Our first reaction to the Nintendo 2DS was stupefaction - we simply couldn’t understand why the thing existed.
The latest addition to Nintendo’s “3DS family” of consoles, the 2DS plays all 3DS and DS games, but removes the 3DS and 3DS XL’s raison d'êtres - glasses-free 3D. It also banishes the more portable clamshell design of its sister consoles in favour of a flat slab design, and doesn’t even have the good sense to add a second control pad. Expectation was low, then, and the finished console hasn't won us over.
2D, or not 2D?
When the 3DS was first unveiled in 2010, 3D was revolutionising the entertainment industry, and Nintendo’s console was the first major device to offer 3D games without the need for glasses. Snap forward to today, and 3D cinema ticket sales are down, 4K TVs are making more waves than 3D displays, and many people with 3DSs never even use the 3D mode. The truth is, 3D isn't the 3DS’s best feature - that accolade goes to the library of genuinely great 3DS games, backed up with highly addictive social features using Nintendo’s StreetPass wireless tech.
The 2DS does everything that the 3DS and 3DS XL do, except display content in 3D. The screens are the same size as those on the original 3DS model, but much better in terms of brightness and colour. Each screen is over an inch smaller than those on the 3DS XL, and it feels like a big step down if you’re used to the larger model.
A little extra nugget of info for fact fans: the 2DS’s screens are actually one single LCD display. It’s cheaper for Nintendo to cover up the unwanted pixels with plastic than it is to use two separate screens.
When the 3DS launched, Nintendo warned parents that the console’s 3D features shouldn’t be used by children under six years of age. The 2DS doesn’t have that problem, so it’s the first 3DS console that’s technically suitable for young children. This ethos has informed the rest of the system’s design - the 2DS feels cheap, plasticky and much more like a toy than the original 3DS.
The 2DS is designed as a single slab of plastic, rather than the clamshell design of the 3DS. That makes it rather less portable, but it's rugged enough to be handed to the clumsiest or youngest of rugrats without fear of major damage.
While the 2DS looks uncomfortable in photos, it’s actually the most ergonomic console in the 3DS family. It’s smaller than it looks in pictures, and sits well in the hands of both the old and the young. The weight of the machine is more evenly distributed, making it more comfortable for longer play sessions than the other consoles in the range.
Curiosity, thy name is 2DS
Nintendo has made a “3DS family” console that doesn’t do 3D, but there are plenty more curiosities and quirks that confound and frustrate. The console has plenty of space for a second control pad, but Nintendo has refrained from adding one, which would have vastly improved compatible games such as Resident Evil Revelations and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. The standard D-pad doesn’t feel quite as satisfying as it does on the other models either.
Nintendo also saw fit to ship the 2DS with just one speaker, instead of the stereo speakers on previous models, which is a blow. And while the console has dual rear cameras for taking 3D snaps, you won’t be able to see them in 3D on the console. Madness, we tell you.
Thankfully, the box does come with a mains charger this time, something that Nintendo crazily omitted from the 3DS XL. We've seen slightly better battery life between the 2DS and 3DS XL in our tests - nearly six hours for the 2D model, compared to five and half hours for the 3DS XL.
The 2DS also comes with a 4GB SD card for storage, which is enough to get you started, but you’ll definitely need to upgrade if you plan on downloading games such as Mario Kart 7 from the Nintendo eShop – they tend to weigh in at about 1GB each.
Gaming and compatibility
If you don’t already own a 3DS console you might not be aware how crazy-awesome the games library has become. Sure, Nintendo 3DS games are vastly outnumbered and undercut by the thousands of mobile games out there, and their graphics aren’t anywhere near as advanced as they are on PlayStation Vita, but no one does quality handheld games quite as well as Nintendo.
The last 12 months in particular have seen some genuine crackers released on the system, including tactical RPG Fire Emblem: Awakening, cute puzzle game Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, and the difficult to describe (but impossible to put down) Animal Crossing: New Leaf, as well as one or two games that don't have colons in the name. The good news is that the 2DS will play all 3DS games available, as well as the older DS library as well. You also shouldn’t overlook the addictive brilliance of Nintendo’s StreetPass games, which unlock as you pass other 3DS/2DS owners in the street.
Thankfully, very few of these games are majorly affected by the lack of 3D display. It's only really Super Mario 3D Land that's suffered for us so far, as it features puzzle and platforming sections that are based around the 3D feature.
Online and multiplayer
Nintendo isn’t the most progressive console manufacturer when it comes to online features and multiplayer, but even by its own low standards the 2DS is seriously hampered by archaic interfaces, limited communication options and backward social connectivity. The 3DS friend code system, for example, requires you to both swap 12-digit codes before you can see each other online, and even after that, there’s no voice chat or lobby system. And when you pick an online Nintendo ID, make sure it’s a good one - you can’t ever change it.
The worst part of 3DS or 2DS ownership, though, is the constant fear of losing your console or having it stolen. That’s because all purchases and user data are locked to your machine, rather than your user account. So if you happen to lose your console you also lose everything on that system, including all your purchases, and everything on the memory card, including your save games and StreetPass progress. Even if you made a backup. And you’ll never get it back.
In an age when you can move your purchases and data from mobile to tablet to computer with ease, Nintendo’s system isn’t just antiquated, it’s utterly unacceptable.
Arriving the same day as the Nintendo 2DS, these two new Pokemon games (which only differ in terms of a few exclusive Pokemon characters) are the best in the series yet. Like the 2DS itself, these games are great for kids, but if you’ve never got into a Pokemon game this is the place to start. It’s not only the most inviting game in the series, it’s also the best.
StreetPass Mii Plaza Games
While the 3DS offers very basic connectivity in many respects, Nintendo’s StreetPass feature is a stroke of genius. When you’re out and about, your 3DS can communicate wirelessly with other owners, allowing you to swap Mii characters, written letters and other details. It’s a wonderfully serendipitous way of meeting new people, as well as unlocking more content in your games.
Mario Kart 7
Yes, it’s Mario Kart. Yes, you’ve probably played it a million times before. But it’s also one of the most fun, feature-packed and replayable racing games ever made. This entry adds underwater racing and short flying sections, and re-introduces the coin-collecting gameplay from earlier games in the series. The online game is marred by people abusing exploits, but local multiplayer is a blast.
Check out our full review here.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
No game released on any platform this year has addicted gamers quite like Animal Crossing: New Leaf. It’s a difficult game to describe - you become the mayor of a small town of animals and try to keep them happy by keeping the town clean, sprucing it up, and sending them letters. However, the hilarious writing, year-long new content and ability to visit other people’s towns mean Animal Crossing quickly takes over your entire life.
At £110, the 2DS is £30 cheaper than the 3DS, and £50 cheaper than the 3DS XL. The 3DS XL is still the best choice for most, as it offers the biggest screens and the most complete feature set of the lot.
The 2DS, meanwhile, is really only suited to the very young or very clumsy gamer. For everyone else its quirks and limitations will prove a source of frustration and disappointment, and that's not what you buy a games console for.