Nintendo 3DS: The story so far

Are you looking for some inside information on ? Here's an up-to-date report from experts who should know.

If you find yourself confused by what you've read to this point, don't despair. Everything should be crystal clear by the time you finish.

Bummed that there are no new home consoles coming in 2011? Buck up, gamer: Nintendo's got your back.

Announced last June at the E3 2010 convention, the company's portable 3DS system is hitting shelves on February 26 in Japan and sometime around the end of March in North America, bringing with it the promise of true 3D visuals in the palm of your hand. It's a daring move, but one that many believe is exactly what Nintendo needs to do to maintain their relevance in a market increasingly encroached upon by the likes of Apple and Android.

Though some of the most essential 3DS facts -- price point, launch date and launch lineup -- are still up the air, plenty of details have already been uncovered.

It does 3D and does away with the glasses.

The system's key selling point is no sham -- the 3DS manages to pull off pretty convincing 3D without requiring players to strap on nerdy glasses (which, in my case, means the shameful double dip of strapping nerdy glasses *over* my nerdy glasses). A simple slider on the device lets players tweak the 'level' of 3D depth, and while it isn't quite as awe-inspiring as Avatar, it produces a stereoscopic visual effect that truly makes images jump off the screen. And that's not just for games. Studios like Dreamworks and Disney are planning to bring 3D versions of films like Tangled and How to Train Your Dragon to the system, too.

Its battery life isn't great.

Unfortunately, that awesome 3D sucks up an awesome amount of power. Nintendo of Japan has confirmed that the battery life of the system is a mere 3-5 hours when playing in 3D mode, or 5-8 hours if played in 2D mode. That's a significant step back from the rest of the DS line, though it's also somewhat expected since the system technically employs three screens (one on the bottom and a dual-screen setup for the 3D-enabled top) To make up for it, Nintendo is shipping the system with a charging cradle, but the system also takes a whopping 3.5 hours to fully charge. Hope you're patient.

It's packing loads of famous franchises.

Hardware means little without good software to make it shine, and if the wealth of games already announced for the system's Japanese launch is any indication, expect it to shine quite brightly. A good 100 titles have been announced already, including specialized 3DS takes on Metal Gear, Resident Evil, Assassin's Creed, Street Fighter, Nintendogs, Kid Icarus and The Legend of Zelda. Best of all? It's backwards compatible, so you won't need to toss out your older DS games (including downloaded content, which can be swapped over using an SD card).

It's in control.

Mobile phone gaming might be all the rage, but some experiences require more than just a touchscreen. The 3DS goes above and beyond in that regard, packing a touchscreen, face buttons, shoulder buttons, a D-pad and a new analog stick (dubbed the 'Circle Pad') for optimal control options. Prefer motion-based control? The 3DS has you covered there, too, with an accelerometer and a gyroscope under the hood.

It's bad for your kid's eyes. Or is it?

Kids and 3D don't really mix, especially if they're under quite young. At least that's what Nintendo believes: the company issued a recent warning that children under the age of six shouldn't use the 3D mode at all as their eye muscles are still developing (2D mode is fine, though). But while the seemingly courteous statement made headlines, it might have been more about covering themselves legally than a courtesy to consumers. Eye specialists have since argued that current 3D tech poses no threat to children, leaving the topic open for further debate.

Of course, that all still leaves out the most important bit of info -- final U.S. price. The Japanese launch price of 25,000 yen translates to about $300, which seems inordinately steep considering that a Wii goes for a good $100 less. An 8GB iPod Touch only costs $230, and Sony was nearly laughed out of the handheld market altogether after pricing the admittedly underwhelming PSP Go at $250. Here's hoping Nintendo will learn from that mistake and give U.S. consumers a break. With the system targeted for release at the end of March, we should find out soon enough.

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