Shortly before Nintendo announced the U.S. launch of their New 3DS system, we published a piece called, "Should I Buy a New Nintendo 3DS?" Our recommendation was: Yes, definitely, but skip the New 3DS XL and get the smaller model, which makes up for its smaller screens with a more solid build quality, sharper visuals, and interchangeable faceplates.
A few days later, of course, Nintendo announced its U.S. plans, which completely ignored the existence of the smaller model in favor of the XL exclusively. Because Americans only like big things, you know... or more likely, an attempt at austerity by a company working hard to get its finances back in the black. While that business choice undermined the particulars of our buying advice, we did say, "Most likely we'll see the standard New 3DS eventually here" as encouragement for anyone who preferred to hold out for the smaller model. Happily, we were right.
Nintendo announced today the standard New 3DS will finally be making its way to America and Canada on September 25. Perhaps not surprisingly, however, you shouldn't expect to walk in to just any retailer and find a host of different New 3DS colors waiting for you. America is still stuck with the XL, at least for the time being; the standard New 3DS will initially only be available in a limited edition package with Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer and an Animal Crossing Amiibo card. This does have the happy side effect of meaning the first New 3DS model in the U.S. will come standard with an Isabelle faceplate, but it doesn't shed light on Nintendo of America's future plans for the compact portable — if any.
A big part of the New 3DS's appeal comes from the system's interchangeable faceplates, but for the moment the company hasn't offered any indication of whether or not it has plans to brings any of its growing line of Japanese and European faceplates to the U.S. It would be nice to say that's a no-brainer, but unfortunately the sad tale of the Game Boy Micro serves as a reality check for such assumptions. The Micro also featured interchangeable faceplates, several of which shipped alongside the system... but after that first wave of (honestly, kind of ugly) add-ons, we never saw further customization options.
The good news is that, for those who pick up the Animal Crossing bundle, dozens of faceplate options are available for import from a number of retailers. They range in price from about $15 to $40, depending on their complexity. My personal favorite is the Plate & Watch faceplate, which adds an actual digital clock to the top shell of your 3DS for less than $30.
The bad news, alas, is that because the U.S. is so late at getting into the faceplate game, most of the best import options have long since sold out from retailers. Want to spruce up your system with faux wood grain? Or with glow-in-the-dark Mario-themed Boo prints? A spooky Skull Kid painting? Tough luck! It's huge premiums on eBay or nothing for you.
Nintendo may well have greater plans for the standard New 3DS in the Americas, but for the time being their limited release announcement means the version of the New 3DS that seems ideally suited for more casual players (with its lower cost and smaller screens) has been positioned as something of a boutique console for dedicated fans who don't mind stalking import shops in order to make the most of their system. At the same time, of course, it's also being targeted toward people who are totally into the idea of helping cartoon animals with interior design on a game system featuring a green gingham/happy secretary puppy aesthetic. By no means does the Venn diagram of these audiences have zero overlap, but it's got to be fairly small.
As someone who actually does fall into that tiny Venn slice, though, I'll be happy to no longer have to slum it with a New 3DS XL. The prospect of having a portable system that actually fits into normal, human-sized pocket sounds pretty great.
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