New 3DS – More Than Just An Extra Nub

Dave Irwin

Dave Irwin


on March 6, 2015 at 5:45 PM

With so many varieties available, the Nintendo 3DS “family” is a bit of an uneven bunch. Prices widely vary, with some models being more affordable than others. February 13th is perhaps a little unlucky for the rest, as the New 3DS and New 3DS XL officially launched. So you’re probably wondering if they’re worth investing in compared to older, cheaper 3DS models. After a good week and a bit with the New 3DS, it’s clear that thought went into this hardware. There are however caveats.

Games Library

Found on the bottom of the New 3DS is the Game Card slot. They could have opted to just get rid of backwards compatibility for the Nintendo DS, much like the Nintendo DS Lite and subsequent models didn’t have backwards compatibility with Gameboy Advance titles; but thankfully Nintendo have wisely allowed the Nintendo DS family to be compatible with the new devices.

All previously available games, either on eShop or Game Card, are able to be played on the new device and that should be highly commended. Better quality screens enable the games to look vibrant. Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire which came out late last year look great, while other games out there such as Luigi’s Mansion 2, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf are also stellar choices. Even eShop titles including the notoriously difficult Shin Megami Tensei 4 and the Virtual Console offerings are available. Then again, if you want to play Nintendo DS games, you are able to do so with no problems, so there’s plenty of choice out there.

However, despite having the opportunity to do so, Nintendo have region locked the New 3DS models. It’s an outdated practice that hurts consumers. Piracy protection is one thing and I understand that the Nintendo DS had many piracy issues during its lifespan, but the New 3DS’s region lock just shows how behind the times Nintendo can still be with the new platform, despite many advancements. Hopefully this is something that can and will be patched out later.

Head-tracking 3D

One of the main problems with standard 3DS models is that the 3D visuals relied on your head being at exactly the right position. Deviation from this caused blurry visuals, which combined with some gyro controls made any game that used both a nauseating experience.

With the addition of another camera designed to track your head position and adjust the display accordingly, 3D is now a much more comfortable and viable option. Moving your head erratically will still confuse the New 3DS somewhat; but for normal play, the device does an admirable job of tracking your head position. 3D is of course optional, meaning that you can turn it off should you so wish, but I’ve certainly found myself using 3D more often.

Processing Power

Despite running the same games, there is a distinct upgrade to the horsepower of this handheld device. Games load faster, items download quicker on the eShop, and saving data takes a mere few seconds.

Currently, the only way to test this is by comparing the two models directly side by side, since no exclusive games for the New 3DS models have been released yet. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, however, will be the first game requiring the newer systems. Only then can the processing power be fully tested.


Even though the 3DS XL was bulkier, its smooth edges made it a much more comfortable device compared to the 3DS. The XL was the basis for a lot of the design features in the New 3DS library, with the standard model getting a small increase in screen size as a result. But really it’s all about how comfortable it is to hold and surprisingly the New 3DS XL isn’t heavy compared to the standard 3DS.

A lot of space is taken up by the screens, a fact that a lot of people will appreciate. The Circle pad and D-pad are positioned just as they were on the 3DS, while the face buttons have Super Nintendo colours (resembling that consoles’ Japanese/PAL buttons). Start and Select buttons are now small round buttons to the side, while the home button now sits on its own. Both 3D and Volume controls have a click to signify they’re not in use, while the system uses the same 3D camera and face camera setup found in previous 3DS models. By far this is the most ergonomic design that Nintendo have come up with for the 3DS family, but it’s not perfect.

While it is functional, we could have had the start and select buttons in their respective places, the face buttons shunted down a tiny bit in order to fit a proper second Circle pad, rather than the C-Stick which resembles nubs in the centre of old laptop keyboards. Thankfully the “C-Nub” does work rather well and isn’t badly positioned by any means.

One small sore point is you need to change how you hold the device to incorporate the ZL and ZR buttons, as they’re bunched up next to the L and R buttons. On the XL model, it’s not too uncomfortable, but on the New 3DS the buttons can be accidentally pressed. You can also potentially knock the power button, positioned at the bottom of the console, losing progress if you’re not careful. Another strange omission is how there is no Wireless toggle on the device, instead opting for the firmware to control whether Wireless connections are on or off.

The Storage Problem

If you invested in storage for your 3DS in the past, you’ll be disappointed to learn that the New 3DS does not work with standard SD cards. Instead, you’ll either need to invest in Micro SD cards or rely on the pre-installed 4GB card for all your storage needs. It’s far from convenient, especially as how even handheld games are starting to get rather large compared to an older system.

Given the rather archaic way of transferring data including Nintendo Network IDs over to your new system, you may find that it takes longer than initially anticipated to get up to speed. Both versions are able to be transferred via PC, wirelessly, or just the crucial data transferred to allow users to re-download content. Personally, I had no problems transferring my 3DS data to my New 3DS XL, but my brother lost save data for one game while transferring his 3DS XL data to the New 3DS. If in doubt, try transferring via a PC if possible.

Another problem is accessing the SD card. While New 3DS owners can access theirs with relative ease, the New 3DS XL requires a Number 0 Philips Screwdriver to access the back panel. It’s here that you discover where the battery lives, so that you can replace should your 3DS rechargeable battery become inefficient. Granted you’ll only ever need to do this a few times in the system’s lifespan, but requiring the use of a screwdriver just to access the SD card seems like a waste of space elsewhere in the console.

Saving Face

Unique to the New 3DS is the ability to personalise your handheld with face plates. These come in a variety of different flavours and all snap on and off with relative ease. Typically the consoles that become sought after are those based off properties such as Mario or Zelda, so to have interchangeable face plates become the hot property will help reduce overall costs to the consumer.

Despite not having the customisable covers, the New 3DS XL comes in a few flavours upon release; namely the metallic black and blue versions for the plain coloured ones. Out there are also Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and the sadly sold out The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D varieties which look great. As a creature of habit though, I bought the metallic black version which looks sleek and sophisticated.


Both devices are compatible with the Amiibo circulating around, with a patch for Super Smash Bros. for 3DS imminent/implemented to enable the same usage found on the Wii U verson. With more games coming soon with Amiibo functionality, such as Codename: Steam using Fire Emblem characters, this is a nice feature. However, at this time I was unable to test it out as no games thus far are compatible with Amiibo.

Should you go out and buy the New 3DS?

Generally speaking, if you’re interested in the 3DS but don’t own one, just go and buy one of the New 3DS models. It doesn’t really matter whether you want bigger screens and better battery life or the ability to personalise your device, because beneath they’re exactly the same. If you’re in the US however, the New 3DS is not available in your territory, but the New 3DS XL is a fine machine worth investing in. Still, the reason why is because some games will require the newer models in the future and it’s safer to buy these than a pre-owned model.

If you own the 3DS XL with Circle Pad Pro XL attachment, it’s a much harder sell. Processing power is the only real upside for upgrading and unless you badly want to play Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, there’s no real incentive to upgrade. Plus, you’ll only have to fork out on Micro SD cards! Wait a little bit for the device to be cheaper or if there are any exclusive games for the New 3DS that you want to play.

For the standard 3DS or devices without the Circle Pad Pro attachment however, the upgrade is worth every penny. It’s far more comfortable to hold, despite the weird button layout and other minor misgivings. The new devices are far less questionable than Nintendo’s 2DS handhelds, which have now been rendered obsolete.  My personal preference is performance, so battery life and larger screens come with the New 3DS XL, but at the cost of customisation. Just make sure you keep everything powered up during the system transfer process!