After watching the New Nintendo 3DS launch in both Japan and Australia last year, fans of the the manufacturer have been waiting anxiously to get their hands on the hardware. In the wake of the latest Nintendo Direct, it was announced that the portable would only be arriving in the XL variant for the time being and now, North American gamers are closer than ever to getting their hands on the upgraded handheld.
But does the New Nintendo 3DS XL really pack-in enough additional features to make it worth picking up for existing 3DS owners? To answer that question means starting with the basics of exactly what's been changed.
The first thing that users will notice is the addition of a C-Stick and a pair of 'ZR' and 'ZL' shoulder buttons. In a bid to mimic the previously released Circle Pad Pro, these give players extra options when playing a number of previously released titles like Super Smash Bros. and Resident Evil: Revelations. Games that were designed to work with the aforementioned peripheral function better as a result of the modifications, but it can't be emphasized how much better they actually feel to play thanks to the inclusion of the additional buttons rather than a clunky add-on.
While the shoulder buttons are great for some existing software, the C-Stick is what really stands out as a benefit. In Super Smash Bros., for example, the additional nub helps to execute lighting-fast Smash attacks, while the added input takes on the role of controlling the camera in a handful of other games like the upcoming Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D. What makes this new stick so unique is the fact that there's almost no give to it at all. It's a stationary button that requires very little pressure to activate, and, surprisingly, it works well – even arguably better than another Circle Pad.
Minor tweaks that play well with the new system's additional buttons are core changes to the location of several key inputs. Both the 'Start' and 'Select' buttons have been shifted to the right side of the portable (now found under the 'A', 'B', 'X' and 'Y' buttons) leaving the 'Home' button as the sole input underneath the touchscreen. The 'Volume' slider has also been shifted to the top and sits parallel to the 3D slider, so players' hands will no longer slide up the portable and crank the volume during intense gaming sessions. Meanwhile, the game card slot has been moved to the bottom of the system alongside the newly placed 'Power' button and stylus slot.
A changed layout and additional buttons are the obvious changes, but one of the New Nintendo 3DS XL's best updates can be found under the hood. Enhanced CPU means players will be treated to dramatically reduced load and download times, but its uses have yet to be fully realized at launch. What will be happening, however, is that exclusive games will be coming for the system as a result of this beefed up power. Titles like Xenoblade Chronicles 3D can't be experienced on anything other than the New 3DS, which means a number of different titles could follow suit down the line.
Keeping the upgraded CPU and potential for a slew of exclusive games in mind as core reasons to potentially invest in the new handheld, the addition of enhanced 3D is definitely another major factor for those looking for a little more dimension. By tracking the face of the individual playing the system, the New 3DS XL allows 3D to be enjoyed from almost any angle. No longer will gamers be forced to slide the 3D effect down or even off during a long commute, as every game can be experienced in the way the very name of the 3DS line implied.
There are a couple of downsides to the enhanced 3D feature: namely, viewing 3D objects from angles which they weren't originally meant to be viewed. The depth of the screen remains intact and enjoyable, but the depth of the actual image becomes lost as players tilt their heads to the side. The cost of having reduced depth from once unseeable angles, however, is minimal when the end result permits users to enjoy the 3D feature of the handheld uninterrupted during bumpy car rides or casual couch marathons.
Last, but not least, the New 3DS XL comes with built-in Near Field Communication. This effectively means that amiibo can be scanned by the device, allowing the once Wii U-only action figures to be scanned into portable titles that support Nintendo's toys-to-life initiative. Unfortunately, the tech isn't active at this time so it's not possible to test out how well this works, but the first game that will support the feature is none other than the portable iteration of Super Smash Bros.. After that, additional games like Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. will support amiibo as well, but there are currently plans to release an NFC compatible base for those that own previous hardware entries in the 3DS family (so existing 3DS owners can breathe easy).
While all of these enhancements are for the betterment of the games being played on the system, the lack of an included AC adapter to charge the handheld indicates that Nintendo intends the device to be an upgrade rather than a jumping-on point for consumers. Those who've opted not to invest in a 3DS, or even a DSi thus far will have to purchase a charge cable (retailing for $9.99 USD) separately to ensure they can actually use the hardware they've bought. It's easily the biggest fault of the new SKU, but anyone who's already begun amassing a library of 3DS titles will be just fine.
Another issue is the placement of the new memory card slot. Jumping from the standard SD memory card to a Micro SD, the designers of the New 3DS XL have opted to place the slot for the smaller card under the back plate of the system itself. This means players will have to break out a screwdriver and remove the back of the system in order to swap out memory - a bothersome layout that requires more labor than was ever necessary before.
All in all, Nintendo's latest handheld will appeal primarily to those who already own a 3DS. With additional features and options for existing titles that are brought to gamers courtesy of the additional shoulder buttons and C-Stick, the system adds depth to many fans' existing libraries. Of course, these are games that people have likely already wrapped up and allowed to gather dust on their shelves. Bonuses like extended battery life and power-saving brightness tech ensure that players can enjoy games for longer increments of time, but this is still just the beginning of a platform that the Big N hopes to build.
With exclusive titles en route, the New Nintendo 3DS XL is a system that will justify itself in time, but there's no need to lay down the cash quite yet. That's not to say that gamers won't find a reason to invest in the handheld in the near future, but at this point the best is still to come for the new Nintendo portable.
The New Nintendo 3DS XL is set to arrive in North America on February 13, 2015 for $199.99 USD and is available in both New Black and New Red colors.