"That took long enough," is probably what you're thinking. That's fair, though I'd argue I needed a complete picture before I started this review.
The New Nintendo 3DS XL launched in North America February 13, 2015. We had a system pre-ordered, but Nintendo got us one just a day before launch. We were a few weeks behind other outlets, so that explains the delay there.
The reality? I wanted to play games, new and old, on the system before discussing its merits and downfalls. Two and a half weeks later, and I've played more than a dozen new and old games on the system. I've taken it on trips, downloaded content, drained its battery, played with and without 3D and even went through Majora's Mask 3D (twice in February).
I've done a lot of gaming this month on the New Nintendo 3DS XL. The system has a tiny pocket of flaws, but, overall, it's an exceptional hardware effort form Nintendo.
Here's what's in the name…
If I were reviewing the name of the New Nintendo 3DS XL, Nintendo would be in dire straits. Throwing New in front of hardware names and calling it a day doesn't make sense to me. It leads to customer confusion in odd ways, it makes the system hard to discuss with people and it's generically convoluted.
I pretty much had a "Who's on first?" discussion with one of my good friends when the handheld was announced, and we've since had to revisit that conversation several times as he slowly gets a grip on which console is which.
Now, for those who actually follow gaming closely, the name hardly matters at all. Nintendo could call it the Game Player 5000, and gaming news readers would be able to keep up.
The casual player who just wants to snap up the system for themselves or a loved one? They're thrown for a loop.
Nintendo has no problem selling systems to people who already love Nintendo. Right? So the name doesn't matter for that group. For everyone else? For those outside of the Nintendo bubble? A name like New Nintendo 3DS XL is unnecessarily confusing.
Here's what "New" gets you: enhanced processing power, a C-Stick, additional shoulder buttons, stable 3D and a slight appearance tweak. Is all that worth a purchase? Yes. It is.
The good news? The name really doesn't matter when it comes down to real world use. Where the New Nintendo 3DS XL is borderline silly in its name, it's fantastic in its hardware.
Is the new 3D that good?
On the plain, original 3DS and the 3DS XL systems, the glasses-less 3D works fine if you're both in the right spot and don't move around too much. A small shift in head placement causes the illusion to break, and that means gaming in any sort of moving atmosphere (a car) or playing a game that causes you to involuntarily contort the system (Mario Kart) makes 3D viewing tough.
On a personal note, I hated the 3D on the 3DS and 3DS XL. The fact that the illusion broke so easily kept me from using the trick, and I played most games without ever even touching my 3D slider.
So, that's what type of user I am here. I'm one who thinks the 3D on the old systems is bunk.
It should tell you something, then, that I use the 3D on the New Nintendo 3DS XL roughly 50% of the time I play games. In fact, I only turn it off when I'm playing something that's super action heavy (Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate) or trying to conserve battery life.
Speaking of battery life (Control+f: battery life), I found myself getting anywhere from four to six or so hours on the system. 4 hours in play with 3D on and brightness high, six and up with brightness down, wireless and 3D off. I'm getting roughly an hour and a half more than I did on my 3DS and 3DS XL. It's better, but not huge.
The new handheld makes use of cameras on above the screen in order to figure out where your head is during play. As your head moves, the cameras adjust the screen in order to preserve the 3D effect. That means minor bumps, jostles and slow twists keep the 3D going without a hitch. My eyes don't reset to the illusion as much, and playing with the 3D never gives me a headache.
Every user is different, of course. What strains my eyes might not bother you at all. The 3D here? It's good enough that I've gone back to legacy games like Super Mario 3D Land and tried them with the 3D on just to see what I missed.
The C-Stick is great.
The New Nintendo 3DS XL features a second "stick." It's located on the upper right side of the device, and it's mainly used for camera control in games so far.
It's called the C-Stick, though I'd argue it's more of a nub. When considering how movement is registered on the nub itself, picture something like that old red nub you'd find in the middle of laptop keyboards before trackpads were commonly seen.
You don't push the stick from the sides on the New Nintendo 3DS XL. Instead, you place your finger on top and depress in the direction you're looking to aim. This is a lot less odd than it sounds, I promise. What feels weird for, perhaps, the first 30 seconds of ownership becomes second nature and crucial for play in a matter of days.
See, I wasn't really sold on the necessity of the C-Stick until I used it for a bit, played hours of Majora's Mask 3D and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and then switched back to my old 3DS. On my old system, I found myself wishing for the C-Stick. It makes play much better in Majora's Mask 3D, and it saves a lot of finger cramping in MH4U, where camera controls can happen on the touchscreen.
The Circle Pad Pro was a bulky accessory that took the original 3DS handhelds and added a second Circle Pad. It was massive, and only specific games made use of it. The new C-Stick works on all those old Circle Pad Pro supported games, and it makes most of them even better. I'm looking at you, Kid Icarus: Uprising.
This nub is a great addition to the Nintendo 3DS, and I offer that it's the biggest reason to buy the system so far. It makes games more playable, and that's something most gamers want out of everything they play.
Better processor, faster loading, faster downloads.
The New Nintendo 3DS XL also sports a faster processor, and that provides several benefits that fall into both the obvious and inconspicuous categories.
First, and this is one of the ones you would have seen coming, games load faster. Much faster. The initial start-up screen for Super Smash Bros., for instance, fires up practically half-a-minute faster than on the old 3DS and 3DS XL.
Then we have actual in-game processing. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, for instance, features more vibrant colors and better textures on the New Nintendo 3DS XL. Because of the better processing power, the New Nintendo 3DS XL will also arrive with exclusive games. There's a bit that will be a problem with the name in the near future. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D will only be playable on the New Nintendo 3DS thanks to this power upgrade.
On the slightly hidden side, you're going to notice a much smoother UI and way faster digital downloads. I hated this on my 3DS. Downloads took far too long, regardless of file sizes. Put the system to sleep downloading a big game, and it probably wouldn't finish in an hour or more. The New Nintendo 3DS XL? It's quick.
I downloaded Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. last night. That game checks in at over 8,000 blocks, which I believe is roughly a GB. That was done in about 15 minutes as opposed to what would have taken more than an hour on my old 3DS XL.
Those last two points, the faster downloads and smoother UI, are huge here for me. As someone who uses my 3DS a lot for gaming, these updates are welcome.
The legacy lineup.
All of these fancy new features mean that gamers, new and old, have a good reason to dig into the system's legacy of games. Whether it's eShop titles or banner classics, if it supports 3D or the Circle Pad Pro, the game is worth another look on the New Nintendo 3DS XL.
This is particularly good news for folks who are new to the Nintendo handheld world. The New 3DS supports 3DS and DS games, just like the platform before it. That means buying into Nintendo's handheld systems now will get you three platforms of games: DS, 3DS and New 3DS. The latter, of course, might not have as many as the former.
I own a lot of DS and 3DS games, and this new system has pushed me back into my collection more so than any handheld before. That's a good effect to have on a gamer.
The missing charger, new storage format and other quibbles.
Now, it's not as if the New Nintendo 3DS XL arrives without problems. It has minor hitches that need to be discussed in order to turn you into an informed customer.
First, if you're new to the DS or 3DS world, you're going to need to buy an AC adapter separately. That's right, Nintendo elected to save costs by skipping out on a charger. Inconvenient for us, yes, but probably fiscally smart for them. Of the millions who will buy this new hardware, they'll likely be upgrading from old 3DS and DS systems. That means their chargers will work on this new system.
Nintendo's banking on the fact that most purchasers of the New Nintendo 3DS XL will be upgraders instead of first-time buyers. It will probably be right, but they're looking to save money by inconveniencing customers, and that's pretty lame.
In terms of design, I have some minor issues with the handheld. The storage format has changed from SD to microSD. If you're moving from a large 32GB SD card to the system (which only packs a 4GB SD card) you'll need to buy bigger memory if you want to bring all your games with you. I had to buy a second microSD card after getting my system in order to bring over everything I wanted to play.
Accessing the card is sort of a pain, too. It's not tucked behind a hidden slot like it was on the 3DS and 3DS XL. Instead, you have to unscrew the back panel to get at the card. Again, an annoyance. I suggest you buy as big a card as you can now, and leave it in for the life of the system.
Finally, and this one ranks lowest on my rundown of complaints and quibbles, Nintendo elected to do away with the wireless slider. I keep wireless off, generally speaking. I play in my home, offline, without any chance of StreetPassers going by. I keep wireless off to save power. Games ask you to turn it on fairly regularly, and that used to be easy enough to accomplish with a simple button flick. Now you have to go home, quick settings and flip it on and off there. An annoyance, like I said.
The New Nintendo 3DS XL is a fantastic upgrade and new system for handheld gamers, despite its minor flaws.
The bottom line here is that if you're either upgrading from a 3DS or 3DS XL or you're looking into buying a Nintendo handheld for the first time, the New Nintendo 3DS XL is a great purchasing decision. It arrives with flaws, though most of them fall into the minor annoyance category rather than deal breaker.
the If you game consistently on the go and you like what Nintendo has done with its handheld games over the last few years, you'll want to snap this system up. It isn't mandatory for fun with the library, but as more games that make use of the C-Stick and extra processing power arrive, this system will slowly move into the realm of must-buy.
For now, it's a great upgrade and a strong entry point.
Disclaimer: We received a New Nintendo 3DS XL with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate pre-installed directly from Nintendo. We played through several games and used the system on a daily basis for nearly three weeks before starting this review.
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