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NINTENDO DS
(November 16, 2004-2012)


I must be drunk because I'm seeing double here!

The Nintendo Dual Screen (or DS) was the all the rage in busy 2004 holiday season. This new age device not only looks pretty sleek and well designed here but what really makes the DS a cool step forward in portable gaming is its unique second screen, its wireless multi-player support, Nintendo64-like 3D graphics engine (better then the older Gameboy Advance anyway), and who could forget the innovative touch screen features too? Nintendo already has a lot of third party support behind the unit so see why the sky is the limit for this tiny machine. The Nintendo DS is about the same size as a Game Boy Advance but only cut in half so you can also open and close like the Game Boy SP in order to protect the 7 buttons (four action, three option), cross pad, and its double LCD screens. Like the SP unit it also has a built in light so you can see the 2 LCD screens even in the dark and don't worry the battery life on the unit last 7 to 10 hours when fully charged with its packaged AC adapter.

That brings me to the unusual double screens here. Although it sounds like a pretty weird gimmick, the bottom screen isn't just for there for show. Nintendo utilized the bottom screen to have interactive options so players can either touch, draw, talk into, or even blow on it to play certain titles. Games like Yoshi's Touch & Go and Feel the Magic are excellent examples of how you can use the bottom screen to play various odd but unique mini games. You certainly couldn't do that on the old Gameboy's, eh? The second screen can also be used to show stuff like stats or maps as well so playing could avoid surfing through menus all the time. This isn't the first time Nintendo has done this sort of thing, the original and very innovative Punch Out arcade game had two monitors for example.

The DS games themselves have to be some of the smallest games I have ever seen. The games are just slightly larger then a quarter believe it or not! They maybe small in size here but the games can still handle several polygons for 3D effects you could not find in older portable games from Nintendo. Games like Metroid Prime Hunters and Ride Racer DS are just some of the 3D games that help to show the power of the system. Sadly, these graphics may be an huge improvement from the Gameboy Advance games but compared to the games on PSP (a.k.a. the Playstation Portable) the DS games look light years behind. A good comparison of each portable system's power is with the two games: Ridge Racer DS and Ridge Racers PSP. Ridge Racers on the PSP looks like a Playstation2 game with amazing lifelike visuals while the cheaper Ridge Racer DS has dull textures, bland colours and less shadows.

Can't find the right DS game yet? The system will also let you play all those 32-bit Gameboy Advance cartridges too. Although these games are not as powerful as the DS games of course, there are still several great can't miss games like Phantasy Star Collection, Advance War 1 and 2, Activision Anthology, Castlevania Aria of Sorrow, and Super Mario Bros. 3 just to name a few. To break it down you can find at least 300 GBA games alone to go with the DS library. Sadly, for some odd reason the DS doesn't recognize those hundreds of 8-bit Black and White or Color Gameboy games even though the Gameboy SP could.

Perhaps the coolest thing is actually built right in the unit. The Pico Chat option lets you commentate wirelessly with other DS owners if they are near by. Using the special DS pen (which is so small that it fits easily into the back of the system) you can use the touch screen to write or hit a message on the screen keyboard and type in something to anyone in the area. It certainly takes some gets some getting but it's definitely not a bad feature, eh?

It sounds like a really great unit so far but unfortunately the DS has its share of downsides. One of the biggest problems I encountered would be the system's very awkward controls. Since the DS is about as powerful as a Nintendo 64, you can be sure most of the games will be 3D. This sounds like great news but updated games like Super Mario 64 DS just don't play too well since the ultra flat Dpad doesn't work too good for 3D games like those ones. You can also use the Touch Screen to move your character but it feels even worse then the Dpad especially when you not are not getting the right resistance.

Although most of the newer DS systems comes with a free demo of Metroid Prime Hunters, the game is a absolute nightmare to control. It was so bad it made me wish I had a third arm just to play it right! Sure, it was one amazing looking game and other then a few blocky pixels, it is visually just like the acclaimed GameCube versions of MP. Quite a amazing feet but the game was so hard to play that's I'm not looking forward to the complete game at all and I'm a normally a huge Metroid fan!

The DS is a definitely a great system thanks in part to its decent price, interactive screens, and fair selection of Nintendo and third party titles so far with many more on the way. However, Nintendo should really design the games better so the controls are more user friendly. Using a tiny little cross pad for a 3D game just isn't right! The DS is still a very good buy for gamers who like their stuff portable.

THE DS LITE (June, 2006)

The Dual Screen (or DS) Lite is the second version of Nintendo's portable console originally introduced in 2004. The system is not only smaller and more sleek then the older model now but it even comes with a brighter screen with multiple settings as well fans should love. See why if you haven't got a DS yet this is definitely a good time to start.

The package comes with the DS Lite itself, 2 stylist pens (these are slightly larger and heavier then the older DS ones), a battery charger so you can power up the unit on the go, and sadly no games. There is no thumb strap thing this time around but I never used that goofy looking anyway so I don't care. The system only comes in the same colour as a glass of milk or your lover's special juices (shiny white) but you can expect more colours in the future. It's no big deal but I thought I would tell you anyway.

The good thing about working at a gamestore (shameless plug: visit me at the KnK Buy and Sell here in Orillia Ontario!) is that I can compare the two systems side by side. The big difference between this version over the bulky older DS is definitely the weight. I loved my old DS but it was annoying how when I put it my back pocket it made my butt look big (yeah girls we care about that stuff too ya know) plus I bet if I threw the thing at someone's head I could knock them out (I don't recommend doing that by the way, it's still over hundred bucks, eh?). It was that heavy! The DS Lite however is not only a few inches shorter and twice as thin compared to the first edition, but it also feels as about a light as a standard DVD or something. If you decide to throw this little thing at anybody I think you're just going to upset them.

If there is any downsides to the Lite DS is that the smaller speakers don't seem as effective. You can still use standard issue headphones no problem but if you don't have any handy and you want to pump up the tunes (hey, some of these DS actually sound pretty good) you may be disappointed with the lack of quality. Another problem I saw was that the DS Lite also won't let you play the older 8-bit Black and White or Colour Gameboy games just like the original one. It may sound like nit-picking but that another libraryI can't play on this machine.

One of the best thing I liked about being a DS owner is all the different games available. DS games like Brain Age and Brain Academy are not only educational but they are even fun to play for both kids or adults plus who can forget about all the other popular franchises like Super Mario Bros. and Castlevania also on the system. Some of these DS games (Like Mario Kart and Tetris DS) even support online play if you have a WiFi hotspot around. Although I still don't like using that wimpy crosspad for 3D games like Metroid Prime Hunters or Burnout Legends, the system's unique touch screen really opens up a new way to interact with your video games. The DS Lite is a great improvement and a already great system on the go!

Overall NINTENDO DS rating: 83/100

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