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Originally published June 15, 2010 at 7:24 PM | Page modified June 16, 2010 at 11:44 AM

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Nintendo's in-depth show: DS device for 3-D games, 3-D photos

New James Bond, Zelda, Mickey Mouse and Donkey Kong games announced at Nintendo's Electronic Entertainment Expo news conference Tuesday...

Seattle Times technology columnist

LOS ANGELES — New James Bond, Zelda, Mickey Mouse and Donkey Kong games announced at Nintendo's Electronic Entertainment Expo news conference Tuesday were just a prelude to the really big news.

There is indeed a 3-D version of the Nintendo DS and it not only plays 3-D games but also has dual camera lenses for taking 3-D photos. Nintendo is also partnering with Disney, Warner Bros. and DreamWorks to bring 3-D movies to the device.

All without glasses.

Nintendo declined to say how much the device will cost or when it will go on sale, though it had previously said by the end of March.

The 3-D effect is actually pretty good and far less cheesy than I expected, especially in a "Metal Gear Solid" game with tropical foliage that took advantage of the depth effect.

The 3-D version of "Nintendogs" is cute but doesn't seem as 3-D or interactive as Microsoft's "Kinectimals," which is almost freakishly realistic.

A slider on the device adjusts the amount of "3-D ness," from maximum to 2-D. The 3.5-in. diagonal upper screen is 3-D. The lower of the two screens is not and is the only one that has touch capabilities.

The DS 3-D also has an interesting wireless feature. When it senses a connection through a hot spot, it automatically downloads updates and new features to games, so that there's something fresh to surprise players.

Most of the major game studios signed on to develop 3-D games for the upcoming DS using new tools from Nintendo.

I asked Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo senior director and creative guru, if studios will want to build 3-D games for other devices after they've figured out the DS. Could the next version of the Wii console have 3-D capabilities?"It's hard to say right now," Miyamoto said through a translator.

The term "3-D" is actually confusing, since earlier games, such as 1996 release "Super Mario 64," were also characterized as 3-D, he said.

Now the advance is 3-D visuals that add depth to the screen.

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The technology will change the games, Miyamoto said, by having "fully rendered worlds" coupled with 3-D visuals, making it "readily apparent to the end user how to navigate that world because they have a sense of spatial relationship. ...

"So people who have had a hard time navigating in what we used to call these 3-D games are going to be able to appreciate these 3-D effects and play more easily."

Miyamoto's highest profile current project is "Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword," one of several new games based on Nintendo's library of hit franchises coming to the Wii over the next year.

Fans in the audience at Nokia Theater didn't seem to mind when Miyamoto had wireless problems that interrupted his demonstration of an archery feature in the new Zelda. They did sigh with disappointment when Nintendo said it won't release the game until next spring.

Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Redmond-based Nintendo of America, said pundits were wrong to predict last year that the Wii's momentum was starting to wane. He said the console set a record for game-system sales in December, and more games have been sold for the Wii than any other console since its launch 43 months ago.

"Underlying all those false assumptions about Wii is a mistaken belief that many new owners just play Wii Sports or Wii Fit for a while and then lose interest, but that simply isn't the case," he said. "The reason is the popularity of intermediate or bridge games that usher new players toward the world of gaming."

Examples of such games are "Mario Kart," which sold more than 22 million copies, and "New Super Mario Bros.," which sold more than 14 million.

Fils-Aime's confidence continued after Sony announced later that its Wii-like "Move" controllers for the PlayStation 3 will go on sale Sept. 19 for $50, or $100 for a kit with a controller, an "Eye" receiver and a sports game.

Neither Sony's Move nor Microsoft's Kinect controller has as much appeal as the Wii, Fils-Aime said in an interview.

"What we were able to do was deliver compelling experiences to the consumer that were easy to get into, easy to enjoy, fun to play," he said.

"What I am interested to see is what our two near-end competitors do to tick off all those three boxes, because I haven't seen it yet."

Brier Dudley's blog excerpts appear Thursdays. Reach him at 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com.

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