Nintendo’s New 3DS Makes Gyroscopic Control and 3D Smooth and Entertaining

OUCH! You poked me in the eye with your Arwing!

When I originally decided to buy a Nintendo 3DS it was the system’s relative proximity to my beloved Nintendo 64 era controls and gameplay, with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D joining it in the shopping basket, that sold me. I didn’t wait much beyond launch to salivate over the hardware as a diehard handheld enthusiast. With Star Fox 64 jumping to the system shortly afterward, it had to be one of the first games I tried years later on the publisher and manufacturer’s latest 3DS.

What exactly is “New” about the New Nintendo 3DS? Click here for the answer.

Obviously more is more and people love more. It’s why we’re all buying so many things, so with that in mind I waited to really test the hardware’s ability to adjust to the player’s position. Adding to the parallax screen’s viewing angle probably kept overall steady-play comfort as a goal, but the IR sensor sitting next to the front-facing camera bugged me. Just how much could steering in Mario Kart 7 or minigames in any number of Mario games be affected?

All previous tests with the glasses-free 3D effect had me entertained, but also with a sense that the technology remained firmly within the “toy” category. I actually prefer it there, but allowing for more play with 3D makes a big difference. Popping the Star Fox 64 3D cartridge into the bottom of the New 3DS hardware, moved from the top-rear and center in previous iterations, I thought to a favorite quote from the decidedly-3D-oriented classic.

“I can’t let you do that, StarFox!”

Before laying into the meat of my impressions with 3D and gyro-controls, I thought to discuss the many layers of parental controls Nintendo has smartly kept at the forefront of their systems. When Nintendo 3DS launched, many consumers wondered about the health-risks associated with crossing your eyes slightly to get the 3D effect at varying depths. Flipping the slider from zero to full threw anyone around for a demonstration into an almost immediate reaction on some levels. I couldn’t say that my first hands-on with 3DS didn’t leave me skeptical of the feature’s value.

Was it going to keep the price up? Would 3D drain the battery too quickly? Would games take proper and possibly innovative chances while accounting for players both using and leaving 3D off? Yes (and then drastically no), sorta, and yes (until Super Mario 3D Land) would all be acceptable answers to those questions. I still felt weird beginning my 3DS library with two decidedly old games, though every year following launch has gotten better.

Titles like Animal Crossing: New Leaf have really cemented the Nintendo 3DS XL as a system that stands on its own next to, in regression, Nintendo DS Lite, Game Boy Advance SP, and Game Boy Color. Will it sell as many units as the original Game Boy? Likely not, but there’s the opportunity to continue proving the technology’s progression in “New” Nintendo 3DS hardware.

“Gee, I guess I should be thankful.”

Irregardless of where you see Nintendo 3DS as a competitor to both mobile hardware from larger product manufacturers and Sony’s PlayStation Vita device, the less-than enticing accessories proposition could hurt it in this jump. When the Nintendo 3DS XL (known as LL in the East) launched in Japan, it carried the banner of arriving without an AC adapter. “New” Nintendo 3DS XL units do the same here in the United States.

I unfortunately would avoid upgrading from my blue, launch 3DS XL to the “New” units unless I was flush with cash, despite having done so from the shiny blue launch 3DS to the XL. When GameStop offered $100 for older models and the XL’s 4” screens looked as good as they did, I couldn’t help but bite. That didn’t leave me without an AC adapter, even though the afternoon spent standing in the world’s largest video game retailer (stealing the wifi from a next door bookseller to transfer data between the two all the while) proved awkward.

If it’s proven successful for the company this long, I wouldn’t advise them to stop iterating now. There are already reports of sold-out “New” bundles, with several to choose from and retailers having cleared stock bounties from the holiday season. Tearing a Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS (read our review here) bundle and getting it wrapped for the holiday may have felt as satisfying as smashing an opponent off a stage. Regardless, it wouldn’t be as entertaining as watching a space ship, in 3D, turning to catch up to the screen as I tilted to fire the perfect shot.

“Never grow up, Pigma” ~Me, in versus mode or something….

I’ve long contended that Nintendo’s ability to maintain branding power and software reception dominance comes from the company’s willingness to maintain more than throw a bomb towards the endzone. Mario’s sporting titles, Mario Party, and effectively the entirety of the GameCube era prove this point. Success isn’t measured in yards or billions of dollars or stock prices for Nintendo, neither to the consumer nor the business world. You couldn’t identify someone after the hardware leaves the factory that doesn’t think of Nintendo in largely the same way.

Diehard Metroid fans, far-too-enthusiastic-Smashers, and potentially a Fatal Frame import freak would argue that Nintendo is progressively growing up, but it isn’t true. Nintendo Direct presentations have leaned on childhood-tropes like silly hats and mustaches, but it often plays to the material at hand. The Year of Luigi wouldn’t have been a year if three games didn’t get hours of promotion both online, in-store, and through other forms of direct communication growing more and more direct by the minute spent on Youtube or Facebook or Twitter.

I guess that’s why I so enthusiastically dropped the possibility of looking to 3DS as much more than a toy. I love it more for that in the end and hope “New” Nintendo 3DS hardware owners join me because that little IR sensor makes all the difference.

“Dad?” ~A confused Fox awakens to his inner space pilot.

I launched Star Fox 64 3D and loaded a save game (new to that version of the software) placing me at the dead center of the Lylat system. I took down the lava-spewing, rock-tossing, friend-of-firebirds boss and loved the varying reds displayed on the “New” 3DS screen. The action moved smoother than I remember it on the original 3DS hardware and it seemed like the overall sound coming from the speakers was crisper and clear. Every blast of laser fire at the monster’s head, depleting the health to zero from the third left after blasting his limbs, rang out with the original reactive sound effect.

I wasted no time diving around this level’s lava waves with the gyroscopic controls and some of the rocks tossed up by these waves seemed to pop out of the 3DS screen even at angles. The screen itself dims as you twist and turn it, making the more intense positions maintain smooth 3D even if other elements get too dark to see. Don’t stress yourself looking to see your Arwing’s health bar, for example, when veering around a building in Corneria or avoiding space-boulders in Meteos. Macbeth’s Landmaster sequence didn’t play as nice with gyroscopic controls.

The train that players chase throughout that level fires at cliff walls and even tethers a flying boss towards the end, each scene more impressive than the last in full-blast 3D. Watching the laser discs fly off into the distance also impressed me with improved depth on “New” Nintendo 3DS. The unit given to attendees upon departure of the event earlier this week is of the XL variety and standard-size units are only available in the far east, but you’ll probably want the larger screens for this leap in glasses-free 3D.

I’ll continue to explore the “New” Nintendo 3DS XL hardware and offer more opinion early next week, but until then consider that I’m a good and decent person with a dedicated streak of honest opinion when I say the following:

“Na na na na, I’ve got a “New” Nintendo 3DS XL and Majora’s Mask 3D to play this weekend.”