Well, we've all known it's been coming, we've seen Jimmy Fallon playing with it on his talk show, and the buzz has been gathering since last year: Nintendo's glasses-free 3D hand-held system. For those of you creaming for it, you only have to wait until March 27th to get your grubby little paws all over it, in black and blue, for a North American SRP of $249.99. Not bad, considering they only announced it just about a year before the release date. Let's take a look at what we know, and see whether the anticipation is warranted.
So, back on March 23rd, 2010, Nintendo made a press release. It referenced the fact that they were in the process of creating a 3D gaming system that would require no glasses in order to get the full effect. The process with which they do this is called autostereoscopy, and involves figuring out where the viewer's eyes are in order to send different images to each of them at the same time, producing a stereoscopic, or 3D, effect. They've been at it for quite some time, since the Virtual Boy from way back in the 90s was meant to have this capability. Unfortunately, production got rushed on the VB due to the interest in getting the Nintendo 64 to market, leaving the VB to collapse as one of Nintendo's rare commercial failures. The March 23rd announcement was rushed itself, since leaks about the successor to the DS were starting to swirl around that time, with some analysts suggesting an E3 announcement and a late 2010 release date.
(A lot of people don't know this, but the Nintendo GameCube is a fully functional 3D displaying system, however there was only one title made for it that utilized this technology, "Luigi's Mansion." Each and every GameCube sold has the ability to display true stereoscopic 3D, but since 3D televisions and displays weren't around, and the cost of making and selling one would have been through the roof for consumers at that time, that function of the system was never enabled.)
At E3, the unveiling was met with high anticipation. When the system was revealed on June 15th, 2010, the buzz was centred on the fact that not only could it do 3D, but the graphics and processing power could equal that of the 360 and PS3. Titles were also announced that day, with "Kingdom Hearts," "Final Fantasy," "Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 3D," and "Assassin's Creed: Lost Legacy" among them. Other Nintendo titles were released after the conference, including "Mario Kart 3DS," and remakes of "Starfox 64" and "Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time." I personally am getting tired of playing old Nintendo titles over and over again on different systems, especially when the company provides no place for consumers to request titles to be given a chance to shine on the Virtual Console for the Wii, but I digress.
On September 29th, 2010, it was announced that the Japanese release date would be February 26th, 2011, for 25,000 yen, with the rest of the world expecting March 2011 dates. On this date, it was also announced that the system would have it's own Virtual Console incorporating older hand-held titles, and would include a Mii Studio, comparable to the Mii Channel found on the Wii. This year, on January 19th, the latest news came out about the other world premiere dates, the prices, and the fact that the system will also allow users to watch movies on it.
The final tally of everything it does is as follows: Augmented Reality (games that come with the system that allow users to interact with paper pieces that the system will recognize), Backward Compatibility with DS software, a Virtual Console service (providing Game Boy and Game Boy Colour titles), StreetPass and SpotPass modes (multiplayer functionality which also allows for background seeking of WiFi hot spots and can download updates and such whenever near one; also allows for innate connectivity between systems), 3D movies, and the Mii Studio. System is also capable of taking 3D photos with its dual-camera system, and an included charger allows for speedier uploads and downloads when the system is resting in it.
All told, for $249.99, that sounds like a pretty good buy to me. It appears that 3D is now something more than a fad, and in the coming years it will likely become the norm, though very slowly in most cases. Nintendo is poised to jump all over that market early, and even though the iPhone and iPod Touch also have this technology, it appears that Nintendo will have the only game-focused system out there for a little while. We've seen what even a year's lead can do for the sales and library for a system (I refer to the 360's lead over the PS3 and Wii in North American markets), so it'll be interesting to see what Nintendo does with it's head start.
Until next time, Gamerscore ho!