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The New 2DS XL could be Nintendo's best handheld yet

·Technology Editor
The New Nintendo 2DS XL.
The New Nintendo 2DS XL could be the best handheld ever.

Nintendo (NTDOY) is having a heck of a year. As of March, the video game giant had already shipped 2.7 million units of its new Switch consoles, putting it on pace for 10 million units shipped by next year.

But the Switch, which doubles as both a home and portable console, isn’t Nintendo’s only gaming system. The company is also heavily invested in the traditional handheld market with its 2DS and New 3DS XL.

And despite fears that the Switch’s portability would give Nintendo reason to kill its handheld market, the Mario maker is rolling out a third handheld: the New Nintendo 2DS XL. Try saying that five times fast.

The 2DS, New 2DS XL, and New 3DS XL.
The entire 3DS line including the 2DS, New 2DS XL and the New 3DS XL.

I got to spend some time with the New 2DS XL during a press event in New York and it looks like the company might have its second hit of the year on its hands.

What’s new with the New 2DS XL?

So what’s the difference between the 2DS, the New 2DS XL and the New 3DS XL? Pricing and power mostly. See the 2DS, which is designed for younger gamers, is a single slab with screens on its top and bottom sections.

Starting at $79 with “Mario Kart 7” included, the 2DS is a solid deal if you’ve got a little one who wants to get into gaming on the go.

The New Nintendo 2DS XL has two additional shoulder buttons.
The New Nintendo 2DS XL comes with two more buttons than the original 2DS.

The $199 New 3DS XL, meanwhile, features a hinged design with a 3D-capable screen on its top half and a touch screen display on its lower portion. Both screens are also larger than the 2DS’s. The New 3DS XL’s processor and extra bumper buttons also means it can play some games that the 2DS can’t.

The New 2DS XL slots right in between the 2DS and New 3DS XL. It’s got the same hinge design, screen sizes, processor and buttons as the New 3DS XL, but lacks the 3DS’ 3D capabilities. The 2DS XL is also more compact than the 3DS.

Why bother making an in-between handheld?

The New 2DS XL is basically a 3DS XL for people who don’t care for 3D. See, the 3DS has a slider that allows you to switch on stereoscopic 3D that works without needing you to wear glasses. The only problem is you have to hold the handheld in a very specific position to make sure your eyes are lined up properly with the screen to see the 3D effects.

New 3DS XL and New 2DS XL.
The New 3DS XL (left) next to the New 2DS XL (right).

I have an older 3DS and never use the 3D feature, because I don’t like having to hold it a particular way. Moreover, the 3D kills the system’s battery.

But as Nintendo’s senior vice president of sales and marketing Doug Bowser (yes, he really does have the same name as Mario’s enemy) points out, 58 million of the 66 million DS consoles in the world are 3D-capable.

“We know there is that group that says, ‘You know, I take the [3D] slider when I start playing, I drop it down and turn it off, and I enjoy that experience’,” Bowser said. “And for that group, that’s what makes [the New 2DS XL] such a great option.”

Why make a new handheld when you’ve got the Switch?

When Nintendo first announced the Switch, the biggest question it seemed like everyone had for the company was whether the new console’s portability would spell the end of its traditional handhelds.

The New 2DS XL, along with a 13% increase in handheld sales in North America, proves that’s obviously not the case.

The New Nintendo 2DS XL has a game cartridge slot cover.
The New Nintendo 2DS XL has a cover for its game cartridge slot, so they won’t pop out unless you want them to.

So how does Nintendo reconcile the Switch, which is portable, with its handhelds? According to Bowser, that all comes down to the games and ways you want to play.

“We see the Switch as being first and foremost, a home gaming system,” Bowser said.

“It is a home console that has a portability factor to it. But if you really look at all of the features that have been built into the Switch, it starts with great graphics in a home console system that really match up beautifully to the games we’ve provided, ‘Legend of Zelda’ being a great example.”

The 2DS XL, meanwhile, benefits from the 3DS’ catalogue of more than 1,000 games, all of which it can play without issue, and its easier portability thanks to its smaller size.

There’s also the fact that the Switch costs $299, so you know, there’s that.

Should you get it?

The New 2DS XL goes on sale in July and will likely be a great investment for people who, like me, have an older, less powerful 3DS, or simply want to get back into handheld gaming.

Should you get one now? Well, I’ve only had a few minutes to play with the 2DS XL, so I can’t say for sure one way or the other. So stay tuned for my full review in the coming weeks.

More from Dan:

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.