August 3rd, 2010, 21:12 Posted By: wraggster
I'll admit it: At first, as my clammy hands clutch its radiant wide screen, I'm not blown away by the Nintendo 3DS.
I'm taking in the new Mario Kart. Of course, it looks great - and, lo and behold, is in full 3D without the need for glasses.
But that's what I expect to happen, having chomped my way through a million and one E3 hands-on write ups.
Where's the jaw-dropping, the mystifying... the magic? Is the impressive-if-functional experience before me really enough to justify another Ł200+ handheld?
Nintendo's been coy on the price, but we know 3DS is going to be in the current range's 'architecture' - so it doesn't take a genius to work out the hit my wallet will have to take come launch day.
Before I know it, however, boulders and baddies started falling towards the screen. As Mario and Luigi screech out of the various obstacles' paths - and the former lobs a pin-perfect banana on his Brother's bonce - I get it. The 3DS's sorcery has claimed another victim.
The 3DS isn't about making old games prettier, I realise; it's about adding a whole new layer of depth to how we play, judge and perceive video game worlds.
In 3D, you can accurately judge the distance of an upcoming checkpoint, ramp or projectile. Timing a corner perfectly in a racing game becomes that much more natural; platforming suddenly feels tangible.
Those lucky (and wealthy) enough to own a 3DTV will know all this already, of course - but in my experience, the 3DS's brand of 3D seems even more fulfilling than the glasses-dependant equivalent.
Of the games and videos I try, the most impressive are Resident Evil - which looks absolutely stunning - and Kid Icarus, whose developers have evidently had longer than anyone else to get to grips with the hardware.
As I play on, many elements of the 3DS hardware itself surprises me. For one, the 3D slider doesn't work like the significant depth-tweaking tool I expect, but rather a 'tuner' to set the 3D effect just right for your eyes.
I can't see bugger all to begin with, but setting the 3D slider to about the halfway point provided a perfect effect, free of the distortion caused by having it up full whack.
The slide pad (that's the 3DS's version of a thumbstick) feels far better than the shallow 'clicky' experience I predicted.
Although there aren't really any games on show at my London demo frantic enough to demand a workout of the kit, the 3DS slide pad is not disorientating to use. Indeed, it feels more precise than the PSP's often cumbersome thumb nub.
On that subject, there sadly isn't much for press to actually play on 3DS yet - it's all mostly interactive 'videos'.
Pilotwings, however, is one impressive hands-on demo available. Flying through hoops in 3D is a whole lot easier than it was on Super Nintendo.
The new game takes place on Wuhu Island, which you may remember from Wii Sports Resort. The demo allowed two short challenges, one involving the aforementioned plane-and-hoop trial, and another involving popping balloons with a jetpack.
The sense of momentum added to this style of game by the 3DS is what first grabs you. Jetting over a building feels more physical. It opens my eyes to the potential for a whole tonne of classics to be reinvigorated by the extra perspective.
The second game I properly 'play' isn't exactly hardcore - Nintendogs + Cats. Despite the name, there's no felines in this demo. It shows off another of the 3DS's features: facial recognition.
Calling over my pup and sticking my mug close to the screen causes him to 'lick' my face. Likewise, tilting my head causes him to do the same (though buggering up the 3D illusion slightly in the process, admittedly). I make a firm decision: I'm NOT going to be playing this on the tube.
As you can probably imagine, lobbing a tennis ball, swinging a Frisbee and hoofing a boomerang become instantly more compelling when enhanced by Nintendo's gorgeous tech.
The question is, will developers explore the potential gameplay enhancements 3D could introduce - such as those seen in Pilotwings - or will they simply put out a bundle of gimmicks?
It's too early to make a final judgement at this stage, with a lack of hands-on demos throwing up a big question mark: After all, it's much easier to make 3D gaming look revolutionary with an on-rails video.
What's for certain is that the 3DS is the most exciting thing to happen to gaming in a long time. And if I was to put my money on anyone getting it right - and offering that all-important value for money - it'd be Nintendo.
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