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New Nintendo 3DS XL Review: Finally, 3D That Works

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For the past three years, the handheld gaming market has been dominated by a single device: the Nintendo 3DS.

Nintendo's last on-the-go gadget brought stereoscopic 3D to the masses - but, even if it offered a massive boost in power over Nintendo's previous handhelds, the system wasn't perfect.

Now, Nintendo is set to release the New Nintendo 3DS XL: an updated version of the original 3DS XL with better hardware and the promise of stabilized 3D viewing. Is Nintendo's latest machine a worthy successor to the 3DS title, or is it just a stopgap between systems? We took a look at Nintendo's latest offering to compare.

When it comes to design, the New 3DS XL is largely the same as the 3DS XL. It still boasts the clam-shell design, analog stick and four-button layout of its predecessor, but don't let that fool you: Nintendo made some important updates when it designed the New 3DS.

Size is usually the first thing people notice when switching to a new device, but despite the casing of the New 3DS XL being slightly larger than that of the original, most people probably won't notice or care. It's a big enough difference to require new accessories, but otherwise, the size difference between the original 3DS XL and the New 3DS is negligible.

What's more important are the new button layouts, the new 3D features and the analog nub. The new additions to the controls and button layout are mostly successful, and the new 3D effect is mind-blowing...however, the analog nub won't be as universally loved as Nintendo might hope. Overall, it still feels like a Nintendo 3DS...it's largely the same device, just a bit different in certain places.

About the New Nintendo 3DS
• Features a more powerful processor, allowing for faster downloads and quicker loading
• New analog nub added, allowing for more precise controls
• Includes 'Super-Stable 3D,' which improves and stabilizes 3D effects

The new additions to the controls are immediately noticeable. Nintendo hasn't just switched around a few buttons to accommodate the new analog nub: the company's made some really smart design choices when it comes to button layout. Don't worry, all of the buttons that are in their original spots still feel good - in some cases, they feel a lot better. The L and R triggers feel much better to use, and the directional pad, analog stick and core buttons all feel great. Even the Start and Select buttons feel easier to use in their new spot.

One smaller change that should please a lot of people is the new location for the Volume and 3D sliders. Finally, players won't have to worry about muting the game because they slightly adjusted their grip: with the Volume slider on the top screen, any change in volume is intentional. The 3D slider is also easier to use, and Nintendo removed the annoying clicking action - it no longer feels like the slider's misaligned or about to break.

It's not perfect, however: the new ZR and ZL triggers can be a bit much to hit, considering you have to reach over the L and R triggers to hit them - it could be a pain for anyone with smaller hands, especially if a game requires the new triggers to play.

The new stylus location isn't ideal, either. Instead of being able to grab the stylus without moving your hand, it's now located on the bottom of the system, and is much harder to pull out. It's a bit of a nitpick, but anyone who wants to use the stylus in a hurry is going to have to adjust.

In terms of functionality, the New 3DS' upgrades are more subtle. The system now has a more powerful processor, and games tend to load more quickly than they did on the 3DS. It's subtle, and you won't see any improvement with an individual game's performance, but the quicker load times are a nice addition. While It's great that both downloads and loading are quicker, it's a shame that Nintendo doesn't have anything that makes obvious use of the increased speed - as such, it's only going to be a selling point for the most hardcore of gamers.

What will be a selling point to everyone is the new 3D effect. The original 3DS had a great 3D effect - if you could keep your hands, face and entire body locked in a single, precise position. That's just not the case with the New 3DS: Nintendo's 'Super-Stable' 3D really works, as the handheld's front-facing camera tracks your face in real-time to make sure that the 3D is always effective.

It's actually a lot of fun to try and fool the system, and it's incredibly impressive that said system is so hard to fool. If you were worried that the 3D effect wouldn't be fixed on the new system, rest easy. 3D is now a legitimate option for play at any time, regardless of position: the effect no longer requires perfect stability to work.

Unlike the new 3D effects, the analog nub is more of a mixed bag. While it may look like a miniaturized analog stick, it's actually a pressure-sensitive button: no part of the analog nub moves, you just press on one of the edges. It takes quite a bit of getting used to. At first, it can feel like the nub just isn't as responsive as it should be, and it'll feel incredibly stiff for anyone who's used to traditional analog sticks.

After a while, it does start to feel better. It really depends on the game: Resident Evil: Revelations' controls feel stiff until they're adjusted, while Monster Hunter 4's default controls seem fine. When it comes down to it, using the nub will be dependent on player preference: it's not as precise as something like the PlayStation Vita's second analog stick, but it's nice to have as an option - even if it's not perfect.

At the end of the day, the New 3DS XL is a great device. The updates are smart, and while the changes aren't all perfect, Nintendo has made a lot of great additions to the 3DS handheld.

It's true that the analog nub isn't the perfect choice for precision play, and the choice to only release the XL-sized version (which could be too big for smaller hands to use comfortably) in America is extremely odd. Not including a charger is downright obnoxious, as anyone who doesn't already own a 3DS is going to have to shell out extra cash to pick one up separately.

However, the good outweighs the bad, and by a sizable margin. The new input layout is a big improvement over the original 3DS', and the increased processing power (both online and off) is great. Most importantly, the 3D feature not only works, but it's far easier to use than it ever was on older models. Again, it's a legitimate way to play now: far more people will take advantage the New 3DS' effects, simply because it's not such a pain to use.

If you don't care about increased download speed or the enhanced 3D effect, it's hard to recommend the New Nintendo 3DS XL. However, if you've been waiting for the updated handheld and its faster processing, new controls and a 3D effect that works, this is exactly what you've been looking for. Even if it's your first handheld, go ahead and grab the New 3DS - not only are you future-proofing your mobile gaming library, but you'll also be getting Nintendo's best handheld to date.

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