Hands-On With the New Nintendo 2DS XL

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new nintendo 2ds xl

Last weekend, GeekMom Corrina and I hit NYC to see the sights, enjoy some free food, and (arguably) most importantly spend a little time with Nintendo’s latest addition to its handheld hardware lineup, the New Nintendo 2DS XL.

In order to get a proper idea of what this charming little device truly is, we must first parse its veritable mouthful of a moniker. The “Nintendo” part is easy enough to understand, but note that the “XL” puts in on par with the Big N’s other jumbo-sized systems, complete with a big, beautiful top screen and an expansive lower touchscreen.

Similarly, the “New” designates it as an entry into the recently reinvented New Nintendo 3DS line. Like the New Nintendo 3DS XL and its little brother the New Nintendo 3DS, this portable comes complete with all the latest hardware upgrades: a faster processor, a secondary control nubbin, additional shoulder buttons, and onboard NFC support for use with all your beloved amibo.

Lastly, though, we take on that lingering “2DS” part. Yes, this is essentially a New Nintendo 3DS XL, but without the titular 3D gaming support. Think of the 2DS XL as a stepping stone between the more expensive New 3DS XL and the diminutive, budget-priced Nintendo 2DS. Both the overall hardware configuration and its $149.99 price point help it fit perfectly into that particular niche.

Our proper introduction to the device came from Doug Bowser, Senior Vice President Sales & Marketing at Nintendo of America, who plainly admitted (and rather seemed to relish) that the announcement of the product had been met with no small amount of head-scratching from gamers and the entertainment media at large. But, as always, there was a method to the madness:

As we look at our product lineups—whether its Switch or our portable market—we really take a longer-term view to the SKU plan and what’s the right time to introduce various components. We made the comment back when we launched the Switch […] that we were very dedicated to our handheld business, and the timing, for us, was right to do this.

Bowser went own to describe the 2DS XL reveal as “more than just a symbolic gesture,” citing last year’s 14% year-over-year growth in the 2DS/3DS market as an indicator that neither Nintendo itself nor the legions of handheld gamers were finished with these dedicated portable systems. And the 2DS XL does, indeed, boast that same Nintendo DNA—though with some clever new additions.

The top screen, for example, is noticeably thinner thanks to the lack of stereoscopic 3D components and the removal of the speakers, which are now located towards the front of the base of the unit. The game cartridge and microSD slots have also been relocated as well, and both can now be easily accessed (and safely stored) behind a protective plastic flap on the system’s left-front area.

The overall footprint feels more compact and it’s noticeably lighter, while the beveling around the lower edges helps it sit comfortably in your hands. Sure the Tron-style electric blue on black matte finish may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I genuinely liked playing on the little fellow. And on the subject of playing, a trio of upcoming releases was on display for our gaming pleasure: Miitopia, Ever Oasis, and Hey! PIKMIN.

ever oasis

Taking a leaf from one of the many (many!) bizarre diversions available in Tomodachi Life, Miitopia is a make-your-own-RPG where the roles of heroes, villains, and allies are filled from your collection of Mii avatars. Characters explore, battle, cook, eat, and cohabitate, all while growing both in skill and with regard to their unique interpersonal relationships. If you like the quirky, Mii-centric slant of releases like Tomodachi Life and Miitomo, you’ll love building your own roleplaying adventure when Miitopia arrives this summer.

Ever Oasis, similarly, is billed as an “introductory RPG,” perfect for youngers gamers graduating from the 2DS to a more robust system like the New Nintendo 2DS XL, but don’t let that description fool you. While you won’t have to spend a lot of time fussing over complex controls and the game’s quest system always makes it easy to know where you’re headed, there’s a depth afforded by its expansive cast of characters (which grows along with your own oasis), each with a unique skill used to solve the obligatory environmental puzzles. Speaking of the environment, Ever Oasis positively kills it with regard to its art direction, oozing the sort of fantasy ambiance that RPG fans of all ages are sure to enjoy.

Still, despite my love for the aforementioned titles, my favorite moments of the event were surely spent with Hey! PIKMIN. As a longtime PIKMIN fan, I feared the worst when I discovered the game was being translated from its traditional free-roaming action format to more of a 2D platformer, but I’ll happily admit that my panic was unfounded. Hey! PIKMIN controls like a dream using the 2DS XL’s touchscreen, and the game captures the look and feel of the series perfectly, even on this obviously less-expansive adventure. Much like the New Nintendo 2DS XL itself, it managed to surprise and delight, despite any initial skepticism on my part.

Travel and accommodations provided by: Nintendo of America

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