There is no bigger indicator that 3D was a fad than when ESPN, one of the world's largest entertainment companies, spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing and marketing a 3D sports network, and then three years later shut it down. Except perhaps for the example of when the world's largest dedicated game hardware manufacturer spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing and marketing a 3D gaming system, and then re-released the system without 3D at a lower price point.
Nintendo has declared 3D is dead, a confirmed fad, so with today's release of the 2DS, how does the system hold up with one less "D"?
Out of the box, you get the unit with stylus, a 4GB SDHC memory card, six AR cards and a power adaptor. Sadly, Nintendo has continued their practice of not providing a combined 110 - 240 volt adaptor, let alone what is now a universally standard USB charging option.
When turning on the unit for the first time Nintendo gently reminds you that while the 2DS does support all 3DS games it does not have the ability to display those games in 3D. Besides that warning you really don't notice anything different about the set-up or usual menus, it looks just like a regular 3DS.
Fortunately, it does not feel like a 3DS, instead it is a pleasure to hold, a triumph of ergonomic design. By removing the hinges and creating a flat surface there is no longer a top-heaviness to the system. The lack of a large separation in the middle of the 2DS has also enabled Nintendo to move the buttons and analog stick to the center of the device, which not only helps in terms of comfort, but also in balancing the system in your hands.
The face buttons, while seemingly in a similar position as on the 3DS, are actually higher and therefore more comfortable to use since you no longer have to bend your thumbs as much to use them. The analog stick lines up with the face buttons which results in the weight of the 2DS being equally balanced.
The shoulder buttons are even more of a coup, placed perfectly on the top, so even if you are not using them it helps in holding the 2DS in a stable position.
The tapered wedge shape of the 2DS also makes for comfortable holding, it's not "chunky" where the old 3DS, or XL would fit into the bottom of your thumbs. You'll notice from the back of the 2DS (above) that the 3D camera is still a part of the design, though I imagine that even this vestige will be lost when the 2DS ultimately supplants the 3DS as the primary SKU.
As with the 3DS, the screen of the 2DS is dull by modern hand-held electronic standards, and the resolution is disappointing by the same comparison, but compared to the stretched-out graphics of the 3DS XL the 2DS display is pleasingly sharp, and seems brighter than the regular 3DS.
So the final question for most of you is probably, "Does it feel cheap?" For the most part the 2DS feels like a very high-end toy. Not quite on the standard of a Vita or smartphone, and the shoulder buttons to have a thin feel to them, but all in all, I don't get the feeling of having overpaid at a retail price of $149 (Australian).
Judging by the crowd at the game store, the word about the Nintendo dropping a "D" has certainly made its way into the mainstream market. In talking with a parent at the store, they were happy that they could now buy the system for their child without having to worry about the health impacts, however real or imagined they may be. The store was doing a brisk trade in Pokemon X and Y, and about half of those picking up the latest Gamefreak game were also getting a 2DS.
The 2DS makes a great first impression and despite some recent mis-steps from Nintendo they now seem to be making bold decisions about their marketing and hardware, which is encouraging to see. The 2DS will enable them to drop the price of their hand-held while assuaging parental concerns over 3D, and launching it on the heels of Animal Crossing, with a critically acclaimed Pokemon title won't hurt the sales either.