Nintendo is a confusing company, at least it is when it comes to naming its devices. After the massive success of the Wii, Nintendo confused consumers with the release of the Wii U. After the DS blew the handheld market wide open, the followup was called the 3DS, because it added a 3D screen. That almost made sense, but the follow up to the 3DS features a name that makes walking into a local game store and asking for one a nightmare: the New 3DS.
Picture this: you walk into GameStop, a store that sells both new and used video game hardware, and ask for a New 3DS. The clerk now has to ask if you want a new original 3DS or a “new” New 3DS. What if you want a used New 3DS? There’s a Monty Python sketch if I’ve ever seen one.
Odd branding aside, the New 3DS XL is here, and it brings some interesting changes over its predecessor. But is it worth running out and upgrading if you already have a 3DS? If you’re new to the world of Nintendo handhelds, should you throw down the extra cash for the New 3DS, or save some money with the original? Keep reading to find out.
Best of all, we have a New 3DS XL to give away to one lucky reader! That’s right, you can take home the latest in Nintendo’s storied line of portable game consoles for free! Keep reading to find out how to enter for your chance to win!
Introducing the New Nintendo 3DS XL
The New 3DS XL is, at its core, a lot like the old 3DS XL. Though there is also a non-XL version of the New 3DS, it isn’t available to the US market. The new portable hotness comes with a suitably hot price tag of $200.
As for the competition, Nintendo is looking at only one true competitor, and that’s the PlayStation Vita (our review). The Vita comes in slightly cheaper at $170, includes a copy of Borderlands 2, and comes a larger memory card out of the box, as well as more powerful hardware. On paper, it looks like Sony’s console is the better value, but alas, the Vita is not well-supported from game developers. In spite of stellar hardware from the competition, the 3DS wins as a platform.
So why does this new 3DS exist at all? Nintendo has introduced a few major features that push it ahead of previous Nintendo 3DS models. We’ll dig in to each in-depth, but basically what you are gaining is a faster processor, eye-tracking 3D, a second joystick, and NFC support for Amiibo. There are some other, smaller, adjustments, but these are the main things you’ll be looking at when you’re deciding whether you should upgrade. You’ll need to ask: do these features make it worth the cost of admission?
When you first pull the New 3DS out of the box, you can’t help but be a little impressed by the device, especially if you’re an original 3DS owner. It’s quite a bit bigger, and it features a more matte-like finish than the paint job of Nintendo’s older handheld. This helps keep fingerprints off the outside of the device, but as the paint job isn’t completely matte, fingerprints will still happen from time to time.
As you start digging through the box, you’ll notice something missing. It’s something that’s rather important if you want to actually use your device after the initial play session, and that’s the charger. That’s right, in its infinite wisdom, Nintendo has decided that most of the people buying a New 3DS would be upgrading from previous models, and as such would already have a charger. Fortunately, I have at least 3 or 4 sitting around, but will lead to many upset buyers when they get home and realize they can’t charge the device. Since it doesn’t use a universal micro-USB socket like most mobile devices outside of the Apple universe, you’ll need to purchase one separately if this is your first 3DS.
Another weird design choice that you’ll notice right away is the fact that you can’t get access to the SD card from the outside. Instead, you need to unscrew the back of the console and access it from there. Additionally, the format change to microSD means that you can’t just switch the card from your existing 3DS, but will have to use either the included 4GB one that comes preinstalled in the system, or buy a new one.
The last change that an experienced 3DS user will notice right away is the omission of the wireless switch. Now, to turn on Internet, you need to go to the home screen and access the option in the same place where you adjust the brightness. It’s a minor annoyance, but still one that’s worth noting.
The new 3DS still makes a strong first impression when you crack it open and see how big and vibrant the screens are. It’s nice looking piece of hardware, whether you get in black (our review color of choice), red, or one of the limited edition models.
Eye Tracking 3D
The big selling point of the New 3DS is the eye-tracking 3D. Previously, the 3D functionality had a definite “sweet spot”, outside of which the screen just looked blurry and downright terrible. This was far from optimal, and for me personally, meant I deactivated the 3D features most of the time.
With the New 3DS, I am still not in love with the 3D technology, but it is much improved. In fact, I actually used it for a few extended gameplay sessions, something I would have never considered on the original 3DS.
The eye tracking feature works as advertised. You can hold the New 3DS pretty much however you want, and the 3D will adjust and look great. If you look up and quickly, you might notice the display goes crazy for a second or two as it attempts to re-establish eye tracking, but it quickly adjusts.
I still find that turning the 3D dial all the way up looks weird and gives me a headache, but about halfway up looks great and works as advertised. If you tried out the 3D on the original 3DS and wrote it off as junk, there’s a good chance that the New 3DS will change your mind in a big way.
The New Second Joystick
For me, this is the reason that the New 3DS is unmissable. We live in an era where every major console features two joysticks, even the other big portable player the PlayStation Vita. Nintendo was literally the last holdout, and it kept quite a few games off the console. Any first person shooter is simply unplayable, while games like Monster Hunter that require camera control work are functional, but could be better – the list goes on.
Finally the New 3DS has two joysticks. Well, sort of. The second stick is quick a bit smaller than the circle pad used for the left stick. It feels a lot like the little nub on an IBM ThinkPad laptop, and while not quite as good as a full-sized joystick, it seems to get the job done.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical about playing games with a little nub, but after about 80 hours of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, I can say with 100-percent confidence that this is a solid way to manipulate the camera. However, after a particularly long session (probably about 8 to 9 hours straight), my thumb was certainly in pain. After an overnight break it felt fine, and didn’t experience the problem again, but be warned that you could get a blister from the nub putting pressure in a small area.
For me, this is the reason to buy the new 3DS. It opens up new games that just couldn’t work on the 3DS before, and it takes some existing games and makes them better. It really comes down to whether lots of games come out that actually use the C-Stick, but even with the few that are out there, it’s still worth it.
Original 3DS Vs. New 3DS Gameplay Experience
Each new feature of the New 3DS – the better processor, the C-Stick, the improved 3D – sounds fairly small, but when you add them up, they make for a far better gaming experience than the old 3DS.
We already talked about the C-Stick and improved 3D in detail, but there’s another huge benefit that we didn’t get to, and that’s improved loading times for all games thanks to the better processor. Switching between zones in Monster Hunter is a few seconds quicker, and starting a game from the home screen is significantly faster – sometimes over a minute is shaved off. Over a long gaming session these time savings can really add up.
Then there’s the battery life: 6-7 hours of gameplay compared to 4-5 hours of the previous generation.
When you put it all together, the New 3DS is better than the original in almost every way. The only notable drawbacks are the change to a microSD card, the lack of charger in the box, and the removal of the Wi-Fi switch; but really, these are minor, and the positives far outweigh the negatives.
The game library that’s exclusive to, or at least uses the features of the new 3DS, is very small for now. Most games will benefit from the faster processor and all 3DS games get something from the improved 3D, but only one requires the new system, and only a couple of games take advantage of the new C-Stick.
The only New 3DS exclusive game is Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, and that’s actually a remake of an existing Wii game. Even if you like Xenoblade Chronicles, it’s hardly a system seller.
As for games that actually use the right analog stick, the big one is Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. It’s playable on the original 3DS, but once you realize how much more enjoyable it is to fight monsters with an actual second joystick, you’ll never be able to go back.
Other games that benefit from the C-stick are Code Name: S.T.E.A.M, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS (a feature GameCube Smash players will really appreciate), and any of the other games that used Nintendo’s original Circle Pad Pro add-on.
The list of games that require the new system isn’t massive, but more will come. Along with the 3D benefits to the existing library, the line-up of games that take advantage of the New 3DS certainly isn’t bad.
The 3DS is primarily a game machine, and everything else is just icing on an already delicious cake. You’ll find the ability to download common media apps like Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu Plus. The offerings aren’t broad, and the somewhat low 3DS screen resolution isn’t exactly a mind-blowing way to watch video, but for people who don’t own a smartphone, it will get the job done.
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