Hands-On: The Best Game on the Nintendo 3DS May Surprise You

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When Nintendo recently announced details on the American launch of the 3DS, they let folks play samples of the upcoming system’s titles. I had a chance to try out a number of games and came away with impressions on both the games and the 3DS itself.

Working on the assumption that the 3DS models on hand were near-final production units, the stereoscopic effect on the 3D top screen looks pretty good when viewed straight on. But, the 3D noticeably breaks up when viewed from an angle. This means that you’ll have to be a lot more still when playing a game with the 3D on, lest movement degrade the depth effect. That’s going to be very tricky with a handheld system, especially one that people that succeeds a device that people have gotten used to playing on trains, airplanes and in cars. However, the graphics noticeably improve when the 3D’s turned completely off. The new analog nub feels looser than that of the PSP and gave a smooth experience when I played Kid Icarus: Uprising.

(More on TIME.com: E3 2010: Masahiro Sakurai Makes Kid Icarus Fly Again on the Nintendo 3DS)

That game was used to unveil the 3DS last year and for good reason. The flying combat shows off the added depth to good effect as I played demo sequences where airborne demons attacked heroic angel Pit above the clouds. Pit could choose from one of three weapons. Moving the stylus on the touchscreen on the bottom of the unit controlled the aiming of the targeting reticule. The transition to ground combat delivered some exploration along with the demon fighting, winding up with a dodge-then-shoot boss battle.

Capcom showed two different approaches to adapting their games to 3DS. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D took the traditional over-the-shoulder third-person camera view point and lengthened the depth of field. The RE: TM 3D section that was made available played like a shooting gallery, but one where you roamed around the map and picked up health and ammo. It looked very similar to RE4 and RE5 but the 3D made the European village where the zombie killing was going down more elongated and more populated with robe-wearing undead. On the other hand, Super Street Fighter IV 3D had two camera options, the traditional profile view and an angle with a slightly forced perspective. The latter point-of-view enhanced the 3D effect, making it even seem natural. SSFIV 3D made clever use of the lower viewing area as well, making the series’ trademark punishing super moves available with the tap of a square on the touchscreen. It’s smart thinking for a platform where the many buttons of an arcade stick or gamepad aren’t available.

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