I already called the 3DS the greatest handheld console of all time. And, even in light of the Switch's release—and believe me, I love the Switch—I'm standing by that claim.
I can't think of a portable console with such a wide-ranging and yet also deep-reaching catalogue of games as the 3DS, in its various guises across two- and three-dimensional screen designs. Every type of experience is in there—and with DS range backwards compatibility (I love being able to scour second-hand shops for old classics) and the retro treats served up by the Virtual Console, covering NES, Game Boy, Game Gear and Super Nintendo, nothing else on the market beats the 3DS both for contemporary options and time-capsule qualities.
But there are a lot—several million—of these units out there already, covering big and small dimensions, clamshell and flat casings, "New" and not-so-new versions that can and/or can't handle F-Zero. Which begs the question: why the hell is Nintendo, with the Switch already going great guns, putting out another variant on the 3DS, in the shape of the New 2DS XL?
Well, there's one answer to that, really. This is for everyone who's never owned a 3DS. For everyone who looks at All Those Great Games and thinks: yes, I'd like a piece of that. but maybe not quite for the previous asking price. For everyone who isn't bothered about the 3DS actually producing 3D images on its top screen—which seems to be, asking around, Most People, TBH. Basically: the New 2DS XL is the 3DS for anyone who's yet to get on board with this platform that keeps giving, whether you're looking backwards, at well over a decade of handheld gaming (the original DS launched in late 2004), or into the near future.
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We spoke to Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aimé at E3 2017.
The New 2DS XL, which I've been toying with for a week or so (Nintendo sent one this way; I've not been raiding any warehouses), will play anything and everything that the Virtual Console or those so-sweet game cards, old and new, can throw at it (which the previous, flat-faced 2DS could not—no "New" titles or SNES support for that odd little number).
Amiibo functionality? It's got it. That little nub on the right of the bottom screen, the "C Stick", it's present and correct. It has the double shoulder buttons. It's lighter than my 3DS XL, which makes for more comfortable longer sessions playing the likes of Monster Hunter Generations, Hyrule Warriors Legends and A Link Between Worlds—which have been my "test" games, I guess. And yes, it comes packed with an AC adaptor. Finally, Nintendo. Sheesh.
I've some very minor gripes with the New 2DS XL—for me, the power button, which is positioned underneath the console, is a bit too small and spongy, and it doesn't "connect" as I'd like it to. I have to use the corner of a nail to be confident of it doing its job. The face buttons and D-pad, however, are nicely clicky, with just the right degree of feedback. The stylus provided is very small, which will cause some discomfort after 20 minutes of something like Picross 3D: Round 2. (But it's easy and cheap to get yourself a longer one, not that it'll fit into the console.)
The cartridge (and SD card) slot's protected under a flap, Vita style, which can be a little fiddly, but at least it can't be accidentally popped free mid-play. And while the 3D effect's absence won't be a Big Deal for most games, I know from experience that using the image-deepening slider has made the likes of Pullblox (or Pushmo, depending on where you play) and Super Mario 3D Land that little bit easier to navigate.
But like I say: small things, in the grand scheme. Because for the price Nintendo's asking for this, £129.99 in the UK (I think it's $149.99 in the States), it feels pitched at those finally feeling that they just can't say no any longer to such a wonderful back catalogue. I mean, really—if you've never played the likes of Elite Beat Agents, Ghost Trick, Chrono Trigger (the game's DS port is absolutely the best version of the classic RPG to date), Bravely Default, Chinatown Wars, the BoxBoy series, any number of compatible Pokémon games, a handful of amazing handheld Zelda and Mario titles, and so many more, what have you been doing? Play some of these games, already, because they're some of the very best.
With my old-school, scratched-to-shite 3DS XL very much still a part of my on-the-move gaming setup, I'm not sure that I need this 2DS model—but at the same time, the "New" factor, meaning that it carries increased RAM versus not "New" models, means that I can effectively turn it into a portable SNES. Drop £50 on the eShop, get myself EarthBound, A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Super Mario World and likely a couple more, ready whenever I need them, wherever I am in the world (or in the sky above it). At least, that was the plan before the SNES Mini was revealed, so TBC on that whole 16-bit feast thing.
But if you've never let the 3DS range into your life, this is exactly the kind of bundle of joy you might be looking for. Because it's not like it's an entirely past-focused proposition. Nintendo aren't shutting the "family" down, to focus 100% on all things Switch, any time soon—coming up in 2017 and 2018 are a number of actually pretty interesting titles, bound solely for these systems.
I took the demo of the late-July due Hey! Pikmin for a spin the other morning and really enjoyed its side-on bud-buddies tossing; and I'm eager, after dipping a Power Suited toe into the old DS Hunters game, to have Metroid: Samus Returns in my hands. "Ultra" editions of Pokémon Sun and Moon are out in November, for anyone who never picked up the sunshine-kissed originals; and September's Monster Hunter Stories is a turn-based RPG spin-off of the popular series, one that really established its Western presence via the 3DS.
Longer-than-expected (sorry) story shortened to a takeaway line: if you kinda always wanted to get a 3DS (and why would you not want to, given the great games available for it), this new "New" take on the hugely successful system is probably your best option. It's almost certainly the final addition to this family of handheld devices, as attentions firmly switch to you know what, but it's a more than welcome one.
The New Nintendo 2DS XL launches globally on July 28.