Adding a Dimension: The New Nintendo 3DS XL

This weekend I picked up Nintendo’s New 3DS XL (yup, that’s the real name).  Most online sources were sold out, so I schlepped around Silicon Valley until I found one at a store.  It had been a while since I purchased something like this at a physical store, and I was pleased with the experience.  Everyone was friendly and helpful (big thanks to the guy at the Cupertino GameStop who called several nearby stores until he found one in stock and convinced them to reserve it for me!).  It would have been nice for someone to mention that these devices do not come with a power cord.  Back in the car and out to a nearby Fry’s for a power cord so I could charge this puppy up and get a look at glasses-free 3D.  And, as long I’m already in Fry’s, why not pick up a larger SD card too?

Back at home with the amber charging light warmly glowing, it was time for initial configuration.  No problems, very intuitive, and easy enough to type with the stylus.  I like the fact that they spread out the tutorial info by sporadically sending a notification that explains a single aspect of the system.  Of course, the user is greeted by the standard chirpy Nintendo color schemes and sounds.

One system update and few hours of charging later and I was finally ready to see what this thing could do.  Note: yes, I could have tried a game during charging, but I wasn’t sure about positioning the device in front of my eyes and the power cord was plugged into an awkward spot in my house.

So, how is the 3D experience?  I was immediately blown away.  It works.  I tried tilting a little to the side, moving my head a little, repositioning the device a little bit.  It worked.  It all worked.  The little speakers on either side of the device also make a convincing three-dimensional sound.  I thought it might feel like a gimmick, but most games acquire a sense of depth that adds to the immersion.  The device is peppy and responsive even with 3D turned on full blast.

What didn’t I like about the device?  Watching Hulu Plus or Netflix is a bit of a let down compared to the retina screen on my iPad or phone.  This doesn’t affect the games much as they as designed for a smaller screen at this resolution.  The depth and music and gameplay pull you in, and it’s easy to forget the graphics are at all underpowered.  No issues there.

Biggest surprise?  The 3D works and feels right in the games.  Ocarina of Time now looks how I always imagined it should look.  Little flecks of dust and pollen float across your field of vision, seemingly out of the screen, and lend a sense of being in the forest.  This is how RPGs and fantasy games should be played.

Second biggest surprise? The games catalog is fantastic.  If you like these types of games (Nintendo first-party, casual, platformers, RPGs, especially JRPGS), you will have no problem finding many great titles to play.

I’m pleased to see Nintendo getting something so right.  I have a WiiU, but it mostly sits unused between the one or two Nintendo first-party releases each year.  The PS4 and Xbox One get much more use.  But, I had always heard the Nintendo’s strength was in handheld gaming, and now I can see why.