Earlier this morning, Nintendo announced two new Nintendo 3DS models in their Japanese Nintendo Direct. The new consoles, tentatively called the New Nintendo 3DS and the New Nintendo 3DS XL are not a complete replacement of the current 3DS consoles, instead they are a mid-stage upgrade similar to the Nintendo DSi or the Gameboy Color.
In terms of actual gameplay, there are three parts of the announcement which stand out. The first is the addition of two new buttons and a c-stick. The two buttons will be the ZL and ZR buttons which supplement the two shoulder buttons that already exist. The placement seems a bit uncomfortable, but I trust Nintendo has well tested the position. There will also be a c-stick nub to the top left of the ABXY buttons. The c-stick is described to be more like a button than a second thumbstick, but will be appreciated for camera panning and other uses.
The next major upgrade is increase performance. A new CPU will enhance the overall sluggish menu of the Nintendo 3DS and give the browser a boost. More notably, it will give the New Nintendo 3DS future exclusives, the first being a port of the Wii masterpiece Xenoblade Chronicles. It is unclear at this point whether existing games will benefit from the performance, and if other major exclusives are in the works.
The last part of the announcement that stuck out was headtracking as a means of improving the 3D effect. Nintendo claims that you can now move your head left and right without seeing the distortion that plagued the Nintendo 3DS. The camera will track your head and adjust accordingly (similar to the Kindle Fire Phone). Personally, this will make the smaller Nintendo 3DS more palatable since distortion was much more noticeable on the original model.
Aesthetics and Design
Aesthetically the overall shell and design are similar to the current models, but a lot of components have been rearranged. The start and select buttons no longer straddle the bottom screen, but instead are located more traditionally below the ABXY buttons. The stylus and cartridge slots are both located facing the user instead of away, which is a bit of a strange decision to me. They’ve also replaced the SD slot with a MicroSD slot and placed it behind the battery cover, which are now fully replaceable with customized face plates.
The new consoles will be released October 11th in Japan, but early 2015 for the rest of the world. Pricing is in line with current retail prices (the New Nintendo 3DS XL is priced at 18,800¥ and the New Nintendo 3DS is priced at 16,000¥ compared to 19,440¥ and 15,429¥ for the original models).
Spark Notes of the Announcement
- Faster CPU (with exclusives such as Xenoblade Chronicles), more RAM
- Better browser, themed menus
- 3D headtracking that allows for stronger 3D effect
- Auto brightness adjustment with a light sensor
- ZL and ZR buttons and a c-stick
- Colored ABXY buttons that resemble the SNES controller
- Slightly larger screens
- Cartridge slot and stylus now relocated to the bottom
- MicroSD slot
- Face plates (38 patterns announced so far)
- Wireless PC transfer, NFC reader and writer
Unanswered Questions and Wishlist
The announcement was fairly detailed, but there are still some unanswered questions (asides from the exact specs list). As I mentioned, there’s the major question of how the sped up processor will run current games. Pokemon X and Y are infamous for dropping frames, so a new CPU might be able to handle it more effectively. It also raises concerns about future support. The Nintendo DSi did not get a lot of exclusives, but the Gameboy Color did. Should current 3DS owners be worried about being left in the dark? My personal opinion is that the c-stick and the new ZL and ZR buttons are a sign that they are serious about the new console. It doesn’t seem like a trivial update to redesign to console’s control scheme. The improved specs also opens up new possibilities for Virtual Console titles, which hopefully moves more heavily into GBA and further.
NFC reader and writer are obviously used for the Amiibos that Nintendo has announced some time ago, but the New Nintendo 3DS also seems to be targeting the smartphone crowd. It obviously isn’t the next Android, but a sped up browser, new menu and hardware features like NFC, MicroSD slots suggests that maybe Nintendo wants users to look at the New Nintendo 3DS not as just a gaming console, but a general purpose tool. They need to seriously revamp their wireless connectivity, friends module and even the music app if they want their device to be used for anything else other than gaming.
I think Nintendo also has a good opportunity with the 3D effect. The Amazon Fire Phone sparked some renewed interest in 3D screens and 3D capture a few months ago. Even though it was not a runaway success, it still planted some interesting commercials that appealed to the crowd. Nintendo’s headtracking will certainly help to stabilize the effect and convince more people to keep the 3D on, but I’m hoping that Nintendo has the good sense to put some reasonable cameras on the New Nintendo 3DS. The current 0.3 megapixel cameras come out grainy with low resolution and are unusable in dim lighting. They are so bad that it affected the original purpose in game. Hopefully they put decent cameras, not necessarily the 12 megapixel smartphone cameras, but something that will produce a decent 3D image for the kids to have fun with.
There’s room for more speculation, but we’ll leave it at that. The original video and source can be seen here:
The video is in Japanese only. New Nintendo 3DS introduction begins at 14:30.