TOKYO--Nintendo released the 3DS in its native Japan this morning, one month ahead of the system's scheduled March 27 release in North America. Chilly February temperatures and strong winds were of little concern to fans who began lining up in the dark predawn hours to get their hands on Nintendo's latest handheld.
GameSpot was on the scene at the Yodobashi Camera in Tokyo's Akihabara neighborhood, a massive electronics superstore ranking among the city's largest. Though the crowds were robust, not everyone was there to pick up a 3DS. As coincidence would have it, there was a new toy based on the popular Kamen Rider television show being released on the same day as Nintendo's latest dual-screen portable. Those waiting for the Kamen Rider item and the 3DS were instructed to wait in the same line. The line thinned out considerably when store employees informed the crowds that they wouldn't have enough Kamen Rider toys for everyone in the queue, but there were still plenty of would-be 3DS owners left waiting it out until the doors opened.
The prospective 3DS buyers, mostly bundled up in heavy winter jackets, were eventually let into the store at about 8:30 a.m. after waiting outside since well before sunrise. The scene in the Yodobashi was brisk but orderly, with fans shuffling through the massive store along predesignated pathways snaking throughout the store to prevent crowding around. Those finally making it to the register had their choice of 3DS systems in either cosmo black or aqua blue, as well as the eight Japanese launch titles, including Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition and Professor Layton and the Mask of the Miracle. Throughout all this, Yodobashi Camera's signature theme song, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," poured out from the PA speakers on repeat.
There seemed to be plenty of 3DS units in stock, and those who had neglected to preorder a unit were able to pick up one of the several hundred unreserved systems available inside. Afterward, a sizable number of brand-new 3DS owners tried out the portable's Street Pass social functionality outside the store. As for GameSpot, you can find out what this site's editors got up to with the new hardware in this live Today On the Spot 3DS launch special straight from Tokyo.