E3: Nintendo’s Third Dimension

Yesterday we looked at Playstation Plus, Sony’s first venture into a premium online network model similar to Xbox Live (only in the fact you have to pay, mind). But that wasn’t particularly meaty, E3 dished out some far more dramatic announcements. Perhaps none more so than Nintendo’s unveiling of its 3DS. So lets talk about that.

The DS has been an outrageous success, there’s no two ways about it. Much like each of the Gameboy and Gameboy Advance  before it, the DS has sold like shares in BP haven’t: massively. Whilst Nintendo have sometimes struggled with their home consoles, they’ve ruthlessly dominated the handheld market but almost six years after it first went on sale, and after 4 iterations, it’s time to say goodbye to the DS. Seeya.

And so it was, Satoru Iwata took to the stage during the finale of Nintendo’s already impressive E3 conference to reveal the 3DS. But not before Reggie Fils-Aime had a sly dig at Sony’s alternate take on the 3-dimensional future:

“There’s nothing to watch yet or play on big screen 3D. But most of all, it’s the glasses. Man, those glasses!” Ouch. “And that kind of fashion forward statement doesn’t come cheap.” He’s right, a quick Google search reveals prices between £59.99-89.99 a pair. “We think there’s a better way…” Oh yeah? “Take 3D along with you wherever you go.” And you know, I agree! Just look at the price of 3DTV right now. It just isn’t going to penetrate the mass market with a buy-in price flirting with four figures, no decimal points.

But back to the 3DS. Despite the slightly misleading name, this is the fourth generation of Nintendo’s handheld console, a brand new one that just happens to share 66% of its predecessors name and 90% of its looks. But hey, the DS (at least all models excluding the original) sure was pretty.

Of course firstly there’s the small matter of the 3D, which is all left to the top larger screen (measuring in at a tantalising 3.5 inches) and thankfully requires no glasses to experience the magic. All reports so far suggest the 3D is nothing short of incredible and while it’s almost impossible to tell from images and youtube handicam videos, all hands are pointing towards the 3DS being fantastic on the 3D front.

The bottom screen houses the familiar, now much less interesting touch panel and below that reside the select, home and start buttons – hinting toward the possibility that the 3DS has a home hub similar to that of the Wii’s. Certainly elements like the camera (which can, crazily, capture images in 3D) and the device’s ability to play 3D movies would suggest such an inclusion is very likely.

The second noticeable difference between the DS and the 3DS is the analogue stick, or the “Slide Pad” as Nintendo are calling it. Stealing the place of the D-Pad, which has been relegated to the lower left corner, its inclusion is one designed to coincide with the enhanced graphics which allow for 3D game worlds – the Mario 64 remake on the DS showed how difficult it was controlling a character in a 3D world with just a D-Pad, so the inclusion of an analogue nub is by no means surprising. It is, however, exciting.

A new inclusion hidden from the naked eye is the motion sensor and gyroscope, so if there isn’t a DSiWare (or its 3DS equivalent) version of DoodleJump I’ll personally write a heated letter of complaint to Lima Sky. Motion sensor control just opens up more options to developers. A 3D version of Flower, for example, would be very special (although, obviously, never going to happen outside of Sony’s console, so they should get on that).

Nintendo made little mention of battery life, perhaps only the second biggest concern after price and release date, but did say they were aiming to match that of the DSi, which is anywhere from about 3-12 hours depending on the brightness. Assuming the 3D element drains battery life quite rapidly, 12 hours of battery would be an impressive achievement.

True to their own fashion, Nintendo went on to announce a number of remakes and sequels already in the works to be released alongside the 3DS (which is rumoured to be hitting store shelves before the end of this fiscal year, fingers crossed for the holiday period then). Animal Crossing, Nintendogs (and cats, no word on whether they can live together), Star Fox 64, The Ocarina of Time, Paper Mario and Mario Kart have all been announced while over 20 third party developers are on board, sailing for 3D waters already. Capcom have iterations of Resident Evil (awesome) and Super Street Fighter (curious) in the  pipeline, Harmonix are working on a secret title and after the brilliance of Rock Band: Unplugged that’s surely an exciting prospect. Konami are bringing Solid Snake into the third dimension with Metal Gear Solid 3 whilst Sega work, predictably, on Sonic and the loveable Super Monkey Ball franchise.

Simply put, this could be very, very good indeed.

Those lucky enough to be in attendance at E3 had the chance to play the 3DS for themselves. The consoles were, rather awkwardly I imagine, each attached to the waist of a pretty lady so had any budding thief tried to make off with one, they’d have bagged themselves both one of gaming’s most exciting upcoming releases and a hostage for making the getaway that bit easier. But they probably wouldn’t have got very far anyway, I imagine the 3DS area was just a little bit busy.

As far as E3 has gone for me, the 3DS is the standout announcement to emerge from any of the conferences. And with none of the tackiness of Kinect or unwarranted swagger of Move! Paint me furiously anticipative.

 

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