Thursday 15 January 2015

New Nintendo 3DS and 3DS XL

Pocket, Color, SP, Micro, Lite, XL… For better or worse, Nintendo’s been churning out enhanced and updated versions of its handheld consoles for nearly 20 years now. On one hand, it’s nice the Big N cares enough about its systems to WANT to continually improve them; on the other, knowing your shiny new hardware’s probably going to be replaced by something even newer and shinier is never a good feeling. Well, Nintendo’s at it again: the New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL are out now in Japan and Australia and coming this year in Europe and the US, but are they an essential upgrade for existing 3DS gamers? I imported one to find out.

 The first thing you’ll notice about the console is the new C Stick – a little grey pimple situated just above the A, B, X, and Y buttons that works like those pointer nubs on old laptops. Along with the new ZL and ZR buttons, the C Stick replaces Nintendo’s ugly, unwieldy Circle Pad Pro accessory and – finally! – gives hardcore gamers the dual analogue controls they’ve been begging for. I’m hopeless at action games so it’s not something I’ll use very often, but I did play through the Resident Evil Revelations demo a couple of times to try it out. It’s vastly better than having to use the shoulder buttons, touch screen, or D-pad to aim or control the camera, but a second Circle Pad would’ve been preferable. The C Stick tended to overreact to my more pronounced movements, but failed to register some of my subtler ones; that’s fine for swinging the camera around, but definitely not ideal for lining up precise head-shots.

The new auto-brightness option, which Nintendo claims can extend your battery life, was equally hit and miss. Sitting somewhere even remotely shadowy was enough to make my New 3DS drop to the lowest brightness level – I ended up turning the feature off after a few hours because it was just too inconsistent. Thankfully, the New 3DS’s other headline feature – “super-stable 3D” – works remarkably well. An infrared LED next to the inner camera allows the system to track the location of your face, even in the dark, and adjust the stereoscopic 3D effect on the fly. Admittedly, you can’t swing the system from side to side like in Nintendo’s trailer, but the viewing angle is surprisingly wide and the need for a 3D “sweet spot” has been completely eliminated. Moving your head (or the system) to get comfortable no longer results in an eye-fucking double image and, whereas I never used to use the 3D on my old 3DS, I’m yet to turn it off on the new one.

The biggest change design-wise is the addition of Cover Plates – removable face-plates that are retailing for around £10-£20 and come in a variety of bold, Nintendo-themed designs. I opted for one with glow-in-the-dark Boos on, but I’ve also got my eye on one made from embossed wood… Basically, it’s all the fun of owning a 3DS with a limited-edition design, without the disappointment of being stuck with it if something cooler comes along. The Cover Plates do make the system feel a bit creaky and plasticky, though, which is a shame considering the efforts Nintendo’s made to make the controls feel more “premium”; the A, B, X, and Y buttons (which have been coloured to match the SNES’s controller) and D-pad are flatter than before and have a very satisfying click to them.

Elsewhere, many of the system’s many buttons, slots, and sliders have been relocated – these are mostly logical changes, but I really, really hate that the stylus slot has been moved to the bottom of the console. It’s made the New 3DS’s stylus horribly stubby and ineffectual: I ended up ordering myself a third-party replacement after a couple of days of faffing about with the bundled one.

Thanks to the system’s improved processing power, eShop downloads are roughly 30% faster on the new system, while launching software and navigating around the Home Menu also feels a lot snappier. There’s even a new, HTML5-capable Internet Browser that can play 3D videos – it’s not whizzy enough to replace your smartphone, but it’s more than good enough for reading walkthroughs or looking stuff up on Bulbapedia. And Nintendo’s planning to use the New 3DSes’ extra power to launch exclusive games for the consoles, starting with Xenoblade Chronicles later this year, which will be welcome news for the more graphics-conscious gamers out there.

Improved low-light photography and the ability to use Nintendo’s new amiibo figures with the system (you just have to tap them on the touch screen) round off the impressively long list of new features – and just as impressive is the fact battery life hasn’t been compromised. I haven’t noticed any difference in play time compared to my old 3DS, so… while it’s still not mind-blowingly good, it’ll get you through your daily commute without any problems. There’s no bundled power adapter, though, which is a weird choice considering the system is arguably better-suited to new players than people who already own a 3DS. With the New Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo’s taken what was already the best handheld system (sorry, Vita fans) and made it even better. If you already own a 3DS, should be in a hurry to upgrade? Probably not, unless you consider yourself a power user; you won’t be missing out on anything Earth-shatteringly exciting if you wait to see what the New 3DSes’ exclusive games are like.

Do I regret upgrading, though? Not even a little bit – the enhanced 3D viewing has given my old games a new lease of life and, as someone who loves downloading, the speed improvements alone will make it all worthwhile. And if you’re one of the, like, ten people who still haven’t taken the plunge and bought yourself a 3DS, now is definitely the time to do it.

The New Nintendo 3DS proves there’s life in Nintendo’s handheld yet and gets a super-stable 4/5 and they'll be arriving in CeX soon ;)


Mike Lee

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