Nintendo 3DS Expansion Slide Pad: Good Move?

Nintendo 3DS Expansion Slide Pad: Good Move?

The 2011 Tokyo Game Show (TGS) and the Nintendo 3DS conference that preceded it brought some interesting bits of news for Nintendo’s new handheld. A surprise came first: The revelation that Capcom’s enormously popular Monster Hunter franchise would live on the 3DS with Monster Hunter 4. An accompanying piece of news came later, though not through Nintendo’s official pre-TGS conference: the Nintendo 3DS “Expansion Slide Pad,” which snaps onto the 3DS to add a second circle pad on the right side of the system in addition to an R2 button, is a real thing, and several games outside the 3DS installments of the Monster Hunter franchise will support it. It will cost 1,500 yen, or about $20 USD.

After months of murmured rumors about how Nintendo was supposedly working on a “Nintendo 3DS Lite” version of the troubled system–one that would include a second circle pad build into its right hand side–the reaction to Nintendo’s actual “compromise” has been mixed relief and horror. Jokes over the Expansion have been plentiful: the Internet’s pet name for the device is the “Frankenstick,” which is apt. Though the add-on is functional, and (according to hands-on reports) quite comfortable to hold, it’s not very pretty. It also requires a single AAA battery to function, which won’t win over anyone who’s sick of feeding disposable batteries into Nintendo’s add-ons.

There’s been a lot of talk online over Nintendo’s “failure” to get the 3DS right the first time, including the system’s design, its price, its software line-up, and its online store. The Frankenstick is being held up as another example of the 3DS’s failings, accompanied by declarations that the 3DS should have had the second circle pad built into it in the first place.

While that may be true, there’s seemingly a high level of obsession over the Expansion Slide Pad. So far, there’s no indication that it’ll be necessary to play Capcom’s Monster Hunter games, or any of the other titles that support it, including an upcoming Kingdom Hearts game, Resident Evil Revelations, and Metal Gear Solid: 3D. Rather, the Slide Pad exists to give developers more options instead of fixing them to one strict means of 3DS game design. The happier game developers are, the happier the rest of us are.

That doesn’t mean that Nintendo should be let off the hook for the series of events that has led to the creation of the Slide Pad. While it seems that the Slide Pad won’t be mandatory to play games like Monster Hunter 4–nor should it be–those of us who want to keep our 3DS portable will have to fall back on adjusting the 3DS’s in-game camera the old-fashioned way. Ocarina of Time 3D was an excellent 3DS game, but was anyone really thrilled about constantly tapping the shoulder buttons to fix the camera behind Link? Once you’ve controlled a 360-degree camera angle with a second analogue stick, you don’t want to go back to the old ways.

Regardless, it’s good that developers can have the choice of accommodating people who’d rather play their games with two circle pads: it’ll make 3DS games a little less frustrating for everyone involved. Besides, the original Nintendo DS wasn’t without its design flaws: it had no analogue stick at all, which didn’t endear too many people to the system’s launch title, Super Mario 64 3D. This doesn’t even make for an instance where we can say Apple has an advantage over Nintendo, as iOS devices still use virtual on-screen thumbsticks, a control method that comes with its own set of problems.

Nintendo’s Expansion Slide Pad isn’t an A-1 solution to the 3DS’s problems, but neither is it a travesty. With portable game devices becoming more of an at-home gaming solution, the accessory can count on a fairly wide user base, especially since its presence indicates Nintendo doesn’t have any immediate plans to engineer and release a new version of the 3DS for a while.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

1 Comments

  1. If the slide pad provides a more comfortable option for Kid Icarus: Uprising, I might be interested in dropping the money for it. What’s more, if it makes the game a bit more lefty-friendly, I would bet there are others who might consider it, too.

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