Sunday, February 22, 2015

New Nintendo 3DS XL Impressions

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I originally went into the New 3DS with some skepticism, mainly because the details we had on it didn't sound like much right off the bat. "Are people really going to care that it's a little faster, especially if there won't even be any unique titles for it until April?" I said a lot. And yet, I found myself shelling out for one anyway. Perhaps the power of Nintendo compelled me. Maybe deep down, I had a glimmer of hope that there would be much more to this than initially thought. Well, color me impressed. My hunch's can be wrong from time to time, and in this particular case, I'm very glad.

Awkward console naming aside, the New 3DS actually has quite a lot to make it worthwhile, even as we're waiting for its own unique titles to emerge. Let's start with the look of this thing. Since we did not get the standard New 3DS in the States (much to my dismay), and only the XL model, I will be focusing specifically on that.

If you're familiar with the look of the 3DS XL, there won't be many immediate differences. The structure is generally the same, with some minor tweaks throughout. The obvious change you'll notice right away is the analog nub on the right side of the bottom touch-screen. Made to emulate the 'C-Stick' seen on previous Nintendo controllers, this little nub is used in the same way as the second analog stick on the circle-pad pro. Depending on the game played, it's normally used to move around the camera for focusing. This is also especially useful in the game Kid Icarus: Uprising, where left-handed gamers were actually left out in the dust if they didn't purchase the circle-pad pro accessory. While it's no second circle-pad, it's definitely a giant improvement over having to pay extra money just to play a game that others didn't have to pay anything for. I wish Nintendo could have somehow just fit a second analog stick onto the system, but I can't complain too much since it's more than functional as-is.

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A list of all the games that are circle-pad pro/c-stick nub compatible:

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy (Japanese version only)
Dynasty Warriors VS
Kid Icarus: Uprising
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D
Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
Nano Assault EX
One Piece Unlimited World RED
Resident Evil: Revelations
Samurai Warriors Chronicles 2nd
Steel Diver: Sub Wars

Of the games above, I currently have Kid Icarus, Kingdom Hearts 3D, Majora's Mask, and Resident Evil: Revelations. The nub definitely comes in handle for these titles, even if it's not a complete replacement for the analog stick. I'm looking forward to trying it with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate next, as I have a feeling that game will more or less demand it.

Turning the device over, you'll see quite a few more things have been changed around. The cartridge slot is now on the bottom of the console, as well as the stylus holder location. It felt a little strange at first, but I don't think this will be a deal-breaker for anyone. On the top, there are now two additional shoulder buttons, labeled "ZL" and "ZR." The shoulder buttons are in the same places, while the new ones are slightly toward the middle. It may look awkward from the pictures, but thankfully, they are not difficult buttons to reach. My fingers had little trouble using them on the fly after a few tries.

The next thing I should talk about is the new top screen. Whether or not you cared about using the 3D feature in the last version of the 3DS, there have been massive improvements made to it. The screen now uses stereoscopic 3D, which allows for wider 3D viewing. While it doesn't work for looking up and down, it does work for looking left and right, which greatly improves the overall focus without causing as much headache. This may be the second biggest improvement to the entire system.

So what's the biggest? Why, that would be the processing power! Yes, this is what's going to cause the most people to upgrade their handhelds the most. The hardware of this system has been significantly improved since the last time, now boasting faster load times and a more fluid dashboard. While this is all excellent, we unfortunately won't get to see much else out of it until more games (like Xenoblade Chronicles) come out for it.
Another new feature is the ability to use Amiibos by placing them onto the system's lower screen and loading the data off of it. Again, there are not many games that you can test with yet (mainly Smash Bros. as far as I am aware), but it's another welcome addition and something I'm sure will prove more useful as more games are released.

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All these changes are great overall, but I'm afraid it's not all sunshine and rainbows. For starters, Nintendo has now changed the memory method from SD to Micro SD cards. While likely a better hardware design choice, this is naturally causing a lot of longtime fans to feel some annoyance. It also doesn't help that in order to change your Micro SD card, you have to actually unscrew the back of your system with a small Phillip's screwdriver. For a company that has always provided generally user-friendly interfaces, this is quite jarring. The system does include a 4GB Micro SD card thankfully, but anyone wanting to upgrade to a higher amount of space will have to endure this disappointing process.

Transferring your data is a long and tiresome process, due to Nintendo still having no unified account system, seen in platforms from both Sony and Microsoft. You have options, though none are really ground-breaking. The first is to wirelessly transfer the data from one DSi/3DS/2DS to the other. This is also the longest process and not recommended (I found out the hard way...). The second (and slightly more useful) method is to copy the data using a PC (I don't know if Macs can do this too, as it only references PC in the option menu).

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There's one more small negative I need to add to this. As most people are already aware, Nintendo has decided to not include the AC adapter with the system this time around. Were you planning on selling your system toward getting a new one? Be ready to drop another $10 for an extra adapter in order to do so. Nintendo advised this was done to lower the system cost, but I (and many others) feel this was unnecessary and a very disappointing choice all around. I believe this would be the first time since the Gameboy Color that Nintendo has decided not to include a charger like this.

With all of the small negatives aside, it's still very easy to recommend the New 3DS, though many are not going to see much of a point until the system-specific games begin to come out. That's understandable, and it's a hard point to even argue with. If you had a DSi or one of the original 3DS models, then I can say that the upgrade is more than worth it. If you are a 3DS XL owner, it's a little tougher to justify the leap, when the system is not drastically different in any way. Either way, the unique games to come out for it will be the biggest draw for people and until we know more, there isn't much else to talk about in the meantime. Still, I can at least happily say that the system hardware will be worth it if and when you ever do decide to take that plunge.

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