McGinnis: A look at Nintendo’s next handheld systemWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Nintendo has dominated the portable gaming market ever since the Game Boy was released in 1989. For the past two decades, the company has consistently upgraded its handheld systems — Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS and DSi — with each proving to be wildly popular. Last March, Nintendo announced the next generation, the Nintendo 3DS, and this week, confirmed an American release date: March 25.
Consumers all over the world are sure to ask questions. Let’s answer a few of them.
What is it?
It’s a portable gaming system that takes advantage of the current three-dimensional craze — except you don’t need glasses. Using “autostereoscopic” technology, the effect is generated on the screen with no eyewear necessary.
What does it look like? How do you play it?
At first glance, it looks almost identical to the current DS, with a slightly wider screen. It has similar controls to the current version, as well, right down to the touch screen at the bottom. (The 3DS will be backwards compatible and allow you to play all the older DS and DSi games.) One major addition is a second, analog controller pad.
What can it do besides play games?
Nintendo is making much of the fact that you can watch 3-D movies on the device, and have the ability to take 3-D pictures. It can also connect to the Nintendo eShop, browse the Net and more.
3-D makes my eyes hurt. Why can’t I just play regular 2-D games?
You can. The 3-D effect is easily turned off, so you can play the system’s games in 2-D.
What’s this about the 3-D effect and problems with your eyes?
Nintendo is recommending that children under 6 not play the system, and that everyone else should take breaks every 30 minutes while playing. Recent studies on the effect of the device have led to an abundance of caution, especially with children whose eyes haven’t fully developed. The American Optometric Association, though, recently stated that 3-D gaming in moderation wouldn’t harm a child’s vision.
What’s the price?
Whoa! Isn’t that high?
Depends on who you ask. It certainly seems steep when you consider that the Wii, Nintendo’s popular home console, is selling for $199. But $250 is actually about what consumer experts expected the 3DS to cost. Whether it’s too high for the general public is yet to be seen.
It’s portable, so what’s the battery life like?
According to Nintendo’s own specs, if you’re playing 3DS games and using the 3-D effect, you can expect to get about 3-5 hours of game play out of a full battery.
Um, what? That doesn’t seem like a lot.
No, it doesn’t. And that’s right out of the box, brand new. Give it a year of regular usage and that number will probably drop some more.
How long does it take to charge?
According to Nintendo, three-and-a-half hours.
Yowsa! So, it’s charge for three, play for three, lather-rinse-repeat?
No, it comes with an AC adapter so you will presumably be able to play while connected to an outlet, as well as a “charging dock” so you can download games and so forth while it’s still powering up.
What games are coming out for it?
Nintendo boasts some of the most beloved first-party franchises in gaming, and most will be strongly represented on the new handheld. They’ve already announced that new “Kid Icarus,” “Mario Karrt” and “Paper Mario” games will be released, as well as remakes of classic Nintendo 64 games like “Legend of Zelda” and “Starfox.”
Nice! So, those’ll be available when I buy the 3DS in March?
Uh, no. No release dates on any of those titles have been confirmed yet. So far, Nintendo’s only releasing three first-party titles between the 3DS launch date and June: “Pilotwings Resort,” “Nintendogs + Cats” and something called “Steel Diver.”
What about third-party titles?
There are a lot more of those (“Super Street Fighter” and “Madden” being two of the main eveners), but still, in the first three months of release, only 23 games have been confirmed — and, as noted, only three of them from Nintendo itself.
It’s still Nintendo! King of the gaming roost! There’s no reason to be worried, right?
Two words: “Virtual Boy.” This is not the first time Nintendo has released an experimental console with 3-D effects and a limited launch library. Now, given its pre-sale numbers, there’s no way that 3DS will flop as badly as the Virtual Boy did (few things could). But that one blot on gaming history may encourage some to wait a bit before committing $250 to the Big N’s latest gaming venture.
E-mail Jeff at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.