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Bitpicking: Dat 3D, or let's explore the best uses of Nintendo's stereoscopic handheld

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Posted by: Simon Chun

3D has become a recent phenomenon, and, depending on the person you talk to, it might be safe to call it a fad. Whether it be Sony’s 3D television or Nintendo’s 3DS gimmick, 3D has entered the gaming world. There is a level of depth and immersion that comes from 3D that 2D displays can't hope to match. However, there are a lot of games that simply don’t use it well or as effectively as possible.

This week, let’s take a look at some 3DS games to see how well they use the 3D feature.

Fire Emblem: Awakening is a simple tactics game. At first it doesn’t really feel like the 3D effect would even belong here. However, there are some presentation aspects of the game that truly put it to good use. First and foremost are the cutscenes. The way the characters or the weapons pop out at you is pretty awesome, and the effects are engaging. 

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However, the second use of the 3D feels cosmetic for the most part. When you engage a unit in battle, you have the option to see the battle occur with flamboyant animations. The depth can be a bit jarring, as there are few objects on the screen, making for a rather underwhelming experience. While you can get a good sense for the difference between things that are close and far away, the scenery lacks a sense of realism. In addition, the camera perspective doesn’t really engage the player with the 3D effect on.

The 3D effect doesn’t seem to be particularly great when choosing units and moving them across the map either. This where the simplicity kicks into overdrive. There is no depth or anything at all on these maps, just small figures moving across a grid. Occasionally, crows will fly across the screen, but otherwise, the 3D might as well be nonexistent. Overall, Awakening doesn’t make good use of the 3D effect, minus the few cutscenes in the game.

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A game that makes effective use of the 3D, on the other hand, is Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. This game is not only off the hook without the 3D, but it's even better with it. The game has fixed camera angle, but the varying levels of depth and the ability to see the objects in the game flutter and float around everywhere makes for quite a spectacle. Ghosts pop out and zoom toward you. The way the wind blows the objects around is pretty cool. Sadly, the game suffers from the same problem as Awakening in that there’s hardly anything noteworthy gameplay-wise about the 3D effect. It’s merely cosmetic.

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Project X Zone has arguably the least interesting use of 3D overall. The game uses 2D sprites, and while there are varying degrees of depth, the actual usage is very limited, as there isn’t much happening on the screen. It's a bit like Awakening in that regard. However, what differentiates the two games is that there are 3D models in Awakening and none in PxZ. It's almost like comparing a sphere to a sheet of paper. Awakening has models that are built in 3D. The sphere is obviously a tangible object across various angles. PxZ however is much like a piece of paper. To be precise, it is a series of 2D planes stacked on top of each other with a certain amount of distance between them. It’s hard to judge depth of the object itself in PxZ and you can only judge the depth between objects. This isn’t the case with Awakening.

We all know the saying, “All flash and no substance.” This is highly applicable to the 3D effect in video games. It's not really used to enhance gameplay at all to become a quintessential feature. As a result, it remains a gimmick. For now. 

Don’t you hate doing the same thing over and over again? Perhaps something feels a tad repetitive. Join me next time for what could be... repetitive? 

Simon Chun is GameZone’s freelance writer and RPG buff for all things new and old. Check out his twitter @kayos90.

Tags: Fire Emblem, Intelligent Systems, Nintendo, Project X Zone, Namco Bandai, Sega, Capcom, Mario, Luigi's Mansion

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