If you were expecting another Nintendo handheld announcement anytime soon - and I was - the company just proved you wrong today. In a Japanese Nintendo Direct this morning, president Satoru Iwata showed off a new model of the 3DS and 3DS LL (XL on our shores). The New 3DS and New 3DS LL sport slightly-larger dimensions, which makes no sense in a revision until you find out that Nintendo has added some new features to the platform.
Nintendo has crammed the Circle Pad Pro peripheral into the system itself: the new 3DS models add ZR and ZL buttons next to the L and R buttons on the system's shoulders and a new analog C-Stick near the face buttons. There's a new micro SD slot underneath the system base plate and NFC-technology is built-in, allowing the use of Nintendo's Amiibo figures without an additional peripheral.
A brighter, clearer 3D screen is along for the ride. Battery life is slightly up for the new systems: 3.5-6 hours for the new 3DS, as opposed to 3-5 hours for the 3DS, and 3.5-7 hours for the new 3DS LL, versus 3.5-6.5 hours for the older unit. Despite this, the new 3DS and new 3DS LL weigh a bit less than the original units.
If you're the kind of fan who gets excited about the exclusive themed 3DS units, Nintendo's new 3DS will have you covered. There will be a system update in October launching Home Screen themes for all 3DS systems and the new 3DS is also built to allow custom faceplates, called Kisekae Plates in Japan. In that region, Nintendo has 38 different faceplates planned. Plates with designs cost 1,500 yen ($14.43) and flat color plates cost 1,000 yen ($9.62). Nintendo will also be selling a new upright charging cradle for both systems.
In a surprising change, the new 3DS system will benefit from an enhanced CPU, meaning certain titles for the updated portable won't work on older systems. Nintendo has already announced that a 3DS port of Wii RPG Xenoblade Chronicles is coming and the game can't be played on older 3DS units. (The new CPU also means the internet browser will now support HTML5.) Xenoblade Chronicles for new 3DS is coming to Japan in 2015.
The new 3DS and 3DS LL will be launching in Japan on October 11, with a confirmed European launch in 2015. The official colors are White and Black for the new 3DS and Metallic Blue and Metallic Black for the new 3DS LL. The new 3DS LL will cost 18,800 yen ($180.86), while the new 3DS will cost 16,000 yen ($153.92). We've reached out to Nintendo to see if a North American launch is planned for next year.
"Different territories make their own business decisions regarding individual products and timing," a Nintendo spokesperson told Eurogamer. "We plan to launch these products in Europe in 2015."
All of the changes Nintendo has made to the new 3DS make sense. Integrating the Circle Pad Pro removes it from "peripheral" status, meaning more developers can create games with dual analog control. The CPU divides the user base, but Nintendo must have deemed that necessary to extend the life of the 3DS, which still dominates in the company's home region of Japan. In fact, the Media Create sales numbers for the past few months have been led by Nintendo's portable, followed by the PlayStation Vita and the Wii U. Japan is portable territory and with a newly-redesigned 3DS means Nintendo's ground game stays strong there.
Nintendo also made sure to get Amiibo in there. The company has yet to get into the details of Amiibo beyond "TOYS + GAMES!" but the inclusion of NFC in the new 3DS revision means it's high on their priority list.
The new 3DS and new 3DS LL split the difference between supporting the reigning portable king and launching a new handheld. We'll definitely see new, more graphically-impressive games with Xenoblade Chronicles leading the charge, but heading into the holiday season Nintendo will also have games for both 3DS versions, like Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, Azure Striker Gunvolt, Persona Q, Super Smash Bros, and Pokemon Omega Sapphire/Alpha Ruby. That's a damn good line-up.
And Nintendo will pick up a number of sales from faithful fans who are double dipping. A more powerful system with more control options that plays a port of Xenoblade Chronicles? That's rather compelling, and the customizable faceplates push it over the edge, if Nintendo releases them on a regular basis.
It's a great announcement from Nintendo and the only problem I have is that it's not coming to the United States this holiday season.