This Week’s Purchase: New Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Edition

1This week I purchased the New Nintendo 3DS; an updated version of Nintendo’s handheld with a few notable improvements. Whilst the console itself isn’t launching in Europe till 13th February the ‘Ambassador Edition’ system has already been made available – and it’s this version in particular that I’ll be looking at today.

2What I bought

The Ambassador Edition New 3DS was originally sold to select Club Nintendo members who met a mysterious criteria that hasn’t been fully disclosed. Those lucky enough to receive the invitation email were able to purchase the system, which includes an exclusive faceplate design, for £179.99. I did not receive such email, a bit of a shame considering the vast quantity of products I have registered with the Club Nintendo service over the years. But fortunately we live in a world where, if you can afford it, you can basically get what you want. For £210 I bought a new system on eBay, which is still less than I payed for my original 3DS back in 2011. Considering how limited edition Nintendo consoles devalue at a much slower rate than the standard variants (the original 3DS now retails for under £100) this was an investment that to me made sense.

6The box opens up to reveal a series of smaller packages; a charging cradle and Super Smash Bros. faceplates (two items that can be purchased separately) as well as the console itself. Although the outer packaging is incredibly minimalistic in design, this second box is packed full of information about the console and what makes it ‘new’. In typical Nintendo fashion a charger is not included in the bundle.

Although plastered with the word ‘Ambassador’, the console has no link to the previously run ‘Ambassador programme’ which compensated early adopters of the 3DS who, thanks to Nintendo’s drastic price cut, may have rightly felt that they had been thoroughly ripped off. The twenty virtual console games received by way of an apology are not included, and can only be obtained by using a system transfer to move them from a console on which they are already installed. Aside from the Ambassador Edition packaging and faceplates there is nothing that differentiates this system from the standard white model New 3DS.

7In a strange way I quite like this. Whilst you don’t have a design that completely redefines the look of the console, there are benefits from having limited edition parts that are interchangeable between systems. I say this as someone who has spent more time protecting some consoles than playing them – the ability to remove all valuable bits is useful for a portable system that is prone to damage if you take it out and about or on holiday or whatever.

4The console

Inside all the packaging is an impressive looking console, and the visual aesthetic is without a doubt one of the system’s greatest strengths. I’ll flat out admit that the it was the SNES style buttons that sold me the idea of a New 3DS in the first place, and they’re still my favourite feature. Other improvements have been made to the look and feel of the console, and although I was actually a big fan of the original’s design, there’s no denying that the New 3DS feels better to hold. Whilst slightly longer overall, it’s a fraction thinner, has smoother edges and weighs less.

In other areas the design is close to that of old 3DS XL, and features both the same 3D slider and d-pad. Without the clunky feel of the XL this again feels like an improvement, although I still miss the 3D slider from the original 3DS. I really like how it lights up green. The start and select buttons have then been moved to a notably better space, whilst every other element has been shuffled around without any significant gain or loss. The volume slider is now on the top screen, the charging port has been centred, and the game cart slot and stylus holder have been moved to the bottom.

You also have a new c-stick, which adds functionality the 3DS has long been criticised for lacking. It’s more of a nub than a full on analogue stick, and it doesn’t move about like I expected it to, although it’s surprisingly satisfying to use. In particular for games that require camera control it’s a useful addition. There’s also a couple of extra shoulder buttons which are awkwardly placed behind the original pair. As of right now, these feel like a fairly minor addition.

Finally there’s the faceplates, which give the console a new level of customisation. The top plate snaps on and off fairly easily, whilst the bottom one requires a screwdriver. Removing this plate is also necessary for changing memory cards (now a microSD). Whilst this may create a bit of hassle setting up the system, I’ve found changing memory cards to be such an infrequent occasion that having it hidden behind screws isn’t much of an issue. Meanwhile the ability to change faceplates is great, especially as Nintendo is bound to release a tonne of great variants only in Japan (this will happen). Unlike region locked consoles, these are items that can be imported easily.

The New 3DS XL does not have swappable faceplates, and the coloured button effect is far more subtle. As I don’t own one I cant make a full comparison to the standard console, although for me personally the XL is missing two great features. I’ve also found that many games have jagged edges when upscaled for the larger device. Sure, the screens are bigger, but the pixel density is less. For some strange reason, it’s only the New 3DS XL that Nintendo is releasing in North America.

3The hardware

Notable improvements for the New 3DS continue to make themselves apparent once the console has been booted up. The more stable 3D effect stands out immediately; the front facing camera now tracks your head and adjusts the display according to the movements of your face. I’ve personally always been a fan of the 3D, so it’s great to have a console on which it works even better.

There are also minor improvements to the screens and a new, more powerful CPU. For now this means faster boot times and an OS that runs smoother, although new games that will take full advantage of this power are on the horizon. The first will be Xenoblade Chronicles, which was one of my all time favourite Wii games. There’s a good chance this will be a game worth buying the system for.

The console also has amiibo support, although if that’s why you’re buying it then you may have your priorities wrong. Unfortunately I don’t own any amiibo figures, although I’m sure this function works fine and stuff.

8Transferring data

Almost all that the New 3DS does has impressed me hugely. The only thing that really frustrates me is Nintendo’s options for copying, or rather ‘transferring’ data between systems. This applies to other renditions of the 3DS too, although now there’s even more opportunities to end up with multiple systems. In comparison to the Vita, which allows you to manage the same account on more than one device, your Nintendo ID and purchases are tied to a specific console. The only option for using this content on your New 3DS is a one way transfer that moves everything over before performing a factory reset. Also note that some games have partial save data that is also locked to your account. Want to keep your old system the way it is and play Persona Q on the new one? That’s fine, but you can’t have your map data (a big deal if you have Persona Q and know what map data is). Other games such as Fantasy Life tie so much data to your account that your only options are a data transfer or starting again.

What’s most annoying is how well other consoles can synchronise data. The Xbox One for example provides such seamless and well designed features that it boarders on arrogance at how confident Microsoft must have been that people would buy multiple Xbox One systems. And this is a console for which so many parts of the OS are so far from perfect. And a console where the only variants are cosmetic (you can have it in any colour as long as it’s black… or white or Call of Duty colour). Meanwhile you now have five different 3DS models (regular, extra large, 2D slab, New regular and New XL) with countless cosmetic variations. So out of the 45 million sales I’m pretty sure a fair few people have ended up with two.. or more.

5The verdict

Aside from the frustrating data transfer, everything else I’ve got to say about the New 3DS is extremely positive. Whilst many will probably see it as the console the 3DS should have always been, I personally thought the original system was great. The New 3DS is not just great – it’s really great, with a lot of new, notable features. The Ambassador Edition items are nice too, although don’t set this version of the console too far apart from the retail version. Still, it does have a really cool set of faceplates.

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