This week at GDC 2011 I was able to preview a couple of the pre-installed software titles included with every new 3DS. Here's the lowdown on Face Raiders and AR Games.
Face Raiders is an augmented-reality title that involves taking a picture of a friend using the stereoscopic cameras on the front of your 3DS. The game warps your face a bit and places it on these floating villains. The game places these little villains all around you using augmented reality. They come at you from all angles, so you have to use the camera to find them and shoot them. It's surpisingly more entertaining than a blazé description of the events would suggest. Seriously. People see you shimmy around going "Pew Pew!!" and they take the 3DS away from you so they can do the same thing! Ok, so not everybody went "Pew Pew!!" but if you can, you should. It adds to the gameplay somehow. Aligning the face, the eyes and mouth, to the on-screen reticule so that the 3DS knows what your face looks like was honestly more difficult than shooting at the floating faces, but the PR dude was very patient with me.
Will this be something that sells 3DS'? Probably not. Will every one of your friends want to try this at least once? Absolutely yes. Ok, let the 'Face Raiders' jokes begin. At least Nintendo changed the name from "Face Ace". Heh.
AR Games, another augmented-reality title, was one of those, "Wow," moments that don't happen to jaded gamer journalists very often. Everybody that picked up a 3DS with AR Games and aimed it at one of those yellow cards said, "Wow" as if they were taking turns, as if it were some meta-game.
The user pulls out one of the yellow AR cards (seen in the header), mine was 'Archery,' and puts it on a nearby flat surface like a table or something. Point the camera at the AR card and the 3DS will help you get situated. This was actually a very easy process. The card and the table the card was resting on both "unfolded" into a virtual archery range. You move the 3DS to line up a reticule in order to shoot the targets. As the levels progress, the game becomes a lesson in prepositions. Targets can be anywhere a cat can go: inside, outside, above, or below.
Nintendo wasn't able to comment on how many AR cards would ship with or what the availability of more AR cards might be after launch. AR Games will absolutely impress everyone who picks it up. That's a guarantee.