The 3DS XL Review

The first redesign of the 3DS launched in North America last Sunday. The 3DS XL upgrades exactly what you would expect – it’s bigger. The 3DS launched to some hardware criticisms: the screens were just as small as the original DS, the shiny cover was prone to fingerprints, and it only had one analogue stick instead of industry standard two. The first year of the 3DS was a whirlwind story. It started out to rocky reception and the standard “there aren’t any games” criticism. However, by the end  of its first year it was selling really well and is the home to many great games. So, did the redesign address any of the problems? Is now the time to pick up the 3DS? And is it worth buying if you already have an original 3DS? These are the questions we are going to be looking at today.

Totally wasn’t a failure

Redesigns have been standard for Nintendo handhelds since the beginning. The original Gameboy was redesigned to be the Gameboy Colour. The Gameboy Advance was redesigned to be the Gameboy Advance SP. The DS was redesigned to be the DS Lite, DSi, and the DSi XL. You may have noticed, internet, that, most often, the most popular form of the handhelds came from the redesign and not the original. Redesigns are great in that they allow hardware developers to fix problems with the original hardware. There is a reason that nobody wants to remember the original fat DS. On the other hand, sometimes too many redesigns are a really bad idea. The DSi XL wasn’t a particularly great idea, and we all know how badly the PSP Go was received.

Seriously, this thing is 50% fingerprints.

The 3DS XL is the critical first redesign of the hardware. It will likely become the dominant iteration of the 3DS, so it is important that Nintendo get it right. Fortunately, Nintendo did a pretty great job. The hinges and d-pad are sturdy and don’t squeak, which was a problem I encountered with the original 3DS. The new finish to the body of the XL is much better than the original, notably, it doesn’t act as a fingerprint magnet. The buttons are also a little more stable than the original.

However, the main upgrade comes from the 90% bigger screens. This is a major improvement for many reasons. Firstly, the Vita has a beautiful screen, and the original 3DS didn’t… at all. The tiny, ugly screen was a problem especially since the 3DS was supposed to be pushing glassesless 3D. The upgrade brings two much bigger, much prettier screens. The automatic advantage of bigger screens is apparent. The screen isn’t stretched, so it looks just as good as when it was smaller, but the big advantage is with the 3D effect. A bigger, clearer screen allows the device to push it’s 3D effect much better, which is good since 3D is in the name of the damn thing.

Guess what? It’s bigger… much bigger
But there’s no Special Pikachu edition…

The big disadvantage isn’t what Nintendo did, but what they didn’t do. There is a ton of room on the system for a second analogue stick. The fact that Nintendo had the opportunity to add a second stick, but opted to force players to rely on an even larger, unwieldily Circle Pad Pro. The bigger size is a definite improvement, but that was pretty much all. Considering the major leap to colour between the Gameboy and Gameboy Colour, or the jump allowing gamers to see the damn screen between the DS and DS Lite, this upgrade seems a little superficial. Sure it synergizes well with the 3D effect, but it seems like it could have been more.

If you haven’t bought a 3DS, the 3DS XL is a really great buy. This would be the longest period of time between redesigns, so if you were going to pick it up you couldn’t pick a better time. While the original 3DS is cheaper, the 3DS XL is enough of an improvement that it is the clear choice between the two systems. On the other hand, if you already have a 3DS, the XL isn’t the biggest upgrade. It is assuredly a better system in every way, but it isn’t a big enough upgrade to justify upgrading for everyone.

The 3DS XL is a great system. It is superior to the original 3DS in every single way. The screens are greatly improved, which will help push the 3D effect, the buttons are better made, and the finish doesn’t promote a cascade of fingerprints. On the other hand, Nintendo didn’t make serious improvements to the design or add any brand new features. I cannot recommend the XL enough for people who don’t own a 3DS, and, truthfully, it’s a pretty good buy even if you do have one, but the price tag may not be worth it for some.


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