Special: just got LASIK. The last thing I want to do is put on another set of glasses. Thanks for understanding, Nintendo.
For everyone, the big unknown before E3 2010 was Nintendo 3DS. For most gamers, the big unknown after
E3 2010 is? still Nintendo 3DS. That's because this 2011-bound portable has a 3D top screen that is only viewable in person, giving print journalism some much-needed clout back.
I was one of those journalists lucky enough to test out the 3DS in person and view some of its - literally - eye-popping games at the Nintendo E3 booth. Interestingly, my Nintendo appointment was right after I spent an hour testing the Sony lineup, which also had a number of games playable in 3D. While the basic effect is the same, there are a number of key differences between the Sony and Nintendo ways of presenting games in the third dimension. I'd even go as far as to say, there are three huge benefits to how Nintendo is doing 3D.
Reason 1: Price -- 3D Glasses = Why did I just get LASIK to put on Sony's $150 glasses?
First and foremost, you don't need 3D glasses to see the graphical effects of Nintendo 3DS. Having just gotten LASIK, the last thing I want to do is put on another set of glasses anytime soon. Besides being an annoyance to wear, find, sync and avoid stepping on, the 3D glasses are really expensive at $150 a pop. So, while playing games like Killzone 3 on PlayStation 3 and seeing it jump out at you from a 52-inch Sony-made monitor is exciting and seems like the wave of the future, I'm not ready to wave my credit card in front of a wave-and-pay card reader just yet.
Nintendo hasn't announced a price for its smaller, but more cost-efficient 3DS, but keep in mind that we didn't need a new $4,000 3D HDTV and, additionally, the three members of Gaming Target demoing Killzone 3 were wearing $450 worth of glasses, none of which were made by Gucci. That's $450 for just three people. How Super Bowl parties of the future are going to be effective in 3D is anyone's guess. BYOB and BYOG.
Glasses-free viewing of classic Nintendo franchises on 3DS was easier to pick-up-and-play or, in most cases, pick-up-and-view as not all of the demos were playable. For example, the appropriately named Kid Icarus: Uprising was limited to a non-playable, yet stunning video trailer that mixed air and ground combat involving Pit.
Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D 'The Naked Sample' allowed for camera movement during its scripted scenes, very much like a Call of Duty cutscene in which you can look around. The great thing about this interactive MGS video was that Konami did what 3D theme park rides have been doing for years: throwing obvious and blatant 3D effects toward you to fully demonstrate the third dimension. The best example of this is from the Disney ride ?Honey, I Shrunk the Audience!? It's filled with tons of effects like a dog that sneezes all over the audience. The MGS demo was filled with snapping alligators and falling tree limbs right in front of the camera.
There were more games playable at the Nintendo 3DS booth, which leads us to Nintendo's next big advantage over Sony...
Reason 2: Games -- Our favorite N64 franchises reborn in 3D: Zelda, Star Fox, Mario Kart. Oh My!
Whenever Nintendo announces a brand new system, you kind of expect it to mention that a new Zelda game is also in the works. Well, the company went a step further by revealing that the forthcoming 3DS will receive a remake of its most beloved iteration of the classic series, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This non-playable 3DS demo showed off adult Link galloping on his horse Epona. As the pair made their way around Hyrule Field, not only was the realtime video in 3D, the graphics were sharper and the color seemed more vivid than the game's N64 days. Considering Ocarina of Time is the highest rated game of all time, 3DS owners will be in for a real treat next year when this game releases.
It's been a while seen we've seen a new Star Fox game, and that series' N64 entry is receiving a 3DS remake, too. Nintendo was showing off a playable demo of the first level of Star Fox 64 on 3DS. Players still pilot Fox McCloud in his Arwing and shoot everything in sight alongside wingmen, Peppy, Falco and the always-annoying frog Slippy. While all of the action takes place on the 3D screen at the top, the bottom screen displays a diagram of the Arwing's controls. Not only is Star Fox 64 a classic shooter that has always deserved more attention, but its gameplay involves incoming fire and Arwing barrel roles that look stunning on a 3D system like this.
Mario Kart 3DS was only shown in video form, but even while the preview was non-interactive, the mere existence of a Mario Kart game out of the starting gate makes me thankful for Nintendo 3DS' existence. We don't know what the bottom screen will be used for just yet, but the top screen was full of fast, drift-induced speed boosts that are a staple of this kart racing series. The levels appear to be new, so this one isn't a straight N64-to-3DS remake as much as I want it to be.
Nintendo did come through with one last surprise that reminded me of its N64 days: PilotWings Resort. We thought
we got a taste of the PilotWings bug most recently when playing Wii Sports Resort and parachuting out of an airplane. Apparently, our instincts that the closely tied skydiving gameplay would spawn a new PilotWings game were not far off, as both titles use the same fictional island, Wuhu Island. Another clue that says we were right is the inclusion of Miis in the 3DS demo.
This playable 3D version of PilotWings featured two different aerial mini-games, the first using a seaplane to fly through a series of rings. The second strapped a Mii to a jetpack and required the character to pop balloons in midair. While these short mini-games were playable, it was like every other in the 3DS demo in the Nintendo booth: very few confirmed details, no price and no launch date. We don't even know for sure if what we played will appear in the final game. The only real thing we know is that PilotWings exists on 3DS.
Reason 3: Your first 3D Camera -- The cheapest 3D screen you'll buy ...And that's not all!
The cheapest 3D HDTV you'll be able to get is $1,600, and that's for a 40-incher by Samsung, not Sony. That's the online price, too. It's really listed at $2,000 MSRP. The Nintendo 3DS isn't officially priced, but the growing speculation pins it at just $200. So, although the top 3D touch screen is only 3.25 inches and 800x240, Nintendo will sell us a pint-sized 3D experience at a fraction of the price.
But what about content creation? Sony's all about "Play. Create. Share." with nifty little periods in between the words of its slogan. Yet the Japanese consumer electronics giant doesn't have a true 3D consumer-level camera on the market. The NEX-5 and NEX-3, for example, only feature ?3D Sweep Panorama? via a firmware update. Those cameras starts at $550.
Nintendo has Sony beat here, too, by including a 3D camera with the 3D display and no need for $150 3D glasses. While we all knew that The Big N was going to officially unveil the 3DS at E3 2010 due to leaks, no one saw this coming. Nintendo managed to move the decimal point favorably from an MSRP of $2,000 to a likely price of $200, meaning this will be almost every gamer's first 3D system.
As much as I enjoyed playing KillZone 3 in 3D on a glorious 52-inch HDTV, the smaller, simpler experience of testing some of gaming's beloved titles on the affordable Nintendo 3DS seemed more logical. Even if the portable was to only release with one game, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it'd still be worth picking up in 2011. Plus, not having to return to the days of glasses, whether they're $150 or $0, is a benefit that I can see with 20/20 vision.