Hardware Review: 3DS Circle Pad Pro XL

Two pads are better than one?

When Nintendo announced the 3DS XL, many were disappointed that the system lacked that all-important second slider pad. This omission was made all the more puzzling by the fact that Nintendo had already released the Circle Pad Pro for the original 3DS console, an admission that perhaps a twin-pad arrangement would have been a good idea from the start. Alas, despite having the opportunity to rectify this oversight with new hardware, the XL model retained the single analogue pad — hence the arrival of the Circle Pad Pro XL.

Looking uncannily like the original Circle Pad Pro, this beefed-up edition is once again powered by a single AAA battery, which lasts so long you'll forget its even there. The power source is needed because the Circle Pad Pro XL doesn't physically connect to the 3DS XL console; it uses the IR port to communicate with the system. The accessory is made entirely of plastic and has three additional buttons along the top edge: ZL, ZR and R — the latter being a necessity because the R shoulder button on the console itself is obscured by the Circle Pad Pro XL's casing.

The list of Circle Pad Pro compatible games remains surprisingly thin on the ground, but the fact that Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate supports the peripheral will probably be enough of an excuse for many to make the purchase. The game is definitely improved by the additional of a second analogue slider, as is the excellent Nano Assault EX.

The big downside to the Circle Pad Pro XL is illustrated keenly by the images above — it makes the already chunky 3DS XL even bigger, lending it dimensions which rival the impractically bulky portable systems of the early '90s. The lumpy back of the accessory means that it is comfortable to hold, but also makes it quite large and therefore not the kind of thing you'll be slipping into your backpack without any thought.

Even so, you need only play Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate with the second slider to see the worth of this add-on; with Nintendo unlikely to alter its stance on changing the 3DS control configuration, it would appear that we're just going to have to live with increased size and reduced portability in order to get that much-needed "second slider" feel.