Adding the third dimension to handhelds

This Saturday sees the launch of the 3DS in Japan and to celebrate the coming of a new Nintendo platform, Famistu has put together a sixty page feature (yep, six-zero) covering the ins and outs of the handheld. Hideki Konno, producer of Nintendogs + Cats was interviewed (via Andriasang) about his involvement in developing the 3DS revealing that at one point, it may have been called something very different.

After Mario Kart Wii was finished in 2008, Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata approached Konno and showed him an early prototype of the 3DS, keen to strengthen the relationship between hardware developers like themselves and a predominantly software programmer like Konno. They wanted his opinion on the new device which Nintendo began working on once the original DS was completed. Remember, we’ve had three more versions of the DS since then too. As with all the iterations, Nintendo’s focus was to keep the system backward compatible, having a cross over period where both DS and 3DS are on the market allowing for people to upgrade and not lose all their old games. So the prototypes had two screen, one of them touch enabled but the other wasn’t originally planned to be 3D, this was something Konno suggested around two years ago today.

Since Nintendo is still to this day suffering from the metaphorical and physical migraines left after their failed Virtual Boy, it’s hardly surprising that an outsider (so to speak) was the one who put the 3 in the 3DS. Konno’s experiments consisted of a 3D LCD TV and Mario Kart Wii where he discovered that playing games in 3D without the need for glasses was pleasant and impressive experience. Word spread and the DS2 became the 3DS with a whole new level of gameplay added thanks to the work of Hideki Konno.

But having a 3D screen wasn’t the only late development choice. The gyro sensor was another last minute decision and came about after last year’s E3. Seeing as the best way to experience the 3D is to hold the handheld still in the ‘sweet spot’, adding a function where you have to tilt and twist the device seems a little counter intuitive. But these are very different days for portable gaming with mobile phones increasing invading the space of traditional handheld consoles so in order to successfully compete on release and well into the future, Nintendo had to include existing motion tech alongside the brand new three-dimensional viewing. That and Miyamoto felt the 3DS was lacking in features saying “if there were a gyro sensor, the play could change greatly.”

I wonder what kind of system we would have ended up with if Nintendo chose not to include 3D. Presumable the graphics would have increased since the 3DS has to process two images at the same time in order to create the effect but would its appeal have lessened? Maybe by the tech-centric masses but this is a new Nintendo hardware and whether you play hardcore games or those of a casual persuasion, the company have always maintained healthy support from their fans.


3DS eShop has an eBreak

UPDATE: Apparently now it seems the ability to download retro GameBoy games will be a feature from launch and the rest of the gubbins like 3D trailers are held back until May.

Contrary to earlier reports, the date for Nintendo’s eShop on the 3DS has been pushed back from a day one update to sometime in May. In a recent financial briefing, Satoru Iwata revealed the firmware patch is scheduled for nearly two months after the systems release and will be “almost the same time around the world.” What that means to early adopters is the lack of a web browser and an inability to transfer previously bought DSi software. But when the eShop is up and running it’ll offer not only those two features but GameBoy and GameBoy Colour games, trailers, demos and even 3D version of old games.

While the wait isn’t an ideal situation it’s not as if the missing functionality will be a deal breaker for anyone considering buying a 3DS, or at least shouldn’t be. Web browsing would be cool but so many platforms have it nowadays you could probably check emails on a toaster or something. The bit which does grate a little is a lack of retro handheld games with no eShop to download them. But if you’re the kind of person who’ll buy a 3DS to play Super Mario Land, ignoring all the other launch titles, you may want to consider hitting eBay for an original GameBoy instead. Saying that, I did quite fancy swapping out Street Fighter IV 3D for a bit of Kirby’s Dream Land action in March…

Review: Super Scribblenauts

To say that Super Scribblenauts is a true sequel to 5th Cell’s 2009 genius but flawed puzzler would be a bit of an exaggeration. The developers themselves refrained from giving it a numerical title but instead claim it to be a superior version of the original. And for all intense purposes, it is just that. Though in some weird twist of fate, Super Scribblenauts may have rid itself from the bigger problems of its predecessor but also lost a bit of the charm too.

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3DS to have downloadable Game Boy titles

Back when the DSi was announced to have internal memory, many gamers pondered at the possibility of having classic Game Boy titles released via download, similar the the Wii’s Virtual Console. While that may have never happened, at least Nintendo realised the potential in offering handheld fan-favourites and have included such a service for the 3DS. Kotaku had the scoop and although there were no titles spoken of when the service was announced,  Super Mario Land and Link’s Awakening DX (the Game Boy Colour version of Link’s Awakening with extra levels) were shown which can only mean they’re confirmed. On that note, both Game Boy and Game Boy Colour titles were said to be available for a as of yet unknown price. My guess is between 200 and 500 DS Points (£1.80 and £4.50) unless Nintendo give the 3DS a new pricing system. There are so many classic Game Boy games that it’s hard to think of what to wish for but Kirby’s Dreamland 2 and Super RC Pro Am would be a good place to start.

Super Super Scribblenauts trailer

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5TH Cells Scribblenauts was a great concept awkwardly implemented into a game but the follow up appears to have ironed out a few of those issues, expanding the potential puzzle solutions tenfold. Before you could enter a word – mainly a noun – and the object would appear. This latest trailer for Super Scribblenauts shows how the developers have really put the emphasis on adding adjectives to your chosen word, piling them up for better results.

Whether you can get by with a trusty rope and helicopter like the first game is looking doubtful though I wonder what would happen if you type in flying rope?

Nintendo 3DS pricing hinted by Honeywell

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The man who’ll be orchestrating the launch of the 3DS here in the UK, James Honeywell, was interviewed by Electricpig recently to find out more details regarding Nintendo’s little box of magic. The whole vid is worth a watch but by far the most chin-tappingly-interesting part came when asked about pricing. Honeywell said: “Price, we haven’t made any kind of announcement at the moment, but for everyone who already knows, you know, the Nintendo DSi is available for around £129.99. The Nintendo DSi XL, with the larger screens, is around £159.99. So obviously, it’s going to fit, kind of, somewhere within that kind of architecture.”

Hmm, lets think about that; If Nintendo were to keep the DSi and DSi XL at the same price and introduce the 3DS as a completely new system, then £179-199 sounds about right. If however they decide to drop the price of all previous DS SKUs, treating the 3DS like the next model, we could see it come in lower between £159-179. It’s far more likely to be the former since the new tech of the 3DS is far more advanced and therefore really a DS 2. I was suitable impressed (check out my hand-on) with the 3DS when I got to play with it and wouldn’t be too fussed if it ends up costing just under £200. I can’t imagine Nintendo going too far over that since they’re all about affordable gaming.

We won’t find out anything for sure until September 29th it appears as Nintendo confirmed to Bloomberg Japan (via VG247) that an event discussing price and launch timings will take place. The confirmation of the event got a bit out of hand with rumours of a Japan only release happening sometime this quarter. Nintendo claimed this was just a case of Chinese whispers.

3DS games announced so far

With the ability to play all existing DS and DSi hardware, the Nintendo 3DS will already have a large game collection available o release day. In yesterday’s press conference, Nintendo trickled out just some of the new games coming to the system, complete with 3D capabilities. But even more were announced shortly after if not leaked before hand. The list is really quite special with more names to get excited about instead of ones that’ll turn you off the handheld. And as you can see from the screenshot above of Konami’s Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D, the 3DS is a graphically impressive piece of kit.

We know Capcom are producing Resident Evil: Revelations but a 3D Super Street Fighter IV is also in development. A new Mario Kart is on the way as is a 3D Animal Crossing and Pilotwings Resort. To make things easier and help stoke the fires of joy inside us all, I’ve posted all the games and franchises that are headed to the 3DS (thanks Kotaku!) after the break.

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