The New 3DS is the latest revision in Nintendo’s 3D portable range.
It’s a family that now includes the 3DS, the 3DSXL, the 2DS and the forthcoming New 3DS XL. In short, Nintendo isn’t shy about revamping its consoles.
The original DS saw two major revisions. The DS Lite was a sexy redesign of the console’s form, improving its portability and looks. It also helped in broadening the appeal of the DS to consumers who were attracted by the Touch Generations range of software. The next big revision, the DSi, introduced a camera, the Nintendo Shop and DSiWare. A larger XL model also followed late in the console’s life-cycle.
The various iterations of the 3DS have been rather more cautious. The first revision, the 3DS XL, was a complementary, rather than a replacement, product. It introduced a larger screen and a more comfortable build (at least for my big hands.) And 2012’s 2DS, with its quirky slate-like design, was a blatant attempt by Nintendo to appeal to parents who were concerned about 3D technology but wanted a console for their Pokémon loving kids. It remains the runt of the family.
The New 3DS and 3DS XL are subtler upgrades but they do attempt to fix some longstanding concerns. Some of the improvements are under the hood, with an improved processor, integrated NFC technology and a slightly better battery. The back of the box selling points are the addition of new controls, refinements to the 3D capabilities and changeable covers.
I was “lucky” enough to be invited to buy a New 3DS before its general release later this year. Quite what I have done to receive such an honour remains unknown but I expect it relates to the amount of money I have spent on Nintendo products over the years. So, like the fan boy I ultimately am, I dutifully took up the offer. A few days later a New 3DS Ambassador Edition arrived.
So how does it compare?
The original 3DS was a distinctive machine but not to everyone’s taste with its layered plastic design and over-glossy finish. The XL revision, addressed these concerns by being almost under-designed, a utilitarian product that was efficient but lacked any style. The XL screen was also cause for debate with the larger size exposing the console’s relatively low pixel density.
The good news regarding the New 3DS is that the form-factor is the best for a DS yet. It’s slightly larger than the original 3DS and feels much sturdier and solid. The plastic used in the build also feels of a higher quality. It’s not close to the PS Vita in terms of industrial design but it’s impressive. It weighs just enough to feel stable, but is not too heavy for extended play sessions.
The redesign has resulted in a few positional changes. Game cards are now loaded into the bottom left of the unit. The curiously small stylus is also moved here, making it slightly less accessible if you need it in a hurry. The power switch now sits on the bottom right. It’s a slight pain to use, being recessed into the console’s base, but there’s no danger of an accidental power down.
The Wi-Fi, charging and power LEDs are also aligned along the base of the console. This, combined with the 3D and volume sliders now being either side of the screen, make the New 3DS much more balanced and pleasing to the eye. And, at last, there’s a decent Home button.
One of the big selling points of the New 3DS is the customisable covers. The Ambassador Edition comes complete with two sets. One is Super Smash Bros. themed, the other using Nintendo’s logo and kanji translation. The top cover is easily removed but the bottom cover, which houses the 4GB micro SD card, requires a screwdriver. Annoying but again, a piece of design that removes the likelihood of accidents.
The New 3DS is not a particularly modern looking device, but it’s certainly smart, accessible, pocketable and sits alongside the DSi as one of Nintendo’s best designed portables.
The New 3DS Ambassador Edition also comes packed with a charging cradle. It’s not as snug as the original 3DS equivalent as the console sits in vertically. As a result it never feels entirely secure, but its inclusion is welcome.
The 3D feature has often proved divisive. Many users just turn it off, with the narrow viewing angle causing issues for some. I have always liked it, particularly when used in two-dimensional games like Shovel Knight and Mighty Switch Force. If you have been on the fence about 3D, the New 3DS may just change your mind.
A new sensor sits above the top screen, tracking your head position and adjusting the 3D display on the fly. This provides the New 3DS with a much wider viewing angle. It works perfectly, removing that sense of fragility that was often an issue with its predecessors. Overall, it’s a marked improvement. Of course, 3D implementation varies game by game, but almost all first party titles use it to great effect.
The lack of a second analogue stick was an omission that baffled many when the original 3DS launched. It was addressed, to an extent, by the hideous Circle Pad Pro, or “Frankenstick” (Thanks, 8-4.) In practice very few games require a second analogue input but Nintendo has decided to bridge the gap nonetheless with the addition of a C-stick. It small and sits unobtrusively above the SNES-inspired ABXY buttons.
In Super Smash Bros. the C-stick can be used to launch smash attacks and I understand it will also be used as much-needed camera controls in Monster Hunter. Unfortunately the title that needs it most, Kid Icarus, has yet to be patched.
Elsewhere, the new ZL/ZR triggers fit snuggly across the top the console’s base and are easily accessible. The D-pad retains the improvements introduced by the 3DS XL..
The New 3DS also includes a bumped-up processor. It makes an appreciable difference, with quicker start-up times and a smoother, faster Eshop experience. In time new games will be taking advantage of the extra power, the first being a remake of the Wii RPG, Xenoblade Chronicles. Also hidden away inside is an NFC sensor, ready and waiting for the inevitable Amiibo integration.
Although Nintendo’s 3D console has not reached the heights of popularity achieved by the original DS, it has proved to be a solid seller with a library of excellent games. If you are new to the 3DS range, the New 3DS comes highly recommended.
It’s hard to say if the New 3DS is an essential upgrade for existing owners. It’s not as significant as the leap from the DS to the DSi so if you are happy with your XL you may want to pass. However, if you are still using an 2011 Aqua Blue edition 3DS, this is an upgrade that should tempt you.