The Nintendo 3DS, a new handheld video game system, is set to arrive in the U.S. March 27th, making glasses-free 3D gaming a reality for $249.99. Units, available in “Cosmo Black” and “Aqua Blue,” will feature motion and gyro sensors that allow for gesture-tracking controls, including options to tilt the system to steer speeding cars or planes. Over 30 games, including Star Fox 64, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Nintendogs + Cats and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D are expected to ship by early June.
Sporting dual displays, the system’s top screen will display three-dimensional special effects, with the degree to which characters and objects spring forth controllable via 3D depth slider. The bottom monitor, a touchscreen model, offers hands-on play which can be coupled with a directional pad, buttons and new circle pad (for 360-degree motion), offering greater precision in shooters, sports games and platform-hopping arcade adventures. Similar to the control scheme offered by Super Mario 64 for the classic Nintendo 64 system, circle pad options should also allow for overall easier navigation of 3D virtual realms.
The system will also include three cameras, one of which points at players, and the other two of which face outward and can take 3D pictures. When put in sleep mode, the Nintendo 3DS can also function as a pedometer, with collectible coins (tradable for in-game content and virtual goods) earnable by actually getting outside and taking a stroll. A Nintendo 3DS sound tool also allows you to enjoy MP3 and AAC digital music files, and manipulate sound effects.
Offering support for existing Nintendo DS games (playable only in 2D) and SD memory cards, models will include a 2GB SD card, preloaded with games and applications. Programs include a 3D movie player, 3D camera and photo viewer, and music player with 3D visualizations. A Mii Maker application will let users create cartoon avatars or import them from the Wii, and a 3D augmented reality game called Face Raiders, wherein players shoot at caricatures of their faces, will also be included. Six augmented reality cards will ship each system, which users can couple with the 3DS camera to screen futuristic digital projections by superimposing images and animations on everyday scenes. A Web browser will additionally be available for download after launch.
Owners can also use a service, coming after the Nintendo 3DS’ launch, that allows games downloaded from the Nintendo DSi Shop on the Nintendo DSi and DSi XL to be transferred to the device. The Nintendo 3DS will further offer extensive online connectivity, including a Nintendo eShop for downloadable DSiWare and new 3D games, and a Virtual Console offering access to classic Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles, purchasable via prepaid or credit card. An improved friend codes system tied to individual Nintendo 3DS devices, not lone games, will also allow players to more easily track when friends are online and current playtime favorites. Parental controls can also be use to limit wireless functionality and Internet access, limit playable games by age rating or ban access to 3D functions, which hopefully won’t melt kids’ precious corneas.
New 3D games from Nintendo for the device will include aerial outing Pilotwings Resort, side-scrolling submarine epic Steel Diver, and new installments in the celebrated Animal Crossing, Paper Mario and Mario Kart series. Third-party games include fresh entries in popular series such as Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, Madden NFL Football and The Sims 3, with new episodes of franchises like Resident Evil, Ridge Racer and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell also anticipated.
Over 47 million Nintendo DS systems have been sold in the US alone. But increasing competition in the handheld gaming field, courtesy of the success of Apple’s iPhone and iPad and growing influence of apps (vs. cartridge-based games) has seen it recently come under fire. Sony is also expected to announce a new model of its PlayStation Portable (PSP) handheld at a January 27th press conference, possibly the long-rumored PSP2, with a PlayStation Phone rumored to be due from Sony Ericsson shortly.