By Andrew Mathieu / September 12th, 2014
Nintendo dropped a bombshell recently with the announcement of the New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS LL (XL) in Japan. While rumors of a 3DS hardware revision have been going on for quite some time, Nintendo went above and beyond expectations. Not only is the system receiving an improved battery life and slicker form-factor, but it is receiving more far-reaching improvements, including a new “C-Stick” for camera control, improved 3D viewing, a higher quality screen, and a more powerful CPU. Even more interesting is the fact the New 3DS will have exclusive software, with the first title revealed being a port of Xenoblade Chronicles. This announcement of exclusive software has caused some backlash for the impact it may have on current 3DS gamers. However, with all its improvements, enhancements, and outright fixes in place, the New 3DS may end up being Nintendo’s quintessential handheld.
The New Nintendo 3DS makes important improvements to the systems namesake, glasses-free 3D viewing. By making it so the 3D is now visible from the side of the system, Nintendo has potentially addressed one of the biggest problems the original 3DS had. Even better, it reignites Nintendo’s commitment to 3D in general. Nintendo had been downplaying the feature for quite some time, focusing more on creating great software that uses the feature without having the feature necessarily front and center. Releasing the Nintendo 2DS last year seemed to indicate that Nintendo felt comfortable releasing the handheld for its substantial software library without the need to see it in 3D. While the improvements will have to be seen firsthand to be believed, it is nice to see Nintendo improve upon the feature — which is still really cool, even if it’s far from perfect.
While an improved browser, download speeds, and bigger screen on the standard version are nice additions, the improved internal hardware is the most surprising feature. While it’s well-known that the 3DS is not the most powerful hardware on the market, that has not stopped the system from becoming one of the most popular and best-selling pieces of hardware this generation, as well as staying relevant in a world filled with gaming-ready smartphones and tablets. The New 3DS may be the second wind the handheld needs to hang onto its steady momentum. This worked well for Nintendo in the past with the release of the Nintendo DSi, which followed the successful footsteps of the Nintendo DS Lite. Similar to the New 3DS, the DSi also boasted improved hardware and new features.
Speaking of which, there has been quite a bit of backlash about the announcement of exclusive content on the New Nintendo 3DS, which will be incompatible with current 3DS models. While the backlash is understandable, this isn’t the first time a Nintendo handheld has done this. The Game Boy Color was an awesome upgrade from the previous Game Boy Pocket system. Not only did it offer a variety of color palettes for the existing Game Boy library, but also all new content that ran exclusively on the new system. Games like Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX and a GBC port of Donkey Kong Country came in translucent game cartridges and special packaging that indicated the need of a Game Boy Color system. Nintendo also released software on the DSi that took advantage of the system’s exclusive built-in camera, as well as the DSiWare, an exclusive online shop that could only be accessed on the newer model. Both the Game Boy Color and Nintendo DSi went a long way in expanding their respective lifespan, so Nintendo may be hoping to achieve this once again with the New 3DS.
Making games that will only work on the new system is a bold move on Nintendo’s part, but it may also represent a glimpse of future hardware and software developments from the company. After all, Nintendo always crafts games that best suit the hardware they develop. This could also lead to exciting new developments to the 3DS Virtual Console. Fans have long lamented the lack of Game Boy Advance and Super Nintendo games on the 3DS VC. There’s a theory that the lack of GBA and SNES games is because the system is not powerful enough to run superior emulation on these titles — which is what is currently used for both 3DS and Wii U VC versus ROM dumps used on Wii VC. While only a theory, the improved internals of the New 3DS could put this problem to rest.
One can only imagine for now how much power the New 3DS holds, and what said power could be used for in the future. If Nintendo is willing to make software that can only be played on the updated hardware, it may signal a slow but sure end to current generation 3DS software. While I seriously doubt they will completely abandon software on the original 3DS and 3DS XL models, Nintendo has developed software with specific versions of their hardware in mind. There were a few DS games that featured enhancements when played on the DSi, and Pokémon Black Version 2 and White Version 2 both featured 3DS-only AR games. Nintendo’s willingness to develop exclusive games for New Nintendo 3DS right away may point to more software for only that system in the future.
Nintendo may have a steep mountain to climb when in comes to marketing the New 3DS. Is the name distinctive enough to avoid brand confusion? Will exclusive New 3DS software be clearly marked to show that the software will not work on older models? Will pricing take into account customers who may be buying a 3DS for a second or third time? It’s these questions that may point to why the system is only launching in Japan this year.
Regardless, the New 3DS has a lot of potential, not only in reigniting the brand’s somewhat sluggish sales, but also introducing new software that goes beyond what the original system was capable of. Whether it will lead to the system’s downfall of transcendence or Nintendo has more power under the hood, and it’s not afraid to use it.
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