A review by Rebecca Fleming
When the New 3DS was announced, I thought it was cool that the console was getting an upgrade, both in terms of functionality and processing power. I bought my 3DS XL at the end of 2013, and while I didn’t feel like I was missing out on much by not having the New 3DS (at this stage, the only New 3DS-exclusive game is Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, a remake of a Wii game which I already have; other than that, all current 3DS games will run on any system in the 3DS family), I could understand why someone else might be annoyed if they had just spent money on a new 3DS (not a New 3DS), only to find out that it’s already been surpassed. The New 3DS (with slightly bigger screens than the original 3DS) and the New 3DS XL (same screen sizes as its predecessor) were released in Australia in November 2014 and in Europe/America in around January or February in 2015, although for some reason America only got the XL and not the standard-sized New 3DS. Also, Australia only got the white New 3DS, whereas Europe got a choice of white or black. As for the XL, I believe at this stage, Australia only has the black or blue to choose from, even though there’s a red one available overseas.
Side note: Nintendo, please fire whoever comes up with the names/marketing for your consoles. First there was the Wii U, which had a lot of people thinking that a) the GamePad was the whole console, and b) that it was just an extension of the Wii instead of being a whole new system, resulting in customers buying Wii U games and then complaining they wouldn’t work on their Wii. Now you’ve got the New 3DS, which will no doubt result in people buying a New 3DS-exclusive game and not being able to play it on their old 3DS (and I can just imagine some of the conversations that will take place when people go to buy one… “I’d like a used New 3DS please.” “… What?” or “Can I please have a new old 3DS?” “Er… Do you mean a used New 3DS or a new original 3DS?”). Yes, it’s up to people to try to do some research before buying a product, but not everyone is tech-savvy, so why make it harder for them?
Anyway, back to the 3DS. While some people have some inherent need to upgrade their devices every six months or as soon as a slightly improved version comes out, I am not one of those people. My 3DS XL is still working perfectly fine, and as much as I liked the idea of the C-stick, I had no intention of buying a New 3DS XL or even a New 3DS (the changeable face plates on the smaller New 3DS look great, but for me a big screen is more important than the ability to switch face plates) because I just couldn’t justify it.
Then Nintendo announced the Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask Limited Edition New 3DS XL in their last Direct video, which pretty much resulted in me screaming “Shut up and take my money!” at my computer screen.
I’ve never had a limited edition console before (actually, I do still have my PokemonNintendo 64, but my parents bought me that for Christmas when I was a teenager and I had no idea if it was rare or limited edition; I just thought it looked cool, and I love Pokemon). I could have had one of the Pokemon X or Y consoles, but for some reason the design of those didn’t grab me (at least not enough to shell out extra money for one). I potentially could have had the A Link Between Worlds 3DS XL, back in 2013, but then I would have had to wait a month longer to play Pokemon X (ain’t nobody got time for that), and even if I had changed my mind, it sold out so quickly that getting one would have been impossible (either way, I ended up buying a standard blue one and slapping a purple cover on it). But as nice as the ALBW one looked, I think the MM one looks ten times better.
The outside of the handheld is a beautiful glossy gold, with the iconic Majora’s Masktaking up most of the centre. In each corner is one of the masks from the game – Deku Scrub, Goron, Zora and Fierce Deity – with an elegant pattern extending out from each side. I was a bit disappointed the inside wasn’t gold (the other New 3DSs have the same colour inside and outside) but it’s only a small nitpick, since when I’m playing, I’m focusing on the screens rather than what’s around them anyway. Its glossy surface means it’s a hell of a finger-print magnet, but that’s a small price to pay for having something that looks so nice.
I feel like it’s worth talking about the hardware itself, since it’s relatively new. Here are a few comparison shots between the Majora’s Mask New 3DS XL (left) and my old 3DS XL (right):
The inner facing of the handheld is a matte black, though the ABXY buttons have coloured letters on them to match the old SNES controller colour scheme (unlike on the standard-sized New 3DS, where the whole buttons are coloured). The 3D slider is in the same place it was on the original XL (on the right sides of the upper shell), as is the Home button; however, this button has been made much smaller. Instead of the Select and Start buttons being either side of the Home button, they’ve now been moved to the right side, under the ABXY buttons in a position that more closely reflects the older Nintendo handhelds. I like this change, as I think it makes the interface look less cluttered. The New 3DS also has two extra shoulder buttons (L2 and R2) as well as a C-stick, allowing for more control opportunities. Also, the volume slider has been moved to the upper shell, though it is still on the left. The game cart now goes in at the front of the handheld, rather than at the back.
There are a few design changes I’m not that fond of, though they certainly aren’t deal breakers. They’ve removed the physical switch for enabling/disabling wireless; you can still do it through software settings, but it does take a little longer. Instead of being on the right, the stylus is now at the front of the handheld, which will take some getting used to (I know I’m going to keep automatically reaching for it at the right, scratching at it aimlessly and wondering why I can’t feel the stylus). Another change I really dislike is the position of the power button; instead of being on the face of the lower half of the unit, where it was out of the way, it is now on the front edge, right where I hold my 3DS when I’m opening it. Sure, this is something I can avoid by learning to hold it differently, but it does worry me a bit that I might accidentally turn it on or off or exit the game when I don’t want to if I’m not paying attention.
Also, where the older generations of the 3DS had the SD card easily accessible through a slot on the side, the new one is actually inside the unit, meaning you need to remove the outer casing in order to change the memory card (the New 3DS also uses a MicroSD instead of a normal SD). In many of the videos I watched on changing the MicroSD, the back cover pops up relatively easy once the screws are loosened (these videos mostly showed the standard sized New 3DS, which has easy-to-remove faceplates for the purpose of customising the outside). However, mine pretty much refused to budge, even when I tried levering it up with enough force I was worried I’d break it if I kept going. After I’d been trying for an hour or two, my friend dropped around and naturally managed to take it off in about three seconds (thanks, Sam); turned out that the cover was a bit more durable than I thought and I probably could have taken it off myself had I been braver, but I’m sure I’m not the only person who was afraid of damaging their cover.
This won’t be an issue for a lot of people (mainly those who are new to the 3DS in general) as it includes a 4GB card, which is plenty for your save data and a bunch of eShop-only or virtual console purchases. However, if you’re going to be buying a lot of full retail games from the eShop, your card will fill up very quickly and need to be replaced; you will also probably need to access the card to copy data if you do a system transfer from your old 3DS. Generally you’ll only need to get to the MicroSD once or twice over the system’s lifespan, but there’s really no reason Nintendo couldn’t have made it as easily accessible as on the older 3DS models.
Anyway, once I had transferred my NNID and all my data over to the New 3DS, I decided to play around with the Monster Hunter 4 demo to get a feel for the new controls. Not having purchased a Circle Pad Pro (a peripheral for the 3DS which gives players a second circle pad for added camera control), I was mostly interested in the addition of the C-stick. It’s a weird little thing; not so much a stick as a small nub, similar to what old laptops had to control the mouse. I soon discovered that it is very sensitive, and the slightest bit of pressure is all that’s needed to move the camera with ease.
Another upgrade I was looking forward to experimenting with was the enhanced 3D. I am generally not good with 3D images; I got motion sick when I saw Avatar in 3D at the cinemas, and if I tried playing my original 3DS XL with the 3D on for more than 20 minutes or so, I soon found myself developing a nasty headache and eye strain, even if I only had the 3D at a low setting. As a result, I always play with 3D off, which is mostly no big deal, but can be a problem in small sections of certain games where that extra bit of depth perception is needed to navigate a tricky section.
With the old 3DS, you pretty much had to hold the unit perfectly still in front of you, otherwise the 3D image would become a blurred mess. The New 3DS has an additional front-facing camera which helps to track the position of the player’s face and adjust the 3D image accordingly. It’s a lot better than the 3D on the original 3DSs. I still ended up with a bit of eye strain eventually, but this was after more than an hour of playing. I can use it a bit longer if I have the 3D at about half its usual setting, but given 3D images don’t really agree with me in general, I will probably still play with the 3D off most of the time. I did also notice the occasional flicker if I moved too quickly and the tracker couldn’t adjust in time (this was pretty uncommon, though). Still, those who were disappointed with the 3D on the original consoles will be happy to know that it is much improved on the New 3DS generation.
The New 3DS family also has built-in Amiibo support, so you can scan your Amiibo by placing it on the unit’s lower screen. Amiibo support will come to the older 3DSs at some point but it will require a peripheral accessory to scan them.
The battery life on the New 3DS XL is meant to be slightly better than on the old 3DS XL (3.5-7 hours or so compared to 6), however so far I haven’t noticed much of a difference, though with wireless on, the New XL battery seems to drain a little faster than the old one did. The increased processing power means that games load up a bit faster (this is particularly noticeable with some of the more graphically/processor intense games, which could be a bit sluggish on the old 3DS). The eShop is supposedly meant to open and download software faster as well, but I think this depends more on your internet connection than anything; again, I didn’t notice a huge difference (though it should be noted that my internet is about two steps above just being a couple of tin cans connected with string).
Overall, if you already have an original 3DS or 3DS XL and are happy with it, there’s no real reason to upgrade (unless you want to play Xenoblade Chronicles 3D). However if this is your first time buying a 3DS, or if you want the convenience of a C-stick rather than having to attach a Circle Pad Pro, then the New 3DS (or New 3DS XL) is a worthwhile choice.
I was unlucky enough to get a unit with a few stuck pixels in the middle of the top screen. While this is a first world problem of the highest order, I was pretty devastated; I’ve never had a problem with any other Nintendo console in my life, so it was especially frustrating that the first time I DID have an issue, it was on a limited edition console (meaning I couldn’t just take it back to the place of purchase and swap it for a new one). I took it back to Nintendo HQ in Melbourne, Australia and they replaced it for me without a hassle; I dropped it off on a Monday and I had a new one by Wednesday afternoon, so I was pretty happy with their service. I also made some friends while I was there…
Minor hardware annoyances aside, I am very pleased with my new gadget. Not just because it’s technically better than my old 3DS XL, but because it is just a beautiful piece of hardware. I think the design of the New 3DS XL looks sleeker than the previous iteration, which in my mind had a slightly cheap, toyish look about it. On top of that, the glossy gold surface and elegant Majora’s Mask design make the limited edition console a joy to behold.