Better still, the 3DS XL has one major advantage over the 3DS at its launch – a decent line-up of games. Even Nintendo’s most exuberant fanboys would have to admit that the 3DS lacked killer titles in the first few months, with the best launch title being a solid conversion of StreetFighter 4. Now, however, the 3DS XL can boast titles of the calibre of Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, Resident Evil: Revelations, Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, plus a few fine flawed gems in Kid Icarus: Uprising, Heroes of Ruin, Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater and Dead or Alive: Dimensions. What’s more, with New Super Mario Bros 2, Epic Mickey 2: Power of Illusion, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon on the horizon, there’s plenty to be excited about in the near future.
Overall, there are some very good reasons to buy the 3DS XL. However, there are also a few reasons why you might not want to. The first two come down to baffling omissions. Firstly, Nintendo has – in its cost-cutting wisdom – decided to sell the larger console without a power supply, the rationale being that most people purchasing one will be upgrading from a DSi, DSi XL or original 3DS, in which case they’ll already have the PSU required. That’s fine if that’s the case for you, but if not you’re looking at spending another £10 or so on the proprietary charger.
Secondly, Nintendo has blown a golden opportunity here to add a second analogue pad. It’s not as if there isn’t space for one on the right-hand-side, and it’s something that revolutionises action games on the 3DS, as anyone who has played Resident Evil: Revelations with the clip-on Circle Pad Pro will attest. Instead, 3DS XL owners will have to stump up for their own Circle Pad XL accessory, which will make an already large handheld a little bit epic in size.
And those aren’t the only issues. Battery Life remains a stumbling block. Nintendo claims that the 3DS XL will give you at least an extra half hour of battery life over the 3DS, giving you three hours of 3DS gaming and up to eight hours while playing DS titles. Well, we were still running dry after approximately two and half hours of Super Mario 3D Land, Kid Icarus and general mucking around, albeit with an hour or two of sleep in-between, and three hours isn’t that much to write home about anyway. If you’re planning to use the 3DS XL on long journeys then you won’t be any the more impressed to find it running out of juice so quickly.
3DS XL vs The Rest
Finally, going XL pumps up the price. The post price-cut 3DS will now set you back around £120. According to the prices we’re seeing online at the moment, the 3DS XL will be £170 to £180. This puts it within spitting distance of Sony’s technically superior PS Vita, which brings you a bigger, better screen, dual analogue controls and a clutch of fine games for approximately £20 to £30 more. While Vita has its fault and there’s a certain atmosphere of doom and gloom around it – not helped by a lack of Sony announcements at this year’s E3 – it still has a lot of potential. Making the decision between the more established 3DS platform and a system with the 3D grunt of PS Vita is a pretty tough call.
What’s more, £170 to £180 (plus £25 to £30 per game) is a lot of money in a world where high-performance, big-screen smartphones are everywhere and some very good games are available for a fiver, a pound or even less. And that’s before you even consider the fact that £150 could bag you one of Google’s Nexus 7s. Most of us would pick a proper handheld with physical controls and games of the depth of a Mario or Zelda every time, but we’re not necessarily in the majority. It’s a choice that every gamer is going to have to make. Incidentally, aren't we due a new version of the PlayStation phone by now?
The whole debate over dedicated gaming handhelds in a world of tablets and smartphones aside, the 3DS XL is a vast improvement over the original 3DS. It’s more comfortable to hold, the 3D effect works better on the larger screen, and games are that bit more immersive. However, these enhancements will cost you an extra £50, and the decision not to add a second analogue stick when the system could obviously do with one is – frankly - bizarre. This is a better version of an already fine handheld with a good and growing line-up of software, but in some respects it’s still something of a missed opportunity. It’s the best 3DS so far, but maybe not the definitive version.