Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Reviewing the 3DS XL in 2022

The original 3DS XL came out in 2012, following the release of the 3DS in 2011.

In an age of PS5s, Xboxes, and Switches, it can be easy to forget about the 3DS. Released in 2011 to replace the aging DS, the 3DS hoped to usher in a new era of gaming featuring a glasses-less 3D screen. The early days held little promise of success--I remember thinking about buying a 3DS in 2011 only to decide against it after witnessing the thin lineup of games available, the limited 3D function, and how weak the system was graphically (about on par with the much older PSP). 

However, as time went on, I began to appreciate the 3DS more. I eventually received one in 2012 as a birthday gift, with my first games being Pokémon Black, Chrono Trigger, and Mario Kart 7. In the years following my collection of 3DS games grew to incorporate titles like Pokémon X and Pokémon Moon.  Sometime around 2016 I put my 3DS into semi-retirement, where it gathered dust in a drawer most of the time, the exception being when I had the urge play Pokémon. 

I rediscovered the 3DS during this pandemic, seeking, like many of you, a way to pass the hours while quarantining and otherwise avoiding events with other people. I built up a decent collection of 3DS games, including classics like Rune Factory 4 and Bravely Default. For a time it became a staple in my gaming routine, offering experiences not available to more powerful equipment. 

One thing I didn't like about my 3DS was its size--it's tiny, with a screen matching that of the original iPhone and a chassis that's difficult to hold for long periods of time when you have adult-sized hands. And so I went on the hunt for a 3DS XL, which, unfortunately, is exceedingly difficult to find for a decent price these days. After a week or so of searching for a decent deal, I eventually found a red 3DS XL in near-mint condition on Amazon sold for a fair price (under $140). I would have tried to get a New 3DS XL, as they are confusingly called, but those were going for $200+ and they didn't offer much to justify that price difference (namely a faster CPU and better 3D). 

I've had the original 3DS XL for a little over two weeks now, and I have nothing but great things to say about it. It really adds new life to the games I had already been playing, providing far more space to take in the scenery and appreciate the graphics and artwork. I like playing JRPGs, and one of the problems with playing them on the smaller 3DS was how all the detailed information, e.g. health bars, character avatars, attack names, etc. were smashed into a tiny amount of screen real-estate. A prime example of this can be seen with the game Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, which primarily uses the bottom screen of the 3DS. On the smaller 3DS you really have to squint to see things, on the 3DS XL everything is much more clear, making an already fantastic game that much better. 

In terms of build quality, the 3DS XL is solid. Like most devices in the 3DS family, the screen can be a little wobbly if you shake it around too much. The buttons are far improved over the original 3DS-line, feeling punchier and almost akin to those on Switch Joy-Cons. The D-pad is also improved, feeling more responsive and springier. The 3D effect is largely the same, though I never really had a problem finding the "sweet spot" on it like some, but for those of you who are picky about that you might want to spend more for the New 3DS XL. 

Ultimately, the 3DS XL offers something of a unique experience in 2022. Many of its best games, like those in the Shin Megami Tensei, Monster Hunter, and Etrian Odyssey series can only be played on the 3DS. Because it was exclusively a handheld console, the 3DS offers tailored portable experiences more bespoke than those offered on say the Switch, which feels like a home console in the palm of your hand (not always a negative, but it's clear that many of its games weren't really designed with the handheld experience in mind). Of course, the 3DS is fully backwards compatible with the DS as well, meaning you have access to those titles as well. If dated graphics aren't a problem for you, the 3DS XL offers many hours of great experiences and uniquely ageless gameplay. 

As to where you can find a 3DS these days, your best bet might be to try Amazon or Gamespot, both of which offer used and refurbished 3DS consoles at reasonable prices. I've heard others have had luck on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist too. Unfortunately Nintendo no longer sells the 3DS directly, so there's really no way to get a new one unless you are willing to pay a premium. With respect to good deals on 3DS games, many are discounted these days because they are so old. Some have inflated prices due to scarcity/no longer being produced--in that case it's best to wait for a good deal. The Nintendo eShop also periodically discounts 3DS games--just these past few weeks several amazing RPGs by Atlus were on sale for record low prices. 

The 3DS XL is an older device, being released a decade ago. However, it continues to be a solid machine with a tremendous amount of quality titles. Though it no longer receives support from Nintendo and has been supplanted by the wildly popular Switch, it still offers enough of a unique experience to be worthy of being including in your gaming lineup. Catch you on StreetPass!

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