Editors' note (September 27, 2013): In addition to the new video above and photos within, we'll be updating this to a full rated review of the 2DS very soon, so be sure to check back often! For an updated hands-on with the 2DS, check out the last section of this First Take.
Imagine, if you will, a Nintendo 3DS that only does 2D. Now imagine that it can’t fold. In a move reminiscent of an Onion headline, the seems to take everything we were starting to like about Nintendo’s slow-to-grow DS successor and...make it not exactly what we were looking for.
The advantage of a Nintendo 2DS, if there is one, would be its price: $129.99, a good $40 less than the $169 3DS. The 2DS also seems to have a smaller overall size, although it's hard to tell from the press photos.
That's the elevator pitch for the 2DS: a lower-priced entry-level way to play Nintendo's latest games. Nintendo's made a 2D two-screen handheld before. It's called the Nintendo DS. But the $99 Nintendo DSi -- still available for purchase -- hasn't had new games in quite some time, and isn't compatible with the new Nintendo eShop. The 2DS feels like a DS replacement, with a few added perks.
But its odd, wedge-like “slate-type” shape (per Nintendo’s press release) looks a lot uglier than either Nintendo 3DS, and loses the nifty scratch-protecting folding design that’s been with Nintendo handhelds since the original Nintendo DS in 2004. Is that a fun shape to hold? Well, the actors in Nintendo's promo video sure seem smiley-happy.
Game compatibility and features
The 2DS will play every game in Nintendo’s 3DS game library, included downloadable eShop games. It even plays Nintendo DS games. That amounts to a lot of back-catalog gaming. The feature set, as far as we can see, is more intact than you'd think: the 2DS has Wi-Fi and dual cameras, and still has an SD card slot. So, at least the 2DS hasn't shaved off too many essential features. Like the other 3DS models, it still lacks a second analog pad. A sleep switch, on the bottom, appears to offer the same function that closing the 3DS has in other models: quickly suspending gameplay without turning power off.
But the concept of the 2DS, which seems to lie somewhere between the Nintendo DS Lite and Game Boy Micro, seems like a bizarre outlier. It’s also a clear acknowledgement that the 3DS’ 3D effect in games, as promised, was an unnecessary feature and perhaps even a tactical mistake.
The 2DS comes in either red or blue, with an optional carrying case for $12.99. You’ll probably want one, considering you can’t fold it up. But, unless the battery life on the 2DS is a great leap over the other 3DS models, we can’t imagine why anyone would want to buy one. It could be a clever system for kids, but that's what we thought the original 3DS was for.
Availability: Coming sooner than you think
It's coming on October 12, alongside Pokemon X and Y. A $40 price drop on the 3DS is, in theory, a great idea, and the 3DS library of games . It's just a shame that 3D and foldability had to be sacrificed along the way.
It's tough to ignore, but the first thing I thought when I picked up the 2DS is "this feels cheap." But 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 probably to avoid any kind of breakage.
Its wedge-shaped design makes for an initially awkward grip, but I'm curious to see how it feels in the hands of someone who doesn't have gigantic paws like me. That information I'll save for the proper review. The shoulder buttons are huge compared with the ones on the 3DS and XL -- your entire index finger can lay in its groove.
The screen sizes are the same as the original 3DS', but the buttons and circle pad 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.
Nintendo also sent me a red pouch that will be the only thing protecting the 2DS from the cavalcade of grime your young one will inevitably introduce to the system, so I'd almost immediately recommend the $13 case. It's also got a convenient flap for storing three games on the go.
No word yet on battery life performance, but I'm imagining it'll be improved over what the 3DS and XL have clocked in at simply based on the fact that there's no 3D being projected.
There's a 4GB SD card preloaded into the slot for saves and game downloads, and the sleep slider on the bottom-right corner can turn off the screens without powering down the unit.
Stay tuned for Jeff's full review of the Nintendo 2DS in a few days!