Review: New Nintendo 3DS XL – 3D Gaming Gets a Fresh Breath of Air

Join the Blast Away the Game Review Community on Facebook or Google+
Review by Dustin Murphy


-3D Effects have had had a significant upgrade with 3D Face Tracking
-C-Stick functionality vastly improves gameplay on original 3DS titles
-Frame Rates in 3D on older titles heavily improved upon
-Button placements are much easier to adapt to and seem rather well planned
-Long sessions of gaming is now possible with how comfortable the NN3DS XL is made
-Vastly improved load times on some games*
-Battery life is significantly better on the NN3DS XL vs 3DS XL original
-amiibo functionality is there and allows for NFC to be used without any additional equipment

-No wireless button to turn it on and off with
-Does not ship with a charger
-Migrating from previous 3DS or upgrading memory of the 3DS is a hassle
-Requires a screwdriver to remove black plate to upgrade or migrate memory cards
-Analog stick still feels cheaply made and still doesn’t seem Super Smash Bros. proof
-Friend codes are still intact and does not allow for Wii U style friends listing

With it’s launch on February 13th, 2015, the New Nintendo 3DS XL ushered in a new ‘era’ of enjoyability for Nintendo 3DS fans. This ‘era’ also ushered in a few small nuances that caused fans and newcomers to grumble as there have been a few limitations regarding the handheld. The nuances are ones that I, myself, have had to overcome and decide to acknowledge when it came down to trying to enjoy the handheld. Even with its new sleek form factor, which feels a lot more friendly to the diehard gamer who can use one entire battery charge in a single go, the New Nintendo 3DS XL is a vast improvement from its predecessors that seemed to stumble in the 3D realm itself. So this time? We’ve decided to go hands-on with the New Nintendo 3DS XL in order to bring you our hands-on impressions of it that will lead up to our review in the upcoming weeks.

/-/ The Good /-/

New and Gamer Friendly Control Layout:

When sitting down and placing the New Nintendo 3DS XL with the original 3DS XL, there are a few things that you need to take in note. One is that the New Nintendo 3DS XL has improved on the overall form-factor. This means that the handheld is sleeker, easier to hold, and doesn’t feel as top heavy as the previous one. Welcoming itself with this capability, it’s also hard to not notice that overall, there are a few big changes. Moving from having the start, home, and select buttons on the top near the touch pad on the bottom, Nintendo has vastly improved button placements; now you will find your buttons for the start as well as select to the right side under the ‘B’ button, whilst the power button can be found on the bottom of the handheld. A change that is actually a nice implementation and means that players won’t be accidentally bumping the power button during long hours of play or even downloading a rather large title.


Another thing is the noticeable change in placement of the following. The overall changes here are huge and minor, which leaves us starting with the biggest one: Cartridge placement. Now gamers will no longer find themselves hassling with removing games from behind their 3DS screen, this is something that is a very welcomed sight and has made gaming on the handheld rather easy versus slightly meticulous when having to either, open your screen or close it based upon ease of access to ensure the top screen didn’t get scratched, damage, or just even in the way when swapping between games (for those of you who don’t prefer digital). With the game slot now being on the bottom of the handheld, the New Nintendo 3DS XL is a lot more user friendly on this note and allowed for ease of swapping out games and enjoying them without being slowed down at all.

Stylus placement is something that fans may or may not be concerned about. I for one have found the stylus placement a bit interesting thanks to the new design. The stylus placement has been moved from the top (original 3DS small), to the side (3DS XL) and now to the bottom (NN3DS XL). This has made for an interesting time when needing to constantly pull out the stylus during long sessions of gaming. So, if you are like me, you will find yourself constantly latching the rather snug stylus in and out of its slot, and unfortunately having to cope with the fact that the stylus is placed in a rather odd and almost annoying place on the new handhelds build. Though it’s a minor irritation, it’s one that seems to bug a few others out there. However, fear not, just grab a back-up stylus that you don’t mind laying around and use it as it will defeat the need to constantly latch and unlatch the stylus from its placement slot.


Volume slider – now this is something that took a few people a moment to realize (if they didn’t read the booklet or have a sharp eye) to discover. With it no longer being placed on the side of the handheld, players will need to adjust to looking onto the left side of their top screen segment in order to find it. The slider, however, adjusts just as the 3D does, which is a nice thing seeing as where it is placed. Hopefully this means no broken screens, sliders, etc when having to quickly adjust the volume when in a car, on a train, on a plane, or just simply in some form of transit.

Adaptive Face Tracking 3D:

It’s no doubt that you have experienced the old Nintendo 3DS handheld and found yourself turning the 3D effect on many games off due to blurring 3D effects. This time around is a bit different. After having spent almost a literal 24 hours with the handheld, the New Nintendo 3DS is impressive let alone immersive compared to the past models. With Nintendo’s new implementation on face-tracking technologies, gamers can once more feel free to flick on those 3D tools, sit in a dim room (moderately lit near your face or it may/may not be able to track your face), and enjoy a session of full-on 3D gaming.

This time sitting for hours with 3D on is something that is quite immersive and worthwhile. Having sat and played games such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, and even the smash hit Bravely Default just to experience the enhanced 3D capability and frame rates. Each of the games were noted to play better, not require the annoying circle pad pro attachment, and even allowed for us to find ourselves laying back in 3D while never once losing enjoyment of the systems newly implemented 3D upgrades.

Note that we did see small frame rate drops between 3D-less and 3D enabled gameplay on Majora’s Mask, but it was not significant enough to interrupt our gameplay.

The C-Stick/LZ/RZ Buttons or ‘Circle Pad Pro’:

Anyone that has played games such as Resident Evil: Revelations, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, it was hard not to take advantage of the C-Stick functionality, but also trying out the LZ and RZ button’s. For Kingdom Hearts, the buttons worked gracefully, allowing for better gameflow, but also allowing for an easier time adapting to combat scenarios versus having to manually brush through enemies.


Though the buttons have little to no use at this time due to the unreleased “New Nintendo 3DS Exclusive Titles” gamers will find themselves a bit dumbfounded as to why the buttons even exist until these games launch, which will be a bit of a nuisance. Though the C-Stick is instantly usable and did allow for ease of controlling the games that were played. The most noticeable use was in games such as Resident Evil: Revelations, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, and the Monster Hunter titles, which is where it was found that the c-stick made the games much easier to play and even more enjoyable. Though for Resident Evil: Revelations, it took a bit longer to adjust to the speed of the c-stick versus what we were used to with the Circle Pad Pro. This new model’s buttons easily put it on par with Sony’s PlayStation Vita and could even rival it in the upcoming days.

Faster Download Speeds:

With the new processors, new system, and even improved WiFi capability, there’s only one question that would be present: How fast are the downloads? With the ever-growing library of digital games that swarm the Nintendo eShop on a weekly basis, it’s not a surprise that downloading would be a concern, and with many gamers going digital – this is something very important. To test this I decided to take a regular 3DS XL, and compare it to the N3DS XL to compare times. Using a 50 mbps internet for both handhelds, it was time to test the download times. The title we used was Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D.

The Regular 3DS XL took a rather insane amount of time, clocking in at roughly 33.5 minutes of download time, which left a bit of a pit in the stomach while the eager want to play it was present. This meant that the wait was definitely a rather large one, which lead to a bit of a cringe worthy experience, but something that vastly changed was when it came down to the N3DS XL’s turn to run that same exact download, which clocked in at a much faster ratio. The time to download? 13.28 minutes, which put the console almost a whopping 20.22 minutes faster to complete the same exact download with the same network usage (meaning that the 3DS’s were the only thing online). So where does that lead the favor? Noticeably in the newly launched New Nintendo 3DS XL’s favor and puts the other one at a bit of a weak point.

Battery Life:

There’s nothing really to say here. The battery life is very extensive and allowed for a solid 6 hours of Pokémon Alpha Sapphire to be played (3D on) and a good 5.5 to 6 hours of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate to be played between charges, which means Nintendo has lived up to the extended battery life with all hardware on (this included the 3D, WiFi, sound at full, and even auto-brightness turned on). This is a heavy improvement over the unfortunate 3-5 hours of battery I had experienced with the Nintendo 3DS XL when playing the same games. The charge time, however, was long. I timed it in at almost 4 hours to a full charge from a dead battery (to test the battery, we had to kill it), which left us in our just short of 24 hours having experienced two full battery lifes of the New Nintendo 3DS this far.

We will update this section in the future if this changes. For now, the battery life is spectacular for gamers on the go, something that the PlayStation Vita does need to take a note from.

/-/ The Bad /-/

Fingerprint/Smudge Central:

If you intend on being like many collectors and or gamers out there, there is one thing anyone hates more than having smudges on the screen, which is smudges ALL over that beautiful and glossy plastic. Unfortunately, Nintendo went back to the same route that we saw with the DS Lite’s, which was a glossy material used on the outside of the handheld in order to make it flashy. The downside? This means scratches (eventually), smearing all over the handheld, and even minor mental irritation for those who want to keep their handheld showroom worthy. This means Nintendo faltered a little bit on the outer material design and will hopefully (we can only cross our fingers) will eventually release those ‘crystal’ or even plastic based ‘armours’ that they released for the previous titles. 

Analog Stick Annoyances:

If there is anything that should have been upgraded when it came to buttons, it was definitely the analog stick. Unfortunately, there are reports that the slide pad for the analog stick has broke and this can be a problem for those of you who love to slap it in directions in order to smack your foe around in Super Smash Bros. Hopefully Nintendo will alter this in the future and give a true analog stick a change. If the one on the Wii U works, why not implement something like it to the handheld? Till them, players will need to take it easy on their analog sticks and just go easy with them until something else changes in the handheld family of the Nintendo 3DS.

/-/ The Ugly /-/

A Screw…Driver is required?!:


When first migrating over to the New Nintendo 3DS XL, there was a bit of work that had to be done. For those of you who have, are going to, or are intending to buy a New Nintendo 3DS XL, you may want to take a bit of heed when it comes to getting your New Nintendo 3DS XL ready to go so that you may enjoy it to the fullest. First off, you’ll want to head over to IGN’s guide on how to transfer content to the New Nintendo 3DS XL before actually doing this. Why? Because it does require a screw driver, a little bit of tact, and a heck of a lot of patience for those of you who want things done quick.

 Why Nintendo did this, was beyond us, but the thing that was good out of it? This means the battery can be replaced if Nintendo were to release replacement batteries to the public, and allow us to even buy new ones on an as-needed basis.

That Same Damn Friend Code System:

With us now being in 2015, there’s no surprise that the friend code system should be long gone and we should be embracing the ways of the Nintendo ID friend system that the Wii U uses. Guess what? Don’t hold your breath just yet, that same damned code system is back, and yes it’s still annoying for those of you who don’t want to be bothered with it. This is part of why this damn annoying ‘system transfer’ is actually required since Nintendo has yet to join the cloud-base friends system that companies like Sony, Microsoft, Blizzard, and many other companies have already been using. Granted Blizzard is a PC and tablet based (only for Hearthstone) company, they still embraced the Battletag and Blizzard ID.

Sadly, I’ve already questioned as to why we are required to do this since they do require a Nintendo Network ID and well – an account to even access things such as the eShop now. So why can’t we do this yet? Your guess is just as good as ours at this time. It’s not surprising that Nintendo has yet to embrace this methodology of system transferring, but it is quite disappointing in this day and age.

Basic Consumers.. Be Warned:

It’s hard not to love Nintendo, but in the recent years, it’s hard not to be a little disappointed due to the lack of support that the Wii U has received, and well the fact that many consider it a commercial failure. Something that the Wii was not until the hype for it died out and everyone had one. This time around? Nintendo has proven, again, that they don’t know how to name, market, or even help get a growing fanbase to need their hardware or software. Unfortunately, the name of the New Nintendo 3DS XL is another shining approach to this. Why couldn’t they just have called it something new, pushed out to a newer audience versus the mainstream 3DS gamer? Well, this is something we will all have to be stumped by until someone gives that answer to us all.

Though there is a few things that will lead to headaches for the consumer whom is searching for these as a gift, which will be problematic one the holiday seasons roll around and gamers start asking for these. So what’s the big deal? Well Nintendo has already started to ostracize those who don’t upgrade to the new hardware soon. This means that those who are casual to the handheld gaming market will begin to slowly get shunned when exclusive titles such as Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy+ (out now), Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, the new Fire Emblem Entry (TBA), and many more titles begin to prepare their launch sometime this year. This means those gamers will begin to get left out as the games require higher functioning hardware to operate as well as play properly.


Where’s more of this confusion at? Unfortunately North America has been, more-or-less, in blunt words, been screwed out of the New Nintendo 3DS LL (the smaller model that has an odd name too), which has interchangeable faceplates and would allow for consumers to have their very own and unique look to their handhelds. This also is an issue with the New Nintendo 3DS XL since the handheld only released with two base colour’s out of the shoot: Red and Black. This can be a bit of a mind bender as well since the handhelds, well look almost identical when closed and sitting on a table. It’d take a sharp eye to notice that one is a different handheld than the other, which is dumbfounding.

The worst parts? We don’t know to what extent that Nintendo is going to oust the old handheld and go in with the new one. One thing is clear of this though, it may be fast since companies such as GameStop are pushing with their 100 USD buy back on used 3DS XL’s towards the purchase of a N3DS XL. This means we have no clue, but GameStop as a company might if the sales say anything about the N3DS. Several trips to stores such as Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Hastings (for those of you in the Midwest), and Target proved that the handheld sold fast, which means inventory levels were either low or not even enough to keep up with supply and demand.

The last of the worst parts? The handheld does not come with a charger, which puts people who want one as a new user will need one and those who have one will need to hang onto theirs if they don’t have a spare, which makes trading in their old hand-helds not an option. Luckily, for new consumers the chargers seem to be staying at affordable prices in the used market, but even the new market at this time. Sadly, these can be sparse at stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, and even GameStop. Consumers, do note that the handheld comes with a 4GB memory card and will require one of two things. A bigger memory card (Micro-SDHC only) and a PC (if you are migrating) or simply just a lot of patience. The recommendation here? Chuck out the extra 20-60 bucks and grab a decent 32gb memory card and have at it!

/-/ Closing Thoughts /-/

This is where I’d like to take a moment and go into a spew of information as well as personal thoughts. The N3DS XL is a nice upgrade, one that has left me satisfied with my purchase, and left me handing over my old one to my dad for his upcoming 56th birthday in the upcoming days (surprise happy birthday chief!). This also has left me with an overall satisfaction with buying it even though I’ve found a few things that fill in the portions of the review you’ve read up to this point. The New Nintendo 3DS XL is a noticeable improvement over its predecessors and does a good job at making that known thanks to the new hardware Nintendo has put into it despite the few things that became minor irritations.

Even with titles such as Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy+, amiibo functionality, Super Smash Bros., The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, as well as Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate being the main draws to the handheld, this isn’t a huge and transformative jump that Nintendo needed in order to bring in new fans. Instead the handheld has already shown a few weaknesses in games such as The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask with its small frame-rate dips that occurred within just the first few minutes of playing it, but also the lack of consumer friendliness. Overall, Nintendo has strived hard to make up for what hole that the Circle Pad Pro left in our need as gamers, but still finds itself stumbling until more games come out, and those games will need to be rather exclusive to it.

Though it is hard to say that the New Nintendo 3DS XL isn’t an upgrade, the step feels like a half step in the right direction, and one that Nintendo needs to keep doing so that they can focus on this family of handhelds, and possibly even work on the Wii U in the process. Now only if they could do that with marketing this handheld as well as the Wii U in both commercials, flyers and sales ads.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Disclosure Statement: The hardware, games, and equipment used as well as tested on were purchased by Blast Away the Game Review’s reviewers discretion and were not provided to us by Nintendo or the publishers. The review was done at our own discretion and team discussion. You can read our team ethics and policy guide to find out more information.

About the Writer:

Dustin_BATGRDustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, MMO’s, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable and can’t be softened by even the biggest names in the gaming industry. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. To follow Dustin, hit him up on Twitter over at @GamingAnomaly, find him on his Google+. Wanna game with him? You can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.

Leave a Reply