By Andres Hernandez
Nintendo has been the brand-name in the video game industry for over 20 years, and at one time the word “Nintendo” was synonymous with the action of playing video games. Although Sony and Microsoft have both carved out chunks of the market for themselves, Nintendo continues to be the company consistently innovating in this field.
Even back in the 80’s, the original NES came packaged with a light-gun and a battery-controlled robot, R.O.B., that could play the 2nd player on select games. A few years later, Nintendo released the PowerPad, a mat you could step on to control certain titles (most notably Track & Field). Dating back three decades, Nintendo was pushing the envelope with what it meant to play video games.
Fast-forward to 2011, and Nintendo remains the trend-setter when it comes to innovation. Their introduction of a touch screen on the Nintendo DS ushered in the era of “touch gaming” long before smart-phones capitalized on the craze. Their widely popular Wii console has changed the face of gaming, and inspired Microsoft and Sony to implement their own motion-control peripherals (with varying success). Now Nintendo has done it again by opening the doors of 3D gaming to a wide audience with their release of the Nintendo 3DS…but is it just a gimmick or is the 3DS truly the revolutionary device Nintendo claims it to be? Today we find out!
The Nintendo 3DS is very much an evolution of the DS brand. If you already own a DS, or have played one, then you will know what to expect from a physical standpoint. In terms of size, the 3DS is similar to the DS Lite, and sticks with the same tried-and-true form factor. However, there are some important distinctions.
First there is the circle-pad, a small analog control stick. This functions well and has a nice grip to it. Still probably not as good as a home console controller, but very nice by portable standards. The digital D-pad is now pushed down lower on the face of the console. While it is usable in this position, it is not optimal, and it can be a struggle to work with at times. Fortunately, most of the current 3DS games seem to use the analog-stick as the main directional control, so it may not be necessary to use the D-pad at all.
On the right side are the standard 4 buttons, no change here. There are also the L(eft) and R(ight) triggers that feel improved over the original DS version. In the center we have the touch screen which is similar to the older DS, but at a higher resolution. Underneath that, there are three small buttons: “select”, “start”, and “home”. At first I thought they were capacitive touch buttons like on smart-phones, but they are just regular buttons with a soft plastic overlay on them. They are slightly hard to press, which could be good or bad depending on how you look at it.
On the top half is a 3.5″ auto-stereoscopic 3D screen which is based on a “parallax barrier”. This display has a total resolution of 800×240 pixels, but the parallax barrier splits this between eyes so you end up with a resolution of 400×240 per eye (WQVGA). The parallax barrier works by using a monochrome LCD panel on top of the standard color LCD. This barrier panel then displays a series of vertical lines that act to block portions of the display from one eye or the other. With a specially crafted image on the color screen, the display can then direct one view of a virtual world to your left eye, and a separate view to your right eye. This image separation process is what creates the 3D effect. This is a similar idea to how 3D glasses work as they also have to filter a unique image to each eye.
Nintendo has included all the basic stuff you would expect like a microphone, power button, and volume slider. New additions include the 3D depth slider, an SD card slot, a wireless switch, an IR port, 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, and of course…the cameras.
The 3DS includes no less than THREE cameras. One front-facing camera, and an additional two cameras on the back for stereoscopic 3D capture. Finally, there is the new telescoping stylus. The new stylus feels very high quality, being made of metal, and works just as well as previous DS models.