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In a move that left many gamers scratching their heads, Nintendo released the 2DS, a portable gaming system that removes the glasses-free 3D screen and clamshell design for which the console is known. It’s a big change, as all but one of Nintendo’s recent handheld consoles have featured a hinge (the one exception being the GameBoy Micro).

Gamers were left wondering who this console is for and why Nintendo made a non-3D console which is obviously a hassle to bring around? We’ve had the chance to play with the Nintendo 2DS for about a week now, and we have the answer to all of these questions and more.

nintendo 2ds review

Best of all, we’re giving this Nintendo 2DS with a copy of Pokemon X away to one lucky reader! Keep reading to the bottom of the page to find out exactly how to enter for a chance to take this portable gaming system home for yourself.

Introducing The Nintendo 2DS

The new Nintendo 2DS is a portable handheld gaming console clearly aimed towards younger gamers, as removing the clamshell design definitely extends durability without the hinges, which easily snapped. That being said, children are not the only ones who can enjoy what the Nintendo 2DS brings to the table.

Nintendo managed to get the price of the 2DS down to $129. Meanwhile, the 3DS XL comes in at $199, and the original Nintendo 3DS features a $169 price tag. Sony’s PlayStation Vita has the same $199 price as the 3DS XL. So as far as affordable handheld gaming devices go, Nintendo certainly offers the best value with the 2DS, especially for gamers who are not interested in the 3D screen technology to begin with.

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nintendo 2ds review

The Nintendo 2DS comes in two different colors, but the options vary slightly depending on where in the world you are located. In the US, we get black with blue trim (Electric Blue) and black with red trim (Crimson Red). In Europe, the Electric Blue option is offered as well, but instead of the Crimson Red, they get a white version with red trim. Personally, I think the red and white color scheme looks way better than black and red, but alas, I am in the US, so we went with the Crimson Red model.

Initial Impressions

The package for the Nintendo 2DS is quite nice. It’s small, and no space is wasted. Upon removing the device from the box, I was initially surprised by the lack of SD card, but it turns out Nintendo ships it with the memory card already in the device, so keep that in mind when you crack it open for the first time.

Besides the console and the memory card, a wall charger, the cards for the AR games, and the necessary documentation are included. The stylus is also packaged, and like the SD card, it’s already placed in its slot in the 2DS.

Design

At first glance, I was impressed by the 2DS. The weight feels good, it looks beautiful, and it comes with that Nintendo quality that you expect from any piece of hardware made by the Japanese company.

Just on looks, the 2DS is a beautiful piece of gaming hardware. The slight tapering from the top of the console to the bottom gives it a stylish wedge shape that looks quite slick. Despite the lack of a hinge, the screen size is exactly the same as the original 3DS. Of course, the screens look tiny next to the 3DS XL Nintendo 3DS XL Review and Giveaway Nintendo 3DS XL Review and Giveaway Among all the big names in gaming consoles, Nintendo is definitely among the top favorites. As a '90s kid, I associate much of my childhood with playing Nintendo games. I remember growing up with the... Read More , but that’s the be expected.

nintendo 2ds gaming console

A big change – and one that I find to be quite favorable to actually playing games – is the position of the buttons: they’ve moved up on the device. Having removed the clamshell design and restrictive layout, the joystick and buttons on the 2DS are much higher up, and actually creates a far more balanced feel than either of the previous 3DS iterations. We’ll dig deeper into that when we talk about how it feels to actually play games on the device, but it’s definitely an improvement.

nintendo 2ds review

The actual buttons look more or less the same as the original clamshell models, but button labels on the 2DS are engraved without any color, which makes them a little harder to distinguish. Of course, this is only an issue for people who have never used a DS console before, and it’s one that will fade away after using the console for a period of time.

The Home button is changed to be a bit smaller than the other models and the Start and Select button have moved out from below the screen to below the face buttons. The movement of these button is a welcomed change, as I was never a fan of where they were located on the 3DS.

Another key design change is the addition of a Sleep switch. While the hinged DS models sleep when closed, this model doesn’t close, so the switch functions in exactly the same way.

nintendo 2ds gaming console

The lack of hinges does bring two major drawbacks. First, you lose a great deal of portability, as not folding down makes it difficult to fit it in a pants pocket. Second, the screens are exposed at all times, and while they feel sturdy, it’s still putting them in danger when they are in a bag with other stuff. Nintendo does make a case to protect it, but being forced to buy that voids some of the savings from buying this device in the first place.

In spite of some of the issues with the design, the 2DS is still a well-made device that I quite like, at least in terms of the way it looks. How does it fare in terms of performance and gameplay?

nintendo 2ds console review

Gaming On The 2DS

It really doesn’t matter how good the system looks if playing games on it is not an optimal experience. After all, this system is built for playing video games on the go, and if it can’t do that with a high degree of performance, it’s all pointless.

Thankfully, that’s not an issue, as it plays both original DS and 3DS games perfectly. Of course, 3DS games no longer have that glasses-free 3D, as I mentioned before, but everything else about the games remains intact.

nintendo 2ds console review

The aforementioned change in the position of the buttons actually lends itself well to playing games, as it creates a more balanced feel, which I found more comfortable for extended play sessions.

Another major change that goes a long way towards improving the device is the shoulder buttons. Those on the 2DS are much wider and they feature a curved shape that makes resting your fingers on them more comfortable. They do have a slightly longer travel distance before actually activated, but it’s a small issue, and one that does not alter gameplay much, if at all.

The touchscreen performs in the same way as other models, which is to say it works well. It will feel a little different to smartphones as it’s pressure sensitive, but that’s why the 2DS includes a stylus for playing touch intensive games. In the case of Pokemon, where touching the screen is almost completely optional, I found pushing with my finger gets the job done just fine. In other games, you will most certainly be making use of that stylus, which feels similar to other Nintendo DS models.

nintendo 2ds pokemon

The D-pad feels a little smooshier than the original 3DS and 3DS XL, but it’s not really a hindrance to gameplay, just a slight difference in feel. It certainly should not influence your final decision in whether you choose this model over one of the others, but it’s a small factor to keep in mind.

Overall, I actually found that I prefer playing games on the 2DS over the 3DS. I think it feels quite a bit more comfortable in the hand, and the improvements to the shoulder buttons makes a big difference for games that use them.

Performance

There is more to making a quality handheld system besides the actual feeling of comfort in your hands. A major factor to consider is the battery life. After all, you are going to want to take this thing on the go, and with that in mind, you’ll want it to last as long as possible. The Nintendo 2DS is rated to have slightly better battery life than the original 3DS, with the 2DS sporting 5.5 hours of play time and the 3DS with only 5 hours. However, the 3DS XL crushes both of them, with an estimated battery life of 6.5 hours. In practice, it’s about right, but the 2DS and 3DS actually managed to squeeze out 4.5 and 4 hours of gameplay respectively. The XL averages about 5.5 hours. If long-lasting battery is your first priority, then get the XL, but of course, that model is more expensive. Enabling 3D on either of the DS models that supports it will dramatically decrease battery.

nintendo 2ds pokemon

Another important factor to consider is the screen brightness, as it becomes quite important during long play sessions in varying light conditions. Side-by-side, the 2DS actually looks a bit brighter than the original 3DS, which is a welcomed change. Next to the XL, brightness is indistinguishable. Another factor with the screen is the glare, and I did notice a very slight difference between the original 3DS and 2DS, with the 2DS producing slightly less glare. The difference is very minor, and to be honest, neither is great when playing games in direct sunlight.

In the sound department, the 2DS is a little hit-and-miss. It’s loud enough for most gameplay situations, but unlike other models, it only features a single speaker, so games that need stereo sound will be missing some of the quality. That’s not to say it sounds bad, but next to the other two Nintendo handhelds, the quality definitely falls a little short. Thankfully, you’ll still get stereo sound by using headphones, and if you are playing games in a public setting, you’ll want to use them anyway.

Pokemon

Since we are giving away a copy of Pokemon X with the 2DS, I feel that I should mention that this is far and away the best Pokemon game I have ever played. Many processes have been streamlined, such as improving the trainer’s move speed early with rollerblades, and the fact that an experience share now grants all Pokemon in your party the bonus XP. That, plus the fact that game is now rendered with polygons instead of sprites makes this a must-play game for fans of the series, or anyone who enjoys a quality turn-based role-playing game.

Should you buy a Nintendo 2DS?

In spite of the fact that many gamers were perplexed when Nintendo first announced the 2DS, it’s actually a fantastic piece of gaming hardware. It feels great, performs as well as you can expect and it comes with a very reasonable $129 price tag.

That being said, given the choice, the 3DS XL is still the best option, and I would actually take the original 3DS over the 2DS just because of the portability factor. Seeing as I am not a child and I am not prone to breaking the hinges, the 3DS fits my lifestyle just fine. However, if portability is not a concern, and you are on a budget, the 2DS is a fantastic option.

MakeUseOf recommends: For children and gamers on a budget, the 2DS is most certainly the best choice. Get a 3DS XL if money is no concern. Get a regular 3DS if you want to save a bit of money and the 3D screen is a high priority.

How do I win the Nintendo 2DS?

You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.

After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, November 1. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email.

The Winner

Congratulations, Diane Vescio! You would have received an email from jackson@makeuseof.com. Please respond before November 14 to claim your prize. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact Jackson Chung for further details.

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