Nintendo DS


Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: N/A

Sound: N/A

Gameplay: N/A

Overall: N/A

Here's an interesting little gadget. While it won't revolutionize gaming (at least not yet) like Nintendo said it would, the DS is a nice piece of hardware with a serious hunger for software. Potential here is huge, and you just have to wish developers take advantage of it.

Out of the box, the DS offers up a lot. An AC adapter is available for charging, though it should power-up once out of the plastic. It's the same adapter used by the Game Boy Advance SP. A stylus is clipped to the back of the system and another (just in case you lose the attached one) is inside the baggie containing all the manuals. The wrist strap is a bit more than that. It actually goes on your thumb and can be used to direct the action on the touch screen instead of the stylus if you prefer. Finally, a demo for "Metroid Prime Hunters" is included.

The system is a little on the heavy side, probably about the same as the original Game Boy back in 1988. Both of the screens produce a gorgeous picture, easily the best of any handheld since NEC's Turbo Express. There are two slots for software. One on the bottom for Game Boy Advance games (but NOT Game Boy or Game Boy Color titles; they won't fit) and the top one houses DS Game cards. Note that GBA games cannot be played with multiple players on the DS.

"Cards" is probably a good term, since these things are small. They are a little bigger than N-Gage titles and are now the second smallest media on the market. It's pretty incredible to think these little pieces can hold video and high quality audio when you consider their size. The slot that holds them keeps them in place with a spring system. Click down once to lock them in, click again to pop them out.

A standard headphone port is available, but you can use any sets you have from your SP as well. There is a small microphone port on the lower left side and the dual power lights to the right of it. The stereo speakers (a rarity for a handheld) are set low against the top screen. The power button is seated nicely above the D-pad while select and start reside above the four face buttons.

Holding the DS is a little awkward due to the button placement. It's bad enough that the buttons are small (really small), but they sit very close to the edge of the system. Your thumb needs to be almost vertical to hit "A." Same goes for the D-pad. Both shoulder buttons seem to be positioned fine.

When the console first boots up, you're treated to an epilepsy warning. There is no way to turn this off. Every time you boot the console with a DS game, it will show the warning. You need to touch the screen in order to continue. You can turn it off when playing GBA games.

Configuring the system is a pain thanks to a clunky menu system that has no text prompts. Everything is done via pictures. While you can investigate, there are two screens here. Why not have one of them tell you what you are selecting? Also, once into the menu system, you have to end your session there. If you try to leave back to the start up screen, it prompts you to shut down. That's rather ridiculous.

Built into the system is "Pico Chat" software, a basic communication program that works much like "MS Paint," only with a touch screen. Up to 16 people can chat inside one of four "rooms." Everything is done wirelessly and the range seems to pretty strong. Multi-player games work the same way.

This system has launched with a very weak lineup of software, and only "Mario 64 DS" is a must own at this point. The quirky "Feel the Magic" probably uses the system's capabilities the best, including the microphone. "Spiderman 2" is an insult and "Madden DS" is basically the N64 version of the franchise with some nifty touch screen features (selecting plays has never been easier).

"Asphalt Urban GT" looks nice, but it is obviously a very rushed piece of software and "Urbz" is appearing on just about every other console. Sadly, "Spiderman 2" is really the only game to show off the ability of the hardware. It's crisp, hi-resolution graphics are just stunning for a handheld. That included "Metroid" demo is really no slouch either.

Yes, the whole touch screen is nothing more than a gimmick, but it's a good one. The only other system to feature a device like this was the abysmal by Tiger. This system will either succeed or fail based on how much the developers take advantage of this feature, plain and simple. If all they do is release N64 games without any real enhancements, this portable is doomed. If more games like "Feel the Magic" make it to the market, sales should be solid throughout the life of the system.


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Last updated: Monday, January 03, 2005 08:26 AM