Moments after the Nintendo 2DS was announced, gamers immediately hurled their usual vitriol at Nintendo. Most mocked it; calling it a “toy” that heralded Nintendo’s doom. So, this is exactly what they said about the Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and Wii. In fairness, the Nintendo 2DS’ design is unexpected and polarizing. It came out of nowhere and dropped the familiar clamshell design that Nintendo used for their handhelds since they introduced the dual-screens. However, this device is aimed at a demographic of gamers who haven’t even entered the market: kids and casual gamers. Therefore, Nintendo needed to lower the barrier to entry without compromising the 3DS gaming experience. The result was budget hardware that’s surprisingly a joy to use.
Barely 48 hours after its announcement, Nintendo had demo units of the 2DS on floor at PAX in their Handheld Lounge. I got several long minutes playing with the device. After adjusting to its new design during a level of New Super Mario Bros. 2, I was surprised by how comfortable it is to hold. The narrow bottom and wide top fit naturally into your palms and provide a suitable amount of space at the top for your index fingers to rest. Your thumbs hover precisely above the analog stick/d-pad and ABXY buttons. Just like with a tablet, the device disappears and you’re immersed in the content. While designed to meet a specifically low budget, none of the buttons or materials felt cheap. Buttons all click exactly as you’d expect from a Nintendo handheld. The home button and volume slider do require some effort to get at, but again this device was designed for kids — and adults that won’t be bothered by it. Other people that tried out the device did so out of curiosity but walked away genuinely impressed.
The Nintendo 2DS is an important step in Nintendo growing their handheld audience. It’s not for everyone. When the Nintendo 3DS XL was first released, I didn’t hesitate to upgrade immediately because the buttons and screens were too small for me. This was still true with the Nintendo 2DS, but that’s a personal preference. With the original Nintendo 3DS at $169, the Nintendo 3DS XL at $199 and now the Nintendo 2DS at $129, the company won’t be able to keep enough on store shelves this holiday season. The Nintendo 2DS will charm your pants off the moment you pick it up.