This Friday Nintendo unveiled the New 3DS to the world, and to start off given the title of this piece, I really like the look of the new system: I love the colorful buttons, the size dimensions seem great, I’m ecstatic over the inclusion of the new GameCube-esque second analog nipple for camera movement, but as someone who plays with the slider all the way down and wishes they could justify buying a 2DS, I’m not interested in the new stabilized 3-D in the system.
With that out-of-the-way, there’s a number of reasons why despite the fact that I adore the new hardware redesign, I don’t like this new direction is taking. Whether we like to admit it or not, the Big N is too a point now where they’re “Apple-ing” their latest handheld device. The system has only been out since 2011, and since that time when I stupidly bought the machine at launch, we’ve been given new colors, the extra-large edition, last year’s 2DS and now another version with more triggers, a second section for analog input (something that should have been in the first iteration) and a new name. I know for some people this may be their first 3DS, but a lot of people already have this machine and cannot keep buying one every year, especially given Nintendo’s inexperience with digital ownership. If I buy a new iPod Touch for example, I can download everything I purchased on my old device, something that I cannot do should I upgrade from my old 3DS to the new one.
Which brings me to my second point: branding. Nintendo is having an incredibly difficult time selling their poorly named new system, the Wii U, with many an uninformed consumer thinking that it’s nothing more than an extension to the hardware they bought back in 2006. Now they have a 3DS dubbed the “New” 3DS where it will play all software from the other SKU’s, however there’s already software that has been announced that only works with the yet to be released 3DS. Given the trouble that Nintendo has had communicating the message that the Wii U is an upgraded box capable of so much more than the regular Wii, why would they then confuse consumers, and even employees responsible for selling their hardware and games, even more than they are already with their devices? Isn’t it bad enough explaining to someone that a 3DS is the same thing as a 2DS which isn’t to be confused with the first DS that only played games in two dimensions?
Then there’s the issue of legacy software played on the New 3DS in that it doesn’t benefit from the hardware upgrades at all. Some games, like third-party titles Resident Evil: Revelations and Metal Gear Solid 3, could be played dual-analog with the use of a very cumbersome peripheral called the circle pad pro, else they had to be controlled awkwardly with face button camera controls. One can assume that even though all New 3DS’s will come equipped out of the box with dual analog control that the only way to enjoy these two titles with a second analog stick is if you hold on to your old 3DS. Several months back I reviewed Spider-Man: Edge of Time and made reference to the 3DS version of that game being quite fun with the caveat being that the game was crippled by the fact that you had to move with the analog slider and control the game’s camera with the directional pad. If Nintendo comes up with a way that I would be able to now play that game the way it was intended to on the go, I would pre-order their new device in heartbeat. As I believe it’s impossible to patch cartridge based software (correct me if I’m wrong in the comments,) I don’t see this being the case.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the design of the New 3DS, I just think that it many ways it’s indicative of how poor the company is at explaining themselves to the consumer. The Wii U is a different beast from the Wii, but the New 3DS is not advanced enough to be called 3DS 2, yet different enough that they’re going to have to think of some clever packaging to make sure no one walks out of an EB Games with an old 3DS and a copy of Xenoblade Chronicles that cannot be played on it. Back in 2001 I bought a Game Boy Advance brand new and was quite annoyed that not long after that they revealed the Game Boy Advance SP to the world that was more compact and had better lighting. Despite this though, I was never forced to upgrade to an SP just to play game exclusive to that hardware.