Feature: Happy Second Birthday, Nintendo 3DS!

nintendo_3dsTwo years to the day, the highly-anticipated Nintendo 3DS system succeeded the DS line of consoles in Europe, with some promising hardware, all-new control inputs, and perhaps most importantly, that auto-stereoscopic top screen; capable of displaying 3D graphics without the need for special glasses.

There’s no denying it got off to a rough start. There was distinct lack of high quality software, with the exception of Ocarina of Time 3D, until arguably the closing months of the year; with Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 leading the handheld’s library through its first holiday period. Meanwhile, early 2012 earned the Nintendo 3DS some respect in the eyes of ‘hardcore’ gamers, with third-party shooters Resident Evil: Revelations and Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D proving the handheld’s worth in the visuals department, before Kid Icarus: Uprising came along and blew everyone’s minds all over again.

This past year, Nintendo’s 3DS has arguably done nothing but grow, with an ever-expanding library of games in an all-manner of genres featuring something for almost anyone. The eShop begun to allow free software from third-parties (SEGA’s Mario & Sonic Virtual Card Album becoming the first), games can now be easily patched and updated, as first shown by WayForward with Mighty Switch Force!, and downloadable content – known as Add-On Content in Nintendo’s dictionary – became easily do-able for developers; as Square’s Theatrhythm Final Fantasy was followed by New Super Mario Bros. 2 as the first games on a Nintendo platfrom – outside of Guitar Hero and Rock Band on Wii - to majorly implement the feature.

The list of well-known series to appear on Nintendo 3DS – both first- and third-party – continued to expand at an astonishing rate, with New Super Mario Bros.CastlevaniaKingdom HeartsMonster HunterPaper MarioProfessor Layton and more all arriving at retail, while the eShop has been populated with quality games such as Mutant MuddsVVVVVVNightSkyFallbloxHydroventure, as well as a number of Japanese gems – from the PICROSS e duo, to Level-5′s localised Guild01 mini-games.

And that library looks to expand even further into 2013, with big names and smaller indie releases alike bulking out the release schedule. The likes of Luigi’s Mansion 2HarmoKnight and Code of Princess arrive next week, and Fire Emblem: Awakening is only a couple of weeks away after that; and then we have Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D in May, Animal Crossing: New Leaf in June, followed by Pokémon X and Pokémon Y in October – with Mario & Luigi: Dream TeamMario Golf: World Tour and Mario and Donkey Kong filling in the gaps in terms of the first-party stuff. Oh, and we can finally expect the Nintendo 3DS’s first real first-person shooter and episodic title to arrive later this year, in the upcoming Cult County.

The hardware also saw its first revision with the release of the Nintendo 3DS XL. It arguably cut some corners to keep costs low, but it remains a great – and affordable! – alternative to those that appreciate the larger screen sizes.

It really has been an excellent year for Nintendo 3DS owners, and there’s certainly a lot to miss out on if you’re yet to pick one up. Here’s to yet another fantastic year for the system. Happy Birthday, Nintendo 3DS!

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