Playstation fans who pre-ordered a Sony Vita had a brief chance to brag about the two fancy joysticks on their portable gaming system, but as of today the 3DS has a new Circle Pad add-on which lets Nintendo’s latest gadget use the twin-stick set-up that has been the gaming industry standard for years. How does this unwieldy accessory live up to gamers’ expectations? We tried it out on Resident Evil Revelations and here’s our review.
The good news is that it genuinely does what it claims to do; it adds a fully-functional second stick to the 3DS so that the system can be played with the familiar control system seen in most console game pads. When played with Resident Evil Revelations (The only game currently on the market which supports the Circle Pad) this gizmo functions like a built-in feature, not a gimmick.
It doesn’t clip onto the side of the 3DS, but rather is more like an enormous cradle that the 3DS sits in. All four sides and the bottom of the system are covered. It attaches to the 3DS without the need for tools, and comes with its own battery so it won’t affect the 3DS’s already skimpy battery life.
Other good news is that it also adds in two additional buttons, set below the L and R shoulder buttons. These work a lot like the triggers on a console gamepad and make the 3DS feel more familiar, while adding in extra functions. The bottom of the pad has ergonomic grips that further the sense that you’re holding a game pad. It’s comfortable to use, and the fact that the screen is off-center is quickly forgotten.
When playing Revelations there is a menu option to use the circle pad, and choosing this option not only enables the extra control, but also remaps the buttons so that the game plays more like a typical Third Person Shooter. Instead of firing with one of the thumb buttons, players now fire with the new right trigger. The Action button and dedicated knife attack are also remapped to these triggers so that players won’t need to take their right thumb off the new pad as often.
Now for the bad news. As cool as this thing is, there are many drawbacks. First is the bulk. It obviously makes the 3DS over an inch wider, but what isn’t clear until you hold it in your hands is that it makes the system much thicker. The triggers add about one and a quarter inches to the thickness and this makes it almost a big as a Playstation’s Dual shock controller. It’s significantly less portable than even Nintendo’s DSI XL.
Another matter is that it covers many of the buttons and openings on the 3DS. The headphone jack and volume buttons can be reached, but the stylus can’t be removed when using the Circle Pad Pro, the same is true for the SD card, and the Wireless button can’t be adjusted. It is also incompatible with accessories that fit on the bottom of the 3DS, including some battery packs. But the most inconvenient problem is that it becomes impossible to change games without removing the pad. And that brings up another issue:
There’s no need to change games any time soon, because Resident Evil Revelations is the only game that supports it right now. There are six other games that have confirmed, including Metal Gear Solid 3 which comes out on February 21st. The others are Monster Hunter, Ace Combat, Kid Icarus, Kingdom Hearts and Dynasty Warriors, which have release dates ranging from March to Undetermined. There hasn’t been any confirmation of patching older games to work with Circle Pad Pro either (A Resident Evil The Mercenaries 3D patch would seem like a great first step there, but there’s no official word).
The 3DS Circle Pad Pro is a mixed bag. Playing Resident Evil Revelations with it did change the gameplay experience for the better; this is the first time that a Resident Evil game has felt “Right” in terms of controls. Being able to “circle strafe” a powerful enemy, and fire my gun with a proper trigger greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the game and I suspect that other action games on 3DS (Especially shooters) will have the same benefit. The shooter set-up of “Move with the left stick and aim with the right stick” isn’t the only use of a second stick, so games like Katamari will also benefit too.
Based on its functionality with Resident Evil Revelations, gamers who are already planning on buying several of the games that support the Circle Pad Pro would be advised to spring for the fairly low price of this add-on.
Speaking of Revelations, check back with Explosion.com later this week for our full review of the game with an analysis of how important the Circle Pad Pro is to the gameplay.