Needed accessory or silly add-on?
Release Date: February 7, 2012
Score: 3.8 / 5
When I first tried the Circle Pad Pro, it was at Capcom Gamer’s Day last year. The accessory, upon brief handling, seemed to fit nicely in the palms of my hands. At the time, I wasn’t able to give it a thorough test to see how it truly performed through hours of gaming. Now, with the retail product in hand, it’s been given hours of playtime to gauge the full experience.
Upon opening the box of the Circle Pad Pro, you’re greeted with the unit itself, a brief operations manual in three languages, a single AAA battery, and a wrist strap. When the CPP is first taken out of the box, immediately the lack of weight strikes you. It’s made of light plastic, but also seems quite durable with a matte finish that doesn’t attract too many fingerprints. The backside has a hollow sound when tapped, which makes sense because the unit contains only a few circuit boards and wire, and is otherwise empty. On the front is the Circle Pad on the right side, which is the same size as the one on the Nintendo 3DS itself. Notably, while the pads themselves seem to be the same size, the groove underneath the CPP seems to be slightly larger and isn’t recessed as subtlety as on the 3DS. Around the area where the Nintendo 3DS will be seated are slick-feeling rubber feet that hold the system in place. The infrared transceiver is located on the top bar, facing down. In the middle section is the place where a single AAA battery is placed. To open it, you don’t even need a screwdriver; due to the width of the screw head, a coin will do the trick. Once the battery is in, the manual states it will last for approximately 480 hours or 20 days, varying with use. Since the unit hasn’t been in my possession for that period of time as of yet, I am unable to test the battery length at this time.
Before inserting the Nintendo 3DS into the Circle Pad Pro, the manual and even a sticker on the unit itself states that the wrist strap should be worn. The wrist strap itself seems of high quality, very similar to the ones for Wii Remotes. A thin braided cord hooks into the 3DS, which has holes on the bottom left and right for such a strap; with the CPP however, the right side must be used. Inserting the cord into the tiny hole on the 3DS is no simple task. After a bit of fussing and expletives, I managed to get the cord through and a loop was formed after. The front bottom of the CPP has a notch so that the wrist strap can sit without interfering with how the system is held in. Once the wrist strap is attached, it’s time to fit the 3DS into the CPP. The fit is snug and the system goes in without difficulty if the wrist strap cord is put through the slit before the 3DS is seated. Once in, it takes some pressure to remove the unit, so while playing, it holds quite nicely. To my annoyance however, when the wrist strap is used, it isn’t as easy to remove the 3DS as it is without.
With the Nintendo 3DS in the Circle Pad Pro, your access to certain features is limited. The wireless switch is not accessible, nor is the stylus holder or game slot. This means that remembering to take the stylus out before a game starts is a must. Volume can still be adjusted, though if it is all the way down, it can be a pain to move it up from that position. What have been left wide open are the charging port, headphone jack, and shoulder buttons to a certain degree. Along with these limitations to the 3DS itself, there is also the fact that this will not fit into the charging cradle, nor can it be used with extended battery packs or other accessories simultaneously. Obviously, the CPP adds a bit of bulk, so fitted carrying/protective cases will also not work with it. On the strange side of things, the Circle Pad Pro can function if the Nintendo 3DS is not sitting snugly inside. The range on this ability is extremely limited, approximately a few centimeters away from the infrared transceiver, but it still works.
While holding the unit, it’s quite comfortable and intuitive. The back is somewhat molded so that it fits in the hands better. Each Z shoulder button has a popping feel, but is not springy or squishy, and they also don’t make much noise when pressed. As for the Circle Pad itself, it is similar to the 3DS, though your thumb will be able to tell the difference, as there’s slightly less resistance when it’s moved around. During my time with Resident Evil: Revelations while using the CPP, I noticed that aiming with the accessory was slower and not as precise at first. In fact, it almost had a “chunky” quality, but this went away when I was able to better acclimate to the unit. Although it’s not built into the 3DS OS that I could find, there is a way to calibrate the right Circle Pad. With Revelations, there is a setting to calibrate which sends you to a few screens that will have you making circles and pointing in certain directions with the pad. This process is short, but seems to be effective if the pad is ever off kilter. The shoulder buttons on the right side also took a bit of getting used to because of the fact there are two instead of one. I found my right index finger hopping between the buttons for different purposes, when before it would simply stay on one button. Once I found my footing with the CPP however, the controls were extremely responsive. If there was any lag, it’s negligible, at least in the case of Revelations.
Overall, I’m personally glad I bought the unit. After hours of play when my hands would normally cramp, I found they were still good to game when using the CPP. It also made Raid Mode in Revelations even more fun for me to control with the extra pad. For future games, though, I can’t help but wonder if this would give games in multiplayer a leg up on the competition. Even more worrying than that, however, is the fact that Nintendo has a poor history of supporting their accessories with games. Still, for $20, it’s great as an alternative control scheme for games that will support it and it’s easy on the hands.