Nintendo 3DS eShop hands-on

Nintendo's equivalent of the App Store, its eShop has finally made it to the 3DS in the UK this week, two-and-a-half months after the handheld console was released, and many will be wondering if it was worth the wait.

It does offer access to some new video trailers (one or two of which being in 3D) and several downloadable games from Gameboy classics up to DSiware, but you could be suitably underwhelmed when you first scroll through what's on offer. The shelves, as it were, are about as bare as a ramraided jewellers, with scant content.

However, what it does offer is not to be sniffed at, so where there's mild initial disappointment there's also the shiny sheen of promise.

Two free products, one game and one, er, database thingmy definitely sweeten the blow, and Nintendo's played a smart card in offering up the Gameboy version of Super Mario Land as one of the first titles available in its Virtual Console range.

The first free download is a new 3d-afied version of the superb NES classic Excitebike. Essentially, it's exactly the same game as its 1984 equivalent - audio and all - except that the background now has depth to it.

It's impressive that the developer hasn't just added levels of parallax and called that 3D, and that, instead, the game field fades into the distance. Indeed, slowly moving the 3D slider on the 3DS up and down actually changes the angle of the tracks, rather than just the level of depth, and it's a great example of how to re-render a simple 2D game into three-dimensions without altering its original gameplay at all.

Of course, in modern terms, Excitebike, 3D or no, is simple and basic, but it's a great blast from the past and its (non-existent) price is very welcome.

The other free software comes in the guise of Pokedex 3D, a graphical, three-dimensional database for collecting and storing Pokemon. It starts with 16 of over 150 known blighters already installed, and you can check out their statistics and, er, look at them and that. But, the clever part comes with both swapping the ones you've already collected with other 3DS owners via Nintendo's own SpotPass, and collecting new ones using augmented reality cards.

Each Pokemon, you see, has it's own AR code - a small black square with a blocky pattern on it. If you come across one, either printed on an official card or, even, on a computer screen, point your 3DS camera at it and a 3D-rendered Pokemon will appear both on screen and in your database. It basically reinvigorates and refreshes the original "collect them all craze" from a few years ago.

"Ah", you might say, "but you, like us, are adults". To which we may reply, "thphthphhhhh!", and then run away.

The other highlights of the eShop at present include the aforementioned Gameboy version of Super Mario Land - which is not in 3D - for £3.60, a 2D version of Plants Vs. Zombies in the DSiWare section (which is a staggering £7.20), and a 3D video trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D - a must have buy when it comes out (in normal stores).

Nintendo promises that its slow start will soon be a thing of the past, as new content will hit the eShop every Thursday. So, come a few weeks from now, everything should be rosier. For now though, a least you won't be racking up enormous bills.

- Nintendo 3DS review

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