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Editors' note: Nintendo has announced new transparent versions of the 2DS will be available for $100 in the US as of November 21. The otherwise identical earlier models will retain their $130 MSRP. Note that some of those models are bundled with a game like Mario Kart 7, however, which helps offset the cost.
When Nintendo has announced some of its recent products, the collective reaction on the Internet has often been: "Is this a joke?" Sometimes, Nintendo gets the last laugh -- the name "Wii" was widely derided, but that console went on to become a smashing success. Other times, the result is more curious than funny: 3DS Circle Pad Pro, anyone?
The Nintendo 2DS was greeted with when it was in late August -- "A 3DS without the 3D? Really?" -- but now that I've actually spent some time with it, I can say it's not completely outrageous. Indeed, for younger gamers -- especially those under 7 who are on the cover of every 3DS game -- this less expensive ($130) no-frills gaming handheld may be just the ticket. Add in Nintendo's kid-friendly, decade-strong gaming library dominated by Pokemon, Mario, and Donkey Kong titles, and you've got an electronic babysitter that's cheaper and more durable than an iPod Touch or even a "real" 3DS.
In this review, I'll be looking at the target audience for the 2DS and its overall performance. For a detailed review of the previous 3DS models, check out my review of the $170 3DS or the big-screen $200 , both of which are still available.
Look and feel
The first thing I thought when I picked up the 2DS was "this feels cheap." But I guess that's the point. It's not designed for an adult gamer. In fact, it's for the opposite demographic. The 2DS is crafted with the youngest gamer in mind, stripping away mostly every moving part in a move that's probably done to avoid breakage of any kind.
The 2DS' slate design looks a bit odd because it doesn't close like previous Nintendo clamshell devices. That said, its wedge shape certainly fits nicely in your hands. It's lightweight (about 9 ounces) and retains most of the same button placements present in the other two concurrent 3DS models.
The major differences are the locations of the start/select buttons and the placement of one single speaker for audio playback, which now seems to be missing a punch. All the usual suspects are onboard and accounted for, plus Nintendo has upped the size of the included SD card to 4GB.
The screen sizes are the same as the original 3DS', but of course the buttons are now flanked around the top screen as opposed to the lower touch screen. This makes for a finagled adjustment period, especially if you're used to the old layout.