New 3DS review: My needlessly detailed thoughts and that

I wasn’t going to buy a New 3DS.

I was perfectly happy with my 3DS XL, thank you very much, and I wasn’t too fussed that this new model ran a lot faster and let me load Miiverse during Smash Bros and had NFC support and customisable faceplates and OH CHRIST I HAD TO GET ONE.

In fairness, even though I’m the biggest Nintendo nerd you can imagine, I left it surprisingly late to get hyped for new hardware this time. I only decided I had to have one three days before it came out, which for me is a new record.

Still, I did eventually resist and my shiny new handheld arrived at my flat on 12 February, one day before release. Top tip: the official Nintendo UK online store is fantastic, and with a bundle offering the New 3DS, a faceplate of my choice, a charger and a Mario 3DS holder statue for £159.99, was the cheapest option I could find too.


Hooray and such!
Hooray and such!

Today is 13 February, the official launch day of the New 3DS, so I’ve decided to put together this needlessly long article giving my in-depth thoughts on every aspect and tiny detail of it. If you’re still in two minds about whether to buy one, hopefully by the end of this you’ll have made your mind up one way or the other.

Otherwise I’ll have just wasted about 20 minutes of your time. Sorry in advance.

The size

I opted for the standard New 3DS instead of the New 3DS XL model. It was a hard decision for me to make because I love me some massive screens, but ultimately I went for the smaller of the two options because faceplates.

hardware shot black
There it is. This is the black one, obviously. The white one is less black than this and more white

Size-wise it actually fits somewhere in between the standard 3DS and 3DS XL. It has a matte finish similar to the original 3DS XL, meaning it won’t pick up fingerprints as easily as Geoff Capes picks up Volkswagen Polos.

As for its weight, it feels fine. Not too heavy, not too light. Look, I’m not a Post Office, I’m not in the habit of weighing things often. I played it for three hours straight today and it wasn’t like I was holding a house brick or anything. Success.

What it does have, though, is curved corners. This is nothing new to owners of the 3DS XL but anyone still struggling with the corners of the original standard-sized 3DS digging into their palms as they play will be overjoyed at this rounder shape. Well, overjoyed is perhaps a strong word, but they’ll be happy at least.

The screens

The New 3DS screens are ever so slightly bigger than those on the original 3DS. The top screen is now 3.88″ instead of 3.53″, and the bottom screen is 3.33″ whereas before it was 3.00″. That extra third of an inch does make all the difference (ladies), as the image does look notably bigger when I put it side-by-side with my standard 3DS.

Naturally, next to the XL and its dirty big bastard 4.88″ screen it still feels comparatively tiny, though since both systems have the same resolution the standard New 3DS’s smaller screen does provide a sharper picture.

Button relocation

There’s all manner of shuffling shenanigans going on here. The Start and Select buttons are mercifully no longer part of the horrible mushy bit under the bottom screen and are now little circular buttons off to the side, as on the DS Lite and DSi.

Cartridges now go into the bottom of the system, though thankfully you’d need to hold it with a bizarre contortionist’s grip to be in with a chance of pushing against the cartridge and ejecting it while playing.

The stylus also goes into the bottom now, along with the headphone socket. I haven’t seen so many things slot into something’s bottom since [some text missing].

Ooh yeah baby, look at all your ports and such etc.
Ooh yeah baby, look at all your ports and such etc.

Rounding things off, the power button is now on the bottom of the device too, the volume slider pops over to the left-hand side of the top screen and the wireless switch… um, well, it’s gone entirely. You need to pop into the little drop-down Home menu settings (the icon on the top-left of the screen where you choose your theme) and turn the wireless off there now.

Does any of this make a massive difference? Not really, except for the Start and Select buttons: it’s good to have them back as proper buttons again instead of those sorry excuses for tactility we had before.

The rest are just part of Nintendo’s plan to mess with your muscle memory and make you keep reaching for a stylus that isn’t in that location anymore. Somewhere Satoru Iwata is chuckling away to himself as he uses the New 3DS’s hidden surveillance camera feature to watch players press where the Start button used to be and swear under their breath when nothing happens.

The analogue nub

There once was a time when Nintendo would fervently deny the 3DS would ever have a second analogue stick as standard. Even when it bottled it a bit and released the Circle Pad Pro add-on it was still adamant that it was only an optional extra for a couple of games.

Now it’s finally taken that extra little step and made a second analogue ‘stick’ the standard going forward… sort of. You see, it’s decided to stick a final middle finger up to the second stick enthusiasts and prevent them from saying “I told you so” by not really making the second analogue control a stick at all.

Instead, it’s a little rubber nubbin, which stands firmly in place and has no give to it at all. It still works well enough when moving the camera in games (which, let’s face it, is what it’ll mainly be used for) but it’s not quite the definitive second stick option people were hoping for.

This is the new 3DS nub's dad. Bless, he's got his father's eyes. By which I mean its rubber design
This is the new 3DS nub’s dad. Bless, he’s got his father’s eyes. By which I mean its rubber design

Remember when there was a period when laptops used to have a tiny rubber joystick thing (known in the trade as a ‘pointing stick’) nestled in between the G and H keys? It moved the mouse cursor if you couldn’t be arsed spending two minutes to get used to the touch pad. That’s exactly what the New 3DS’s nubbin feels like. Grip in abundance but you won’t want to use it a lot.

As for games that support it, by sheer ‘coincidence’ the two major games that are launching alongside the New 3DS today – Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate – both use the nubbin for camera control.

If you don’t want to buy a game just to try it out, some existing games use it too. Basically, the nubbin works as a built-in Circle Pad Pro, so all 11 games that supported it – Metal Gear Solid 3, Resident Evil Revelations, Kingdom Hearts 3D and the like – will support the nubbin too. It also works for smash attacks in Super Smash Bros.

And if you don’t have any of those games and don’t want to buy one just to try out the nubbin? Alright, you difficult bastard. Get on the eShop and download the free demo for Code Name S.T.E.A.M., because it makes use of it too.

The new shoulder buttons

As well as the nubbin and far less revolutionary is the addition of two new shoulder buttons – ZL and ZR – which will also be familiar to anyone who had a Circle Pad Pro.

Again, these work with games that supported the aforementioned add-on, as well as any new games that decide to make use of them. Of the two accompanying ‘launch’ games, Majora’s Mask 3D doesn’t use ZL and ZR but Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate does, letting you set your own commands to them.

My initial verdict on them after a few hours of gameplay is that they feel ever so slightly too far away: when I press them I tend to hit them with the tips of my fingers instead of giving them a good sturdy squeeze. Maybe this will become less of an issue when I get used to holding the system in a different way, or maybe that Glasgow’s Shortest Index Fingers 1996 award was no fluke after all.

The new stylus

This hand model had to take early retirement after this photo was taken due to the onset of arthritis
This hand model had to take early retirement after this photo was taken due to the onset of arthritis

I have a love-hate relationship with Nintendo’s styluses (stylii?), in that I hate them and don’t love them. Sadly, the one that comes with the New 3DS isn’t much of a winner either. As ever, it’s very thin and quite short, meaning your hand may get cramps if you use it for a while. 20 minutes into an extensive Picross session I wasn’t too chuffed. The top of it is also awkwardly shaped, although the reason for this is actually quite clever (more on that in a bit).

It’s not the end of the world because I’m used to having a rubbish stylus by now, but it’s just a shame Nintendo still hasn’t managed to really crack this yet (except for the enormous pen-shaped one that came with the DSi XL. I adored that one).

That said, it’s not the worst stylus Nintendo has ever made. The abysmal telescopic metal one that came with the original 3DS continues to wear the crown of Shittest Stylus, a crown that’s stapled to its head so it can’t just remove it and pretend it doesn’t have it.

The Super-Stable 3D™

The next time you spot someone in public playing their 3DS, walk over to them and lean rudely over their shoulder so you can have a gander. Nine times out of ten the 3D slider will be turned all the down to the ‘off’ position.

It’s a sad day when what was supposed to be the most important feature of a handheld (it’s even in the bloody name, after all) is the one that’s most often ignored or outright avoided.

The reason was obvious: that bloody ‘sweet spot’. Essentially, the 3DS’s top screen had a filter in it that would send a different image to each eye, creating the 3D effect. If you moved your head to the side even relatively slightly, the screens would no longer be aligned and you’d get a horrible double vision effect.

The XL’s called the LL in Japan by the way, in case you thought you were going mad. That’s not to say you still aren’t, mind, just that this isn’t causing it

This meant you couldn’t really appreciate the 3D unless you sat completely still, which made it completely useless when playing it on public transport or while sitting on a water bed (ladies).

Amazingly, the New 3DS more or less fixes this with what Nintendo calls Super-Stable 3D™. Essentially, the system uses an infra-red sensor next to the front-facing camera to track your head. When you move, the screen adjusts each image accordingly so both eyes can still see them perfectly.

I was sceptical when I heard about this but it really does work. As long as you don’t make violent head movements (so it won’t work during a rave, for example) the New 3DS does a good job of tracking your head and keeping the 3D stable. Because it’s infra red, I tried it with the lights off and it even works when you’re playing in a pitch black room.

There is one minor issue, however. If you wear glasses (like I do) it can struggle a little because its head tracking works by locking onto your eyes and following them. It doesn’t make a major difference – it does still track and adjust remarkably well, but you do need to make sure your head moves a little slower than if you weren’t wearing them because it does take a fraction of a second longer to catch up.

Aye, you might struggle with it a wee bit, Yeezus
Aye, you might struggle with it a wee bit, Yeezus

That aside, I’ve spent the whole day rediscovering all my old 3DS games because I’m actually playing them in 3D for the first time. I’m so delighted it finally works well.

The system transfer process

A lot has been said online about the process of switching your data between the 3DS and the New 3DS. Most sites seem to be acting like this is a brand new thing and slamming Nintendo for this terrible new idea, when a bit of research will have shown it’s the exact same app used when transferring from the 3DS to 3DS XL a couple of years back.

Regardless, snarky articles aside, it is still a fairly time-consuming process created entirely as a result of Nintendo’s desire to lock all your information to a single device. When you do the transfer (the whole thing took me about 20 minutes and I copied my SD card data on a PC later), it’s essentially taking all your data – your Nintendo Network ID, your StreetPasses and the like – and moving it to the New 3DS, then formatting your old one so it’s back to its factory settings.

This means, as was the case when transferring from 3DS to XL, you’ll have to pick a system size and stick with it. I continue to dream of a situation where I can take the smaller 3DS out with me while travelling (because it fits in my pocket), then pop out the SD card when I get back and stick it in my XL to enjoy my games on the larger screens while playing at home. Until Nintendo changes its ‘one handheld per Nintendo Network account’ policy though, that won’t happen.

Incidentally, if you’re into downloading eShop titles and have already got a lot of games and content stored on your 3DS’s SD card then it might be worth doing the PC transfer if you’ve got a card reader. You can still do the whole thing wirelessly (unless your SD card is bigger then 4GB) but it’ll take an age. Be prepared for some hassle doing it over the PC though…

SD cards versus Micro SD cards

First of all, screw what Nintendo says: the 3DS (and New 3DS) does indeed read SD cards bigger than 32GB. You just have to use PC software to format the card to FAT32 and then job done, hundreds of thousands of storage blocks await you.

I can confirm this with this lovely screenshot: this is my New 3DS with a 64GB Micro SDXC card inside it, formatted to FAT32:

Back with another one of those block-shocking feats
Back with another one of those block-shocking feats

I’ve already copied my 3DS’s 32GB SD card contents over to it (around 20GB or so of games) and it’s still got enough blocks left to download the enormous Super Smash Bros another 26 times over. So that’s nice.

Less nice is the process used to transfer this data, which is a faff and a half even when using the faster PC transfer method.

Whereas the 3DS uses SD cards, the New 3DS uses smaller Micro SD cards. There’s a 4GB one pre-installed in the system but if you’re a bit of an eShop addict like me I recommend forking out for a bigger one because they’re inexpensive: you can get 32GB (which is more than enough for almost everyone) for £11 on Amazon.

Just think: your entire 3DS software library on this dinky little card. It's so amazing. Someone get me Carol Vorderman on the phone, let's bring back Tomorrow's World
Just think: your entire 3DS software library on this dinky little card. It’s so amazing. Someone get me Carol Vorderman on the phone, let’s bring back Tomorrow’s World

When switching from 3DS to 3DS XL I was able to just pop the SD card out of my old system, put it in the new one and continue where I left off but this time, because the cards are different physical sizes, you’ll need to transfer the data from your old SD card to the new Micro SD.

First you’ll need to do the System Transfer mentioned above. Then take your 3DS SD card and load it up on your PC (you’ll need to buy a card reader if your PC doesn’t have one: you’re talking a fiver or so).

Copy all the contents of the SD card to a folder, then put in your Micro SD card (again, using the card reader) and copy all the contents from the folder to that.

Then began the process that had me turning bluer than a Sonic the Hedgehog tribute single sung by Eiffel 65.

The Micro SD saga

Because a Micro SD card is so dinky, Nintendo’s conveniently provided a slot for it inside the bowels of the New 3DS so it won’t fall out (because I promise you, it’s 100% guaranteed to be lost if it does).

The problem is, getting to the slot involves taking the back plate off the New 3DS. Now, with hindsight this isn’t actually that much of a hassle, but please do ensure you go into it prepared.

The key to avoiding the drama I suffered is remembering that the two screws on the New 3DS faceplate:

1) Only have to be loosened, not completely taken out.

2) Are cheap as fuck.

Cue this numpty frantically unscrewing one of the screws for ages wondering why it wasn’t coming out. Eventually, because the screw was such poor quality, I ended up stripping the head of it, making it impossible to loosen.

This resulted in me having to snap the back plate off to expose the screw, then use all manner of tools to pry it out. I eventually had to settle on grinding it out with a cordless screwdriver. The bloody aftermath:

Casualties: One screwdriver, one pair of tweezers, one rear faceplate (white), one utter prick of a screw
Casualties: One screwdriver, one pair of tweezers, one rear faceplate (white), one utter prick of a screw

Needless to say, you don’t have to be a fucking moron like me. Just make sure you have a size 0 Philips head screwdriver (i.e. the one with the cross on the head) and gently turn each screw to the left until it becomes loose: just until you can freely turn it without any pressure.

Then, when both screws are loose, you can use the stylus’s awkwardly-shaped head to pry the sides of the panel up (see, it’s actually shaped like that for a useful reason) and expose the Micro SD card slot. Hooray!

But what of my situation? Has my brand New 3DS already been left with a gammy back plate and one of its screws missing on day one?

Has it piss. You see…

The faceplates

The faceplates. Oh, the beautiful faceplates.

See, I’m always an early adopter. Gaming is my life and when I know new hardware’s out I can’t not have it. I need to get it, enjoy it, use it to increase my knowledge base (so I know what I’m talking about when I discuss it in articles) and absorb everything about it.

The problem is, launch consoles are always the dullest ones. My 3DS was that horrible glittery turquoise one that looked like an 11 year-old girl’s comsetics case. My DS was grey, my DSi was black, my 3DS XL was grey, grey, grey, everything in life, grey, dull, death.

Mario! On your handheld! I've honestly never seen that before. Look, SHUT UP with your examples, I'm having a moment here
Mario! On your handheld! I’ve honestly never seen that before. Look, SHUT UP with your examples, I’m having a moment here

They look boring, is what I’m saying.

Then, just like clockwork, you can be assured that eight or nine months down the line a new limited edition version comes out, complete with a fancy new design that makes yours look like the Tesco Value version.

“Awwwww,” you’d think to yourself. “I was an early adopter. I’m one of Nintendo’s most dedicated customers. And now those latecoming pricks can get one with Tom Nook’s face on it and I’m stuck with this grey wanker.”

The New 3DS has FACEPLATES though. At least, the standard one does. Sorry XL owners, you’re stuck with one design only but at least it’s launched with Zelda and Monster Hunter limited edition ones this time so you don’t have to commit to a boring colour.

But still. FACEPLATES. I’ve got a Luigi one coming in the mail. Before I’d have had to wait years for some other cockamamie Year Of Luigi type thing before Nintendo would consider releasing a Luigi-themed handheld. And now I can turn my New 3DS into a Luigi one on day one. Brilliant.

Even better (although only specifically in my case), each new faceplate comes with its own screws, meaning the one I snapped off my white faceplate while doing a Leatherface on it doesn’t matter anymore. Because let’s face it, once my Luigi faceplate turns up that white one’s going straight into a skip.

The CPU speed

Arguably the most important hardware feature of the New 3DS is one you can’t see, at least not unless you horse it off a wall and expose its microchippy innards.

Nintendo’s blessed its new device with an improved CPU, capable of greatly increased processor speed. At this early stage in the New 3DS’s life, this is only really noticeable in the operating system but the difference is massive.

You can no longer make a Pot Noodle in the time between pressing the Home button and the Home menu coming up. Browsing the internet is actually enjoyable now. And when you fancy diving quickly onto Miiverse when you have a thought you want to share with someone, you can now actually have it loaded up before you’ve forgotten what you were going to say.

So far, nowhere is the improved CPU more noticeable than when playing Super Smash Bros. You see, because that specific game uses up so much processing power, the standard 3DS actually has to shut down the entire operating system and reboot before loading it.

As a result, Smash Bros takes an eternity to even reach the loading screen on a normal 3DS, with a black screen facing you long enough to make you think it’s crashed every single time.

Doing a rough speed test, it took me around 30 seconds to reach the Smash Bros title screen on a standard 3DS. On the New 3DS, it took seven seconds.

Here’s a video from a lovely Australian-sounding man showing this in action:

Pressing the home button during Smash Bros to bring up the Home menu on a standard 3DS leads to another long pause while the system struggles to suspend the game and load up at least part of the operating system. When it does you can’t load other apps like the Internet Browser or Miiverse because all the system’s memory is being taken up by Smash Bros. On the New 3DS, the Home menu loads almost instantaneously and you can boot up Miiverse with no hassle.

In terms of the actual game itself though, it’s exactly the same. In fact, every other game (so far) runs identically on both systems – load times, frame rate, etc – because each game was optimised for the standard 3DS.

It’ll really come into play in the future when Nintendo starts releasing games that require more processing power and as such will only work on the New 3DS (the first being Xenoblade Chronicles 3D), but for now it feels more like playing something like Super Hexagon on an iPhone 3G versus an iPhone 5: the game runs exactly the same but the rest of the device’s overall framework.

The NFC reader

Anyone who knows me well will know I’ve developed something of an obsession with amiibo, Nintendo’s little NFC figures. I’ll go into why exactly this is (and why I hate people being snobby about them) in another article, but the point is the New 3DS has support for them built in.

There’s an NFC reader underneath the touch screen, you see, and it works just like the one on the Wii U GamePad. Load up Smash Bros and plonk your amiibo on the screen to instantly add your levelled up AI fighter character to the mix.

It works as well as I could have hoped, and future games on the way will support it too, including Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy Plus and Code Name S.T.E.A.M.

If you aren’t planning on getting a New 3DS any time soon, Nintendo has promised some sort of NFC add-on for the standard 3DS, but there’s yet to be any firm details regarding it. If you want to get stuck into amiibo goodness on the go right now, the New 3DS is the only way to do it.

The little indentation above the nub

Um, the hinge has a wee dent in it so your thumb doesn’t rub against it when you use the analogue nubbin.

Okay, I’ll stop now.

My conclusion

Am I happy I bought the New 3DS? Absolutely. Mind you, I’m a massive Nintendo fan and will willingly admit that Miyamoto could wedge an imprint of his face into a massive tub of butter and I’d be happy to buy that too.

Realistically though, as someone who was starting to feel that my standard 3DS was straining a little to keep up with newer games like Smash Bros, the New 3DS gives that same feeling you get when you buy a new PC and go “look! It loaded Photoshop a lot quicker. Truly I can finally live now”.

If you’re perfectly happy playing cartridge and download games on your current 3DS and couldn’t care less about amiibo, Miiverse or anything like that then this isn’t an upgrade you should feel you really desperately need right now. It’s that old cliché: it’s an evolution rather than a revolution.

Mind you, it's still an evolution that lets me sit an amiibo on it, which is the best kind of evolution
Mind you, it’s still an evolution that lets me sit an amiibo on it, which is the best kind of evolution

Chances are you might prefer to wait until a game comes out that requires the New 3DS, such as Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, and then upgrade. And if you aren’t fussed about the new features I’ve listed above then you’d be wise to do so.

However, if you’re like I was and are frequently gutted that you have to have the 3D slider down on your standard 3DS out of necessity rather than choice, then the New 3DS is great. It finally ‘fixes’ the 3D, runs smoother than a jazz musician with a waxed bikini line and has faceplates. FACEPLATES.

See, I wasn't lying about the indentation
See, I wasn’t lying about the indentation

Even more importantly, if you don’t have a 3DS yet at all and are considering it, there should really be no option: spend the extra cash on the New 3DS. You’ll have a generally more satisfying experience with it and you’ll future proof it for upcoming games that may require it.

In short, if you’re tempted, get on this shit.

If you have any more questions about the New 3DS you’d like me to answer, chuck them in the comments below and I’ll answer them as soon as possible.

Disclaimer: New 3DS unit was not supplied to me by Nintendo, I bought it with my own pennies and pounds and everything.


  1. I very almost bought this yesterday purely out of greed. I have a 2DS which I barely play, but god knows I can’t resist a new bit of kit.

  2. Great read Chris, I was going to ask your opinion on this on twitter but I guess this answers a lot of what I had to ask.

    I skipped the original 3DS but find myself being called to the new model (I blame those coloured buttons) and with a hefty backlog of games to get through I would love your opinion on a few games if you have five minutes. 🙂

  3. I really enjoyed that review chuckled me up in alot of places.I bought a new 3ds xl with a mega man amiibo to follow (megaman rules!!!) I get what u mean about the faceplates it really tempted me to get the small one but I much perfer the bigger screen so went with black (even though its more gunmetal in my eyes) but have to say ur review even as a Nintendo fan was pretty spot on good job. Definitely be back to read more

  4. How does ssb look on the standard? I mean, it look dreadful on the original because of the screen size, so does it look better than before?

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