Nintendo 3DS XL Review
It’s never easy being the second version of a current-generation console coming out of the door – you need only look at the popular but less successful SEGA Mega-CD (there’s a reason why you may not have heard it), the PlayStation 2 Slim and more recently the Xbox 360 Slim console for evidence of that. In the case of the 3DS XL, Nintendo have a lot to prove, with the original incarnation of the handheld criticised for its frequent eye sores and lacklustre battery life. Can this bumper-size version of last year’s 3D breakthrough console possibly live up to the expectations of its fanbase?
To answer this question, I’m going to split the review up into a number of sections covering the queries that have most commonly cropped up about the XL, before coming to an overall verdict on the product as a whole. Without further ado, let’s enter a new dimension once again and see if a further year’s development has helped or hindered this innovative piece of hardware…
How significant are the 3DS XL’s new features?
First, it’s important to take note of just what the new additions are that Nintendo have given to their 3DS console. Let’s get an overview of the actual listed features that are unique to this incarnation of the handheld:
- 90% Size Increase For The Dual-Screens
- 86% Life Increase For The Console’s Battery
- 46% Weight Increase For The Console
- 2GB Size Increase For The SD Memory Card (2GB-4GB)
Will the 3D effects still require me to take regular breaks during play-time?
Undeniably, one of the most prominent shortcomings of the original 3DS was the regular need for players to take breaks inbetween play sessions. Where this was a point of humour with Nintendo’s Wii home console (which advised breaks every other hour or so, much to the ignorance of most gamers), many of us genuinely did feel the need to take a break after just 30-60 minutes of play on the 3DS last year. Much as some people tried to suggest we use the 2D-3D converter to relax the effects, the irritating thought that we had just spent over £200 on a console the main gimmick of which we couldn’t use for more than half an hour was certainly present for many of us at the time of release.
Sadly, although the originally tiresome effect of the 3D visuals has been altered ever-so-slightly, there’s no getting around the fact that there’s still going to be a considerable level of optical strain involved here for many problems. That’s not so much Nintendo’s fault as the fault of our seemingly never-ending longing for the third dimension to become a reality without the need of bulky glasses, yet its hampering of the overall gameplay experience cannot be understated. As a technical flaw, it’s still a notable problem in terms of sales and general reception in that it seems even the console’s developers can’t really do anything about it.
Whether you choose to switch back to 2D for the majority of your play-time here is totally a matter of preference; just remember what features of the console allowed for a (reasonable) £180 price tag to be placed between you and the 3DS XL!
How does the console feel when played on-the-go or without a surface?
A crucial element of handheld video gaming is the accessibility and comfort which a new console offers to the player when taking it into mobile situations that often do not involve a surface to rest on. For instance, if you’re hoping to roam the lands of Hyrule for hours on end with nothing but thin air and the sound of bawling tykes surrounding you on a train journey, you would definitely like to think that your 3DS XL would be easy to grasp and unlikely to cause any physical stress from prolonged periods of play. In my opinion the original version of the hardware faltered in this respect, so once again to see such an increase in size and weight is nothing but a great thing for my money. Indeed, anyone who felt like me that the original version was a bit too light and peculiarly shaped will immediately find the same comfort of the first DS and DS Lite consoles returning to their hands with a warm sense of familiarity the moment they get their hands on the console.
It’s difficult to express how significant an effect a minor technical alteration such as this can have on one’s gameplay experience, yet those who found themselves in the same boat as me when they first tried out the 3DS will understand exactly what I mean should they purchase the console. A small yet vital breakthrough on Nintendo’s part, this is!
Do the add-ons and extras warrant me swapping in my old 3DS?
One dilemma that often crops up in these situations is whether a new version of a console is such a marked improvement that those of us who own the original should upgrade. In this case, I would not try to argue under any circumstance that even the most hardcore of Nintendo fans should trade in their original 3DS for the 3DS XL unless they can do so with absolutely no extra cash spared at their own expense. While there are most certainly great new benefits to owning the XL over its predecessor, they are by no means substantial enough to warrant a full upgrade on the part of the loyal followers who have been with Nintendo on their latest gaming venture since the very beginning.
I’m sure that won’t have stopped some fans from already trading in their old 3DS, or even now owning two incarnations of the console, but at least it can serve as a strong word of caution for those of you who were still waiting for a definitive solution to the aforementioned investment problem.
Is the 3DS XL worth my £180 investment?
Oh, and speaking of investment…let’s now finish by getting down to the nitty-and-gritty business of this review. If you did not buy the Nintendo 3DS when it first hit stores back in March 2011 in the UK, you’ll no doubt be wondering whether Nintendo have done enough in the space of sixteen months in terms of their improved hardware and new software offerings to warrant a purchase of the console today. It’s a valid question, and one to which I hope I can provide you with the answer you’ve been waiting for.
Crucially, I think that right now the 3DS is still lacking the ‘killer app’. For all of its new Mario games, its HD remakes, its ports of major multi-platform releases and everything besides, Nintendo’s latest handheld console has yet to produce anything which (in my opinion) can be counted as truly revolutionary and groundbreaking for handheld gaming. There’s been nothing on the scale of Professor Layton, Phantom Hourglass or the original Mario Kart DS here, and until the moment arises when the software that everyone needs to play arrives, I would advise that you hold off on your purchase.
As a console, though, the Nintendo 3DS XL is definitely a strong improvement on its predecessor. There are still health quirks plaguing the device that will undoubtedly be remembered when the next-generation of handhelds comes around, but for now we can ignore them for the most part simply because the gameplay experiences we’ve had so far on the console have been pretty impressive, holding the promise for something far greater, something which with any luck is just around the corner…let the games begin!