As Nintendo only just released Nintendo 2DS the other year, we can't deny that we were a bit surprised that a new update on their existing hardware would be ushered in so swiftly.
While that particular curveball (or given the design, should we say slice) may have suggested the company were stepping back from the in-built tech that gave their DS successor its name, last year's announcement of a redesign of the 3DS saw the third dimension was still on the cards and on screen of the dual-screened handheld.
The continued support was questionable even before the 2DS appeared on the scene. The Kyoto-based company must have noticed the auto-stereoscopic experience didn't match expectation. A narrow viewing window to experience the 3D correctly, and with complaints of headaches with prolonged use (not to mention the longer battery life without) saw the 3D slider turned off for some. But what's the sense of owning a console that uses the three-dimensional native, if at the end you cannot enjoy it fully?
That issue aside, the Nintendo 3DS, and its bigger brother, the Nintendo 3DS XL, have been two golden gooses for the Japanese company. In just four years of life (as of March this year), the eighth-generation console by Nintendo has managed to sell over 50 million units in the world, confirming one of the best commercial successes in the history of the company.
Success not really inherent in the technology that is echoed in its name, but in other great aspects the console owns, such as high quality games. If you think of titles like Pokémon X/Y, the several games from Professor Layton series, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, Fire Emblem (just to name a few), it is clear that the double-screen console boasts a great catalogue.
Furthermore, the Virtual Console, Nintendo eShop and the new Amiibo feature have improved that gaming experience. All these features have allowed to that portable platform to find its place in a mobile-invested world and it's doing fine with all Nintendo fans.
So, as with the 2DS, the announcement of the New Nintendo 3DS and the New Nintendo 3DS XL was met with the question: what's new, and is it worth picking up? We've spent the last week with the smaller New 3DS to find out.
As soon as we turned our New Nintendo 3DS on, the first inevitable difference - compared to the older 3DS model - is the increase in size relative to the bigger screen (a whole 1.2 times bigger). While the screen's resolution offers no surprises, we did note a sharper colour palette.
But the aspect we wanted to check out was how it's changed the auto-stereoscopic system, the most important flaw in the previous console.
The new 3D system is much better than in the past, thanks to the head-tracking camera and infrared technology placed on the main screen of the console. The machine follow the eyes of the player and so the 3D is more accurate and stable than we experienced with the older 3DS. No more headaches, no more hassle.
The experience of the new auto-stereoscopic platform is undoubtedly the most interesting bullet point of the package, and confirmation comes when we decided to test the Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, jumping between the older 3DS XL and the New 3DS. With the former we have to knock off the 3D after 20 minutes due to growing eye strain and a looming headache.
With the New 3DS, there's no such issue. We even find it fun to use the gyroscopic system, which in the past has given us a churning in the stomach due to motion sickness.
Beyond a clear improvement with the 3D, another big difference is the system buttons, which include some great new features that will delight mainly of pro players. Aside from the ZL and ZR buttons on the back of the handheld, the C-stick style second analog nub does away with the need of the cumbersome Circle Pad Pro.
We tested the C-stick playing Majora's Mask and we were positively surprised by its precision, offering a very fluid and natural effect when rubbing your thumb over it. We can't wait to test it with other games in which the use of the camera is so predominant.
Headphone jack, power button and stylus all now line up along the front of the console, making it easier to access (though we were fine with where the stylus was before).
The New 3DS uses Micro-SD rather than the previous SD cards. A small hassle if you're wanting to replace your current 3DS with a New, more so if you prefer digital - the New 3DS only comes with a 4GB card included, so note if you want to transfer a hefty digital library over (or start building one) you'll need to buy up some more space. You'll also need a screwdriver as well, as the old flap has been replaced with a screwed-in slot.
The other news is the possibility of using interchangeable covers that fit perfectly with the design of the platform. While what's offered currently is limited, we're sure choice will expand with time, and we're happy to have more choice than our current XL's dull grey exterior.
But it's what's housed in the 3DS casing that we find the major changes. The first substantial difference lies in the speed of turning the console on and accessing apps which is reduced substantially from the previous model, thanks to a much more powerful CPU. The battery life of the console has been upped as well. However, as with the previous console, the New 3DS is not bundled with a power supply, meaning additional cost if you're coming in fresh (adaptors for older models work fine).
Our experience with the New Nintendo 3DS has been very positive. What we appreciated the most, beside the CPU bump (which we'll get a better feel for once exclusive titles such as Xenoblade Chronicles arrive in the next few months), is that better 3D.
If you've been thinking of picking up a 3DS (and with plenty of classic titles available, you have an instant, hefty catalogue of must-play games) then now is the best time to buy, but be wary you'll need to sink more money in for an adaptor and bigger Micro-SD. If you're a current 3DS owner, we suggest holding off a few months until the games that'll be exclusive the New 3DS start arriving to get the best the console will offer, as you'll get the bigger impact of all the changes Nintendo has ushered in to make this the best version of their handheld yet.