New Nintendo 3DS XL Review

Grab “N” Go.

I know a lot of GameRevolution readers likely understand my passion for handheld video game hardware as a preference, but I think the space necessitates a lot of other gaming trends that would otherwise go unnoticed. Look to Nintendo 3DS for an uptick in strategy gaming, for example. Role-playing games take too long, but not if you can take them with you everywhere you go. Even mobile software is approaching what-it-wants-to-be-when-it-grows-up as it gets closer to the best practices for handheld games.

Still, you may wonder why video gaming on-the-go has gotten so expensive. A top-of-the-line portable gaming system can cost as much as last-generation’s best iteration of console hardware, and repeated tech cycles make keeping up with the latest a chore. That’s easily the picket line to Nintendo’s own 3DS lineup, adding 2DS and “New” 3DS versions in a short span of time. With so many different styles, hardware revisions, and special edition bundles to choose from, we’ll give the latest “New” 3DS a firm recommendation.


In truth, you’ll want to make a 3DS purchasing decision based on your needs. Obviously, the 2DS will remain best suited for younger gamers while the original 3DS still remains a cost-effective choice, but you’ll be missing out on improved 3D visuals and new processors of the New Nintendo 3DS XL (there is no New Nintendo 3DS in North America... yet). The biggest change on hand here is an infrared sensor that can track the user’s face and adjust 3D visuals as needed. That means that gyroscopic controls prove viable as opposed to annoying settings you’d have to watch out for otherwise.

Nintendo uses an obvious choice like Majora’s Mask 3D to show off increased overall 3D depth and the secondary analog control, but I prefer to look to Mario Kart 7 as a test. That game offered gyroscopic controls not unlike those found in Mario Kart Wii, making it an ideal purchase with new hardware at retail. With “New” 3DS, the overall experience is smoother, more entertaining, and less straining for your eyes. The view angle is increased and you’d have to shake the 3DS like an English nanny to lose a decent image.

This increase in 3D performance enhances the 3DS package in two major ways. First, it adds to the glasses-free feature set and doesn’t falter to battery life either. This makes something like Nintendo Video far more entertaining, so long as you’ve got an Internet connection. Second, it furthers the sense that Nintendo 3DS is a toy, not a strictly “hardcore” gaming device, and turns an update into a full-blown feature-proofed hardware revision. You won’t want to go backwards after using “New” 3DS even once.

The more obvious additions to “New” Nintendo 3DS hardware include the secondary analog nub and the ZL and ZR keys. The nub itself will resemble an IBM Thinkpad’s mouse stick at first, but it feels softer, less stiff, and more appropriately positioned in nearly every way. Where I’d avoid using the Thinkpad mouse in favor of a touchpad, I almost like the rubbery nub on “New” 3DS hardware more than the circle-pad. It’ll take small prods to get used to, particularly as it can be frustrating to start overcompensating, but once you’ve got a handle of it, gameplay will feel like second nature.

The ZL and ZR triggers add to the overall interface’s click-y sensation and positioning your index fingers on these added buttons will improve your sensation during longer play sessions. I managed to get through Resident Evil: Revelations easily and both third- and first-person cameras felt great even during intense action. These new features are complimented by added near-field communication support enabling amiibo unlocks in certain games like the upcoming Codename S.T.E.A.M.

The CPU has gotten a significant update and some titles make the change exceedingly evident. Launching software is easier and smoother, and hardware-intense titles like Super Smash Bros. for 3DS will become fast favorites with memory dedicated to the 3DS operating system alone. Switching between titles, launching the web browser for hints, checking notifications, and even picking up StreetPasses will prove easier, but the system isn’t without a few nagging issues for both interested consumers and existing 3DS owners.

First, Nintendo has announced that some titles will release exclusive to “New” 3DS hardware thanks to the added analog stick. That’s disappointing on one obvious level, but it also diminishes the effect I mentioned earlier where the 3DS continues to feel like a toy and one with the ability to bring down cynical walls constructed by hardened consumers. Second, the system moves to a MiniSD card from the standard SD card in Nintendo 3DS XL and previous hardware iterations. This proves frustrating not just from a shopping standpoint, but also from the point of view of anyone hoping to transfer their digital goods to a new system.

Prying off the back of a “New” Nintendo 3DS XL requires tools, the end of the system’s stylus, and a lot of patience. I attempted to get behind the back panel before deciding otherwise in order to better focus my critique on usability and other updates. For the most part, you’ll enjoy all cartridges from Nintendo DS to Nintendo 3DS, but if you’ve already got a lot of downloaded games or eShop purchases you’ll have to get a bigger MiniSD card and install it.

For $199.99 before any software purchases or the aforementioned memory card upgrade, you may not want to jump to “New” 3DS ownership just yet. There could be a lot of exclusive software like Xenoblade Chronicles X, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and others, but even Monster Hunter offers a digital camera control option on the touchscreen. If consumers rally, it could undo plans Nintendo has for “New” 3DS exclusives and maintain the system as a portable Nintendo 64 without the oddly-shaped controller.

Should you be in the market for “New” 3DS hardware, you could do far worse than this. Nintendo’s product design teams have always proven flexible, intelligent in what is and isn’t changed, and largely efficient in both costs and support. There’ll be no hesitation between currently in-development software and updates to support “New” control inputs, though the real star here is underneath the hood. Without a big signpost, you likely won’t tell the difference, but core 3DS consumers like myself will recognize the effect of this hardware update immediately.
 

Console provided by publisher.