While many Nintendo 3DS owners are quick to completely ignore the system’s 3D capabilities, I’ve always been a fan of the system’s unique take on stereoscopy. That partly has to due with my love of disruptive technology. Despite the high costs that are usually associated with new tech, I’m usually an early adopter of new gaming hardware, from VR headsets to the original 3DS.
Over the past six years, it’s been interesting to see exactly how the Nintendo’s 3DS has been adopted (or abandoned) by fans and developers alike. Most of my close friends and colleagues never use the built-in 3D, either due to a lack of interest, the effect it has on battery life and in-game performance, or its rather rigid viewing angle. On the other hand, developers have largely eschewed any mechanics that are reliant on the system’s 3D display, with some games completely ditching support entirely. Nintendo themselves have towed the line when it comes to 3D support; while they did develop a new “super-stable” stereoscopic mode for the New Nintendo 3DS, some of their first-party games lack any 3D implementation at all.
Enter the New Nintendo 2DS XL (naming conventions have been a little rough this decade). A sort of middle-of-the-road hardware iteration, the New Nintendo 2DS XL is priced in between the premium New Nintendo 3DS XL, and the budget Nintendo 2DS. To the casual onlooker, Nintendo’s new revision might seem like it has nothing going for it, but that’s actually the system’s greatest strength. The New Nintendo 2DS XL is all about the games; rather than focusing on unused tech or kid-friendly design, it embodies the best of the Nintendo’s flagship handheld line.
Despite the “New” in the title, it’s worth noting that the New Nintendo 2DS XL refers to the system’s processing power, which is in line with handheld’s 3D counterpart. This means that you get the added benefits of a faster CPU (which lets some games run more smoothly), as well as a C-stick and a pair of additional shoulder buttons. While there are only a small set of games which take advantage of the additional hardware, these inclusions are a welcome addition, especially since some games benefit from a second analog ‘stick’ when it comes to camera control. The biggest change (as you might have surmised) is the lack of a 3D display. Although this might sound like a dealbreaker, in actuality, very few 3DS games truly benefited from using it in the first place.
Size wise, the New Nintendo 2DS XL sports a 4.9 inch screen on top, along with a 4.2 inch resistive touchscreen on bottom. For the most part, these screens can get fairly bright on their maximum setting, though anecdotal evidence suggests that all New Nintendo 2DS XLs feature twisted neumatic (TN) panels. The system utilizes the same clamshell design that Nintendo has been using for over a decade, but unlike some models, this new revision features a close-to-perfect seal when both halves are closed. Coupled with the matte finish (which doesn’t attract fingerprints compared to glossy models), and the New Nintendo 2DS XL is quite the looker. For those who are fans of amiibo (Nintendo’s take on scannable figures), you’ll be glad to know that the system comes with a built-in NFC reader.
There are a few odd design decisions that are immediately noticeable, though they are far from being dealbreakers. The system’s speakers have been relocated to the bottom edge, which can cause a slight rattle depending on how you hold it. The included stylus is also pathetically short, and those with average (or larger) hands might find it cumbersome to use for extended play sessions.
There are some upsides to the revised hardware though. The Nintendo 2DS XL is noticeable lighter than its 3D brethren, and it’s also a tad thinner to boot. The cartridge slot has also been moved to the bottom, with a plastic hinge to protect it from the elements (and from unintended removal). The microSD card is also housed here, which is a godsend compared to older models, which required unscrewing the back plate in order to access memory cards.
Many will be quick to downplay the faster CPU and extra RAM, but as a longtime 3DS user, the added processing prowess of the “New” line of handhelds is a noticeable improvement, both in and out of games. Navigating through the menus and user interface is snappier, and digital downloads don’t take nearly as long. The stronger hardware allows for certain games to run (such as Xenoblade Chronicles 3D), as well as SNES titles via Virtual Console. The C-Stick is essentially a requirement for games like Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D, and while it takes some time to get used to the limited range of movement, you won’t want to go back to a single analog stick after long.
All in all, the New Nintendo 2DS XL is a fantastic hardware revision from Nintendo, and it’s easily the go-to system for those looking to experience the vast and diverse range of 3DS games. While there’s not much of a reason to upgrade if you already own a New Nintendo 3DS XL, those who have yet to take the plunge (or those who are still rocking an older handheld) should look no further. Despite all the attention that the Switch is receiving, there’s still plenty of reasons to stick with Nintendo’s dedicated handheld platform.
Nintendo's latest hardware revision is the perfect buy for those looking to dive head first into the platform's excellent collection of games.