LOS ANGELES--At the end of its E3 media briefing, Nintendo sent an army of spokesmodels out into the audience to demo the new 3DS handheld. Audience members were allowed to line up and spend about 60 seconds running through a preset series of 3D images, but no close-up photography was authorized.
We got to check out the demo reel for the 3DS, as well as the hardware, and here are our very first initial impressions.
The device itself seems about the same size as the current DSi, perhaps a little thicker. The top 3.5-inch 3D screen is larger than the bottom touch screen, but the large, glossy screen bezel on the top half makes the 3D screen look small.
The 3D effect itself was more impressive than we expected--but keep in mind it was a very curated demo reel, designed to show the technology in the best light. The screens shown involved Nintendo characters, such as Link and Mario, and the small slider on the side of the screen adjusted the "depth" of the 3D image all the way down to flat (2D). It looked best to me with the 3D setting nearly maxed out.
The most impressive part was being able to use the system's new analog stick to rotate the camera in 3D, letting us see the moving image from different angles in real time. Off-axis viewing largely negated the 3D effect; there seemed to be a dead zone if you moved your head slightly to the side, but the 3D effect came back into focus (but not looking nearly as deep) as the screen was angled further away.
We got a chance to try the system for about a minute only, and--with the exception of controlling the camera rotation--the demos were all non-interactive. Nintendo promises actual gameplay demos later at its E3 booth.