You always remember your first time. When I first saw a picture of Nintendo’s 3DS portable gaming device, for example, I wondered what happened to the second analogue stick. Apparently, I’m not the only one since the “Big N” has decided to release a $20 peripheral with, yep, you guessed it, a second analogue stick. Honestly, it’s almost unthinkable to release a major portable gaming console these days without that right stick given all the games that can benefit from it. And unless Nintendo decides to once it does a refresh of the 3DS, gamers pining for a second analogue stick will just have to make do with using the huge — and I mean super huge — Circle Pad Pro. Here’s my review of the device based on its Japanese twin, the Slide Pad, which I picked up during a recent overseas trip.
It works well: I’ve tested my fair share of horribly controlling, crappy peripherals in my lifetime. To the Circle Pad Pro’s credit, though, the controls work quite well. The right analogue or “circle pad” actually has the same look and feel as the left circle pad on the 3DS so it feels natural to use. Placement of the top shoulder buttons is also good. In fact, they’re easier to use than the 3DS’ own shoulder buttons, which sometimes feel cramped. Besides the “ZL” and “ZR” buttons, you also get an extra “R” button on the top right. The “R” button replicated the “ZR” button in Monster Hunter 3G but served as the melee button for Resident Evil: Revelations (the “ZR” button served as the trigger button in that game). The Circle Pad Pro definitely improved the controls for both games. In Monster Hunter 3G, using the peripheral made manual camera control much easier than either using “the claw” (i.e. having your left forefinger on the left stick while controlling the D-Pad with your left thumb) or the touchscreen. The Circle Pad Pro worked even better for Resident Evil: Revelations, allowing for greater camera control and movement while making shooting controls feel more natural.
Easy to dock: Docking your 3DS into the device is caveman easy. Either tilt your 3DS inward from the top or the bottom and push down. Voila, you’re done. Syncing the device with compatible games is also easy.
Helpful for large hands: I don’t have ginormous man hands but the 3DS admittedly feels too small for me sometimes. I can only imagine how cramped the portable console can feel for folks with large hands. The Circle Pad Pro’s added size actually makes it easier to hold and control the 3DS. So if you’ve got yeti paws, this peripheral might actually help out.
Long battery life: The Circle Pad Pro can run on one AAA battery for 480 hours. Yeah, that’s a long time. Now technically, the fact that it needs a battery may not be a “pro” for some but that’s another discussion for later.
It’s freaking huge: At nearly 7 inches wide, 4 inches tall and 2 inches thick, the Circle Pad Pro is one brontosaurus of an add-on. It will definitely add a lot of meat to your nice and slim Nintendo 3DS. The design also doesn’t quite flow with the 3DS’ slim profile so it looks a bit out of place, especially if your 3DS isn’t black — which is the only color the Circle Pad Pro comes in. By the way, did I mention that this thing is huge?
Blocks key parts of 3DS: The peripheral blocks the cartridge slot, stylus slot and WiFi switch of the 3DS. This means you have to undock your 3DS if you want to access any of those three things, which, while easy, can also be annoying after a while. You also can’t use battery add-ons like the Nyko PowerPak+ or the Power Grip when using the Circle Pad Pro. Too bad Nintendo didn’t decide to add a battery add-on inside the hulking frame of this peripheral since that would actually make it more useful.
Wonky sensor alignment: The Circle Pad Pro comes with its own infrared sensor that aligns with the 3DS’ IR sensor. Occasionally, however, I’ll either put my device to sleep by closing the 3DS or turn it off entirely and when I turn it back on again, the 3DS can’t detect the Circle Pad Pro. This means I have to take out the whole thing and re-sync it again.
Needs battery: I really wish this thing either used power from the 3DS or came with a battery extender that powered the 3DS, too. Instead, it requires one AAA battery, which has to be placed in a slot that can only be accessed by unscrewing its cover.
Doesn’t work with all games: The Circle Pad Pro won’t work with games like Super Mario 3D Land or even the 3DS’ main menu. It still remains to be seen how many games will support the peripheral’s right stick.
Buying a Circle Pad Pro will largely depend on how much you plan to play compatible games. If you know you’ll be sinking plenty of time on those and can live with the device’s drawbacks, then the Circle Pad Pro is certainly worth a look. I’ve basically been using it non-stop when I play Monster Hunter 3G and Resident Evil: Revelations. If you don’t plan on playing such games a lot, though, then you should be just fine without it.
Final rating: 3 stars