handful of the bigger titles.

The system

We’ve mentioned this already, but the glasses-free 3D effect really does work. The moment you approach the machine it’s like peering into a window, not so much a screen. There’s genuine depth with objects and backgrounds yet there’s next to no eye strain even on the “highest” 3D setting. The slider on the right that adjusts the level of 3D can be totally turned off, which literally turns the screen back into standard 2D DS mode. Honestly, it’s really something to see, and ensures regular Nintendo DS games will still play on the handheld.

The only complaints I can lodge at the moment are the analog pad and objects that “pop out.” The pad is somewhere in between a typical Wii/PS3/360 stick and the PSP’s horrible nub. It’s not quite as responsive as I’d like, something I became mostly aware of during the Star Fox 64 session. Obviously the unit on display will not be final, so that’s not even necessarily an issue.

As for “pop out” objects, I’m referring to 3D effects that are meant to leap out instead of sink in. Sometimes these things, be it an enemy, structure or whatever, would not only block your view (as with any in-game camera) but also mess with your perception. Again, it’s hardly finished, and those are the only two aspects I wasn’t 100% on. More like 80%.

Oh, if you want some specs:

Size: Approximately 5.3 inches wide, 2.9 inches long, 0.8 inches tall

Top screen: 3.53-inch widescreen LCD display with 800x240 pixel resolution (400 pixels are allocated for each eye to enable 3D viewing).

Bottom screen: 3.02-inch LCD with 320x240 pixel resolution with a touch screen.

Camera: One inner camera and two outer cameras with 640x480 (0.3 Mega) pixel resolution

Pilotwings Resort

This demo consisted of two aerial tests, one in a plane and the other in the rocket pack found in the SNES original. Flying around with the plane was appropriately slow and sort of sim-like as it hummed through various glowing circles. The analog stick handled this fairly well, and the 3D view of the picturesque island really sold the “resort” experience.

The jet pack is a bit tougher to handle, but with practice you can make some really daring near-misses with the ground and surrounding buildings. The goal here was to pop several floating balloons, and the 3D effect made dipping in and out of the resort town a bit more immersive than a typical flat screen. It may sound like boring, plebian stuff, but the test-based, timed gameplay of the SNES/N64 games is far more fun when you’re doing it and not reading about it.

Star Fox 64 3DS

A seemingly perfect port of the N64 classic, now with 3D depth and a far crisper visual presentation. There appeared to be a few extra graphical touches here and there, but by and large it was a crystal-clear port. Like I said earlier the 3DS’ analog pad-thing isn’t on par with the N64’s, so I hope to see some revisions.

Next page: Paper Mario, Metal Gear, Kid Icarus and more!