Guide: Nintendo DS on the Retroid Pocket 2

Last updated 24SEP2020 (see Changelog for details)

One of my most pleasant surprises with a new Retroid Pocket 2 is that it can play Nintendo DS games surprisingly well. I just didn’t think that was possible with a single screen, let alone a lack of touchscreen, but it turns out that many games are very manageable with the Retroid Pocket 2, thanks to a special DS emulator called DraStic. So in this guide I’ll walk you through how to download and configure DraStic, and list off some games that perform really well with the Retroid Pocket 2.

Table of Contents:
Install and configure your DS emulator
Adjust screen layout
How to use the "touchscreen" in DraStic
High-resolution 3D rendering
Dual-stick gameplay
Wi-Fi gameplay
Game performance

Changelog

Install and configure your DS emulator

The Retroid Pocket 2 has two different interfaces/Operating Systems: Android (which is what boots up when you first open the device), and the Retroid Pocket 2 OS, which has to be installed via the Toolbox app on your device. The RP2 OS has a large variety of games to choose from, but does not have Nintendo DS support. So we’ll need to stay on the Android OS in order to play Nintendo DS games.

Retroarch is a pre-installed emulation frontend that has several different DS “cores” (emulators), and they all run very poorly on the Retroid Pocket 2. Luckily, there is a paid app on the Google Play Store that works really well, and that’s what we’ll focus on in this guide.

To install DraStic on your Retroid Pocket 2, you need a WiFi connection and Google account. While on the Android OS side of your device, select the Google Play Store icon and purchase the DraStic app, which is $5. Once installed, there are a few setting you’ll want to mess with to make sure you have the ideal gameplay experience.

Adjust screen layout

When you first boot up the app, it will show the two DS screens side-by-side. This may be ideal for some games, but not most games, since you lose a lot of screen real estate. Go into the menu by holding the HOME button for a few seconds to enable mouse mode, then press B to bring up the menu. Go into the menu settings and navigate to the “Select Screen Layout”. I prefer to use the “Landscape Fullscreen” option. From there, go into your “External Controllers” settings, and make sure the “Select Key Mapping” is set to PlayStation3. From there, select “Map Special”, and map your L2 or R2 button to the “Screen Swap” function. Now, you’ll have a fullscreen experience and you can press L2 or R2 to swap between the top and bottom screens at will.

How to use the “touchscreen” in DraStic

The Retroid Pocket 2 obviously doesn’t have a touchscreen, but you can mimic the screen by toggling mouse mode. Switch over to the bottom (touchscreen) screen on your DS, then press the HOME button for a few seconds, until your left analog stick controls a mouse cursor. Now you can point the mouse to where you want to touch, and press the A button to “touch” the screen. This can be used for simple taps, as well as longer strokes. It’s a little clunky, because you’ll have to get out of mouse mode in order to switch back to the top screen view. For example, in Metroid Prime Hunters, here is the workflow in order to change into a ball and back:

  • Press L2 to swap from the main (top) screen to the touchscreen
  • Press and hold HOME button to enable mouse mode
  • Tap the ball icon on the bottom-right of the screen
  • Press and hold HOME button to disable mouse mode
  • Press L2 to swap from touchscreen to top screen

That’s quite a lot of steps for something that is usually just the tap of a stylus on the original system, but once you get your rhythm down it’s not as cumbersome.

High-resolution 3D rendering

About half of the games I tested were able to play with high-resolution graphics with no discernible slowdown. This greatly enhances the visual fidelity of the games. To set it up, go into the Options menu, select “Video Settings” and then toggle on the “High-Resolution 3D Rendering” option. There also an optional “Multi-Threaded 3D Rendering” option, which I leave on as well. If the game plays poorly with these settings on, you can also enable frameskip to compensate. I usually will set the Frameskip to “Manual”, then the value to “1”, and also turn on “Safe Frameskip”; I’m not sure what that last option does, but it does seem to make games run a bit more smoothly when frameskip is enabled. If the game still plays poorly with frameskip on, they you may have to disable the high-resolution 3D rendering. Note that some games, like LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, will play slowly in the menus, but the game itself plays nice and smooth without frameskip.

Dual-stick gameplay

For games that use the styles to control the game camera, such as with Metroid Prime Hunters, you can set up the right analog (“digital”) stick to to mimic the movement on a touchscreen. To do so, go into the External Controller settings, and set the “Right Stick Mode” to “FPS Mode”. This control setup is not perfectly smooth feeling in practice, but it’s a nice step to play FPS games easily. Note that this method will also work with twin-stick shooters like Geometry Wars: Galaxies.

Wi-Fi gameplay

Unfortunately, DraStic does not support Wi-Fi gameplay. So while you will find multiplayer options in the games themselves (like in Mario Kart DS), you cannot enable the feature on your device.


Game performance

In the video above, I tested several games and assessed their graphics and gameplay performance. I’ve made a few categories which you can see below, and where I would put these games. I’ll be sure to update this section as I play more games and get feedback from the community.

Nearly Perfect

  • Animal Crossing: Wild World (no Wi-Fi connectivity)
  • Castelvania: Dawn of Sorrow (with d-pad patch)
  • Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
  • Geometry Wars: Galaxies
  • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (with d-pad patch)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Sprit Tracks (with d-pad patch)
  • Mario Kart DS (high-res with frameskip 1)
  • Metroid Prime Hunters (need touchscreen for ball, missile, scan visor, etc.)
  • New Super Mario Bros (need touchscreen to select “extra” power up)
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
  • Pokemon: HeartGold (must toggle between screens during battle)
  • Super Mario 64 DS
  • Tetris DS (some gameplay modes are cumbersome without two screen setup)
  • Zoo Keeper (gamepad play only)

Fun but flawed

  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (no high-res, controls not very fluid)
  • Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days (no high-res during battles)
  • LEGO Batman 2 (no high-res)
  • Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble (no high-res)

Unplayable

  • Contra 4 (dual screen gameplay is disorienting)
  • Puzzle Quest (dependent on touchscreen controls)

Changelog

24SEP2020
– added Changelog
– added Zelda games and Dawn of Sorrow (with d-pad patch)

22SEP2020
– published guide

2 thoughts on “Guide: Nintendo DS on the Retroid Pocket 2

  1. hi, for some reason when i try to map L2 to swap screens i am unable to as the “map Special” buttom is greyed out. is there anyway around this?

    Like

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