Dabe Alan

Hands on with the 2DS: It’s surprisingly not terrible

Hands on with the 2DS: It’s surprisingly not terrible

The 2DS is an odd beast. It’s an entry into a line of 3D systems, with no 3D capabilities. In fact the main selling point is that it can’t do what most of its big brothers can do. Nintendo has long favored a folding design for the 3DS portables, but the 2DS is held open in the hand like a tablet, and can’t fold. Nintendo is full of zigs these days, but the 2DS is most definitely a zag.

Nintendo brought a few of the units to PAX Prime this year, although the hands-on opportunity was kept pretty quiet. I went down to the Nintendo lounge to see what all the fuss was about. I walked in curious, and I walked out pretty happy with the design choices they made.

The hardware feels good in your hand, and I didn’t realize how much I missed the pixel density of the original 3DS until I held a screen that was smaller than that of the 3DS XL. It’s bright, easy to see, and fits fine between your two hands. The cartridge slot has been moved to the top of the unit, and to the side. It’s a weird placement, but it doesn’t get in the way of playing games, so who cares? The shoulders buttons are easy to hit, and my finger found them with little trouble.

The portable may look big in pictures, but it’s surprisingly diminutive in person. It looked and felt like a Game Boy, even though the design was such a departure from what we’re used to from the line. The existing models go to sleep when you close them, but Nintendo has added a stiff slider with two positions under the bottom screen to turn on sleep mode. It’s easy to find, and seems like it will stay sleeping when you set the hardware down.

WiFi is a software toggle on the home screen, right under brightness, and there remains two cameras on the rear of the system. This is so the hardware can continue to play things like the augmented reality games that launched with the original 3DS, and it can even take pictures in 3D, although it can’t display them. You will be able to move your SD Card over to a 3DS to view your pictures in 3D, however, if you so choose.

The rumor is that the 2DS is one big screen separated by the casing, and with thicker glass over the top portion that isn’t meant to be touch control, but it was hard to confirm or deny that report without taking the unit apart. The Nintendo representative claimed ignorance when I asked, although he joked that someone will likely open one of the first review units to find out.

It feels like a toy, but I mean that in a good way. It’s comfortable, approachable, and welcoming. I’ve shown my Vita to people who seemed to be intimidated by the sleek black presentation and the number of buttons on the face, but no one has an issue picking up a Nintendo portable. They look like they’re hard to break, and they want to be touched and fondled as much as possible.

The price point is also a big plus: losing the hinge and 3D allowed Nintendo to launch at $130, a good $40 less than the lowest-priced 3DS. That’s a significant savings, and it’s a great price to put on a shelf this holiday season when the next-generation consoles will be going for much, much more.

Nintendo is going to be the budget choice for Christmas, and that’s going to pay off when Sony just dropped the price of the Vita to $200. Sony is coming in at a more expensive price, with a portable that is seemingly aimed at a much older demographic. Nintendo is trying to make up some ground after the disastrous launch and weak ongoing sales by doubling-down on their portable strategy and lowering the price, which are both smart moves. The question is where they go from here.

For now though? I kind of like this thing, and will likely pick one up. I reserve the right to hate myself for that fact, though.