The 3DS eats a mushroom. Perhaps two.
I can't help but feel that the Nintendo 3DS XL was created for gamers like me. It's certainly not a free upgrade to Nintendo fans who have owned a 3DS since launch day, with some reluctantly convincing themselves to trade in their 3DS for (an unsatisfactory pittance at a retail store for) the 3DS XL. At any rate, it's about time this game critic made the jump from the regular DS world to the 3DS world, and now's as good a time as any.
As the name implies, the 3DS XL's main selling point is the enlargement of the standard-sized screens for the regular 3DS, by 90% in fact, with a 4.88" top screen that comfortably rivals the Vita's 5" screen. The resolution, however, remains within the same ballpark and still creates moments where a user might notice the faint jagginess of the graphics.
The 3DS XL by and large has a similar design to the 3DS with minor differences. The shell is no longer covered in plastic, instead coated with a blue or red matte texture that should prevent most fingerprints from appearing. The three buttons for Select, Home, and Start have been given separate tiles for a better feel, the non-telescoping stylus falls back to the right side, and the headphone jack has been scooted slightly over to the left away from the center.
Despite being thinner than the 3DS, the 3DS XL weighs approximately four ounces heavier for a more solid core and feel. The 3DS battery life has been extended from its original 3-5 hours to around an average of 5.5 hours (up to around 7 hours) on a full charge. The entire pacakge comes with the unit, a pre-loaded 4GB SD card, a large instruction manual, a pack of AR cards, and an AC charger (an extra one for those who don't already have a charger for the DSi XL or 3DS). There's no dock this time around, but that's negligible.
The 3DS XL's touted ability to view the top screen in 3D without glasses is about the same as the original 3DS's—sometimes hard to find at the start and somewhat easy to fall out of. It's still difficult for me, a guy with glasses, to see it properly unless I'm dead-on center with the top screen (either that or take off my glasses, which defeats the purpose). That said, I'm perfectly comfortable sliding the 3D effect off.
The glaring disappointment, however, is the mind-boggling lack of a right circle pad which Nintendo had plenty of time to design into this 3DS iteration. If they wanted to make me recall the obnoxious left circle stick with the PSP, they've done a remarkable job. Imagining the would-be 3DS XL Circle Pad Pro attachment is laughable; in fact, if the accessory ever comes out, I won't be purchasing it out of principle. Spite for spite.
Transferring content from the original 3DS to the 3DS XL, allowable once a week and only up to five times, can be done within about a half an hour. Any downloadable titles will need to be re-downloaded.
With a much broader screen size and a more ergonomic design, the 3DS XL can only be faulted for the lack of the right circle pad and still slightly iffy 3D effect. Though the number of must-have titles is still on the low side on the 3DS systems and the lineup is fairly bare this holiday season, the $199.99 price point is still affordable and there are just enough titles to warrant a purchase of a 3DS system. It might as well be a 3DS XL.