Replacing the New Nintendo 3DS C-Stick with the PSP Analog Stick

I had heard about some folks who replaced the C-Stick of their New Nintendo 3DS XLs with, of all things, the analog nub of the original PlayStation Portable. Feedback was positive but I ignored the idea at first – my New Nintendo 3DS XL was still quite new and I didn’t want to tinker with it. And I thought the C-Stick would function well enough for me to be satisfied with it.

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The C-Stick was the feature that I looked forward to the most when I upgraded to the New Nintendo 3DS XL.

I was content, at first. Most of the 3DS games that I had didn’t make use of the C-Stick, and those that did only used it for controlling the camera views (e.g. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask). However, I started getting a few first person shooter (FPS) games for my 3DS and that’s when I started to be unhappy with the C-Stick. I managed to (inconveniently) get through my first ones; games like IronFall Invasion and Dementium Remastered. But when I started playing Moon Chronicles, I became frustrated with the C-Stick.

Unlike the previous two games that I mentioned, Moon Chronicles had more emphasis on precision. It features enemies with specific weakpoints that you have to hit in order to damage them – hitting them anywhere else would have no effect. I had such a hard time using the C-Stick in trying to aim for those weak spots, I ended up switching to stylus controls for some of the game’s sections. In fact, I often ended up with a sore right thumb after my Moon Chronicles play sessions.

But it wasn’t until I played Metroid Prime: Federation Force that made me decide on replacing the C-Stick. Like Moon Chronicles, Metroid Prime: Federation Force featured enemies with weak spots that you really had to aim for. Unlike Moon Chronicles, Federation Force did not have an option for stylus aiming; your only options for aiming were the C-Stick or the gyroscope (and I wasn’t going to play this entire game using motion controls).

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Metroid Prime: Federation Force featured a lot of enemies with specific weak points that you needed to target, such as the Omega Bruiser and its glowing feet.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force had a quick targeting feature that somehow eased the difficulty of aiming using the C-Stick, but it always locked your aim to your target’s dead center. You still had to use the C-Stick if you needed to aim elsewhere, say for instance, your enemy’s feet. And this is what really killed the C-Stick for me – Federation Force featured a lot of these enemies with small weak points that were off center. Some even had weak points that were in constant motion!

One well-known flaw of the C-Stick is its downward aiming functionality (do a quick Google search and you’ll find several complaints about it) and because of this difficulty and the intense final boss fight of Federation Force, I ended up digging into the rubber C-Stick with my thumbnail just so I could get my character to aim downward quickly. This resulted in some minor damage to the C-Stick that compromised it’s structural integrity – it became squishy and less responsive. (That’s one takeaway from this article for New Nintendo 3DS owners – do not use your thumbnail to press the rubber C-Stick!)

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Close up of the damaged rubber C-Stick of my New Nintendo 3DS XL.

The bottomline is, I eventually had the C-Stick replaced with the analog nub of the original PlayStation Portable (model PSP-1000). I’m not going to discuss how this is done; Youtube has several videos on this which will be more helpful as a reference if you want to DIY this. What I did was I reached out to our friendly neighborhood 3DS technician and the process was quick and painless, although he did have to open the 3DS up to remove the rubber C-Stick (he advises against pulling it out from it’s hole as it could do some damage to the internal components of the unit). Instead, I want to talk about how the PSP analog nub is as a replacement for the rubber C-Stick, but before I go into that let’s take a look at how it looks first!

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New Nintendo 3DS XL Black with a matching PSP analog nub.

At first glance, it may look like the nub is a little too big for the allocated space but it’s actually not. The nub doesn’t function like a traditional joystick, so you don’t need to move it around. Instead, it works like a pressure pad like the rubber C-Stick – you need to apply light pressure on the area where you want to aim (for more detail, check out this older post). Since the nub is made of hard plastic you won’t feel it move at all, unlike the rubber material of the C-Stick that has the tendency to get depressed with hard enough pressure. And the hard plastic resulted in better responsiveness for the same reason – the pressure that you apply on it doesn’t get absorbed as it does by the rubber C-Stick, so it goes directly to the receptors underneath. The wider surface area also makes it easier to control where to apply the pressure on, unlike the smaller C-Stick.

That’s the general feedback. Let me talk about specific functions that the C-Stick would normally be used for and how the analog nub fares as a replacement:

  • Controlling the camera angle – The original C-Stick worked fine back then for this purpose. I tested the nub with Xenoblade Chronicles 3D and it’s much easier now simply because unlike the C-Stick, you won’t have to press the nub too hard and it doesn’t dig into your thumb.
  • Aiming – I tested this function in IronFall Invasion and Metroid Prime: Federation Force. Because of the increased responsiveness, I had some issues adjusting to the analog nub. But it was definitely easier to swing my viewpoint from one direction to another, I just need to get used to how fast it is to change where I was aiming. It was hard to rotate your aim around and around with the original C-Stick, but I had no difficulty doing that with the analog nub.
  • C-Stick Smash attacks – This is a function that is specific to Super Smash Bros., and I’m glad to report that the analog nub works perfectly. The original C-Stick was a little hard to use for this because of it’s smaller size and responsiveness. Before, I would sometimes end up with a Down Smash instead of a Side Smash because of the smaller diameter and short window of time wherein I could execute the move. During my tests, light taps on the analog nub were enough to do these moves.
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The PSP analog nub doesn’t look out of place on a New Nintendo 3DS XL.

In retrospect, I should have had the C-Stick with the PSP analog nub as soon as I could have. I think it would have improved my first playthroughs of all those FPS games that I played since getting the New Nintendo 3DS XL, especially Moon Chronicles (which I almost gave up on) and Metroid Prime: Federation Force. I even wonder why Nintendo even went for the rubber C-Stick instead of a harder plastic version. Right now, I’m loving my analog nub replacement so much, I’m thinking about doing another playthrough of all the FPS games that I already beat because I think I’d enjoy playing them more now that I can use the analog nub. I highly recommend this to any 3DS owner who uses the C-Stick frequently – the analog nub makes FPS games on the 3DS much more playable.

If you have similar C-Stick issues or if you also had yours replaced, share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment or two below!

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