Nintendo have seemed to delight in springing the odd surprise hardware announcement in recent times. While the Switch has dominated the headlines, they caught us unawares with the NES Mini last year, and then just last week, the announcement of a New Nintendo 2DS XL which is set to release in July. We went hands on with the upcoming console revision.
Is the New Nintendo 2DS XL a console that needs to exist? No, it’s not, and it adds to the already rather convoluted and poorly named range of 3DS handhelds, but it is really very nice. Unlike the wedge shaped 2DS, the New 2DS XL takes after the 3DS XL with a clamshell design. Despite being the cheaper option, the New 2DS XL is just that little bit more svelte looking and manages to shave off a noticeable amount of weight in an ever-so-slightly more compact design.
As one of the “New” consoles, it’s much more capable than the original 3DS, with a slightly beefed up CPU and GPU that can handle more complex games – it can play Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, for example, which is restricted to a “New” 3DS. It’s also got the C-stick nubbin that can act as a second analogue stick in a number of games and additional ZL and ZR buttons on the shoulders. There’s also the built in NFC chip for amiibo compatibility.
At the same time, it’s an XL console, meaning it features a big and bright 4.88″ upper screen and 4.18″ lower screen that’s practically indistinguishable from the New 3DS XL. Of course, it’s still running at a the same resolutions – 400×240 up top and 320×240 below – that was low even on the the 3.5″ screen of the original 3DS in 2011, and it can really show when blown up to nearly 5″. The kicker here is that you don’t have 3D, for which the low resolution was always a tradeoff, leaving you with a large screen, but one that struggles with showing detailed graphics clearly.
From left to right: New Nintendo 3DS, New Nintendo 2DS XL, New Nintendo 3DS XL.
On the plus side, that lack of 3D is a better fit for the console’s market. It’s cheaper, appealing to the lower end of the market who likely won’t care about a fad from half a decade ago, and to parents who want to buy something for their children. Since children below the age of 6 shouldn’t be using the 3D effect, that meant that they ought to be supervised when playing on a 3DS, but there’s no such worries with the 2DS XL.
Those considerations have clearly come into effect for the rest of the 2DS XL’s design, but it’s ironic that this has led to a number of general improvements. The clamshell design has been modified so it fully closes, unlike with the 3DS and 3DS XL which have gaps around the edges instead of the rim sitting flush with the base. It gives the console a cleaner look overall, with the screen now surrounded by glossy plastic and the lower touch screen now flush with the rest of the main body as opposed to being raised up. Similarly, the game cartridge slot is now covered by a rubber flap, preventing premature or unintentional ejection, and that’s also where you’ll find the microSD card slot, making this infinitely easier to access.
The screen’s hinge doesn’t extend all the way to the console’s corners, meaning that it should be less prone to damage than other models are. If that hinge does break, then the console should be easier and cheaper to repair as well, as the front facing camera is now embedded in the hinge, the two rear-facing cameras are on the console’s bottom – yes, the console can still take 3D photos – and the speakers are moved to the lower corners of the main body, situated on the side in a manner that means your hand doesn’t block the sound. The upper half of the console, in other words, is literally just the screen.
It all comes back to whether or not it can actually be a compelling purchase. It’s $150 for the 2DS XL in the US, and that’s being translated by retailers to around £130 in the UK. That’s less than the £150 you can get for a New 3DS and a game, and a healthy £50 off the £180 that the New 3DS XL typically sells for ($200 in the US). Obviously, that’s all dependent on the atypically competitive UK games market and the older consoles are more likely to be discounted.
With the Nintendo 3DS entering into its twilight year, with a huge library of fantastic games that Nintendo are continuing to add to, getting that price point lower and lower is important for the console to continue to find its way into more people’s hands, especially with Nintendo’s own homegrown contender in the Switch.
We’ll reserve judgement for when the console is released in late July, but our first impressions of the New 2DS XL are that it’s a revision of the console that gets a lot right in its quest for a low cost but still attractive console. It would be with a depressing sense of irony for this to be seen as the best overall version of the 3DS console, despite lacking its signature feature.