Opinion: Is the Nintendo 3DS worth it in 2021?

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Like many; I was slightly disappointed that the only Zelda game we had announced at February's Nintendo Direct was a Skyward Sword HD remaster for Nintendo Switch. Of course, it's understandable considering the circumstances; the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly delayed Nintendo's plans across the board, which may explain the rumours of why Wind Waker and Twilight Princess are still on schedule to appear on the Switch later this year.

However, I've been wanting to go back to a previous handheld of the company; the Nintendo 3DS XL. Some regard it as a Pokémon machine, but I find it as the ultimate handheld of Nintendo, from the Game Boy up until the Switch.

Last month, I bought a 'New' Nintendo 3DS XL to revisit some past games, while discovering some new ones, and I'm convinced that some of the features of the device are due to appear on a future Switch model.

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What Works?

The Nintendo DS first launched in 2004, with Super Mario 64 DS being its showcase for how the stylus could be used, alongside the dual screens. Fast-forward to 2021, and we have had the DSi, the 3DS and the 'New' 3DS, with Nintendo now confirming that they are discontinuing the line completely.

Using this 'New' 3DS XL model these last six weeks, it's an incredible machine, and it was surprising to see that its specs were on-par with the PS Vita. Switching between 2D and 3D never gets old, and I'm still amazed when I see the depth of Chemical Plant Zone in Sonic 2 3D.

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The best Sonic port.

Loading up games such as Zelda: Majoras Mask 3D, Mario Tennis, Tekken 3D and many more, it struck me just how much of a library the DS has, with remakes, ports and sequels across the board.

I've been dipping in and out of many Zelda and Mario games, alongside trying out some past DS games such as Elite Beat Agents. Playing these on the bigger screen of this 3DS model doesn't bring any disadvantages in the resolution and textures; everything is sharp, while the placement of the buttons is comfortable for even my bony hands.

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Is it Worth It?

In a nutshell; yes, it is. It's the ultimate backwards-compatibility machine for Nintendo, where you can play every version of Wario Land, and Wario Ware games that appeared on previous Nintendo handhelds. If you want to play Super Metroid for an hour, followed by Sonic Advance 2, followed by Pokémon Diamond, followed by Luigi's Mansion, you can.

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The 'restore point' feature of Game Boy, Game Gear, SNES and NES games is incredibly useful here too, as it remembers to save your progress, wherever you are, once you exit the game or if you close the lid. Then once you're wanting to resume, you're put right back to where you were. Everything is considered here, and it's really difficult to see what's missing from the 3DS and its library.

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The best top-down Zelda.

Of course, there are unofficial methods to allow a bigger SD card to be installed on the handheld, further allowing many games to be played without a cartridge being inserted. There's even an app just to play DS games much easier, and with native-screen support for the 3DS, so every game, such as Mario 64 DS, adapts to the bigger screen.

There's even homebrew efforts in porting the decompiled version of Sonic CD to the system, which plays incredibly well, if not for some slowdown on the special stages for now.

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However, alongside all of this, I couldn't help but think that some features of the 3DS could see a reappearance on a Switch Pro sometime. Perhaps not the 3D screen, but the front camera and Street Pass. Nintendo said at the start of the Switch announcement, that it was an amalgamation of the systems that came before; but perhaps now, it's the handheld variants to influence the next model.

We are in the midst of watching past handhelds reduced to memories now, especially with the Vita store closing down soon. However, it doesn't mean that they will suddenly be useless; there's plenty of life in these handhelds as yet. So if you see an opportunity to own a 3DS or even a Vita; go for it. You won't be disappointed.

See you on Angel Island.

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Wario Land.

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