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New Nintendo 3DS XL Review

This is going to be a controversial choice for a lot of people, but the latest handheld console from legendary video game company Nintendo is also one of the best platforms for playing retro games you can buy today, and I’m going to spend this review convincing you why that is the truth.

The Best Handheld Retro Gaming System – Nintendo 3DS XL

First let’s look at the New 3DS itself. Now, the reason this is being called the New 3DS is because it is an upgraded, more powerful version of the wildly successful 3DS handheld console.

It is completely compatible with all existing 3DS games, but certain new games will only run on this upgraded model. Apart from that it loads things faster, has a bigger screen (although the resolution is unchanged), and the 3D effect for games that have 3D is less headache-inducing – something which they have achieved through a better quality screen, the larger size, and face-tracking technology.

The New 3DS also has something known as the “c-stick” which is basically a second analogue stick that sort of puts it where the Sony Playstation Vita is in terms of controls.

The 3DS has one of the best handheld gaming catalogs you can buy today and is a great piece of hardware, well worth the premium over and above that of the original 3DS and the 3DS XL.

This is about retro gaming ability however, so how does the New 3DS stack up?

Retro King

Although the 3DS does not take cartridges from classic gaming systems like the NES and SNES, the digital catalog in the Nintendo Eshop contains many important and classic titles from the GameBoy, Gameboy Color, and NES. The New 3DS is the only 3DS that can also play some of the best games of all time, which were found on the SNES. According to Nintendo only the New 3DS has the processing power needed to emulate the SNES.

On top of this the Eshop also contains recreations of Nintendo Game and Watch games, which are incredibly difficult to find in their original form. You’ll also find games from the Sega Game Gear, which makes the 3DS the only handheld system to have those games officially, as far as I know.

The only glaring omission here is the lack of GameBoy Advance titles in the Eshop. It’s not clear if Nintendo will ever add these to the lineup, so don’t bargain on it.

There are also a number of retro classic on the Eshop that have been remastered to have 3D effects. The games are otherwise left completely untouched, so it’s a nice addition.

It’s also pretty great that the 3DS is backwards compatible with its predecessor, the Nintendo DS. Many of the older games for that system are themselves reaching classic status, and being able to directly play the cartridges on the 3DS is a great feature for classic gamers. It’s just a pity that Nintendo does not offer digital DS games on the 3DS.

So you see, the 3DS provides us with a way to play a very large catalog of classic and older games without the need to jump through hoops or hunt for original cartridges. In my mind this is the best portable retro gaming system for the person who just wants to play and experience some of the best games made over the last 30 years, and you also get to own possibly the best current handheld system with many great modern games still to be released for it.

Best of all, it uses plain old SD cards for storage, unlike the PS Vita which has incredibly expensive proprietary cards. Since almost all of the retro games will have to be digital purchases, you’ll want lots of space for them. So the 4GB card that comes with the console won’t cut the mustard. Luckily, 32GB and below SD cards, the largest size the Nintendo officially supports, are dirt cheap.

The Flipside

All is not rainbows and kittens however. The 3DS is a pricey beast and comes with quite a few hidden costs. Apart from the SD card that you’ll want to replace almost immediately, you also have to buy an AC adapter, which Nintendo does not include for some crazy reason. Well, at least not in the U.S. region releases. European New 3DS systems do include one.

The other fly in the ointment is the pricing of games. Even classic NES games such as Super Mario will cost you five bucks, whereas an original cartridge might go for a few cents used.

Which brings me to the next gripe. These consoles are region-locked. Luckily, it only applies to 3DS games. DS games are region-free, but this still means that some international 3DS releases will be off-limits.

The biggest problem the New 3DS has, however, is its little brother the 2DS. The 2DS is much, much cheaper, comes with an AC adapter, and can play all but one or two 3DS games. It lacks 3D and has a smaller screen, but is otherwise the same system.

From a classic gamer point of view the other big difference is that the 2DS cannot play SNES games from the Eshop, so this decision will really depend on how badly you want to play those SNES games.

Finally, the New 3DS holds little appeal for gamers who have an existing collection of classic cartridges and want to play them on the go. However, if you aren’t a collector and just want to play these games, the New 3DS is an excellent choice. In fact, the best.