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Nintendo 3DS Review

Available Games

The launch line-up for the Nintendo 3DS isn't particularly strong, but there is a nice variety of genres.  So while there might not be that one "killer app" must-have title, there is something for everyone in the close to twenty titles available today.  They've got sports, fighting, racing, puzzle, strategy, platforming, shooting, flying, simulation...really just a nice mix of games.

The big blockbuster titles like Zelda and Metal Gear aren't coming until later this year, but what's out now is a good indication of this platform's potential.  In addition to the boxed titles, the 3DS also includes some interesting mini-games built into the system: Face Raiders and AR (Augmented Reality) Games that are both fun for awhile at least.  While I got to demo probably six or seven different titles on the 3DS, the games my evaluation is based on are Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition and Ridge Racer 3D.

If you have played Street Fighter 4 or any Ridge Racer previously, you will know exactly what to expect (so I won't bore you with the gameplay aspect).  What I will tell you is that the addition of 3D does add a major element to the games and really takes them to the next level.

In Ridge Racer, the tracks have a real depth to them, and overtaking an opponent feels much more satisfying in 3D.  It is also very gratifying to see games that were built for 3D from the start, and don't suffer from the types of problems and anomalies that are regularly found on PC 3D games.  For these titles at least, the 3D is both natural and comfortable.  The best part is with the 3D slider, you can adjust the image to what is most comfortable for your eyes.

One great thing about the 3DS is that it's backwards compatible with standard DS games.  This means you will still be able to play your collection of DS games on this new device (or purchase new games for cheap).  

However, the 3DS does not convert these old titles into 3D.  They will look almost the same as they would on a standard DS.  I say almost because the 3DS screens are slightly higher resolution, so the games have to be up-scaled to compensate.  In some cases, this up-scaling may reduce the image quality and result in a soft look or introduce some aliasing artifacts.  While this isn't a big deal, if you have a huge DS library, you may want to think twice about trading-in your old DS to get this new model, and instead treat them as separate purchases.


Battery Life


The battery life on the 3DS is much lower than the Nintendo DS Lite.  Nintendo claims three to five hours, but my own tests resulted in just 2.5 hours of playtime.  This was split between retail games (Street Fighter 4 and Ridge Racer), the built-in games (Face Raiders, AR Games), and the camera mode (where I took about 30 pictures).  During this test, I adjusted the 3D effect between 50% and 100% at various points.  The screen was also on maximum brightness, maximum volume, and wifi was enabled.

This amount of battery life should cover a typical commute, but it doesn't leave a lot of extra juice - especially on longer trips.  A souped-up third party battery pack would be a helpful accessory.  You might be able to double the battery life by disabling a bunch of features, but this would also undermine the 3DS' appeal.

To be fair, the battery life is not significantly worse than other mobile devices with comparable graphics and these consumption numbers shouldn't be that big a surprise.  It's just that Nintendo's earlier devices performed much better in this regard, and may have set the expectations too high.