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Nintendo New 3DS XL Portable Gaming Console
Gaming Reviews

Nintendo New 3DS XL Portable Gaming Console

Technically, a marked improvement over previous 3DS models, despite the missing power cable and clunky games transfer.

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Another year, another revision of the 3DS! That’s how it feels these days, anyway. Nintendo, like Apple, loves releasing slightly modified versions of its handheld devices whenever possible. Given they always sell like hotcakes, can you blame ol’ Shigeru Miyamoto? That rascally scamp loves getting paid. His company’s latest sojourn into the world of retail is the New 3DS XL, a big ol’ fancy dual-screened handheld device that iterates on the 3DS XL with improved 3D, more processing power and a more complete control setup. Is it good? Well, there’s some ups and downs…

Let’s start with the bad. First off, the one thing you’ve probably heard about the New 3DS XL: it doesn’t come with an AC adapter, so unless you have one laying around from a previous model or you buy a new one, you’re not charging anything. If that’s somehow the case, you’re going to need to tack on between five to fifteen dollars to the cost of this model. Nothing’s stopping you from snagging a USB charging cable off Amazon for a song, so honestly it’s not that big a deal. Does it represent some degree of corner-cutting on Nintendo’s part in an attempt to maximize profits on the new device? Sure. Is that an especially big deal? Nah, not really. It’s five bucks…assuming you don’t already have a charger, and you probably do. Seriously, get one of those USB cables, they’re great.

The other thing, and the one that really stuck in my craw, is the fact that the system now uses MicroSD memory cards for storage. Most devices these days do, so that’s not really so much of a problem…until you consider that the previous models of 3DS didn’t so your storage solutions are no longer directly compatible. It’s possible and fairly easy to transfer data from the old device to the new one, so that’s not the problem. The problem is that unless you’ve got less than 4GB of data on your 3DS, you’ll want to buy a larger MicroSD card for the new system. When you’ve done so, you’ll have to install it, and that’s a painful chore.

In order to swap MicroSD cards on the New 3DS XL you’ll need to unscrew the system’s back panel and remove it. Suffice to say, Nintendo stuff is as resistant to being disassembled as ever, so the screws don’t really feel like coming out, the panel holds on for dear life once they’re undone…all in all, this is probably going to be your first impression of the New 3DS XL and it’s undoubtedly not going to be favorable. Don’t worry, it gets better.

Finally, you’re probably upgrading from an older device. That means you’re probably going to want to transfer your games, data and saves over. That’s cool, you can do that…but you’re going to need to have both the new and old systems on hand. If you’re planning on trading up at the same time as you get your New 3DS XL, this is going to be a bit of a hurdle. So you probably shouldn’t. GameStop, for one, had a bizarre trade-in/refund scheme set up until February 15, but we’re a little past that now, so your best move would be to buy your new system and trade the other in after the fact for something else like some sweet, sweet games.

As for the actual transfer process, it takes forever and the easiest way to do it involves the use of a PC. Kind of a pain, but it’s fairly straightforward and there’s a variety of tutorials available. You shouldn’t need more than an hour or so.

And that’s about it, really. Those are my complaints about the New 3DS XL. They pretty much all involve the initial setup process. Once that’s done, you’re golden. Let’s start with the aesthetics: the New 3DS XL has a lovely reflective finish, firmly responsive buttons and a gorgeous pair of screens. It’s got a nice heft to it that makes it feel less like a toy than the creaky plastic of the original 3DS XL.

When it comes to controls you’re still in good shape. The standard left analog stick still works, the D-pad continues to be better than the nightmarish squishy monstrosity on the DS Lite and the buttons are as responsive as ever. New controls include a second analog nub on the right side near the buttons and two new shoulder buttons. This essentially replicates the functionality of the Circle Pad Pro attachment, so if you bought one of those…well, sorry! The nub is strangely effective at what it does despite feeling like it really shouldn’t be, with the only complaint being that it only supports control in the four cardinal directions so that might take some getting used to. The new shoulder buttons are…pretty much forgettable, really, though thankfully they don’t get in the way.

Visuals are solid as well. I can’t comment on the 3D effects, being unable to actually see them, but a nearby significant other I roped into looking at it found them disorienting and unpleasant so I guess I’m not missing much! The New 3DS XL features a new eye-tracking system for 3D which supposedly makes the effect a little more accurate without requiring you to look at the system from a certain angle. As with the previous systems, turning on 3D in more graphically intensive games can result in a framerate hit, so again…I guess I’m not missing much. If you’re here solely for the 3D, in other words, I can’t imagine you’ll be all that thrilled with the system, but it’s not any worse than the previous models.

It’s also got a little more processing power and RAM, so you’ll notice slightly faster loading times on some games. And, of course, it’s still a 3DS. It’s compatible with the massive DS and 3DS libraries. It cannot be overstated how many solid titles are available for both of these consoles; more come out on a regular basis, so you’re never going to be hurting for something to play on this system. Any genre you want is available; there’s even a few first-person shooters floating around. First-party Nintendo games are always a sure bet, so even if you only played those you’d still be set. That additional processing power is apparently going to lead to more impressive New 3DS XL-specific games in the future, such as the upcoming port of RPG classic Xenoblade Chronicles, but we’ll see how that works out.

Speaking of games, particular titles I noticed working especially well with the new system included Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Majora’s Mask 3D, both of which were released on the same day as the device. Given they could be considered the poster games for the new system it’s not a surprise that they make it sing. I’ll freely admit dumping thirty hours or so into Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate over the long President’s Day weekend…just not to anyone I’m trying to impress. Any game with Circle Pad Pro support works with the new analog nub, so that’s, uh, all five of them or so. You can expect more games that use the second “stick” in the future, no doubt. Oh, and it comes with Amiibo support, so your pile of figurines can be imported into Smash Bros. for 3DS with impunity.

So do you really need one of these if you’ve already got a 3DS? Uh…you probably don’t “need” it, but you’ll still really enjoy it. The New 3DS XL a very nice piece of kit and buying one will probably make your day. You’d be happy to get one as a gift. If you don’t already have a 3DS, you can’t go wrong with the latest and greatest model, assuming you grab a hefty MicroSD card and a USB charger to accompany it. Either way, I’m more than happy to recommend the New 3DS XL.