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Nintendo 3DS review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £197
inc VAT

A bewildering array of technology in a compact package, the Nintendo 3DS has huge potential.



Aside from the touchscreen, Nintendo has packed a bevy of controls onto the relatively compact 3DS. The most important of these is the analogue thumbpad on the left. This sits very tight to the console in a small circular recess, its slides around rather than tilting and doesn’t click in as an extra button. As an analogue input device it’s excellent, providing nuanced control in every game we tried. Below this is the usual d-pad, which has a nice responsive, clicky feel to it (but no it’s not micro-switched like the old Neo-Geo pocket pad).

Nintendo 3DS analogue pad

On the right-hand side are four small face buttons – it’s a pity that Nintendo didn’t decide to put a second analogue stick here (as we already noticed in Splinter Cell 3D). Such a stick would have made the 3DS far more suited to third-person shooters. This was something that plagued Sony’s PSP, but then Nintendo might have been hoping for a different kind of game on the 3DS, rather than simply ports of big console shooters.

Beneath the touchscreen are three flush buttons. These need a firm press to activate, but that’s no bad thing, as they don’t get in your way when you’re using the touchscreen and won’t be pressed by accident. The Home button works like the Xbox 360’s Guide button, in that it suspends your game and brings you out to the main menu, while select and start cover various in-game options. Other buttons include power, and the two small shoulder buttons, useful in games but which also act as the shutter buttons for the three, count them, cameras.


To go with the 3D screen Nintendo has gone with a pair of cameras on the outside of the lid for taking 3D photos. Don’t expect stellar quality, as they’re only 0.3-megapixel sensors. Shooting in low-light is also out of the question with poor sensitivity, plenty of noise and no LED flash to provide assistance. The angle is surprising tight too, so you often find yourself edging back from your subject.

The resulting photos range from the banal to the jaw-dropping. With a bit of thought in your compositions you can get some great shots, ones that really make use of the 3D element. We can’t show you any examples, unfortunately, but even if you consider it to a be a gimmick, it’s a hugely entertaining one and there’s a lot of fun to be had experimenting with the effect.

A second camera on the inside of the 3DS allows you to take photos of yourself, usually to add a personal touch to games. Or just for the taking of amusing self portraits.

Nintendo 3DS portrait

Built-in wireless is no surprise on a DS console. Its functions are largely divided into two areas: Streetpass and Spotpass. The first allows the 3DS to detect and communicate with other 3DS consoles while in sleep mode. This could allow it to find passing players for a multiplayer game and alert you to their presence. Bette still it can swap information with other players as they go about their business, for example you can share Mii avatars with people, who then populate their virtual worlds. It could also provide bonuses in specific games, for example, by trading unwanted objects or treasure with other automatically.

Spotpass also works while the 3DS is asleep, and allows it to download new content from wireless hotspots. For example, your local game store could be offering free in-game content for anyone who brings their 3DS into the store on the launch day of a new title.

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