New Nintendo 3DS XL Review: Fun For You And Mii


Company: Nintendo

Launch Price: $199.99 USD

Release Date: February 13, 2015

Almost 4 years after launching in its native country of Japan, the Nintendo 3DS has offered a variety of excellent gaming experiences ever since. Starting off slow due to its high starting price point and lack of titles available to offer, it has blossomed into a viable handheld device for over 50 million fans. As Nintendo plans for their future mobile gaming content, the New Nintendo 3DS XL looks to offer their most optimal on-the-go gaming experience to date, through a variety of improvements. For the most part, Nintendo has truly hit their stride.

Copyright Daniel George, 2015.

What’s In The Box?

As much as what’s been added to the New Nintendo 3DS XL, there is much to be said about what is being left out. The packaging itself is decidedly compact, offering the barest of necessities inside. Inside the outer shell lies a slender cardboard box holding the handheld console itself, a user manual containing relevant product information and a pack of 6 AR (augmented reality) cards over various Nintendo properties. What is not included (as noted in that very slender red strip at the bottom of the outer box) is that there is no AC adapter included.

While not so much as an oversight, due to public comments on the matter by Nintendo executives at the time of announcement, it’s maddening to know that the main hardware component required to actually bring a power charge to the New Nintendo 3DS XL doesn’t come with your $200+ tax purchase. I can’t think of any other technology company of any kind that does such a thing, even when it’s a simple mini-USB cord providing the power source.

Luckily, I was able to stop at my local gaming retailer and buy the last AC adapter they had in stock for ~$20 after tax, but you shouldn’t have to go to a third party source just to make a handheld properly function. There will be countless parents throughout North America that pick up the New Nintendo 3DS XL for their children, only to realize later that they didn’t get everything necessary to make the device last longer than a day. Knowing Nintendo’s recent inability to properly stock gaming accessories, and there’s a potential disaster in the making.

Copyright Daniel George, 2015.

Familiar, Yet Different, Design


  • Length: 6.3′
  • Width: 3.68′
  • Depth (Closed): 0.85′
  • Weight: 11.6 oz

The New Nintendo 3DS XL comes available only in “new black” and “new red” colour variants at launch in North America. With the new black resembling more like a dark, metallic silver, the outside case reflects a renewed focus on bunching common items together. Sporting additional “ZR” and “ZL” buttons at the back of the device to complement the standard L and R, the stylus has been moved to the front. As such, it becomes a bit more cumbersome to retrieve mid-play, and is not as smooth a process to incorporate on the fly.

It’s when you open up the New Nintendo 3DS XL that you start to see key optimization at work. The layout of key directional and gameplay button inputs remains the same, however it’s all the extras that have been placed in more sensible locations.

The base of the bottom half of the handheld now has a small Home button to bring you to the home screen. Start and Select have been moved to the bottom-right corner, reducing the chance of accidentally jumping out of gameplay instead of simply pausing the game. The analog and D-pad stay the same, yet it’s the A/B/X/Y buttons that have a splash of color added to them. The individual letters are now colored in to replicate those on the Japanese Super Famicom, injecting personality into an otherwise functional (but prime) button layout. I just wish the entire buttons could be fully

I just wish the entire buttons could be fully colored, like they are on  the ambassador edition of the New Nintendo 3DS. The new black color version that I use looks standard among tech devices from a distance, and does not pop with as much vibrancy as the new red version would. Adding that extra color to the buttons would look a lot better, although it’s a minor nitpick at worst.

Copyright Daniel George, 2015.

Finally, let’s talk about the new C-Stick. While anything to remove the Circle Pad Pro that is added natively to the New Nintendo 3DS XL is a godsend by default, it’s not nearly as fluid as I thought. My main usage with it was to control the static game camera for The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D in my review, and it did work well within that sense. However, finding absolutely precise gameplay usage from it in games development going forward may be a bit difficult.

Hopefully it finally paves the way for an account system so Nintendo can join us all in the early 21st Century.

The stick itself is rather rigid, providing camera movement in a general direction. It did make it easier to look around ledges and at aerial targets within the game, so for that I am thankful. If that is its dedicated use in New Nintendo 3DS XL-specific games, it will serve a wonderful purpose. I’m just sure that if it were easier to be precise, there would be a lot more creativity to work with.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the usage of a new type of memory card. Using microSD cards makes sense in a practical way, as their prevalence with phones makes them a more viable and reusable option. That said, in order to switch out the basic 4 GB card that comes with the system, you need to remove the screws on the base of the device entirely, switch the cards in and out, and screw them back on, in addition to any and all formatting within the software.

When you compare the process with the 3DS and 3DS XL’s easily accessible card slots on the side of their systems, you have to realize that the process of making the New Nintendo 3DS XL work as intended has become needlessly more complicated once again. Even more convoluted is the current data system, requiring wi-fi, operating two 3DS devices or a PC middleman in order to exchange physical and digital data. With Club Nintendo closing down, hopefully it finally paves the way for an account system so Nintendo can join us all in the early 21st Century.


When it comes to deciding whether or not to upgrade to the New Nintendo 3DS XL, how much better it handles gameplay and multimedia necessities in comparison should be a key factor. Thankfully, there are many instances in this regard where it makes sense to take the plunge.

Chief among concerns with the new iteration was the stereoscopic 3D. In my time previously borrowing a Nintendo 3DS, I didn’t even bother turning it on 95% of the time. You’d need to be positioned in a fairly specific way, facing straight ahead, in order to prevent massive headaches. With the New Nintendo 3DS XL, there is a small lens tracking eye placement that helps auto-correct its positioning, allowing you to view the screen from a larger field of vision.

Copyright Daniel George, 2015.

Not only could I keep it running for hours without issue, but when playing Majora’s Mask in 3D it was actually more preferable. The depth of perspective plays a big factor in 3D games of its nature, especially when playing with puzzle platforming action segments. If this was available from the original 3DS on Day 1, the debate between stereoscopic 3D and a resolution size larger than 240p would be a lot less one-sided. The new 3D mode actually succeeds in not feeling like a gimmick; a feat in of itself.

Setting up the system firmware was fairly simple with the New Nintendo 3DS XL. Already half-juiced out of the box, there was more than enough power to download the latest updates, restart the system and download my review copy of Majora’s Mask without plugging in the adaptor. Better yet, the system was able to download games, access the internet and utilize system apps much faster than the classic Nintendo 3DS or 3DS XL.

The new 3D mode actually succeeds in not feeling like a gimmick; a feat in of itself.

Plus, as only currently available with this new hardware, NFC support has come at a time when Super Smash Bros. for 3DS needs a shot in the arm (compared to its Wii U counterpart). Adding amiibo support before the handheld is available on the market shows Nintendo’s interest in making the gaming toy/accessory worthwhile, no matter which system of theirs you buy. It will become available on vanilla models later, but with the improved CPU that provides aforementioned computational upgrades, NFC support will work best with the New Nintendo 3DS XL handheld.

Finally, when it comes actual gameplay itself, load times feel respectable. Even when constantly loading up new levels in Majora’s Mask 3D, not once did it ever feel longer than it would with the original version on the Nintendo 64. While the framerate dropped at times, especially when in animation-heavy zones, it was reflective more of the reach required of a console game being ported to a handheld. Being able to play the Wii’s Xenoblade Chronicles is a challenge that will only be conquered on the New Nintendo 3DS, serving as a testament to its vast improvements over its predecessor.


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The New Nintendo 3DS XL is the best version of a damn good handheld platform. It is within the basics that show its strength; faster computational power, reliable and immersive 3D prowess and an overall improved button layout. Ease of accessibility serves to be its biggest issue, as the lack of a packed-in power source, simple data management, and a rigid C-stick stand in the way of perfection. What makes the last revisit of this handheld generation for Nintendo special is the sum of its parts. Whether it’s in upcoming exclusives, superior gaming functionality, amiibo support or the community at large, there’s never been a better time to put away the phone and go with 3DS gaming instead.

A copy of this gaming product was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.

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