2DS Review: The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

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Gamers are often preoccupied with how things look rather than how they function. I can be somewhat guilty of this. For example, I don’t care what color a piece of hardware is, but the GameCube controller’s Fisher Price look turned me off (now I recognize it as one of the best controllers I’ve used). When Nintendo announced the 2DS, the news was met with ridicule online, especially in regard to the system’s appearance. One would think a product marketed toward children might look like a children’s toy. Granted, many who criticized the 2DS don’t have children, which illustrates the disconnect between the 2DS announcement and the online gaming community.

Yes, the 2DS is intended for children, but cheap bastards like me will jump at the chance to own one. In fact, I bought the 2DS on release day (Oct. 12). Buying a system on release day is very odd behavior for a cheap bastard; waiting for price drops is in our DNA. Thankfully, the 2DS is the best handheld system I’ve played.

It Just Feels So Good

I would rather not sound like the 2DS is my new lover (after all, I am a married man), but the system feels better than any handheld I’ve, uh, held. The 2DS is certainly less cramped than the DS and 3DS, which tend to make my hands sore.

Some people have remarked about how weird it is for the 2DS to be thinner at the bottom like a slice of bread or cake. Again, the appearance of the system overshadows its merit. The top-heaviness gives the 2DS the right amount of sturdiness, while the thinner bottom half makes your grip that much more comfortable, with a caveat: if you grip the 2DS too hard, the bottom corners don’t feel too nice. I also think the system is most comfortable (read: incredibly comfortable) when you’re not holding it up as much. The height of the 2DS is a real plus. While it’s nice to be able to fold the DS or 3DS and put it in almost any pocket, the 2DS does a much better job of supporting your hands (and it actually fits in a jacket pocket of mine quite well). After many hours of play, the only time I experience discomfort is when I grip the 2DS too hard. The 2DS might resemble a clunky toy (like the GameCube controller did), but Nintendo knocked one out of the park with the comfort factor. Unlike other handhelds, the 2DS encourages you to relax your hands.

Button Layout/Functionality

Unlike the design of the DS/3DS, the principal buttons (B, A, Y, X) are higher and to the right of the top screen. The thumb stick is parallel with the buttons on the opposite side of the top screen, while the d-pad is right below the stick. This layout complements the shape of the overall system. This design also tends to account for old vs. new game controls. That is, the thumb stick and principal buttons are higher so that your forefingers can easily reach the [very nice] shoulder buttons, which new games are more likely to employ. For old NES, Game Boy, and Game Gear games that you download from the Virtual Console, the shoulder buttons are unnecessary, so the lower position of the traditional d-pad makes sense. I like that the Home button is centered and below the touch screen.

The action buttons, d-pad, and the stick function well. The principal buttons and d-pad are both sturdy and responsive. The stick might feel a little weird at first. I’ve tested the stick with Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, a game that requires very precise and responsive stick movement for success. After some time, I have found the stick to work well — it’s also quite comfortable. However, the 2DS shoulder buttons are what will truly impress you. I’m not exaggerating: the 2DS shoulder buttons are among the most well-designed shoulder buttons ever, handheld or not.

My lone complaint about button layout/functionality involves the power button. Like the power button for the 3DS and 3DS XL, the power button for the 2DS is located to the right of the touch screen. The 2DS follows the lead of the 3DS XL, which corrected the horrible 3DS power button that was too easy to push during gameplay. The problem is that since the power button doesn’t stick out, it’s harder to push. This design prevents you from accidentally pressing the power button during play, but it’s annoying when I intentionally press the power button and nothing happens. In contrast, the sleep button of the 2DS is a sliding button on the bottom of the handheld. The power button should have been a sliding button on the side of the handheld. This design worked great for the DS Lite, so why wouldn’t it work on the 2DS, which has much more room?

No 3-D Gimmick

People continue to waste their money on 3-D effects despite the fact that 3-D has been a marketing gimmick in film for decades. The “depth” of 3-D is an illusion that betrays the magic of art (movies by Kubrick, Fellini and other masters have more visual depth than all 3-D movies). The 3DS wasn’t the first Nintendo system to borrow the 3-D gimmick from movies — remember the Virtual Boy?

I realize Nintendo’s primary reason for removing 3-D to create the 2DS was to cater to children and families (on top of the extra cost, 3-D is apparently not good for children’s eyes). Yet the lack of 3-D on the 2DS is a positive in the philosophical department for me. I’d rather not spend another extra cent supporting a marketing ploy. How long will our society be suckered by 3-D?

Battery/Memory

The 2DS comes with a charger, which you will certainly need. If you play the 2DS a lot, you will need to charge at least every other day, if not every day. I will say that Virtual Console and indie games don’t seem to run the battery down as quickly. The 2DS also comes with a 4GB memory card. This is more than enough memory if, like me, you plan to download VC and indie games primarily. However, you will need a bigger card if you plan to download full 3DS games regularly.

Resistive Touch Screen

Some people have complained about the 2DS touch screen being resistive. In reality, this is a non-issue. A resistive touch screen is not hard to handle. Stop being a wuss!

Set-Up/Interface

It doesn’t take long at all to get your 2DS set up. The interface can be changed with what basically amounts to a zoom in/out feature. For the default interface, I recommend using the d-pad to move your cursor and using the stylus to make selections.

Sound

A frequent complaint about the 2DS is that it lacks stereo sound when you don’t have headphones or ear phones plugged in. But we all know the drill: handhelds ALWAYS sound better with headphones or ear phones.

Camera

I don’t need a camera on my handheld.

Conclusion

The 2DS is a great handheld from Nintendo. Its flaws are acceptable, and the handheld plays better than it looks. Nintendo should also be applauded for the $130 price tag, as mainstream handhelds (and consoles) are generally overpriced when they are released. Cheap bastards unite!

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