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Nintendo's most recent financials paint a very pretty picture for all things Switch-related, with the console responsible for 90% of the company's profits over the 2018 holiday period. The system has now sold over 32 million units, and some 163.6 million Switch games have been bought.
What's looking rather less rosy, however, is the future of the 3DS. Consoles in the DS family sold around two million units over the same period, which is a drop of 60% on the results of the previous year. Software sales for the system are also down over 64%.
Nintendo has committed to support the 3DS through 2019 - and the positive reception to the recently released, updated version of Bowser's Inside Story shows that they're not simply pushing shovelware onto the platform, to see it out to pasture. And the year has a good few more treats in store for the (not always a) clamshell console, like Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn, Shakedown Hawaii, and hopefully an English localisation of Persona Q2.
But there's no doubt that the (3)DS line, which began in 2004 with the original DS and received its most-recent revision with 2017's New Nintendo 2DS XL, is winding down, leaving one of the deepest and most diverse software libraries gaming will ever see. But, players, please - don't bin your former favourite travel companions just yet. As well as the new releases to come, here are five more damn good reasons to keep a 3DS of some kind close, throughout 2019 (and beyond)...
Released in 1995 for the Super Nintendo, the Square-developed Chrono Trigger is regarded as one of the greatest JRPGs ever, if not *the* best. And its best version? It's the one that came out for the DS in 2008, which features the original SNES controls as an option, as well as the extra features a 1999 PlayStation update stirred into the mix, including cutscenes directed by Akira Toriyama - the man behind both the character designs here and a small franchise by the name of Dragon Ball. The DS version of Chrono Trigger benefits from a fresh Japanese-to-English translation, optional touch screen controls, new dungeons, and even a new ending (one of several possible). If you've never played this masterpiece before, but own a (3)DS, track it down before you retire the console for good.
The SNES Classic mini-console was a big hit on its late-2017 release, featuring as it did 21 (mostly) excellent 16-bit games in one compact box. The only problem? You had to plug it into a telly. Log onto the 3DS eShop, though, and you'll find a lot of its very best titles available to download for less than a couple of London pints. The legendary EarthBound? Check. The sinister Super Metroid? Affirmative. The timeless The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past? Like it'd be missing. There's no Secret of Mana or Star Fox 2 on the digital store, but many of the essentials, from Super Mario World to Street Fighter II, are present and correct, downloadable to enjoy whenever you like, no TV required.
While the Wii U didn't do the numbers that anyone wanted it to, it was (is?) a terrific games console with a generous library of warmly recommended experiences. Super Mario Maker, released in 2015, was many a gamer of a certain vintage's dream come true: a 'game' with which to make your own Mario games. No more drawing onto squared paper and letting your imagination do the rest - here, you built, you tested, you played and you shared. The next year, Mario Maker came to 3DS, and while it's certainly more streamlined than its Wii U sibling, the sheer joy of creating your own courses while on a train or plane, or chilling in a deep bath (if you're that brave with your handhelds!), cannot be beaten.
The clamshell casing of the DS and most of its children (nobody bought that solid, flat 2DS, did they?) has seen some developers think differently about how to test the player's puzzle-solving skills. I first came across such a teaser in Cing's atmospheric detective game of 2007, Hotel Dusk: Room 215. A simple task is presented to you - turn a jigsaw upside down. But, how? There's no on-screen prompt. Tapping the A button won't help. Swipe the stylus all you like, it'll do nothing. The solution: close the console, turning the screen displaying the jigsaw 'upside down'. What it actually does is tip the puzzle onto a table (on the other screen), revealing its backside, and a vital clue. This trick is also used in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, where a crest on one screen has to be pressed against a chart on the other. So simple, such genius, and the sort of outside-the-box design that other consoles can't accommodate.
There's something so very pure about the joy that a good rhythm-action game provides - and the (3)DS has its share of them. Right at the top is the mini-game marathon of Rhythm Heaven Megamix, a kind of compilation collecting all the best tap-along-in-time stages seen in its series' prior installments. So simple, so catchy, so colourful, it's the kind of game that gives you a perfect rush inside ten minutes, and leaves you smiling for the whole day. But there are so many more great rhythm games on the system, too, all of which get that stylus dragging and drumming, poking and prodding. The fantastic Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan got itself an English-language sequel as Elite Beat Agents in 2006 - it's the only time you'll catch me singing along to 'Sk8er Boi', that's for sure. SEGA has brought its Hatsune Miku series to the handheld family with Project Mirai and its sequel; and Square Enix gave Final Fantasy a musical spin with two Theatrhythm titles. Bangers, all.
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