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This past week, Nintendo finally brought their 3DS eShop into the modern era by offering downloadable demos for Resident Evil: Revelations and Cooking Mama 4. Outrage at the limited use of said demos aside, 3DS owners are now allowed hands-on time with a game that will (presumably) be better with the upcoming Circle Pad Pro: an add-on that affords 3DS owners an extra analogue stick and shoulder button. The ugly peripheral doesn't arrive until the end of the month, but I was suprised to see how functional Revelations was without an extra few inches of tacky plastic.
The game handles pretty much like any Resident Evil title: You search rooms for ammo and quest items (keys, screwdrivers, etc.), movement is inexplicably forbidden when aiming and firing, and you defend yourself from all kinds of scary monsters. The only difference is that the camera defaults to first-person view when you're aiming…which is great, considering that the top of the 3DS screen has such little real estate. You can opt for third-person perspective if you wish, and it is functional, but I'd recommend looking down the sights as opposed to over Jill's shoulder. You can handle inventory management (including weapon switching and reloads) on the touch screen, which is a dream compared to Resident Evil 5's awkward real-time menus.
So I mowed through a small portion of the final product just shy of five-times over (Hell mode is suitably difficult). The new quick-use button for herbs is a godsend and I haven't had to fidget around with a rubbish real-time menu while I'm being savaged by the infected masses. Since you have to remain still while shooting, anyway, it's not like I could use another stick to back away from danger. The situations presented in the demo aren't too demanding, so I'm not sure whether the controls would handle the added stress of a boss battle; still, it works well enough for me to question whether an extra analogue stick and button is really necessary.
"Fine," I hear you say. "You may not need the Circle Pad Pro for Resident Evil: Revelations, but what about the other games that enable use of the peripheral?"
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite worked well enough with the PSP's solitary analogue nub, so I'm not convinced that Monster Hunter 3G is an argument for a second stick and extra button. The game could handle inventory management on the touch screen, or it could employ a lock-on function. Why not tinker with the control scheme and mechanics as opposed to fashioning a battery-powered add-on?
Finally, we have Kid Icarus: Uprising, where the developer has revealed that they had only been made aware of the Circle Pad Pro after the announcement of Monster Hunter 3G. This game has been in development for a while — many thought that it would be released in the "launch window," and developer Project Sora has only been able to work with the new control setup since September 2011. At least in the case of this game, the developer believes the Circle Pad Pro will prove useful for left-handed players who might find it difficult using the stylus to aim with their right hand. It has no other applications (read: no dual-analogue aiming) as one would imagine it should have, but it's refreshing to hear of developers specifically catering to southpaws.
Southpaw Gaming Association's 2012 Game of the Year
So if Nintendo couldn't foresee the use of a second analogue stick, I'm not sure why they're rushing to implement one now. Especially when the solution they've developed looks so positively awkward. Playing one of the games that the Circle Pad Pro is expressly built for doesn't help either, as Resident Evil: Revelations works just fine without any add-ons. Nintendo made their bed, and they should accept the limitations of their original design and sleep in it.