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February 24th, 2011
11:06 PM ET

Nintendo 3DS: We've got one!

Nintendo’s long-awaited 3DS makes its worldwide debut in Japan on Saturday, but we’ve managed to get our hands on one in Hong Kong a couple of days early. As the successor to the incredibly popular Nintendo DS it has a lot to live up to, but I’m willing to bet you just want to know one thing about it: Does it work? Does it really deliver 3D without glasses?

The short answer: Yes.

The long answer: Yes, but it can be frustrating.

Only the top screen on the 3DS is in 3D, and you need to position it in just the right spot for it to work. And when it works - it’s an astonishing sight. Suddenly the screen has depth. It looks like you’re peeking into a room beyond the screen. When it works, the 3D effect is remarkable.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to shatter the illusion.

Moving the 3DS out of the sweet spot turns the screen into a blurry mesh of two separate images laid on top of each other. That sweet spot is small enough that playing in a moving vehicle isn’t advised unless you turn 3D off entirely.

The 3DS has a slider that allows you to adjust the depth of the 3D image, and you’ll find yourself fiddling with it often because each game seems to work with a different setting. What looks great for one game is a dizzying mess for another. Even something as minor as dust on the screen can pull you out of the 3D effect pretty quickly.

It’s not for everyone though. One of my writers couldn’t take it; she recoiled in horror after looking at the screen and said it made her dizzy and nauseous.

Still, when it works, it’s amazing how much the effect brings to the table. The first round of Japanese 3DS games don’t really use 3D for anything too deep (no pun intended); seeing the track stretch away in front of you in Ridge Racer 3D is great, but hardly integral to the experience. Switch 3D off, and the limits of the hardware are revealed: It is an ugly game, but you’re too busy marvelling at the depth of the screen to notice.

Considering the 3DS costs less than Fujifilm’s dedicated 3D camera, that it includes a 3D camera of its own is a surprise. It’s not great; it can easily get confused if an object is too close or too far away, but as an added extra it’s nice to have.

What’s disappointing about the hardware is the legacy ties to the DS platform. The bottom touchscreen uses the same resistive technology as the original DS. Since then the iPhone has revolutionised the way we interact with a touchscreen, and using a stylus on the 3DS screen feels like using a PDA from the 1990s all over again. And that screen runs at a paltry resolution of 320×240, far less than most smartphones today.

Size comparison: DSi (top) and 3DS (bottom)

But the touchscreen isn’t the point of the 3DS. You’re supposed to look at the 3D screen on top, not the little one at the bottom. I spent a lot of time watching people play with a 3DS for the first time today, and this stood out as a common reaction:

- Indifference/Skepticism: “What’s so cool about this thing? Let’s see it. Bet it doesn’t work.”
– Irritation: “I can’t see it. I have to adjust it until I get to the right spot? I guess I can do that, but I bet I don’t see...”
– Wonder: “Whoa. It’s really in 3D!”

In that simple sense, the Nintendo 3DS delivers. Now we wait for developers to take advantage of the 3D effect for more than just an added gimmick.

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Filed under: Gadgets • Games • Technology
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    anybody else notice that every single sentence in this review bashes the 3DS in some way? I have read a bunch of other reviews that say the 3D is fine, doesn't hurt your eyes as long as you don't play it for a long time, the camera and touchscreen work great, etc. This article is just load of BS.

    February 24, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Reply
  2. ethan

    this article is quite innaccurate. for one the 3d works at wherever the depth slider is, the depth slider is finding a level of 3d that is comfortable and the sweet spot i quite large. also dont judge the power of the system on ride racer that is just a lazy attempt of a game. try and play metal gear solid on it, which has extremely good graphics. also the heat sensory touch screen on iphones are not suited for gaming, as you block the screen with your finger and it isnt very accurate.

    February 25, 2011 at 12:54 am | Reply
  3. Sylverstone Khandr

    Well, I believe the 3DS has more pros than cons here to actually gain a proper footing here. New games, interesing features, online capabilities etc.

    I'm glad for the optional 3D, since people are showing some repercussions from viewing it. I heard many other reports of the sweet spot being easy to maintain.

    The resistive touch screen isn't a problem for me, it doesn't matter. I've played on the Apple iDevices and it's good for them, but the 3DS is fine. The touch screen doesn't have that mass focus appeal compared to the first DS, since most will be looking at the wide 3D screen.

    All in all, I know I'll be glad when I pick up my own on launch day.

    February 25, 2011 at 1:36 am | Reply
  4. Hi CNN

    Congrats CNN you got your hands on the Nintendo 3DS!

    February 25, 2011 at 1:53 am | Reply
  5. bob

    Really quick Ridge Racer is a port of an old iphone game doesn't even tap a fraction of the systems power look up resident evil revelations for the 3ds to see what it can do

    February 25, 2011 at 2:15 am | Reply
    • Araseliy

      Where can i find a working Nintendo DS otalumer + pokemon roms (like diamond, platinum, ect)?I'm searching for a good otalumer for nintendo DS and the Pokemon Platinum rom.. (also the others are ok, but i'd prefer that one :s)I've tried to download some but they don't work.. like i tried NO GBA and everything works but i cannot save the game in any way Or with iDeas the sound doesn't work..Thank you

      April 3, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Reply
  6. James

    You clearly don't know that much about gaming. A stylus allows for precision control, a big chubby finger tip on the other hand, obscures the screen and makes what your trying to do that much harder, as well as leaving greasy fingerprints all over the screen. Also there are far prettier games available than Ridge Racer.

    February 25, 2011 at 2:47 am | Reply
  7. shake my head

    ...did ign pay you to secretly bash this? im just wondering since just about everything 3ds have/does annoys you....

    February 25, 2011 at 4:45 am | Reply
  8. Stephen

    And low and behold here comes the Nintendo Defense Force.... There have been tons of articles about the sweet spot, there have been tons of things said about eye strain, and the effect losing it's wow factor in a hour or so. I have one preordered and I love my DS, however I can already tell just by things said, that most people will play this sucker with the 3D turned off, who the heck wants to keep the machine in one spot the whole time, and constantly readjust? That seems like that would get annoying. Nintendo should have focused on features, and power, and NOT another silly gimmick.

    February 25, 2011 at 4:47 am | Reply
  9. John

    why dont you all just chill its stupid as hell the first of ANYTHING has a bunch of flaws whats the point of buying gen 1 anyway and to all you guys flipping out over the fact that hes to harsh your peobally the same people who look at the kinect and say that their ripping the wii chill the heck out and wait for all the stupid new 3ds's that they end up making if you really wanna marvel at something check out the new psp it can play ps3 quality games or at least close enough for a handheld and to bob over there get your balls off the floor dude ridge racer is probally older than you not a port from the iphone you nut

    February 25, 2011 at 4:54 am | Reply
  10. Anon

    Sounds like you didn't figure out how to use the 3D depth slider.

    Terrible review.

    February 25, 2011 at 5:31 am | Reply
  11. mipesom

    Good review. Nice that you tell us about the weak spots of the device though you're a loyal Nintendo fan. Thanks!

    February 25, 2011 at 5:36 am | Reply
  12. Timothy

    Don't worry CNN all this negative comments are from Nintendo slaves who continue to think that everything they make is good (it used to be true until the Wii).
    These are my complaints:
    3-5 hour battery life. Bad enough, but really bad for a hand heald.
    Nothing bad about NOT BEING ABLE TO PLAY MORE THAN AN HOUR unless you want head aches.
    bad launch titles.
    Again the sweet spot thing is bad.
    And of course the ONE analog stick. Every time I play an FPS on my old Dreamcast I groan,

    February 25, 2011 at 5:40 am | Reply
    • Faver

      Seems you never played a ds, if you mentioned fps controls on it and a Dreamcast at the same time...

      February 25, 2011 at 6:31 am | Reply
      • Lilliane

        How do I get a Nintendo DS rom to work?I downloaded it to Winrar (because its a .rar file) and it seems like its broekn up into different parts all ending with .nds. Does anybody know how I could get the rom to work? I've never really used Winrar before either.

        September 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
      • Ruth

        Sony DID rip off Sony DID rip off Nintendo. In the late Super Nintendo Years around the time of Sega CD, Nintendo wnetnad something similar. They worked in conjunction with Sony to make a CD add on for Super Nintendo. This never came through because the Nintendo 64 was coming out. Sony kept the prototype modified the controler and to avoid lawsuits, added two extra buttons and and added those pointless plastic things that make my palms go red after an hour of Ratchet & Clank. Even check the contoller ports!-SG

        September 10, 2012 at 5:07 am |
  13. Simon

    "Switch 3D off, and the limits of the hardware are revealed"... judge from one early game, oh dear...

    February 25, 2011 at 5:45 am | Reply
  14. Henk

    This article is indeed a joke with it`s constant insults in every line it writes. It`s nice...oh its not...Its nice but wait.......no it`s not. Funny how CNN is always praising US products like Xbox Connect and Iphone while it constantly criticizes Non-US products and constantly criticizes success in Europe, China, India and other nations. The would better have a bunch of children wright the article about the Nintendo 3Ds and you would get a much better idea of the new product.

    February 25, 2011 at 6:23 am | Reply
  15. jason

    to each is own on what poeple want to buy & play nintendo is all good & so is sony, so don't knock it. & besides nintendo can perfect the 3d.

    February 25, 2011 at 8:34 am | Reply
  16. Chassit

    Good review. Not surprised but still a bit disappointed.

    Most of those problems pointed out, I feel, are not what can be easily fixed with a "gen 2" or "gen 3" as some of the comments suggest. Common sense is that, with the refinement of a console, the vendor usually keep compatibility as the first priority. In most cases they make the thing smaller, thinner, sometimes bigger (DSi XL), maybe with more robust battery, but never touch anything about RAM, processor and such.

    The 3D screen is limited by the immature glass-free 3D technology. No matter what kind of screen Nintendo replaces it with, the "sweet spot" problem will always be there. The sweet spot might get bigger, but dust stain and dizzy problems will stay.

    And hardware power. This is what will absolutely will not be altered. Any slight boost will cause raise of future game development standard, rendering early units useless for new games.

    Resistive screen is a nasty surprise. Let's face it: DS touch-based games were never about science-accuracy. What a stylus did on a DS screen, now a fat finger is definitely capable of on a (supposedly significantly bigger in size) 3DS screen. How Nintendo decided to keep the touch screen tiny as ever is beyond me, it's not like they are super duper expensive or what. Now they have to stick to a stylus, which demands a resistive screen. I don't think this will change in no matter gen 2 or gen 8. From small resistive to bigger capacitive will inevitably change the nature of games, causing compatibility issue.

    BTW, "finger blocking the screen" isn't a problem at all on 3DS. In DS era, the bottom screen serve mostly as a makeshift control panel, with the real excitement happening on the upper screen. Block whatever you want, and you will get along just well unless the game itself is designed really bad.

    February 25, 2011 at 9:02 am | Reply
  17. Paul

    Hopefully the Nintendo 3DS will be a better product than this piece of journalism. Poor analysis and badly written. could CNN get a real gamer to review the 3DS, please?

    February 25, 2011 at 9:44 am | Reply
  18. Noah

    Serisuloy!? Your bashing the 3ds just becase you have to adust a few things? I will never wacth,or read cnn ever again. You are just too dang lavy to readjust the thing! Oh, and by the way timiothey, have you ever heard of super mario galaxy? You are all losers. Im sticking to g4.

    February 25, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Reply
  19. Noah

    Oh I forgot to mention something: Nintendo, dont listen to cnn. Therir just smart freaks who have never played a video game in their life.

    February 25, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Reply
  20. Anton

    "And that screen runs at a paltry resolution of 320×240"

    Wait, what? The top screen runs at a resolution of 800×240, 400 pixels for each eye.

    February 25, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Reply
  21. Steve

    Funny how this writer just bashed the resistive touchscreen on the 3DS which was a deliberate choice by the designers. It's not because the 3DS is so low tech, or so cheap that it uses 'old' tech, but that it's practical.

    You want to smear your touchscreen with grease and fingermarks?

    February 26, 2011 at 6:17 am | Reply
  22. Carl

    Yep, don't give something Nintendo totally glowing reviews and then all the fans come crawling out of the sewers, screaming for your head. This was a good overview that gave both sides of the 3DS, and shows there's lots of potential for the system when developers get things going at full steam.

    February 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Reply
  23. JB

    I really don't appreciate reviews from CNN at all. If you want reviews wait till it launchs in America. Also CNN is not a credible source for video game console reviews. They will constantly bash products that we all know do not compare well with other gadgets hardware but at it's core it's all about the experience that we all have with Nintendo products. Don't know about all of you but I've been a gamer since the NES came out and I have to say that Nintendo has always brought an enjoyable/fun experiece with their games. What they don't mention is the 3D will work for most people but if you've got a lazy eye or a stigmatism or just missing an eye you may have trouble viewing the 3D image. The person doing the review and the people they witnessed use the hardware may have one of these conditions. Just my 2 cents.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  24. andres

    ¿cuanto cuesta en china la 3ds? es que mi padre viajara por negocios aya y quiesiera saber su presio aver si me la compra :D

    June 30, 2011 at 2:38 am | Reply
  25. appliances repair

    newsstream.blogs.cnn.com is wonderful. There's always all of the ideal info in the ideas of my fingers. Thanks and keep up the excellent work!

    December 11, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Reply

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