The new 3DS might not look too different from its predecessor at first glance, but several small hardware changes make this handheld gaming console everything the original 3DS should have been.
When we first picked up the new console, which Nintendo says has 3D face tracking to help improve the 3D experience, we were dubious. This feature worked on the original 3DS only if you sat directly in front of the device. Within seconds, however, we found ourselves cranking the 3D slider up to maximum. It’s fantastic.
The 3D improvements have been made possible thanks to the introduction of a tiny camera next to the main front-facing camera, which tracks where your face is and adjusts the image accordingly.
The second of the main changes is the introduction of the C Stick and two new buttons: ZL and ZR. Many gamers have been crying out for a second joystick on the 3DS, particularly for games that require you to rotate the screen in addition to moving your character – it can get tiresome having to reposition your hand to use the touchscreen for screen rotation, that’s for sure.
Nintendo offered a solution for owners of the original 3DS in the form of the Circle Pad Pro, an attachment that added a second joystick and two additional buttons, but also added bulk and weight to the otherwise super-portable device, so it’s less than ideal.
The new 3DS, however, has a tiny C Stick built in, something we wish Nintendo had thought of four years ago when the 3DS came out.
The ZL and ZR buttons, which you’ll find fall beneath your index fingers beside the already present L and R buttons, are another extra that isn’t particularly useful right now, but we imagine that when developers begin integrating the buttons into their games they could be a real boon and offer further control and gameplay features.
The new 3DS is much faster than its predecessor. Opening and closing apps is now incredibly fast. That’s thanks to improved CPU performance, which means loading times have been reduced, too. What’s more, Nintendo says that “several upcoming games” will be built from scratch specifically for the new 3DS to take advantage of the power boost it’s been given.
Nintendo has also updated the 3DS’s web browser to allow for a better browsing experience when using the internet. You’ll be able to use the ZL/ZR buttons to switch tabs, and use the C Stick to zoom in on pages, which we found to be intuitive.
The original 3DS’ camera isn’t brilliant and nor is the new console’s offering, though it has been slightly improved for photos in low-light conditions. There’s a camera on the front of the device for 2D images, or you can capture 3D images viewable on the device’s display using the dual rear-facing cameras.
The device now has NFC built in, which means you’ll be able to play with Amiibo figures on your 3DS as well as your Wii U, simply by placing the figure on the lower 3DS display. These figures work with various different games to help you add new characters or customise them, get special bonuses, level up characters and more. The number of compatible games is growing, with Super Smash Bros for 3DS and Xenoblade Chronicles 3D set to arrive soon.
Aside from the aforementioned new buttons and C Stick, the overall design of the 3DS is in essence the same. There are two models available: the 3DS with a 3.53in top display and a 3.02in bottom display, and the 3DS XL (priced £179), which is slightly less portable but offers bigger screens at 4.88in and 4.18in, so arguably a better experience overall.
The 3DS is available in white or black. There are also replaceable cover plates available to allow you to completely customise your device.
The other slight difference between the original 3DS and the new model is the coloured buttons, repositioned game slot, stylus and volume slider, and repositioned Start and Select buttons.
If you consider the new 3DS’s price from a broader perspective, taking into consideration the price of other games consoles, it does seem a bit pricey. You can buy the Sony PS Vita (2014 edition) for around £150, and even the Nintendo Wii U for £160. For most gamers, though, its value lies in the games available, so for Monster Hunter fans, Pokémon fans or fans of Nintendo’s many classics, paying the £150 or £180 for the new 3DS is a no-brainer.