The Rundown on Nintendo 3DS XL

Why this handheld is different

Nintendo 3DS XL
Nintendo 3DS XL. Amazon

After the disastrous launch of the Wii U, the Nintendo finally got back to basics and made a huge fourth-quarter push that brought their home console back on the scene. With the release of several first-party games, Nintendo's bread and butter, and its Amiibo line of NFC-enabled figures, Nintendo has reaffirmed its place in the console market.

What's so Different About the Nintendo 3DS XL?

Here's where Nintendo always loses us. They're very good at weaving a picture of creative new games featuring Mario, Link, Samus, Fox, and the gang, and how much fun you'll have with all your old friends. We absolutely love those ideas, and Miyamoto is so adorable, but after it's all over, what makes this system worth buying physically? At first appearance, the thing looks almost just like a regular Nintendo 3DS. Why should anyone buy it over the cheaper model?

Well, although it's not a huge departure from the original hardware, the 3DS XL has quite a few upgrades and added features to make a person think really hard about replacing their current model.

  • It features an improved CPU with additional cores, which we assume is probably a quad-core version of its original ARM11 MPcore processor. It's been touted to improve download speeds and to allow for more graphical capacity.
  • This is probably the coolest and the most disappointing new feature. It's awesome to have even better looking and more complex games coming, but they won't be backward compatible, which is kinda unfair for those who just got their 3DS XLs to play Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. It's unlikely that Nintendo will produce all their new 3DS games with this improved CPU in mind, but it can be assured that those who don't move up to this model will be missing out on some great games.
  • The features of the Circle Pad Pro have been integrated into the console itself. The New 3DS features two additional shoulder buttons and a tiny nubbin "C-Stick" on the right side of the console. More buttons are always a good thing.
  • Improved face tracking will allow for better display of Steroscopic 3D. This is a huge one for me as we found the 3DS XL's 3D lacking in comparison to the original device.
  • NFC support, with an integrated NFC chip, so that all those Amiibos can make their way to the small screen.

A host of minor features have also been included:

  • Micro-SD Support
  • Automatic brightness
  • An improved web browser
  • A slight color re-design, paying homage to the Super Famicom and European Super Nintendo

At the time of the release announcement, there wasn't a ton of info on which games would utilize the new features of the Nintendo 3DS XL, except for two special packages in the U.S. along with the standard version. One: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate with the game pre-installed on the 3DS, and the other, a Majora's Mask edition, that unlike the European version, doesn't even come with the game. The remake of Xenoblade Chronicles is the most high-profile game that utilizes the new features and we find it incredible that a game of that scope and graphical prowess is going to be able to be played on a handheld. Code Name: STEAM is also slated to support at least the new controls, if not the added power of the new CPU.

Why No Little Guy?

One of the big controversies (along with the decision to exclude an AC adapter from the package) is that as of 2015, Nintendo decided to release only the XL version of the new design. Nintendo was somewhat vague on the decision, but rumor had it that it came down to numbers, and the original 3DS XL had far outsold the original 3DS and 2DS since its release. While it would have been nice to have something more portable, the biggest disappointment of the decision not to release the 3DS here, is that we lose out on the cool covers that are designed to fit on it. Hopefully, Nintendo will release the same style of covers for the 3DS XL, because Japan has a host of cute, cool ones that really add a lot of personal style to the handheld.

But, Is It Worth It?

We have gotten a ton of use out of our 3DS. In fact, we love the handheld so much, that over the years we have purchased a 3DS, a 3DS XL, and finally a 2DS. However, Nintendo's vague marketing strategy for the newer 3DS has left us a little skeptical. On one hand, we love Nintendo for all their timeless characters and high-quality designs of both hardware and software, but on the other, it would have been nice to get more than a month's heads-up. 

If you're thinking about taking the plunge, Nintendo's guide on how to transfer your content from one 3DS to another is super helpful!