Nintendo 3DS XL review

For the past 18 months, I’ve spent a great deal of time being transfixed by varying visual trickery on my Nintendo 3DS.

Aided in no small part by the likes of Super Mario 3D Land, Resident Evil: Revelations and Kid Icarus: Uprising, or, more recently, Heroes of Ruin, Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, the handheld’s software library has expanded to the point where it is entirely capable of catering to all manner of audiences.

Yet whilst I have adored each and every game, playing anything for an extended period of time has proved troublesome. Not in relation to battery life either, which hasn’t been that detrimental to the experience seeing as I spend the majority of my playtime at home, but more in relation to its physicality.

Accustomed to the more generous proportions of the Nintendo DSi XL, I have found it hard to play the 3DS for much more than a few hours at a time due to its size. So, you can probably imagine how pleased I was once the 3DS XL was announced.

Naturally, the screens, which are 90% larger than the original and the biggest to ever feature on a Nintendo handheld, do prove to be the most significant change. Whilst the simulated depth of the glasses-free stereoscopic 3D effect proved divisive in terms of consumer response, the larger screens strain the eyes less and that centralised sweet spot is all the more rewarding to find.

It is with movement that the effect proves slightly more difficult to maintain, however, with the included suite of augmented reality software and games that use the system’s gyroscope, such as Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure, serving as examples. Yet this has been an issue that has plagued the original system, and regrettably it doesn’t appear that Nintendo are able to address any improvement in regards to the viewing angle at which the 3D effect can be enjoyed.

Whilst it is the enlarged screen size that is proving to be the focus of Nintendo’s marketing push, there are far more subtle adjustments that have been made that enable the 3DS XL to easily become the model of choice over its predecessor.

The entire clam shell design of the system is far smoother and curvacious, a stark contrast to the more angular design of the original, granting greater comfort and grip when in use, especially for more extended periods of play. Whilst the matte finish lacks the sheen of a glossy finish, the 3DS XL is a sophisticated looking system that manages to retain a broad appeal.

What may go unappreciated by many is that the hinge that connects the two portions of the device together now provides three fixed angles, each satisfactorily snapping into place rather than the more flimsy approach adopted for the original. Such precision in design is welcomed.

The stylus has returned to a far more convenient location to the right of the system, having previously been located in an awkward position to the left of the game cartridge slot. Nintendo have also chosen to revert to non-telescopic stylus, which is much similar in size and design to that of the DSi XL, which is a move that I personally appreciate.

The 3D display slider has also seen improvement, clicking into place at either minimal or maximum ends of the spectrum, and this benefits the user in offering a greater degree of precision over the level of 3D you choose to use. Something that has been removed, however, is the light that indicated when 3D visuals were available on the device. I thought this rather key to the general consumer, and it was an aspect that I hadn’t expected Nintendo to remove.

Such aesthetic alterations don’t end there, even the three buttons – Select, Home and Start – below the touch screen have been addressed, now more clearly defined than the long continuous strip that we had before.

As one of the broader criticisms that the handheld has faced over the year, Nintendo have also managed to offer an elongated battery life, and you can expect around an approximate 6.5 hours whilst playing Nintendo 3DS software, whereas with Nintendo DS games could net a play time of 10 hours.

Whilst Nintendo have chosen to supply 3DS XL owners with a 4GB SD card, the boxed system doesn’t come with an AC adapter. It is compatible with those used for DS, DSi, DSi XL and the original 3DS though, but it is still a move that poses potential confusion amidst consumers if not handled well at retail.

All in all, the 3DS XL further refines Nintendo’s latest handheld experience, and proves both a worthy upgrade and entry point to all consumers. If you’re still undecided, try and get your hands on one at various events. As always, in doing so you’ll see how vastly improved it is for yourself.

The Nintendo 3DS XL releases across Europe on July 28th, and North America on August 19th,

Written by
After starting out with a Yellow Game Boy and a copy of Donkey Kong Land, Alex once hid in his room to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time one Christmas. Now he shares his thoughts on Nintendo Insider, keeping track of everything to do with Nintendo.

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