A note on the stereoscopic 3D effect in Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7

Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 marked the start of a new wave of 3DS software, and one thing that jumped out in reviews was that Nintendo had clearly changed the way the 3D effect worked in these games. I noticed this difference myself – despite normally using my 3DS with the 3D effect turned off, I always turned on the 3D effect to play these two games. I was reading the Iwata Asks article about Super Mario 3D Land when I noticed an interesting bit of information about how the stereoscopic 3D effect in these recent games differs from what went before.

Hayashida: A good action game makes you move your body. But it’s a problem if that distorts the visuals. Then Miyamoto-san said that Mario Kart 7 doesn’t get blurry. I took a look, and it really didn’t. I wondered why and came to understand it was because the player’s kart was placed in a location where there is no binocular parallax. While driving, the players are looking at their own kart, so it doesn’t look blurry. So what will people be looking at in Super Mario 3D Land?

Iwata: Mario, of course.

Hayashida: Exactly. It’s Mario. We call that place where there is no disparity between the left and right eyes the reference plane. We thought we would adjust the reference plane to Mario, so he would be less likely to blur. That gave birth to the Normal View.

So your eyes aren’t receiving two different sets of information relating to Mario or your kart, just one. Before the two recent Mario games came out, the biggest problem I had with the 3D effect was the way it was difficult to resolve the image of your avatar. For example in Pilotwings Resort, your eyes are sent significantly different images of your character, and I personally found this uncomfortable. My eyes couldn’t resolve these images, I either saw the ‘left’ version of my avatar, or the ‘right’ version, never a 3D image. My eyes probably have a way of sorting this kind of thing out in real life, but when presented with a relatively crude imitation of a 3D image, they just can’t cope.

A screenshot of Super Mario 3D Land showing coins moving into the screen

This moment in the first level, where coins hop out of the screen, was designed to highlight the 3D effect

I hope this approach to stereoscopic 3D becomes a standard for 3DS games in the future, because I just find it much more comfortable. That said, this kind of 3D isn’t to everyone’s tastes.

Hayashida: About 80 percent of people responded that the Normal View made it more comfortable. But about 10 or 20 percent said that it was better before. So we thought we would leave the previous view, and that became Extended Depth. You can change between the two views with the +Control Pad.

The Daily Mail’s idiot game reviewer isn’t a fan either: he criticised Mario Kart 7‘s ‘barely there’ 3D effect. But that said, I did occasionally find the Extended Depth view in Super Mario 3D Land quite useful – sometimes you’re willing to have a stronger 3D effect at the expense of comfort for a short period. So perhaps future 3DS games should provide a choice of 3D views, either changeable on the fly or from the ‘options’ menu. Stereoscopic 3D is, in some respects, a brave new world, with few established rules on how to use the feature. It’ll be interesting to see whether some established practices develop or whether the approach to 3D continues to differ widely.

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