The Nintendo Conference is being held in Japan right now. As it progresses, more and more details about future Nintendo products are being unveiled. The 3DS, Nintendo’s successor to the rapidly-evolving DS platform (DS, along with DS-lite and DSi), is hot topic. After all, the DS has been dominating the hand-held market in terms of unit sales and software sales, no matter which way you look at it.

The Nintendo 3DS

The 3DS seems to be built around the paradigm of “attention to details”. But isn’t that Nintendo’s core strategy most of the time anyway, even when it does lead them down productlines that don’t pan out?

The 3DS is a handheld with zero lag when playing wirelessly with someone else. If you’ve ever tried to play a newer PSP game with someone wirelessly, it’s easy to understand why we’d want zero lag (I’m looking at you, Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny). It’s a console that promises games with true Wi-Fi offline and online play, like Street Fighter IV or even Resident Evil 5 co-operative play. Mercenaries mode even has confirmed online co-op.

The 3DS also retains the DS and DSi’s sensibilities regarding passive multiplayer – an element that was explored in a few key games on the previous platforms, like the Tag modes from The World Ends With You or Dragon Quest IX – but places a greater focus on them, mostly due to the powerful new hardware.

Tag mode revisited

You’ll now be able to Tag-mode games without them having to be in the 3DS – your savefile will be enough to initiate Tag for that game. One Tag mode explained, was Street Fighter IV‘s Tag mode. When your 3DS is off, the wireless still pings around for other 3DS. If it finds one, it starts up and they swap data – it’s like making digital love to strangers. Then, if both players have Street Fighter IV, it compares a whole bunch of stats, like wins/losses with each character, etc, and then runs simulated battles against each other. So, when you get home, you can see a list of people you’ve fought and how “well” the 3DS thought you would do against them. From there, you can select a name, add to a ‘Rival’ list, and then go find them online, to play against them via Wi-Fi. There is a video further down that explains it further.

But what about?

DSiWare purchases will be transferrable to a 3DS, and you’ll be able to transfer your saves and purchases to a new 3DS if you ever have to. This shows a clear long-term play here by Nintendo: that they’re not going to be replacing the 3DS anytime soon. Not with a true successor anyway, of course Nintendo will re-release the 3DS later with some smoother edges and a better screen, but that’s the march of technological progress for you.

A sequel to the often-overlooked Kirby’s Canvas Curse (DS), is getting it’s long-deserved continuation on the 3DS, which is really just another bit of attention to detail, isn’t it?

See the details for yourself, there are videos! Enough with the boring reading bits!

A line-up of the various games, with gameplay footage so you can see the 3DS visuals for yourself:

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A Street Fighter IV demonstration for the Tag mode, multiplayer challenging of people you discover via Tag mode, and finished graphics:

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But will it blend?

Nintendo is hoping to sell 4 million of these babies in the first month – they’re putting their money where their mouth is too, since that means they’re held accountable for at least 4 million produced and shipped units. They sound incredibly optimistic, and with such a strong line-up, it’s hard to fault that optimism. Publishers are lining up for the 3DS as well. Ubisoft has confirmed a new Splinter Cell, Driver and proper Ghost Recon, titled: Ghost Recon: Tactics.

The 3DS is set to launch in Japan on February 26 of next year. It will come with one pack-in game (in Japan) and a 2GB SD Card for storage (in Japan). Subject to change for other regions.

Oh, and the 3DS has a lenticular 3D screen. That’s probably what most people talk about, online, when referring to the 3DS. But the 3D screen, while nice, isn’t the main feature of the hand-held. The 3DS can take photos in 3D because it has two cameras on its lid, which Nintendo hopes to use for more Alternate Reality Games (ARG). They have already demonstrated an ARG game demo, using the same kind of ‘pattern cards’ you place in the world that Eye of Judgement (PS3), along with most camera-based ARG games, uses.

They’re also offering streaming TV services over the internets, straight to your 3DS (when you’re in Wi-Fi range of an open internet connection, obviously).

POWAH?

The damn thing comes with a powermat. A mat, that gives it power, without them having to put bits of themselves into each other. You just put the 3DS down on the mat, which has a helpful little lip so nothing slides off:

Yeah baby, put that sweet flat ass down on my powermat.

BAM! IT’S GETTING POWER!

Ooh yeah, that's how we like it!

While it’s not 100% confirmed, it seems the power cable that plugs into the back of the powermat, can still be unplugged and plugged into the 3DS straight, for if you need to recharge it while playing, or want to take the charger with you on a trip but don’t want to take the whole powermat base.

Fiddly bits

There will be a 3DS Virtual Console for Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and maybe Game Boy Advance titles. Get your retro freak on. There will also be a 3DSWare online store where they will sell DSiWare-like games, as well as the 3D “upgrades” of older SNES titles, like Yoshi’s Island.

The Legend of  Zelda: Ocarina of Time re-release for 3DS isn’t just a straight port, but a completely remixed game with new items and dungeons, and a lot of fixes for flow and balance.

It launches in two colours, with more to come

Aqua Blue

Cosmos Black

The Home button in the center below the screen, brings up an in-game menu (crossbar) that lets you turn Wi-Fi on/off (finally!) and change other settings without exiting. You can even browse the web, while in a game, to look up things like walkthroughs.

You’ll be able to take a photo of yourself, and it will convert it into a Mii that you can use on your 3DS or WIi. You’ll even be able to pick up new Miis via Tag mode.

And of course, because everything needs it: an ebook reader application.

GRAAPHIX?!

For the non-technical minded, the reason why all the games look so good is: It can run the “MT Framework” that Capcom uses for all their new games: it’s Capcom’s proprietary game engine, basically. Like Epic has Unreal Engine, and Crytek has their Crytek Engine, etc. So the only real changes you may see, comparing Xbox 360 versions of say, Street Fighter IV and Resident Evil 5 to their 3DS versions, is while they all play exactly the same at the same framerates, the only real differences are slightly lower textures, slightly less geometry, and it runs at a lower resolution due to the smaller screen. However, because of the lenticular 3D display, you basically get free full-screen anti-aliasing (FSAA). NO JAGGIES!

What wasn’t talked about

Achievements, Trophies, Friends Lists, Game Lobbies and Improved Voice Chat Support – all things that had previously been mentioned as “additions to Wi-Fi Connect 2.0”.

And now you know everything everyone else knows, about the 3DS.

It looks like the 3DS is the first out the gate in this “new generation” of handhelds: it addresses all the issues with the previous generation’s model, and doesn’t abandon any of the features  of the DS that were considered “experimental” or “gimmicky” at the time, like the touch-screen and Tag mode. So, by all rights, the 3DS is the first next-generation handheld. Now to see how everyone else in the hand-held market chooses to respond.

UPDATE: Nintendo has released a new video, showing some features in greater detail.

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