Hands-on: Nintendo 3DS Circle Pad Pro

By Paul Hunter

Dual analog sticks have been the norm for console gaming since the PSOne introduced the Dual Analog Controller to the world some 15 years ago. Amazingly enough, portable devices have been slow to adopt analog control, with the Nintendo DS flat out not including the functionality, and the PlayStation Portable only including a single analog nub.

Well times they are a-changin'. The Nintendo 3DS released last year and included a single analog left stick, and just last week the PS Vita launched with dual analog control. It seems Nintendo conceded during their pre-Tokyo Game Show presser last year that dual analog control for portable consoles is the way of the future, with the announcement of Nintendo 3DS Slidepad (renamed Circle Pad Pro in North America).

The Circle Pad Pro is an attachment that forms around the Nintendo 3DS device, and enables dual analog control using the original left circle pad, and a second right circle pad adjacent to the four main face buttons. The attachment also adds an extra shoulder button on each side to give the Nintendo 3DS a more home console controller feel to it.

Resident Evil Revelations is the first Nintendo 3DS game to be compatible with the Circle Pad Pro and after several hours of play testing I walked away more impressed than I thought I'd be, mostly because the attachment feels very comfortable to hold.

Right away I was surprised at how light the Circle Pad Pro is given how bulky it appears to be at first glance. There are grips at the back of the attachment which feel snug to hold, and the two circle pads are positioned for a natural feel.

It is a bit awkward that the right analog stick is to the right of the ABXY buttons (PS3 and Xbox 360 controllers have this set-up reversed), so it may take some time for your thumb to become accustomed to moving left to press these buttons.

Don't worry about the Nintendo 3DS popping out of the Circle Pad Pro as it fits firmly between the rubber grip pads along the inside of the cradle. There are no clasps or locks holding the Nintendo 3DS in place, but there is an included wriststrap packed-in should you want to secure the device to your arm.

The Circle Pad Pro is powered by a single AAA battery that is inserted into a removable case, which then sends infrared communications to the Nintendo 3DS. During my time with Resident Evil Revelations, I found no lag between control inputs and seeing my character movements on screen.

My only lasting gripe with the Circle Pad Pro is its sheer size which turns the slim, fit-in-your-pocket Nintendo 3DS into a significantly larger unit. Forget about throwing the Circle Pad Pro in your pants pocket unless you're fine walking around looking like you're transporting 25 medium sized rocks.

Future games that will be compatible with the Circle Pad Pro include Metal Gear Solid 3D Snake Eater and Kid Icarus: Uprising.

Of course this attachment begs the question of how long are we going to have to wait before Nintendo releases an all-in-one dual analog Nintendo 3DS. For the time being though, it looks like the Circle Pad Pro is the only choice we have.

[This article originally appeared on the Future Shop Tech Blog]