Nintendo 3DS: hands-on at the European launch

First verdict from the launch event in Amsterdam

Image 1 of 2 Nintendo 3DS
Nintendo 3DS
Image 2 of 2 Nintendo 3DS
Nintendo 3DS

3D gaming, Jonathan Ross, and more

The Nintendo 3DS is set to “change gaming,” according to Laurent Fischer, marketing director of Nintendo Europe. And based on our hands-on experience at the launch event, we’d say that looks quite possible.

-- Nintendo 3DS pictures: Hands on

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Jonathan Ross hosted the event, confirming the specs in a rehearsed exchange with Fischer. “The screen looks bigger than on my Dsi,” said Ross. “Yes, it’s 10 percent bigger,” countered Fischer. “And I’d like it to be backwards compatible so I can play all my old games on it, will that be possible?“ said Ross. And so it went on, confirming a lot of what we already knew as well as throwing a couple of surprises into the mix.

Spot Pass and Street Pass seem strange features, looking to “build communities,” according to Fischer. The idea of fighting battles in Super Street Fighter 4 3D Edition every time you pass someone on the street without even knowing it may gain you points, but it looked a little pointless to us. Surely the whole fun is in having the fight?

The only confirmed TV offerings through Spot Pass were Eurosport 3D (a strange choice for Nintendo’s diehard fan boys), and a series of one minute episodes of Aardman Animation’s Shaun The Sheep, which, the studio’s founder David Sproxton said, would arrive at the end of the year.

The Mii Maker feature promises to be more like on the Wii, and a new E-shop should offer up a selection of GameBoy Color classics for you to get your teeth into. Not that you should be bored anytime soon, with an impressive 25 games announced between the console‘s launch on March 25th and the E3 games expo in June.

So how do these first titles fare? We had a blast on a few and have to say despite our initial scepticism, we’re very impressed. Super Street Fighter 4 3D Edition stood out from the pack, thanks to its Dynamic Mode, which switches the camera angle from flat-on 2D to an over the shoulder view. The controls remain the same, but it adds a whole new immersive element to the gameplay. Rabbids was a standard side-scrolling platformer that, while not really benefiting from 3D, was decent enough, while Nintendogs and Cats (now with added cats!) unexpectedly made us chuckle, as a pooch came running out of the screen at us wanting our attention.

The 3D slider bar on the side is also a neat addition, letting you vary the degree of 3D in your game. Slide it to the top and you’re well into the third dimension (a bit much for us at first, looking like the kind of thing that’d give us a headache after half an hour or so), then you can reduce it all the way down to standard 2D. To start with somewhere in the middle was optimum, but as we got used to 3D so close and on such a small screen, pushing it to the top proved the most immersive.

An augmented reality game in which you shoot target coming out of a card placed on the table was also a lot of fun, and proved that while augmented reality has gone a bit quiet of late following last year’s hoohah, it can be used in an entertaining way. But some of the most highly anticipated games were demos only, behind glass. So we didn’t get to experience Mario Kart or Pilotwings Resort first hand, though from what we saw they look to be welcome refreshes to the classic titles.

So, all in all an impressive show from Nintendo. The 3DS shows 3D can work on a handheld, making portable gaming more immersive, though it does come at quite a hefty price. The question is, will the 3D be enough to tempt customers away from Kinect and the feted PSP Phone? Stay tuned to T3.com for a full review soon.