Circle Pad Pro: Revelation or Ruination?

Today Nintendo released a new peripheral for its handheld system, the 3DS.  Dubbed the Circle Pad Pro, this attachment adds additional buttons to the 3DS along with an additional circle pad.  To make things slightly more annoying for gamers, it’s only available through Gamestop and will set you back $20.  Me, being the curious person I am (and since I received a gift card to Gamestop for Christmas), I hit the store and picked one up for myself.

The Circle Pad Pro, the best friend of the 3DS or hungry parasite? You decide.

An additional analog stick, or circle pad, is something many gamers wanted on the 3DS from the start.  While it certainly wasn’t a make or break feature, it’s nice to have.  Ever since Sony released its first version of the Dual Shock controller for the Playstation, the dual analog setup has become commonplace on controllers.  Often one stick controls player movement and the other manipulates the camera.  Other games, like first-person shooters, use one stick for movement and the other to aim.  A genre that was once cumbersome with a controller now has gamers feeling right at home.  And going from that setup to a non dual analog setup can be a bit odd, which is probably why upcoming Playstation Vita sports two analog “nubs.”  As I played through Ocarina of Time 3D I sometimes would find myself feeling for another analog stick out of habit to move the camera, and finding none.

Even though an additional analog input is something I would like to have, my initial reaction to the Circle Pad Pro was muted.  Peripherals often never work out well for consumers.  They’re often expensive, cumbersome, and lacking in support beyond an initial batch of games.  Very few end up being worthwhile.  Then again, no one has really tried to release something like this for a portable.  I’m trying to come up with something similar and the best I can come up with is the Gameboy Printer and Camera.  Neither was worth owning.

It looks like it's trying to swallow the 3DS.

The Circle Pad Pro almost looks like it could be a stand-alone device.  It’s much bigger than the 3DS as it’s meant to house the system like a cradle.  The 3DS fits into it snugly without any locking mechanism that could scratch the system or wind up broken.  The fit is tight enough that there’s really no worry about the system sliding out, but just in case Nintendo did include a wrist strap.  The Circle Pad Pro runs off a single AAA battery (included) which is a good thing because the battery life on the 3DS is bad enough as is. For some reason Nintendo decided to fasten the battery cover in place with a non-removable screw.  It’s good that the screw can’t fall out and get lost, but why was that even necessary?  It’s annoying.  The Circle Pad Pro does add considerable weight to the system, making it weigh just about as much as a first generation PSP.  It’s also quite bulky and definitely detracts from the portability of the system. This isn’t something that fits in most pockets.  And as far as I know, the Circle Pad Pro only comes in matte black, so if you have a blue or a pink 3DS it’s going to be quite the eye sore.

The peripheral may be bulky, but how does it feel?  Pretty nice, actually.  The 3DS is small and the rectangular shape may be efficient but it’s far from comfortable.  Often my hands are pretty tired and cramp after 45 minutes with the system, especially after some Mario Kart.  I’ve spent roughly the same amount of time with my first play session with the Circle Pad Pro and can report little to no discomfort.  The attachment makes the system feel more like a controller and the added weight is actually a welcome thing when it comes to the ergonomics of the device.  The second circle pad feels just like the one on the system, which means it’s a tad loose for my taste but it certainly gets the job done.  In addition to the additional circle pad, the Circle Pad Pro also adds two additional shoulder buttons to the 3DS.  They’re clicky buttons, not triggers, but feel fine.

Rear view, for those who like that sort of thing.

It’s not all gravy though.  The peripheral does cover up the game card slot so the 3DS needs to be removed from the Circle Pad Pro to switch out games.  It also covers up the wireless switch and stylus port, which is kind of annoying.  The added plastic on the right side of the system also makes reaching the face buttons a little awkward.  That will definitely take some getting used to.  Nintendo at least wisely left space for the AC input so you can use the Circle Pad Pro while the 3DS is plugged into a wall outlet.

The Circle Pad Pro could be a flawless addition to the 3DS but it would be terribly useless without software that supports it.  That’s why Nintendo held it back for today which just so happens to be the day Resident Evil: Revelations arrived in stores.  Some of you may have already read about that one and how Capcom released it with an embarrassing typo on the game case’s spin, and if you’re wondering, yes it appears every copy is like that.  Apparently anyone who picks up a copy of the game with the typo can get a free replacement insert but I have no idea why anyone would be bothered to go through the trouble.


I picked up a copy of Revelaitons (sic) alongside the Circle Pad Pro.  I was surprised to see that there’s no mention of the device on the game’s packaging.  I figured there would be a tell-tale graphic of some kind alerting would-be consumers that the software supports the Circle Pad Pro but I guess not.  Worry not gamers, Revelations does indeed support the Circle Pad Pro and firing up the game with the Circle Pad Pro attached will cause the game to ask if you wish to make use of it.  I obviously haven’t played enough of the game to render a verdict on how good or bad it is, but I can report that the Circle Pad Pro works, for the most part.

The left circle pad controls your character, Jill, and the right circle pad pivots the camera and makes her turn, pretty much just like a first-person shooter.  When a baddie appears on the screen, pressing the new ZL button causes Jill to draw her firearm and the ZR button shoots.  The regular old R button (actually, that’s kind of new too as the Circle Pad Pro replaces the R button on the 3DS with a new button) causes Jill to bust out her knife or other equipped secondary weapon.  When running around, the ZR button appears to function as the action button which feels kind of odd but I imagine I’ll get used to it.  The face buttons do not appear to be used much though one uses herbs to restore Jill’s health when prompted.  I actually didn’t try the game without the Circle Pad Pro, but I can’t imagine the control scheme working better.

Ready for action!

Visually, Revelations appears to be a stunner.  It’s comparable to Resident Evil 4 or some of the best looking games on the PSP.  A lot of time was definitely invested in Jill as she looks noticeably better than some of the scenery.  The backgrounds I’ve seen have been a little drab but there was some nice lighting on the first scenario which takes place on a darkened ship.  The game immediately places the player in some close quarters which is an uncomfortable feeling, a good thing for a survival horror game.  There’s a lot to take in on the 3DS’s rather small screen and I did experience some minor eye strain after a little while.  And if you’re curious, most of that was spent with the 3D featured turned off (I mostly hate 3D).

I’m pretty optimistic for Revelations.  It feels like Resident Evil and it’s pretty nice looking.  I do find aiming kind of cumbersome as hitting the ZL button immediately brings you into a first-person perspective.  Jill feels kind of slow but the enemies seem pretty quick.  I’ll have to see if that becomes frustrating or not further into the game.  As for the Circle Pad Pro, it does get the job done but if no one supports it then it will just collect dust.  Metal Gear Solid 3D figures to make use of it, and there’s rumors Kid Icarus might as well.  We’ll just have to wait and see.  If it doesn’t bother you to spend the extra dough to get a little more out of Revelations, then I say go for it.  At least it’s not as expensive as the 32X.

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