Nintendo Hopes Bigger Is Better With Portable

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(CNN) — Nintendo is hoping bigger is once again better for their hand-held consoles with Sunday’s release of the Nintendo 3DS XL.

The new unit is essentially a big brother to the Nintendo 3DS released in the spring of 2011, but the gaming company has said it plans to continue to produce both types of consoles at least in the near future.

The XL’s main screen is 90% larger than its smaller counterpart, while the 3-D screen on the top half of the clamshell design is nearly the same size as the PS Vita front touch screen. In full 3-D mode, the resolution on the 3DS XL (800px x 320px) is still below the Vita’s (960px x 544px). But you aren’t going to be playing PS games on the 3DS XL or vice versa, so the visual appearance isn’t going to be obvious.

It also comes with a stronger battery (about 3.5 to 6 hours of charge using 3DS software) while not increasing the overall weight of the device. AC adapters are not included for Japanese or European versions but are included for U.S. and Australian distribution.

Everything else pretty much remains the same between the XL and the regular version — front and back cameras, 3-D screen at the top and touch screen at the bottom, circle pad and control pad on the left, buttons on the right. The pointing stylus is stored on the right hand side of the 3DS XL, rather than on the back with the 3DS.

The preview 3DS XL unit I was using had a matte finish on the exterior instead of the shiny, glossy finish found on the 3DS. The larger hand-held console also comes with a 4GB SD card included, twice as big as the 2GB card with which the 3DS is outfitted.

If you are thinking of going large, Nintendo has figured out a way to bring all your games with you. Data can be transferred from any DSi, DSi XL or 3DS console onto the 3DS XL system. Connection settings, photos, audio and purchased DSiWare can be shuttled to the new console using a Internet connection between the two systems.

Be warned though. DSiWare save data cannot be transferred, so be prepared to play those games from scratch if you want to move them over.

The larger screen and bigger controls make for easier game play, and the slightly increased weight is negligible. In fact, the hand-held device feels more stable and sturdy with its extra size. I haven’t put it through an accidental “drop test” yet, but it seems like it could take a punch.

The 3-D screen really hasn’t changed, which means if it gave you a headache before, it probably will again. The longer battery life is very nice, especially for those who play on their way to school or work and have to put it away for a while once arriving.

“New Super Mario Bros. 2” will be the featured game for the new hand-held, coming out on the same day in Japan and the United States, but not included with the console. The 3DS XL shows it off nicely with brilliant colors, fluid motion and responsive controls. It is, of course, a Mario game, which means lots of jumping and side-scrolling, but it all looks great on bigger screens.

The Nintendo 3DS XL is everything you are used to in the Nintendo 3DS, but it is a larger, stronger package. The larger screens make it easier to see action and gives players a bit of finesse on the touch screen. Right now, the 3DS XL is not compatible with the Circle Pad Pro controller add-on, but Nintendo said they are planning on releasing one later this year.

The Nintendo 3DS XL was released on August 19 in North America ($199.99) and will debut August 23 in Australia (A$249.95). It is available in Japan (18,900 yen) and Europe (199.99 euros). The highlight colors available at launch will be red and blue for North America; red, blue and silver for Europe and Australia; red, silver and white for Japan.

By Larry Frum – Special to CNN

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