We're on the verge of the release of Nintendo's first major new gaming system in a half-decade, the 3D capable 3DS. It's the seasons, then, for both excitement and lots of little nagging questions. From Nintendo, we've got (some) answers.
When are the games actually coming out? Two months out from the 3DS' release, Nintendo is only giving its US fans the release date of the system, March 27, but not saying which games will be out that day. Nintendo officials told Kotaku that the details are still be worked out.
Maybe we'll get a surprise game for launch? Probably not. Nintendo of America's director of product marketing, Bill Trinen, tells us that we can expect the launch-day games to consist of some selection of the games shown in New York this week. That narrows the possibilities to any of 15 or so games we just saw, including the likes of Nintendogs + Cats, Pilotwings Resort (we've been told repeatedly that Kid Icarus Uprising, which was shown in New York, is not a "launch window" game, meaning it shouldn't be expected until some time after early June.
The system will cost $US249.99. But what about the games? Nintendo isn't saying yet either. Nintendo handheld games have usually been at least $US10-20 cheaper than $US50-$60 console games, but these days, we've got iPhone and iPad games selling for $US1-$10. It's hard to gauge which price Nintendo will settle on. In Japan, some of the 3DS games are going for prices usually reserved for console games.
How's the battery power? The system will take about 3.5 hours to charge and then last about three to five hours on a full charge. That's with the 3D effects activated. The company guesses that people who keep the 3D turned off could get as many as eight hours. Turning off the system's wireless via a switch, lowering its brightness settings or even running it in a dimmer power-save mode will all help the machine last longer. The system charges off of a power cord or while sitting in a plugged-in "cradle".
The system's power cord seemed kinda short. Should we be worried? No. Nintendo's Trinen said that the short 3DS cord shown recently in Japan was only "for illustrative purporses only." Power cords from the DSi or DSiXL will also plug into the 3DS.
Once and for all, is the 3DS region-locked? The days of playing Japanese games on a US handheld are over?
For Nintendo, they are. The system is region-locked. "One of the primary driving factors for that has to do with parental controls," Nintendo's Bill Trinen says. "Different regions have different ratings systems. The region-locking allows us to provide the different parental controls to deal with the ratings in each territory." While this seems like a policy change for Nintendo, Trinen says they've been doing this for DSi and Wii games, all of which are linked to their system's parental controls.
The 3DS seems like a pretty capable machine. One of its less ballyhooed features is that you can multi-task with it. How does that work? A 3DS owner user can suspend any game they are playing at any point and access one of several options (all displayed across the top of the screen) that let them access a virtual notepad, a web browser and even a friends list that lets them see who else is online. As for how useful this might be: "Specifically for an example with Zelda," Nintendo's Trinen says, "If you're stuck in the water temple and you're trying to figure out where the last of the switches are that you have to hit to draw the water level down and get all the way down to the boss, you can immediately hit the home button, bring up the browser, go to whatever tip site you want to go to, figure out where that is, then switch over to the game notes, draw a map on your screen to refer to or go right back into the game." All of this can be done with the game suspended, which is superior level of support for multi-tasking than any game machine has ever offered before.
You can also get points for walking? You can earn what Nintendo calls "play coins" for every step you make while walking around with the 3DS. Nintendo isn't saying what kind of rewards will be unlocked, but the basic idea is that walking a certain number of steps will earn system owners a set amount of coins that could then be spent to unlock game content or features in the apps that are pre-installed in the 3DS.
We know the Friend Code system is better this time around. Can you even send messages to people while you're playing, maybe while the game is suspended? Trinen says "the goal is there will be some messaging functions" but couldn't lock in details for us.
How many friends can we have registered in the system? Nintendo's pegging it at "about 100".
Nintendo is getting more modern about the way it handles online shopping for downloadable games? Yes. It's no longer going to make people buy its downloadable games for any and every DS a person might own. They'll let people who have bought downloadable DSiWare games for their DSi to transfer them to the 3DS and will let games downloaded from the 3DS transfer from one system to an owner's second 3DS, though details on how they'll do this and ensure people aren't just handing the games off to friends, remains to be explained.
Their online store will be better and full of 3D stuff? From what we've seen so far, yes. It will include screenshots and trailers for games and movies. Pre-recorded content, like trailers, won't support the system's full slider-friendly adjustable 3D. Players can either turn the 3D on or off. This limitation won't affect new downloaded games, which can be in full slider-adjusted 3D. But for pre-recorded stuff like trailers - and maybe movies, though we're not 100 per cent certain on that - 3D will be an on-off thing. There's zero indication that some of the retro downloads on the 3DS from the Game Boy and Game Boy Color line will be offered with any sort of 3D support.
Will the 3DS talk to the Wii? Yes. While Nintendo's talking a lot about the way the 3DS can connect to Wi-Fi hot spots and other 3DS systems even when it is in sleep mode, the company is also giving one example of how the machine can link to the Wii. Both the 3Ds and Wii use the Mii avatar system, so the Wii will be able to send Miis to the 3DS. We won't be able to send them back to the Wii, because the 3DS' Miis actually have more hairstyle and facial feature options than the Wii supports (Yeah, we should have asked Nintendo why they wouldn't just update the Wii's Mii channel to match that.)
What else is there to know about the 3DS? A lot. Keep an eye on our continuing 3DS coverage.