Here’s a proper good one after the sloppy first impressions post I did a little while ago.
Way back in 2011, Nintendo came a successor to their DS line to fill the spot for their eighth generation handheld. It got off to a bit of a slow start, but ended up in the top of selling the most units in its first two years. Then halfway through 2012, the XL version was released. As the name suggests, it’s the bigger and better compliment to the original 3DS, and it’s the one I’ll be reviewing today.
Let’s start by going over the improvements made since the original 3DS. Note that I’ve never owned one of those, but I’ve read what’s unique to the XL version, and have taken note of those things while using it. You’ll be amazed, but the screen really is bigger. I know right, huge shocker!
Other than that there’s a lot of quality of life improvements. All buttons are now clicky (yes, even the D-pad) which makes them feel very nice and responsive.
The bigger form factor of the thing allowed them to put in the longer-lasting battery it badly needed. Assuming you’re not going connectionless with the screen on its lowest brightness and no 3D, you can still get a nice amount of hours out of it. Four to five hours I’d say. The energy saving function is a must, too. You barely even notice it’s there! (Turning it on uses less backlight for black areas.)
Stylus placement went back to the right backside, as it was with the original DSes. Seems much more convenient than the weird “way over in the back, can’t find it” position the normal 3DS uses.
Aesthetically it looks a bit better as well. While the glossy look of the original was nice, it attracted a lot of fingerprints. And in my opinion the “color outside, black inside” scheme does the screen more justice. The metal finish of the outer color looks great too, though it does seem to attract subtle smudges. Not really a big deal.
Onto the main attraction of the handheld line. Some would argue the 3D is a gimmick, I say it’s a cool way to utilize technology we already have. It sets the system apart from other available handhelds, and really, it doesn’t look half bad. It’s mildly annoying that you can’t move it around too much (causes flickering) and the shallow viewing angle is a bit sad (though the XL has a much wider one), but it’s pretty good otherwise. Takes a bit of time getting used to, you have to learn to keep it at roughly the right distance, and not try to see things real hard. Just relax and take it in. There you go! (Should be noted that the 3D effect only goes deep. Things don’t come out of the screen, it’s more of a box for you to look into.)
As far as software goes, the firmware’s nice and comes loaded with some pretty cool applications. AR Games, for example, is a cool set of minigames played using the 3D camera. You put down a special card on your desk or floor, the camera recognizes it and displays a bunch of boxes. Shoot one of them to start a minigame. Before you know it, a dragon-like creature will be wreaking havoc right in front of you! Augmented Reality is pretty cool.
(Further info on the camera: Quality is bad, especially when not under bright light. It’s fun to play around with a couple times, but otherwise kind of lame. It works nicely for AR though!)
Oh, and don’t forget StreetPass! Have wireless enabled and your 3DS in sleep mode (just closing the lid), and go for a stroll through town! If two people carrying 3DSes pass each other, StreetPass will quickly exchange information like Mii’s, what game you recently played, and even personal messages! Though most dominant in Japan, I’ve been able to get a bunch of StreetPass hits myself over here in the Netherlands. Sure I don’t get a thousands hits a day, but 5-10 is pretty doable. Unfortunately this isn’t the case everywhere, and you may be hard-pressed to find other StreetPassers to help you collect pieces for 3D animations, or battle your way through a dungeon. (Yeah, the Mii Plaza SP minigames are quite fun.)
Of course it has a lot more functionality than that. There’s an application you can use for taking game-specific notes which can definitely come in handy in bigger, more complex games. Friends are now managed through the device instead of the games. Friend codes are still a thing, but you can also register a friend wirelessly. You can also use the (not that great) built-in browser for surfing the web if you don’t have a computer or smartphone handy, and an upcoming version will have a YouTube application. Not sure if it’ll be able to view 3D-capable clips in 3D though.
One tiny nitpick I have is how the XL doesn’t come with a charger. (American versions do though.) You have to buy one separately. Sure this lowers the price on the handheld on its own and doesn’t shove an extra charger into the hands of those who have a regular 3DS already, but come on, it just seems kind of stupid. Charging cradles for the larger version are still very hard to come by, too.
All in all a pretty great handheld. If you’re on the fence about buying one, I recommend you do!