My humble Nintendo 2DS review

Note: This won’t be a proper review in any sense, just a gathering of opinions and facts in no particular order.

About two years back, I found a Gameboy Color at a flea market for 7 €. Since then I’ve been stricken by a sort of portable gaming ‘thing’. After that, I bought a DSi, which had both DS and GBA slots (primarily because I happened to have some GBA games (other flea market finds). Then because I wanted to run newer DS games, I eventually got a Red/White 2DS Pokémon Omega Ruby bundle. I just wanted to get on that Pokémon train again. I started way back, maybe late 90’s early 00’s with Pokémon Red (back when there was only 150 pokemans. Get off my lawn!), but have not really played since.

The Nintendo 2DS isn’t available in all regions of the world. For me though, it represented a good price point at ~109-129€ for the device alone, or 139-149€ for a bundle (like the one I got). The 3DS is currently priced at 139€, ~169-189€ for the original 3DS XL, and 189€ for the just-released New 3DS, and finally (phew!) the New 3DS XL at 229€ (without charger?).

You might argue that the original 3DS would have been the better choice. You might be right. It was priced higher when I got my 2DS in December of 2014, because the New-series wasn’t out yet. If I was buying right now, I would most probably go for the original 3DS.

3D isn’t the appeal for me. The games are. The 2DS has basically the same innards as the 3DS, but without the 3D functionality, and sans stereo speakers. Both screens are exactly the same size as in the original 3DS. All 3DS games (correct me if I am wrong) are compatible with 2DS, but will obviously lack the 3D visuals. There are double rear cameras to allow for 3D photographs, and, I suppose, compatibility with certain 3D titles, like “Spirit Camera – The Cursed Memoir” (and other AR games).

The selection available in Europe is slightly confusing to say the least. Things ought to clear up once the original 3DS and 3DS XL are phased out in favor of the “New” series. I haven’t heard of any plans to kill the 2DS, but if I were Nintendo, I’d probably do that. It feels like an outlier, though an attractively priced one.

Here’s a pdf from Nintendo, detailing the differences between the 2DS, 3DS and 3DS XL (original models, New-models not included).

The Device

The device is different from all other current portable Nintendo devices in that it’s not foldable. What you see is what you get. It’s noticeably bigger than the 3DS, for that very reason. Second, the construction is fairly sturdy, but the plastic creaks and feels a bit cheap, to be honest.

The screen is an obvious (possible) issue, as it is always exposed. You drop it wrong, or your child uses it as a hammer (why is he doing that?), and it’s toast. Any other feature is obviously also suspect to the same kind of damage, like the buttons. But, being the adult that I am, I keep it in a case at all times when not playing. I do worry about dropping it sometimes when I’m playing, though.

Some features are: the 3.5 mm headphone jack (which outputs stereo, unlike the device, which outputs mono to one speaker), sleep button (imitates closing the lid on a 3DS, I suppose), volume slider, SD card slot (a 4GB was included, upgradable to SDXC 128 GB according to the Wikipedias), DS card slot, and the proprietary charger jack. A charger was included.

More on the hardware here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nintendo_2DS

..and here is a good chart on the entire current *DS family lineup (including the “New”-models): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nintendo_3DS_line

TL;DR on the “New” 3DS’s: Better CPU(s) and GPU, more RAM, C-Pad (in addition to the Circle- and D-pad). Possibly some exclusive games. SD card is now Micro.

Using the device

A push-button powers on the device if it is off, or sliding the sleep switch if the device is sleeping (and has power). It boots fairly quickly; in a quick non-scientific test, it took roughly 10 seconds. After that, you are at the “home” screen, where you can select your application / game, see battery status, date and time, possible internet connectivity status, and so on.

For the uninitiated, the top screen is what you view, while the bottom screen is what you touch. You can touch using your favorite appendage (I like the index finger), or using the included stylus. The screen is fairly precise, and I’ve found that the stylus is seldom needed, though it may be preferable. Poking the screen with a finger will mean your lower screen will become a smudge-fest very quickly.

You can also control some functions using the D-pad and A/B buttons if touching isn’t your thing. This may vary game by game, but at least in the ones I’ve played.

Games

So far, I’ve tried:

  • New Super Mario Bros. 2
  • Zelda – A Link Between Worlds
  • Pokémon Omega Ruby
  • Spirit Camera – The Cursed Memoir

The first two are downloaded games, from the Nintendo eShop. They can be installed on the SD card. Downloads from the eShop are not exactly fast (the 2DS has b/g wifi), but it gets the job done. They could have included n or ac or whatever for even faster wifi, but I doubt that’s the bottleneck.

The second two games are bought physical games. Pokémon is obvious, and the other game is an AR game, which utilizes the “Cursed Memoir”, which is a booklet with AR images that are viewed using the two stereoscopic cameras on the back of the 2DS.

Applications

There are tons of applications for the *DS platform. Ranging from music applications to YouTube to the recently released Nintendo Anime  Channel. The latter has three shows available right now: Inazuma Eleven, Kirby and Pokémon. I think it’s a cool way to view anime. Granted, the screen isn’t big, but there’s an obvious tie-in to some of the games that you can play on the same platform. The negative side is that you can only get dubbed audio. I prefer original audio + subtitles. But this is outside the scope of this “review”.

There are other apps like ‘Face Raiders’ (no idea), some simple AR games (AR cards were included with the 2DS), various Mii applications (same as on the Wii), camera, audio player (plays mp3’s at least), plus a web browser.

The Bad

  • Build quality. Granted, the device is cheap, but build quality feels like it belongs on a toy. Time will tell how long it’ll last.
  • No stereo sound. Then again, I won’t listen to many concertos using the build in speaker, but…
  • No 3D
  • Form factor makes is susceptible to damage
  • Battery life still isn’t good (I gather it’s not good on any of the *DS devices)

The Good

  • Cheap-ish
  • No 3D (if you really don’t want to pay for it. Granted, you can disable it on the 3DS with a switch)
  • Feels comfortable to use, if you don’t mind that it doesn’t fold
  • Plays all 3DS games (though some games will be exclusive to the New 3DS, I’ve heard)

Conclusion

A good cheap intro to the portable gaming world. An easy choice for me, and so far I’ve been very pleased. I am a bit worried about the future fragmentation of the platform. Will “New” be the future, obsoleting the entire older lineup of 2DS and 3DS’s.

While getting my portable gaming binge on, I found the Tiny Cartridge podcast/website. If you’re into portable gaming, please give them a listen. They are Patreon supported, so if you do like it, throw a few bucks their way. I know I do!