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Sarah Tew/CNET

​You probably won't give up Pokemon Go for Nintendo 3DS, but I would

Nintendo's old handheld hangs around in my bag.

Hey, Pokemon Go gamers! I've seen you catching your stuff, wandering around the city, keeping your volume turned way up on your phones.

I'm over here playing Nintendo 3DS.

I'm not saying I don't appreciate what Niantic Labs has done with Pokemon Go. It's a phenomenon, and a celebration of GPS-connected pocket supercomputers. It's a statement on our super-connected social-networked age. It might indicate where social games, social networks, augmented reality, digital commerce, and immersive theater will go next.

But I also really, really like the Nintendo 3DS, the best iteration of Nintendo's hardware-software fusion. Call me a weirdo if you must. And I prefer it, from time to time, as my let's-play-games object of choice. Here's why.

Now playing: Watch this: Why Pokemon Go doesn't live up to the legacy of Pokemon

It's mobile, too. It's not a phone, but the 3DS fits in my bag. My pocket, not so much. I fetishized Nintendo's old Game & Watch systems as a kid in summer camp, and the 3DS is the perfect iteration of that retro world. No, I don't take it around with me all the time like my phone. But I consider it.

It's got lots and lots of Pokemon. The 3DS is basically a Pokemon Museum. All the old games going back to Red, Blue and Yellow, plus X and Y and the upcoming Sun and Moon. Pokemon Picross. Pokemon Shuffle. Pokemon Art Academy. Pokemon Rumble. I don't even know what some of these are.

It's social...kind of. The 3DS developed a clever spin on social gaming years before Go. StreetPass finds other 3DS systems and trades Mii info, puzzle pieces, and other game extras for a wide variety of supported games. There are still enough people with Nintendo 3DS systems in New York for this to be entertaining once in a while.

I can walk around and earn things. The 3DS has an active play coin-earning system that turns the system into a pedometer when in sleep mode. Those coins can be traded in for things in many games. Nintendo even has a set of StreetPass games that combine those Mii things you meet and activity a prototype of social gaming.


Face Raiders!

Sarah Tew/CNET

You can play weird AR games on it. Do you remember Face Raiders? You hold the system up, spin, and shoot weird spaceships with your face plastered on them. That, and a series of augmented-reality mini-golf and desktop games that use AR cards that come with the 3DS, offer some interactive thrills that aren't exactly the same as throwing a ball at a Snorlax in a park.

Its battery won't die in three hours. The 3DS doesn't have a stellar battery life, but the "new" 3DS XL could last up to six hours. That's better than my iPhone, which chews down its battery so fast when playing Pokemon Go that I've stopped playing it most days I'm walking around, because battery life matters more.

I don't need to keep it on all the time. Keeping Pokemon Go loaded up all the time on my phone like a scanner is annoying. The 3DS games I like are quick, bite-sized, and I shut the lid after.

It has so many good games I can play on my own. I'm a loner. I like Pocket Card Jockey, an amazing and cheap horse-racing solitaire game made by GameFreak (the same group that made the original Pokemon). Animal Crossing feels like it's social but I play alone. I still play levels in Pushmo, an awesome puzzle game. There's Super Mario 3D Land. I could go on and on. I store dozens of games on mine. Yeah, you can do the same on a phone. Phones don't have buttons, though.

You can play old NES games on it! Maybe this is why that NES micro-console news didn't thrill me. Nintendo's been pumping out "virtual console" games for years. NES, Game Boy, Game Gear (and, SNES if you have a "new" 3DS) are available to play. Plus, Sega 3D Classics, which are some of the best arcade ports ever made on a handheld. I'm talking Outrun, folks.

Ever since Pokemon Go took off, I've been taking the 3DS around more. And maybe that was Nintendo's idea all along.

If so, well played.