The 3DS XL: No Second Analogue Stick?

Nintendo just announced that they are releasing a redesigned version of the 3DS called the 3DS XL. This is, of course, after months of saying they weren’t planning on redesigning the machine, including statements at E3, which seems like it would have been the better venue for such an announcement. Either way Nintendo is giving all of its fans a huge version of the 3DS with a much bigger screen and pretty much nothing else. The 3DS had a really rocky start and the hardware was one of the major complaints people had about Nintendo’s new handheld. It was always assumed that an inevitable redesign would take care of these issues, but that is, bafflingly, not the case. Today we are going to look at the XL and see why it was really poorly thought out, but also why it will still be a major improvement to the original 3DS.

Damn is that thing big

I have been following the gaming industry for a long time, and I never saw the kind of remorse that Nintendo showed with the 3DS. Most of the time, if a system is doing badly, or is being widely criticized the company will totally ignore the problem and keep moving on (Like Sony and the Vita). This practice makes perfect business sense, as you don’t want the market to think that you don’t believe in your own product. Nintendo decided against this business practice and quickly went to work trying to right wrongs. Unprecedentedly, they dramatically dropped the price in the systems early month in order to bolster sales, while giving every early adopter, who paid full price, a list of 20 free games. Next, they addressed the very real issue of not having a second analogue stick on their handheld. They provided a stop-gap measure called the Circle Pad Pro (“the Frankenstick”). This bulky, add-on was not ideal, but it allowed games to better be played as it is very difficult to manipulate the camera without two sticks, as PSP owners can attest. The Frankenstick met with somewhat warm reception, under the assumption that Nintendo would redesign the system and simply include a second circle pad in the hardware. For once in its history, it seemed like Nintendo was paying attention to fans and reacting based on the market.

The diplomatic immunity I got from this has allowed me to do some terrible things.

Now the 3DS is doing phenomenally, and there is little doubt that Nintendo has a major hit in their hands which will very likely eclipse the success of the DS, the best selling handheld of all time. For some reason, this success seems to have made Nintendo forget about its former mistakes and has brought it back to the “Nintendo marches to the beat of its own drum” mentality that we are all used to. In some fit of insanity, we can only assume, Nintendo has chosen that its second generation 3DS does not need a second analogue stick, because its not like that ever got them into trouble before, right? Nintendo seems have forgotten that nobody complained about the size of the system’s screen, but a lot of people heavily criticized the lack of a second stick. This is extremely shortsighted and I’ll tell you why.

You couldn’t find room on that monster for a second stick, really?

Firstly, it is important to remember why twin sticks are industry standard. When games moved to the 3D plane (Not stereoscopic 3D), a new challenge emerged, and that was controlling the camera. As the industry evolved, the solution to that problem revealed itself. That solution was to give the player control over the camera with a second analogue stick. Modern systems without this glorious breakthrough suffer quite a bit. Almost every single PSP game was criticized for its camera controls because it never found out a way around the issue. The Wii manages, barely, but it’s camera controls are still in the Stone Age compared to modern systems. Gamers immediately noticed this problem with the 3DS, and began, rightly, complaining about it, and, for once, Nintendo listened, or so we thought.

Once again I show you this to illustrate what is not cool about what the 3DS is doing.

Here’s the problem, the XL isn’t fixing this issue when it had a real opportunity to. It doesn’t make sense that the issue that caused Nintendo to hastily release a peripheral would be completely ignored by a redesign of the hardware. How hard would it have been to simply make the second circle pad inactive unless the game supported its use? They already made the system huge, isn’t there enough room for a second stick? There is also the problem of the Frankenstick. This add-on was criticized by many as being unwieldily and huge. Since the XL is so much bigger, wouldn’t an XL compatible Frankenstick be considerably more unwieldily? Or perhaps Nintendo isn’t going to release one, and they are going to leave XL users unable to effectively play games that support the peripheral. All of these are terrible ideas and the entire issue could have been easily resolved.

Now imagine this on the behemoth that is the XL

Finally, it is important to look at why the XL will still be a major improvement over the original design. While not heavily criticized, the 3DS’ screen does seem puny in comparison to the Vita’s lush screen, and the whole system is built around stereoscopic 3D. In short, the much bigger screen will make the 3DS’ 3D capabilities far more impressive, and that is most definitely a good thing. Nintendo’s machine doesn’t have the greatest graphical power behind it, but it has enough that a larger screen will be able to show off some of their more graphically impressive games. It is reported to have a better battery life as well, which is always a major bonus; although, I never saw the same problems many people did with the original battery life, so I won’t comment too much on this.

Damn, 90%. That is that a huge improvement

The 3DS XL is an example of truly baffling design. The only thing Nintendo did was boost the screen, which is a good thing. However, the huge missed opportunity of being able to add a second analogue stick is really damning, and it is hard to ignore this fact. What Nintendo is giving us is a totally upgraded 3DS with no new features or improvements. A buyer will get the best version of the handheld, but it could have been so much more. Remember, it is always the best practice to provide great gameplay. Options like better screens and graphics should always be secondary.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer


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