2DS Highlights Nintendo's Continual Handheld Upgrades

Precedent for the 2DS

Nintendo's 2DS portable game console may look strange, but its redesigned handheld is hardly unprecedented. Ever since it first dominated the handheld market with the original Game Boy, Nintendo has been tweaking, perfecting and re-releasing its portable consoles.

In case you missed the announcement, Nintendo will release an updated version of its 3DS handheld that eschews the console's titular 3D aspects. The 2DS looks vastly different from the 3DS and larger 3DS XL that preceded it. Instead of a foldable clamshell, the 2DS resembles a tablet, and is made to fit into small hands and rest easily on flat surfaces.

In light of Nintendo's history of reinventing its handhelds on an accelerating basis, the 2DS is not nearly as unusual as it first appears. According to Nintendo, this device targets young children, for whom it may be their first real console (as opposed to mom and dad's Wii U or tablet that they get to play now and then).

Nintendo's long handheld history

Although Nintendo had gone through three home consoles (the Nintendo, the Super Nintendo and the N64) by 1996, it had relied on its stalwart handheld brick, the Game Boy, to control the handheld market since 1989. The system had always sold well, but after seven years on the market, just about everyone who needed a brick-size portable console in their lives had bought one.

Technology had advanced considerably since the late '80s, and Nintendo was able to shrink the Game Boy until it fit into the palm of a player's hand. The device, the Game Boy Pocket, was identical to the Game Boy in every respect except its size, and proved that fans were eager to buy new spins on their favorite handheld.

Once Nintendo realized that the Game Boy name did not have to be tied to one ancient system forever, it worked quickly to further develop the product. The year 1998 saw the release of the Game Boy Color, which introduced a screen [?] with a limited color palette that [?] allowed for slightly more complex games, including the cult classic platformer "Shantae" and "Pokémon Crystal," which introduced female playable characters into the series.

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Nintendo released three more Game Boys in the early 2000s:

Game Boy Advance(2001) was more powerful than a Super Nintendo. Instead of an upright box with a small screen on top, the Game Boy Advance had a big screen in the middle, surrounded by buttons on either side, more akin to a traditional controller. Although the system sported an impressive library of games, it needed near-perfect lighting conditions, and its unconventional shape made it difficult to carry around without scratching the sensitive screen.

Game Boy Advance SP (2003) In addition to being smaller and lighter than its predecessor, the SP (which stood for "special") featured a lit screen and a foldable, clamshell design; perfect for stashing in a pocket or a purse.

Game Boy Micro(2005) Although Nintendo had already shifted its attention to the DS by 2005, it still released one more Game Boy. This tiny system scaled down the screen and eschewed the clamshell, but its diminutive frame sealed its legacy as the most portable product Nintendo has ever made, even now.