E3 2010 – Thoughts On The Nintendo 3DS
Probably the biggest winner of the E3 press conference wars was Nintendo, who used the occasion to not only showcase their sudden willingness to invest in classic franchises they inexplicably ignored, but to show off the 3DS. I finally got to see it for myself on the final day of E3. They were… discouraging photos, which is for the best, since there’s no point of showing you a 2D photo of a 3D screen, but if you can live without them, after the jump I’ll run down my thoughts on this
groundbreaking gimmicky surprisingly impressive little gadget.
SRO Bouncers FTW
Nintendo was a might bit paranoid about their precious hand-held. They sequestered the 3DS exhibit from the rest of their booth by means of a raised, fenced platform with only ONE entrance and only ONE exit and NO returns. Each 3DS was literally chained to the tables on which they were displayed, and only about half of them even had playable games. At both entrance and exit, gigantic suited secret service bodyguard types eyed everyone as they left the platform. No chances taking were they.
3D isn’t a joke
This is what you actually want to know: was the 3D good? Short answer: Yes. Long answer: ZOMFG. Nintendo games have never been about graphics, and the limitations of Wii relative to the other consoles has led them to a distinctive graphic style that emphasizes goofy cartoonishness rather than complexity. The bulk of 3DS games on display at E3 had Wii quality graphics, which isn’t bad at all, but they’re claiming 3DS has 800 X 240 pixel resolution. Gotta show that off, so they also had 3DS units showing the trailer for Legend Of The Guardians. It looked about as nice as it does on your HD TV. So. Wow.
Honestly, what I expected was a cheesy, jamming-imagery-at-the-foreground-to-simulate-3D. What I saw was something approximating true depth. The Kid Icarus demo in particular looked spectacular; The contours of the player character, and the dimensions of the environment in which he flew, felt large. Not real of course, but fully dimensional. Diving into a vast cavern, it looked like he was really plunging downward into an abyss. Enemies came from the vanishing point to the foreground in a realistic, consistent way. And no glasses = no annoying dimming or gimmick.
About the only flaw I could see in my limited time was that the 3D only looked truly great when you faced the screen head-on. It tended to create double vision if you held it at even the slightest angle. That’s somewhat expected but even so, it does get a bit tedious. Fortunately, the 3D slider works really well. At any point during a game you can simply change to less 3D or full 2D without hassle. One of the 3DS’s on display even had a built in camera that took 3D photos. The bad news: they can’t verify such a feature will be available in the final product, and they also couldn’t let people take copies of their photo with them. That said, it was really, really cool. Good job, Nintendo.
There was only one problem…
“Please Enjoy The 3D Content”
If you made it into the 3DS corral, you saw this annoying message more than almost anything else. At least half of the games on display weren’t playable. Don’t get me wrong – the 3D content was pretty damned enjoyable, but it would have been nice to actually see how Kid Icarus plays. Possibly a strategic decision, since the wait for people without appointments was something like 2 hours. Even so, the games that were playable kind of sucked (except for the Resident Evil Game). Dino fighting and barbie tie ins are stupid. Before it comes out, we’d better get the chance to see how the games people actually care about will play.
I am not among those who think 3D is the future of everything. I can’t imagine a reason we ever need to see eye popping Mad Men vision. But having seen 20 minutes of what the 3DS can do, I think 3D is a natural fit for interactive media. I just hope we don’t have to wait 10 years for the games to catch up to the tech.