Not so long ago, Nintendo was king of the hill in video game land--especially when it came to handheld games. Back in those magical days, the Nintendo DS was the pinnacle of kid-friendly fun, and even casual gaming for those who normally didn't find games appealing.
Then came Apple. While some might debate the quality games in the App Store versus offerings for the Nintendo DS or Sony PSP, the success of Apple's seemingly endless supply of cheap games has been undeniable. Nintendo even acknowledges that Apple is its chief rival, now.
Enter the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo's next-gen 3D handheld. Can it change the equation and recapture the Nintendo magic--and, most notably, kid appeal--that's worn away a bit in the wake of shiny gadgets like the iPhone and iPad?
The 3DS goes on sale in America on March 27, and it's been on shelves in Japan for weeks. We've reviewed the system already at CNET, and I've been playing around with one for the last six days, along with a handful of launch games.
At this year's GDC, Nintendo delivered a keynote literally across the street--and on the same day--as Apple's iPad 2 unveiling. Nintendo's focus on handheld gaming has had to take into account the meteoric rise of Apple's App Store. The App Store redefined the landscape of game pricing and effectively stole some of the casual-gaming crowd from Nintendo. Now that the 3DS is about to arrive, can it help fix what Nintendo's been missing?
After a week playing with one, my feelings are mixed. The 3DS has technical tricks up its sleeve that no iDevice can lay claim to yet--namely, its 3D camera and glasses-free 3D screen--but 3D is a divisive technology. Some people prefer their entertainment without a third dimension forced onto it. Also, Nintendo has been intent on not using 3D as an essential element in its 3DS games, making it a less integral technology than motion control on the Wii. The system has its advantages, and it has impressively improved graphics, but that alone isn't enough.
If the Nintendo 3DS is to effectively answer back to the juggernaut of affordable, diverse iOS gaming and offer up a convincing alternative, this is what I think it still needs to stand a chance.… Read more