Nintendo has finally given a launch date and price for its upcoming 3DS handheld. The companys president, Satoru Iwata, announced during a press event in Tokyo that the novel portable gaming console would arrive in Japan next year, on February 26, for 25,000 yen -- around $300. He was less specific about a release date in the U.S. and Europe, but did say the device would be hitting those markets sometime in March 2011, so you wont be kept waiting much longer.
Besides giving fans something to mark on their calendars Iwata also showed off some of the 3DS new functions, including a Virtual Console feature that will allow users to download Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games. Tag Mode enables Nintendo 3DS portables to find nearby handhelds to connect with and exchange data, Mii Studio can automatically make Mii customizable avatars based on real photos, while players will be able to enjoy several "AR Games" (Augmented Reality) that will come pre-loaded on the system.
In terms of hardware the 3DS hasnt changed much from what we have already seen. Youll be able to tweak the depth of the 3D effect for games and content through a slider on the right, take standard or 3D pictures with the devices multiple cameras, connect to the Internet via 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, among other things. Games already in development include 3DS-specific versions of Mario Kart, Nintendogs and StarFox 64 franchises, along with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, PilotWings Resort, Megaman Legends 3, Steel Diver, Paper Mario and a bunch others.
All in all it looks like the 3DS might be another home run for the company, though it may face some obstacles if its price is anywhere close to $300 in the U.S. For that price or less not only you can get any last-generation console available today, but also an iPod touch, which Apple has been pushing as a powerful and versatile portable gaming machine.