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The 3DS follows what the original DS and DS Lite did in terms of keeping the previous generation of games before it alive with the 3DS have backward compatibility with original Nintendo DS games. However there has been some questions as to how well the those games play on the 3DS Let's put it to the test.
For this test we will use The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks as the test game and we will use the opening scene as the example. Now I first looked at the game on the DS Lite so you can see what the game looks like on original DS hardware. The game looks and runs normal colors are sharp and no pixelation as expect since the game was made around the time the DS Lite was the main model. Next we tried it on the DSi XL and most would assume that with the larger screens on the DSi XL that it would cause the images to be stretched out and pixelated but that wasn't the case here. The game looks and ran just as good as on the DS but I did seem that the colors were a bit of with a greenish tint to the sky but still playable. Now it was time to try it on the 3DS.
When the opening scene starts on the 3DS you can notice that it is a bit distorted with some pixelation and some tint on the colors but the game speed was the same as the others just not as sharp. The 3DS does have a native mode support by holding down the start button or select button or both together when you first load up the game which it will put the game in its normal resolution but even with that you can see that it's just a bit off in pixelation and colors and it's just too small to play on that screen.
I have a feel but not confirmed that the DS part of the 3DS is being software emulated which in most cases you get a degrade in image quality over actual hardware backwards compatibility. This is not confirmed but from what I'm seeing it sounds like that's what it might we. You don't get this issue on all games as I tried Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword as well and it looked fine but another noteworthy item came up. Games like Ninja Gaiden; Dragon Sword play in a rotate booklet format on the DS and with the 3DS have two different size screens it can be a bit awkward to look at and play on.
By no means are any of these small concerns a deal breaker in deciding if you want to get a 3DS or not but it is worth known what your experience will be like playing DS games on the 3DS. Especially for those that own a few DS games