Nintendo Co. on Saturday launched the latest version of its 3DS portable game console in Japan in time for the year-end shopping rush, in an effort to prop up its flagging console sales.

The New Nintendo 3DS offers clearer 3-D graphics than existing models and an increase in the number of function buttons.

In central Osaka, Yodobashi Camera Co.'s giant electronics store Multimedia Umeda opened its games section at 7 a.m., two hours earlier than usual, to serve roughly 300 people lined up outside.

Many of the shoppers were after Capcom Co.'s new "Monster Hunter 4G" game compatible with the new console, likely to boost its sales.

Like its predecessor, the New Nintendo 3DS is available in two sizes, with a suggested retail price excluding tax of ¥16,000 for the regular model and ¥18,800 for the LL model with larger screens.

Nintendo installed trial models of the new device in stores around the country in late September, but staff at Multimedia Umeda said children had not lined up to try the device as they had ahead of the release of the first 3DS model in February 2011.

The Kyoto-based company posted a consolidated operating loss in the April-June quarter for the fourth year running due to sluggish sales of game consoles, including the previous 3DS models.

"The success (of the device) depends on increasing the number of hot software titles compatible with it," said Eiji Maeda, a senior analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.

The first overseas markets to get the new 3DS will be Australia and New Zealand next month.