So here we are, Nintendo’s newest console has finally arrived on our shores, promising their most refined handheld experience yet. Coming in both standard and XL forms, there are plenty of options available to potential buyers, with Majora’s Mask and Monster Hunter special XL editions, as well as an array of all-new interchangeable faceplates for the standard edition.
First impressions are certainly very strong, particularly of the pure white New 3DS with its Super Nintendo coloured buttons, and the burnished silver of the New 3DS XL Monster Hunter edition. The system itself seems up to Nintendo’s usually solid manufacturing standards, though perhaps the back panel feels a little weaker than before.
The New 3DS XL edition has definitely grown, though it’s only a few millimetres larger than the older version of the handheld. Both the Start and Select buttons have been moved to just beneath the four face buttons, leaving a much smaller Home button in the centre below the bottom touchscreen. Whatever the changes, all of the face buttons have a very satisfying click to them, and feel suitably responsive.
Whilst the analog-slider and the D-pad seem unchanged, we now have the crucial addition of the C-Stick on the right-hand side, perfect for games that required camera controls, without the need for the bulky Circle-Pad Pro add-on.
Interestingly when I first try to use it in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, I have to set the game to use the Circle-Pad Pro to recognise that I’m using it, though I assume that newer games made purely for the system, like the forthcoming Xenoblade Chronicles, will recognise it as standard. The nub feels solid, and is certainly a huge improvement over the touch-screen camera option found in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Whether it’ll be as comfortable to use as the Circle-Pad Pro will likely come down to personal taste, and the size of your hands.
The system now also includes ZL and ZR buttons further along the spine of the handheld next to the L and R ones. They feel a little out of place where they are, requiring a shift of the hands to reach them, and certainly don’t sit within reach when I hold the system naturally. However, given how few 3DS games will likely use them it’s hardly a deal breaker.
The most obvious improvement in the new editions is to the 3D effect. Labelled as Super-Stable 3D, the system tracks your eye and head movement, adjusting the on-screen images accordingly. It can’t be understated just how much better the 3D display is, with jogs of the hand and turns of the head all compensated for by the console. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate looks spectacular in 3D but on my older XL I’d had to turn the effect off the moment the action started as I would constantly move and lose the image. The new technology actually makes using the 3D a viable and welcome choice which I would argue was simply not the case with the original; turning the effect off now actually feels like you’re missing out. The new screens also seem clearer and sharper than in the older version.
The other headline feature is the improved chip-set within the handheld, giving more power to developers, and finally making the UI operate much more smoothly. Until Xenoblade Chronicles arrives we’re not going to be able to really see the true differences, but Nintendo have promised that a number of games will look better, and at the very least will load quicker. The enhanced chip-set will also speed up download times from the eShop and improve the battery life, both of which are welcome improvements.
The New 3DS family now also sport NFC technology meaning they can now communicate with Nintendo’s incredibly popular Amiibo toys. At the moment there are only a few games designed with this in mind, with the main one being Super Smash Bros though hopefully more developers will be creating content with it in mind.
Much has been made of Nintendo’s system transfer process for those upgrading and thankfully it’s all been drastically overblown. It is still years behind the simplicity of Sony and Microsoft’s digital accounts, but the process is relatively quick and you get to watch some adorable Pikmin move your data too. I do have to say that I still found it nerve-wracking, as the idea of trying to restore my digital purchases from Nintendo following some kind of failure doesn’t bear thinking about, and having to unscrew and tug away at the somewhat flexible back panel was worrying. Thankfully though it all went off without a hitch.
As a revamp there are some very attractive changes for both current and prospective 3DS owners, particularly in terms of the drastically improved 3D effect. However, the enhanced chip-set – as well as the accompanying exclusive games – look to divide the loyal user-base in a manner which Nintendo may come to regret. For those new to the system though, this is a fantastic and complete edition of the handheld which already sports an exceptionally strong library of games.