Last Sunday Nintendo of America launched their latest handheld gaming device the Nintendo nintendo3ds-S3DS. Since it was announced to the world at June 2010’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, Nintendo fans and gamers alike have been eagerly been anticipating the groundbreaking portable console, which offers 3D visuals without the need for specialized glasses and augmented reality gaming.

The 3DS is the successor to the immensely popular Nintendo DS, which introduced touch screen gaming to the world in 2004. Nintendo has once again found a new way for players to interact with their favorite games. Since the 3D feature cannot be filmed accurately, the 3DS requires a hands-on review. Now that the system is available to the public, many gamers are eager to see the 3D graphics for themselves.

What does 3d look like?

When most people think of 3D images they picture the familiar theater gimmick where the movie “jumps out” into the audience, almost like a hologram. This isn’t the case with the 3DS, which uses 3D visuals to create depth.

Imagine that when looking at the top screen of the 3DS, you are actually peering into a box or staring down a hallway. Games can layer objects on top of another giving off another dimension of gameplay. In Super Street Fighter 4 3D edition for instance, the games characters populate the mid-ground while health and score bars appear in the foreground, and the background is just that. There is a slider that adjusts the level of 3D so that the individual can personalize the picture. At the end of the day it’s something that has just hast to be seen firsthand.

What’s new compared to the Nintendo DS?

Owners of the original DS series will notice plenty of new features on the 3DS including the circle pad, which acts as an analog stick. The circle pad allows for 360-degree input, and is found above the traditional digital direction pad. The standard XYBA buttons are still there, but are made from a different material so there is a different feel when compared to the DS Lite model. There are also three cameras, one facing the player and a pair facing away from the 3DS, allowing for 3D picture taking. There are many other differences in placement of the microphone, power switch and volume slider.

As different as the 3DS appears on the outside, it has also been thoroughly enhanced on the inside. The systems OS comes packed with extra functions such as StreetPass, Mii Plaza, Augmented Reality Games and Face Raiders. The 3DS also keeps track of game activity, a friend list and the number of steps taken with a built-in pedometer.

Augmented Reality?

One of the strangest, (and coolest,) applications that comes bundled into the 3DS is the ability to recognize certain images that appear on a hand of cards that come with the system. Using the 3D cameras, the top screen “becomes” a window and shows whatever is directly behind the 3DS. If the cameras spot one of the AR cards a 3D character will show up on the screen and appear to interact with the world behind your 3DS. There are many different games built into the application, one of which where players must defeat a dragon that appears to be sprouting out of the card.

So what games are out?

Honestly not much. This is the first Nintendo system to launch without a Mario or Zelda title. For early adopters, Nintendogs + Cats, Ridge Racer 3D, Super Street Fighter 4 3D Edition, The Sims 3, Rayman 3D, Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, Bust-a-Move Universe, Super Monkey Ball 3D, Pilot Wings: Resort and Tony Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars are only some of the launch titles. The N64 classic Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time is being remade for the 3DS and is slated to be out in June.

Are there any drawbacks?

The 3DS is a great system, but there are a few drawbacks. At the moment there aren’t many strong titles to offer, but it is only a matter of time before more heavy hitters like Zelda, Mario and Star Fox appear in 3D. Another issue all gamers will face on the 3DS is the battery life that only lasts 3 to 5 hours. Unlike the DS series, the 3DS is region locked, meaning that Japanese games will not play on a North American system. Nintendo implemented this and other antipiracy measures due to the rampant amount of piracy currently possible on the DS. Because of this security measure, games that aren’t localized for every region won’t be playable in some areas. Namco Bandai the company that publishes One Piece games in America (or at least they did until 2008,) isn’t likely to release the 3DS One Piece Unlimited Cruise SP in North America, despite a heavy outcry from fans of the popular Japanese manga comic.

Anything else?

There are tons of features bundled into the 3DS as well as many still yet to be installed in future system updates. The 3DS can communicate with other units you may happen to pass by on the street and trade information and unlock mini games. In the coming months, the 3DS will be able to stream Netflix, browse the Internet, and download classic Gameboy titles updated to embrace 3D visuals.

There’s plenty to do on the Nintendo 3DS as is now, and things will only get more exciting as the year rolls on. Many of the built in games are great for a party, and are interesting and fresh ways to play games. If anything it’s worth taking a look for yourself.