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Nintendo 3DS: first hands-on!

We were just whisked away to a totally secret back room to get some hands-on time with the Nintendo 3DS. While it may look a lot like the DS at first blush, the hardware we handled had some notable enhancements. First: That 3D screen.

The effect is pronounced, but seems far less distracting than you'd expect. The lack of plastic glasses imparts a level of viewing comfort that you simply don't get from 3D televisions, though the comparatively smaller screen is also easier on the eyes. The visuals are bright -- easily on par with the DS Lite -- and offer a good viewing angle. However, viewing from the side reveals the blurry, overlaying effect of the 3D screen, so you'll want to turn the 3D effect down via the slider.

Adjusting the 3D effect is a seamless, subtle act, with the depth of the 3D images -- think of it as a tunnel reaching into the top screen -- slowly reducing to 2D as you move the slider down. We had a look at several demonstrations, including a selection of Nintendo characters (think Smash Bros. trophies) in different settings. The Pikmin blended into the grass, Yoshi's nose seemingly protruded from the screen and black particles surrounded Link, almost appearing to float in front of the top screen.

Gallery: Nintendo 3DS: first hands-on! | 11 Photos

The Metal Gear Solid demo looked, as is to be expected, just like Metal Gear Solid 3 ... but in 3D. Kojima Production's meticulous character models look great on the smaller (3D!) screen, with plenty of neat 3D "tricks." The demo is "interactive" though you're not controlling Snake. Instead, you control the camera using the new analog nub.

Next up: A Resident Evil Revelations demo featuring old pals Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine and, of course, a zombie. Like MGS, this was a scripted demo, though you could pan around using the analog nub, and the face buttons to zoom in and out. Visuals looked more Resident Evil 5 than Resident Evil 4 – the characters and textures looked really sharp on the small screen.

Nintendogs and Cats provided us with our first use of the touch pad. Unlike the older DS handhelds, the 3DS doesn't seem to mind if you use your fingers. It wasn't immediately clear if it was a resistive or capacitive touchscreen, but it was certainly pressure sensitive. Grabbing a tennis ball to toss wasn't as simple as putting your finger on it and flicking. I fumbled trying to make it register, thinking it needed the pinpoint accuracy of a stylus. Then, when I pressed slightly down, it became perfectly responsive. I flicked the ball out and then I flicked a boomerang out, while my 3D virtual dog ran around. Adorable.

We wouldn't want to overlook the new analogue stick either. It's a good, comfortable size and sliding it around offers a good amount of resistance. It's definitely more effective than the PSP's nub, and a welcome alternative to the DS' D-pad.

We'll be trying to get as much information on the 3DS as we can today. Stay tuned!

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