After launching just before Christmas in Japan and Australia, Nintendo’s upgraded 3DS finally makes its way across the waters to Europe and North America. But are there enough improvements to justify trading in your old console? Read on to find out whether the New 3DS is worth your cold, hard cash, or if you’re better off sticking with your launch model.
Please note: the following review is based on the regular New 3DS, not the New 3DS XL. In North America, only the XL model is available at present.
Faceplates. They’re obviously a big thing for Nintendo now, so let’s get them out of the way first. Bizarrely missing from the XL model (and thus from the North American market entirely), the regular sized New 3DS allows players to remove the top and bottom covers from the handheld and swap them out for a variety of different ones. There’s a fair number of them around already, ranging from the garish, to the more socially acceptable.
Nintendo are clearly hoping people take to these like they have to Amiibos (more on them later), going as far as removing the top faceplate from the New 3DS before shipping. Forcing the player to clip on their own faceplate is a clever way to show how easy it is to swap them around (so long as there’s a screwdriver handy for the bottom plate), and it certainly adds a nice touch of personalisation.
The console itself is largely similar in size and weight to its predecessor, although the upper screen on the New 3DS has been increased by about 20% or so (both screens are identical on the New XL). The stylus has been moved to the bottom of the console, which is a tad more fiddly to remove, and it’s just one long piece of plastic now, which feels rather cheap compared to the telescopic stylus of the launch 3DS. The game cartridge slot has also been moved to the bottom, along with the power button. The latter is particularly perplexing, as it means it’s always exposed, even when the clamshell device is closed. In fairness, during a weekend of being carried around in a sports bag, it’s never turned itself off by accident, but the paranoia of losing game progress of any sort due to a design flaw never really goes away. Overall though, the console feels great to hold and is solidly built. The mushy START/SELECT/HOME buttons are thankfully gone, replaced with normal clicky versions, and two new triggers have been added – ZR and ZL – increasing the total triggers to four.
One rather important new addition is the second analogue input, called the C-Stick. Located just above the A-B-X-Y buttons, it’s both incredibly useful and a little annoying. Having a permanent second stick is great – games like Resident Evil: Revelations, Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D and Majora’s Mask are undoubtedly aided by having the camera mapped to a physical control. The issue, however, is the stick itself. It’s nothing like the circle pad (which is itself not perfect), but rather those old red mouse pointers that laptops used to have sandwiched between letters on the keyboard. It’s completely unmoving as well, meaning no matter how much pressure is placed on it, the thing never budges. The only way to tell how far the stick has been pushed is by the movement of the in-game camera. It’s rough and imprecise, and not a patch on the Vita’s control sticks, but it’s a definite improvement to strapping on the bulky circle pad pro, and ultimately does prove useful in titles such as Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.
The processing power has also had a rather nice bump, and it’s noticeable from the start. Jumping from a game to the home menu and back is far quicker, and everything has a nice zip to it. It will be interesting to see how Xenoblade Chronicles fares when it launches in April, but there’s no denying the handheld has received a welcome oomph in power under the hood.
One aspect of the original console that was much-hyped before its release, and then often promptly ignored, was the stereoscopic 3D. There was no denying the effect was impressive, especially without the need for glasses, but the viewing angle was so tight that it often resulted in horrible, blurry images if the player dared to move their head a few inches off target. It pretty much ruled out 3D gaming on any form of public transport, and most people kept the slider all the way down at zero.
Thankfully, the New 3DS has solved this problem with the addition of head-tracking software that continually adjusts the 3D image. It’s not perfect – two people staring at the screen ruins the effect, and those with glasses might run into a little trouble – but it’s far better than the first outing. The viewing angle is significantly widened, and it’s a lot harder to lose the 3D effect. Two thumbs up here.
The New 3DS also comes NFC-enabled, primarily for Amiibo support. The number of games that support them is low – Super Smash Bros. being the stand out – but the upcoming Code Name: STEAM and Xenoblade Chronicles will also feature unlocks for those with the right figures. Nintendo have promised to release an NFC adaptor for those sticking with the old 3DS, so look forward to seeing a big Amiibo push in the coming months.
Beyond all that, it’s largely business as usual. The battery life has received a modest upgrade – perhaps thirty minutes or so – but it’s still not good enough, especially compared to the Vita. And its important to note that neither the New 3DS or New 3DS XL ship with a charger, which is a rather bizarre move on Nintendo’s part, so keep that in mind if you’re planning on picking one up.
For players fresh to the 3DS scene, it’s a no brainer. The New 3DS packs better 3D, a faster processor, larger screens (in the regular model), a second analogue stick and slightly improved battery life. It feels great to hold for extended play sessions, and there’s no chance of games being released that won’t play on it.
For those that already have an older 3DS model, however, it’s still an attractive upgrade. It’s certainly more akin to the jump from DS to DS Lite, rather than DS Lite to DSi. Nintendo have done an impressive job in addressing nearly every issue in some way, and for those on the fence about upgrading, the New 3DS comes highly recommended. It’s taken a while, but the 3DS is finally the handheld it always should have been.