Buttoned Up: Should You Get a New Nintendo 3DS XL?

New Nintendo 3DS XL
Is the New Nintendo 3DS XL worth buying or upgrading to? We break down the decision for you. Nintendo

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So you’ve been going steady with your classic 3DS or 3DS XL for quite some time and it’s been a great ride. But now you’re wandering eyes can’t help but steal a glance at the younger and brainier New Nintendo 3DS XL (or New 3DS for folks in markets that also got the smaller alternative).

What’s a gamer to do?

Before your cheating heart ditches your old workhorse and pony up some dough for a new system, let’s take a look at the key features of Nintendo’s new console.

At the top of the list of improvements is the improved 3D functionality. Although 3D mode made games look great overall, the unforgiving viewing angles made playing action games such as “Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate” a hot, blurry mess unless you had the steady hands of a statue. Thanks to the New 3DS XL’s face-tracking camera, however, the 3D sweet spot is now much larger, allowing you to maintain a focused 3D image even if you aren’t perfectly still. Granted, overall sharpness still doesn’t look as good as the smaller screen of the original 3DS with 3D turned off due to the larger display not coming with a corresponding bump in resolution. You also still get a tiny bit of fringing with 3D on depending on the angle. If you love gaming in 3D, though, this is a noteworthy feature.

The New Nintendo 3DS XL also rectifies the lack of a secondary joystick in older systems with the addition of the “c-stick.”  Well, actually, it’s more a of a nub that you push against but you get the idea.

Regardless, it means you no longer have to get a Circle Pad Pro to have a second control stick. The new system adds extra shoulder buttons, putting it more in line with today’s traditional console controllers as well.

Zombies with more sophisticated palates will appreciate the extra brain power of the New 3DS thanks to its zippier processor.

For most of the 3DS library, that means faster loading times or trips back to the home screen. For titles such as “Xenoblade Chronicles 3D” it means actually being able to play the game as it won’t work on the original 3DS and 3DS XL nor the 2DS for that matter.

With those three improvements, the New 3DS XL addresses many of the key problems of the original 3DS systems. At the same time, the refreshed console doesn’t fix every previous issue and even adds a few new wrinkles of its own. The switch to a smaller microSD card, for example, isn’t an issue per se but the fact that you now have to unscrew the back faceplate to get to it can be annoying. Take it from someone who’s got a ton of downloaded games spread across multiple cards.

Another thing of note is the removal of the physical switch for wireless mode, which is now replaced by an icon on the home screen. Not a big deal but still more inconvenient. Then there’s the lack of a charging adapter. This is fine for folks who own multiple 3DS systems such as myself but I can see parents buying this as the first portable Nintendo system for their child potentially getting flummoxed by this.

Then you’ve got legacy issues such as the cumbersome friend code and system transfer method.

The lack of a unified account system a la Xbox and PlayStation means you can’t simply enter your profile into a new system and re-download your games. Instead, you have to transfer your license over and erase everything on your old system. This process took me nearly three hours due to multiple syncing errors plus the dreaded “no accessible software data” error, which required me to reformat my card. My tip is to make sure you backup the data in your cards before doing a system transfer.

All that being said, the New 3DS XL remains a great portable system with one of the best gaming libraries to ever grace any console. Folks who already own a 3DS XL might have less of a reason to switch unless they want the improved 3D or want to play exclusives such as Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. Those who own the smaller, original 3DS, however, will likely find an upgrade worthwhile, not just because of the new features but the larger screen. As for people who still don’t own a 3DS and have been biding their time before jumping in, getting the New 3DS XL is pretty much a no-brainer — well, unless you’re hoping Nintendo also releases the smaller New Nintendo 3DS with the interchangeable faceplates in the U.S.

Rating: 4 out of 5

For more articles on gaming on the go, check out the Portable Gaming and Apps section. For more 3DS specific content, you can also visit About.com's 3DS site.

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