Nintendo has done an admirable job at keeping its handheld systems relevant. When the Nintendo 3DS was launched in 2011, it wasn’t exactly met with critical appraise or strong sales. However, Nintendo stayed the course. The company pushed out game after the game, and struck even more momentum upon the release of the bigger 3DS XL.
Now, the “New” Nintendo 3DS XL has reached store shelves, and while it’s nothing entirely new, it’s definitely the best 3DS available on the market.
What Is It?
The New Nintendo 3DS XL, which we’ll call the N3DS XL from here on out, is everything the 3DS XL was and a bit more. That being said, while it does everything better than its predecessor, it doesn’t necessarily take anything to the next generation.
The N3DS XL does everything better than the previous iteration did, and while that’s all fine and dandy, it’s also worth noting that it did next to nothing when it comes to addressing the 3DS’ general weaknesses aside from addressing the nature of its 3D visuals.
Why Should I Care?
So what exactly does it have that makes it new? Aside from the obvious new colors, there are quite a few other cosmetic changes. First of which, the button panel below the touch screen now only features the home button, while the Start and Select buttons have been moved to the bottom right of the gamepad, where they originally were on the DS Lite with the Start button situated above the Select button. The placement of the Start and Select buttons was a bit hard to get used to, but for those that owned a DS Lite, it should be rather easy to get reacquainted with. The Circle Pad, D-Pad, face buttons, and shoulder buttons are all were they were before, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
Be that as it may, people might definitely take issue with the new placement of the Game Card slot, the stylus, and the power button.
The game slot has moved from the top center of the console to the bottom, towards the left. Luckily, the slot was also designed with an indented groove to prevent an accidental ejection with the player’s ring finger. Despite this, freak accidents can happen, and depending on how users let the system hang out of their pocket, there’s still the threat of having a game accidentally ejected and lost.
The stylus is now enclosed at the bottom, and I have no idea why this was done. With the original 3DS, it was at the top towards the left, while it was under the 3DS XL on the right side — the same way the 3DS Lite was. This placement made it virtually effortless to slip it in and slip it out, so it’s hard to understand why the designers to decided to make another change here.
Lastly, and perhaps the most annoying of the cosmetic changes, is in the new placement of the power button. Previous iterations of the 3DS featured the power button below the face buttons when the 3DS was open. I’m assuming this change was made to prevent accidentally powering the system off since the start and select buttons are now located below the face buttons. But with that, it’s hard to see why the designers didn’t just put it towards the side of the unit like they did with the DS Lite. The button itself is pretty stiff, which is a good thing because a firm press would exit the game or app currently in use. When playing a game without autosave like the newly released The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, accidentally hitting the power button is something that could cause nightmares.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Design issues aside, as previously stated, the N3DS XL does everything the 3DS XL did even better. The most noticeable changes right off the bat include the switch to microSD cards, the faster processor promising faster load times, the much louder speakers, the addition of a C-Stick as well as ZL and ZR buttons, and finally — the 3D.
If you’re upgrading from the 3DS or 3DS XL, the first thing you need to know is that SD cards have been replaced by microSD cards. Because of this, you now have the option of using a computer to move your data around. You still have to go through 15 minutes of 3DS-to-N3DS wireless migration, but if you choose to do the entire thing without a computer, people have been reporting up to a three-hour wait, which could be a real drag.
The even bigger drag comes if you have the urge to upgrade your microSD card. A 4GB microSD card comes with your system, but you have the option of upgrading to up a 32GB card. The problem? Before, switching was as easy as opening a cover, now you have to totally detach the bottom of the N3DS using a zero phillips screwdriver. This is actually easier said than done because the screws are easy to strip and they don’t actually pop out of the base. Cracking it open is also pretty scary as that’s what you hear upon opening it, but luckily, the hardware itself is quite stable. But, it’s still a fearful process.
Upon booting Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS using the legacy 3DS, the 3DS XL and the N3DS XL, the N3DS XL loaded everything significantly faster, and it’s worth noting that we still had to create and read new data on the microSD card. The game itself was blaring loud, and I live in quiet a noisy suburban area, so the fact that I had to turn the volume down was a pleasant surprise.
The improved sound definitely enhanced the experience, but perhaps the most impressive fix is with the 3D. Nintendo calls the new 3D “super-steady,” and that’s a super-steady assessment. Yes, you’ll still have to get accustomed to finding the “sweet spot” to see the best 3D, but your view no longer becomes instructed even when you’re moving the 3DS around. It’s all easier on the eyes, and it’s safe to say Nintendo finally got this right. Users will definitely be using the 3D option more often, but of course — there’s nothing wrong with having the slider off, either.
At first glance, it doesn’t even look like the N3DS XL even features a C-Stick, but rest assured, it does. The stick itself is roughly the size of the start button on the GameCube’s controller, and it indeed isn’t a button. All previous 3DS games that made use of the Circle Pad Pro include C-Stick support, so the N3DS XL could be a good option to those that still play Kid Icarus: Uprising extensively. Aside from that, though, there aren’t any games that really make exclusive use of the new buttons, though both Majora’s Mask 3D and Monster Hunter 4 experience smoother gameplay with the C-Stick controlling the game’s camera angles.
Lastly, the N3DS XL comes with a built-in NPC sensor so it can support Amiibo use. As of right now, Super Smash Bros. is the only game that supports it, but that should change sooner than later as all these games really require for support is a gameplay patch.
As of right now, the only game confirmed to make extensive and exclusive use of the N3DS features is the upcoming port of Xenoblade Chronicles. This is the main reason why the N3DS XL isn’t a must-own system yet.
Yes, it does a whole lot of stuff better than the current 3DS models do, but not only has it not addressed the system’s current problems, such as the the flawed friend code system, it presents itself with newer problems based solely on lack of design care. Those issues aside, the system doesn’t even come with a charging cable — not even a USB one. To make matters worse, the cord is still proprietary. Why does the Wii U Pro Controller support Micro USB chargers and the 3DS doesn’t? Because it’s Nintendo.
Now it’s true that I spent a lot of time in this review talking about the system’s problems, but it’s not a bad buy, especially if you plan on upgrading from the legacy 3DS.
When it comes to the New Nintendo 3DS XL, bigger really is better, and a lot of the negatives brought about the changes are things that we can quickly get over. The system has launched at $199, and while some merchants have brought the 3DS XL down to $179, it’s still technically $199. This makes the New 3DS XL a better buy. But if you have the regular 3DS XL, you’ll be happy sticking to what you have unless Nintendo announces more than just Xenoblade.