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 incoming 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.
No, really, you shouldn't have.
The game handles pretty much like any Resident Evil game: 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 being the camera defaulting to first-person view when aiming; which is great considering how little real estate there is on the top 3DS screen. You can opt for third-person if you wish and it is functional, but I'd recommend looking down the sights as opposed to over Jill's shoulder. Inventory management (including weapon switching and reloads) is handled 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 god-send 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 more buttons. Inventory management could be managed on the touch screen, and aiming with ranged weapons could handle like it does in Resident Evil (read: you can't move and shoot at the same time), or a lock-on function could be employed. 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 - it had been thought that it would be released in the "launch window" - and they've only been able to work with the new control setup since September 2011. At least in the case of this game, the developer believes it 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 in 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 purpose-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.