Nintendo 3DS XL review
Review Nintendo has supersized its 3DS with a 4.9in screen that's almost twice the
size area of its predecessor. The handheld goes on sale this week, but if you're unsure whether its worth the upgrade, here's what we thought after a weekend of gaming on it.
With the enlarged display more or less the only improvement, it was obvious this was where I'd be most focused… or not – such is the visual experience of the console's 3D capabilities. Gaining perspective from the ever evasive 'sweet spot' was easier to keep with than the smaller 3DS That said, sudden head tilts or shifts in arm movement still mean you'll have to adjust accordingly and before long I gave up, returning to 2D.
I haven't lost complete faith on this added dimension malarkey, but have yet to find any 3D gear that convinces me the tech is worth investing in. For now, at least, the 3DS XL joins that growing list of dimensionalised products with 3D tech that's found wanting.
3D grumbles aside, the overall increase in display size is a welcome improvement and – based on its predecessor alone – is certainly more of a joy to use. Evidently, Nintendo has begun to realise that, when it comes to gaming, bigger is better. Indeed, the 3DS XL's display is the largest yet for a Nintendo handheld. Sure there's a trade-off regarding compactness but the user experience is much improved as games are easier to get sucked into and short sighted sufferers, like myself, need not hold it so close to focus either.
As reported when the 3DS XL was first announced, the display resolution hasn't been improved. Consequently, games tend to look less sharp then before and in many cases, come across extremely pixellated. A resolution to match the PlayStation Vita would have been too much to hope for.
Fortunately, Nintendo has included a 1:1 pixel mode - activated during a game's boot. This keeps older DS titles sharp by not stretching them to widescreen proportions like its baby brother did. The hinge has also been tweaked to include another lock-point, so users can play the handheld without the need to fully open it.
There's no doubt 3DS fans will prefer this new model, so long as they don't mind the smoother more rounded design, which didn't appeal to me much, truth be told. Personally, I prefer the matt finish to the 3DS' fingerprint-magnet gloss.
Certainly, repositioning the headphone socket to one side – away from the centre – is a good move, however, the package as a whole feels cheaper and slightly too clunky to carry around comfortably. Transporting a 3DS is easy enough and I can just about get away with a PlayStation Vita, but I look far too happy to see everyone when there's an XL in my pocket.
Cramp it up
In use, the 3DS XL is a good deal more comfortable, as the slightly wider button placement means fewer hand cramps and longer sessions bashing away. In my experience, this certainly applies more to certain games, though, as I found out when playing Kid Icarus Uprising.
The Project Sora-developed game screamed for a second analogue stick, which, as you can see from the pictures, isn't there. Alas – just like the previous 3DS – customers must invest in an additional peripheral for such improvement, a device-widening attachment that has yet to hit the market.
As decent a game as it is, Kid Icarus clearly suffered and changing character direction with a stylus is beyond inconvenient. It means shooting with the left trigger, as well as controlling the analogue stick with the left hand – my poor thumb was soon crying out for rest and recuperation.
Indeed, Nintendo could have done more to address this sort of issue without customers needing to fork out more for add-on hardware. There isn't even an AC adaptor included, meaning unless you already have a DS charger of some kind, you'll be splashing out again.
Battery life has also been enhanced, albeit only by an hour or so, although I didn't notice a huge difference. The company claims it'll now run for 3 to 6.5 hours with 3D games and remain in sleep mode for days. Considering the size of the display, these figures seem quite respectable.
The 3DS XL launches with three colours – silver, blue and red – for a smidgeon under the £200 mark. That includes a 4GB SDHC memory card, double that of its predecessor.
If you're hellbent on getting your nipper or yourself a 3DS, then the XL is the obvious choice. However, without the additional thumbstick, Nintendo has once again failed to deliver the means to comfortably explore 3D environments. Considering the third dimension is supposed to be the product's USP, I can't get my head around Nintendo's reasoning unless it really is determined to make extra wonga through peripheral sales.
If Sony has the space to include a second thumbstick on the Vita, though, why can't Nintendo do it here? Perhaps it has too much pride to hold its hands up and admit the original design was flawed, but having had over a year to listen to community feedback, its omission now is quite frankly inexcusable. ®