New Nintendo 3DS PAX Aus Hands On: Unimpressive Upgrades

New Nintendo 3DS PAX Aus Hands On: Unimpressive Upgrades

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Nintendo's New 3DS upgrades are awkward at worst, mild improvements at best.

The New Nintendo 3DS, and New Nintendo 3DS XL, have, along with having possibly the stupidest names for a new system since... well, the Wii U, a splattering of confusing and awkward upgrades that Nintendo desperately wants you to shell out an extra $30 for. At PAX Aus 2014, I was able to get my hands on the device, as well as have a short chat with Jamie Wilson, Nintendo Australia's PR manager, about what the new system has to offer.

For gamers, the biggest, most obvious addition to the system is the new c-stick "nub". No longer will we have to use the horrendously ugly and bulky circle pad pro to enjoy titles such as Monster Hunter and Super Smash Bros.. I picked up the 3DS version of Smash and gave it a whirl. In a word, it sucked.

Remember those old-school laptops, that had a little nub in the middle of the keyboard to control the mouse? Remember how much you hated those and how inaccurate they were? Well, that's what the New 3DS's c-stick is. Using it is not fun: It's not accurate, it feels weird, and it actually starts to hurt your thumb after a while.

I'm no hardware engineer, but if they went to the trouble to give us the nub, surely they could have just added another slide-pad? There certainly seems to be enough physical space on the system if you move the d-pad down and return the start and select buttons (which had inexplicably been moved to below the d-pad) to their original positions beside the home button...

The other biggest feature that the New 3DS touts is its "improved 3D viewing angle". As most 3DS gamers know, the 3D feature only really works when you look at the screen from a certain angle, and if you're doing something weird like lying sideways on the couch, it doesn't work. Initially, I was suitably impressed by upgraded 3D effect of the New 3DS.

It worked pretty much just as advertised, allowing me to view the effect from pretty much any angle, and was a much more stable, impressive effect. However, later in the day, a friend of mine came by the booth, and tried out Monster Hunter. He said that the screen kept doing this weird "flicker" thing. He theorized that it may be his glasses causing the problem, as the new 3D effect seemed to work by "tracking" his eye movement, and his glasses were throwing off whatever it was using to track it.

I was wearing contacts that day, and sure enough, when I switched to the glasses, I was having the same problem. Not sure if it was just a glitch on the Monster Hunter game (we didn't notice it on Smash Bros.) but it is something to consider.

The other features of the system - improved loading speed, extra shoulder buttons, clearer screen - all seemed to work fine. The improved loading speed was particularly noticeable when booting up Smash Bros..

While there was a display model of the regular 3DS behind a glass case, only the XL versions were playable. This is a bit of a shame, as the regular version of the New 3DS has another cool feature - the ability to swap out the faceplates on the system (at $17.99 a piece...). Wilson also told me that it's a little known fact that the New 3DS's screen is actually about an inch bigger than the Old 3DS, while the system stays more or less the same size. Good news for fans like me, who enjoy the compact size of the regular 3DS, but would like a slightly bigger screen.

Lastly, I spoke with Wilson a bit about the software side of the system. The DSi, Nintendo's last "incremental system upgrade", had a pitiful amount of exclusive software developed for it. Wilson says that won't be the case for the New 3DS, as its improved hardware paves the way for new, powerful titles that are only possible on the beefier system.

He said that Xenoblade Chronicles is the only New 3DS exclusive title he could confirm at the moment (which, unfortunately, was not playable at the show), but to stay tuned for more news.

In the end, the New 3DS is a spattering of awkward, incremental upgrades. If you don't already have a system, it would be a good place to start, as some of the new features are quite nice and work well. But, if you already have a 3DS, it's hard to recommend upgrading until we can see some more of these New 3DS exclusive games Nintendo is promising us.

The New Nintendo 3DS will launch in Australia on November 21. No American release date has been offered as of yet. In the meantime, be sure to check out the rest of our PAX Aus 2014 coverage!

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I knew absolutely nothin about this other than it had upgraded hardware, the 3D didn't suck as much, and that it had a c-stick again. Really really happy the first two are true. Really annoyed the third isn't what I thought it was goin to be. How do you even use that thing while still continuin to hit buttons? Use your pointer finger and push buttons with your middle finger? That looks awkward as hell.

Wait, they finally moved the horrible start and select buttons away from below the touch screen and made them no longer the most unresponsive things that ever were created ever? Holy shit Nintendo, you actually used logic for once. And the 3DS is actually usable with the gyroscope now! Holy shit! Now if only the 3DS wasn't fundamentally broken and useless to Europeans and Australians thanks to a region locking when most games only get ported to America I'd actually buy one!

Steven Bogos:
Remember those old-school laptops, that had a little nub in the middle of the keyboard to control the mouse? Remember how much you hated those and how inaccurate they were? Well, that's what the New 3DS's c-stick is. Using it is not fun: It's not accurate, it feels weird, and it actually starts to hurt your thumb after a while.

I remember those! They did exactly what I wanted them to, touching them didn't cause clicks where you didn't want, and they were all-around wonderful.
I miss them. Stupid dominance of touchpad due to everyone trying to be like Apple...

So, basically wait until they make the improved version of this one? Got it.

Remember those old-school laptops, that had a little nub in the middle of the keyboard to control the mouse? Remember how much you hated those and how inaccurate they were?

Trackpads aren't nearly as accurate in my experience. I actually miss these things...

Souplex:

Steven Bogos:
Remember those old-school laptops, that had a little nub in the middle of the keyboard to control the mouse? Remember how much you hated those and how inaccurate they were? Well, that's what the New 3DS's c-stick is. Using it is not fun: It's not accurate, it feels weird, and it actually starts to hurt your thumb after a while.

I remember those! They did exactly what I wanted them to, touching them didn't cause clicks where you didn't want, and they were all-around wonderful.
I miss them. Stupid dominance of touchpad due to everyone trying to be like Apple...

Wait... Did we just agree about something?

The fact they bring out a new version of the hardware is why I don't buy DS's anymore, say what you will about console's at least they had consistency. That and Pokemon has become Stagnet and samey to me.

From what I'm reading, the stick seems to be pretty love-it-or-hate it. I've heard an equal amount of people praise and trash its addition. I guess I won't truly know whether or not it's worth it until I try it out myself. I hope they have it on display at a Best Buy or something when this hits the states.

Also, wait, wait hold up, did someone just say that the 3DS might be disappointing because of a potential lack of exclusive software? But... that implies that exclusive software on a handheld console upgrade is a positive thing.... But this is the Escapist. Is tha... is that allowed?

I knew that nipple was awkward.

shintakie10:
I knew absolutely nothin about this other than it had upgraded hardware, the 3D didn't suck as much, and that it had a c-stick again. Really really happy the first two are true. Really annoyed the third isn't what I thought it was goin to be. How do you even use that thing while still continuin to hit buttons? Use your pointer finger and push buttons with your middle finger? That looks awkward as hell.

You treat it like a second analogue stick.
Remove thumb to push buttons, stuff that needs pushing while using the stick (like shooting while aiming) goes on the shoulderpads.

BX3:
From what I'm reading, the stick seems to be pretty love-it-or-hate it. I've heard an equal amount of people praise and trash its addition. I guess I won't truly know whether or not it's worth it until I try it out myself. I hope they have it on display at a Best Buy or something when this hits the states.

Also, wait, wait hold up, did someone just say that the 3DS might be disappointing because of a potential lack of exclusive software? But... that implies that exclusive software on a handheld console upgrade is a positive thing.... But this is the Escapist. Is tha... is that allowed?

Hmm? I'm confused. I wasn't impressed with all the new features on the system, so the only thing it really had "going for it" was the potential to have exclusive titles that take advantage of the beefier hardware. Thus, only good exclusives would (in my opinion) justify a purchase of the system.

I really love the "I'm not a hardware engineer, but" comments. I've been loving them for the six straight months that they were saying them since the circle pad pro was created. Let's hear more about that. Hell, you can include a crudely drawn image of how you would place it, and I can put it in my collection of crudely drawn images of how people would do it.

But yeah, I guess I'll just have to try the nub myself, see if it works out or not.

weirdee:
I really love the "I'm not a hardware engineer, but" comments. I've been loving them for the six straight months that they were saying them since the circle pad pro was created. Let's hear more about that. Hell, you can include a crudely drawn image of how you would place it, and I can put it in my collection of crudely drawn images of how people would do it.

Well, people always have to play engineer/analyst/designer whenever they encounter something they don't like. I'll try out the for myself if I get the chance.

Great job, Ninty. You improved the feature that, while was a selling point in the 3DS's early life, is barely used after people get over the novelty of 3D and starting enjoying the games for what they are. Yet, you made the new feature your touting painful to use and inaccurate. I would have put a smaller slide pad under the face buttons and if the pad needed to be made larger to be used comfortably, moved the face button up an inch. Though, I can see Nintendo added this on as an afterthought to appease the few devs and customers that wanted the circle pad pro integrated into the unit. Most future games will only use it because it's there and would have relied on touch screen controls otherwise.

I really, really, really hope Nintendo holds off releasing this thing in other regions until 2016 (and possibly with design improvements). It is just too short of a hardware generation, and a very lackluster jump at that, to be making many other market have to invest in another portable system. Hopefully, most devs/pubs hold off on making software for it until the 3DS really does start looking long in the tooth. Big N might have made this since the 3DS in now saturated[1] in their home country, but couldn't they have had one or two years to see how software sells in such a large global install base.

Broken Record Time: Nintendo please hire someone to give your games and hardware better names, or stop punishing the vocal interns that say "'Wii U' or 'New 3DS' sounds hard to market and might confuse the public," with extra coffee trips. You've gotten worse than Apple slapping "i" in front of almost every consumer product they push. They're at least consistent; you're confusing. You could have called this thing the "3DS Dual Action" (3DA), "3DS Multi-Control" (MC 3DS, 3DS MC), "Ultra 3DS," or "3DS Pro" just to name a few. I just did a better job than your marketing department. I'll accept payment in the form of 2D or Retro developed Metroid games.

[1] I heard the 3DS units sold now outnumber Japan's population. Nintendo may make a profit off each unit sold, but I think their being greedy towards their worldwide customers in making this so soon.

A "New" 3DS. Are you kidding me? Geez Nintendo, fire the person that naming all your new systems. You are just going to end up confusing the uninformed masses. Seriously what happens when I own this thing for a few years, does it become a Old "New" 3DS?

I'm also sorry to hear that this extra control stick works like those old laptop ones. I was expecting along the lines of another slide pad. Overall this 3DS is going to be a little disappointing, well except that xenoblade chronicles is coming to it so it's not a total loss.

So, basically a waste of effort. Again.

*sigh*
Nintendo, I know that for the better part of the last decade you've been "The quirky one" of the console big three, but PLEASE consider where the human hand (regardless of age) will be situated when holding the 3DS.

We aren't lizard-people; NOBODY wants to claw their fucking hands around the 3DS awkwardly, or use a stylus-touchpad to play surrogate for the missing analog control. Kid Icarus: Uprising suffered GREATLY because of this.

SO WHY DID YOU MAKE THE NEW ANALOG NUB INHUMANLY UNCOMFORTABLE?!
It blows my mind that the same company that published Metroid Prime (which did the best it could with awkward control requirements) hasn't figured this shit out!
At the very LEAST, the rework of the hardware should have addressed the symmetry issues.

Of course, Nintendo was working with horrific inefficiency issues in the 3DS' design to begin with given the amount of volume that's being wasted on that dual-display business. Either that, or there's some other concession being made in manufacturing.

Wait, don't tell me Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate's now a New 3DS exlusive. The main reason I got my 3DS XL is just so I could play MH3U and MH4U!

Steven Bogos:

BX3:
From what I'm reading, the stick seems to be pretty love-it-or-hate it. I've heard an equal amount of people praise and trash its addition. I guess I won't truly know whether or not it's worth it until I try it out myself. I hope they have it on display at a Best Buy or something when this hits the states.

Also, wait, wait hold up, did someone just say that the 3DS might be disappointing because of a potential lack of exclusive software? But... that implies that exclusive software on a handheld console upgrade is a positive thing.... But this is the Escapist. Is tha... is that allowed?

Hmm? I'm confused. I wasn't impressed with all the new features on the system, so the only thing it really had "going for it" was the potential to have exclusive titles that take advantage of the beefier hardware. Thus, only good exclusives would (in my opinion) justify a purchase of the system.

Well, considering Xenoblade was the first New 3DS exclusive announced, they have taken at least ONE positive step forward......

Baron von Blitztank:
Wait, don't tell me Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate's now a New 3DS exlusive. The main reason I got my 3DS XL is just so I could play MH3U and MH4U!

It isn't don't worry.

Atmos Duality:
So, basically a waste of effort. Again.

*sigh*
Nintendo, I know that for the better part of the last decade you've been "The quirky one" of the console big three, but PLEASE consider where the human hand (regardless of age) will be situated when holding the 3DS.

We aren't lizard-people; NOBODY wants to claw their fucking hands around the 3DS awkwardly, or use a stylus-touchpad to play surrogate for the missing analog control. Kid Icarus: Uprising suffered GREATLY because of this.

SO WHY DID YOU MAKE THE NEW ANALOG NUB INHUMANLY UNCOMFORTABLE?!
It blows my mind that the same company that published Metroid Prime (which did the best it could with awkward control requirements) hasn't figured this shit out!
At the very LEAST, the rework of the hardware should have addressed the symmetry issues.

Of course, Nintendo was working with horrific inefficiency issues in the 3DS' design to begin with given the amount of volume that's being wasted on that dual-display business. Either that, or there's some other concession being made in manufacturing.

I don't understand what you and others are saying about this claw issue. Do you find yourself able to use the right stick and press buttons on the Wii U, PS4, or XB1? I never have.

The Apple BOOM:

I don't understand what you and others are saying about this claw issue. Do you find yourself able to use the right stick and press buttons on the Wii U, PS4, or XB1? I never have.

I can, and have since around 2001.

On the previous gen controllers (or at least, anything that's like the dual-shock design; PS1->PS4, Xbone/360, & Gamecube) I have these marvelous little things called "shoulder buttons" that I can use my index and middle fingers to press while using the analog pads. That's up to four simultaneous inputs that my thumbs will NEVER have to worry about.

Now, there are obviously other buttons on the face of those controllers for your thumbs to press, but smart game design (at least, where 3D camera controls are involved) will place important/timely functions on the shoulder buttons rather than the face buttons; or at least, those functions you're most likely to use while using the analog sticks.

The problem arises when you're missing one of those sticks and have to use other controls to make up for it.

On the 3DS, this means either sacrificing the ABXY buttons to use as a surrogate D-pad , OR using the touchscreen and stylus. The latter is exceptionally awkward, because it doesn't just alter how you input commands, but how you hold the entire unit. (and the awkwardness applies to left or right-handed folks, but lefties have it especially rough since the circle pad is on the left side of the 3DS)

Since you have to dedicate at least a finger and thumb to holding the stylus, this negates both the advantage of the shoulder button, and comfortable usage of ABXY buttons (which become EXCEPTIONALLY awkward to press).

Kid Icarus: Uprising showcases this design failure completely. It's possible to learn how to "claw" the buttons you need, but your hands pay for it.

Without some automation of the camera system (which isn't possible in all 3D games), those control concessions limits game design options, which is why handhelds need to stick to 2D games or slower, turn based games (Pokemon works great on handhelds for this reason).

I encourage you to at least try something like Kid Icarus Uprising, or any PSP-original port of Monster Hunter and then compare it to a contemporary 3D-camera console game. If you still don't notice the difference, well, allow me to officially welcome you to Earth on behalf of humanity, lizard-folk. ;p

Steven Bogos:

BX3:
From what I'm reading, the stick seems to be pretty love-it-or-hate it. I've heard an equal amount of people praise and trash its addition. I guess I won't truly know whether or not it's worth it until I try it out myself. I hope they have it on display at a Best Buy or something when this hits the states.

Also, wait, wait hold up, did someone just say that the 3DS might be disappointing because of a potential lack of exclusive software? But... that implies that exclusive software on a handheld console upgrade is a positive thing.... But this is the Escapist. Is tha... is that allowed?

Hmm? I'm confused. I wasn't impressed with all the new features on the system, so the only thing it really had "going for it" was the potential to have exclusive titles that take advantage of the beefier hardware. Thus, only good exclusives would (in my opinion) justify a purchase of the system.

You'll have to forgive me then. It seems like everywhere else I've been, its users have generally shared the common consensus of crying foul at having to buy the N3DS for the Xenoblade remake that's coming out, saying that releasing such exclusive software for what's essentially just an upgrade of an existing console was screwing the customer majorly (especially with how hard they were pushing and are continuing to push the 3DSXL special editions).

I've got no dog in the fight, since I'm buying it anyway (my current 3DS is suffering wear and tear and if I'm gonna upgrade, I might as well get the one with the fancy stuff on it), but I do find it a tad surprising that there are some that are actually looking forward to the exclusive content.

Atmos Duality:

I'm playing Metroid Prime Hunters' campaign mode and I've experienced everything you described. Instead of using the main series' solid control shceme, they went with your choice of the stylus camera or face buttons as a second analog substitute. Holding the system in one hand while having to also use the one shoulder button will cramp your digits fast. You are forced to use the inaccurate, clunky face buttons to give your off hand a break or swap which hand does what, and, when you're fighting one the cheap bosses you have to switch back. Playing even a more action oriented touchscreen only game, like the DS Zelda's, don't cause any cramping, because you can hold the system with your off hand in many balanced, comfy ways.

I avoided Uprising because the only control options were poor compromises to each other, just like Hunters. (In fact, I never played Hunters until now after playing the demo and finding the controls to be horrid.) Nintendo apparently knows they have human customers, because they made a stand just for playing Kid Icarus. (GTW, way to spit on Yokoi's grave by reviving his other series and making almost as unportable as the Virtual Boy.) They just are really slow to adapt away from the three armed lizard people they think, since the N64 era, exist. Our only hope now is devs don't treat this as the console equivalent of a second analog, unless there is no choice in their game's design, until (and if) Ninty fixes the pain issue.

Atmos Duality:

The Apple BOOM:

I don't understand what you and others are saying about this claw issue. Do you find yourself able to use the right stick and press buttons on the Wii U, PS4, or XB1? I never have.

I can, and have since around 2001.

On the previous gen controllers (or at least, anything that's like the dual-shock design; PS1->PS4, Xbone/360, & Gamecube) I have these marvelous little things called "shoulder buttons" that I can use my index and middle fingers to press while using the analog pads. That's up to four simultaneous inputs that my thumbs will NEVER have to worry about.

Now, there are obviously other buttons on the face of those controllers for your thumbs to press, but smart game design (at least, where 3D camera controls are involved) will place important/timely functions on the shoulder buttons rather than the face buttons; or at least, those functions you're most likely to use while using the analog sticks.

The problem arises when you're missing one of those sticks and have to use other controls to make up for it.

On the 3DS, this means either sacrificing the ABXY buttons to use as a surrogate D-pad , OR using the touchscreen and stylus. The latter is exceptionally awkward, because it doesn't just alter how you input commands, but how you hold the entire unit. (and the awkwardness applies to left or right-handed folks, but lefties have it especially rough since the circle pad is on the left side of the 3DS)

Since you have to dedicate at least a finger and thumb to holding the stylus, this negates both the advantage of the shoulder button, and comfortable usage of ABXY buttons (which become EXCEPTIONALLY awkward to press).

Kid Icarus: Uprising showcases this design failure completely. It's possible to learn how to "claw" the buttons you need, but your hands pay for it.

Without some automation of the camera system (which isn't possible in all 3D games), those control concessions limits game design options, which is why handhelds need to stick to 2D games or slower, turn based games (Pokemon works great on handhelds for this reason).

I encourage you to at least try something like Kid Icarus Uprising, or any PSP-original port of Monster Hunter and then compare it to a contemporary 3D-camera console game. If you still don't notice the difference, well, allow me to officially welcome you to Earth on behalf of humanity, lizard-folk. ;p

I meant face buttons, but still, I don't completely understand your issue with the c-nub. I play Warriors games, spectacle fighters, and MH3U just fine with a right stick for camera and then taking my thumb off of that and pressing face buttons to do attacks.

Hairless Mammoth:
I'm playing Metroid Prime Hunters' campaign mode and I've experienced everything you described.

No joke, no exaggeration, I actually cracked my knuckles reflexively when I read "Metroid Prime Hunters".
That is how much my brain associated that control scheme with cramped (and sweaty; ugh) hands. And I hadn't even touched that game in something like 8 years.

I avoided Uprising because the only control options were poor compromises to each other, just like Hunters. (In fact, I never played Hunters until now after playing the demo and finding the controls to be horrid.) Nintendo apparently knows they have human customers, because they made a stand just for playing Kid Icarus.

Yeah, the stand is weird, and largely useless. I have no idea what it was supposed to do in the first place.
But even if I did divine how it was meant to be used, it seems that its inclusion just goes against the purpose of portable gaming anyway.

Our only hope now is devs don't treat this as the console equivalent of a second analog, unless there is no choice in their game's design, until (and if) Ninty fixes the pain issue.

The nub is...technically, a step up from the stylus-surrogate or solo-C-pad; but it's still going to hurt to use compared to a proper control. I'm guessing the volume constraints in design greatly limit its size, which is why it isn't another C-pad.

In any case, I'm thinking that developers will ignore the nub as a hard control entirely; treating it as a "left-hand C-pad" option. That's actually my fear, because gimped controls are just as big of a design hurdle as gimpled processing power. If the developer feels pain playtesting their own game, what hope does it have on the market?

In fact, I'm starting to think the dual-screen design itself is now more gimmick than benefit for hardware and game design alike; especially in an era with smart phones packing quad core CPUs and at least 1GB of RAM into the same volume as a 3DS (with triple the battery life to boot; lest I forget).

Call me crazy, but I think that designing a handheld more around the shape of a controller instead of making it a folding-unit would offer something superior. (though it would lack backwards-compatibility for 3/DS games)

Or don't, because I actually have an example in the Vita; I actually think has a great control scheme for portable games; FAR superior to the 3DS certainly. Mores the pity that it lacks real developer support.

The Apple BOOM:

I meant face buttons, but still, I don't completely understand your issue with the c-nub. I play Warriors games, spectacle fighters, and MH3U just fine with a right stick for camera and then taking my thumb off of that and pressing face buttons to do attacks.

I'm not being snarky here, but I don't know how you manage that*.

I literally crippled my index fingers playing Monster Hunter Freedom Unite on the PSP 5 years ago; as in, blood, blisters and pain. I couldn't even curl my fingers for a solid 2 weeks while they healed.
In 20+ years of gaming, I'd NEVER had that problem outside of handheld games like that.

(*well, Warriors I get, but the secret with Warriors-games: It's 2D gameplay hiding in a 3D world. The camera is centered by the block button and the player rarely, if ever has to aim anything up or down since all battle takes place on foot in melee range anyway)

Redlin5:

Remember those old-school laptops, that had a little nub in the middle of the keyboard to control the mouse? Remember how much you hated those and how inaccurate they were?

Trackpads aren't nearly as accurate in my experience. I actually miss these things...

Souplex:

Steven Bogos:
Remember those old-school laptops, that had a little nub in the middle of the keyboard to control the mouse? Remember how much you hated those and how inaccurate they were? Well, that's what the New 3DS's c-stick is. Using it is not fun: It's not accurate, it feels weird, and it actually starts to hurt your thumb after a while.

I remember those! They did exactly what I wanted them to, touching them didn't cause clicks where you didn't want, and they were all-around wonderful.
I miss them. Stupid dominance of touchpad due to everyone trying to be like Apple...

Wait... Did we just agree about something?

Fun fact: If you agree with someone who's always right, that makes you right.
Being right is a wonderful sensation. That's why I always do it.

Is nintendo starting to take the iPhone approach to the 3DS? If so then I'll just wait for the New 3DS-S before replacing my original 3DS unit

Souplex:
Fun fact: If you agree with someone who's always right, that makes you right.
Being right is a wonderful sensation. That's why I always do it.

Thanks for reaffirming my status as the man with the answers Soup. Can't let my ego deflate for even an instant, how else can I prop up my head and watch forum shenanigans with smugness? :D

 

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