Kyle’s Game Corner: What’s in an Upgrade?

How does the New 3DS stack up against other portable upgrades from Nintendo?

By Kyle England. Posted 02/24/2015 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Hey everybody, and welcome back to the Game Corner! Last time, I might have started off sounding a bit negative. I love Nintendo, I really do. And let me assure you that I will probably go back and forth between praising the games, and pointing out some things about Nintendo that make me scratch my head. I’m talking about more NEW Nintendo stuff this week, specifically the New Nintendo 3DS XL.

That’s right, I unboxed my very own New Nintendo 3DS XL last week, and boy is this thing shiny. I managed to snag the special gold Majora’s Mask edition, and I am very impressed. Despite my concerns with the name of this thing, it’s an awesome device and the best version of the 3DS yet. However, I’m not here to review the New 3DS console. I’m here to look at how it stacks up when compared to other similarly revised portables by Nintendo.

Nintendo has had mid-generation updates for most of its portable systems, and even a few home consoles as well. What I mean by this is that these iterations introduce more functionality (be it physical changes, hardware improvements, new software, or both) to a system, but they are not quite the successors. I set forth for you all the canon of these portable devices, and the nature of their upgrades.

  • Game Boy Pocket (1996) – Hardware revision to Game Boy
  • Game Boy Advance SP (2003) – Hardware revision to Game Boy Advance
  • Game Boy Micro (2005) – Hardware revision to Game Boy Advance that took away game functionality
  • Nintendo DS Lite (2006) – Hardware revision to Nintendo DS
  • Nintendo DSi (2009) – Hardware revision that added new software functionality to Nintendo DS (but also took away some game functionality)
  • Nintendo DSi XL (2010) – Hardware revision to Nintendo DSi
  • Nintendo 3DS XL (2012) – Hardware revision to Nintendo 3DS
  • Nintendo 2DS (2013) – Hardware revision to Nintendo 3DS that took away 3D functionality
  • New Nintendo 3DS and XL (2015) – Hardware revision that added new software functionality to Nintendo 3DS

You might be wondering why Game Boy Color is not on this list. Well, I think it should be considered its own generation entirely. GBC may have only been around for four-ish years, but it attained a decent library of exclusive games that were a clear step up in graphical and processing power from the original Game Boy. It was a short lived system, but a distinct one nonetheless.

But why should DSi and New 3DS be considered mere upgrades despite the fact that they have exclusive games? Here’s my rationale. Nintendo DSi did have dozens of games exclusive to it via the DSiWare service. However, these games ran on what is essentially the same machine as the original DS. The guts of the DSi were better than the Nintendo DS in terms of processing, but the graphics and performance of DSi exclusive games was nothing better than retail DS games. This is the same case with New Nintendo 3DS, which has noticeably better speed than the normal 3DS, but we have yet to see if New 3DS exclusive games will be that big of a step over regular 3DS games. If Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is anything to go by, they will just be games that require more processing power.

But anyway, this comparison is exactly what I was getting at. Out of all the portable upgrades Nintendo has had, the New Nintendo 3DS is on par with Nintendo DSi in terms of new functions added from its predecessor. They both introduced hardware improvements and exclusive software. So, I want to put these two head to head and figure out which one brought the biggest changes.

In terms of the physical changes, New 3DS definitely offers more improvements over its predecessor. The physical changes from Nintendo DS Lite to DSi were mostly aesthetic. DSi is a bit slimmer than the Lite, and has an amazing matte finish that Nintendo should use again sometime. The DSi did introduce two big additions to the physical system— the SD card slot and cameras. There was a huge omission and loss of functionality in the fact that the Game Boy Advance port present on the DS and DS Lite was removed entirely from the DSi. There goes your ability to play GBA games and use the many DS accessories and functions that required the slot. It’s got all the same buttons and doodads otherwise.

New Nintendo 3DS has some crazy physical changes when compared to the previous 3DS. It’s got two new shoulder buttons and a right analog stick– er, nub. The SD card has gone micro, and it’s hidden away under the back. In one of the strangest switcheroos, the cartridge slot is now on the bottom, breaking a nine-year streak of always having it on the top in all DS systems. Compared to DSi, the physical changes brought in by New 3DS are drastic. However… all of these extra buttons can be added to a standard 3DS with a Circle Pad Pro. So, it’s more like the New 3DS is a consolidation of existing accessories in that regard. But you can’t beat the new addition of the super stable 3D, made possible with a new tracking camera above the top screen.

When we look at the new games and software functionality that each upgrade brought to the table… I think Nintendo DSi wins out. DSi introduced a new operating system similar to the Wii to Nintendo portables for the first time. This included a suite of new applications, such as the camera app, Internet browser, sound recorder, and the DSi Shop. The DSi Shop brought dozens and dozens of new downloadable games that you could only play on Nintendo DSi. There were a scant few retail games that were DSi exclusive– five to be exact. DSi’s strength in software was in its online store, which is forward compatible with the 3DS eShop and still surprisingly has releases to this day.

As it stands, New Nintendo 3DS has very little to offer in terms of exclusive software. Sure, it plays existing games much faster. But the only announced New 3DS exclusive game is Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. There is no new store or new applications that are exclusive to New 3DS. Even its Amiibo functionality is coming to regular 3DS with a new accessory. My prediction is that New 3DS exclusive games will be few and far between. We may get a few interesting releases, but Nintendo won’t release any landmark titles that are exclusive— that would reduce sales. Expect all of the big games like Mario, Zelda, and Pokémon to remain playable across the board. More niche titles might be exclusive. I can see Nintendo making more games that are enhanced by New 3DS hardware, but do not require it. This was the case with DSiWare, in fact. Many games on that platform were smaller releases, although it did have some excellent gems.

And I ramble on. But I hope this puts a little bit in perspective on the recent New 3DS upgrade from Nintendo. It’s a great upgrade for sure, but it’s not anything monumental. If anything, the new portable is a stopgap that’s going to add at least a couple years to the lifespan of the 3DS family. See you next time in the Game Corner!

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