New Nintendo 3DS review

New Nintendo 3DS is the handheld we've been waiting for

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Our Verdict

Most of the New Nintendo 3DS's improvements are minor ones, but the second analogue stick and much-improved 3D feature make this the definitive Nintendo handheld. This is the one we've been waiting for.

For

  • New 3D is vastly better
  • Second analogue nub is long overdue
  • Still relatively affordable

Against

  • Battery hasn't really improved
  • Processor bump divides old 3DS owners from new
  • Charger not included
Ratings in depth

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Update: The New Nintendo 3DS is getting a new Pokemon Sun and Moon-themed special edition come November. The system stars the game's two legendary monsters, Solgaleo and Lunala, and is so far only planned for release in Europe.

For all the stuff it does well, Nintendo doesn't do itself many favours when it comes to naming conventions. After the messy and confused messaging of the Wii U and the perhaps even more confusing 2DS, it's now gone and named its latest 3DS the New Nintendo 3DS.

To add to the confusion, there are two different models, a standard New 3DS and the New 3DS XL. Why the distinction? The New 3DS proper comes with interchangeable faceplates, while the New 3DS XL sports a larger screen.

Just looking at them, though, you wouldn't be able to tell much difference between these and their prior form. It's less of a problem for the serious gamers and Nintendo nuts, but for the parents who are out to buy their kid a birthday present… well, you can see the problem.

3DS

But the New 3DS really is new. The alterations might not immediately strike you - many are under the hood - but the handheld has undergone a number of beneficial tweaks. From the addition of the right-stick near the face buttons and more powerful internals to the interchangeable faceplates, there are plenty of worthwhile tweaks that justify the upgrade.

Design

I've never had a problem with the design of the 3DS and, clearly, neither has Nintendo. The clamshell shape is as familiar as ever, although it has been bumped up a smidge in size to accommodate a slightly larger display.

New 3DS review

As an added bonus, Nintendo has granted the power of interchangeable faceplates to this smaller model. Nintendo sent me a rather eye-catching Luigi one to try but you'll have a vast range to choose from (Japan already has 40) if you fancy some added customisation. Why this is absent on the XL is a bit of a mystery to me - again, I imagine it comes down to market research.

New 3DS review

Open it up and, again, it's a familiar site. As a nice little touch, the face buttons now replicate the colours of those on the SNES controller. But the biggy is the one we've been waiting on for far too long - a second analogue stick.

Don't be fooled by that puny-looking grey nib that's sprouted on the right hand side - it's a fully-fledged C-stick capable of 360 degree movement. It feels stiff but it's surprisingly sensitive. During my time playing Majora's Mask it worked wonderfully for controlling the in-game camera. Much of that is down to the placement that makes thumb-jumping between face buttons and analogue stick super easy.

New 3DS review

To go with your new analogue stick is a pair of added shoulder buttons, putting the much-berated Circle Pad Pro accessory out of a job. Thank goodness, it was ugly as sin. Meanwhile, the new ZL and ZR buttons sit side by side with the old shoulder pressers, making Nintendo's handheld finally feel complete.

3DS

But there's more; the wireless button is now gone, the start and select buttons both rest below the fact buttons, the volume slider sits on the left-hand side of the top screen, and the power button has shifted to the bottom right of the device. That last one is perhaps my only niggle with the new aesthetic as it makes turning the console on and off a tad more awkward than it should be.

New 3DS review

Switching up the design isn't the only reason for changing the faceplates on the New 3DS - both the battery and MicroSD card lie beneath. The fact you need a screwdriver to change an SD card in 2015 is, in my eyes, a design flaw - especially when you consider how quickly those cards fill up.

But that's not the strangest decision Nintendo has made on the New 3DS. No, the strangest decision was to not include a charger with the console. I guess the assumption is that most buyers will be upgraders from an older 3DS, but what about everyone else?

3DS

These days it's assumed that any gadget not running on AA batteries is going to come with some sort of charger in the box, and I think there are going to be a lot more disappointed people than Nintendo anticipates.