New Nintendo 3DS XL – Video Review

It’s getting fairly late into the Nintendo 3DS’s life cycle, and if you know your Nintendo history, you know what that means: revisions! Sure enough, the unfortunately named New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL have arrived, and the company is billing them as a substantial upgrade over the original models. After spending a few weeks with a New 3DS XL myself, however, I can say that while it does feature a suite of notable improvements over the original models, it also takes a couple of steps back thanks to one or two unfortunate design flaws. The end result is that the New 3DS XL feels like an iterative upgrade that is probably the ideal choice for first-time 3DS owners, but not necessarily a “must-buy” for those who already own a current 3DS — at least not yet. The New 3DS XL features improved processing power under the hood, which is readily apparent if you’re an existing owner upgrading from an original 3DS model.
Games and menus load noticeably faster; no longer is entering the Notifications menu to check your StreetPass and SpotPass pings an exercise in patience, and the Nintendo eShop, Theme Shop, and Miiverse are all quicker to navigate, though the difference isn’t exactly huge. Nintendo also claims that the New 3DS models download digital games more quickly from the eShop, and while I wasn’t able to perform any tests for direct comparison, that does seem to be true even if it’s not a big difference; similarly, for those who actually use it, the Internet browser is also a fair bit snappier with the New 3DS XL but it won’t blow you away. You’re still better off browsing the Internet on your smartphone of choice, if that’s an option for you. Another one of the New 3DS XL’s big hardware additions is a so-called C-Stick that is located above and slightly to the left of the A, B, X, and Y face buttons.

It would be disingenuous to call this a “second analog stick”; rather, the C-Stick is a stationary nub, identical in form and function to the tracking nubs found on old PC laptops. Instead of a stick or Circle Pad that provides tactile feedback, you simply “push” or “pull” the nub in the desired direction without it actually moving. The nub is quite sensitive and responds very well to all manner of subtle pushing and prodding. It’s an agreeable compromise between having a full-on second Circle Pad and nothing at all, and I was surprised by just how effortlessly the nub registered my various smash and air attacks in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS.

Outside of Smash, the C-Stick is so far being used primarily to give players full 360-degree camera control in games like Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, and Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., which adds a certain degree of convenience and added playability to those games but is obviously not an absolute must-have. Happily, the C-Stick is also retroactively detected as a stand-in for the Circle Pad Pro in older games that support the accessory, meaning New 3DS XL owners who never had a Circle Pad Pro can go back and enjoy full camera control in games like Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance and Resident Evil Revelations. The New 3DS XL also includes two new shoulder buttons in the form of the ZL and ZR buttons, which are located next to the regular L and R buttons. While they will undoubtedly be nice additions for any future games with complex controls and their inclusion certainly doesn’t hurt, so far these buttons seem completely superfluous, simply mirroring the functions of the existing L and R buttons even in games designed with the New 3DS models in mind.

Hopefully developers will find some interesting, functional uses for these new buttons later on down the line. Built-in amiibo support is also part of the New 3DS XL package, and it works remarkably well. amiibo are detected and read as soon as they are placed on the touch screen, impressively putting the New 3DS XL on par with the Wii U GamePad in terms of its near-field communication capabilities. There’s not a whole lot you can actually do with amiibo on the 3DS yet, with Smash 3DS being the only game supporting the figures for now, but it’s nice to know that the functionality is there and works well. Last but certainly not least, the New 3DS XL offers what Nintendo is calling “Super-Stable 3D,” which enables the system to track the position of your face and adjust the stereoscopic 3D viewing angle on the fly. Honestly, it works very well and it’s quite impressive; the New 3DS XL very ably detects small shifts in movement relative to your face and subtly adjusts the 3D viewing angle accordingly. You have to really try to “break” the 3D now, which is a huge improvement over previous 3DS models, where it was all too easy to slip out of the 3D’s narrow “sweet spot.” As for the quality and depth of the 3D effect itself, that has remained unchanged; for example, the 3D in Super Mario 3D Land doesn’t magically become deeper or pop out more on a New 3DS XL.

This is fine, though, as the problems with the 3DS’s stereoscopic 3D have always had to do with the narrow viewing angle and not the actual effect. In hand, the New 3DS XL feels almost identical to the original 3DS XL. It’s ever so slightly lighter and just a bit wider, but neither difference is noticeable during normal use. Likewise, the Circle Pad, face buttons, and shoulder buttons all feel very similar to the original 3DS XL, although the Home, Start, and Select buttons have all been changed for the better; the Home button now sits alone below the touch screen and has more “give,” while Start and Select have been made into their own circular buttons and moved to the right of the touch screen.

The screens are identical in size and resolution to the original 3DS XL, with a welcome, minor improvement in the quality of the colors and overall clarity of the New model’s top screen. Happily, whereas the speakers received a notable downgrade in the transition from the original 3DS to the 3DS XL, the New model’s can be heard loud and clear. The original 3DS’s speakers still triumph overall and headphones are still the best option by far, but this is a welcome improvement for when you don’t have any headphones around. In some other miscellaneous design changes, the game and stylus slots have been moved to the bottom of the system. The volume slider has also been moved to the left-hand side of the top screen (opposite the 3D slider), and the wireless switch has been removed entirely in favor of a toggle within the 3DS’s home screen.

None of these minor tweaks are decidedly positive or negative, but they are at least notable. The New 3DS XL boasts modestly improved battery life over the original XL. It’s nothing that’ll knock your socks off and the system’s overall battery life still isn’t exactly incredible, but it’ll more or less get you through a five-hour plane ride now, though the battery of course drains much faster when playing online or with the 3D on. In a nice new touch, the New 3DS XL will automatically adjust the brightness of the screens depending on how well-lit your surroundings are, but this feature can be turned off if you want more control over the battery life. Unfortunately, the shift from SD card storage in previous 3DS systems to microSD storage in the New models has been handled terribly. The system comes with a 4 GB microSD card installed, which is all well and good if you never plan to upgrade the card, but heaven help you if you ever need to get to it for any reason.

Whereas the original 3DS models made it very easy to insert and remove SD cards, getting at the microSD card in the New 3DS XL inexplicably requires the use of a screwdriver to loosen the system’s back panel and a great deal of force to actually pull the panel off. Removing the New 3DS XL’s back panel is so difficult and requires that you pull with such force that not only is it incredibly frustrating, I was also legitimately worried that I’d break the system (or at least strip the back panel) in the process. How this huge design oversight wasn’t caught in quality-assurance testing is beyond me, but it’s a notable problem and one that really brings the system’s overall design down, especially when compared to previous 3DS models. Switching out a microSD card should never be this tremendously difficult, and you’re going to have to do it at least once if you are doing a System Transfer from an older 3DS or ever want to switch to a bigger card in the future.

Though minor, another drawback I have found is that the top screen just barely slides back and forth on its hinge when the system is shaken or tilted horizontally. This isn’t a deal-breaker and it doesn’t affect gameplay or the system’s performance in any way, but it does lend the system a slightly cheap feeling that never quite goes away. It’s a shame, because this has not been a prevalent issue with earlier models. From a visual design standpoint, the New 3DS XL has a slightly more industrial, “mature” look compared to the decidedly “toyish” look of the original XL. How you feel about this will depend entirely on your personal tastes, but it’s an interesting design decision nonetheless. One aspect of the visual design I don’t like one bit is the switch to an entirely glossy surface. Both the front and back surfaces of the New 3DS XL are as glossy as they come, and are thus an instant magnet for any and all fingerprints, smudges, and residue. Sweaty palms are the New 3DS XL’s worst enemy, but at least the system’s inner surfaces aren’t glossy. Overall, I like the New 3DS XL; it’s a pleasant but incremental upgrade over the original 3DS models, much like the DSi was over the DS Lite.

It’s certainly the ideal starting point for new 3DS owners, though if you can find an original XL at a good discount, you wouldn’t be doing yourself a huge disservice to pick that up instead. Nintendo and tech enthusiasts will invariably enjoy the switch to the New 3DS XL and the “new toy” feeling that comes with experiencing its various minor improvements, but for current 3DS owners who are on the fence, know that this is not a required upgrade right now unless you want to play Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. The New 3DS XL does not suddenly make the original models obsolete in any way and even comes with a couple of its own issues, so whether you decide to upgrade or hold off, your 3DS gaming future is equally bright. Thanks for watching and be sure to stay tuned to GameXplain for more on the New 3DS XL and other things gaming.

As found on Youtube

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