April 20, 2006

Nintendo DS Revisited

     Well, it's been a while since I talked about the DS. Rather unsurprisingly, they're making a new model which is several things:
1) Lighter
2) Brighter
3) Better looking
     Now, you may be asking yourself: "Is there any real disadvantage to this?" Kind of. The only "important" one is that, in order to fit all the new hardware in a smaller package, the DS Lite lets its Game Boy Advanced games protrude from the socket. Now, if I hadn't played the gameboy for so many years I wouldn't think this to be a huge issue, but, especially on the GBA (where regular Game Boy games protruded immensely) we see that catridges that protrude have a tendancy to get tapped during gameplay crash and burn. This is probably a non-issue for most people, but something to consider (especially losing your cartridge as you slip it in your pocket).
     Now the next thing I thought was rather interesting was the "brighter" aspect of it. Considering how ridiculous the difference in battery life is with the light on as compared to off. Currently, I find that the DS is often brighter than I really need it to be, and I'd like the ability to turn it down to pull out those last minutes of gameplay. Perhaps (also not an ability provided in the redesign) the ability to alter brightness (or turn off the backlight) without turning off your DS. I mean, if the battery is about to go, I'd like to quickly flick off the backlight so that I can keep playing. But I digress, this is rather somewhat beside the point because the DS Lite has already been built. So clearly I'm not going to get these things anway. The final complaint I have is not about the system itself, but the games. I wish there were a few more "pick up and play" games. Games like Warioware which could literally be a five minute affair. While I love advanced wars I don't always have 20 or 30 minutes to play through a mission.
     Despite the fact that I still somewhat knock the system this doesn't change the fact that it's made up for itself in a lot of ways. First off, the Nintendo DS does do one thing which puts it a notch above the rest: It managed internet gameplay and then used their moneybags to equip lots of places with free wireless for the DS (check here... admittedly it's pretty much just McDonalds... but... wait, I never go to Mc Donalds). For the most part, the games done on Nintendo Wifi seems to be done well, and, as with the computer, often make the game. All of the original worries I had about the DS on airplanes were alleviated, but I'd still like to see some system of back-up battery. Though battery life is impressive on the system, it's still not perfect: with the double screen system there's a tendency for the battery light to blink from green to red depending on where you are in a game. More importantly, the simple volume of desirable games have started to come out for the system makes it more appealing. Part of where the DS got the most crap thrown at it was the fact that basically they had nothing. Now they've got a decent variety of games to play.
     So, in many ways, the Nintendo DS has redeemed itself, but it's still got some things that could have been done better. But all in all it's turned out to be a solid system worth the money. Nintendo's innovation seems to have given it the advantage over the PSP, which now seems to only be steeped in PS1 remakes. Certainly it's pretty cool to be able to walk around with your PS1 in your pocket, but haven't you already played all those games to death?

Posted by Kickmyassman at April 20, 2006 09:31 PM

I finally got Animal Crossing, man. Hit me up witcha friend code!

Posted by: Sam at April 22, 2006 04:27 PM

When did you get a DS? Definately need to give me your friend codes for whatever online games you have. And you HAVE to get Tetris DS if you don't already have it. Its just like Cultris, but on the DS, and more complex.

I'd like to start out by saying that that was a nice writeup. Unfortunately, I disagreed with SO MUCH of it.

1. GBA Cart Protrusion - Well I don't have a DS Lite, and I don't really need one, but I really don't see this being a huge issue if I had one. My favorite GBA game, WarioWare: Twisted, has a HUGE ass protruding gyroscope, and it doesn't bother me on my DS one bit.

2. Brightness - You can turn the backlight off, but it makes the DS pretty unplayable in most situations. The battery tends to last at least six hours for me, though, so its not too much of an issue.

3. Games not being pick up and play - OK, this is where I completely disagree with you. Most of the games I play on it lend themselves VERY well to 5 minute sessions. Tetris, Puyopop, Meteos, Mario Kart, Warioware, Feel the Magic, and that Japanese Rythm game (Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!) all can provide an entirely fun and engaging game experience in less than 5 minutes. I can even rush through one or two stages of Sonic in that time. And I can feel completely satisfied by that. I was looking at my friends PSP, and the only game he seemed to have like that was something called Lumines. All the other games were longer sports games and stuff.

4. Games being innovative - Ok, I'm not about to deny that the DS' games are fantastic. They are, no joke. But out of the 14 games I own, I would really only classify three of them as truly innovative and new (Nintendogs, which I don't even really like, Electroplankton, which gets old, and the Japanese Rythm game, which KICKS MAJOR ASS). But seriously, the best games on the system are just online ready upgrades of current-gen console games. Granted, they are EXTREMELY well polished and extremely fun to play, but they aren't innovative. They're just refined.

5. Online system - Yes, its free. Yes, its very accessable. But it is way too goddamn restricting. In the two online games I own, Mario Kart and Tetris DS, the online system is VERY limited. You can either play with random people, or with people whose friend code you know. You can't host games, set rules, or any of that. Mario Kart in particular had a really clumsy system where the game would wait up to 10 minutes before deciding it didn't need four players to start a game. Plus, not being able to add people you play against online as friends is really a limiting factor. Finding people to play against on random mode takes tooo long, even when you are simply trying to do a two player game in Tetris.

So yeah, I pretty much liked what you disliked, and disliked what you liked. To each his own, I guess.

Either way, I love my DS, and it has some of the best games around. Brain Age and the new Zelda DS actuall look to be really innovative games that will disprove my third point.

Whats with you ALWAYS having an away message up these days?

Posted by: Andrew at April 22, 2006 11:50 PM

     Well I suppose I should say something to all of this:

1) The reason I mentioned GBA cart protrusion is because with a slimmer unit it will probably go in your pocket more often. Right now, it's not often that I can imagine someone walking around with a DS in their pocket because it's too bulky, let alone with some huge ass game catridge protruding from it like Wario Ware: Twisted. Slimmer design means it more likeley to sit in your pocket as opposed to your desk at home. They even give you a little polace holder that goes in your slot to both maintain the sleek look but also, I would imagine, to keep dust and crap out because you won't be keeping a catridge in there unless you're playing one.

2) The unplayability comes from the fact that unlike a GBA, you have two screens at a slightly different angle. The GBA worked in crappy lighting situations because you could find a good angle and stick with it. But you can only get one screen at a time on the DS. But alas, far too many people agree with you Andrew for me to really make much of it. As I've said from the beginning, I like rechargables for one reason and not another. With a half as bright screen (which is esentially what I'm asking for) I could get maybe an extra hour? Maybe more? Without the light off the system has about enough battery to run 10 hours. That's quite the difference.

3) You have a selective bunch of games there, it's true that there are a few pick up and play games but you have hit about the extent of it. I guess that really is a decent selection, I guess just from what I own (Mario Bros: Partners in Time, Animal Crossing: Wild World, and Advanced Wars) that I feel like it's quite an affair to sit down and play a game on my DS. Perhaps what I'm really saying is that I don't own any of the good stuff *tear*.

4) True, but really it seems more attractive, I think, to developers to have something new to put stuff on. In some games, yes, it seems like it was more an obligation than a choice to put in touchpad functionality, but in games like Kirby's Canvas curse and some of those you listed, it really is way more awesome. One of the things that will really display it will be the Opera browser slated to come out later this year. Though the PSP has really been able to show up the DS in terms of stuff like Online browsing, but I imgine being able to *click* links and use a scroll bar with something like a mouse will help it get an extra boost. The reason I said "Nintendo's innovation seems to have given it the advantage over the PSP" was mainly because the games seem to be more well done and the touchpad system seems to just do better.

5) Unfortunately the online system was designed to be incredibly restricting for the main reason that most people have started to be pushed away from Nintendo. It was designed to protect kids. In something like Animal Crossing it was also done to prevent you from having people who just wonder around towns and taking down trees. It was done with fairly good reason, but you're right. Later games I imagine being less restrictive. It wouldn't take much to have a "host mode" in something like Mariokart DS, they just didn't because they thought their system was better. Who knows what'll happen later.

Posted by: kit at May 5, 2006 08:24 AM
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