Console Review: Nintendo 3DS XL
Ever since the release of the Nintendo Gameboy I have had a Nintendo handheld in my home (or car, on the plane, train, bus, etc). And with every release of a new handheld console from Nintendo they find a way to outdo themselves and crush the competition with their device which always has boasted a lot less graphical power than the other options on the market. But with some kind of gimmick and insanely superior libraries of games, the big N always comes out on top. After nearly a decade a proud owner of the Nintendo DS Lite I decided it was finally time to upgrade and find out what all the hub-bub about the 3DS was.
Well, first off, from the console’s name you can deduce that the big gimmick of the current handheld is that it displays games in 3D. What makes this really special is that special 3D glasses are not needed at all. Something I wished that the movies did as I wear glasses all the time and having to put another pair over my own is quite cumbersome.
The 3D effect is something that really does need to be seen first hand to believe, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s cool as all hell, albeit with some drawbacks. The 3D effect isn’t really things popping out of the screen, but what it does is give an incredible amount of depth that really sucks you into the game world. That is, when it is developed for properly. I own 4 games (Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Super Mario 3D Land, Bravely Default, and Fire Emblem: Awakening) for my 3DS and to see more of what the 3DS library had to offer I downloaded a bunch of demos. The quality of the 3D effect really varied from game to game with Nintendo first party games really doing amazing things with it and others just giving me an immediate headache (namely Castlevania and Monster Hunter). On the plus sided, there is a slider on the side of the console where you can adjust the intensity of the 3D effect or turn it off completely. No game suffers from playing in 2D as the 3D just really adds to the ‘wow factor’.
You also need to keep the console somewhat aligned with your direct eyesight for the 3D to work properly which wasn’t a problem for me until I tried out some action games where I’m hitting buttons like crazy and knocking my 3DS all over the place. Mario was about the max in action I was able to play without jarring things around, but games like Castlevania became unplayable in 3D mode.
As far as design goes, I opted for the XL model of the 3DS since I’m a 30-something adult with big man hands and deteriorating eyesight. The design is outstanding for me. Buttons fall comfortably where my thumbs would land and the console rests in my palms comfortably with its nice rounded edges. The analog circle pad controls wonderfully for precision controls and the d-pad is extremely responsive. I really liked how the abxy buttons have a clicky feel to them and the l and r triggers feel good to press.
The best part about the XL model is the larger screens which are 90% larger than the standard 3DS and DS Lite models. Coming from a DS Lite, these screens are amazing and really help me see my games much better. Add in the 3D effect, they really help immerse me into the game I’m playing by pretty much consuming all of my focal points real estate. I love ’em and really see why one would settle for the other 3DS models unless they really need the smaller form factor.
The weight is also very nice with a tad bit of heft, but not enough to make my wrists ache during longer play sessions. I also like the matte finish which prevents the scratches that the glossy finishes are notorious for. And the sound! Wow, I was really surprised how good the stock sound system in the console is. At mid volume it produces a rich and detailed level of sound very rarely heard on portable gaming systems and rivals the quality of my earphones. Which brings me to my only big gripe, the position of the earphone jack. It’s located on the bottom left of the console and since my earphone input jack is rather large, it really gets in the way of my left palm. I have a pair of earphones with a smaller jack I’ve been using exclusively with the 3DS, but while not as annoying as the larger one of my better earphones, it still is annoying. Placing the input port on the top or bottom center would have been the optimum design choice in my opinion.
As far as the available library of games for the 3DS goes, I’m more than impressed. My first 4 games have left me very happy with their quality and variety. Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a sequel to my favorite game of all time, A Link to the Past, and is just nothing but pure classic Zelda joy to play; Super Mario 3D Land is one of the best Mario games I’ve played since Mario 64; Fire Emblem: Awakening is hardcore turn-based small encounter strategy at it’s finest; and Bravely Default is just a really badly named Final Fantasy games (seriously, it’s Final Fantasy in everything but name, phoenix downs, 4 crystals, turn based combat, cheeky and cheesy characters, epic quest, it’s all there). Then there’s a ton of games that are high on my radar all boasting an incredible amount of diversity and critical and public renown. Plus it’s backwards compatible with my old DS games so I can continue playing my Tetris cart on the crapper, now without fear that the top half of the console is going to finally break off and fall into the toilet.
If I did notice one thing from the demos I played though, is that if it wasn’t designed for the 3DS specifically, it’s not going to be too hot. Metal Gear 3 3D had some serious frame rate issues and Rayman Origins simply looked like shit compared to its console/PC counterparts. So if a game is available on another platform, that may be your best choice.
All in all, I’m extremely happy with my new 3DS XL and highly recommend one if you are in the market for a new handheld console. A strong game library has something to play for all ages (even a nice and super bloody REAL Resident Evil game) and the design makes it optimum for adults with big hands and bad eyesight.
PS, Screenshots of the games on the internet really don’t do much justice to how good the games look. I recommend going to your local game store and playing one for yourself to see what I mean.