The 3DS XL is big. And bright. And round. I got my hands on Nintendo's just-announced big-boy version of its 3D handheld at Comic-Con 2012 last week and it's an impressive upscaling of the 3DS experience.
I felt a bit less eyestrain looking at 3D images on the larger top screen of the XL, even if the sweet spot was still a bit finicky. The unit felt more comfortable in the hand, too, lighter and requiring less wrist tension to balance the portable. A telescoping stylus will be coming with the XL but it wasn't on hand when I tried the portable out. The 3DS slider is a bit different as well. On the XL model, it clicks shut when it slides all the way down to the off position, preventing any accidental movement that would turn the 3D effect on again. The analog nub feels about the same as in the current model, the XL exterior comes in a finish that's more matte than the shiny paint on the 3DS 1.0 models. The rounded corners made the unit much more comfortable in my palms when compared to the squared edges of the current models.
The game I took on my 3DS XL test drive was Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. The sequel to the 2001 GameCube game looked great on the new handheld hardware. I laughed out loud several times playing Dark Moon, prompted by the hilarious animations of the game's quivering, scared-senseless hero.
Elements of the game will be familiar to players of the first Mansion game. You're still helping Professor E. Gadd purge pesky spirits from old houses. After searching the first mansion's garage and finding the Poltergust 5000, Luigi uses the ghost-trapping vacuum cleaner to do things like pulling away curtains to reveal coins and secret passages. The preview I experienced seemed to be identical to the ones other Kotaku writers have seen, but the game's graphics looked better in 2D to me and the 3D effect didn't hurt my eyes as much as it general does.
The 3DS XL makes the viewing experience for Nintendo's handheld offerings a much more pleasant one overall, and that should only improve once gets optimized for it start showing up. The new handheld should be out in the U.S. on August 19th.