The wedge shape of the 2DS was a source of some curiosity prior to release, but I discovered the tapering design caused the heavier upper-half to naturally brace itself against my supporting fingers, promoting a solid grip. Large triggers curve a full ninety degrees around the top-left and top-right corners of the 2DS, a smart accommodation for players of different sizes. I found myself curling my right index finger around the R button while aligning my left index finger with the edge of the 2DS and tapping the L button from the side with a fingertip. This ergonomic allowance is especially helpful when using the D-pad as a primary control, as bridging the distance between the crosspad and the upper-left corner of the 2DS would otherwise require a bit of uncomfortable stretching.
The analog disc has a nice travel and the soft face texture provides a good grip for my thumb. The small D-pad tucked below is perfect, vintage Nintendo. The primary face buttons are well-spaced and provide a tactile feedback with each press.
The upper screen is clear and quite bright. The narrower lower screen is also vibrant and responsive to stylus and finger touch. Colors transfer between the displays with a flawless consistency.
Sound from the front speaker is monaural, adequate but a little flat. Even at the highest setting, the speaker volume is quiet. Headphones provide much louder, clearer, and richer full stereo.
Despite being limited to a two dimensional display, the 2DS can capture 3D photography. Twin lenses on the back of the unit allow for 3D snapshots and video, though the manual focus for the outward-facing 3D camera is disabled. The player-facing camera is 2D only.
Sleep mode is activated by a toggle switch on the bottom of the 2DS. Network hardware is controlled from a menu.
Like Vita, the 2DS is too large to fit comfortably in a pants pocket. The absence of folding screen protection portends a strong possibility of scratches during transport. A sold-separately carrying case seems a foregone conclusion for prudent commuters or parents.
Built-in software includes a spartan web-browser, basic audio/video recording applications, a simple AR pack-in game, the Face Raiders minigame, Mii Maker, Streetpass, and a few other bells and whistles. Wireless networking and access to the Nintendo eShop are easy to set up out of the box, though an update is necessary before making any online purchases. While the in-system manuals and tutorials have been partially updated with 2DS instructions, some of them still reference the 3DS in visual examples. Many transition screens in the firmware also still identify the handheld as a 3DS.I sampled five native 3DS games on the 2DS: Paper Mario Sticker Star, Super Street Fighter IV, Mario Tennis Open, Blazblue, and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. All of them looked wonderful on the 2D display. Even Super Street Fighter IV’s 3D-optimized Versus Mode made the two dimensional transition with no ill effects.
I tried out a couple of Virtual Console games with satisfying results. Zelda 2’s vibrant palette was faithfully represented, and the D-pad handled Recca’s demanding control requirements with superb precision. I tested one DS title for backwards-compatibility, Taito’s Space Invaders Extreme. The 2DS handled the changeover admirably.
The 2DS shows promise as a viable, intelligently constructed platform with access to a superb software library. The $129.99 MSRP is certainly an attractive incentive, a full forty dollars lower than the next-cheapest handheld available on the market. After a morning fooling around with my new 2DS, I feel like I just got a good piece of hardware at a bargain price