It’s not uncommon for a handheld system to undergo a redesign or two during its lifespan. Even the original Game Boy saw itself slim down with the release of the Game Boy Pocket in 1996. In more recent years the Game Boy Advance saw roughly 4,572 redesigns, the Nintendo DS couldn’t stop evolving, and the 3DS got a much-needed XL upgrade a year after its release. Today, with updated cell phone models being released seemingly every twenty-seven seconds, it’s no surprise that Nintendo revamps its handhelds every couple of years.
It was a surprise, however, when Nintendo bombshelled us with the 2DS.
The two obvious first-takes are the radical overhaul of the system’s design and the abandonment of its original selling point: screen-hopping visuals. 3DS is eschewing its upper-screen identity and essentially becoming a more powerful DS. Since the 3D feature affects aesthetics moreso than gameplay, it’s not a colossal loss. In fact, I’ve seen shiploads of gamers complain on message boards about the 3D, saying it either a) gave them headaches, b) didn’t work for their eyes, or c) made the games look worse. I personally loved the 3D effects in Fire Emblem: Awakening. They gave the upper screen a surreal quality, like staring into a pool that could splash to life during battles and cutscenes. On the other hand, with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, the game looks grainy around the edges in 3D. Nonetheless, I played the game in 3D for the most part–if I have it, I’m using it.
Aside from the wonky design and the lack of 3D, I love newly introduced 2DS. The lower price tag is always a plus, but what wins me over is how comfortable it looks compared to the 3DS and 3DS XL. Now that the system no longer consists of two halves connected by a hinge, your hands can stretch out a bit and comfortably bear the weight of the system. The current 3DS XL transforms my hands into gnarled claws after 30 minutes of play. And that’s if I play a game that requires the analog stick. If I use the D-pad, I usually have to be hospitalized after my play session.
The positives aside, I don’t like the message Nintendo is sending with the 2DS. The name itself connotes a step backward, and dropping the 3D effects could signal a phasing out of 3D gaming on handhelds. I wonder if developers will even bother adding creative 3D cutscenes if the 2DS smashes the sales column. Now, as I mentioned earlier, the 3D effects exist for aesthetic purposes, but that doesn’t mean they can’t affect gameplay. For instance, take Gamecube’s survival horror hit Eternal Darkness, a game that utilized various screen and noise effects to trick gamers into thinking they were going insane. What’s to say a 3DS developer can’t use 3D effects to spook gamers in a similar way? What’s to say that 3D gaming’s potential isn’t waiting to be tapped?