Hands-On: Nintendo UK 3DS Launch Event

It was typical Manchester weather: pouring rain. Still, I braved the conditions and headed out to The Cube Studio to get my hands on a Nintendo 3DS. All over the place were the words “Seeing is Believing” – I saw, and I definitely did believe.

We were taken into a room with a strange interactive floor that created squares around your feet, where our host read out the introduction to the event that was so cheesily written that she seemed embarrassed to say it. We were then led into a room that had a distinct Street Fighter feel to it. There we witnessed a real-life fight between Ryu and Ken which was rather impressive as the moves in the routine seemed to be the same ones as in the game (the possible moves, anyway). It ended with the both performing an invisible Hadouken on each other. We were quickly taken into the next room in smaller groups.

“GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR” – There were Chris and Claire with guns pointed at us. They gave us a deadly serious speech about how we had to stick together as the next area was infected. So we slowly trawled through the next room while zombies tried to grab us – the amount of effort gone into these sections was rather surprising and it was all good fun, if a bit cheesy. The staff were very much in character, despite the amount of times they would have been through the routine already.

Then we had to sit through a boring 2D trailer of upcoming 3DS games. The only footage I didn’t recall seeing before was some Splinter Cell footage, which had a really choppy framerate. We then got a pre-recorded message from Jonathan Ross with his views on the 3DS. After we sat on that, we were finally able to play the thing.

The console

I didn’t have a lot of time to inspect the console – we had 10 minutes in the first room, although I can say that it was completely natural to hold in my hands. For the most part I didn’t have to think about the controls and the circle pad was instantly usable. The machine is very light and comfortable to hold. Nothing surprising there.

3D

I was very skeptical about the 3D even working and for a few seconds that felt like ages, I thought that my suspicions had been confirmed: My first view of a 3DS game was a horrendous double image of Super Street Fighter 4. However, after fiddling with the analogue slider and focusing on the image the two images merged and I was looking at what can best described as “a window into the world of the game.” It really is something you have to see for yourself. Everything on the screen looks like a physical object that you could grab and pull out of the screen.

The analogue slider was a very wise addition as the best level of 3D seems to be different from person to person. I also found that it seemed to be best at different levels for different games. Other than some games, like Street Fighter, appearing as a blurry mess on full settings (for most people it will likely look great on full), the difference in the depth wasn’t very noticeable. I also noticed that lower settings were quicker to focus on. When you switch it all the way to 3D the difference is shocking as everything just looks flat.

Super Street Fighter 4

As we only had a limited amount of time, I only went through one match. I chose the angled camera view. After the first round (I spent it getting setting up the correct 3D level and then just gawking at it) I was able to play it just as well as the Xbox 360 version, which admittedly is very badly, as the view was more than usable: there seemed to be no disadvantage as it was very easy to judge difference. As the view also makes the game feel a lot closer it also looks a lot better than the boring old side-view.

Pilotwings

I’ve only played the plane mode on Wii Sports Resort about two or three times and sadly my first thought was “I’ve been here before.” I opted for the two-minute free mode and I headed for the volcano straight away. It was much easier to control with the circle pad than the Wii Remote, and judging how far away you are from objects was very easy. Flying straight down into the volcano you can easily tell how far you are from the fiery pits below and turn the plane just in time. Aiming for arches and tunnels is also a complete doddle with the 3D and better controls.

Ridge Racer

I had a bit of a control issue at first and I started the race in reverse. Turns out that I was holding the wrong button. I was expecting A to accelerate, turns out that you need to use B for that. Ridge Racer 3DS feels a lot like a circuit-based Outrun, you start off last and you have to overtake everyone until all three laps are up. The wild drifting is also very reminiscent of Outrun. It was a lot of fun and the 3D really adds a lot of depth to the passing cars and the roadside objects are much more prominent.

Super Monkey Ball

Seeing the whole level tilt in 3D is a joy to look at, and it’s wonderful to be playing Super Monkey Ball with an analogue stick again. I was only able to try a few of the starter levels in this mode but the controls feel very precise. I took a risk and decided to see what it was like with motion controls. It loaded up and I tilted the console forward. I nearly physically fainted – the screen went very blurry with the two images becoming around a full centimetre away from each other (which is a lot more than it sounds like). It’s completely nauseating and unplayable. On top of this, the game also adds a trench to the level to “aid” you – keep in mind that the first few levels are either “go forward” or L-shaped. Sega don’t have much faith in the motion controls as they think people need help with moving forward a few metres. Thankfully, the motion controls are completely optional.

Augmented Reality

One of the highlights of the day. While the setup was really badly done (the table was tiny, the 3DS was tied down and the stand kept getting in the way) it was very impressive. First of all, a cube popped out of the AR Card and you actually can look at it from any direction. You then have to aim the 3DS at the target and shoot it. After shooting some more cubes a few targets appeared, as well as a large hole in the table with another target hidden in it – you need to look from above in order to see the hole. Some of the transition effects are freakishly impressive – for one of them a whole chunk of the table rotated to reveal a hidden target range, and watching a box unfold while you look at it from different angles just has a massive “wow” factor to it. I actually looked around the 3DS to reassure myself that the table wasn’t actually warping out of place.

Face Raiders

At first, I thought this was similar to Augmented Reality games I’ve played on the DSi and my phone. That was until one of the targets (which had my face on it) managed to get a way and literally broke a hole into reality – you could see into the space behind our reality and into the world created by the game. Eerily, it remembers exactly where these cracks are in reality so when you move the 3DS to another target and move back to where the hole is, it’s still in the same place. It’s an effect that is really hard to look into words. All I can say is from that point on, the same was simply stunning.

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