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Face-off: Changing the “face” of the 3DS

Majora's Mask 3DS XL


Have you ever been the early adopter of a console only to have the same console be released soon after, but with a cooler design?  This is no longer an issue with the New Nintendo 3DS!  Or, at least, it shouldn’t be.  You see, one of the coolest features of the New Nintendo 3DS, as opposed to the original Nintendo 3DS, though roughly the same size, is that Nintendo is selling swappable faceplates for the new console, making it easy to alter the appearance of your console to whatever you like.

So, if you are like me, and you are tired of not owning the cool Legend of Zelda version of every Nintendo console because you can’t justify spending the money for something you already have, buy the desired faceplate, remove the original, and get the amazing looking 3DS you’ve always wanted!  This all sounds great, right?  Unfortunately, for those of us in the States, the only size available for purchase at launch is the New Nintendo 3DS XL, the brother of the standard sized New Nintendo 3DS.  And like Luigi, the larger of the Mario Bros., bigger is not always better.

The New Nintendo 3DS XL has all the features of the smaller version.  It now has a face-tracking feature to ensure the 3D effect works at all angles.  It also includes a better processor, meaning faster loading times and bigger, better-looking games.  There are also new controls, including a C-stick operating as a right thumb stick, as well as additional shoulder buttons on either side.  Not to mention that if you have collected any of Nintendo’s Amiibo figures, the New 3DS will feature NFC (near-field communication) support.  Like I said, all of the features are the same, save the ability to swap face plates (and maybe the ability to fit in our pockets).  Only the standard size New Nintendo 3DS was designed with interchangeable face plates, the size not making its way to the US.

3DS Faceplates

So why does this seem like such a critical mistake?  For starters, some users prefer the smaller size.  My original 3DS fits neatly into my pocket, truly fulfilling the role of a portable console.  A larger size, despite its larger display, never really appealed to me, and I know I am not alone in this.  Secondly, it feels like a burn to American fans.  Many of us anticipated the sting of not getting the recently announced Ambassador Edition New Nintendo 3DS offered to European Club Nintendo Members featuring a white console, exclusive backplate, a white charging cradle, as well as some slick, white, Super Smash Bros. themed cover plates.

Not receiving the option to buy the standard size New 3Ds was an unexpected and much harsher blow.  Each region continually complains about the content they don’t receive from Nintendo that others do, whether it be enticing pre-order bonuses, spectacular collectors editions, or even earlier release dates.  Many of these are often explained away by taking in to account that European adopters typically have steeper pricing, earning them the benefit of extra content, or the translation process slowing down a games Western release.  To not receive an entire category of a console seems unthinkable, regardless of what marketing strategists and consumer analysts theorize.  Personally, I would rather wait for the standard size than purchase the XL if there were any reassurance that it were ever making its way this far West.

Finally, the choice seems like a poor one when considering the popularity of customization.  By this I mean that people customize and redesign Nintendo’s consoles for fun.  There are sites entirely dedicated to selling custom-made consoles, sites that sell custom parts and pieces for those looking to build their own consoles, and online tutorials for how to update and upgrade retro consoles.  Alterations are made to console aesthetics, from face plates, to lights, to buttons, some as simple as swapping the pieces of one console with those of another, others featuring custom paint jobs.

Gengar GBC

It’s not uncommon for people to gut their consoles and re-fit them with better hardware and features not built for that generation, including backlights, adapters, better audio, and input slots so that portable consoles can be played on a larger screen.  Neither is it uncommon for players to take buttons and pieces from an entirely different console and fit them in to their custom creation, because who doesn’t want an original Gameboy with SNES buttons? People even re-fit NES console hardware into NES game cartridge cases for fun.  So why not offer customization casuals like myself an easier opportunity to make their console their own without fear of permanently ruining it?

Whatever the reason, Nintendo has neglected US players the opportunity to purchase the standard size New Nintendo 3DS, the version of the console that allows owners to customize their consoles with assorted faceplates.  Hopefully Nintendo will amend this choice quickly and reverse their original game plan, as big names in the industry seem prone to do these days *cough, Microsoft, cough.*  I for one would be willing to wait for a smaller, customizable option even if it meant missing the first wave of launches Stateside.  Should that opportunity not arise, and assuming I can’t get my hands on one of those beautiful Zelda themed consoles (I’m lookin’ at you Majora’s Mask Edition XL), I wonder if I’ll bother buying the New Nintendo 3DS at all. And as an avid Nintendo fan, that’s a shame for both parties.

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