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Nintendo 3DS: Look ma, no glasses

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Last night Nintendo unveiled its Nintendo 3DS portable gaming console in South Africa. It’s the first gaming console offering 3D without the need for glasses. SEAN BACHER tried it out.

The Nintendo 3DS will be available from 25 March from all major electronic retail stores in South Africa, retailing at R2 799. It will come in two colours: Cosmos Black or Aqua Blue.

‚Nintendo 3DS is not just about being able to watch and play in 3D without glasses ‚ it also offers unique social experiences,‚ said Laurent Fischer, Nintendo of Europe’s Managing Director of Marketing & PR, speaking at the launch in Johannesburg. ‚In the way Wii brought families together, Nintendo 3DS will appeal to a broad range of people.‚

The 3DS looks very similar to the XL, with two screens: the bottom a touch screen operated by a telescoping stylus that is stored in the unit itself, and the top screen – where all the fun is ‚ capable of displaying 3D images and games to the naked eye.

At first, looking at and focusing on the screen is difficult. I felt myself getting dizzy after a few minutes of play and felt my eyes locking into that ‚focused‚ mode. It reminded me very much of those Magic Eye drawings from the 1990s, where you had to stare at the image for hours before a 3D image would jump out at you.

However, the top screen does include a slider than lets you change the 3D intensity. When I started getting dizzy, I switched the slider all the way down to 2D and could carry on playing.

Nintendo describes the screen as peering through a window into a world where characters and objects have true depth. I have to agree with them. The screen is mesmerizing.

In addition to the familiar Control Pad and button controls found on previous Nintendo handhelds, Nintendo 3DS now also includes a Circle Pad, which provides a full 360 degrees of direction, giving it the freedom and precision needed to play games in 3D worlds.

It brings the same degree of responsiveness that gamers enjoyed when Nintendo introduced an analogue control stick to navigate Mario through Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64 system. A built-in motion sensor and gyro sensor can react to the motion and tilt of the system, so whether you are twisting the systems side to side or moving it up and down, the motion-compatible Nintendo 3DS games respond instantly.

I found this truly astonishing. The gyro worked really well and was exceptionally accurate. Playing a game like this for the first time was dead easy and it is guaranteed to prevent you from slouching in your couch when playing. Your whole body has to be active to enjoy this functionality fully.

Two features will allow owners to stay connected in new ways. Both deliver bonus content to owners as they move around during their daily lives, so users might open up their systems at any moment to find new surprises:

· For owners who choose to activate it, the StreetPass feature is capable of exchanging game information with other Nintendo 3DS systems as owners pass one another during the day. Small packets of information can be exchanged using this data-transfer method, such as Mii character data, maps for games or high scores and custom character data for different games.

· The SpotPass feature can connect to compatible public hotspots and through a wireless broadband Internet connection at home, even if the system is in Sleep Mode. Once connected, the Nintendo 3DS system will receive new content and updates regularly.

Each Nintendo 3DS system comes pre-loaded with a variety of games, applications and features, such as the Nintendo 3DS Camera. Nintendo 3DS has three cameras: one camera points at the user, while two additional cameras point outward – these two take photos in 3D. Utilising this feature, the built-in game Face Raiders asks users to shoot at funny depictions of their own faces.

The Mii Maker application gives users new tools to create Mii characters even more easily. Users can either import Mii characters from their Wii systems using an SD Memory Card, or use the camera to take a picture of a person and create a Mii character in just a few simple steps. Users can even save their Mii characters to an SD Card as pictures, which enable them to be used as digital photos for personal use, such as profile pictures on social networking sites.

The Nintendo 3DS comes with six augmented-reality cards, called AR Cards. When the two outer cameras are pointed at the cards, they read the cards and superimpose images and animations onto the scene, so users shouldn’t be surprised if they see a dragon popping out of their kitchen tables! Developers can also use this technology to add creative new experiences to their games.

Built-in Parental Controls can be used to limit Internet access or some of the wireless functions. By using a PIN code, parents also can turn off the 3D function altogether, or limit the ratings of the games that their kids can play.

Fans of online play will be happy to learn that the friend codes for Nintendo 3DS are specific to each Nintendo 3DS system, not each game. Once friends trade hardware codes, they can check their friends’ lists at any time to see who is online and what they are playing.

The Nintendo 3DS can also play Nintendo DS Game Cards with their original 2D visuals. The system includes a slot for an SD Memory Card, and every system comes with a 2GB SD Memory Card.

During the launch window (between the March 25 launch date and the E3 Expo in early June) more than 30 games will be available to Nintendo 3DS owners. These include Nintendo-created games like PilotWings Resort, which has players soaring acrobatically over iconic Wuhu Island: nintendogs + cats, a new version of the Nintendo DS classic with a feline enhancement: and Steel Diver, a side-scrolling submarine adventure that gives the illusion that the player is peering into an aquarium. Other Nintendo 3DS games in the works include The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Star Fox 64 3D, Kid Icarus: Uprising and new instalments in the Mario Kart, Animal Crossing and Paper Mario series.

– Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

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