Playing DS Games on the 3DS

The Nintendo 3DS has been heralded as the next advancement in portable gaming. Adding not only 3D, the screens of the 3DS are also higher resolution than those of their DS Lite and DSi predecessors. One might be tempted to conclude that the higher resolution screens would allow regular Nintendo DS games to look correspondingly better on the 3DS; this assumption would, in general, be incorrect.

Resolution upscaling

Because of the higher resolution screens, DS titles (designed to work on the lower-res screens of the DS and DSi) need to be scaled to fit the screen. Unfortunately, when graphics get scaled, they do not always look better; poor scaling can lead to blocky edges and pixelation. For an example of this, try taking a small image and setting it to your computer’s wallpaper (set to “stretch”). It will look awful (unless you happened to pick a vector-based graphic).

The wallpaper example given is a bit extreme; it was simply to demonstrate scaling. The scaling of the 3DS is much less extreme (more along the lines of using a 1440×900 wallpaper on a 1680×1050 monitor). The resolution upgrade is small enough that scaling done is minimal, though you might notice some odd edges and slight stretching in some cases. This is, for the most part, negligible. The alternative is certainly worse.

A DS game in native resolution

The image above is an example of a DS game running at its native resolution. This is accomplished by holding down the Start and Select keys while launching a DS game. This solution makes the game appear too small for comfortable playing over a long period of time; however, it does eliminate any issues caused due to upscaling.

Dull colors

Another issue that is popping up around the internet is one where DS games have dull or washed-out colors, particularly on the top screen of the 3DS. If you experience this issue, it will be immediately noticeable. Kotaku, however, has a fix. The idea is to turn down the brightness. If you have done some reading on the 3DS, you probably know that Nintendo had to increase the brightness of the top screen to compensate for the 3D (resulting in poor battery life); this idea could have some merit.

High brightness with power saving on

Low brightness with power saving on

This shows high (a setting of 5) vs low (a setting of 2) brightness in Pokemon Black with the 3DS power saving (in the brightness options) turned on. Note that these are taken in a very unscientific manner from a 5MP camera on a Droid. They both look fairly bland, and in fact the high brightness one might even look better (again, these are taken with a poor camera).

Power Saving

When testing different brightnesses, I remembered that I had power saving turned on in my brightness settings; the 3DS eats a lot of battery and I had wanted to make it last. I noticed when I toggled this setting, the color palette of the top screen changed. The screen took on a more yellowish tinge, instead of being a clean white. I wondered if this could be what was causing the color issues…

High brightness with power saving off

Low brightness with power saving off

Now there are some major differences. Subjectively, higher brightness looks better in person with power saving off than the picture shows, but the difference is not drastic. The real difference, however, is low brightness with power saving off. The colors really come out much more on this setting. This is not just a trick of the camera; the difference is huge. The combination of power saving and brightness really make a huge difference with DS games.

So far I have not had time to test many DS games with these different settings, but if I find anything that conflicts with this information then I will be sure to post about it. Thank you, Kotaku, for making me feel much better about my 3DS purchase than I did yesterday.

  1. March 31st, 2011

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