Did you know it's been nearly two years since the launch of the Nintendo 3DS? How time flies! And how things change!
We spent most of 2011 worrying about the future of Ninty's newest handheld, and then most of this year knee-deep in new titles for the system wondering why we were ever worried at all.
That incredible transformation in the 3DS's fortunes was sparked primarily by one of those oh-so-clever price drops midway through 2011. Don't worry, troops: Nintendo is always on the ball.
For those of you looking to join the 3DS Owners Club this Christmas, though, where should you go to purchase one of Ninty's handhelds? What model do you pick up? What games should you get?
It can all be pretty confusing, especially if you're not very well versed in the world of the 3DS or Nintendo.
It's OK - we're here to help. Read on to discover the best prices for the 3DS and the games you need to pick up to please yourself (or someone else) on Christmas Day.
Your first big decision is: Nintendo 3DS or Nintendo 3DS XL?
The answer, in truth, depends on how much you're willing to spend. Although the 3DS XL suffers from slightly grotty image clarity - since the visuals are all stretched to fit the bigger screen - it really is the better option of the two overall.
Then again, it also costs around £50 more. Swings, roundabouts, and bank balances, then.
If you're planning to pick up the plain Nintendo 3DS, you'll want to head over to either Amazon or Zavvi. Amazon has the white 3DS in stock for £130, while Zavvi is selling the 3DS in all the other colours, including Cosmic Black, Aqua Blue, and Metallic Red, for £133.95.
When it comes to the 3DS XL, however, Amazon is your boy. The online retail behemoth is selling all the differently coloured 3DS XL models for £160 each. Remember, though, that you need to buy a power adapter separately for £19.99. Yes, it is incredibly stupid.
Of course, you're probably going to want a game or two for your new handheld, so bundles can usually work wonders here. Unfortunately, the 3DS and 3DS XL bundles we found aren't so hot.
Amazon's best bundle is a Nintendo 3DS plus Super Mario 3D Land for £159.99. This isn't a great deal given that you can buy them separately for the exact same price.
Zavvi doesn't fare much better in this respect, offering a 3DS XL with either the wonderful Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle or Mario Kart 7 for £189.95. Those two titles cost £30 each, anyway. Errrm.
Those prices not looking particularly appealing? How about grabbing a pre-owned handheld, then? GAME has pre-owned 3DS consoles for £119.99.
Which 3DS games?
Now that the hardware is safely in the Christmas stocking, it's time to turn our attention to software.
Here are our top five boxed 3DS games. Yep, you should definitely grab 'em all yesterday and run to the counter with them last week.
Heroes of Ruin
Nintendo consoles don't really do online gaming... well, until now. Heroes of Ruin is, to all intents, a landmark release for the 3DS, for it features drop-in, drop-out online RPG battling.
As you explore lands in the game, random people will jump into your game and start helping you out. You can even band together with them and take on the rest of the game as a team. Lovely stuff, and well worth banging on your Christmas list.
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
It wouldn't be Christmas without a Christmas miracle. Layton's latest outing is the first to throw 2D graphics into the bin and plump for gorgeous 3D visuals that really hit the spot.
Everything else about this title has been given a fresh lease of life, too, from the puzzles to the story to the environments to, well, we could go on for quite a while. Needless to say, this one is an essential stocking filler.
Mario Kart 7
This one was a big hit last Christmas, and history is almost certain to repeat itself this Xmas. Every Nintendo console needs a Mario Kart, and the 3DS has a damn good one at that.
It's got everything you expect from a Mario Kart: great tracks; tons of characters from which to choose; cups to collect and tournaments to win; and a multitude of ridiculous items.
So, you think you've played every Pokemon game that ever existed? Not until you've given Pokemon Conquest a shot, my man. This turn-based RPG strategy mash-up is unlike any Pokemon game you've played before.
All the basics of Pokemon are still there (from monster battling to super effectives and Pokeballs), but it's all played out on an isometric grid, with a sort of Final Fantasy Tactics spin on things. Strictly speaking, it might be a Nintendo DS game, but don't worry: it plays perfectly on your 3DS.
Super Mario 3D Land
Ah, Mario, my faithful plumber. If you can only afford to pick up one game for your 3DS, it should probably be Super Mario 3D Land. Because, you know, who can turn down a classic bit of Mario platforming action?
This particular Mario title is expansive, clever, and downright addictive, which is exactly what you need on Christmas Day when your gran is telling the same story about the good old days for the umpteenth time. "Sorry, gran, Mario's calling."
Which eShop games?
As well as boxed games for the 3DS, there's a great selection of downloadable titles from the eShop. You should grab some. They are splendiferous.
Here are our favourites...
This is a fantastic puzzler that managed to get a perfect 10 from us. The aim is to push and pull blox out of a wall to create a stairway up to a trapped child.
But, oh gosh, does it get tricky. After around a dozen hours of play, we were still hard at it, refusing to give up and continually surprised and delighted. No Nintendo 3DS is complete without this. And...
Once you've blasted your way through Pullblox, you should really grab its sequel. You're pushing and pulling blocks again, but this time they are affected by gravity. As the game's name suggests.
It may sound perhaps a little too similar to its predecessor, yet it plays out entirely differently. In fact, it's a whole new puzzler in its own right. You must grab the pair. You must!
Art of Balance Touch!
This one was a delightful surprise to me. Essentially, you balance blocks on top of a column in the middle of a dish of water. Yup, that's literally it.
Although it doesn't sound incredible, believe me when I say that it's addictive as hell, thanks to the brilliant touch controls, the escalating difficulty, and the gradual introduction of more and more puzzle elements.
This classic PC platformer came to Nintendo 3DS earlier in the year, and it is your duty to pick it up as quickly as possible. You control Veridian as he makes his way through the VVVVVV dimension on a quest to save his friends.
Here's the catch - you can't jump. Instead, you have to flip gravity. Which, as you can probably gather, makes things rather more difficult, and a helluva lot more exciting.
Have you ever wondered what a penguin on a surfboard would look like? Wonder no more. Simply play Rising Board, and you'll know exactly how it pans out.
Once you've got over the initial wonderment, you can flip said penguin into the air, pull off some sweet tricks, then fall back into the waves and most likely bail. It's tricky, but entertaining.
Accessories aren't just for Christmas, they are for life.
Here are some of the best peripherals and add-ons for the Nintendo 3DS money can buy.
Circle Pad Pro
The Circle Pad Pro is a must-have purchase if you're planning to play one of the few games that support it, such as the exquisitely brilliant Resident Evil Revelations.
It clips around the base of the console, and adds an extra control stick for your right thumb. It looks awful, but what can you do?
Do note that this gizmo only fits around the 3DS, so, no, it's not compatible with the whopping great 3DS XL.
Kids drop things - this is a fact. Dropping a Nintendo 3DS isn't the greatest idea, and that's why a hard case might be a good idea.
There are plenty of cases from which to choose, including both official and unofficial ones. This Mario one in particular, however, takes our fancy, for it clips around the handheld and leaves spaces for the cameras.
Remember that the 3DS XL is several times larger than the 3DS (*slight exaggeration alert*), so you'll need to pick a case that fits your handheld of choice.
When you're out and about with your 3DS, a simple case just might not cut it. That's why there are such things as 'bags'. And some of the Nintendo 3DS-styled ones are lovely.
This one in particular (yes, we have a thing for Mario... we're seeing a Doctor about it) is pretty dainty and grants you all the space you need for your handheld, charger, games, etc.