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The Nintendo 3DS 3D screen cannot be shown in pictures, or filmed. Everyone is talking about it, but what’s it really like watching 3D without glasses? After spending some time with the 3DS yesterday, we’re convinced that it’s worthy of the hype, although not without a couple of niggles.

In most of the news, reviews and hands on first impressions we’ve read (including our own) on the Ninendo 3DS, the screen is said to ‘pop’. “It really pops”, everyone says. But what does that mean?

Well, in the best case scenarios – watching a trailer for Legends of the Guardian: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, taking 3D photos, and the game trailer for Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater – this meant that I pulled back from the screen when a snake slid out from an overhanging branch and (what my brain interpreted as) into my face in Metal Gear Slid 3, or got goosebumps, as the owls from Legends of the Guardian swooped through the infinite depth of the 3DS screen.

At these times, the Nintendo 3DS had real depth: it popped. Butterflies drifted out of the screen, and I forgot completely that I was watching on a 3.5 inch display.

3D on the Nintendo 3DS is a more intimate, and affecting way to view 3D. The distance between your face and the screen is tiny compared to the distance between your face an a cinema screen, and this means that, although the 3DS is not an alternative to 3D cinema by any means, I was more immersed from the get go.

There is a sweet spot for the 3DS – directly in front of your face, higher than I’d usually hold a Nintendo DS, and straight ahead. It seemed to vary, depending on what’s being shown. The boxier the graphics, the more precise the sweet spot. I noticed this particularly with Mario Kart, for which I had to turn down the 3D slider to view comfortably.

I fiddled and played with a bunch of movie trailers, videos, game demos, game trailers and the camera for about an hour. I was moving between consoles, and didn’t have my eyes fixed on anything for more than about six or seven minutes. So I didn’t get to gauge how big a problem eye fatigue might be, but certainly with one or two of the games I tried, it felt hard to focus, as if my eyes were trying to constantly refocus on a point it could not find.

This was particularly true of Ubisoft’s Hollwood 61, a noir-ish graphic novel style detective game. The animation was quite cartoonish, and it was these bits that proved slightly troublesome on the eyes.

There are still niggles, in particular for game makers to design 3D games that don’t cause eye fatigue with sloppy depth consistency.  I’m also not convinced that games with boxier graphics will really benefit from the 3D. Overall, I found the 3DS enormously immersive and engaging, in a way I haven’t found with a portable console before. Sign me up.

  • Irenepinkerton

    would this console be ok to play if you have epilepsy

    • bensillis

      Well you can turn the 3D effect off completely on all games. But I'm no doctor – I'd recommend talking to Nintendo/ and your GP.

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