Nintendo is famous for two things: long-lived, imaginative franchises, and an inability to avoid tinkering with its handhelds. Though a Nintendo console might go through one design overhaul in its lifespan (typically to slim down the system and/or make it cheaper to manufacture), Nintendo loves to re-design and re-release different iterations of its portable systems. That’s probably why we’re getting the Nintendo 3DS XL on August 19, even though Nintendo promised that a “Nintendo 3DS Lite” was not forthcoming.
To be fair, Nintendo specifically said that a Nintendo 3DS Lite was not in the works. It never said anything about a Nintendo 3DS XL, which is a bigger, brighter version of the original 3DS. Still, indecisive 3DS owners were wary about purchasing the system, period, because history dictated that Nintendo would manufacture a new version before long. And wouldn’t you know it—history was right.
Some writers that have gone hands-on with the 3DS XL are very pleased with Nintendo’s effort. That’s not hard to imagine; the Nintendo DSi XL is a grand update to the Nintendo DS, and I still adore mine. The 3DS XL is, by several accounts, an even superior upgrade than the DSi XL was to the DS Lite. All that said, there’s one glaring omission: a second analogue stick.
Two's Better Than One
The original Nintendo 3DS came under fire from day one because it lacks that handy-dandy right analogue stick that’s been commonplace on game controllers since the original PlayStation. The second analogue stick typically lets the player control the in-game camera, which is a very welcome feature to have command of when you need to line yourself up for a jump in a 3D platformer. The Nintendo DS got away with not having a second stick (or any analogue stick, period) because so many of its games were still presented in 2D. That’s changed with the 3DS, which already has a sizeable library of 3D games (real 3D, no less!). The Nintendo 3DS XL offers a lot more real estate than its predecessor. Why won’t Nintendo include that second stick? It would certainly be a welcome addition.
I was admittedly irritated when I heard that the Nintendo 3DS XL won’t have a second analogue stick, but then I read president Satoru Iwata’s interview with The Independent over the matter. As it turns out, implementing a second analogue stick would mean sacrificing other necessary upgrades to the 3DS XL.
One or the Other
“When we looked at the design of the 3DS XL we had to look at various factors, one was battery life, one was the overall size of the unit, and we had to make some trade-offs,” Iwata said. “The choice, if we were going to include the second analogue stick, was to reduce the size of the batters or make the unit much bigger.
“Attaching a second analogue stick is possible but it would have made the system even bigger and, though it perhaps puts a burden on people that really want that second stick, it’s a call we had to make and these people will have to live with it.”
It’s kind of amusing to be told to “live with” what appears to be an illogical decision on Nintendo’s part, though when I read up on the 3DS XL’s design a little more, I began to understand Nintendo’s position. Indeed, the 3DS XL does have a bigger battery, which reportedly grants it about 6 to 12 hours of life, depending on how many features are turned on (the original 3DS offers about 3 to 5 hours). So which is the smarter decision: giving up that second analogue stick, or giving up longer battery life?
Power or Convenience?
It’s not an easy choice (“Would you rather lose your ability to breathe, or ability to drink water?”), but in the end, taking the battery makes the most sense. After all, the 3DS XL is a portable system first and foremost. You want it to be there for you during long bus trips, plane rides, etc. The original 3DS’s short battery life has been one of the biggest complaints lobbed at the system, not to mention it’s a shortcoming that’s curiously anti-Nintendo. This is the same company that triumphed over the handheld competition because portables like the Game Boy could run for a long time on a single set of batteries. Anyway, how long would the 3DS XL’s larger screens stay lit if they were powered by the original 3DS’s smaller battery? An hour? Maybe two?
It’s still kind of disappointing to be forced to make the choice, period, but I would personally rather have a more powerful battery over a second analogue stick. I’ve managed without the stick so far; I can keep on going without it, even if the Circle Pad Pro for the 3DS XL looks pretty goofy. At least I’ll have some assurance that my 3DS XL will stay alive and dependable on those long, long drives.