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Nintendo 3DS: 22 things you should know

Mysteries and queries all answered here...

In just a few hours time the Nintendo 3DS will go on sale and all of you eager beavers will be able to get your first taste of handheld 3D gaming.

To get ready for the release we've rounded up all the great Nintendo 3DS mysteries and niggling queries and provided the definitive answers here.

Once and for all: is the 3DS region locked?
Yes. Here it is straight from Nintendo: "Nintendo 3DS hardware is available in three versions: Japanese, American and European/Australian. There will be pre-installed region codes for Nintendo 3DS and the games that are specifically developed for and sold in that market. This means that devices and games purchased or downloaded in one specific region will only work in that region." There you have it, then.

Should I import one then?
Not yet. Currently, there's no obvious Japan exclusive game worth £300+ (taking 3DS postage and the exchange rate into account). And Nintendo of Europe do a pretty good job regarding DS and Wii releases - contrary to popular belief, there are more PAL exclusives than NTSC ones. And one of the NTSC titles was Excitebots. And that stinks. So there.

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How long does the battery last?
At full brightness (the major battery sap), with 3D turned on (3D 'strength' doesn't come into it) and no wireless comms, we squeezed three and a half hours from a full charge. Wireless use edges it towards three hours, but enabling 'power saving' adds 20 minutes. Shift the brightness to its lowest level for five hours' play time.

How well does it play at low brightness?
Not great. There are five settings, dulling the colours and darkening the mood with each dropped notch. The 3D still works on the lowest setting, though you can kiss goodbye to your Nintendog's lustrous fur - in one screen tap the pet simulator goes from dream home to Mike Leigh depress-o-room. If you want to spend time in a virtual RSPCA ad, be our guest. An extra hour of battery ain't worth it.

What does power saving actually do?
It slightly dips the brightness. It's less harsh than the colour vacuum of low brightness, although it noticeably weakens fainter colours. Pastel floor tiles in Mii Maker, for example, lose some definition. Some put-upon R&D1 underling probably spent weeks on those floor tiles. Are you going sacrifice his work for 20 minutes of play? Of course you are. Read it and weep, underling!

What happens when I press the Home button?
Drum roll... it takes you to the home menu. But this is a proper home menu, and not the glorified remote speaker volume control on Wii. Selecting other software closes the current game for good. You can, however, access game notes, the friend list, notifications and the web browser (not yet available, but viewable on the menu).

What are 'game notes'?
A notepad, not unlike that seen in Hotel Dusk and the DS Zeldas. You get 12 sheets of virtual paper to deface to your heart's content. Handily, the paused game is viewable up top so you can jot down pertinent info as and when it's given. Alternatively, write down reminders as to which Dead Or Alive cutscenes require further... inspection at a later date.

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What's the 'friend list'?
It shows any friend (yes) with whom you've exchanged your friend code. This can be done locally with a button press (which takes a second) or by typing in codes you've swapped elsewhere. When mates play online you'll see their Mii playing a tiny 3DS (this won't work for old DS games). You'll also be able to use Wi-Fi messaging.

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