Hardware Review: Nintendo 2DS

We spend some time with the newest member of the 3DS family

When the 3DS first launched and showed the world exactly how incredible glasses-free 3D gaming could be, it was quickly dismissed by many as a gimmick and a dying fad. Now, almost three years and 30 million shipped units later, the 3DS is one of the strongest consoles on the market, and easily the most popular proprietary handheld gaming device. In a move that is any naysayer’s dream, Nintendo is on the brink of releasing their latest redesign, the decidedly flat 2DS.

Before everyone grabs their pitchforks and insists that the naysayers were right, it’s worth keeping in mind that Nintendo has already commented on its desire to continue making 3D games, suggesting that the 2DS provides an alternative, not a replacement. Nintendo may be pitching the new console as a substitute for children younger than the suggested seven-year-old age limit on the 3DS, but it also works as a perfect introductory model for the 3DS family. Until now, anyone interested in playing 3DS games while working on a budget had to opt for the original model, but the 2DS provides a more cost-efficient alternative for anyone interested in playing Nintendo’s current handheld masterpieces without breaking the bank.

The surprise announcement of the 2DS was met with shock and many gamers immediately dismissed the redesign. The plain truth is that the 2DS looks awkward and quite silly, but once you have it in your hands it becomes clear that is was designed with comfort in mind. Whether you’re of the younger age group that it is targeted for or you’re an adult with appropriately sized adult hands, the 2DS manages to find a happy medium in size to accommodate any player. Reminiscent of the Game Boy, the flat design also provides for a sturdiness that isn’t found in any of the hinged clamshell designs of previous iterations. While we weren’t willing to drop test the 2DS, its superior build quality becomes apparent once you’ve got one in your hands. This thing can take a hit.

The two screens retain the dimensional differences and resolution present on the 3DS and 3DS XL, but their sizes fall between the two previous consoles. Though the increase is slight, the screens being closer together due to the 2DS’s hinge-less design gives them the appearance of being significantly larger than those on the original 3DS. Games look just as crisp and clear as they ever did on the original model, with the obvious exception of not being able to be displayed in 3D. The lack of 3D display is slightly detrimental to certain games, such as Super Mario 3D Land, that actually utilize the effect to enhance level and puzzle design, but it really won’t be missed in most titles or by most gamers. The lack of 3D also means that it is easier to view the action on the 2DS’s top screen from a wider range of angles.

The 2DS not only brings about a flattening of its display, but its sound quality loses a dimension as well. A first for any console in the DS family, the 2DS features a single speaker blasting out mono sound rather than the typical stereo. When set side-by-side with a 3DS XL, the single speaker seemed to pump out just as much volume as its hearty predecessor, but it doesn’t take an audiophile to notice the drop in quality accompanying the new setup. The space saved by this second speaker could presumably have made room for a second Circle Pad, but that is unsurprisingly missing as well. Also missing is the external switch to activate Wi-Fi connectivity, now replaced by a virtual button in the brightness menu, the only discernable change to the operating system.

All three cameras are present, allowing you to take 3D pictures using the outer two that can then be viewed on a 3DS or 3DS XL. The exterior cameras also allow you to use the accompanying AR cards to play minigames or record short video clips. The cameras are still low-resolution; don’t expect to toss out your digital camera in exchange for a Nintendo handheld anytime soon. That being said, the cameras work well enough for what is being asked of them, however limited that may be.

Because of the redesigned casing, the 2DS obviously cannot be folded and closed to enter sleep mode. Instead, a physical switch has been added to the bottom of the console that, when clicked over, will immediately put the console to sleep and preserve battery life. The battery life of the 2DS falls between that of the 3DS and the XL, so you’ll absolutely want to utilize the console’s sleep mode if you want it to survive a period of time up to three days. It’s unfortunate to see that a newer and improved battery wasn’t installed this time around, but we’re used to seeing that red light come on by now, however bitter about it we may be.

The 2DS comes packaged with a 4 GB SD card, meanwhile, which is perfect for filling the console up with plenty of games from the eShop. For parents looking to purchase the handheld for their young children, the extra storage space provided by this card will definitely save the hassle and headache of constantly having to switch out game cards.

While the majority of changes fall in line with the quality expected from a Nintendo handheld, the one area where the 2DS is lacking is its D-Pad. Rather than providing a satisfying click like the one found on the 3DS and superior 3DS XL, that brings about a true sense of tangible interaction with the console, the D-Pad here instead indecisively squishes under the weight of your thumb. For the time that we spent with it, the directional controls were accurate and responsive enough to get the job done, but they were lacking in that physical reciprocation that we so desire. The rest of the controls were much more responsive, providing exactly the response that we were looking for when pressed down.

Beyond the physical changes, the 2DS is essentially the same console that we’ve been using since 2011. Anyone looking for an improved operating system, UI changes, or the much sought after second Circle Pad will be sorely disappointed to learn that this is, for all intents and purposes, an altered console rather than a enhanced one. The 2DS is a great introductory model for anyone who has yet to pick up a 3DS, but it’s a difficult purchase to suggest for early adopters. The fact that this model was built with young gamers in mind makes perfect sense, providing a great opportunity to introduce the youngest generation to some modern Nintendo classics.

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