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It’s a booming market, somehow. We can’t help you figure out why, but Konami’s Love Plus is now in its third iteration, a stereoscopic outing called “New LovePlus”, which takes advantage of the Nintendo 3DS’ augmented reality features to impressive effect; impressive enough that, while still a little creepy and likely relegated to a very small niche of single men, the game appears to be a technological feat.

Augmented reality gaming is still in its early days, but it’s already obvious that the old idea of “virtual reality” gaming is out the window; augmented reality gaming is its successor, a more feasible and less intrusive alternative with growing support. Nintendo have embraced it, shipping the Nintendo 3DS itself with augmented reality features and a series of “AR Games”: widespread support is now inevitable.

So what special augmented reality features does New LovePlus have in store for the lonely gamer and his pixellated companion? For one, faithfulness. The device’s inner-facing camera facilitates the “Boyfriend Lock” feature, by far one of the most interesting applications of facial recognition technology, which prevents your digital date from responding to any other player.

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More impressive, though, is the “Dokodemo Date” feature, which allows you to take your virtual vixen on a “real-life date” using the stereoscopic outer camera. Your girlfriend will run around, inserted right into the camera display, and interact with certain pre-programmed real-life elements in a realistic manner, as if they were actually there. Konami even have a video demonstration.

Also impressive are the implementations of the 3DS’ connectivity features, which allow players to automatically upload gameplay data to Konami’s servers, consequently affecting every other player that chooses to play online. It’s not really multiplayer, but consolidated data on the popularity of date spots and so on will determine how crowded certain areas in the in-game setting of Towano City will be.

What New LovePlus offers is polish and an unprecedented level of functionality; this fake girlfriend will do all the things a real girlfriend does, Konami promise. Well, to a reasonable extent, of course. Keep in mind too that Nintendo are not privy to including dubious content in games licensed for their platforms, so this experience remains strictly at an early high school level, and the only AR function your bed will provide is that she might sit on it.

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We’ll be the first to admit that it’s still kind of weird. New Love Plus is only a game, but it feels like the kind of game that might find its audience with sad and lonely gamers and the mildly off-putting wee-a-boos that occasionally crop up at comic conventions, and I can think of many more productive activities for the former group. Nevertheless, the technology behind the product is solid, and represents a massive leap forward for augmented reality gaming, even in applications beyond dating simulation.

New LovePlus is scheduled for launch on Nintendo 3DS in Japan on February 14th, 2012. If you own a Japan-region 3DS, or have some way of circumventing its region protection, you can order an imported version of the game from Play-Asia for roughly £56.09 GBP or $86.49 USD here. We’ve yet to give it a shot, and Japanese dating systems don’t typically get our blessing, but if you’re eager to try out the bodacious new tech, we won’t discourage you. If that’s the case: happy dating!