How The 3DS Alters DS Games, And What You Should Do About It

With the launch of Nintendo's 3DS fast approaching, there's been some concern that DS games may not play well on the 3DS. The 3DS can play them, but people have been buzzing about extended load-times and diminished graphics for DS games on Nintendo's new system.

We tested several games on the 3DS, DSi and DS Lite. What's the deal? Do DS games run shoddily on the 3DS, or are the rumours so much bunk? The short answer is that these games run pretty well on the 3DS, with minimal problems, but there are some hitches... and some solutions.

Introducing The Black Screen of... Dread?

Take a look. Notice anything? Yeah, it's just a black screen - a screen you'll be eying for anywhere from five to eight seconds every time you boot up a DS game from the 3DS menu.

We're not sure why the black screen appears. It could be beacause the 3DS needs to adjust its resolution to accommodate the display settings of standard DS titles. Whatever the reason, this appears to be the extended load-time people have been grumbling about.

However, don't throw down your cartridges in disgust just yet! While it might take longer to boot your DS games on the front end, the games we tested appeared to run just fine once we made it past the Black Screen of Dread.

In fact, performance was indistinguishable from the DSLite to the 3DS; the time it took to load a save-file differed, on average, by only a tenth of a second!

Yeah, but how do DS games look?

They look just fine, thanks for asking. But you'll want to become familiar with some of the ins-and-outs of your 3DS if you want an ideal performance in the visual department.

There have been reports that DS titles running on the system appear blurry or pixelated - especially on the device's top screen - because they are stretched to fit the 3DS's wider dimensions. We found that any visual distortions were extremely insignificant; the original aspect-ratio for those DS titles that we tested was preserved, and if anything, games tended to look better and occasionally smoother than they did running on the DS Lite.

However, the 3DS does give users a handy way of bypassing the enlarged display: simultaneously holding down the start and select buttons while booting up a DS title will cause the 3DS to display the game in its native, albeit, somewhat dwarfish, resolution. (See that Pokémon pic up top for an example.)

A second area of concern reflected the 3DS's supposed-habit of causing the colour palette of certain games to appear blanched or heavily desaturated.

We did notice that the colours displayed in games like Pokémon and Advance Wars: Dual Strike appeared perceptibly off. But after fiddling with the 3DS's brightness settings, we came out with a picture that was far more acceptable - brightness level three or four - and only fractionally different from what we saw on the DS Lite.

3DS on inferior brightness setting. (Brightness setting of five.)

3DS on preferred brightness setting. (Brightness setting of four.)

Bottom line

Purists may want to hold on to their soon-to-be-classic DS models, but the majority of gamers should be perfectly satisfied with how DS titles play and appear on the 3DS.

So worry not if you've already traded your erstwhile DS Lite, or DSi, or DSwhatever toward your brand-spanking and sparkling new 3DS. Just be prepared to acquaint yourself with some of the less obvious functions of the new console, and to possibly mess with the brightness settings to get the display you are looking for.


    This expectation of backwards compatibility in the industry is really starting to get annoying.
    Its new hardware, if you so lovingly still enjoy playing your old games, well then just play them on your old system.
    Having to add backwards compatibility adds complexity, development time and costs, hardware costs and can limit the potential of the new hardware.
    I want new hardware to play new games with new features. Why pay for new hardware to do what my old hardware already does better?

      Yes good point, but when you're Nintendo and you intend to aim your console at a young audience backwards compatibility IS A MUST, kids can't go around rebuying all their favourite franchises.

        Yeah I understand that. But I dont understand why they would need to rebuy franchises again.
        Im assuming this means that they have their old games still. Then why do they not have the console?

        *im not considering people that go for the EB "deals" with console trade ins, I hope they are the minority, lol

        If a child of mine is so attached to an old game, then let them play the old game on the old console.

          Yep, because the immense successes of the PS3 and the Gamecube, the two most recent consoles with a lack of backwards capability, clearly show that it's not at all important to have.

            To Ed: The problem is Nintendo is releasing a new console with especific games every few years, if a user owns DS and now 3DS, would like to play DSi games also, and definitively is not going to purchase DSi, so backwards compatibility is a must.

      You're also forgetting those people who wouldn't be able to afford one if they couldn't trade their old hardware. I wouldn't be getting one at all if I wasn't getting $250 off thanks to my trade in, so if it didn't play old games I couldn't justify it at all.

      Nintendo is smart enough to know their launch titles are weak and that most 3DS owners will be using them to play DS games for a good period until better ones come out. It also gives the console an instant quality library of games. For now, it's Pokemon Black/White.

      For the DS, it was the excellent games that came out in the tail end of the GBA's life.

      For the GBA, it was Zelda Ages/Seasons. Which indeed had a big feature on the boxes to assure people it can run on their new console.

        Oh yeah. Totally. Nintendo put in backward compatibility because they felt that their own launch titles were weak.

        Don't take your opinion and attempt to pass it off as Nintendos opinion too.

      eh you get backlash I never upgraded from a DSlite to DSI because i wanted to still be able to play my large back catalog.

      It's the one thing i love about my PC that i can play anything released ever(sometimes with a little effort but eh)
      games that otherwise are near on impossible to find or play

      Also if anything is holding the 3DS back at the moment it is A) the 3D and B) the Battery. anymore technical strength would be useless, sure you could add some more battery juice in there, but that can cause other issues. and id rather have access to my backcatalog than an extra hour of power.

      It's because each DS has been a revision of the past hand held, there's an expectation the old games will work.

      It's also a value add for the hand held, it was neat tobe able to play my old GBA games in the DS Phat.

      Clearly they are doing something right as they creamed the PSP in this generation.

      They add backwards compatibility because it brings in new customers. Not everyone was able to get the previous system or game when it came out because perhaps they weren't old enough yet or didn't have the time and they want to play it now.But once a new system comes out everyone wants the new one and games don't usually get good until after a few months of a system being out. And it makes the game library for that system much bigger. Would you rather a tv that only showed movies that came out during the production of that tv and you would have to hook up your old tv to watch old movies or one that played everything? And what if your going to a friends house and you want to play a 3ds game and ds you have to bring both systems. If its a home console you have to take up an extra slot on the tv for an old console or keep unplugging it which ruins the slot after a while.

      Aaaaaand what if those people want to play their old games, but want the price drop for trading a system in for the new one?

    I'm actually looking forward to playing DS games on the 3DS. Despite the small graphical distortions it has bigger screens than my Lite, and some games (like Mario 64 DS) will benefit from using the anaogue slider, even though it will still technicaly use digital movements, diagonal direction changes will be a lot smoother to make.

    I'll still be keeping my Lite though, I need that for playing GBA games.

    As someone who never upgraded his DS Phat, that 3DS screen is going to look absolutely massive when I end up getting one. o_o

      The distortions really make me wish I had upgraded to Lite at least.

    Isn't 3DS on a beefier hardware? Must be bad coding on the emulator causing DS games to load slower on 3DS

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