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How 3DS and Pro Evo (finally) made me love Nintendo

Opinion: Tom Pakinkis cannot wait for launch day...

I've never been Nintendo's biggest fan. That's not out of disdain, nor any particular anti-Mario principal - just out of chance.

I spent my tenderest years with Sonic and Alex Kidd on Master Systems and Mega Drives, before making a teenage transition to PC, and games like Sci-Fi RPG Starship Titanic and Blade Runner.

Then came the PlayStation, PS2, Xbox, 360 and PS3... and adulthood. Without knowing it, I'd left Nintendo on the backburner for most of my young life. I'd never really paid it very much attention. Nobody's fault, I just happened to pass it by.

A large portion of hardcore gamers, however, have built the foundations of their passion with the likes of the SNES and N64. They struggle to understand why I haven't reserved a special corner of my soul for the creations of Miyamoto-san.

I may not share their nostalgic passion, but I can understand why they might feel a little aggrieved that their favourite name in gaming is now all-too-readily associated with family friendly shovelware as much as it is Donkey Kong and Mario Galaxy.

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With the Wii, Nintendo has successfully captured perhaps its biggest audience ever - but for many it's the wrong kind of audience, and you'll see more DS consoles clutched by Brain Training commuters than anything else.

But now there's finally cause for those frowning Mario lovers to cheer: last week Nintendo said that its new 3D handheld will blow the hardcore audience away.

While I'd say the company needs to reign in its hyperbole horses just a bit, I do think it may have something of a point.

See, my first taste of glasses-free 3D came on Friday, when I got around half an hour of hands-on time with PES 3DS (before a red cloth-clad ninja crashed through the office window to reclaim the loaner. I relinquished the device just before his blade took my trembling hands.)

Pro Evolution Soccer was a great 3DS title with which to 'break in' a gamer like me... not only because it isn't typical of Nintendo's recent output but also because I'm a well-groomed PES fanboy. Finally, I have a reason to fuss about Nintendo like a Kirby fanboy.

Once I'd adjusted my eyes to the box-like depth of the game, the first thing I noticed, in fact was that PES 3DS looks and plays a lot like the Pro Evolution Soccer of five years ago.

It sounds like a criticism, but it absolutely isn't: that's far more than the DS could even dream of achieving. I'd even say that in terms of basic design PES 3DS looks better than the latest Wii offering in terms of animation.

It plays like PES 5 as well, which again can be taken as a compliment (depending on your footballing stance). With PES 2011 being a much weightier and more solemn affair in its movements and spectacle, and far more sensitive to player error, fans of classic PES will love what this 3DS version has to offer; namely fierce shots from too far out and fast-paced, flamboyant dribbling should you decide to throw caution to the wind and just leg it.

In terms of how well built the 3DS is for actually playing football sims, I had the same problems I had playing FIFA on PSP and probably will have on any handheld.

With smaller buttons packed closer together it takes time to realign the boundaries of your fingers movements, especially when it comes to quick movements. The shoulder buttons are a bit squashed up against the back of the screen when it's unfolded as well.

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