It's fair to say Nintendo has made a habit of releasing new handheld hardware on a regular, almost yearly, basis. However this usually is just cosmetic change - be it the bigger screen size of the 3DS XL, or the smaller 'child friendly' budget 2DS console. It's not just a recent trend, either, as these sort of 'upgrades' have been happening since the times of the Game Boy. The Game Boy had it's smaller Game Boy Pocket to tempt people, and even the Game Boy Advance had the folding GBA SP and teeny weeny GBA Micro. Same consoles, but just cosmetic changes deep down.
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But the New Nintendo 3DS feels closer to the sort of jump that came from going from the DS (and DS Lite) to the DSi. It's the same console family, sure - but with enhanced with added exclusive system features, and the promise of a range of exclusive games, Nintendo have put together a package designed to separate you from your money. But are these features worth, in truest sense of the word, upgrading for?
First things first, you have two new models to choose from. The New Nintendo 3DS or the New Nintendo 3DS XL. The New Nintendo 3DS, while the smaller of the two, is actually slightly bigger than the original 3DS system. The New Nintendo 3DS screen is roughly a third of an inch bigger than the original console, which makes a surprising amount of difference when compared side by side. The New Nintendo 3DS XL has the same screen size as the previous XL model, and is just 4mm wider and 0.5mm taller. So there's not really a lot in it size wise.
Super Stable 3D
When setting up your New Nintendo 3DS for the first time you'll have a slightly different experience to the other Nintendo 3DS family consoles. While set up is generally the same, the New Nintendo 3DS has an enhanced 3D viewing angle with head tracking. You can test this out on the set up screen by moving side to side and the camera can detect where you are. You know how you needed to stay exactly centre to the console to view the 3D correctly (and even then, sometimes it didn't work)? Well, the enhanced 3D viewing angle means that if you move slightly you won't end up with weird double vision. Just like magic!
Buttons - the new, removed, and the rearranged
Nintendo's had a bit of an odd relationship with dual analogue sticks on the 3DS. While the first console only had the one stick, they very quickly released an extra stick "add on", called the Circle Pad Pro. Then came the 3DS XL, which, somewhat weirdly, didn't have a second stick built in, but instead had to have its very own Circle Pad Pro XL. Just, you know, to make things as complex as possible. Finally getting its act in order, Nintendo have seen fit to build the buttons the Circle Pad Pro provided into the new 3DS and new 3DS XL from scratch, meaning you get two new shoulder buttons (ZL and ZR), and a C-Stick positioned to the side of the A,B, X, Y buttons.
While few games ever took advantage of these buttons (perhaps because it was such a bulky/awkward/poorly selling peripheral), the new buttons have seen a bit more use on the new console, with the C-Stick is commonly used to reposition camera angle in games like Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and The Legend of Zelda Majora's Mask, with all games that were previously compatible with the Circle Pad Pro automatically recognising the built in buttons. It can be a little confusing at first, however, as the C-Stick doesn't actually move - instead, it's more of a touch based stick, similar to that found on old laptops in place of a mouse. That makes it a step down from the Circle Pad Pro, and a long way from being a fully functioning second stick - but it's something.
There's also a slight rearrangement of older buttons. The Start and Select buttons have been moved from under the touch screen to the right hand side under the X, Y, A, B buttons. The power button is now placed on the bottom of the console - a position which looks as though it'll lend itself to being knocked accidentally when you place the console down. Bigger fingers may also struggle (damn! - Ed) as the button is rather small and awkward to press. Also along with the power button, the stylus slot, headphone jack, and game slot are all now positioned across the bottom. The volume slider has also been moved to the top left of the screen, in easy reach of your left index finger. This makes volume adjustment easier, as it had been previously placed on the bottom left where your hand grips the console. It also has the satisfying 'click' as seen previously on the 3DS XL 3D depth slider, so you know that your volume/3D are fully switched off. Finally you'll notice the absence of the wireless signal switch. This has been removed in favour of accessing it through the system menu instead.
The system transfer to a New Nintendo 3DS can be a little bit irritating. To be fair, it's been made as simple as possible, and even the not so tech-wise should be able to see it through with little difficulty. But frustratingly for some, the memory format for the New 3DS has shifted to microSD cards - which means you can't just take your current card out of your old system, and plug it into your new one. Instead, you'll have to faff switching the data across. The system comes with a 4GB microSD, but if you're a heavy 3DS user with a higher capacity than 4GB SD card in your system already, you'll most likely need to purchase a larger microSD card should you not already have one spare.
For more on the slightly awkward transfer process, take a look at our handy new 3DS system transfer guide here.
If you're planning on investing in Nintendo's interactive figure/toys, Amiibo (for a quick primer, see our full Amiibo beginner's guide here), or have loads of amiibo already, yet no Wii U to use them with, the new Nintendo 3DS has you covered. The console has built-in support for NFC (Near Field Communication) so you can just place your figure on the screen for it to be read and used in game. At the time of writing, there's only actually one amiibo compatible 3DS game available, which is Super Smash Bros for 3DS, so it's a bit too soon to say how useful this feature will be on the New Nintendo 3DS. But with the increasing amount of amiibo compatible Wii U titles and strong figure sales, hopefully Nintendo have some great ideas to bring these figures to life on the handheld.
Should you not wish to upgrade to the New Nintendo 3DS, a small NFC portal for amiibo will be available later this year.
Extra processing power
The New Nintendo 3DS is all round a much faster console. From booting up games to downloading them from the eShop, you can really feel the difference if you've owned one of the older 3DSs. However this new faster console could prove an issue for existing 3DS owners. Nintendo have confirmed there will be New Nintendo 3DS games only. The upcoming Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is the first game to be announced as only being playable on the new console, as it requires the extra processing power - so if you don't want to spend the extra money on the incremental upgrade, well, sucks to be you! Still, while it's likely we'll see the occasional new 3DS exclusive release going forward, it's very unlikely Nintendo will completely alienate existing 3DS owners any time soon. At least, we hope.
For the first time since the Game Boy Micro, you can also change the cover plates on the system, giving you total control over how your New Nintendo 3DS looks. Paired up with the downloadable 3DS themes, you can truly customise your 3DS to make it your own. From the stylish wood-like Mario pattern, to the see-through Pokémon Groudon/Kyogre cover plates, there are over a dozen cover plates now available with loads more to be released in batches over time. One way to look at this is that it's a great alternative to wanting to upgrade your console every time a new special edition comes out (like the gorgeous new 3DS Majora's Mask Special Edition), however, it is worth bearing in mind that New Nintendo 3DS consoles with exclusive Pokémon cover plates have been released in Japan.
Changing cover plates with big game releases, to match your mood, creating your own (yes there are people 3D printing them on the internet already), or even to match your outfit... Yes it's a cosmetic thing. But it's fun. At least, as long as you don't have a 3DS XL, as, despite being the bigger brother, and arguably the flagship model, the 3DS XL doesn't have changeable cover plates - something that's an oversight at best, and downright daft at worst.
So is the New Nintendo 3DS worth the upgrade? Absolutely. The extra features are a big step forward, and the refinements make this the best 3DS ever. It's hard to choose which is the better of the two new models though, as both have their unique selling points. If you're an existing 3DS XL owner that would like cover plates, it's worth keeping in mind the new 3DS does have bigger screens that the non-XL machines that have come before, so scaling down shouldn't be too painful a transition. If playing in super stable 3D, Xenoblade Chronicles, and direct amiibo functionality doesn't interest you, then you could probably put off the upgrade for the time being. It's still early days for the new hardware and Nintendo will most likely show off more of its potential throughout the year in Nintendo Direct broadcasts and at E3 in June.
From past console releases it's understandable if you feel like 'waiting for the next model'. Nintendo has made a bit of habit of it, but as the third machine, it's fairly likely that this will be the last 3DS we'll see. After all we are approaching, the fourth anniversary of its release in the UK. Still, while it may be getting on, the new 3DS makes the handheld feel fresh, exciting and, well, new all over again. It's what the original model should have been like, and it's actually really hard to pick any faults with the new model. If you've never bought a 3DS before, this is the perfect time to climb aboard the Nintendo hype train.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS