Today Nintendo gave U.S. consumers what they’ve been waiting for: the release date and price for their highly anticipated 3DS handheld. Fans won’t have to wait long either as the 3DS will be creating a tsunami of excitement when it graces store shelves on March 27th, 2011. With a suggested retail price of $249.99, and available in two colors, Cosmo Black and Aqua Blue, this handheld is not only more affordable than originally expected, but the lower price will definitely ensure that it will become another notch in Nintendo’s belt of success.
Nintendo of America’s ever-charismatic President Reggie Fils-Amie says that the Nintendo 3DS is “a category of one – the experience simply doesn’t exist anywhere else. You have to see Nintendo 3DS to believe it. And it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.” Even though I’ve never had a chance to get my hands on a 3DS, I believe him, and everyone else should too. Nintendo has an impressive track record, and without them we might not have the gaming technology that we do today. It is their constant innovation, and the imagination of key individuals like Shigeru Miyamoto, that help keep the Nintendo train chugging along.
Since the first Nintendo handheld hit the market decades ago they’ve dominated the scene with a fierce kung-fu grip. We saw the SEGA Game Gear get tossed around like a rag doll, the N-Gage fail miserably, and even Sony’s PSP can’t come close to competing with their numbers. It’s abundantly clear that Nintendo and their handhelds are here to stay. The 3DS can only further solidify their place in the gaming industry and prove to everybody that they’re not going anywhere any time soon.
Like the DS handhelds that are on store shelves right now, the 3DS will have two screens. The bottom will be a touch screen that will use a telescoping stylus that comes with the handheld, and the top will display crisp 3D graphics without the use of glasses or other accessories. There have been reports that children under the age of 6 shouldn’t use the device as it may cause permanent damage to their developing eyesight, and then there is the warning that grown adults should only use the 3D for thirty minutes at a time so that their eyesight isn’t strained or potentially damaged. Does it seem likely that people will heed those warnings? Probably not, but at least the information is out there and hopefully this doesn’t turn into another Virtual Boy incident.
One thing in Nintendo’s favor is that they put a slider on the device so that customers can control the level of 3D and gauge what is comfortable for their eyes, rather than having a default 3D setting that can’t be changed. Allowing the customer to decide is huge, especially because the 3D effect can be completely removed and standard 2D gaming can take place. Having that option, even though it might seem trivial to some, allows the device to become more accessible. Parents won’t feel like they’re wasting their money on a 3D-only device, and if they have younger children it is a device that they can grow in to and share with older siblings.
The standard d-pad remains but there is also the inclusion of an analog button that will give players 360 degrees of control. For gamers wanting to play platformers and action games, the new button will be a godsend. There is also a built-in motion and gyro sensor so that when gamers are playing a title, like Super Monkey Ball 3D by SEGA for example, they can control the characters and environments by gently moving the device from side to side and front to back.
Acknowledging that multi-player and online functionality is huge in the market right now, Nintendo has added a couple of features in the 3DS so that gamers can gain bonuses even while doing something like walking around. The StreetPass feature, that has to be manually activated by the owner, allows the device to exchange and transfer information to other devices that are around. Mii stats, bonuses, data, maps for games, high scores, and more can be transfered quickly. SpotPass will allow the owner to connect their device at public hotspots or at home through their wireless internet, even if the device is in Sleep Mode. With SpotPass activated, the device will continue to receive content on a regular basis.
The 3DS will come pre-loaded with games and features as well, making the device a unique experience straight out of the box. One fun feature is the 3DS camera. The 3DS comes with 3 cameras, one facing the gamer and the other two facing outwards. The camera facing the gamer will act as a regular camera, however the other two on the back allow the user to take 3D pictures with the push of a button. One built-in game, Face Raiders, has users and their friends taking funny pictures of themselves making crazy and amusing faces. That one game alone will easily be a blast with younger kids as they have a tendency to constantly make silly faces.
And while the features I’ve already listed are understandably impressive, Nintendo seems to have picked up a thing or two from those infomercials when the “but wait, there’s more!” tagline is enthusiastically yelled out. There will be the Mii Maker where you can create a Mii or transfer the one you already have if you own a Nintendo Wii; the Nintendo eShop which will be just like DSiWare, but will include games specifically made for the 3DS device; built-in parental controls that allow parents to control the games their children can play based on ratings, and also shut off the 3D function completely so that they don’t have to worry about their children enabling it; a single friend code that gamers can give to others that will be good for the entire device, not for individual games thus simplifying the process to become a friend; and a slot for an SD memory card so that DSi and DSi XL owners can easily transfer over their save data and purchases to their new device.
Between the launch of the 3DS and the E3 Expo that takes place in early June, more than 30 titles will be released for the 3DS, giving gamers a nice beginning catalog to choose from. Some titles, like Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D by Capcom, have been known for months and have already built up a lot of hype. Gamers can delight in the fact that a new Animal Crossing, Mario Kart, Paper Mario, Kid Icarus, Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, and more will be available to them in the coming months.
So, to do a quick re-cap, the Nintendo 3DS (which I predict will be one of the biggest things to happen in 2011) will be coming to a store near you on March 27th for a mere $249.99. If you want to get your hands on one, I highly suggest you go to whatever game store you have in your town and reserve one because, if we’ve learned anything from past Nintendo launches, it’s that they like to create a lot of demand by shipping out limited quantities at a time.