The striking autostereoscopic screen of the Nintendo 3DS might be responsible for the console gaining countless column inches over the past year or so, but here at Nintendo Life we've been equally as impressed with the potential offered up by the external cameras.
Augmented Reality isn't anything new - it's been big news in iPhone gaming circles for a while now - but the way in which Nintendo has appropriated the concept for the 3DS leads us to believe it could be the next big thing in portable gaming.
The 3DS comes pre-installed with two Augmented Reality applications: Face Raiders and AR Games. The former is a 3D shooter which allows you to paste your face onto an army of floating monsters. You then use the 3DS to target these ugly beasts and shoot them down. The game calls on you to move your entire viewpoint around the room, and as the challenge progresses you'll see enemies smashing through the scenery, which creates an awesome 3D effect.
Face Raiders is undeniably great fun, but AR Games arguably takes things to the next level. It utilizes a deck of cards which come packed with the console. Aiming the camera at the card on a desk causes 3D characters and objects to appear, and it's possible to move around these items to view them from different angles.
Several short-burst mini-games are included. The first is a shooting range, where you fire arrows at targets dotted around your desk. This mode culminates in a boss battle with a furious dragon, who not only lunges towards the screen to bite you but also flings fireballs in your direction. To avoid these attacks you simply duck out of the way - an obvious mechanic, but one that feels refreshingly new.
Another game revolves around using a pool cue to knock a ball onto a target. Here, your desk is warped and distorted to create a fiendish crazy golf course, complete with moving platforms and lava traps. Again, this mode ends when you face off against a revived dragon, only this time you have to use the cue to bash a deadly projectile into his scaly hide.
The fishing mode offers a more sedate challenge, with your desk being transformed into a floating ocean. The objective is to bag the largest fish possible, but that pesky dragon is once again on hand to cause trouble.
In addition to these mini-games, there's also a drawing application which allows you to draw and write on the 3DS touch screen. What you create appears in 3D on the console's main display, and you can move around said creation. Variations on these games can be unlocked at a later date, too.
While none of these modes can be described as anything more than glorified tech demos, they offer an exciting glimpse into the future of the 3DS platform. When combined with the console's autostereoscopic screen, the impression of realism is heightened even further. Although AR Games is very similar to the concept behind Sony's PS3-based Eye of Judgement game, there is currently nothing like this on any other handheld console. Expect massive things in the near future.