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I think the announcement of the 3DS XL is great. I love that Nintendo is giving people another option to play their favorite games with glorious glasses-free 3D on larger screens. The addition of individual Home/Start/Select buttons is fantastic and I love the rounded corners and more physical real estate to comfortably hold the system. For one reason or another I am a sucker for tw0-toned color schemes with red and black being one of my favorite color combos. The possibility of playing my DS games and GBA ambassador games with better clarity excites me. With the reasons listed above it’s easy to see why I won’t be purchasing a new 3DS XL. What? Unfortunately it’s true, I won’t be picking up the newest iteration of the 3DS and although it pains me. Here’s why:
The reason is simple, it’s the lack of a second circle pad. Before you stop reading this and start cursing my lack of significance in life, hear me out. Nintendo ushered in a new generation of handheld gaming last year with glasses-free 3D portable gaming that has never been done before. The introduction and release of the 3DS was a breath of fresh air for portable gaming not only by adding 3D, but by adding amazing new ways to connect wirelessly with friends and strangers, adding much better graphics than its predecessor and of course, the induction of analog control with the new circle pad. The 3DS launch was not one of Nintendo’s finest, but they have done a great job keeping the system up-to-date by adding new features with frequent updates like adding the ability to make folders to manage games and apps. Nintendo also wants the best 3rd party games on their newest portable and to help appease game makers, they worked with Capcom and introduced the unattractive, but very handy circle pad pro by adding a second circle pad and an extra set of shoulder buttons for more gameplay options. Players of Monster Hunter know how important it is to have dual-analog control for the popular series and the circle pad pro was a great addition and enhanced gameplay but not making it necessary to have to play the game. Ever since I laid my eyes on the circle pad pro one of my first thoughts was that Nintendo would redesign the 3DS to combine the clunky/useful peripheral with their popular handheld system. In fact, our very own Brian made a great mock-up of what the next handheld might look like:
Brian’s mock-up looks pretty similar with the rounded corners and LED’s on the bottom, and although it doesn’t show the system opened, the idea had 2 circle pads as well (like the design mock-up above). The important thing is that Nintendo has a great product and they keep updating it making to make it better. The 3DS XL is still a great addition to the 3DS line-up, but it’s still a missed opportunity.
When the DS debuted in 2004 it brought dual-screened gaming to portables and was a huge hit. Although the DS was capable of full-3D rendered graphics, most games on the system were still 2D or 2.5D format, which of course is not a bad thing and it played to the system’s strength. Games like New Super Mario Bros, Pokemon, Brain Age, Professor Layton and Wario Ware played and controlled very nicely on the DS. These types of games don’t need manual camera control and they played great with one form of directional input as well as the touch screen. Even games that were rendered in 3D like Mario Kart and Animal Crossing had a fixed camera that excelled without the need of secondary camera controls. With the 3DS being much more powerful than the DS, (heck even the Wii) developers now have more freedom to create open-world full 3D rendered games for a more immersive experience that hasn’t really been possible on a Nintendo handheld before. Because games have more gameplay options than ever before, control inputs will get more complex as well. Fantastic games like Resident Evil: Revelations, Metal Gear 3, and Monster Hunter are all playable with the Nintendo’s 3D handheld thanks to the advancement of portable technology. Nintendo graciously enough added motion sensors like an accelerometer and gyro to add more input options. They are unfortunately not good substitutes for camera control, a necessity for games like Metal Gear and Monster Hunter. While 2D gaming is still fun, we are in a 3D world that need manual camera control and this is where the second circle pad is so important. Because of these great games, Nintendo has given us an option to play them with greater control with the circle pad pro, which unfortunately makes the portable well, unportable. The other great thing about these games is that none of them NEED the circle pad pro, but greatly enhances the experience and that is why a new 3DS with dual circle pads would not be like Nintendo’s past mid-gen hardware upgrades.
Many of Nintendo’s past consoles had these minor “upgrades” like the RAM expansion pak for the N64 and Wii motion plus for the Wii, but the problem with these upgrades is that certain games REQUIRED the upgraded hardware to work. Games like Majora’s Mask and Wii Sports Resort wouldn’t even start if you didn’t have the upgraded options for their respected hardware. If Nintendo had decided to give us a new redesign after the 3DS XL that did in fact have dual circle pads and extra shoulder buttons it would not alienate their current user base like the expansion pak or Wii motion plus did. The N64 nor the Wii had any way to emulate the optional hardware upgrades, thus forcing players buying them for specific games. The 3DS however DOES have a built-in option that can emulate a second circle pad; the gyro sensor. Miyamoto recently told the press that he thought the gyro was good enough for secondary input and didn’t feel the need for a second circle pad. That’s fine and dandy, however, players can testify that having a second analog stick for games like Metal Gear and Monster Hunter make a world of a difference for maximum control. Also Stereoscopic 3D games with the 3DS’ small viewing angle does not play nicely with the motion-sensing gyro. But what about current owners of the 3DS now? Yes, some will be upset at a new hardware release from Nintendo, but that is normal for the portable market, including phones and tablets that release a newer version every year. And as Craig Harris from ign.com once suggested, there is no double standard for the portable market, so you might as well get used to it. Here is a possible scenario: Nintendo continues to manufacture the current 3DS at its great price of $169.99 and of course the new 3DS XL for $199. They should then start selling the elusive circle pad pro in more stores making the option more accessible to players, while introducing a new 3DS Pro that would be the premium option and would carry a price point similar to the 3DS XL which would include the dual circle pads and possibly extra shoulder buttons. If Nintendo decides to take a route similar to the one I just suggested that would help Nintendo cover all their bases without leaving any current or potential user out. Even though games would be programmed to use dual analog, it wouldn’t require a dual analog setup and would even be possible to make the secondary camera control possible on the bottom screen like Monster Hunter Tri 3G did. So that way if you wanted a standard-priced 3DS great, you can play all the games now as well as future titles. Want to enhance your current 3DS and want the full control benefits of the 3DS Pro but don’t have $200 to drop for a new portable? No problem a $20 fix for the circle pad pro is just for you. Want an amazing portable that has extra control options and will actually fit in your pocket? Great, the 3DS Pro will fit that bill.
Nintendo has always focused on fun, even Miyamoto himself has admitted to this and that’s why it’s my favorite gaming company. But I also like other companies and other games that I want to play on my 3DS like Modern Warfare and Kingdom Hearts, but playing those without a second circle pad is a chore and doesn’t make them as fun for me in particular. I’m glad Nintendo has given us a circle pad pro option that has now made my 3DS a non-portable portable. If Nintendo wants to keep its players and investors happy, it would be very wise of them to introduce a 3DS Pro-like upgrade to be more competitive in the mobile space, because in this day and age, Nintendo has to fight harder than ever for pocket space and by giving us the option to have a 3DS Pro would win many gamer’s pockets indeed. As excited as I am for the new 3DS XL to be released here soon, I will unfortunately will have to decline and patiently, hopefully, wait for Nintendo to provide an all-in-one handheld gaming solution before I upgrade my current 3DS. Nintendo, the ball is in your court.