The Nintendo DS is still the bestselling handheld gaming system of all time, so this year's follow-up, the Nintendo 3DS, has a lot to live up to. The 3DS launched earlier this year with less than enthusiastic sales, forcing Nintendo to drop the system's price from an initial $249.99 to $169.99.
Part of the reason for the lackluster launch was a curious absence of any truly new launch titles. Instead, Nintendo offered remakes of classic Nintendo 64 games like "Ocarina of Time" and "Star Fox." They were bestsellers on home consoles, but not must-haves for most consumers today. Nintendo has also found itself up against Apple's iPhone, the first truly dangerous competitor it has faced since the release of the Gameboy in 1989.
With smartphones and their seemingly unlimited libraries of gaming apps quickly overwhelming the handheld market, should you pick up a 3DS for the holiday season?
If ever there was a time, it is now. Nintendo has finally released its big guns, several new franchise titles to get fans to make the plunge at last. Highly anticipated games like "Super Mario Land 3DS" and "Mario Kart 7" will be available before 2011 is over, and the long-awaited return of Pitt in "Kid Icarus: Uprising" will come in the first months of 2012. Add the 3DS's backward compatibility with original DS games and you have a quality gaming library that puts any collection of iPhone apps to shame.
The 3DS offers 3-D technology, and it's impressive at first, but over time many have found the added dimension to be gimmicky. On a small screen, 3-D can never be as immersive as say, "Avatar," and acts mostly to give a shadow box-like depth to games.
For an idea of what it is like to view Nintendo's glasses-free 3-D, just look at a lenticular hologram -- you know the kind, found on bookmarks and trading cards the world over. While entertaining at first glance, it can be a strain to keep one's eyes trained on this type of optical illusion for an extended period of time.
Luckily, Nintendo does not force perspective into your games; you can turn the 3-D off and enjoy all of your favorites in two dimensions.
There are plenty of surprises buried in the 3DS. Under the hood the system is said to pack power nearing that of the Nintendo Wii. The system also features dual cameras which can take "Harry Potter"-style 3-D pictures and allows games to interact with your environment.
If you're looking to retire your trusty DS, now might be the best time to give the 3DS a shot. Just keep that 3-D slider on low, if not completely off.