There’s no doubt that the future of Nintendo looks rosy or, at least, rosier than it did a couple of years ago.
The Switch has proven a tremendous success, the decision to recreate former console glories in miniature form has also gone down rather well, and there’s an all-new Mario 3D platformer on the way. The future looks very bright indeed.
Before Nintendo looks too far ahead, however, there’s one last piece of business it needs to get out of the way.
The company’s DS line of handhelds has topped the pile for portable gaming for more than a decade, but it’s on its last legs. There are reports Nintendo has stopped production of the new 3DS and surely the same will be true of the new 3DS XL soon.
The end is therefore nigh for the enduring handheld console series and Nintendo is already showing signs of moving onto new ventures – either exploiting the Switch’s portability further or embarking on a new hardware path. But before it shifts its attention for good, it's had one last crack of the whip in the form of the Nintendo 2DS XL.
Nintendo 2DS XL review: Death of 3D
It might seem odd for yet another DS console to make its way to market, especially at such a late stage, but as soon as you play with one you get it. This is the best DS yet. A fine swansong to a glorious generation of mobile gaming.
Some might bemoan that, like the more kid-centric Nintendo 2DS, the 2DS XL dispenses with the autostereoscopic 3D tech of its siblings, but we certainly don’t miss it. Nobody we know with a 3DS or 3DS XL has the 3D switched on anyway and those that do run the risk of ghosting or crosstalk issues while playing.
Ditching it ensures that gaming sessions are uninterrupted even when you unintentionally waggle the console. And we’re yet to play a 3DS game that doesn’t look equally as good, if not better, in 2D. A glasses-free 3D screen was a great gimmick initially, but is totally unnecessary today.
Nintendo 2DS XL review: Smaller, lighter, more fun
The design of the 2DS XL has been tweaked for the better too. While it retains the same screen sizes – 4.88-inches (400 x 240 pixels) on the top, 4.18-inches (320 x 240 pixels) on the bottom – the 2DS XL is smaller and considerably lighter than the previous flagship. The bezels around the screens have been thinned to reduce the overall beefiness, making for a better feel in the hands over long periods.
There’s a nicer feel to the exterior, with the glossy, metallic finish of the recent 3DS models replaced with a plastic matt effect, in either white and orange or black and turquoise. It provides more grip, and the top is slightly ribbed to improve aesthetics further.
Don't be fooled into thinking this is more for children though. It feels a little flimsier than the last models, so might not survive too many drops or tantrums. The unibody 2DS is still a better option in that sense.
The cartridge slot is on the bottom left corner, as on the latest 3DS XL, but it's now secured by a flap to stop the game popping out when in a bag. Better still, the microSD card slot is under the same flap, so you can swap it out easily.
Having to unscrew the rear of the 3DS XL just to change over a microSD card was a real pain – something we rediscovered when transferring our system from one device to another.
Cameras have also moved. The front-facing cam is now on the hinge, while the rear 3D cameras (yep, they can still take 3D images even considering the 2DS XL's 2D screen) are now centrally located on the back.
And the hinge gains notifications lights, to tell you when you have StreetPass or SpotPass data to check out.
The main thumbstick, mini thumbstick and extra shoulder buttons (ZL and ZR) are all present as usual – just in a different colour depending on which variant you choose. The home button has been moved from the bottom of the lower screen to the left-hand side, but it makes little difference.
Nintendo 2DS XL review: Shrunken stylus
The whole design is excellent save for one small thing, literally: the stylus. It has shrunk. It’s tucked away at the front, next to the headphone port, but when extracted it is significantly shorter than the standard styli that come with other 3DS devices. Of course, it’s not the size, it’s what you do with it, but with our sausage fingers it just seems a little stingy.
Unlike the 2DS, the Nintendo 2DS XL comes with Amiibo support (you need an adapter on the other model). It can be found underneath the bottom screen, so just tap any Amiibo there to interact with supported games.
We're pleased that Nintendo has seen sense this time around and includes a power adapter in the box (it didn't with the 3DS model upgrades). Perhaps it feels the 2DS XL will be a jumping on point for many - after all, would you downscale your new 3DS XL to a 2DS XL version, even if it does look and feel much sexier?
That’s actually the only downside to the new console we can see; who is it really aimed at?
Nintendo has sold more than 67 million 3DS handhelds in one form or another, so surely there's not that many gamers out there who haven't got one already. It's not for kids either, as we stress above, thanks to a flimsier build quality than previous models.
But with a fantastic games library - including a vast, cheap DS back catalogue - and continued support from developers, at least Nintendo is giving you a fun, light and streamlined option to jump on board before it shuts up shop.
And if you are one of the few who have resisted until now, this is the best DS console yet. The pinnacle of more than a decade of tweaking and tinkering by a company now at the top of its form.
Alternatives to consider
New Nintendo 3DS XL
The flagship 3DS model is heavier and chunkier than the 2DS XL but does have the glasses-free 3D screen if that's more your thing. Everything else about it is the same as the latest model, including Amiibo support and an extra thumbstick on the right.
Read the full article: New Nintendo 3DS XL review
Sony PS Vita
Sony's handheld is also on its last legs in terms of game support, but it does have an excellent back catalogue to choose from. It is a different form factor and its graphical abilities far surpass Nintendo's handhelds. You can also use it to play PS4 games elsewhere in the home.
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Read the full article: Sony PS Vita Slim review
Nintendo's latest home games console is also portable, with all Switch games working just as well on its built-in 6.2-inch as when played on a TV through the included dock. It's considerably more hefty than the 2DS XL though, so the handheld is still a better option for flinging in a bag on your travels.
Read the full article: Nintendo Switch review