Nintendo 3DS: Circle Pad Pro Review

When the Nintendo 3DS launched last May, quite a few seasoned gamers were upset due to the handheld’s lack of a second thumb pad. The reason for this dismay lies within its predecessor, a great system that had games which could have certainly controlled better. After all, it’s tough to properly aim in a shooter or move the in-game camera if you’re having to adjust each axis with the imprecise face buttons. There’s no disputing that this was a deficiency found not only with the original Nintendo DS and its improved models, but also Sony‘s PlayStation Portable. That’s why the recently-released PS Vita happens to have two thumb sticks, in order to try to replicate the console experience to the best of its portable abilities.

In response to the community’s unrest over its decision to pass on including a second thumb pad to its relatively new device, Nintendo recently made the decision to address the issue. The result is a $20, Gamestop exclusive accessory, which goes by the name of the Circle Pad Pro. This cradle of sorts includes that additional control mechanism that we previously asked for, along with a couple of other bonuses. Is it worth the investment? For some, yes. However, it’s a shame that the video game giant didn’t make the alteration from the start. At least they did something about it, though.

Once they’ve pulled this black plastic add-on out of its box, players will notice that there’s a AAA battery included. This is required for upwards of 500 hours worth of gameplay on a single charge, connecting through an infrared sensor. What this means is that there are no wires necessary, although a wrist strap is thoughtfully included. All you need to do is pop in that charging mechanism, insert the handheld into its appropriated spot and then sync the two. After that, you’re ready to go.

The one complaint that can be levied onto that described design is that there isn’t a sound based indicator to let people know when their expensive device is snugly inserted into its plastic contraption. Additionally, it would have been nice if a release mechanism was included. Though it’s not overly difficult to pull the system out, that would have made things a bit easier. The 3DS seems to fit in quite well, without the need to worry about its safety. Granted, it’s not like I shook it.

If you’ve ever felt that the 3DS needed to be larger, then this may be right up your alley, as it adds extra weight and length to the bottom of the impressive piece of technology. There’s a very noticeable difference to be found, especially when it comes to its overall heft. It’s still easy to use the regular buttons, other than R, which is covered. It is replaced on the external part of the Circle Pad Pro, which is a fine trade off. The downside is that hand cramping can occur, but you’ll eventually get used to it’s added size. I did notice a bit of discomfort during lengthy gameplay sessions, but it was never severe. The fact that the stylus hole is covered up was a much more common nuisance.

The real reason as to why people are looking into purchasing this accessory isn’t it’s extra heft. That will be an added bonus for some and possibly a detractor for others. Where the real benefit lies is in having the second circle pad on the right-hand side of the system. It’s the same type that we’ve become accustomed to, employing that shallow, grey design. No complaints will be levied upon it here, as it really does work fine. There were no issues discovered during my long review sessions, as it seems to be well manufactured.

Not only does the Circle Pad Pro add the aforementioned grey control pad; it also provides two trigger buttons. They do a great job of replicating the console experience, making aiming and shooting a cinch. As a result, this is exactly what you’ll want to use with first and third-person shooters along the lines of Resident Evil: Revelations and Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D. It’s night and day compared to the face button camera and aiming controls, which needed to be forgotten about. Though, the minority of gamers who do prefer that option can still use it.

If you’re a left-handed player, then there happens to be an added benefit for you here. Games like Kid Icarus: Uprising will only use this peripheral in order to provide a left-handed control option. Needless to say, the opportunity to switch the two pads’ jobs will be appreciated by that specific group. After all, it will free up their left hands for the stylus, improving their abilities while enhancing the overall experience.

Overall, my time spent with this unit was quite positive. That is especially true since the new control options made Resident Evil: Revelations control very well. Though, in the end, whether this Circle Pad Pro add-on is worth the extra $20 price tag is really up to you, and should be based on your preferred play style. Not only that, but also the type of games you play. If you’re going to be aiming through a lot of shooters while on the go, or happen to be a leftie, then it’s a wise investment. If that isn’t the case, then it’s probably best to wait to see if any other genres start to adapt its control mechanisms. Nintendo has definitely righted what some will consider to be a wrong, but it’s a shame that it wasn’t done beforehand.

Score – 80/100

This review is based on a product that we received for review purposes.

About the author


Chad Goodmurphy

A passionate gamer and general entertainment enthusiast, Chad funnels his vigor into in-depth coverage of the industry he loves.