Right. Verdict Time part 1: 3DS hardware, 3D effect, Rayman 3D and PilotWings Resort
Nintendo 3DS hardware
The 3DS feels far, far more comfortable to hold and use than the original DS or even the DS Lite. Think along the lines of a DSi and you're there. The plastic feels sturdy and can be gripped easily - hands don't slip - and it doesn't have the palm-slicing bottom corners that the original DS had. The slide-pad is a long overdue god-send, although the face buttons don't have quite enough "clicky feedback" for my liking. I also keep accidentally pressing the power button instead of the start button when wanting to pause a game; not because they're close together, but because the power button is where I'd have put the start button, which is a little bit irritating.
The 3DS' low battery duration has been a major sore spot for a lot of people and while I haven't tried a full-on marathon session with the sound, screen brightness and 3D all cranked up, I have certainly noticed that the battery depletes quicker than those of previous DS's. The charging cradle that comes with the 3DS also worries me a bit. It's used for charging the 3DS and/or keeping it in sleep mode - which means it will automatically update... stuff... - and the 3DS rests on it... which is what worries me. The 3DS doesn't click into the cradle. The cradle doesn't have anything on it to hold the 3DS in place. You just place the 3DS on it and it charges. Do yourself a favour: if you buy a 3DS then please, please keep the cradle on a flat surface, away from the edge of said surface and keep the wire well away from a potential foot swipe that might send your £200 piece of kit tumbling to an early grave, especially in my living room. Laminate flooring: easy to clean but a cunt for dropping stuff.
The stylus is a stylus. It extends and shit, is comfortable to hold and has a finer point than previous ones, meaning more precision.
This is one area of the 3DS that I'm having problems with, although it's one I did anticipate given the different levels of 3D-ness that people have been experiencing. My problem is that because I'm partially sighted, I need to hold a handheld closer to my face than a normal person would, and the 3DS supposedly needs to be held at around 30-35cm away from your face for the 3D effect to properly display without any ghosting. This was the case with me and, of course, because I'm partially sighted, if the 3DS is that far away from my face I'm unable to actually read any text on-screen or properly react to elements in-game. I can see the 3D fine from that distance and - depending on the specific game or built-in function; more on that later - it's a truly remarkable effect. The sense of depth is incredible and the possibilities for games not just looking more impressive but actually playing better are mind-blowing.
Obviously different people will experience the 3D to different extents and have different "sweet spots". My fiancee can hold the 3DS a lot closer than me and still get the 3D effect although, strangely enough, if she wears her glasses the 3D doesn't work properly.
Rayman 3D is actually a port of Rayman 2: The Great Escape, which has already appeared on *deep breath* PC, Dreamcast, N64, PlayStation, PS2, PSN, iOS and DS. The 3DS version is ported over from the Dreamcast and it's still one of the best 3D platformers sans anything starring Mario. The visuals and animations are showing their age but this is still a brilliantly playable platformer which a variety of worlds and extra things to do outside of the core platforming and combat. Rayman's movement isn't quite as tight as I remember, although the slide-pad feels miles better than the awful d-pad control from the DS version and makes the prospect of Super Mario 3DS and Ocarina of Time 3D all the more enticing.
My only real complaint is that the camera is still wildly inconsisent, ranging from servicable to downright bollocks. Oh and the 3D effect is a throwaway feature in Rayman 3D. Switch it on and the butterfly things that fly around really pop out and you get a little bit of extra depth, but it doesn't really contribute to or enhance gameplay in most of the game, save for on-rails bits where you need to avoid obstacles.
I wasn't really sure what to expect from this, having never played PilotWings or PilotWings 64, but so far I've been pleasently surprised and to be perfectly honest it's nice to be playing something with a more leisurely pace for a change. There's a variety of things to fly around in - plane, jet, rocket pack harness thing, hanglider, cycle... helicopter... thing and squirrel suit(!) - in either mission mode or free flight mode. Mission mode starts of being a little bit dull as the missions are ludicrously easy to pass, but once you've progressed to the gold missions the difficulty has ramped up nicely and getting even one star on a mission is challenging and requires real precision which, luckilly, the slide-pad is more than capable of.
PilotWings Resort also boasts the most impressive 3D effects I've seen on the 3DS so far. with an excellent sense of depth which makes lining up targets a lot easier. Visually, the game has a simple art style reminiscent of Wii Sports Resort, but Wuhu Island is colourful and extremely vibrant. The only thing really wrong with PilotWings Resort is that I have to question its longevity.
That's all for now. More to come when I'm not so tired.