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Nintendo 3DS: Futuristic Handheld, Retro Battery

Should you buy a 3DS?

Regarding the above question, there are a few major factors to consider: Price, Games, 3D and Battery Life. Starting with the games...there are a few games that we’ve  enjoyed playing over the last few days, but the lack of Nintendo’s presence on the list of launch software – three games, and only one of them (Pilotwings) is truly compelling – is troubling. Zelda and Kid Icarus are both slated for 3DS appearances later this year, so why shouldn’t I just wait until then to buy one? There are some third-party titles that beckon for us, but Nintendo has always been known for its own software. We are looking forward to third-party games, of course, but we’re even more excited about seeing Mario, Kirby and the rest of the gang in glasses-free 3D.

As for the price, the 3DS has an MSRP of $249, which is a lot to ask for when you’re talking about a handheld console. This is by far the most expensive handheld Nintendo has ever released, and it’s about $80 more than a DSi was when that handheld launched almost two years ago. That aside, you do get a lot for your money: glasses-free 3D gaming, Augmented Reality, WiFi, largely impressive hardware, a decent lineup of third-party games, and a revamped social experience, including a re-worked friend code system and StreetPass. Nintendo is packing a lot into this device, and each feature makes the high price tag that much easier to swallow.

The battery life is the one area where there is no “pros and cons” list. With a range of 2-5 hours, the 3DS sucks battery life faster than Dracula chugging O Negative at a blood bank. Whenever Nintendo releases another 3DS, call it the “3DS Lite”, it would be nice to see he battery life double from where it stands right now. That’s a lot to ask, we suppose, but getting efficiency back to DSi/DS Lite levels should be top priority here, above making the console thinner and lighter.

When it comes to 3D, the marquee feature on this device, we have to give it two thumbs up despite our aforementioned issues. Yes, the viewing angles could be (a lot) better, and yes, using 3D with Augmented Reality is a pain, but the 3D really shines when playing games like LEGO Star Wars III and SSF4. Other compelling features like Augmented Reality games are a sleeper hit, and the fact that they come free on the device is an absolutely fantastic bonus.

In the end, we would recommend buying a 3DS if you have the cash on hand. While the next version of the handheld will undoubtedly be better…it’s probably not going to make an appearance until late 2012 or even early 2013. Nintendo isn’t on a yearly development cycle like Apple, so you’ll likely be waiting at least 18 months for the next version. The parallax 3D screen is worth the money, and both the launch titles and the first-party titles slated for later this year are largely appealing. The battery life is awful, so be sure to keep a charger in your purse or backpack at all times. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re going destroy some co-workers' heads in Face Raiders.