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New Nintendo 3DS Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Vastly better 3D
  • Improved controls
  • Packed with features

The Bad

  • Good luck finding cheap games

We review the latest handheld gaming machine, the New Nintendo 3DS, and compare it with the original 3DS to see if that new design makes it a worthy upgrade.

In the past 25 years, Nintendo has been personally responsible for giving me dozens of blisters and has to accept at least partial blame for my creaky, RSI-plagued wrists (the other culprit being adult-flavoured websites, of course). I’ve owned almost every handheld game machine they’ve thrown out – Gameboy, Gameboy Colour, Gameboy Advance, DS, DSi and now 3DS. I even owned one of them godawful GameWatch things, which is probably why I now squint at everything like I’m permanently confused.

The point of that little diatribe wasn’t to brag, but to show how Nintendo has been a master of handheld gaming for well over two decades, consistenly producing excellent devices. The 3DS is still massively popular despite its age, thanks to its broad library of quality games and the undeniably cool 3D gimmick – so rather than pump out an all-new handheld console, Nintendo has simply upgraded the old hardware to keep it fresh. Say hello to the New Nintendo 3DS.

What’s the difference between the Nintendo 3DS and the New Nintendo 3DS?

Nintendo’s actually made a fair few improvements to the old 3DS, the biggest of which is a screen that won’t make you vomit up your Weetabix on the train. While the original console’s 3D effect was hit-and-miss with a very narrow range of effectiveness, the New Nintendo 3DS solves the problem with some nifty eye-tracking software. So you can shake the device around while gaming and the 3D effect stays true.

Nintendo has also changed up the overall design, with the biggest new feature being a second thumbstick over on the right side. It’s actually more of a nipple than a stick, like those little nubs you used to find in the middle of laptop keyboards. Unlike the main thumbstick, it stays relatively static as you push on it, but it’s still surprisingly responsive and does the job in the games which support it.

For instance, you can now glance around in games such as Resident Evil Revelations, or unleash knockouts in Super Smash Bros. Previously, the easiest way to get this functionality was bolt on the chunky Circle Pad Pro attachment, so it’s great to have a built-in alternative which makes the 3DS even more portable.

You also now have four shoulder buttons instead of two, which is good news for action gamers. We’re yet to see how many developers actually make use of these buttons, especially since original 3DS owners will be without – but those extra buttons should make control more comfortable in the games which do make use of them.

The other changes are mostly cosmetic or irrelevant. The face buttons now have a delightful splash of colour, to mimic the original SNES controller, while the likes of the stylus and power buttons have switched locations to the base of the 3DS. You can also now clip new face plates onto the console, sporting the mugs of iconic characters like Mario and Yoshi.

The dual displays are as bright and vibrant as before, although sadly there’s no change in resolution. It’s a shame Nintendo didn’t boost the sharpness of its screens, as you can clearly make out individual pixels without squinting too hard. Still, they do the job just fine for the 3DS’ cartoony line-up and that 3D effect is still a great gimmick.

As for battery life, the New Nintendo 3DS will keep you going for a decent-sized journey although keeping the 3D effect turned up to max means the battery dies in a little over three hours. That’s about the same as most mobiles when you pound them with games.

Software and user interface

While the 3DS’ hardware has been spruced up for the new model, the software and interface are identical to the original.

Which isn’t bad news at all, as Nintendo has crammed a ton of features into the 3DS to keep you occupied between gaming sessions. Each feature has its own ‘app’, with obvious stuff like media players, activity trackers, web browsers and YouTube covered. You also get some cute little time-wasters like Tomodachi Life (a kind of Sims-style game set on an island of your own creation) and Face Raiders (a mini game featuring your own gorgeous mug, although thankfully you don’t have to actually ‘raid’ anyone’s face).

As with the Wii consoles, you can also craft your own Mii character and interact with other 3DS gamers via the Mii Plaza. The social aspect of the 3DS is a serious draw, especially for kids who can use StreetPass to trade goodies with their mates in the playground.

As the 3DS is a console primarily aimed at kids and families, Nintendo has made the device super-simple to set up. Every step, from hooking up to Wi-Fi to designing your own Mii, is covered in an easy-to-understand and friendly manner. You’ll even receive ‘notifications’ which dispense extra advice on the interface and general hints and tips.

Finally, if you can’t be arsed to get down the shops to buy new games, fret ye not; you can purchase and download titles directly onto the New Nintendo 3DS’ memory card (a 4GB card is included, but we’d recommend grabbing one with more space if you use the shop).

NIntendo’s online store is a bit of a mixed bag, truth be told. I love how you can check out demos of the latest titles, especially given the often ridiculous cost of 3DS games (which never seem to drop in price). And it’s nice that Nintendo offers a wide range of games, from classics to modern stuff, as well as free-to-watch videos (worth it alone for the batshit mental series featuring Mario dressed as a cat).

However, most of the games come packing an inflated price – simple five-minute distractions that would be free on a mobile often cost three or four quid, and while playing the likes of Streets of Rage in 3D is pretty cool, it’s only the nostalgia crowd who’ll be tempted to chuck almost a fiver at Nintendo for the privilege.

Of course, even that seems quite sane when you consider that Angry Birds: Star Wars will set you back a mind-blowing £30.

Should I upgrade from the original Nintendo 3DS to the New Nintendo 3DS?

So, if you own the original 3DS, is the New Nintendo 3DS worth an upgrade? If you find the screen occasionally makes you nauseous or you end up simply turning off the 3D effect, then the improved 3D display on the new model makes this a seriously tempting prospect – basically, this is the console that the original 3DS should have been.

The other changes are mostly ‘nice to have’ efforts, with those extra controls the most interesting addition (providing the nubbin and shoulder buttons get the love they deserve from developers). So if the screen on your 3DS doesn’t bother you, the New Nintendo 3DS isn’t necessary.

And if you don’t own a Nintendo 3DS but you’re highly tempted, then the New Nintendo 3DS is the way to go. As long as you aren’t put off by the high price of games, this is one of the best portable gaming experiences that money can buy and an all-round family-friendly experience.


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