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Ultimate Nintendo 3DS Guide

Updated on September 12, 2014

What's so good about the Nintendo 3DS?

Handhelds are unfortunately neglected in the Western gaming scene. Western publishers don't want to develop for them, and many gamers consider them inferior to home consoles. Nintendo in particular has gotten a bad rap for being too "kiddy." It's a shame, as the Nintendo 3DS is one of the best gaming devices out there this generation.

The Nintendo 3DS was released in 2011, and since then it's come a very long way. Initial poor sales led many video game journalists to call the handheld "doomed," but an aggressive price cut and a wave of new games helped the 3DS to become the most successful handheld of this current generation.

If you don't have a 3DS but are interested in one, let me show you all the things you can do with one.

First off, the console itself

I'm not going to get too specific with specs and measurements, but here's a general outline on the 3DS hardware.

There are currently three different Nintendo 3DS models:

The original model is almost exactly the same size as the DS Lite, but is a little heavier. The officially stated battery life of the 3DS is 3 to 5 hours per charge, but I've found that you can get way more game time than that, especially if you turn down the brightness of the screens. The 3DS costs $169.99.

The 3DS XL has screens that are 90% larger than that of the original 3DS, and has a slightly better battery life. Other than being larger, it's pretty much the same as the 3DS. The XL retails for $199.99.

Both types of 3DS can display glasses free 3D graphics, as suggested by their name. I've heard that the XL's larger screens make the 3D effect look even more amazing than on the original 3DS.

An interesting new model that Nintendo recently released in the West is the Nintendo 2DS. It plays 3DS games, but only displays 2D images. It's also shaped completely differently than the 3DS, being flat instead of having a clam shell design. This model is designed with affordability in mind, costing only $129.99.

All models of 3DS are also backwards compatible with Nintendo DS games.

What about the games?

Awesome games
Awesome games

The 3DS has a massive variety of games for all audiences, and its games library just keeps growing. It has the obligatory first-party Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon titles, all of which have gotten good review scores. But even for those who don't really care for these franchises, there's so much unique 3rd party (and more niche first-party) software out there.

Gamers looking for a brutal challenge can tackle Shin Megami Tensei IV, a game in which the protagonist recruits demons and various mythological figures in his quest to be a Samurai.

Another great game is Fire Emblem Awakening, a strategy RPG with great graphics, engaging gameplay, and lots of content.

For the more casual gamers, there are games such as Style Savvy: Trendsetters, which despite its name is a shop simulator with broad appeal.

The more musically inclined may want to check out Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure, a wacky rhythm game with some catchy music.

There are even games such as the risqué brawler Senran Kagura Burst, featuring a cast of busty female shinobi (but don't worry, it's still rated Teen).

Having played all of the 3DS games listed above (and many others!), I can vouch for their quality.

What else can I do with the 3DS?

The 3DS has a built Nintendo 3DS Sound program. If you don't have an MP3 player, this is a decent alternative. Just put music on an SD card on your computer, then transfer the SD card to your 3DS.

The 3DS also has the capability of taking 3D photos. While the 3DS won't be replacing your camera any time soon, it's pretty fun to take 3D pics with the Nintendo 3DS Camera program. You can also record videos in 3DS, and make cool little stop motion films.

The 3DS can also be used to make fairly high quality art and music, though you'll have to buy the software to do so separately.

An excellent drawing application for the 3DS is Colors! 3D. This app lets you draw 3D images which you can also save onto your SD card and view on your computer (though they'll obviously be 2D on your computer's screen). Colors! also has an online art gallery that users from all over the world upload their work to. Even if you aren't an artist yourself, it might be worth buying Colors! just to look at other peoples' amazing artwork.

An alternative drawing tool is Comic Workshop, which was released recently on the eShop. This app is specifically made for drawing comics or manga.

If you want to make cool music, there's KORG M01D. Though it's a bit pricey ($34.00), it's by far the best music making app on the 3DS. It's simple to use but powerful, and any music you make can be saved onto your SD card and transferred to your computer.

Other New Features

In December last year, a YouTube application was finally added to the 3DS. If you want to check out the latest trailer for a game or maybe watch a video walkthrough, you'll now be able to do so without even having to use your computer.

A recent system update to the 3DS enabled the use of Miiverse, Nintendo's own sort of social network/forum. Miiverse is a safe, family friendly place to post or look at screenshots and comments about the latest 3DS or Wii U games.

As the 3DS is Nintendo's current generation handheld, other cool new updates will probably happen frequently.

Who the 3DS is not for...

Now that I've told you about the numerous good things about the 3DS, I'll be frank about some of its shortcomings.

The 3DS is not exactly the most cutting edge piece of hardware, so its graphics may not impress those who are used to playing on home consoles or the PC (though as someone who has spent several hundred hours playing 3DS games, I'd say the graphics are good enough). Unfortunately, this also means that the 3DS has very little major Western developer support, seeing as these companies tends to value extremely realistic graphics (there are,however, plenty of Western indie devs with games on the 3DS).

In addition, Nintendo's digital games policy is rather behind the times. Any games you purchase digitally through Nintendo's 3DS eShop are tied to your system, meaning that if your 3DS is lost or stolen, these games are very difficult to recover (rivals Sony and Microsoft have account based systems that make redownloading games on new consoles much easier). If this makes you a bit wary, then you should stick with buying physical copies of 3DS games.

If neither of these factors are a concern for you and you don't have a 3DS yet, you may want to look into getting one!

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