Nintendo leaps ahead with 3DS

AFTER being surrounded by the latest in 3D technology for a week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the sight of two-dimensional images – a video of a puppy playing, for example, or a photograph of a friend’s newborn baby – now makes me uncontrollably and violently sick. Watching standard 2D TV is like peering through the analogue haze at the Queen’s coronation footage from 1952, while wearing a blindfold. I have even built a pyre in my garden, upon which I plan to throw my old Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games, casting the outdated technology to the flames where it belongs.

Thank the lord, then, that Nintendo is almost ready to launch its much-hyped 3DS. The portable console will hit the UK on 25 March, after an embarrassing delay that resulted in the firm missing the lucrative Christmas market, and while they haven’t let me get my hands on one yet, what I have seen so far looks impressive.

I got a chance to play with some of the first portable glasses-free 3D gadgets at CES and the depth that even a small screen can achieve is astonishing. Judging by the demos Nintendo showed off last week, this translates nicely to its trademark cartoony games.

The dual-screen device is also packing motion and gyro sensors (although these clash with the 3D technology, which demands the device is held still, meaning you have to go into 2D mode to take advantage of them), and Nintendo has introduced its own version of the App Store, allowing it to cash in on the trend for casual and retro games.

The Japanese firm has already unveiled a host of launch titles, including new versions of Street Fighter and Pro Evolution Soccer. So far so good. The catch is the £229 price tag. Will gamers be willing to shell out such a handsome sum for a portable device (more than a standard Xbox360 console)? I doubt it. Expect prices to fall after hardcore fans have finished flashing the cash.

One thing for sure is the new PlayStation Portable 2 (PSP2), which is set to be unveiled sometime this week, has a lot to live up to. Sony has already confirmed it will not feature a 3D screen, meaning it will either have to be very powerful or very cheap to compete (the PSP has already struggled against the DS, selling just 18m units in the US compared to Nintendo’s 47m).

With games on mobile phones advancing at a remarkable pace, this could well be the last great battle of the stand-alone portable consoles. Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch are evolving into fully-fledged gaming machines in their own right and Sony is set to launch its own PlayStation phone. But for now, clever money is on Nintendo to come out victorious.

WHITE BLACKBERRY TORCH/iPHONE
As Apple boss Steve Jobs – the man who drove a stake through the heart of the beige PC – knows too well, colour is important. And in the mobile phone world, white is very much in this season. First up is a new version of BlackBerry’s flagship Torch handset. The white 9800 will be much the same as its monochrome sibling, only brighter, presumably for people wanting to be noticed typing their incredible important emails on the underground. Not to be outdone, Apple is set to respond with its very own white version of its iPhone 4.

HYDRA (RAZER)
High definition 3D screens are grabbing the headlines. But for gamers, three dimensions are becoming de rigueur off screen too. We got our hands on Razer’s latest motion sensing controller, the Hydra. The unit features two separate hand-held devices which are tracked by an electromagnetic field, doing away with the need for a motion sensing camera. This allows gamers to interact with the screen with incredible precision and pull off seemingly complex moves with relative ease. For now, the Hydra will only work with Valve’s upcoming title Portal 2 (which is out soon on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC), but something this good will surely be rolled out across other titles soon.

iPAD 2
More than 80 tablets were unveiled at the Consumer Electronics show earlier this month but none managed to knock the iPad from its perch. Now the competition may just have got even tougher, with rumours that the latest version of the all-conquering device could hit stores as soon as next month. The iPad 2 is expected to feature front and rear facing cameras and our money is on a more sophisticated multi-tasking system akin to that on the impressive BlackBerry Playbook. At the risk of going out on a limb, we think this will be the gadget to own this year.