The life of an amateur snack-food critic is a strange one. Recently as part of a competition I got invited by Nintendo to witness the official launch of the 3DS console - the new generation of handheld gaming with a 3D top screen - which is why I found myself awake at 4am and boarding a coach to the airport.
For the event I had to fly out to Amsterdam, and got to thinking about how portable gaming is kind of the snack food of the entertainment industry. The best portable games are those that you can pick up and play in short busts - like Professor Layton which is essentially a digital puzzle book. This means that as long as I have a decent amount of battery left I can just flip the machine shut and carry on where I left off. With this in mind and a backpack full of snack foods (but no bottles of drinks due to flying) I went to Heathrow.
I settled on a fruit, granola and yogurt snack pot from ITSU (mainly due to the cosy booth seating) for late breakfast and was actually quite pleased with it. It was a touch overpriced, but the tea was great (some kind of green tea) and it certainly filled me up.
After the (delayed) flight and a long wait for buses (due to the delayed flights) we made it to the presentation in time for the exciting parts about the games and the social connectivity. We missed the footage of Sky 3D and Shaun the Sheep 3D. They announced the March 25th release date and the price is between £200 and £230 depending on retailer.
After the presentation we were unleashed to go and play the games. There must have been close to 100 units available so there were rarely queues to play, and there were around 30 games to try and a whole host of videos to watch. The 3D is quite impressive and pops out of the screen nicely - it's like Nintendo found a way to inject the fun directly into your eyeballs. Your eyes take a second or so to get used to it the very first time, but once your brain figures it out the transition is easy. It's not like magic eye pictures where you have to explain it to new users, and there are no glasses or set positions required so you can look over people's shoulders and still see the effect. The system is almost as powerful as the Wii and the games look good, load fast and are a lot more similar to the HD consoles in gameplay style than a lot of the Wii games.
The games vary from traditional ones (Street Fighter, Metal Gear) to casual ones (Nintendogs & Cats, Animal Crossing) new ones (Steel Diver) and remakes (Zelda, Kid Icarus). The machine itself is pleasing to hold and similar in size to the existing DS range. The colours are both great with the mermaid blue/green being just slightly nicer than the stealth black. The two cameras on the outside means you can take & share 3D pictures of your friends and videos have been promised as a future update.
The machine also has built in WiFi and will communicate with other 3DS in the region and online so that it swaps your scores and achievements with people you pass by and even lets your characters from games (such as your pet dog) appear in other peoples games. This should lead to the main impact of the device being an increase in the kind of social gaming we only currently see on FaceBook. I love to see highscores of my friends on the site, but this takes it so much further with each game seemingly having its own way to interact with other players remotely. Street Fighter even allows you to watch other people’s fights who are playing their systems near you!
At launch there should be an online shop, and a 3D web browser will follow.
I had a great time, and despite the flight issues we had enough time to play and watch all we wanted. Overall I think my favourite game was Samurai Warriors as it felt most like a full console game and had great graphics and lots of potential, but still had the bite-size approach that gaming on the go needs. The people who the demo units were attached to were pleasant to chat with and genuinely enjoyed the games themselves. The food at the show was good, and in plentiful supply. It was a tiring day, but once all the excitement was over I began the long trek home.
In the 2 1/2 hour wait at Heathrow between my plane landing and my coach arriving I got to sit and relax in Costa, gravitating towards the vitamin filled Innocent smoothie range. Naturally I chose the most green and slimy looking one and it tasted great. With a toasted sandwich and my normal DS I relaxed again on the comfortable sofas while I snack and gamed away into the small hours of the morning.