Nintendo 3DS Hands-On: Glasses-less 3D with Glasses

Published 4 years ago by , Updated February 9th, 2011 at 5:23 am,

Nintendo 3DS glasses

My name is Phillipe Bosher and I’m near-sighted. With a score of -2.5 units in both eyes, I wear glasses from the moment I wake up in the morning, to the moment I go to sleep at night. Once I take my glasses off, it’s like switching from a world of 1080p to one of 480i; sure, I can still see most things, but the further away that they get, the more they begin to lose clarity and focus. I’ve been wearing glasses for around eight years, and I treat them now as a necessity, rather than a whim.

When news about the Nintendo 3DS began to circulate, I noticed that the majority of “Hands-on Impressions” focused on the jaw-dropping nature of the 3D and the ‘sweet graphics,’ but I didn’t see any writers mentioning what it was like to play the system while wearing glasses. Sure, there were a few stories of people being completely unable to view the effect – but there weren’t any mentions of how glasses affected the 3D experience.

This was a little worrying. Since its initial showing at E3 2010 last year, I have been incredibly excited for the upcoming Nintendo handheld. Although some complained about the launch line-up, and others about the price, I’ve always been undeterred in my excitement. The only question that ever came to the forefront of my mind was: ‘Oh man… Do I want Aqua Blue or Cosmo Black?’

But the question always percolated in the back of my mind: while my eyesight isn’t terrible, it certainly isn’t the greatest — will the 3D effect be ruined for me? Sure, I don’t mind playing games in 2D – after all, I’ve been doing it all my life – but will I miss out on the single biggest hook for the system? When playing with the 3DS this past Saturday, the answer became was obvious:

My glasses rendered the 3D effect almost entirely intolerable.

It all started while playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time

Regarded by many (including myself) to be one of the greatest video games ever made, the 3DS edition of the N64 classic had the worst 3D implementation at the event. Try as I might to find the ‘sweet spot’ on the 3D slider, it just would not happen. While wearing my glasses, it felt like I was horribly drunk. You know the feeling – your brain still thinks it’s functioning normally, but your eyes and body don’t quite respond as they should. Not only did my eyes begin to hurt, but my brain literally couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing. Having endured a confused double vision for well over a few minutes, I eventually switched the 3D off and played the game as it was originally designed.

Given the choice to explore either Kokiri Forest, the Deku Tree or to fight Gohma, I decided to take the middle option, and spent some time fighting skulltulas and exploring the dungeon. I found that keeping the game set to 2D kept the visuals crisp, clear, and ultimately better than that N64 original, but the moment the 3D was activated, the developer’s attempt to add realistic depth of field only served to make the background blurry – and duplicate the on-screen image. While wearing glasses, I tried ducking, weaving, and even tilting the device in order to find a place where I could easily experience the 3D effect. Unfortunately, unless the 3D was minimal, the game was entirely unplayable.

I then decided to take my glasses off and compare the difference. It was at that point that I almost “got it.” Finally, I could see the 3D effects, and the slider began to positively affect the environment, instead of simply furthering the distance between the two images of Link. However, in order to see the game clearly, I had my face less than six inches away from the screen, and my eyes began to strain incredibly quickly. So while I knew it worked, it wasn’t quite an optimal game-playing experience. This was a disappointing realization, especially as Ocarina of Time was one of my most anticipated launch-window titles.

During my session with the N64 classic, I was reminded that you could choose to aim the hookshot via the gyroscope sensor, by physically pointing the 3DS in a given direction, the in-game viewpoint would adjust accordingly. But, as many have said before, for the 3D effect to work correctly, you have to be a certain distance from the screen, in a certain position. The moment you start to tilt the device, the image on the screen begins to flicker, and it becomes reminiscent of an animated flip-pad: the faster you flipped the paper/tilted the device, the more ridiculous the animation looked. A problem even more prevalent in Super Monkey Ball 3DS.

Super Monkey Ball 3DS

Super Monkey Ball 3DS

As those who have played the series before will testify, the game requires a deft hand, and indeed a lot of patience, in order to succeed. With tilt-controls, 3D and Glasses on, I quickly began to feel seasick. Not only were there two AiAis on screen, but they were rolling obscenely fast in directions I didn’t recall sending them in.

Somewhere, there is a person who decided that motion-control on a 3D device was a good idea – unfortunately, it was a bad idea. As already mentioned, the 3D effect only works when you are at a certain distance and angle from the screen – so, as soon as you begin to tilt, it’s impossible to keep track of the action. The image flickers uncontrollably, and before you know it, you’ve fallen off the edge of a platform.

Once again, playing glasses-free helped a little, but the combination of extreme speed, 3D effects and tilting the device felt ludicrous. Eventually, I switched the 3D slider to “Off,” and allowed myself to play the game in a way that felt most natural. The game didn’t need the extra dimension and suffered from its hasty implementation as a result. Although turning the 3D off fixed the image-flicker problem, the hook of the 3DS is its “glasses-less 3D experience.” Why do I have to switch to 2D in order to make the game functional? It felt like the 3D was entirely unnecessary – something that was also mentioned by our own Christian Spicer in his Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition hands-on preview.

Even after switching to 2D, I felt the gyroscope controls were expendable. I’m usually an advocate of motion gaming – if it works, who cares? – but the Super Monkey Ball 3DS tilt system just didn’t seem to work as well as it should. Again, AiAi seemed to pick up speed far too fast, and so I found myself resorting to the Circle pad. While I don’t mind doing so, surely the developers could have tried ensuring the motion-control was up to par?

If you think that I’m sounding pretty negative so far, then you’re probably right. I went in with high-hopes and, so far, they’d all been dashed. While I expected problems with the 3D effects, I didn’t expect them to be so blatantly obvious. In order to give the 3DS another chance, I thought I’d play Nintendogs + Cats — surely the mainstream first-party title confirmed for launch would have a good implementation of 3D?

Nintendogs + Cats

Nintendogs + Cats 3DS

To my pleasant surprise, it did. My eyes and brain felt weary by this point, but the 3D effect was noticeable and surprisingly immersive. Even while wearing glasses, I could see the 3D, and playing with the 3D slider actually served to strengthen the experience, not weaken it. While the game itself didn’t seem to stand up under scrutiny — it seemed like the NintenCats were simply re-skinned NintenDogs – it was mildly reassuring to see that there was a title that worked in 3D. As I called the dog to the forefront of the screen, the 3D effect held up incredibly well, and it seemed like there may be a little hope for glasses-wearers.

That being said, the backgrounds in Nintendogs + Cats were bland. In every other game I played, the backgrounds were busy and full of detail – was this why the 3D worked in Nintendogs + Cats? Because it was less confusing for my bespectacled eyes to understand? Or was it that the developers spent more time honing the 3D experience, and thus it was an example of a well-implemented 3D effect? I certainly hope it’s the latter.

A Conclusion

While at the event, I had the chance to play many more games, including Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, Ridge Racer 3D and even some of the cool Augmented Reality experiences. However, in all the games I played, the 3D experience fit into the three categories described above. From the atrocious to the unnecessary to the reasonably well-implemented, I came away feeling sorely disappointed, and sadly uninterested in the system’s launch lineup. Whereas before I could stay staunch in the belief that “3D would make all the experiences better,” I soon came to realize that, unless I wanted to keep my glasses off and stay five inches away from the screen at all times, it probably wasn’t worth buying the 3DS at launch.

Perhaps my skepticism is because I’m finally in the minority who have been excommunicated by video game gimmicks. The Wii introduced a world of motion gaming and, in doing so, rendered a certain set of disabled people unable to play its games – a problem exacerbated by the Move and Kinect. There was a small outcry when it emerged that video games were moving towards more motion-controlled experiences and, now that 3D experiences are beginning to instill themselves in our culture, I have to wonder: am I now the odd one out? Or is it that Nintendo has gone one step too far, and installed a feature that is inherently faulty?

I guess we won’t know until March 27th, 2011. Until then, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

The Nintendo 3DS is due to release March 25th in Europe, and March 27th in North America.

TAGS: 3DS, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Nintendo, Nintendogs + Cats, Super Monkey Ball 3DS

  • Rory Young

    Do you have some contacts, Phillipe? I’m thinking they would probably work much better.

    It’s sadly logical that glasses would impair the experience. I guess that’s something Nintendo took into account and dismissed as a minority.

  • J.C. Reeves

    I’m still excited about the 3DS, but it sounds like there are some legitimate problems for people that wear glasses.

  • Shirley

    Having been to the Manchester preview on Sunday, you’re spot on about glasses – I had to take mine off to cope with the 3D effect, but I don’t wear mine all the time.

    My frustration was about the lack of stylus controlled games to play – being disabled affects my ability to manage the buttons, and although I could play the driving game, that was about it, unless I wanted to play Nintendogs, which I didn’t.

    I don’t think I’ll be buying one, I’ll stick to my DS.

  • John Polson

    Excellent eyeglass rant! Thanks for saving me some money. Anyone know if the back touchpad of the new PSP/NGP will work with eyeglasses??

    Of course, it will. Thanks, Sony!

  • Steve Pendlebury

    As a fellow life-long glasses-wearer, I say balls to the 3DS.
    Thanks for this excellent piece, Phillipe. I guess I’ll have to buy 250 Wine Gums on March 22 instead.

  • Jago

    Lucky i didn’t pre-order. Wonder if Nintendo didn’t think there were many Eyeglass wearing gamers out there…?

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  • Dwayne Holder

    As a person who also wears glasses all day, every day, this is very disappointing news. I won’t be preordering the 3DS, but I will try out a demo if possible.

    Im hoping that your experience with the 3DS while wearing glasses is something that only a minority will experience. Cause I know a ton of gamers who wear glasses and this doesn’t bode well for Nintendo’s new handheld. Especially when people who don’t wear glasses are already reporting eye strain with the device.

  • amongallothers

    Couldn’t care less about the 3D aspect. I just want the games.

  • stupid but wise

    Interesting article, but in my opinion, this is pure BS.
    Here’s why:

    FIRST of all, I’ve seen several gamers (including myself) with glasses playing the 3DS at the event in Japan last month. I never had a problem viewing 3D while playing games and such. The only seemingly bad news I heard about the 3DS was pretty much the launch titles, even so I don’t really give a damn as long as I have something to play with.

    SECOND, Why do you think Nintendo give us the BIGGEST opportunity to play either in 2D OR 3D? Most of the time, you DON’T have to play in 3D and If you NEED to, just switch to 2D if you can’t handle the 3D gaming.

    And THIRD, I suggest you’d get some damn contacts so you don’t have to worry about viewing 3D with eyeglasses.

    • Phillipe Bosher

      Contacts are expensive, especially compared to glasses. Also, I like wearing glasses! Apart from the 3DS and the occasional night out, I have no real need for a subscription to buying contact lenses.

      Also, I know I don’t have to play in 3D. I even mentioned it several times in the article – I just feel like I might be missing out on one of the device’s greatest features/gimmicks.

      • stupid but wise

        @Phillipe Bosher Sorry about that. I guess the third one was too much huh?

    • Archaeon

      Ummm, when a device is specifically CALLED 3DS, and that is touted as its main selling point, the 3d had better work damned well for all who are willing to pay for the tech. If you don’t play the games in 3d (or only play a percentage of them that way, if viable), WHY would you waste the money on a supposed advancement???

      Excellent comment, John Polson, above…and an excellent article, as well.

  • Nosey Nosemeister

    I guess you had a problem watching Avatar too huh? Funny thing….I didn’t and I wear glasses. I don’t think I’ll have a problem with the 3DS either. I’ve already pre-ordered and I’m looking forward to it.

    • Phillipe Bosher

      I had no problems viewing Avatar – I wore the 3D glasses over my own and saw the 3D images clearly.

      • no name

        So did I.

    • Riley Little

      The 3D in Avatar is pretty different from the 3D mechanics used in the 3DS.
      Hence glasses-less.

  • dary

    now im skeptical about preordering the nintendo 3ds. this is disappointing news, indeed, for me. T.T


  • unknown

    i think every has different limits for their eyes because a reporter forgot to take off his glasses yet he could still see the full effect of 3d…

  • Cloud

    lol, even Satoru Iwata wears glasses

  • Chris Scullion

    While this is a well-written article and I’m sorry to hear you had problems with the 3D effect, I think it’s one hell of a leap to start from “I wear glasses and the effect doesn’t work for me” and get from that to “therefore, it won’t work for ANYONE wearing glasses”.

    I wear glasses and am essentially blind without them. It’s not so much going down to 480i as going down to a fifth-generation VHS tape. Glasses are a necessary evil for me and I too was worried about how they would affect my 3DS sessions.

    My experience was the complete opposite of yours: I was blown away. It took me less than a couple of second to find the ‘sweet spot’ and had no problems whatsoever after that point. Of the 20-25 games I tried out I only struggled with one (Super Monkey Ball), but turning the slider down halfway solved this problem.

    In a later discussion I had with one of the programmers at High Voltage Software (Conduit 2), he confirmed the MOnkey Ball incident was probably a software issue rather than a hardware one. Developers are still experimenting with the 3D so while some will go for a more subtle effect others try to make the effect as extreme as possible, which isn’t always the best solution. In time, he says, all developers will perfect the technique and Monkey Ball Syndrome (as I call it) won’t be a problem.

    However, just to summarise, I’m sorry the 3D effect didn’t work for you. 3D doesn’t work for everyone, 4% to 10% of the population (depending on which researcher you ask) can’t see 3D properly. However, to then make a huge leap and say “glasses render the 3D effect almost entirely intolerable” is both incorrect and misleading, since it will talk many glasses-wearing gamers excited about the 3DS into cancelling their pre-order for what is likely to be no reason at all.

  • donald robbins

    Fantastic article Phillipe! man, I’ve been so stoked for the 3DS the whole time. I will get it at launch and cross my fingers and hope that I love it as much as I want to.
    But as of late I’m seeing more and more clues that say that this won’t be as mind blowingly awesome as I hope. :/

  • Matthew

    I thought of something you might want to take into consideration Phillipe. Your subscription might be off. It is possible that for everyday use its not noticeable. Could your glasses be bent causing the 3d effect to not be delivered directly to your eye. maybe, maybe not. don’t really know but it might be worth a shot to check out.

    • Phillipe Bosher

      That’s perfectly possible. I’m glad you’re taking the initiative Matt, and thinking about the fact that this is my own personal experience — it may apply to others, it may not. The point of the article was to get people thinking, and to have people realise that the 3D effect will not be perfect for everyone.

  • Cliff

    So the 3DS has been out for a few days now and I’m wondering if there are any more people with first-hand experience who had the same problem as Phillipe.

    • Name (required)

      Not to me. I’ve been asking the exact same question.

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