For the last week I have been spending a fair amount of time with the New 3DS XL. After using a 3DS for so long, it really feels like a sweet upgrade. Some of those upgrades, of course, have a lot to do with just moving from the smallest form-factor to the XL, while others are wholly new (yeah sorry) to the New 3DS XL.
First I want to talk about the 3D and what they did with that to get it out of the way, because I really don’t use the 3D except for the cursory demands of a review or my curiosity about what impact it has on a game. The parallax effect has been improved leading to what I can only really describe as deeper 3D. The gap between foreground and background elements is much more pronounced. Along with this improvement is much better response to movement of the console with the 3D on. When using the gyroscope in games or just moving around while playing games there is less chance of the parallax effect being lost, making you see two screens instead of the 3D effect. I think this will come in handy for those people who use the 3D a lot as just when sitting on a couch it was crazy to note just how much the machine moves around while playing. And no, I’m not one of those players that turns the controller when going around a sharp corner in racing games.
Remember the circle pad pro? Its a clunky piece of plastic that offers you zL and zR and the right analogue stick. It also made the console look like a large, overwrought engineering student’s practical project. Finally, all of the buttons without the need for silly add-ons. The new machines sport zL and zR buttons and a little grey nub called the C Stick, which doesn’t really offer the speed and fine control that a full analogue stick might, but its enough to get the camera in the right place without too much fuss. This is a much better alternative as less add-ons means less batteries to worry about and less little bits that need to be carried, packed, looked after or stand the risk of being lost. Its also backwards compatible with games that make use of the circle-pad pro, meaning you won’t have to keep one piece of hardware for certain games you own and another for the newer games. (Sony and Microsoft, are you listening?) Talking about buttons, the power button has moved out of the way for a select and start button that are near your right thumb, instead of on the bottom border of the screen. Everything feel in place except for the stylus, which is at the bottom edge rather on a side.
The insides of the machine have been improved. Double the RAM and from 6 MB to 10 MB of VRAM and the CPU has gone from a Dual-Core to a Quad-Core. This results in faster load times for games as well as a faster store and downloads as the machine can handle more. The real test will be when new games made to make use of more resources become available but for example, Monster Hunter 4 takes 43 seconds to boot and ask for a circle pad pro, while on a New 3DS that drops to 14 seconds. This sounds amazing, but how often do you load games on your 3DS? I tend to stay in the same game for a long, long while, barring store visits.
There is a big snag here though and that is the design on the bottom side of the machine. The microSD card slot can only be reached by removing two screws and then sliding the large backplate off the console. It feels rather flimsy and precarious and really could have been made easier. The tiny screws are held on the backplate with mini-washers which means you stand less chance of losing them, but it makes for a rather awkward dance of making sure the lip of the backplate ends up in the right place (around the cartridge slot and headphone connector and power button), while not letting the screws scratch on the insides of the machine. Thankfully this is an operation that doesn’t have to be done often, but I can see tears when a curious tech-savvy child decides to upgrade their own storage. Speaking of upgrading, the system transfer system is rather oblique and takes a fair amount of time for an SD card reader, which not everyone has.
The New 3DS features NFC for Amiibo support, which is great considering how people are buying them like the world is about to end. So far the feature only works in Super Smash Brothers, but we can expect more in the future. It also uses software controlled Wi-Fi switch, rather than the slider on the side of your machine and an auto-brightness feature, which I switched off because it seemed to think I was playing games near a strobe light.
The biggest issue is that currently there are no titles that need the new 3DS. The first game that will only run on the new hardware with its faster processor is Xenoblade Chronicles 3D which arrives in April. If you have a 3DS (the mini one), upgrading to the new 3DS XL is a bit of a no-brainer as I haven’t had such a comfortable session with a 3DS ever before thanks to the dimunitive size. If you have an XL though, it becomes a tougher sell. Unless the features scream out to you or you believe the exclusive titles will be worth it (if you haven’t played Xenoblade Chronicles it is worth it) then it is time to upgrade. Just don’t forget to keep your charger.
Disclaimer: New 3DS XL was supplied by Nintendo for review purposes.