Yesterday, Nintendo pulled out the good ol' beat you in the head stick and released another winner in the Nintendo DSi XL. The fourth incarnation of Nintendo's dual-screened handheld is for the most part just a giant sized DSi, but it is a little bit more. For $20 more than the DSi, it had better be. Let me start with the bad and get that out of the way. Being a long time gamer and long time Nintendo fan, it was disappointing when the original DS came out and we learned that it would not support Game Boy games. When the portable dropped it's original “tank” configuration and became the DS Lite, people were happy that it fit in their pockets and that it still had the GBA slot. Last year, the portable “evolved” into the DSi and it gained two cameras, internet access and an SD card slot along with a new UI which was reminiscent of the Wii menu. This evolution involved the complete loss of any Game Boy compatibility. The DSi XL, while larger than the DSi or Lite, still does not show the Game Boy or Game Boy Advance any love and this really sucks for someone who may have a large collection of those older games. One would find this exceptionally strange from a financial standpoint because of the continued success of the title Pokémon. Not one, not two, but five Nintendo DS titles with the Pokémon name have a significant attachment to the Game Boy Advance. The Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, HeartGold and SoulSilver versions of the game all feature an area in their game world called the Pal Park, which allows the player to plug in the GBA titles Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, FireRed and LeafGreen in order to send pocket monsters from those games to the DS games. To me, the move makes no sense, but it is what it is.
Literally, that is the only bad thing about the new portable and for some it will be impossible to get past. Nintendo however, is always looking to expand and reach new audiences, and this is a good way to do it. The XL screens are 93% larger than previous DSLite and DSi screens. This is a great way to reach the older audience that may or may not have trouble reading small text. Even for those who had no trouble with the smaller screens, the new screens are definitely welcome. With larger and brighter images, better sound due to larger speakers and the new pen sized stylus, the DSi XL is definitely more adult than its predecessors. It is better for larger hands and feels more comfortable. The SD card slot will give it both media player and e-reader functionality. The voice recorder lets you take notes on the go and the old school method of giving the consumer free games is definitely not going to turn anyone away from it.
Bottom line is that if you have never held a DS, the XL is the first one that should buy. If you started with a Game Boy, I hope that you have a working GBA and/or Nintendo DS or DS Lite if you plan to buy this newer model. The new features are definitely worth the money considering the original DSi is only $20 less, but it may be harder for owners of the older handhelds to embrace this one. I still think that every Nintendo fan owes it to themselves to at least experience the XL and then decide for themselves.