Last week, Nintendo announced two new handhelds would be made available in Japan: the New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS LL (the Japanese equivalent of XL). Both new handhelds would offer improvements over the original 3DS and 3DS LL that include a faster CPU, improved 3D viewing and new buttons. One of the additional changes made with both handhelds involves the inclusion of an analog nub that is located right above its face buttons. While Nintendo fans certainly appreciate this inclusion, it still shouldn't count as a second analog stick. Why is Nintendo afraid to do a second analog stick right?
I'm completely aware Nintendo released an accessory for the 3DS that allows those who want a second analog stick to be able to slap it onto their handheld to enjoy the handful of games that supports it. That's exactly my concern with the add-on, as most 3DS owners won't bother picking one up for the fact that developers have barely supported it. It doesn't help the accessory makes the 3DS extremely clunky and is as attractive as a pitbull in heat.
But I digress.
The New Nintendo 3DS now has an analog nub that developers can use for their camera-moving needs. Since I haven't gotten my hands on the new handheld myself, I can't tell you first hand how exactly this new nub feels. But I have reviewed a ton of mobile devices throughout the years and I can tell you nubs are terrible, especially when it comes to gaming. They don't offer the precision needed that an analog stick, or even a touch screen does. The sensitivity of the nub could make or break a first-person shooter as no matter how much you tweak its settings within the game, a nub just won't give a smooth operation of most cameras.
What makes matters worse is the location of the analog nub on the New Nintendo 3DS. It's located above and to the left of the handheld's face buttons. Why Nintendo would place it there is beyond me considering all secondary analog sticks have been placed somewhere to the bottom-right of the controller. Even Nintendo's own N64 and GameCube controllers had their second analog stick located within this general area, which changed once the Wii was introduced. Just the thought of having to extend my thumb to the location of the nub keeps me up most nights. That and a crying baby whom I also believe has nightmares of the New 3DS’ nub.
In the world of handhelds, the PlayStation Vita is the only one that offers dual analog sticks, but it took some time to get there. I recall the days of the PlayStation Portable which had a similar analog circle that the 3DS currently has and how uncomfortable it was to use. I also recall a lot of feedback from the gaming community begging Sony to release a new PSP that included a second analog circle since auto-targeting in FPS games just wasn't cutting it. Sony never released a PSP with a second analog circle, but it was the PS Vita that finally brought not only analog sticks to handhelds, but dual analog sticks. Sure - it still isn’t as good as the analog sticks on console controllers, but it’s still a step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned.
Nintendo has long been seen as an innovator. Each console generation would jump leaps and bounds over the previous one, and Nintendo's competition couldn't quite offer the same experience. But in recent years, it feels like Nintendo is being less innovative, and is instead attempting to play catch up with its competitors. I’m not saying the company is not innovative at all. I really like the Wii U GamePad as it not only gives developers the ability to give their audience a better connection with their games, but being able to play Wii U games while others watch TV or from the comfort of another room is really great.
While I’m fine with the other improvements Nintendo has made with the New Nintendo 3DS, I’m highly skeptical of the analog nub. I still plan on picking one up if or when it comes to the US, but I can tell you right now that I am going to say mean and hurtful things to the analog nub as soon as I see it.