It seems a little late, but I'll be posting wrap up reviews and cool things we found on the Expo floor at last week's GDC, including video and more photos.
The Nintendo section was almost entirely devoted to showcasing the new 3DS. The active 3D engine was pretty impressive, and the 3DS has an adjustment slide that lets the user decide how much he or she enjoys it or finds it necessary (which for the most part, I didn't). No offense to the good people at Nintendo, I just find active 3D disorienting and just a tad bit gimmicky. Luckily, the 3DS didn't sacrifice or slack on any of the other features in the wake of 3D, and all I saw at the booth were wide eyes and smiles.
My own eyes and smile were added to that mix when I tried out two of the augmented reality games that come preloaded on the system. Nintendo uses marker-based AR technology to run their games, launching the AR experiences from a small card (cARd? No? Okay, I'll stop) bearing the familiar Nintendo Question Mark logo. The user orients the 3DS camera toward the card until it recognizes it, and then a variety of things happen depending on what game you're playing.
A very friendly 3DS rep named Jamie walked me through both the archery game (which, I will repeat, they should totally call "ARchery") and Face Raiders. The latter is a very original and unique game that uses photos of your friends to create enemies you have to shoot. Then again, I suppose you could take pictures of your boss or your ex if you could get them to stand still long enough for the 3DS to recognize, capture, and track their face- but that would be kind of an awkward conversation, no? Once the 3DS logs in the image, the person's face gets a quick makeover, including a crop, a new hat, and a highly amusing animated squawk mouth. One of Face Raiders' best features is that is has a life-bar, and thus incentive to defend yourself, which requires lots of moving around and scanning with the 3DS as there are floating face avatars attacking you from all sides. Jettisoning tennis-ball like orbs keeps them at bay, and if you have a moment amidst the flying images and general craziness, take a look at the background (reality) and watch as things come through it, literally "shattering" reality as you know it!
The archery game has an extremely accessible and intuitive game mechanic with an engaging and beautiful design, just like we all expect from every game that Nintendo makes. The entire game proceeds from a first-person perspective, as if the player were looking into a some sort of window. The user holds the 3DS above the "?" card until a yellow box appears, apparently hiding a tiny creature with very bright white eyes. The game directs the player to shoot the front of the box with an arrow, turning the lone box into nine more boxes, at which point the game literally "unfolds" from the playing surface. Somehow the game exists what seems like six or seven inches into the table, and targets continue to appear that force, or casually suggest that the player move around the table to get a better shot. The game culminates with a very angry dragon (he must be friends with the box creatures?) that emerges from a "hole" in the table. Unlike face raiders, there is no life-bar for the archery game, so the only incentive is improving your time. It took me about 01:40, but Jamie told me that one of the 3DS reps had it down to 00:43.
Here's some video of both games that I caught at GDC:
Make sure to check out all of my GDC videos and a bunch of others at TweakTown's Youtube Channel.
I think Nintendo implementing preloaded AR games in their new portable is a great step for AR and gaming. The games at times seem almost too simple, and the replay value may wear off quicker with some players than others, based on the lack of real skill incentive. But between the social aspect of Face Raiders, the active 3D engine, and the novelty of AR, I imagine gamers will have a lot of fun with both of these.
The 3DS ships March 27th for $249. Feel free to surf for more information and/or pre-order here.
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