Nintendo’s 3DS: Looking Into the Next Dimension

Here at Warp Zoned, we believe in staying up-to-date with the current consoles and handhelds. We believe in this so much that roughly 25% of us swallowed our pride and bought the Nintendo 3DS. Okay, really it was just Senior Editor Nicole Kline and Podcast Producer Ryan Littlefield. But the 3DS has been available to the public for three months, and we thought we would take this opportunity to weigh in on what we like, what we don’t like, and where we think Nintendo might take the handheld in its inevitable revision.

The Negative

3DS’ Wobble But They Don’t Fall Down
Ryan – This is a problem that might date a little further back – ever since I upgraded to a DSi XL from my DS Lite, I noticed that the upper screen’s hinge did wiggle a little. I’m not one to frantically shake my DS around while playing, so I don’t often have to worry about it closing on me. All I know is that the DS Lite’s hinge was much tighter, and had much more of a “click-in” sound than the DSi XL or the 3DS. This could get tricky on the 3DS when you’re using the built-in gyroscope with AR games like Face Raiders) or shooting Skulltulas in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.

Nicole – I never had a wobbly DS before the 3DS, and I can’t stand it! It drives me crazy. I play my 3DS everywhere, including on bumpy bus rides and laying down in bed, so I notice whenever anything moves even a fraction – and this is not a fraction. It’s frustrating when I’m playing Dream Trigger 3D especially, because that game is intense and requires a lot of complicated hand-eye coordination, and the last thing a player needs is to have the top screen move even a little, especially when any movement can slip you out of focus of the 3D.

Get a Grip!
Ryan – This one is starting to affect me. After playing some Rayman 3D and Ocarina 3D, I’ve been running forward in these games a lot. Are my fingers too big? Is the nub too small? Do I need to start going on some weird finger-nutrition/diet system? I’m not sure, but I think the culprit might be that little analog nub. There’s no grip on it! I put my finger on it, push forward, and my thumb slides off like I put Vaseline on it! And last I checked, I didn’t! Sure, it’s a small thing to complain about, but do I need to pad my analog stick with sandpaper to be able to run around in a platformer game?

Nicole – I didn’t really even use the analog nub at first because I didn’t like how smooth the top of it was, and I also didn’t like how it felt like it was almost too precise, moving my Pokemon trainers every which way. But then, again, Dream Trigger 3D came along, in which the directionals and the shoulder buttons are the only things you’re using – along with the stylus. In order to weave this tricky web, you have to hold the 3DS with your left hand, move your character with the nub, and use the left shoulder button, while using the stylus with your right hand. This doesn’t just cramp up your hand – it makes your thumb feel like it’s on fire after a short time, mainly because you’re pressing down on the nub so hard just to make sure your thumb doesn’t slip off. I think Ryan’s sandpaper idea is a good one!

Ah, Now That’s the Spot!
Ryan – The 3DS definitely has a pretty small margin of error when talking about the system’s 3D “sweet spot.” Anyone who’s played one firsthand knows that there’s a certain distance, a certain tilt, and a certain eye-squinty, brain-switch-around vision-modifier you have to employ when looking at the top screen too. (Google the Magic Eye books more a more analog example of what I mean.) I guess that’s all right, and it’s part of the system’s… well, “genius,” but maybe the next iteration of the 3DS should have a wider viewing angle, if at all possible.

Nicole – Can’t you see the schooner, Ryan? I mean… yes, it can be very difficult to find and keep that sweet spot, unless you sit perfectly still at all times – which, as I already pointed out, I can’t do on a bumpy bus ride or when I’m laying in bed, holding my 3DS up, and my cat decides to be a jerk and rub his face on it, effectively killing me and making me start the level all over again, throbbing thumb and all. Wait, what were we talking about? Oh, right! The 3D sweet spot. As Ryan mentioned, Magic Eye books are the perfect comparison to this – try moving that around an inch or two while you’re trying to see the 3D and see how well that works out for you.

What Is That I Don’t Even…?
Ryan – Alright, this is a somewhat stupid complaint, but coming from me, the owner of the DSi XL, going back to the tiny screens is a bit… well, infuriating. Oh, did that come out wrong? I meant daunting. No one wants to carry around a giant DSi XL, because as Mike Gutierrez would say, that doesn’t help in making it the “ultimate portable portable.” I guess I’m the only person with giant pockets ’round these parts. But returning to the DS Lite-sized screens is a bit underwhelming, especially when trying to revive a classic game like Ocarina, which deserves so much more breathing room.

Nicole – I had the Cadillac of handhelds, the matte black DSi, and I can tell you for sure – that thing doesn’t wobble at all. Oh, wait, I mean… the screen. I personally love the DSi XL, but felt that since I already had three DSes (and now four because I have a 3DS!), I couldn’t justify getting the DSi XL. If someone wants to distract Ryan while I steal his, though… *puts on JNCO jeans*

Got Nothin’ On the Energizer Bunny
Ryan – Battery life is the nemesis of portable device developers everywhere. That’s all been said. It’s hard to say that any handheld device of any kind really has great battery life. Shouldn’t they just last forever? Seriously though, the 3DS – with all of its wireless, Wi-Fi, StreetPass, SpotPass, Infrared, BlueTooth, Dark Energy Radar, Can Opener, Laser Eye Surgery Capabilities, and Hidden Video Camera (I may have made up those last five) – should have a little more staying power, all things considered. Oftentimes I’ll bring my 3DS with me for a day out on the road, fully charged, and I won’t even play it. I’ll just walk around for the StreetPass notifications. I’ll get back home at the end of the day, only to find that it’s died midway through the day. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Don’t say you’re going to feed a massive crowd of people if you don’t have enough food, Nintendo.

Nicole – The running joke at Warp Zoned has been that the PlayStation Vita was named thusly because of the horrendous battery life of the 3DS. Get it? PlayStation Life? Lulz! (I also like the NGP = Nintendo Got Pwned joke as well.) I have the same problem Ryan does – I walk around, desperately hoping I’ll get any kind of notifications whatsoever from anyone, because I live in the sixth largest city in the United States and I’m bound to run into someone else with a 3DS, right? WRONG. Even if I did run into them, my battery is always dead by the time I leave work at night. I can’t be charging it all the time, people! I am not made of electrical outlets, as sad as that makes me.

Even Better Than A Massage
Ryan – The 3DS’ shoulder buttons are kinda wobbly too. What is it with that whole upper half of the system?! Maybe I just slam on the shoulder buttons when I need to use them, but they feel like they’re going to fall out at any minute. I don’t want to be bent over in public, walking around, picking up a broken shoulder button and putting it back in like a kid after the first time he loses a tooth. That already happened once. Even for the first run of the 3DS, it still seems a bit… unfinished.

Nicole – I haven’t had any problems with the shoulder buttons. Then again, I’m always holding the thing so tightly and smashing the shoulder buttons so frenetically that I don’t think I would notice it anyway. Next time I’m trying to play Dream Trigger 3D on the bus, I’ll pay more attention.

The Positive

It’s Like Seeing Tron For The First Time
Ryan – Still, playing in 3D without the need for glasses is pretty cool. Generally I get a headache on the first day of play after not playing for a while, but I somehow learn to adapt. I applaud Nintendo’s ideas and efforts, and I still think this system has a lot of potential, in the same way that the original DS system had. Who ever thought THAT brick of a handheld would evolve as it did?

Nicole – I’ll admit it – the first time I saw a 3DS up close and personal at last year’s E3, I was in complete awe of it. I felt like it was pure black magic. Even now, despite all the complaints I just made, I love it. And I can believe they were able to do it, because Nintendo has always been the great innovators when it comes to bringing childlike wonder back into our lives. Even if it’s not perfect, and they release more iterations to improve upon it, I’m glad that I was able to be one of the early adopters and really test the waters with this one.

AR, QR… Other Things That End With R…
Ryan – The 3DS’ more obscure features are some of the cooler things to me, still. The AR cards are a crazy feature for the 3DS, even if it currently only uses 5 or 6 cards. I’m just curious to see what else they’ll do with that and the 3D camera. The QR codes are a cool addition also, as used in the Pokedex 3D application. I just hope these two features don’t go to waste in the midst of Nintendo’s work-in-progress.

Nicole – I’ve only used the AR cards a little, but I love them! They are awesome and so simple and easy to use. I also love that Level Up Studios made this amazing AR shirt that lets you have fun without your cards! There’s just so much potential here, and I can’t wait to see what else Nintendo has to offer.

It’s Like The Real World Is Actually In 3D! Oh, Wait…
Ryan – I’m not really a photographer. And I guess the 3D camera doesn’t really change that for me.

Nicole – I’m big into photography, but I haven’t been one to take pictures with my DSi or 3DS. That being said, almost every time other people use my 3DS, they take pictures with it, so I have loads of hilarious pictures on it, and I can mess with them in all kinds of creative and funny ways. Seeing those pictures makes me want to use it more, but I already have a digital camera and a Droid Incredible, so the 3DS is not high on my list when I’m about to snap some shots.

Hitting the Street, On the Spot
Ryan – One of my favorite things about the 3DS is its StreetPass and SpotPass technologies. Not only does it give me a reason to wear a belt by making my pants heavier, but the idea that you can interact with any other person, involuntarily, just by walking by them? And getting rewarded with StreetPass Plaza coins? That’s pretty cool! Plus it helps you with Find Mii and Puzzle Swap! (I love these two games, too.) I think this was an awesome idea, even if the sole purpose is just for a small meta-game.

Nicole – I want this to be a cool feature, but since I live in the middle of nowhere in downtown Philadelphia, I haven’t had anything cool pop up in my StreetPass. Maybe one day I’ll move to the big city and stop being such a rural country bumpkin.

The Verdict

So What’s Up With the 3DS Lite/3DSi/3DS XL, etc.?
Ryan – Well, nothing, just yet. But I would like to see a lot of these situations addressed, and I’m hoping that the successor to the initial 3DS will make it look as crappy as the initial DS looks. (Seriously, that thing is a freakin’ brick.) I think Nintendo had their heart in the right place, but rushed the handheld out a little sooner than they should have. That’s okay though; I’m sure there will be at least 20 more versions of it before they start making games in 4D.

Nicole – I don’t think they’ll make any improvements on this anytime soon, mainly because I think they’re going to spend the next year focusing on bringing us the best games that they can to make up for the poor launch window. I think that next year they’ll start talking about a new release with an improved battery, bigger screens, and possibly even make the Wi-Fi a little easier to use (that’s a general complaint I’ve had about Nintendo products and isn’t specific to their handhelds). Either way, as I said, I’m glad I got on board with the first generation, and I look forward to whatever is to come.

Post Script: Off the Record

Ryan – The 3DS stylus is the coolest, classiest thing since using a PalmPilot in a coffee shop in 1996.

Nicole – Ryan’s right – the stylus is wicked, though I still reach for the right side when I’m looking for it. I just wanted to add that I absolutely hate the new little tab on the game cartridges themselves. If Nintendo did that to make sure that people weren’t putting 3DS games into a regular DS, well, all I have to say to that is, if your kid is too stupid to realize that they shouldn’t be doing that, then 1) they shouldn’t have a $250 piece of technology and 2) Jack Tretton is right – the DS is nothing more than a tool for babysitting. All the new cartridge shape is doing is preventing me from putting my 3DS games into the game carriers I already spent money on. That’s really, really obnoxious, Nintendo.

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