Nintendo 3DS XL – The Definitive Verdict
That’s right. We’ve got one, and we’ve been putting it through its paces. Style or substance? A worthy upgrade or a gambit to entice new gamers? Let analysis commence!
It wasn’t so long ago that smaller gadgetry was all the rage, but that’s no longer the case. Sumptuous slabs of silicon and circuitry grow and swell with every new iteration, and Nintendo aren’t about to be left in the dust. In fact, the 3DS XL might just be looking to redefine handheld gaming.
A bold claim. Is it one the hardware can live up to? Now Nintendo have helped us get our delighted hands on one, we’re determined to find out.
3DS XL Saga
Unboxing a new game machine is always an epic moment, and the XL doesn’t disappoint. For returning 3DS fans, much will be business as usual; the pack-in AR cards, the lovingly wrapped unit itself, the War & Peace-rivalling enormo-manual.
The box also makes adamantly clear that this puppy’s got a screen of epic proportions, and upon getting the console out into the open for yourself, that fact becomes juicily clear. The 3DS XL is dominated by its sheer screen size, which is the largest ever committed to a Nintendo handheld. Top and bottom screens clock in at 4.88 inches and 4.18 inches respectively, dwarfing its diminutive predecessor.
The entire feel of the system is very different to that of the original 3DS. Whereas the system we’re familiar with has a glossy super-gadget sheen to its polished plastic, the XL has a tactile, matte-style finish to the whole thing. The buttons offer more friction, though conversely the 3D Depth Slider is more slick and easy to manipulate. There’s no sense of the ‘click’ you get when switching between 2D and stereoscopic 3D on your regular 3DS, making the transition smoother.
Fire up the XL, and that massive screen hums into a familiar menu. It’s here that the bigger touchscreen starts to show its appeal; it’s much easier to thumb at bigger icons, and this is especially true in games that feature bottom-screen ‘buttons’ to press. We’ll get to those shortly.
A few things you’ll need to bear in mind before we continue. Firstly, the device is, in most territories, not shipping with an AC adaptor. Gamers will need to use one from their 3DS, DSi, DSi XL or outright buy one separately. This caters well to those making an upgrade, but does leave newcomers having to fork out for some extra kit.
Additionally, that snazzy charging cradle we got with our original 3DS systems sadly doesn’t have a 3DS XL counterpart, at least not packed in. You do get a 4GB SDHC card with the hardware though, double the size of the one you get with the regular 3DS. A welcome addition!
All very well and good, but how does it play? The menu is pleasingly tactile thanks to that larger touchscreen, but we want the games.
But hey. Hold the phone there, buckaroo. If we’re putting this XL unit through its paces, we’re going to put it through its paces, by gum! So that’s why we decided to not only test a variety of 3DS software on the machine, but also elected to lovingly bung some Nintendo DS gamecards into its sumptuous crevice. We’ll turn our attention to these first.
Nintendo DS Software Test
We pored over our DS game collection to whip out some unsuspecting XL fodder. We all know the 3DS XL upscales 3DS resolutions, but how does it handle the older, tinier DS resolutions?
Our first foray into the games of yesteryear was the vibrant Sonic Rush. It seemed perfect to test that ginormous screen, and it did not disappoint. Wild landscapes blurred past our eyes in technicolour glory-whirs, and somehow the pixel-art landscapes and polygonal protagonists were more smooth and effortlessly slick. We don’t know how, but it works.
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels Of The Starry Skies
Big screen, big quest; and they don’t get much bigger than Dragon Quest IX. The intro movie’s a bit grainy when upscaled, and the text seems a bit blurry, but then you get into the game and it’s gorgeous. Buildings are charmingly chunky, your party is rendered in adorably eye-popping colours, and the battle scenes with their swooping camera are suddenly more engaging, thanks to that epic screen upgrade.
How about a game with purely pixellated graphics? We put Chrono Trigger to the test in the 3DS XL. The intro anime was a little fuzzier, but when that title screen pendulum swung before our eyes, we emitted a swoon. How is it a 1990s game revamped for DS, then upscaled to such comparatively gargantuan resolution, can look so darn good? It’s like looking directly into Toriyama’s imagination or something.
There’s no denying it. The 3DS XL somehow does something that makes original DS games eye-ticklingly scrumptious. These games shouldn’t look anywhere near as good as they do when stretched out so far beyond their original sizes, but they do. What’s more, we tried the good old push-down-Start-and-or-Select-when-the-DS-game-is-firing-up trick to try out their original resolutions, but actually preferred the delightful enormity of their 3DS XL interpretations. The original 3DS’s meagre interpretations of DS games is quite jarring in comparison.
But what about that all important 3DS software?
Nintendo 3DS Software Test
Ridge Racer 3D
It’s a launch game and not rife with graphical grandeur, but that’s the point. We wanted to see how a 3DS launch game would measure up. The XL screen emphasises the smudgy textures and jagged forms of the cars, but then the race starts and… whoa! The music kicks in, you’re tearing around corners at several hundred miles an hour, and that screen is gleefully swallowing your face in full 3D. Immersive!
Mario Kart 7
With full 3D and graphics honed to perfection by Nintendo’s finest visual geniuses, Mario Kart 7 shines on the XL screen. Crank up the Depth Slider and everything’s still as pristine as you remember it, but now much more tactile. The plumes of dust behind karts’ wheels in Kalimari Desert never looked so good, and that train’s so solid now you can almost feel it smacking you in the face for failing to brake.
The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time 3D
It’s the big one. It’s also more jagged than you remember, magnified to such a size, but then you get moving, and that XL screen is just guiding you home. Plug in some decent headphones, let that enormous top screen swallow you with stereoscopic seduction, and you may as well be in Hyrule. We’ve never felt so fully immersed in Link’s world before.
Starfox 64 3D
Do a barrel roll! Ah, memories. The cinematic hijinks of McCloud and his pals lend themselves beautifully to the XL screen. We made sure to head for that dogfight with Team Star Wolf on Fichina, and it didn’t disappoint. Shooting down Pigma Dengar for his treachery to Fox’s father in a shimmering stereoscopic snowscape should always be done with grandeur.
The XL’s biggest claim to fame is its inflation of graphical goodness, and that big screen makes good on the promise. While the flaws in a given game are more noticeable when filtered through a 90% screen size increase, the tradeoff is that the visuals somehow absorb and surround you, sucking you into the game world in a bafflingly impressive way. On a handheld games console.
Reverting to the smaller 3DS screen, Corneria’s plight seems strangely diminished in Starfox 64 3D. And we still can’t get over how reliable old Ridge Racer 3D had us howling with delight as we ripped around the circuit, engulfed by the screen in a way conducive to an incredibly immersive driving experience.
That screen size doesn’t come at the cost of speaker quality either, as the audial clarity continues to be strong. As we discovered, total immersion can be achieved with headphones, depending on the title, and it’s amazing what that bigger screen can actually do to the feel of playing a game.
We tested each game on a regular 3DS after each XL session to ensure the comparison, and the results were self-evident. For example, in Ocarina Of Time on the regular 3DS, Link’s epic quest is given somewhat less gravitas by the sudden sensation of you looking through a small window at his world. The 3DS XL drags you by the collar headfirst into Hyrule.
Couple that with the fact that original DS games look better than ever, even though all possible logic suggests they should be blocky upscaled eyeball-nonsense, and we could just be looking at the definitive handheld Nintendo gaming experience.
Touch Me, Touch Me With Your Madness Thing
The 3DS XL feels a lot different to its forebear. All the buttons and doodads are in the same place, save the stylus (which isn’t metal and telescopic this time but is still remarkably comfortable). However, they’re more tactile and inviting somehow, with that increase in friction. The Start, Home and Select buttons are actual buttons now, with pleasing clickiness, and the power button is now an embedded circular affair unobtrusively out of the way of wayward thumbs.
A big improvement comes in the form of the L and R shoulder buttons, which are now more squat and less slick to the touch. This makes them more comfortable to press, especially for prolonged periods like a powerslide-heavy Mario Kart 7 race, whilst holding a Koopa Shell behind your kart.
The caveat, of course, is that a 3DS XL is, well, bigger than a regular 3DS. Carrying it around for StreetPass and such might prove a little more difficult for those without ample pockets. It feels terrific though, and the special measures Nintendo took to prevent screen-glare work a treat.
Also, it’s just jolly nice to be able to play your favourite 3DS games without that constant little nagging voice in the back of your head muttering, “Battery’s gonna run out any minute, any minute, I just know it…”
Yep. We tested it. With all those games up there, remember? Full 3D, full volume, full brightness, wireless networking switched on, and none of that Power Saving Mode display setting malarkey. Nintendo’s assurances of a 3 – 6.5 hour 3DS game time and a 5 – 8 hour DS game time on full charge seem pretty well founded, as well as remarkably welcome.
Yes, Lovely, But Should You Get One?
That’s the clincher right there, isn’t it? Ultimately, it depends on what you’re looking for in a handheld Nintendo experience.
If you’ve been holding off on a 3DS no matter how many nifty games come out for it, it’s a resounding yes. Honestly, either form of 3DS is going to be a wise investment, but for playing that DS back catalogue and experiencing auto-stereoscopic 3D videogaming to its fullest potential, the 3DS XL offers a level of immersion that’s difficult to describe. Try it. Own it. Do it.
If you’ve recently invested in a 3DS, you might be on the fence. You could trade in that new acquisition for an even newer one, but you might want to hold onto the 3DS you have for a while and see how it feels. If your a 3DS Ambassador who’s been around since the beginning, it might even be hard to part with an old friend.
But the question you need to ask yourself is a simple one. Are you looking for quick blasts of gameplay on a small and sultry system, easy to dip in and out of as the mood takes you? If so, sticking with the original 3DS, or simply investing in one if you’ve yet to, might be the best move. That one actually comes with a plug, after all.
But if you want more from your 3DS experience, or if you’ve been left cold by the console so far… if you want to experience a game swallowing your entire head in a giddying display of immersive brilliance… if you want longer battery life, to explore every inch of Hyrule, of the Lylat System, to have everything bigger, bolder and more vibrant… the XL is the way to go.
The 3DS XL feels like a gamer’s gaming machine, and that immense screen is all about drawing you into the experience. Visual flaws in 3DS software will be easier to pick up on, but the depth of the absorbing visuals, the feel of those buttons, that much-appreciated boost in battery life will take you on some of the most impressive adventures of your gaming life.
Both versions of the 3DS have their merits, and both have their drawbacks. But for what could have easily been a tacky cash-in redesign, the 3DS XL actually redefines the very system it evolved from.
Who knew making that screen so gosh-darn enormous could have such a profound effect?
- Nintendo 3DS XL Review by Tony White
3DS XL Hub Quiz
On the 21st of July, 3DS Buzz held (probably) the world’s first large scale live video games quiz. A historic moment, I’m sure you’ll agree. Around 600 people took part for the chance of winning one of 2 Nintendo 3DS XL consoles. If you missed it, remember to stick with 3DS Buzz for more unique chances to win stuff!
Congratulations to Lulles who not only knows her gaming trivia, she is a very talented digital artist and a deserving winner of our prize. The other prize went to Anthony, the founder of Game Music 4 All. A great website for fans of games music.
Nintendo 3DS XL – Everything You Need to Know
3DS XL Overview
Main Feature: 90% larger screens, 86% longer battery life
UK Price: Around £179.99
NA Price: $199.99
European and UK Release Date: July 28th
NA Release Date: August 19th
Colours: Silver (Europe only), Blue, Red
Compatible with: 3DS, DSi and DS games
3DS XL vs. 3DS
DS Screen Size and Weight History
The 3DS XL features a massive portable screen. Anyone who has seen a DSi XL screen will probably remember being surprised at just how large it was. Well the 3DS XL’s 3D screen is over half an inch larger than even that. With a 3D screen of that size, it’ll be like having an IMAX cinema in your pocket… almost.
|3DS XL||3DS||DSi XL||DSi||DS Lite||DS|
|Top Screen (inches)||4.88||3.53||4.20||3.25||3.12||3.00|
|Bottom Screen (inches)||4.11||3.02||4.20||3.25||3.12||3.00|
It had been rumored that Nintendo was going to unveil the “3DS XL” at E3 2012, and Nintendo firmly shut that rumor down; however, despite claims that they were happy with the 3DS hardware as is, they never actually stated that a Nintendo 3DS XL wouldn’t happen – they just said it wasn’t going to be unveiled at E3. They were right, it wasn’t unveiled at E3; but it was shown off for the first time just a few weeks later via a Nintendo Direct webcast.
Larger Screens and Battery
Sporting 90% larger screens than the existing Nintendo 3DS, the 3DS XL features a 4.88″ auto-stereoscopic widescreen display on top, and a 4.18″ bottom touch screen; in addition, the Nintendo 3DS XL will also feature an improved battery life bringing playtime to 3.5 to 6.5 hours while playing 3DS games from the original’s 3 to 5 hours, and 6 to 10 hours while playing original DS games from 5 to 8 on the original DS. The body of the system has also received a bit of a slimmer, rounded, more modern looking makeover, and the actual weight and size of the 3DS XL has only been increased by 46%.
Essentially, the 3DS XL will have a (nearly) PlayStation Vita sized top screen, and Nintendo DSi XL sized bottom screen – a significant improvement, and it also makes it the largest screens ever created on a Nintendo handheld.
AC Adapter and Extra Memory
In Japan and Europe it was announced that the Nintendo 3DS XL would not be sold with an AC adapter, in an effort to reduce costs for the consumer; Nintendo appears to be assuming that most fans will already have a compatible AC adapter from a previous Nintendo DSi, DSi XL or 3DS. In North America, however, the system will comes with an AC adapter. The good news is that all territories will get a 4GB memory card which which will be perfect for the new ability to download all Nintendo games which would have previously been for retail only.
Colours, Price and Launch dates
The Nintendo 3DS XL will launch in two colors in North America – red and blue, with a third silver option being exclusive to Europe; despite the back of the top panel of the 3DS XL sporting these colors, the rest of the system appears to remain uniformly black. In Japan, a special exclusive all white unit will be available as well. The Nintendo 3DS XL will launch in North America on August 19th alongside the release of New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the rather reasonable asking price of $199.99. In Europe and Japan, the Nintendo 3DS XL will launch on July 28th, and will cost around £179.99 in the UK.
What are your thoughts on the Nintendo 3DS XL; will you be upgrading, or have you been holding out for this (in some people’s opinion) inevitable hardware revision? I for one have had a good run with my existing Nintendo 3DS since launch, and feel completely justified in picking up the new redesign – those new screens are gorgeous! Let me know what you think in the comments below.