Now that I’ve had a few weeks to enjoy my 3DS, I’m ready to give my thoughts and impressions to the four people who read this blog. Spoiler: I have mixed feelings. Mind you, this is purely my opinion, so if you don’t like the smell of bullshit, close this tab now.
The first thing that felt like a downgrade was the battery life. Now, I understand this is doing more work than the DSi I traded up from. The battery in the 3DS is a considerable 1300 mAh, compared to the DSi’s 840 mAh (and the DSi XL’s 1050 mAh). But the 3DS only gets, at most, 8 hours of battery life–and that’s playing an older DS game with brightness set to minimum and wireless disabled. Both DSi models easily surpass this without issue, unless their brightness is maxed. Hopefully in the next iteration of the 3DS, Nintendo will figure out a way to make the hardware more efficient.
The unit is almost exactly the same size and weight as the DSi, so it barely registered as a change in my mind, although the bottom screen is smaller than those on the former…it definitely feels smaller. I’m not a fan of this super-gloss revolution that has consumed the electronics world in the past decade–I very much enjoyed the matte finish of my DSi because it didn’t attract fingerprints or smudges. This, by comparison, makes me feel obsessive-compulsive, because if I don’t clean and wipe it constantly, its surface becomes almost slick, and not in that “blood on your sword” way that makes you feel manly and victorious. More in the “cooking grease on my damn controller” way. And what’s with the weird buttons-that-aren’t-buttons below the bottom screen? I wish they had put actually discrete buttons there, instead of…whatever these are. It’s difficult to use them by feel, and they’re sunken deep enough that I usually have to place the unit on something so I can exert enough force to trigger them.
One feature that seemed to take a backward step was the volume selector. On the original DS (and going back to the Game Boy Advance), this was a slider switch. I never had a good experience with this slider. Ever. On the DSi, this was graduated to + and – buttons that I found far more useful. Now, they’ve gone back to the slider, and though this is significantly better than the one I’ve used in the past, it’s tainted by those bad memories. It can be difficult to adjust the volume during gameplay this way, because of the way pressure has to be applied to the slider. In addition, the DSi buttons had the useful secondary function of quickly changing the brightness setting, which can’t be done now. This setting can be accessed via the home screen, but only while playing a 3DS game, which I’ll get into later.
The 3DS conveniently has a slider for the 3D screen function as well; the user can adjust the parallax barrier to suit their taste, or disable it entirely and play “flat.” What I’m not so big on is that the slider is designed to be operated from the side–that is to say, it’s possible to have the unit closed and one can still accidentally move the slider somehow, changing the depth setting and of course not realizing it until the next time it’s played. This gets annoying because I can never seem to get it quite back to where it was before.
Finally, the OS. It’s nice to see more progress in this area. The OS on the 3DS more closely resembles that of the Wii, most notably the “metabox” loading icon and the settings menus. Now, when the Home button is pressed during gameplay, the game is suspended while the user accesses their home screen, usually to change the brightness setting. But the OS can’t keep this game suspended beyond that–the user can’t go play another game (such as a downloaded DSiWare) and keep their first game suspended in the background. This would be a nice function to see, because sometimes you just need a break from futility to play something fun or use the browser. It doesn’t need to be able to hold more than one game, really…even entering system options requires that this game be ended, which kind of defeats the whole purpose.
One gripe I can’t get past is DS mode. DS games can’t be suspended via the Home button. The Home screen is not accessible at all without exiting the game entirely. Even the brightness settings cannot be changed, meaning once you start a DS game, you’re stuck unless you can save and quit. Why can’t even the Home screen be seen during DS games? Why did Ninendo go with a volume slider when the +/- buttons, such as on the DSi, could have resolved this issue with brightness settings? As usual, Nintendo threw in their odd design decisions, because their product wouldn’t be complete without them.
Final thought: The cameras. Get rid of them. Please. No one uses them. Taking 3D pictures is cool, but the quality is horrendous. Save a few bucks and some weight and just remove the cameras…really.