Nintendo loves to zig when we expect them to zag. Only weeks after the release of their console-handheld hybrid Nintendo Switch, the company announced the New Nintendo 2DS XL. Unveiling a new 3DS family remodel when most assumed the platform was on the way out was perplexing enough, but why a new 2DS, specifically? The originally wedge-shaped 2DS didn’t exactly set the world on fire – was anybody crying out for a sequel?
Perhaps Nintendo felt they had something to prove? Did Nintendo’s younger hardware design team, the ones behind the sleek new Switch, want a crack at the 3DS? Whatever their motivation, the New Nintendo 2DS XL is no lazy revamp. Clearly a lot of care and effort has been put into the new system, but is the 3DS’ fifth major redesign worth your attention and hard-earned cash?
Time to go hands-on with Nintendo’s latest handheld…
New Nintendo 2DS XL
As its name implies, the New Nintendo 2DS XL is essentially a mashup of the New Nintendo 3DS XL and the Nintendo 2DS. Like the New 3DS XL, this latest machine sports a clamshell design, a bit of extra horsepower, and a little camera nub that makes playing 3D games less cumbersome, but, like the 2DS, it lacks stereoscopic 3D and comes with a budget-friendly $150 price tag. Nintendo has mixed their high-end and low-end machines to create something that sits comfortably in the middle.
Look and Feel
I should probably mention I still do most of my handheld gaming on my launch Nintendo 3DS from 2011. I’ve never been a big fan of the design of the Nintendo 3DS XL or New Nintendo 3DS XL -- both systems feel a bit frumpy to me. The handheld gaming equivalent of large-text cellphones for seniors. I prefer my sturdy, compact OG 3DS, thank you very much. That said, I may finally be considering a permanent upgrade.
Make no mistake, the New 2DS XL feels very plasticky, but it’s a nice matte plastic that’s great to the touch. I also the love the ridgey texture on the top, which acts as a fantastic fingerprint buster. After hours of play, my New 2DS XL still looks more-or-less untouched, when, typically, handheld systems go from pristine to fingerprint-covered messes within minutes.
The New 2DS XL is noticeably lighter than past 3DS models this size, making long play sessions more comfortable, and it’s smoothed-off edges reduce hand strain and allow the system to slip easily into your pocket. And have I mentioned the system just looks cool? Because it really does. Consider all traces of frumpiness dispelled.
My new baby.
Layout and the Little Things
Nintendo has done a bit of rearranging with the New 2DS XL, moving the camera and mic from above the screen to the system’s slightly chubby middle hinge. I can’t say I’ve ever used the camera of mic all that much, but this seems like a more reasonable place to have them. The speakers have also been moved from the top portion of the system to the bottom, and the sound generally felt fuller than with past 3DS models, although they do cause noticeable vibration that can be a bit distracting. Perhaps Nintendo can sell it as built-in rumble.
If I had to gripe, and I do, the cartridge slot is now hidden behind a slightly stubborn hatch, which makes putting games in a bit awkward, particularly if you’re on the go. Also, I’ll admit, I miss the original 3DS’ deluxe extendible metal stylus – the dinky two-inch number included with the New 2DS XL is a bit sad.
To 3D or Not 3D?
The New 2DS XL’s screen is the same size as other “XL” models, but it looks much nicer, as, much like the original 3DS, there’s a nice flat clear plastic bezel around it. The screen itself is bright and crisp, although its larger size does make the system’s low resolution obvious, with individual pixels being fairly apparent.
And now, the million-dollar question – does the New 2DS XL’s lack of stereoscopic 3D actually matter? I’m not one of those stubborn contrarians who insists on playing with the 3D slider off at all times, and I’ll admit, the feature is slightly missed. The 3DS isn’t terribly powerful, and the 3D feature helps gives the system’s simple visuals more depth and pop. That said, the best 3DS games like Fire Emblem: Awakening and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds get around the platform’s limitations with stylized visuals and well-honed gameplay, so, with rare exceptions, you won’t be missing out on anything crucial.
It’s a shame the New Nintendo 2DS XL doesn’t feature stereoscopic 3D, because aside from that one unchecked box, it really feels like the best of past 3DS models. This new system incorporates bits of the original 3DS, the 2DS, and the New 3DS XL in a fresh, attractive package. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see one more 3DS revision – a “deluxe” model with 3D and the styling of the New 2DS XL.
So, given the various 3DS options available, should you buy a New Nintendo 2DS XL? If you’re looking for an inexpensive backup system, or something for the kids, then the answer is 100 percent yes. If you’re just getting into Nintendo’s latest handheld line now and are trying to choose between the New 2DS XL and the New 3DS XL, well, that’s trickier. Is stereoscopic 3D worth an extra $50 and an overall less-stylish system? Even as somebody who likes the 3D effect, I’ll admit the cost is a bit high.
It’s hard to get too excited about a new 3DS remodel in 2017, but the platform isn’t done yet, and the New Nintendo 2DS XL is the most refined version of the system to date. It’s not a must-have, but if you’re thinking about joining the 3DS family or upgrading anyway, Nintendo’s latest revamp is currently your best bet.
Score: 4 out of 5 stars
This review was based on New Nintendo 2DS XL hardware provided by Nintendo.