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Nintendo New 2DS XL review

A Pokémon machine without 3D? It's the portable you wanted three years ago

We’re used to Nintendo’s crazy ideas now. A mushroom-guzzling Italian? Sounds great. Motion-controlled bowling? Sure. Scales that can be used in a video game? Weird, but OK.

When it came up with the design for the door-wedge-shaped Nintendo 2DS… Well, I just don’t know what Nintendo was thinking.

Four years later Nintendo has finally rectified this glaring design flaw. It’s gone back to the tried and trusted flip-down hinge, increased the screen size and slapped in a speedier processor. Sure, there’s no goofy gimmick on top of all that, but you know what? The 3DS family has never looked better.

While these tweaks undisputably improve on the 2DS, I can’t help but wonder who this portable is for. With the best of its games behind it and Nintendo’s focus now on the Switch is there any point splashing out on the New 2DS XL?

Nintendo New 2DS XL design: return to the fold

Nintendo New 2DS XL design: return to the fold

The whole point of a handheld device is portability and so Nintendo has done its best to shave down the edges of the New 2DS XL to make it as pocket-friendly as possible. Even the slot-in SD card has gone Micro. Folded up, the New 2DS XL is about the same size as my 5.5in Apple iPhone 7 Plus smartphone, only a little chubbier.

It looks pretty good, too. The black and turquoise model that I’m reviewing is smart and while previous models could be accused of clutter, that’s not the case here. There’s plenty of space around all of the buttons, and that’s even with a new C-Stick joining the party.

While the New 2DS XL looks great, it feels distinctly plastic and cheap. That said, the fact that it resembles a child’s toy means it should at least withstand the bangs and wallops of a heavy-handed infant.

The top screen looks a lot like the iPod Touch, with chunky (but flat) bezels on either side of the screen. And without the protruding plastic of previous devices, that top screen looks a lot cleaner, too. The issue? There’s no room for the speakers. They’ve been demoted to the back of the device, which results in slightly muffled audio compared to other iterations of the handheld console. You’re going to want to plug your headphones in for decent sound.

Nintendo New 2DS XL displays: rough and ready

Nintendo New 2DS XL displays: rough and ready

There’s further evidence of corner cutting on the screens. While the console’s 4.88in top and 4.18in bottom displays are the same size as those on the New 3DS XL, and technically have the same 400 x 240 resolution, to my eyes they’re nowhere near as good.

Maybe I’ve been spoilt by the 1280 x 720 display of the Switch, but I couldn’t ignore the blur when speeding around Rainbow Road on Mario Kart 7 or the pixelated flailing of fists on Super Smash Bros. Or maybe it was the brightness that was the problem – it’s fine in a dark room, but step into the sunlight and it becomes difficult to see the onscreen action.

Either way, these compromises just hammered home the feeling that rather than being a premium, non-3D-version of the New 3DS XL, this is instead just a budget option with distinctly budget failings.

Still, younglings won’t be likely to care, especially if they haven’t previously owned or played a 3DS or Switch. Or, indeed, a modern smartphone or tablet. Ahem.

Nintendo New 2DS XL processor and C-Stick: Stick with it

Nintendo New 2DS XL processor and C-Stick: Stick with it

So that’s the bad mostly out of the way – what of the New 2DS XL’s good points? Well, it’s also been fully upgraded internally, and here the makeover is much more successful.

For starters, there’s a new processor and it makes a big difference. A game such as Super Smash Bros. demands so much of the standard 2DS and 3DS that it takes a painful 40-second wait for it to load. On the New 2DS XL, though, that loading time is slashed in half. Games run that little bit smoother, too, and if you want further proof of just how worthwhile the processor upgrade is, consider this: Xenoblade Chronicles 3D can’t even be played on a bog-standard 2DS/3DS, but it’s fine here.

Will you notice the difference in speed for your average Pokemon or Mario game? Probably not. But it helps to future-proof your library and gives you a few more options.

The C-Stick is a more worthwhile addition still, effectively acting as a second analogue controller. It really is a stress-soother, giving you more control of the camera in 3D settings and making it easier to grab your opponent in Super Smash Bros.

Unfortunately, not many games make use of the C-Stick. The most notable titles include The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Kid Icarus: Uprising, but it’s a limited list. And since the C-Stick is so tiny and moves ever so slightly when pushed, it’s not the most responsive or tactile of controls.

Nintendo New 2DS XL games: End of an era?

The 3DS family has a fantastic catalogue of games. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Fire Emblem Awakening and Super Mario 3D Land are all examples of Nintendo at its best, while there’s also an impressive lineup of remakes including Ocarina of Time and Pokemon Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire. And that’s forgetting its virtual console library of classics that you can download.

The downside comes when looking to the future. There just aren’t that many more games to look forwards to. Sure, Hey! Pikmin, Pokemon Ultra Sun/Moon and the Metroid: Samus Returns remake look promising, but compare those to the Switch’s Super Mario Odyssey, Pokken Tournament and Metroid Prime 4, and the 2DS’s upcoming offerings look dismal.

With this in mind the New 2DS XL is only really an option if you’ve yet to play through the 3DS’ current crop of games. Otherwise you might as well spend the extra couple of hundred quid and invest in a Switch.

New 2DS XL vs New 3DS XL vs 2DS: which one should you get?

New 2DS XL vs New 3DS XL vs 2DS: which one should you get?

You can currently buy three different 3DS consoles: the 2DS for £80, the New 3DS XL for £180 and the New 2DS XL for £130. They all play the same games (barring Xenoblade Chronicles 3D on the 2DS) and are decent machines in their own right.

So… which one should you get? Definitely not the 3DS XL; it’s too expensive nowadays and those 3D skills aren’t worth having anyway. That means the standard 2DS seems like a mighty tempting proposition. Especially since it comes with a complimentary copy of Mario Kart 7, New Super Mario Bros 2 or Tomodachi Life for well under £100.

If you prefer the New 2DS XL’s more refined clamshell aesthetic over its wedge-shaped cousin, I wouldn’t hold that against you. An extra £50 gives you added protection against bumps and scratches, and a faster processor for shorter loading times but… you can easily buy three extra games for the same money. So it’s kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? 2DS it is.

Nintendo New 2DS XL verdict

Nintendo New 2DS XL verdict

It’s hard to see who the New 2DS XL will appeal to. For those really wanting the absolute best, the New 3DS XL offers a significantly better display and feels much more of a premium device. The cash-conscious gamer, meanwhile, already has the standard 2DS. So the New 2DS XL sits between them in no man’s land.

The hammer blow, though, is the Switch. It was only a few months ago that Nintendo released its hybrid console and it’s crystal clear that almost all of the company’s focus is going towards producing games for that new platform, leaving the 2DS and 3DS out in the cold.

Don’t get me wrong, the New 2DS XL is still a well-made device that would have been a portable champion three years ago. But in 2017? It just feels redundant.

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Stuff Says…

Score: 3/5

A decent upgrade to the Nintendo 2DS – but too little, too late

Good Stuff

Clamshell design a massive improvement on door-wedge 2DS

New processor offers more grunt

Handy little C-Stick

Bad Stuff

Rough-around-the-edges display

Plasticky build

Limited games on the horizon

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