We've had a couple of New 3DS XL systems in the U.S. for the last couple of weeks, one in my hands in New York City and one with Patricia out in San Francisco. We like the system, though we're not blown away by it. We have discussed this for your reading pleasure.
Patricia and I logged this chat on Wednesday. Our New 3DS XL units are regular retail units, though they were provided to us by Nintendo so we could try them out early. Our main man in Japan, Brian Ashcraft, bought and previewed the smaller New 3DS—the model not coming to America—last fall.
On with the chat:
Stephen: Alright, so Patricia, I've been using the New 3DS for a couple of weeks. You've had it a little longer. Remind me, which 3DS models did you have before this?
Patricia: I was using the 3DS XL. It was a couple of years old, and I broke off the circlepad playing Smash Bros., so it was definitely a good time for an upgrade.
Stephen: You never had the original? I don't miss that one at all. I know some people think the XL units are too big, but the original 3DS screen was so small in retrospect!
Patricia: I had the original and traded it back in—that was when the 3DS had almost no games, though. How things change. And yeah, honestly, as much as I'm enjoying the new and improved 3DS, I kind of wish they brought the smaller one over here. Portable, the graphics look a little better. But, if you're going from XL to the new 3DS, it's not so bad.
Above: Comparisons of Japan's New 3DSLL (our XL) and the not-for-America New 3DS. Both New 3DS models are similar in size to their non-New 3DS XL and 3DS counterparts.
Stephen: You think the graphics look better on the smaller unit? Like less stretched?
Patricia: Yeah, they're a tiny bit more blown up on the XL! My girlfriend and I often play the same games, so I'm constantly comparing graphics...and lamenting that my games look a tiny bit uglier on my system. Of course, now my 3D works way better on the New 3DS, so there are positives and drawbacks. I feel like I'm rediscovering older games with the New 3DS right now—provided they originally made good use of the 3D.
Stephen: Yeah, you've been raving about the better 3D.
Patricia: Have you gone back and played anything? Or sticking to the newer stuff? You mentioned before that the 3D on the older systems worked fine for you, so I'm curious if this new 3DS feels like much of an upgrade
Stephen: I always liked the 3D on the 3DS; it never gave me problems, but wow, the New 3DS does it so much better. The new face-tracking tech keeps the 3D way more steady. I can be playing on the subway—as I often do—and don't have to worry that small movements of the system will knock the 3D out of whack. You used to have to hold the 3DS so steady to maintain the 3D effect. Now, that face-tracking camera keeps the 3D effect... effective...even when the subway is rocking this way and that! I did notice, though, that if I am playing the system with my glasses on that it has more trouble tracking me and adjusting the angle of the 3D. So it still gets weird if I have my glasses on and then move my hands a bit.
Above: Nintendo promotional image.
Or, I guess to put it another way... When I played Ocarina of Time on my 3DS, using the motion sensor to aim Link's arrow was a no-go if I had the 3D on. But in Majora's Mask 3DS, using the new 3DS, I can move the system around for first-person aiming and still enjoy the 3D effect. Progress!
I'm not as enthusiastic about the new analog nub. Have you used that much?
Patricia: Yeah the face tracking stuff is definitely an improvement, though it can get confused in certain situations. If two people are looking at the 3DS, for example—though I know that's not common. I'm finding that it has to adjust itself often, and to do it, a little red light appears in the front camera for a few seconds. Sometimes, that can be distracting—it only lasts a second or two, but it happens multiple times in a sitting. Maybe I'm just weird, and most people won't notice that.
As for the nub...I appreciate its function, and it's definitely useful. Otherwise...I don't really like the material it's made of. It feels like a button made for toddlers or something, built to withstand that abuse. It doesn't really move when you tilt it, either, which makes it hard to gauge how hard you should press it, too. It's just... a weirdly designed thing. There's a reason most laptops have gotten rid of things like nubs! It's better than not having it, I suppose. It just feels like such a "Nintendo"-like stick, though.
Stephen: It feels like a Nintendo-like hardware "improvement", right? People ask for one thing (a second circle pad) and Nintendo gives them something a little different. I went back to Kid Icarus Uprising, a game I've always struggled to play, since I'm left-handed and the game wants you to use the stylus in your right hand. I found a lefty option that works if you have the Circle Pad Pro add-on (which I don't have) or if you have the New 3DS, since the New 3DS tells Circle Pad Pro games that the nub is a CPP. Well, problem is that Sakurai [the lead creator of Uprising] expects you to sometimes push the "circle pad" and to sometimes flick it. And, as I was mocked for saying on Twitter, you can't flick that nub!
So I've looked at my New 3DS and I sure do see enough space for them to have put a second circle pad. Just move those start and select buttons somewhere else!
Patricia: When I boot up the new Monster Hunter, it also gives me a brief message saying that it recognized the Circle Pad Pro. Except I'm not using that. Weird little quirk about playing games on the new 3DS, I guess!
As Nintendo as that is, one improvement that I think everyone will notice is the speedier loading times. It's a small thing, but nice to have. I can rage quit a game like Persona Q and start it back up in no time, haha.
Stephen: Really? I've noticed that the system seems to start up more quickly, but I didn't notice load times in Majora's improving that much. I had been playing it on a 3DS XL for starters (I got the game early) and then switched to the New 3DS XL. It felt about the same in terms of loading times. But maybe that game is an outlier or I'm bad at noticing that stuff. Sounds good for Persona, though!
The system feels like a luxury, though. I don't feel like it's a must-upgrade. Not until the New 3DS-exclusive games start coming out. You?
Patricia: It's definitely not a must-upgrade, naw. If people are already thinking about an upgrade, or need one for whatever reason, then sure. Worth remembering that the system uses micro SD cards, so for some people upgrading means an additional purchase, on top of the hassle of transferring all your games, and then on top of that you have to get a screwdriver to put your card in...it's a luxury upgrade with a few annoyances, at least in my experience.
Stephen: Oh, yes, you know I had the right screwdriver! And that was essential, because I use a 32GB card to store a billion games on my 3DS. I was able to bring them all over. I had to buy a 32GB micro SD card, but it's worth it for the luxury of not having to swap cartridges in and out.
Patricia: Yeah, I'm transferring most of my stuff to digital on the 3DS. Not having to keep track of cartridges is nice!
Stephen: Alright. Well, I'm happy enough with the new unit and am not missing my old 3DS XL, but it sounds like you may be switching again if they ever bring the small 3DS over to the States. And that's really it, right? Nothing else they need to upgrade with this thing? They can call it a day with the 3DS hardware improvements? (Aside from putting a proper second circle pad in, of course, which they won't do.)
Luke Plunkett: 3DS Micro
Patricia: Yeah, now that I think about it, bringing over only the XL was a brilliant move. Now the next improvement can boast about being smaller!
Stephen Ha. And then they can make a New 2DS and confuse us all.
We'll have more on the New 3DS tomorrow when it finally launches in North America. And remember, if you're looking to get the new system, you'll either need to hang on to your existing 3DS AC adapter, if you have one, or purchase a new one, since the New 3DS does not come with a charge cable.