New Nintendo 2DS XL review: Nintendo’s newest handheld is absolutely sublime

£130
Price when reviewed

The New Nintendo 2DS XL is quite possibly one of the quietest product releases Nintendo has ever had. So sneakily did it slip out of Nintendo’s Kyoto R&D lab, in fact, that it suggests even Nintendo isn’t fussed about its latest handheld. However, the New Nintendo 2DS XL represents one of the finest portable console experiences Nintendo has made. And I’m counting the Nintendo Switch as a home console, before you all start ranting in the comments.

One reason Nintendo is quietly confident about the New Nintendo 2DS XL is because it has been refining its 3DS family of devices since the original Nintendo 3DS launched in 2011. Now, with its latest model backed up by one of the best game libraries available on any platform, Nintendo has very little to worry about with the 2DS XL.

It was the same quiet confidence that came with the launch of the original wedge-shaped Nintendo 2DS in 2013. It may have represented a sidestep for Nintendo, opening it up to younger kids whose parents may be put off by the 3D screen, or the price, of the 3DS, but it turned out to be a success.

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It’s been almost four years since the 2DS came to market and those kids have grown up. Instead of wanting to wield a child-like doorstop of a device, they want something that looks more mature. A device that’s stylistically similar to its “grown-up” 3DS cousins. Enter the New Nintendo 2DS XL.

New Nintendo 2DS XL review: A mostly perfect redesign

With its clamshell design and crisp colour combinations, the New Nintendo 2DS XL is a thing of quiet beauty. Opening the lid reveals that the 2DS XL has also adopted the New 3DS’s C Stick nubbin and the New 3DS XL’s spacious screens, with the lower touchscreen hiding Amiibo support underneath. It may not have the customisable interchangeable covers of its siblings, and it might still look somewhat more childlike than the more angular New 3DS and New 3DS XL, but it’s a decent step forward. It feels pleasingly chunky in the hand and build quality is, as always, solid.

Nintendo has also made some smart design decisions with the New Nintendo 2DS XL. The 3D camera array has been removed from the lid of the New 2DS XL and is now set into the base, towards the rear. The microSD slot has been moved to the front of the unit next to the game cartridge slot, and both have been covered with a sturdy flap to stop accidental ejection during play. All three of these small tweaks fix issues that owners of the New 3DS and New 3DS XL have complained about in the past, so it’s good to see Nintendo listening to feedback and implementing them here.

A couple of the other changes are slightly more perplexing. The 3DS’s excellent telescopic stylus isn’t in evidence here, instead replaced by a shorter, fatter one. Presumably this is to make it more comfortable for small hands, but adults who wish to pick up the 2DS XL – perhaps because they don’t want to pay extra for 3D capabilities – will find themselves battling hand cramp after a while.

Nintendo has also placed the 2DS XL’s speakers on the corner edges facing towards you, instead of either side of the screen as on the 3DS range. This small change means the 2DS XL doesn’t sound very loud, even at full volume. Because of the speaker placement, you end up blocking most of the sound with the palm of your hand when holding the 2DS XL, resulting in even worse sound. It’s not a deal-breaker, especially as I imagine most people play with headphones or would rather have their children pay with headphones, but it’s still a baffling decision.

New Nintendo 2DS XL review: New inside and out

The 2DS XL isn’t just a reworked, larger-screened 2DS, though: it’s also entirely reworked on the inside. Utilising the more powerful chipset found in the New 3DS and 3DS XL, the 2DS XL is the only way to get a 2DS capable of playing New 3DS-exclusive games.

Seeing as so few games actually require you to have a New 3DS to play them, however, this doesn’t actually mean much. However, it does mean that some older games that support the C Stick nubbin are actually more playable. You can’t knock game performance, either: without the need to push for 3D, games run incredibly smoothly on the 2DS XL’s larger screens.

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Because the unit’s lid no longer has speakers or a camera built in – the front-facing camera is now positioned on the screen hinge – the 2DS XL’s 4.88in, 400 x 240 top screen really stands out. That’s helped by the new glossy finish across the entire lid of the device, making the 2DS XL’s top screen appear sharper and more vibrant than that of the New 3DS and New 3DS XL.

The 2DS XL’s screen is bright and crisp, and colours don’t look as washed out as they can do on the New 3DS. The bigger screen doesn’t diminish image quality as much as you think it might, either; despite lower pixel density than the original 2DS, games look as great as they do on the New 3DS XL.

The lower touchscreen part of the 2DS XL is the same screen found in the New 3DS XL, but that’s not a problem, either. At 4.18in, it’s much larger than the original 2DS’s touchscreen and much less fiddly to use.

New Nintendo 2DS XL review: A catalogue to die for

Unlike the New Nintendo 3DS and New 3DS XL, Nintendo won’t be releasing any games that work exclusively with the 2DS XL. The flipside, however, is that it can play absolutely any 3DS and DS game ever made.

When the console arrives on 28 July, however, there will be launch games. Miitopia, a Tomadachi Life-like RPG, sees your Miis building relationships and fighting one another in various settings, while Dr Kawashima’s Devilish Brain Training: Can you stay focused? continues the series’ infamous mental gymnastics.

If neither of those sound like they’re up your street, Nintendo also has two big Nintendo 3DS games launching the month before: Hey! Pikmin and Ever Oasis. Both games should appeal to anyone picking up a 2DS XL upon its release.

Hey! Pikmin is your typical Pikmin fare: lead as many Pikmin to safety, while collecting treasure, without getting them killed. The chief difference here is that it isn’t a distance-viewed Pikmin game as found on the GameCube and Wii U; instead it’s a side-scrolling adventure developed specifically for the smaller screen of a DS console. Despite this shift in perspective, it’s as enjoyable as the series has ever been.

Ever Oasis, on the other hand, has many old-school JRPG fans excited. Created by Koichi Ishii – the creator of the Mana series – Ever Oasis casts you in the role of Tethu, a seedling tasked with creating a village and filling it with inhabitants. Naturally, it’s all a little absurd, but I found it enjoyable during my short time playing it and I can see myself sinking plenty of hours into it.

New Nintendo 2DS XL review: Verdict

If you’re already the happy owner of a New Nintendo 3DS or New 3DS XL, the New Nintendo 2DS XL isn’t worth your time.

But if the 2DS you bought for your kid is looking a little bit battered, or they’ve outgrown its childish aesthetic, the New 2DS XL is a great purchase, especially if you’re not too fussed about playing in 3D.

For £130 (that’s £40 less than the New 3DS XL), you gain access to a huge catalogue of truly fantastic handheld games, and with its larger screens it’s arguably a more pleasurable experience gaming on this than the (still more expensive) regular 3DS.

Sure, it has its little niggles, and the black-and-turquoise and white-and-orange designs aren’t as catchy or cool as the New 3DS’s interchangeable faces, but this is yet another strong addition to Nintendo’s handheld lineup.

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