Nintendo 2DS review

The second dimension

With the release of the 2DS, Nintendo is yet again indulging its habit of putting out new iterations of its popular handheld consoles. We all know how it goes: Sometimes its a great and necessary revision, as with the DS Lite or Game Boy Advance SP; sometimes its baffling, like the Game Boy Micro. The 2DS seems like it may be poised to fall in that second category, with its removal of its predecessors supposed main selling point, 3D visuals, and a bulky, open-face design that eschews the trademark clamshell.

Despite the removal of those seemingly defining and vital features, the 2DS does have its merits. Not only does it have a significantly reduced price, but it also addresses some complaints people may have had with the 3DS and the 3DS XL. And, its still a fully functional 3DS handheld in terms of game compatibility. But is it worth the investment when compared to its stereoscopic siblings? Read on to see our verdict.

Youll love: The huge (and growing) library of great games

The 2DS has the benefit of coming out two years after the platform has already been established. As such, it avoids the typical launch-window doldrums. Jumping in now, youll have plenty of amazing games to occupy your time, right out of the gate. You can find a rundown of some of the best 3DS games right here.

And, to be clear, the 2DS can play every game available for the 3DS (including the entire library of original DS games), albeit without the sometimes-great 3D effects. That said, some of the most enjoyable 3DS games, like Pokemon X/Y and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, don't employ the system's 3D functionality much at all. It's easy to say that you wont be wanting for great games on the 2DS, and though its functionality is somewhat compromised in some areas, the gameplay wont be.

Youll hate: The battery life

This was a serious problem with the original 3DS, and its unfortunate that Nintendo hasnt made any improvements to this new handheld's battery life. Despite losing the battery-killing 3D and seemingly having more room for a larger battery, the 2DS lives only as long as the original 3DS, not even matching the 3DS XLs performance.

The limited battery life is especially disappointing when paired with other changes Nintendo has made to the handheld to make it less portable. Not only is it larger and more difficult to cart around, it also needs to be connected to a charger too often. It makes it more of an at-home console than a portable one.

Youll hate: The lack of 3D (and the lack of software adaptation to account for it)

Okay, this one seems obvious, but stick with me here: The lack of 3D negatively impacts some games. In the years since the release of the original 3DS, Nintendo has become exceptionally good at creating great 3D effects that dont strain your eyes and look legitimately amazing. Sometimes, these effects even make the game easier to play. But, admittedly, most other developers dont use the 3D capabilities to great effect, and there are plenty of games that dont use them at all.

But its not just in games. The lack of 3D is thrown in your face all over the system, right down to the fact that it still has a 3D camera on the back, despite not being able to view 3D photos. At one point, while messing with the camera application, the tutorial character popped up and asked me if Id been having fun taking 3D pictures. I hadnt. It was heartbreaking. Seriously, though, it seems as though Nintendo just removed the 3D without adapting the software to make it feel like youre not missing anything, and thats disappointing.

Youll love: The price

Heres another obvious one, but it really makes a difference. See, with all that Nintendos done to lower the cost of the device, it can still play every game thats available for the 3DS platform. And if youre itching to play some of those, particularly if youre only interested in a few, the 2DS is the most cost-effective way to do that, and by a not-insignificant margin.

At $130, the 2DS is still an investment, but its easier to swallow than the $200 3DS XL or even the $170 3DS. But the reality is, if youre really only going to use it to play one or two games of its impressive library, this is the cheapest way to gain access to the platform.

Youll hate: The form factor

Theres no getting around it: The 2DS isnt the most attractive handheld out there. Both available colors, blue and red, appear simultaneously garish and cheap by virtue of their bright, contrasting hues and utilitarian matte finishes. Really, it looks like a toy for children, not prone to fingerprint smudges or scratches. That makes some sense, given the products presumed target audience of young kids, and, on the plus side, it makes the 2DS seem more disposable: You probably wont feel any guilt about carelessly tossing the handheld in a bag or even dropping it on concrete.

But the problem with the form factor isnt that it makes for a silly-looking device. The dismissal of the convenient clamshell design simply makes the handheld a lot less portable. Good luck stuffing the 2DS in your pocket on your way out of the house.

Youll love: Holding the device

The one positive of the 2DSs bizarre form factor is that its actually quite comfortable to hold for extended play sessions. Its massive surface area gives your fingers ample space to rest on the back, so you wont be contorting them into awkward positions. Its also significantly lighter than the similarly comfortable 3DS XL.

The buttons also feel nice, with a softer, mushier feel more akin to the DS Lites buttons than the 3DS and 3DS XLs clickier buttons. They seem like they require a bit less pressure to depress, but theyre just as quick and precise as you would want. The shoulder buttons are also huge and easy to hit. Overall, its a well-designed handheld from a usability standpoint, and it seems slightly more equipped for long, uninterrupted game time than the 3DS or the 3DS XL.

Should you buy a 2DS?

Only under limited, very specific circumstances. If youre looking to gain access to this platform, the 3DS XL is still the best way to do that, with superior battery life, larger screens, and mostly uncompromised portability compared to the other handhelds. Moreover, the 2DS is arguably the worst of the three. Almost every aspect of the 2DS is demonstrably inferior to that of both the 3DS and the 3DS XL, and there are only a few selling points, like the somewhat increased durability, that might sound appealing.

But even though it is inferior, its not actually bad. It can play all the same games a 3DS can, and it lets you do that with a lower barrier to entry. If youre looking for a low-risk, low-cost handheld to give to a small child, the 2DS is worth considering. Its also worth considering if you want to play only a select few 3DS games. But if you want to invest in a console that you plan to use long-term, youll have a much better experience with a 3DS XL or even a 3DS.

Donny Tarin