New Nintendo 3DS XL: 3D worth playing

Bringing 3D to the masses has been fraught with issues. The biggest of these — amidst horrible one-size-fits-all glasses and the premium pricing slapped onto 3D products — is the headaches it can induce: move your head slightly off-axis while viewing a 3D TV or a 3D smartphone and your eyes strain to keep up with the shifting images in front of them.

The 3DS, released in 2010, was no exception; I personally never played the thing with the 3D switched on and, anecdotally, no one I have spoken to about it did, either. At best, I’d push the slider up every now and again to see what the 3D on a particular game looked like, before pushing it back down so I could play without causing my eyes to feel like they were peering into the furnaces of the underworld.

If I didn’t already have a 3DS, I would have snapped up a 2DS after this experience, no question. But, as with the New 3DS, Nintendo has pulled out a real game-changer with the upgraded New 3DS XL.

Using the same head-tracking technology as the New 3DS, the New 3DS XL follows the direction, distance and angle of your head to keep the 3D smooth and stable. This means that as you make subtle movements while playing your eyes don’t have to constantly readjust to the shifting 3D. It moves when you move.


Dave Cheng/CNET

Obviously this has its limitations; if you tilt the screen beyond a certain angle, the 3D misaligns; but the field of view is more than adequate in all directions.

How this translates is quite wonderful. For someone who found the 3DS’s 3D unbearable, I have been able to play almost all the way through The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds with the 3D on the New 3DS XL at its highest level for the entire duration of the game, and it looks utterly superb. It’s so smooth and comfortable I forget at times that it’s not how I usually play. And, of course, the larger screen of the XL makes for top visibility, particularly on games that have a lot of action happening in a small space.

For the first time, 3D is actually desirable, rather than a poorly implemented add-on designed to cash in on a craze that never quite managed to catch on — and it gives the 3DS, with its lower-level graphics quality, a hardware hook in the handheld market.

Who’s got the button?

Physically, the device had a bit of an overhaul too. Some of the changes are actually quite subtle, but they all have a largely positive impact on the user experience.

The New 3DS XL doesn’t feel too different from the first XL in the hand. It has the same size 4.88-inch and 4.1-inch dual screens as the original, but it is slightly larger, with dimensions of 160×93.5×21.5mm and tipping the scales at 329 grams.

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