We’re still a couple of weeks out from the proper release of the New Nintendo 3DS XL here in America, but I was lucky enough to get an early review unit. Overall I really dig the new design, and I think you will too. Here’s a quick rundown of ten specific high points.
The Faster Processor
News of the New 3DS models’ faster processor was linked to the release of upcoming, beefier titles like Xenoblade Chronicles, but you can take advantage of the additional horsepower even with current software. Loading games, downloading eShop titles and even returning to that once pesky Home menu now seem to put less strain on the system, resulting in an overall snappier response and better gaming experience.
Super Stable 3D
The New Nintendo 3DS XL’s Super Stable 3D is just that. Eye-tracking has been improved, allowing for an increased range of viewing angles and thus a seemingly bigger 3D “sweet spot.” A new infrared LED illuminates your face in low light, meaning that even in dim environments this New 3DS delivers.
Same Form Factor, Bigger Sound
If you look at the numbers, the New 3DS XL is only sized slightly differently from the original XL model. Still, things like an overall weight reduction and repositioning of things like the stylus channel give it a different feel. The biggest surprise for me, though, was the sound. I’m not sure if this is a function of the system’s processing overhaul or if Nintendo just dropped in a better pair of speakers, but the sound output sounds both clearer and louder to my ears.
Repositioned Cartridge Slot
I honestly worried about the new position of the cartridge slot, what with it being near where my left palm tends to rest during gameplay, but I’ve yet to have a single incident of unintentional ejection. What’s hard to see in production stills but easy to feel during a hands-on is how deeply recessed this new slot is. The New 3DS XL could easily make those weird little push guards obsolete.
2nd Analog Nubbin
The biggest revelation regarding the New 3DS line was the inclusion of a secondary analog control, but don’t think your system is going to have two proper Circle Pads. Instead the right C Stick is a tiny, pressure-sensitive nubbin, like the keyboard pointing sticks of old. So how does this diminutive control work? Pretty damn well. I gave it a try with the early bird demo version of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and I was surprised with how accurate it was–at least with regard to things like repositioning the camera. While this addition isn’t such a big deal right now, I can see it proving invaluable in future releases.
Like the C Stick, the secondary ZL and ZR trigger controls have limited functionality at present–though they can be used to scroll horizontally through the 3DS Home menu icon screens–but they are perfectly positioned and just as satisfyingly snappy as the regular L and R triggers. They’re nicely out of the way when you don’t need them, but within easy finger reach when you do.
Another new feature that also has limited functionality at present is the integrated NFC reader. Nested beneath the touchscreen, it promises amiibo support for not just Smash Bros, but more titles to come. For the time being, though, I can attest that the pairing process itself is super simple, and the signal strength between reader and amiibo constant and strong.
New Button Layout While the previous Select/Home/Start button array on the bottom bezel of the XL’s touchscreen was functional enough, it always felt a little flimsy to me. The New 3DS XL moves Select and Start back to the right panel below the face buttons (like the DS Lite), but keeps the Home button centrally placed. It’s smaller and more recessed than the original, making it less likely that you’ll tag it by mistake while manipulating the touch screen.
Folks are pretty steamed about Best Buy hosing them out of their promised Majora’s Mask special edition systems, and that’s totally understandable. But take heart, friends, because even the “stock” New Nintendo 3DS XL models look pretty sweet. My review unit came in black, and I expected another minimalist, flat, gradient-free outer housing. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to find that the top and bottom portions of the XL’s outer shell shiny and smooth to the touch. Best of all, there are faint alternating diagonal lines that give the system a vaguely carbon fiber look. It’s a smart design decision that helps further separate this iteration from the former model. While the outside of the New 3DS XL is glossy, the inner surface (and the handheld’s trademark hinge) is a satiny graphite. This neutral color sets off both the light grey of the control sticks and the face buttons, which now sport brightly colored letters. It’s a small cosmetic tweak, but it gives the device a smart new look.
The most daunting part of picking up a new 3DS–at least for old-timers like me–is transferring over your preexisting games and user data. Nintendo obviously took this to heart, and the migration process has been significantly fleshed out. After the initial onboard data transfer, New 3DS XL owners now have the old standby, migrating the larger SD card files via PC, as well as two new options. The New Nintendo 3DS XL ships with a 4GB microSD card, so if your current device has a similarly small capacity card you can also transfer all that data wirelessly. However, if you’ve upgraded to a high-capacity SD, you can choose “Transfer data wirelessly to a smaller microSD card.” This moves things like save data wirelessly to the New 3DS XL, but larger files (like the games themselves) must be re-downloaded from the eShop.
A photo posted by Z. (@hipsterplease) on Jan 23, 2015 at 1:20pm PST
So there’s the good, and there’s a lot of it, but there are also a few areas that might not suit the tastes of discriminating GeekDad audience. For example…
No AC Adapter (And No North America Charge Cradle)
From the moment it was first revealed, I’ve had mixed feelings about Nintendo of America’s decision to omit an AC adapter from the New 3DS XL packaging. The kids and I are huge handheld gamers, so finding a spare charger is no problem in my house, but many of you don’t have that advantage. For me, though, the bigger omission is the option for a charge cradle. While the first run of the original Nintendo 3DS shipped with a charging station, it was quickly cut out of future runs, and models for the 3DS XL were only made available in Japan (and later as a limited edition Club Nintendo prize here in the States). Similarly, Japan already has a new vertically oriented charging cradle for the New Nintendo 3DS XL, but no such amenity is available here in the US of A.
While I like the handy location on the New 3DS XL stylus–it’s front-mounted opposite the cart slot–the stylus itself is stubby and downright ugly, what with its weird curved pry-bar design and all.
The new 3DS XL’s jump from SD to mircoSD storage format makes sense, even if it’s a little inconvenient for those who’ve already invested in a 32GB standard SD card. The lengths one has to go to in order to remove or replace this microSD, however, is extreme to say the least. First, track down a #0 screwdriver, which, if you don’t wear glasses or routinely deal with small-form electronics, may or may not be readily available, and remove a pair of tiny Phillips screws. Next, at least according to the manual, use your stylus/pry-bar to loosen the bottom of the glossy system shell. (Instead I’d suggest using your thumb nail, as the stylus somehow managed to bend the brittle plastic of mine.) Then you have to carefully unseat and remove the microSD, replace it and then reassemble the entire lower portion of your handheld. Yeah, you could say it’s kind of a pain.
No New 3DS Option
Again, and I fully realize I’m complaining from an extremely fortunate position, but I really had my heart set on the smaller New Nintendo 3DS. With its adorable little interchangeable faceplates. Which I inevitably would’ve blown all my money on. On second thought, maybe you helped me dodge a bullet there, Nintendo.
Last but not least, how can I talk about the New Nintendo 3DS XL without mentioning how confusing the name itself truly is? I mean, do you want a new New Nintendo 3DS XL or a new old Nintendo 3DS XL? Or maybe just a PlayStation Vita? That last part’s a joke; nobody wants a PlayStation Vita. (I only kid because I love, Sony.)
Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America