If you're no longer interested in 3D – and even Nintendo's interest in it seems to be waning – then the new Nintendo 2DS XL is the absolute best in the line of Nintendo portable gaming hardware. It's a shame that the company makes adding new devices such a burden.
Nintendo's nomenclature for handhelds has turned into a soup of letters, as if the company would put a series of adjectives and numbers in a hat, pick three, and that's the next piece of hardware they make. The New 2DS XL is, among other things, a successor to the 3DS XL, the New 3DS and the 2DS, which were published in this order. Fortunately, the new Nintendo 2DS XL for $ 149.99 is itself as slim and sharp as its name, chunky and confusing. Some clever design decisions have done this much more than just another variation.
The “new” part of the name means that this device has the additional right analog knobs, the two additional Z keys and the integrated Amiibo support. It can play all Nintendo DS and 3DS titles, including the "new" titles like Xenoblade Chronicles, the upcoming Fire Emblem Warriors and (most importantly) the Super NES Virtual Console games.
Of course, these games cannot be played with stereoscopic 3D graphics since the display is only 2D. This may be a deal breaker for these 3D diehards, but even Nintendo has largely given up 3D lately. Pokemon is 2D, this week is Hey! Pikminis 2D, Super Mario Maker is 2D. I'm not sure how much life the 3DS still has, but you may not need this 3D effect much in the future.
Removing the 3D display has certainly reduced the cost of the device compared to the new Nintendo 3DS XL for $ 199.99. In addition, Nintendo can remix the innards of the system with great effect. The new 2DS XL is just a bit lighter than the new 3DS XL – 9.2 ounces versus 11.6 ounces. But if you hold it, it feels like a more pronounced difference. Why? Because all the hardware that used to be in the upper part of the clamshell design has been moved or removed to the lower half.
The top half of the 3DS XL is not only the 3D display, but also the speakers, the front-facing cameras, the rear-facing cameras and the volume controls. In the new unit, everything that has not been eliminated has been moved to half that you hold in your hands, leaving only the display on top, which is now very light and thin. When I play games on the 3DS XL, the top screen is constantly a bit stressful and tilts the entire device backwards. But the 2DS XL is stable when I hold it. It is much more comfortable.
Another advantage: you do not have to unscrew the back of the system to exchange SD cards. The cassette slot and the micro SD card slot are elegantly hidden next to each other next to a flap on the underside of the device.
There are compromises. Of course there are compromises. The most noticeable thing (if you're not using headphones) is that the speakers are on the bottom of the device and point down and away from you, which means that you perceive the sound as much quieter. Loud noises in the game also cause the device to vibrate a little in your hands.
The pen is also the worst pen of all Nintendo DS models. It's a big little thing like a golf pen. Do you remember how the original 3DS model from 2011 had a telescopic pen? The thing is longer than the 2DS XL pin when closed. If I hold it, it's too short to put the top on my index finger. (In case you're wondering, I'm still only carrying the Sharpie-sized Ginormostyle that came with the DSi XL.)
The case design is not only comfortable, it also looks very good. I like the matte finish and the corrugated top with the small, diagonal Nintendo logo in the corner. I don't know the sky-blue accent color. This makes the whole thing look a bit cheap. Like a VTech toy for my toddler. I would love to see a range of colors, but given Nintendo of America's tendency to choose a single design and stick with it, I doubt we'll see a lot of options.
On the other hand, 2DS XL may really be for children. I can't imagine that too many adults in a post-switch world have yet to learn a 3DS. Nintendo still keeps the 3DS line alive because it only makes sense. With 67 million units, it's a lucrative cash cow and a good, affordable, and robust way for younger players to get to know Nintendo. In the meantime, I would expect it to play a fairly reduced role
I mostly like the 2DS XL very much, but now I have to explain why it is not my standard 3DS device. Why can't it.
Nintendo released the DSi (and its downloadable game store) in early 2009. This means that my new Nintendo 3DS XL is currently the only home for downloadable content worth nearly a decade. I transferred these games from one Nintendo handheld to the next, bringing new downloadable games for newer models. If it was created by a company other than Nintendo, I can simply log into my account on the new device and download any games to the new system.
Maybe I could have the same games on both devices! Or maybe I would put 3D Classics Urban Champion on the 3DS and EarthBound on the 2DS. Just like with games on my iPhone and an iPad. Maybe I'm a marginal case, but I don't know. I see a lot of Nintendo nerds buying multiple handheld variants. The Nintendo checking account system just doesn't support this. If I want to play my downloads on 2DS, I have to transfer everything including my account.
Fortunately, since cartridge games are not tied to one account and game storage data is stored on the cartridge and not on the console, I can still use 2DS XL to play cart games without messing around with anything or having two accounts.
If you really don't want to use the 3D feature anymore, or if you upgrade from the cheap 2DS model or something else, consider the 2DS XL as your main computer. It is remarkably nice to play. I just wish adding new Nintendo hardware to the mix was a suggestion, none or.