NS Review: Hands on with the New Nintendo 3DS XL
The 13th of February 2015 sees the release of the New Nintendo 3DS XL in the West. After it’s release late last year in Japan, followed by Australia and New Zealand, finally it’s our turn to get our hands on Nintendo’s latest little box of tricks.
And what a treat it is. Lucky enough as I was to get hold of a PAL system from Australia, I’ve been using the updated console since November; smashing my way through Super Smash Bros. (it loads much faster here!) and revisiting some of my favourite games from the 3DS’ earlier years in glorious ‘Super stable 3D’, making the most of the much publicised new control options and other features.
One of the key features of the new model, the much improved 3D functionality really does work – something I have used during almost all play sessions since getting my hands on it and a feature, I’m disappointed to say, I hardly ever used on my previous XL. The new eye tracking feature keeps the visuals in focus as you naturally move your head around whilst playing, meaning I have been able to enjoy gaming in 3D as was originally intended. No more headaches from eye strain for me.
Auto-brightness is another great new function – switched on from the Home Menu Settings button, top left of the touchscreen, the same new place for the Wireless Communication/NFC on/off switch (no physical slider this time) and the ‘amiibo settings’ button (more on that later) – no longer do I need to keep adjusting the brightness to suit the brightness of the room, vehicle or outside space I’m playing in. Very useful.
Speaking of switches, the volume switch has now moved up to the left side of the top screen, opposite the 3D depth slider. It makes sense and is easier to get to and operate than in it’s previous position on the bottom screen.
The design of the console itself is refined. The subtle colouring on the ABXY buttons are a little retro treat for SNES fans, the new position for the Start and Select buttons is tidier and the new game card slot on the front edge of the console means switching out games is nice and easy. The metallic blue (of my 3DS, it’s also available in Metallic Black) is beautifully shiny, but quite receptive to finger prints.
Another new edition is the C Stick – a second analogue control on the right side, just above the ABXY buttons. At first glance it looks too small to be effective – but effective is what it most definitely is. As a way to pull of Smash moves in Super Smash Bros. it feels great – just rough enough that your thumb won’t slip off. And as a new way to control the camera in the recent Monster Hunter 4 and Code Name S.T.E.A.M. demos it’s very impressive – subtle shifts of your thumb moving the camera very effectively. Whilst it can be used with games that support the Circle Pad Pro, I’m looking forward to seeing more new titles utilising this control method.
And the final new control option that has been added is the ZL and ZR shoulder buttons on the rear. Two additional buttons that, if I’m honest, don’t feel within natural reaching distance (I expect to get used to them through more use in the future). The original L and R buttons are nice and ‘clicky’ on this new console, if not a little cheaper and thinner feeling than on the original 3DS XL. I can’t help but think the hinge for the top screen feels a little ‘lose’ on this model too – something that concerns me, considering how much I have always taken my 3DS out and about.
Currently offering nothing more than the ability to register ownership; a new feature I should also touch on is the ‘amiibo Settings’ menu option. The New 3DS XL features a NFC reader built into the touch screen, opening up the handheld console to the Nintendo’s latest money maker; amiibo figures. I’m looking forward to the forthcoming Super Smash Bros. for 3DS update that will allow me to use my amiibo in game. Support for future titles is also promised too.
There are other things to note about this new console, good and not so good. The stylus is now accessed from the front, but it’s smaller than the one in the old XL. Not so easy to get to though is the Micro SD card (no regular sized SD cards this time); requiring removal of the back panel using a small screwdriver. A really fiddly process to be honest – something you’ll be pleased you really only need to do once. So long as you get an SD card with lots of nice capacity to begin with of course. You’ll be pleased to hear that the system transfer process is relatively straight forward though – select the option to transfer data via your PC rather than your wi-fi network and the whole process doesn’t take too long to do.
So, to conclude. The New 3DS XL is a treat for all gamers. If you don’t already own a 3DS (seriously?) get your order in now. If you’re still playing on the original 3DS, now is the time to go XL. I can’t recommend the jump up to the larger screen enough and the new features on this model are well worthy of the investment. In fact, I recommend the upgrade whoever you are; it’s like getting a completely new console, with an amazing back catalogue of games to enjoy all over again, and new ones to look forward to. With your amiibo collection by your side.