The New Nintendo 3DS XL has been available here in the States for a couple of months now, and chances are–unless you’re holding out for a big holiday purchase–you’ve managed to get your hands on one if you wanted it. Perhaps you upgraded from a previous 3DS/3DS XL, or maybe this marks your first foray into Nintendo’s current-gen handheld market. Either way, the question becomes, as always: what do I do now?
Here’s a quick rundown of newly released software titles and tried-and-true accessory options that will help you make the most of the New 3DS’s capabilities and help protect your investment.
Obviously one of the best ways to protect and preserve your New XL is by covering its screens with protective film. There are a lot of options out there for this, but my personal favorite has long been HORI’s Screen Protectors. HORI now uses an “Improved Application Method” for helping to eliminate the bubbles and debris that often get caught under screen covers–essentially it’s an additional adhesive tab used to center the cover, and a multi-part peel-away backing that lets you adhere the cover slowly and deliberately… as opposed to just slapping it down and hoping for the best. It’s important to note that the new XL and the original XL models boast identical screen sizes; yes, this means you can still use the older model screen protectors.
The Skinomi Techskin takes the idea of screen covers to the extreme with a clear, protective all-over system wrap. This is a nice solution for those hoping to keep their Majora’s Mask limited-edition models in pristine condition, but, honestly, it works well on the standard solid color systems as well. The process can take some time and care, but the finished product is worth it. My recommendations: don’t overdo it on the application liquid, mind your device’s rounded corners, and remove the bottom shell (which houses the battery compartment) for an easier, less frustrating installation.
One place where I am wholly inflexible is regarding wrist straps. I’ve made it a point to use straps with every handheld since the GBA, and it’s saved me from countless instances of catastrophic drop damage. There are Japanese-style mascot straps, screen cleaning straps, and more, but the simplest, most useful solution is usually just to throw a spare Wii-mote wrist strap on that bad boy.
Cases and Covers
There are cases and coves galore available for the New 3DS XL, from HORI’s Duraflexi lo-profile protector to decorative zipper cases. Simply choose the one that suits your needs. Maybe you require a brawny, padded case for traveling, or, if you don’t often take your XL out of the house, you can just leave it naked.
The first run of the original Nintendo 3DS shipped with a handy charging cradle, but this was quickly phased out. Charge stations for the 3DS XL were available via import and (briefly) as a Club Nintendo reward. The New 3DS XL trades this old lay-down design for an upright orientation–you drop your XL butt-first into the charging stand–that, thankfully, can be easily acquired via Amazon.
This, of course, brings us back to the fact that the New 3DS XL didn’t ship with a charge cable. You can certainly buy the OEM cable, but my suggestion–especially if you’re just looking for a spare charger–is to go with an inexpensive, flexible USB-charger solution.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D
I ain’t gonna lie; Majora’s Mask is not my favorite Zelda title. I am, however, in the minority. MM 3D garnered nigh unanimous critical praise, and gave owners who picked up the New Nintendo 3DS XL at launch a banner title to help break-in their new systems. Some of the background textures and gameplay mechanics seem a tad dated, but overall Majora’s Mask combines all the weird masks, time travel, and genre-defining eeriness you remember with a level of targeting ease and camera control thus far lacking from portable Zelda titles. (Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America)
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
Monster Hunter is the very definition of a polarizing property. You are either an ardent fan or a hater, and, while I was long in the latter camp, Ultimate succeeded in making a believer out of me. New weapons, vertical movement and attacks, and some UI tweaks that helped me take the guesswork out of the gameplay experience made it a much more welcoming entry into the franchise than previous iterations. And, like Zelda, a proper second analog control helped me keep enemies in my sights. Will Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate be the game that converts you? That’s debatable, but I found it to be a deep experience and an amazing value for my gaming dollar.
Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.
I adore turn-based strategy, but the demo for Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. didn’t exactly sell me on the experience. The finished product, however, was significantly more enjoyable. Set in a fantasy world that mashes up steampunk, alternate history, aliens, the Cthulhu Mythos, and a staggering number of characters from classic literature, CN:S is… weird. But in a good way. The over-the-top action blends nicely with some equally exaggerated voice work from the likes of Michael Dorn (as John Henry), Jeremy Shada (as Tom Sawyer), and the great Wil Wheaton (as, and I’m not making this up, Abraham Lincoln) for an experience unlike any other. That’s not to say it’s an entirely enjoyable experience, though. While a recent patch has sped up the sluggish enemy AI, the plodding, sometimes difficult nature of the game itself sometimes makes its core moving/combat system seem like a chore. While it pales next to titles like Fire Emblem: Awakening, it’s still a novel take on the strategy genre that makes for a unique portable experience. (Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America)
Much like Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., 3DS third-person shooter IronFall: Invasion is another grunts-vs-aliens game that’s recently seen a helpful software update. While these tweaks make things like controlling your character while sprinting and simple aim sensitivity more robust, the game still remains a pretty mediocre proof-of-concept. Sure, the cover system works as do the dual-stick controls, but what’s still missing is meat on the bone. If you’re looking for a proper multiplayer shooter on the new Nintendo 3DS XL, however, this one will have to do. At least until (hopefully) Nintendo leverages this project to make the currently fallow Metroid Prime franchise jump back into the portable sphere. (Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America)
Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy+
While I missed the original title, apparently Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy+ is just 2011’s Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy with amiibo support. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Essentially, what this means is you get an old style Ace Combat flight sim title with solid controls and visuals, as well as some added Nintendo-centric aircraft skins unlockable via touching a supported amiibo to the New 3DS’s NFC area or by destroying an in-world Question Block–a nice treat for those still rocking the old 3DS. (Review materials provided by: Namco Bandai)
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
Last but not least, we arrive at the game that was first introduced as the very reason for the New Nintendo 3DS line: Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. This last-gasp Wii title made quite a splash when it hit American consoles in 2012, and it arrives on the smaller screen(s) with its epic storytelling intact. That’s the good news. The bad is that, visually-speaking, it often doesn’t gel. The 3D feels tacked on in the same way that it does with afterthought 3D film conversions, and even the beefier specs of the New 3DS XL aren’t exactly enough to keep up with even last-gen console graphics–this makes for a blurry, Vaseline-on-the-lens look that can prove distracting. The gameplay, on the other hand, is phenomenal, and I actually think I prefer the controls of this 3DS iteration to that of the ol’ Wii Classic Controller setup. If you missed Shulk and his Monado the first time around–which is understandable, as the game is almost as hard to find as the Shulk amiibo–then definitely give yourself and your New Nintendo 3DS XL a treat and pick this up. (Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America)