The New Nintendo 3DS XL -- what’s in a name?

Nintendo is not very good at naming consoles. Luckily for gamers, it is very good at making them.

Naming difficulties have plagued the corporate behemoth since the release of the Nintendo 64 back in the 90’s, and appeared again with the release of its latest home console -- the Wii U which, despite being a good console with a solid line of games, bellyflopped at launch as confused casual gamers and parents assumed it was merely an optional upgrade to their Wii, rather than a brand new console.

Now there is the “New Nintendo 3DS XL” -- catchily abbreviated to “NN3DSXL” (say it five times in a mirror and Mario appears and jumps on your head…)

How this new console fits into the handheld range requires some explanation. In 2011 Nintendo released the Nintendo 3DS, the sequel to the successful Nintendo DS. The 3DS was a brand new handheld console with 3D capabilities.

In 2012, Nintendo released the Nintendo 3DS XL (for extra large) -- a bigger version with larger screens.

Now we have the “New Nintendo 3DS XL” which is a more powerful version of the 3DS XL, which comes with a variety of features including a new circle thumbstick on the right-side of the unit, support for Nintendo’s new amiibo figurines, better battery life and a significant boost in processing power.

And it’s quite lovely. However, whether it justifies an upgrade if you already own a 3DS is another question.

The “new” 3DS is not a revolution, but it has a number of upgrades and tweaks to make your gaming experience better.

Perhaps the the most radical in terms of technology is the 3D upgrade. The new system  now uses face-tracking technology so the 3D follows your face, directing itself to your eyes,therefore leading to less blurriness if you move your face to an odd angle. It works too, and those gamers (like myself) who like to play on a bus or a train and get bumped around a lot, will find this to be invaluable as it makes the 3D function much more viable.

The processing speed has also been bumped up, but I didn’t notice any significantly faster loading in the games I tested. This new processing power will become important soon, however, as the New 3DS XL will get games (such as the upcoming ”Xenoblade Chronicles 3D”) that can’t be played on any of the less powerful systems.

The other immediately noticeable upgrade is the introduction of a second circle pad above the A, B, X, and Y buttons. This brings the handheld into line with other consoles that for years have used a second thumbstick with which to control the camera or movement depending on the game.

It makes a big difference. Testing it with both “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D” and “Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate,” the respective characters felt a lot less clunky to move around, and it was a lot easier to view the environments. The stick itself moves around nicely and has a good grip to it -- I didn’t have any issues either finding it or keeping my thumb in position.

Other readjustments, such as moving the game card slot to a more accessible position at the front of the system, better adjusters for volume and 3D, as well as a more accessible power button also round off the system nicely.

There is no doubt that the New Nintendo 3DS XL is the best version of the 3DS, and therefore arguably the best handheld console on the market right now. At $199.99 it’s only marginally more expensive than its predecessor (retailing at $174.99) and offers a much better unit.

So if you don’t have a 3DS yet, this is hands down the best option available. One downside is that Nintendo made the bizarre decision not to include an AC adapter with it, assuming that purchasers would already own a previous edition of the console,and therefore own the adapter. They can be picked up online for about $13 but it’s an extra step and expense for first-time buyers.

For those who already own a 3DS, an upgrade to the New Nintendo 3DS XL is, for now, a luxury not a necessity. There is, so far, only one game coming out exclusively for the new console -- the aforementioned “Xenoblade Chronicles 3D” -- and while all the upgrades and tweaks are delightful, they probably don’t yet justify shelling out $200 on their own unless you are flush with cash and use your 3DS a lot. This may change as more games seek to take advantage of the boost in processing power.

Despite its struggles in naming consoles, Nintendo has produced another outstanding upgrade to its handheld lineup. While not a revolution, nor a necessity for existing 3DS owners, the New Nintendo 3DS XL is a solid step for Nintendo in keeping its firm grip of the handheld market, and despite the disappointing lack of AC charger in the bundle, is a more appealing prospect than ever to those seeking to dip their toes into the 3DS lineup.