From a distance, the 3DS XL has problems. I hate it and I think it's stupid. Why don't you have an extra analogue stick, 3DS XL? What's the point of this upgrade? Why do you even exist? Why would I spend my hard earned dollars on such a thing. Then I get my sullen paws on it and I wilt. My resolve withers. It's difficult to understand precisely why the 3DS XL makes sense as a product, but it just does.
Today our Nintendo representative made a crucial error. Today a man came to our offices to show us New Super Mario Bros. 2, an early copy that wasn't playable on the 3DS XL, and, of course, the 3DS XL itself. Nintendo's error was simple — they showed us the XL first... and then forced us to go back to the original 3DS to play NSMB2. That was very, very difficult indeed.
I was never a fan of the DSi XL. After the DS Lite and the DSi, it felt like an extraneous upgrade, a cash grab. I understood the concept — it was designed for families, for older people with bad eyesight, blah blah blah. The size made sense, but I simply had no interest, having purchased two different versions of the same console already. I didn't need or want the DSi XL.
But I really want the 3DS XL.
In a strange way the 3DS XL feels like a brand new console. It plays the same games at the same resolution, but it feels like a new thing. Playing old games on the XL feels like a new experience. It's a product that makes far more sense an a post-smartphone/tablet universe.
I wouldn't dream of taking the 3DS XL on the train. I wouldn't carry it around the city trawling for street pass hits either. But you know what? I don't do that with my original 3DS either. And my PS Vita sits at home completely unloved. The fact is I don't carry any dedicated handheld devices with me nowadays — I have no real reason to. But the 3DS XL is not designed to be carried in a handbag or a pocket. The 3DS XL is a console that, to me, seems designed to be played at home, in a bubble bath, with a hot chocolate, maybe some nice music in the background. Maybe light some candles if you're feeling frisky...
Alright easy Tiger, let's dial it back. My point is this: handheld gaming as we know it has to evolve or die. I'm not entirely convinced that the 3DS XL is the answer to all problems, but it's most certainly a step forward. It doesn't feel like a device that's attempting to encroach on the smartphone/tablet space — it's more like a Kindle. A handheld that does a single thing well and caters to a more niche audience. When I think of playing the 3DS, I don't think of sitting on the train for five minutes, I think of settling in on a comfortable couch, or tucked up in bed. It feels more like a book than a tablet. And I think that's a good thing. I think that's a smart thing.
The size of the 3DS XL is its only real point of difference compared to the original 3DS — aside from the higher quality of the individual component/design — its feature list is the same, but somehow that is enough. The size difference is truly massive. It's like upgrading from a 40 inch screen to a projector. The difference in scope is significant. It feels less like a diversion and more like a high-end, quality gaming experience — which is precisely the sort of distinction Nintendo needs to be making if it wants to distinguish itself from the smartphone market.
I'm going to buy a 3DS XL, and when I do, I fully intend to replay games that felt a little restrained within the old 3DS. Games like Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 3D Land. Games like these are going to make more sense on the 3DS XL, they're the kind of games I want the space, comfort and time to indulge in.
Smartphones have changed our lifestyle patterns, and they've changed the way in which we interact with handheld gaming devices. The 3DS XL feels like the device Nintendo should have given us the first time — the proper response to an itch that remained unscratched.
The 3DS XL shouldn't make any sense — it's the same thing only bigger — but it does. It changes the way the games feel, but more importantly it changes the context within which those games will be played and, for that, it feels like a significant upgrade.