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Upgrading To A New 3DS XL Was 24 Hours Of Hell

by Brian Shea on May 31, 2016 at 03:30 PM

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This past weekend, I purchased a New 3DS XL - my third 3DS I've owned. My original 3DS was a launch model; unfortunately, its tiny size cramped my hands during long play sessions. I replaced it with a 3DS XL that I bought alongside A Link Between Worlds and loved it, but after years of use and a couple of drops it was the right time to upgrade to Nintendo's New 3DS. I felt that rush of excitement that comes with a new hardware purchase as I powered on my New 3DS XL for the first time, but as the minutes of setup turned to hours - and eventually days - my enthusiasm turned to disdain. Nintendo's cumbersome and antiquated system-transfer process was so off-putting that I began questioning my long-term support of the company.

When I jumped from my turquoise launch model 3DS to my 3DS XL, I went through the system transfer process. The process failed multiple times and was more of a headache than I wanted, but at that point I was at the beginning of embracing and building up a digital library on my handheld platforms. This meant I didn't have gigabytes upon gigabytes of digital games that needed to be transferred. In the years since that purchase, I've bought my 3DS titles almost exclusively digitally, filling up the majority of my 32GB SD card.

After the initial setup of the New 3DS XL (which included putting a fresh 32GB microSD card in the back), the final thing the system asks you before kicking you to your new home screen is if you'd like to transfer data from another DS or 3DS system. As I did for my previous transfer, I selected "Yes." I placed the two handhelds next to each other, as you need to bounce back and forth between the two devices to kick off the process.

My old 3DS XL informed me that there are three ways to perform the transfer: You can transfer everything wirelessly, transfer just the essentials wirelessly then redownload everything from the eShop manually, or use a PC/Mac with an SD card reader to transfer the files that way. Since I had successfully transferred everything wirelessly during my first 3DS transition, I opted for that route. The system warned me that the process would take a while if I had a lot of software, but that didn't bother me; I was in no rush.

I kicked off the transfer, which features a cute little animation of Pikmin carrying a picture, pixel by pixel, from 0 to a box that says 25 percent, then to another box that says 50 percent, and so on up to 100 percent. Knowing that it would take a long time, I plugged both systems into the wall with the two AC adapters I already had (since the New 3DS doesn't come with one) and went and did other things. I checked in on the transfer process periodically, and while it wasn't going fast by any standard, it was making steady progress.

About seven hours after I kicked off the process, it was about halfway done. It was 10 hours in, and the 75 percent mark was in sight. Shortly after, however, both devices popped up saying that the transfer encountered an error and needed to stop. I tried to start the process over again, hoping it would pick up with its 11 hours of progress in tow, but to my dismay, it started over at square one. I wanted to stomp on the Pikmin as they started carrying the pixels from 0 to 25 percent again.

At this point, I canceled out of the transfer process and decided to use the PC method. I initiated the transfer and moved all of my licenses, as well as my Nintendo Network ID to my New 3DS XL. Following the brief wireless transfer, I placed my old SD card into the slot of my Mac. I copied all of the contents to a folder on my desktop. Once the data was copied to my desktop, I put the new microSD card into an adapter and began the process of copying the files to my new memory card.

The estimated time was displayed at 38 minutes - a refreshing number to see after the 11-hour debacle that was the wireless transfer. Unfortunately, with three minutes remaining, it too errored out, saying that one of the folders could not be copied. I tried again and ran into a problem at the same spot. I began feeling like the butt of some cruel joke. I've transferred from PS3 to PS3, from Xbox 360 to Xbox 360, and even from Wii to Wii U without problem, but this process of trying to upgrade my 3DS hardware would have been hilarious had it not been so downright frustrating.

I put my microSD card back into the New 3DS XL, hopeful that some of it would work, and to my surprise, every piece of software I had on my old 3DS XL was present and in the correct folders. Excited, I clicked into Super Smash Bros. to see how it worked with the more powerful New 3DS XL. After a brief loading period, my New 3DS XL screen shot an error message saying that I needed to redownload the software. I tried to login to the eShop, but it also popped up with an error.

I tried a few workarounds, but I slowly came to the realization that I was out of luck. Dejected, I scrolled to "Settings" and navigated to reformat my system. After an all-day project, at two in the morning, I conceded that nothing was going to fix this and that I just needed to restore my shiny New 3DS XL to its factory settings and download each piece of software one-by-one.

After the quick factory reset, I logged into my Nintendo Network ID independent of my old 3DS XL (which had already been factory reset as a part of the botched attempt to transfer via PC). I hopped into the eShop and began the arduous process of downloading all the software I own. Since there's no way to queue up software downloads aside from the "Download Later" option that kicks off downloads once you put your handheld in sleep, I've had to babysit my New 3DS XL as it downloads every game I at a time. As soon as one download completed, I returned to the "Redownloadable Software" in the eShop screen and started the next download.

Most 3DS titles are small and take little time to finish, but for some games like Fire Emblem Fates, Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, and Super Smash Bros., are large and collectively take hours to complete. For those select titles, I tried out the "Download Later" option. I queued up 10 large pieces of software, closed the New 3DS XL, and went to sleep. When I woke up, I saw that in the previous seven hours, my New 3DS XL only made it through 20 percent of the first download. It was a complete waste of a night.

The redownload process is still going for me. In fact, I'm keeping a watchful eye on my New 3DS XL as it sits next to my keyboard right now. To add insult to injury, the corrupt files that resulted from the unsuccessful PC transfer included my save files, meaning that all of my captured Pokemon, all my Gold Skulltulas, and all my unlockable Smash Bros. are now a thing of the past. I still have my software thanks to the eShop, but any save data was obliterated.

I don't know why this transfer process is so unconventional, but even if this is just me having a run of bad luck or the system transfer not being designed for someone with such a large digital library (some of my Twitter followers say they had no problem with jumping from one 3DS to the next), it's clear that Nintendo needs to make this process less of a hassle. With the reveal of NX on the horizon, this is just one of many things I hope the company improves on. However, until it's fixed, this is just a possible problem that should at least be on the minds of those looking at possibly upgrading their 3DS to a New 3DS.