Our review of the New Nintendo 3DS Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer Bundle is here! Find out whether the New Nintendo 3DS is a worthy upgrade, or if you should pass until the next generation.
If there’s one thing Nintendo has gotten down to a perfect science over the past decade, it has to be handheld hardware revisions. It’s become tradition for the company to release continous new revision models between generations.
That may come off as a criticism at first, but the New Nintendo 3DS might just be the best and most meaningful revision released by Nintendo yet. It brings oft-requested features for years to the system, and keeps the technology inside up to date for the year 2015.
What’s New to the New Nintendo 3DS?
Let’s start with the new super-stable 3D screen on the system. The promise is that new head-tracking technology keeps the 3D effect of the New Nintendo 3DS stable, even if you’re not looking at it straight on. Does it work? Hell yes.
It has limitations of course — you can’t use it at too much of a ridiculous angle. But any regular reasonable gameplay is handled well by the technology. There’s no need to keep your face locked straight at the screen and completely still anymore, so the 3D screen is finally truly usable.
For the first time in years, I found myself actually using the 3D feature on my system. I’ve gone through my back catalog and replayed games I haven’t touched in years, just to give the 3D effect another try. It honestly changes everything, check out this quote from the late Nintendo President Satoru Iwata:
It looked so good that it made me want to apologise for not having the 3D functions work this well when we first released the Nintendo 3DS system. Of course, such technology was not available when we released the original Nintendo 3DS, so it was impossible to integrate it at the time. I hope people will forget their expectations of 3D from the past, and replay the Nintendo 3DS games they played before on New Nintendo 3DS.
Then there’s the built-in NFC support, so you can take full advantage of amiibo on the Nintendo 3DS. With many recent Nintendo games featuring significant amiibo functionality, this is an important feature. Sure, you can always get the NFC Reader / Writer accessory, but it’s not the most convenient item to carry around with you.
Arguably, the same applies for carrying figures, but at least the Animal Crossing amiibo cards are convenient. I love the placement of the reader too — it’s built right into the touch screen. It make tapping amiibo cards in Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer quite satisfying for example. It’d be great to see Nintendo implement this location of the NFC Reader in the Wii U Gamepad as well.
Another big feature of the New Nintendo 3DS is the new secondary C Stick, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to fully test the functionality. What I can say is that it’s not quite an actual stick or pad, but more like an almost stationary button you push in directions with little real movement. It’s strange, but makes sense given the limited amount of space available. In theory, it can act as an easier to use camera control in games with difficult controls.
Keep in mind that my experience only comes from using the C Stick on the HOME Menu. Most Nintendo 3DS games do not support the new hardware, and unfortunately I don’t happen to own any of them. It’s worth noting that some games designed for the Circle Pad Pro accessory in the past work with the new features, but I don’t own any of those either.
But wait, there’s more! The New Nintendo 3DS packs in a healthy upgrade of memory and processor speed too. Essential system applications like Miiverse and the Nintendo eShop enjoy the upgrade with a boost to their speed. Anyone who’s ever used Miiverse on an original 3DS system can definitely relate with this.
Some games can make use of the upgrade as well, but few do right now with the most notable being Super Smash Bros. and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. And exclusive games to the hardware have been expected, but only one has actually come to fruition from Nintendo so far. I wouldn’t upgrade for the expectation of exclusive games unless you crave Xenoblade Chronicles 3D.
The camera gets an upgrade as well improving low light performance, so that’s a small yet nice addition for games that make heavy use of the feature. Another minor upgrade is the light sensor enabling auto brightness for the system’s screens helping to save battery life.
And of course, the New Nintendo 3DS has the usual minor design updates for a Nintendo revision. They’ve gone back to glossy after moving to matte with the original 3DS XL. I prefer the matte feel, but it’s not a big deal. The stylus, game card slot, start/select buttons, and more have all moved yet again for unknown reasons. I swear they just change those around for the sake of messing with our heads by this point.
What’s unique about the Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer Bundle?
While most of this review applies to both the New Nintendo 3DS XL and the regular New Nintendo 3DS, there are a couple specific aspects of the New Nintendo 3DS Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer Bundle worth mentioning.
The primary difference, and it’s a big one, is the new changeable cover plates on the top and bottom of the system. In just a few seconds, you can swap the cover plates at any time to completely change the look of your Nintendo 3DS, and it’s fantastic. This feature is only available on the regular non-XL version, which is exclusive to the Animal Crossing bundle in North America.
The New Nintendo 3DS Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer Bundle comes packaged with two sets of cover plates. The first is an Isabelle set with her face on the top cover and a green checkered pattern on the bottom cover. The second set is my favourite with stunning Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer artwork on both plates. It’s really beautiful.
It is worth noting that no blank or white default cover plates come with the system. You’ve got to either use the Animal Crossing designs, buy more cover plates, or run your system naked — and that last option is probably a poor plan.
And speaking of purchasing more cover plates, Nintendo has unfortunately chosen to only sell them on their online store. Even worse, there’s a very limited selection to be found there and it’s a shame. So buyer beware, you’ll need to do some importing from Europe or Japan if you want more stylish cover plates. Find Nintendo 3DS cover plates for import on Amazon here.
As you’d expect, the bundle comes with a free digital download code for Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer inside as well. Read our Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer review here.
The Bottom Line
I firmly recommend the New Nintendo 3DS (XL or regular) without question to anyone who is looking to buy a Nintendo 3DS for the first time. The improvements outweigh the price difference between the original versions and the new versions.
If you already own a recent 3DS system, it’s definitely not an essential upgrade and purchasing an entire new system might not be appealing. But if you use your existing system on a near daily basis, you’re bound to enjoy the upgrade and you should consider it. The amiibo functionality alone is a great upgrade for Animal Crossing fans with easier use of Animal Crossing amiibo cards.
What I Liked
- The improved 3D screen finally makes the 3D effect worth bothering with.
- Built-in amiibo functionality is great for games like Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer.
- The system and Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer artwork cover plate are simply flat out gorgeous! Okay, I just love white hardware, but still.
- Changeable cover plates are great, though it’s a shame they aren’t more available.
What I Didn’t Like
- Lack of basic white default cover plates included in the bundle. Sure, this is an Animal Crossing bundle, but it feels like a glaring omission.
- Nintendo’s account policy continues to be archaic and discourages users from owning multiple systems. For example, you cannot play your purchased digital games on more than one system without performing a full transfer.
The New Nintendo 3DS Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer Bundle retails for $219.99 in the United States, and $269.99 in Canada. Buy on Amazon here.
The New Nintendo 3DS XL retails for $199.99 in the United States, and $229.99 in Canada. Buy on Amazon here.
Full Disclosure: Nintendo of Canada provided a copy of the New Nintendo 3DS Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer Bundle to us for review.