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A new look at the Nintendo 3DS

Two years since its release, CVG compiles the most comprehensive analysis of the handheld yet

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But the games are where the 3DS conquers

The Wii U's current situation is similar to that of the 3DS during its first few months on sale. While it still remains to be seen whether Nintendo's latest console can overcome its early drought, it's clear that the 3DS has moved way beyond its own and can now, two years later, be considered a handheld with a healthy library of high quality titles.

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While Mario was missing at launch, the inevitables did eventually arrive, and Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land and New Super Mario Bros. 2 all exhibit the high standards of quality you'd expect from a triple-A Mario title. Meanwhile, the quirky RPG Paper Mario: Sticker Star provides laughs and hearty gameplay in equal measure, with a unique sticker-based battle system.

Fans longing for the good old days are also catered for with 3D remakes of Nintendo favourites. The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time 3D and Star Fox 64 3D both improve on the originals with enhanced graphics, and the former also benefits from the removal of niggly bits (for example, the touchscreen inventory makes the Water Temple much less irritating). Meanwhile, the 3D Classics range of games on eShop give depth to vintage NES titles such as Kirby's Adventure, Excitebike and Kid Icarus.

Mario aside, platformer devotees have the excellent Cave Story 3D, and VVVVVV, and Mighty Switch Force, and Mutant Mudds to keep them satisfied, not to mention the various Wario Land games available on the Virtual Console service. Those craving something darker will enjoy the fantastic Resident Evil: Revelations, which we think pays better respect to the series' heritage than Resident Evil 5 and 6 did.

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RPG fans are also catered for with the likes of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked and Tales Of The Abyss, while the brilliantly-written Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward is a treat for those not adverse to a bit of reading.

There are also plenty of impressive 3D remakes of console games, including Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Bit.Trip Saga and Tekken 3D Prime Edition.

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Other big titles include Kid Icarus Uprising, Professor Layton And The Miracle Mask, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy and Castlevania Lords Of Shadow: Mirror Of Fate.

Of course, the 3DS is also fully backwards compatible with DS games too, meaning there's a huge catalogue of superb titles (especially RPGs) to catch up on.

The only area where the 3DS is still a little limited is sports games. EA's 3DS versions of FIFA and Madden were woeful and Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 3D is okay but nothing special. Mario Tennis Open is the only real highlight, but even then it's not exactly feature-packed compared to previous games in the series.


The future's bright

The 3DS software library is only going to continue to grow, with plenty of titles already in train for release by the end of 2013. First up is the hilarious ghost-hunting sequel Luigi's Mansion 2, which is already out in the US and hits Europe on Friday.

Following that is Fire Emblem: Awakening, arguably the finest game in the Fire Emblem series and one of the most approachable tactical RPGs we've ever played. Then there's Mario Golf: World Tour, developed by series veterans Camelot and hopefully offering the sort of solid gameplay previous Mario Golf titles have provided.

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Animal Crossing: New Leaf has already done remarkably well in Japan, shifting 2.9 million copies in Japan alone in its first four months (and that's not counting the hundreds of thousands of digital versions sold too), so Nintendo is hopeful it's going to do similarly well in the west when released this summer.

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Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D should be a treat for fans of the gormless gorilla, especially those who didn't play the Wii version a couple of years back. Project X Zone, meanwhile, is the ultimate crossover RPG with a large number of Sega, Capcom and Namco Bandai characters all teaming up.

The Mario & Luigi RPG saga is due to continue with Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, which takes place in Luigi's dreams. Etrian Odyssey IV is on the way to Europe (it's already out in the US), and Level-5's Inazuma Eleven 3D Trilogy is coming too, meaning RPG fans should be kept busy.

Finally, there's the small matter of a little game by the name of Pokémon X and Y, the next generation of Pokémon and the first proper Pokémon title to be exclusive to the 3DS. With an October release date worldwide, you've got think Nintendo's confident of shifting a lot of 3DS systems this Christmas.

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The distant future is obviously much hazier, and we can expect to find out about more games at E3 this year, but we already know Super Smash Bros. 4 is on the way for 3DS and Wii U, and it would be sensible to assume English-language versions of Professor Layton And The Azran Legacies (the final Layton game, recently released in Japan) and Professor Layton Vs Ace Attorney are on the way too.


Conclusion - is it time to buy a 3DS?

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Nintendo's handheld may have taken a worryingly long time to find its feet, but two years later we're finally at a stage where can confidently recommend the 3DS (XL edition) to most gamers.

But be under no illusions that, despite Nintendo's initial efforts to broaden the media of its devices, the 3DS is only brilliant when it comes to games. This is not the jack-of-all-trades and if you're looking for something that will also play your music collection and let you watch movies then we would advise you invest in a smartphone instead.

If, however, you're looking for something purely dedicated to providing you with a wide selection of top-quality games, then the 3DS catalogue is now large enough to cater for almost every need.

If your main genre of choice is sports or FPS, then there's not much here that will appeal to you. Otherwise, the typically stellar quality of Nintendo's first-party games is backed up with a healthy selection of third-party titles and ports, enough to keep you going for a long time. And with more than 30 million systems sold to date and doubtless many more this Christmas with the launch of Pokémon X and Y, you can be confident that the 3DS isn't going to suddenly lose the industry support that Nintendo had fought so hard for.

Its online and community features are still in desperate need of an upgrade (Miiverse can't come soon enough), and its multimedia features are somewhere between poor and abysmal, but if you're looking for a pure games machine then we can happily say, on the 3DS's second birthday, go for it.

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