First there is the circle-pad, a small analog control stick. This functions well and has a nice grip to it. Still probably not as good as a home console controller, but very nice by portable standards. The digital D-pad is now pushed down lower on the face of the console. While it is usable in this position, it is not optimal, and it can be a struggle to work with at times. Fortunately, most of the current 3DS games seem to use the analog-stick as the main directional control, so it may not be necessary to use the D-pad at all.
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