An Afternoon with the New 3DS

In the past I have written against both the notion of pre-ordering games and buying consoles at launch. Today however I broke both those rules, as my pre-order for the new New 3DS XL along with The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D special edition from the official UK Nintendo store arrived surprisingly early.

Yet if it was going to be any company that I would break my own rules for, it would be Nintendo. Although with Nintendo’s new new (sorry this joke is going be drawn out very thin by the end) console, it is an iterative version of its very successful handheld console series. Therefore so far with the exception of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D (although there will be at least a few more likely to be revealed) this version of the 3DS won’t be required to play a whole new library games.

On the surface, for the XL model at least, there hasn’t been a radical overhaul to separate it from the predecessor, the screen sizes are the same and it sports the same flushed corners. When you actually hold it in your hands though, it is then that you notice the difference. Firstly is that Nintendo have returned to using a gloss finish for the exterior, therefore the outside is a fingerprint magnet no matter how careful you are. It’s also actually ever so slightly wider than the original XL and also, somehow, lighter. Not dramatically but it does add to the comfort of playing with the new new system, and for those who have the choice between the XL and the “normal” size (although this has seen its screen increased over that of the original 3DS and the 2DS) can take this into consideration. Sure it won’t fit into your pocket, but be honest, how often were you actually carrying around handhelds in your pocket.

Regardless of which version you go for you’ll notice an improvement regarding the 3D pretty much straight away. This is because Nintendo has add what it calls “Super Stable 3D” which means the 3DS now tracks your head movements using infrared which now removes the irksome issue of losing the sweet spot for the 3D to work. This works wonderfully in Super Smash Bros, a game that previously I had to turn the 3D off because it was not the easiest of games to maintain the sweet spot. I’ve always been a fan of the 3DS’ namesake feature and it is great that now more people will hopefully start to use it. Although I do need to point out that it is of course somewhat dependent on each game and the extent to which it pushes this. It adds a nice layer of depth in Majora’s Mask but during my time with the Monster Hunter 4 demo I was tempted to turn the 3D off because it was barely effective and at times suffered from ghosting that no other software I have tried has suffered from. I recall making a similar observation when I tried the Monster Hunter 3 demo on a previous 3DS as well.

It’s not just the top screen that has seen improvements as the bottom touch screen now has added NFC support, meaning that Amiibo can now be used on a handheld. This follows a recent update for Super Smash Bros bringing Amiibo support for the handheld version, and it works just like it does on the WiiU. Nothing more, nothing less. Smash is the only game to support writing data to an Amiibo, but Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy+ will have unlockable plane themes dependent on the Amiibo, and the upcoming new IP Codename S.T.E.A.M. will have unlockable playable characters from Intelligent Studios other series Fire Emblem.

The New 3DS also marks the first time new inputs have been added to the hardware itself without the need for an add-on. Next to the existing L and R buttons are now two new buttons ZL and ZR providing extra functionality for games that need it. This is potentially the reason why the slot for the game cartridges has now been moved to the bottom, which seems strange at first, but is quickly forgotten, in addition the stylus has also been moved and is now found on the bottom right and is slightly smaller as a result of this placement. This is not quite as convenient as being on the right hand side, but it is still better than being next to the shoulder buttons as it was with the Original 3DS.

The most important and noteworthy addition to the inputs is the inclusion of the C-Stick. After years of complaining Nintendo have finally provided a second analogue stick. Except this does not function like the circle pad, nor does it control like the one found on the GameCube where it got its name from. Others have compared it to the nubs that used to serve as a mouse on certain laptop models. This is essentially correct, and it is good to realise this straight away. At first I actually thought it was broken as it wasn’t making any noticeable movements. It was only until I was at the home screen and I gave it a nudge that I noticed it was in fact working. It requires a subtle yet deliberate push, and whilst it is no circle pad it is a very effective means of camera control that uses minimal real estate from the console. In addition like the C-Stick on GameCube controllers in Smash it also enables smash attacks, making the game feel even more like its console sibling.

Underneath a new faster processor has been added, which is why the previously mentioned Xenoblade Chronicles 3D only works on this iteration, and whilst this is only beneficial for a couple of games the main benefit is for the system itself. Recently the 3DS has received a healthy number of updates from Nintendo such as Miiverse integration and themes. However these features were never considered when the console first came out and have since put additional strain onto the previous processing capabilities. This was most evident with Smash as Miiverse can not be loaded when the game is running. The faster processor fixes this as well as dramatically reducing the load time for Smash as well as improving download times from the eShop. This is not something that makes purchasing a New 3DS essential, but it does make the whole experience a more pleasurable one.

If you are now considering upgrading (if you own an original 3DS or, for some reason, a 2DS) then you really should. There is one thing you’ll need to keep in mind, and that is the transfer process. Whereas before all previous version of the 3DS family used standard SD cards, the new new consoles only use Micro SD cards. This in itself is not much of an issue, but I strongly recommend that you get your self a Micro SD card adaptor if you don’t already have one and move the files on your current SD card to a larger Micro SD card. Then when you do move to the New 3DS the transfer process is slightly easier in practise (as the video below demonstrates [except for step 8 press NO]). It is a shame that Nintendo has the most convoluted transfer process of anything, although it is still easier than moving data from a Wii to a WiiU.

In just the short time I’ve had so far with the New 3DS XL I already feel that upgrading was a valid decision. The 3D now feels like it has reached its intended goal of ‘glasses free’ 3D rather than a proof of concept. The extra processing power adds to the overall usability of the system and the C-Stick feels like something that should have been included long ago. Furthermore as someone with three Amiibo (and will likely purchase more, although I am impressed by my self control) the inclusion of NFC is a great addition and helps demonstrate Nintendo’s commitment to the series of figures. This is likely to be the last iteration of the 3DS, but should have at least a couple of years before anything is even announced, let alone released. It might even be the last handheld only console Nintendo releases, not that they will exit the market, rather the hope is that with the merging of the two console divisions at Nintendo the next console will be just that. For now though I hope you enjoy Nintendo’s best handheld console, as it is feature packed but still remembers that everything is about playing excellent games.

 *You will have noticed that I haven’t mentioned much at all about the non-XL New Nintendo 3DS. I haven’t had a chance to play with one, nor have I seen one in person. Obviously we all know how cool the changeable faceplates are, which aside from that and the smaller screen sizes are the only differences, in terms of functional hardware everything is the same. It’s a shame that the XL models are fixed in their design, but this seems to be an aesthetics decision in that the XL is the more “mature” version. For those in North America, Nintendo has yet to make a decision to bring the smaller model to the continent, although New Red is currently an exclusive colour (or should that be color), but maybe your bank account might thank you for not spending more on new covers.

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