First Impressions: New Nintendo 3DS XL

New Nintendo 3DS XL

There comes a time in almost every 3DS owner’s life where they push the 3D slider down, removing the glassless 3D image, and never adjust it back. The vast majority of games for the system don’t utilize the 3D in a meaningful way, and articles about the 3DS and its games are plagued with comments from users about the gimmicky nature of the system. The 3D has become useless enough that Nintendo even released an entirely new 3DS with the 3D component completely removed, cleverly titled the 2DS.

With 2015 came another revision for the Nintendo 3DS family, but with this system, it finally feels like Nintendo made the system they wanted to release in 2011.

For this particular review, I’ll be focusing entirely on the (horridly titled) New 3DS XL, as the smaller New 3DS wasn’t made available to North American audiences. There won’t be much missing from the review between the two, though. Minus the New 3DS’s ability to swap faceplates to decorate the system and the New 3DS XL’s bigger screens, the systems are identical. (I will note that there is built in amiibo support in both versions of the systems. I do not have any games that support amiibo, so I couldn’t test how well it works, though I’m sure it functions wonderfully.)

Looking at the system while it’s closed won’t allow you to glean too much information as to why it’s an improvement. You may notice that several things are placed at different areas relative to the past systems. The power button, stylus, and game cartridge slot have migrated to the bottom, and there are two more shoulder buttons, name ZL and ZR. Nothing about it looks too different. There’s a slick diagonal pattern imprinted on the front and rear of the system, but nothing out of the ordinary.

When you open the system, it’ll all be familiar to seasoned DS players. The traditional 3DS thumb and control pads, with the A, B, X, Y face buttons all in their proper place. The start and select buttons have been moved to the bottom right, and the home button looks terribly lonely sitting on the bottom screen by itself. The biggest change you’ll notice is a small grey nib right above the face buttons. This was the much hyped “C-Stick”, meant to be a secondary control system. More on that in a bit.

New Nintendo 3DS XL

Aesthetically, it’s all normal DS faire, though you may notice there’s no easy way to change your memory cards out. This lead to my first, and worst, experience with the system.

The standard 3DS, 3DS XL, and 2DS models all used SD cards for external memory, required for downloading anything onto the system. Nintendo decided to change that. This time around, you’ll be using mini-SD cards.

Now, normally that wouldn’t be a big issue, except that they hid the mini-SD card. I had maxed out my 4gb SD card given to me with the original 3DS XL, so I had to upgrade to a 16gb card. The new 3DS systems come with a 4 gb mini-SD card, so I would have to get a 16gb mini-SD for my new console if I wanted to keep the games on my system after I transferred my account to the New 3DS XL. Changing the cards was not a smooth process. For some reason, instead of just keeping the memory slot off to the side, Nintendo designed the system to have the mini-SD card under the back plate, which meant a #0 screwdriver was necessary to remove the plate to make the swap. It was a horrible first step. I eventually threw the “Excessive Force” warning out the window after 30 minutes of working the panel out of its socket, revealing the innards of the system. Taking the back cover gave me access to the internal battery as well as the stylus holster, but I didn’t linger too long before swapping the cards and closing it up.

Now, with my memory swapped and back plate replaced, I hit the power button. The beginning welcome screens popped up, like normal. I adjusted the time and date, my system’s name, and then adjusted the 3D. I confirmed my settings before being whisked away to a screen I’d never seen before. “Super Stable 3D” flashed on the screen and a small, dull red light turned on next to the inward camera. An illustration appeared of a head, and it moved around as I tilted the system, following my head.

All of the New 3DS systems have this function. There’s some form of facial tracking in the system, and as you move your head, the parallax screen shifts to make up for that movement. Even the smallest twitches are accounted for. Now, instead of a 3 ½ inch viewing area, you’re given about a foot of horizontal movement and 6 or so inches of vertical movement where the 3D will remain clear. In my time with the system, I’ve played almost exclusively with the 3D on. It’s an incredible improvement to the 3DS family, and the games look better than ever. Playing through my previous 3DS titles allowed for a whole new experience. My eyes never felt strained, and I was genuinely happy to have the 3D on, for once.

I began my system transfer from my regular 3DS XL. It took about an hour, which was unnecessarily full of stress. I had to keep an eye on the battery levels of both systems because the New 3DS XL didn’t come with a charging cable, for some ridiculous reason. I only had one charger to swap between the systems. If one of them shut down on me, the data would corrupt and I wouldn’t be able to play either one, a horrifying prospect easily remedied by the inclusion of a charger.

Luckily, I danced the charger between the two consoles and made it through the transfer unscathed. I reset my New 3DS XL and went to work testing its speed. One of the selling points of the New 3DSes was the faster processing power. This helped for quicker startup times for games, faster download speeds, as well as better looking games. I can’t attest too strongly to the last point as of now, but the startups are definitely faster, and the game downloads go by noticeably quicker, though I’m not sure by how much.

monster-hunter-4-ultimate-3ds-xl

Either way, the change I was looking forward to most was this mysterious C-stick. It was being touted as free camera control, new ways to play, revolutionary for the handheld. I popped my copy of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate into the card slot and began testing.

The testing went incredibly well.

I don’t know how the nub claims to work, but it does. The nib barely moves, but can sense the tiniest pressure changes. While the two games I played heavily with it used it exclusively for camera control, I feel that this addition was desperately needed to breathe new life into the 3DS family. The smooth control you get with it is incredible. The only thing I sometimes had a bit of trouble with was my thumb slipping off the sheer surface when I moved the stick downwards. And, as a special note, any games that used the previous Circle Pad Pro add-on are compatible with the new stick. As with any new controller, it’ll take you a little while to really get used to holding it, and your hands may get a bit tired during the process. But once you find your preferred position, you’ll be golden to play.

The ZR and ZL buttons are placed in prime positions, at least for my fingers. Now, the middle knuckles of my pointer fingers control the basic L and R, while the pads of those fingers use ZL and ZR. I haven’t had a lot of experience with these buttons as the library currently available makes no significant use of them, but they feel responsive enough.

The screen resolution is the same, so you can’t look forward to significantly better looking games, but the new processing power allows for much more detailed textures. It still plays all your previous 3DS titles, though there is an “exclusive” title coming to it in the near future, exclusive in this case meaning that they ported Xenoblade Chronicles from the hard to find Wii version.

The system works impressively well, considering the source material it had to build off from. Most everything is still like the members of the 3DS family, but the improvements made to this system really set it apart, making it a welcome addition. It’s not a “must have” system yet, but the library is just as robust as ever, and will only continue to grow. As it grows and gains more exclusives, the system will start to be pushed to its limits, making the improvements worth the upgrade. It may not be the time to purchase if you’re comfortable with your current console, but watch for it in the future.

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