Review by StephenYap3
"Like a very greasy Double Cheeseburger"
Note: This review covers the very first Nintendo DS model at launch.
I love Nintendo as they have become my childhood heroes, providing me the games that I wanted and need to keep me not only a gamer, but alive as well. In addition to their consoles, they have kept me in harmony with their handheld systems: Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and lately Nintendo 3DS. All those systems have always left at least a few games for me to fondly remember their portable systems by and thus, such charm in every single one of these handhelds had been stuck to me like a friend beside me. Those days were something truly amazing and I would never forget them.
The same could never be said for the Nintendo DS, however, as while every Nintendo system at least had a few games for me to remember, they also had more games for me to look into and most of them time, enjoy them. However, the DS isn't one of them for me as while the system did introduce plenty of great ideas on paper, neither of them turned out to be memorable and this had led to me questioning on what the system could have been had it truly appealed to me like the many others. The DS isn't a bad system by any means, but in my book, it left more than a lot to be desired.
To start things off, the graphics (before the 3DS) were amazing for a Nintendo portable in that the system was powerful enough to implement 3D polygons and perspectives, showing what the system could truly do. Nowadays, they aren't really much to look at, but still somewhat tolerable. One game that I know (and own) that takes full advantage of the 3D perspective on the handheld is Super Mario 64 DS, in that the characters, polygons, models, and gameplay are in 3D, as well as some of the cut scenes in Pokemon Heart Gold.
For some of the games though, the DS's graphics leaned too much towards the 2D sprites and backgrounds, preventing the system from achieving full potential in its graphics department. I don't mind some games that resort to this, but it just makes me feel that a system that can do excellent in one part in that one area doesn't do as well the next time rather underwhelming. 2D art doesn't bother me as I personally don't mind either that or 3D, but at the same time in some cases, it doesn't really show how much of a step up after its preceding system, the Game Boy Advance.
It's quite amazing for this system to have quite the speakers, which are loud and clear enough for me to hear them, even putting my DS far out away from me. Unlike the previous Game Boy handhelds, the DS has two speakers on both sides surrounding the top screen instead of one measly speaker doing all the sound work. To top it all off, the sounds through the headphones are rather charming in that...well, maybe it's just me, but the DS's speakers seem to excel better than what the Game Boy handhelds sounded like.
--Backwards Compatibility/GBA slot--
Aside from being unable to play the Game Boy and Game Boy Color games, this system allows the player to play Game Boy Advance games on it. It is a very well-needed feature for every Nintendo handheld for me and in addition to this, a few Nintendo DS games utilize this to unlock data from certain compatible GBA games (mainly the mainstream Pokemon games), as well as an accessory to attach to it like the Rumble Pak for Metroid Prime Pinball to make the system rumble from certain actions done in-game.
Back to the Game Boy Advance, these games run perfectly on the DS as after a while, I played more and more GBA games on it. To top it off, because the DS has a backlit screen feature (despite the Game Boy Advance SP system being the first to do so), games have always been seeable and I've managed to beat most games on it. They were the games I've always beaten them before, but regardless, the GBA backwards compatibility rocks!
...well, there are a few exceptions. For one, despite the Game Boy systems utilizing the same ol' AB face buttons, because the face buttons on the DS utilize the SNES's ABXY face buttons, playing some GBA games with that setup led to making some of them...not as enjoyable as they were playing them on the appropriate systems. At times, playing some of the GBA games made the experience rather uncomfy for my right hand and led me to taking more and more breaks to rest my hand. To add insult to injury, multiplayer components are disabled for GBA games that are being played on the DS. It's understandable at times why this has been made so, but it would have been nice to have the same multiplayer component be available on a next-gen system.
Despite some of the good things the DS has done, here is where my enjoyment of the system rolled down the hill after having it for a while. Maybe it's just me, but compared to the Game Boy systems and Nintendo 3DS, many of the games on the DS never made me remember them as much as any of the other games on the other handhelds. There are a few medals such as New Super Mario Bros, Super Princess Peach, Pokemon Heart Gold, The Legendary Starfy, Wario Ware D.I.Y., Kirby Mass Attack, and Mario Party DS, all of which are the only few DS games out of the approximately 20 games I have that I'll remember them fondly. The rest of the other games I have, mainly the Nintendo-published games, have rather questionable qualities for me. Some of those games were forgettable while others left me disappointed in that compared to the games on other Nintendo handhelds, most of the DS's games...just weren't as fun or charming.
Despite having some of the largest libraries for a Nintendo system, I wasn't really interested in most of them due to my experiences with most of the DS games I had. Sure, there's third-party games and RPGs such as the first three Etrian Odyssey games, Castlevania, Sonic, and Mega Man, but as opposed to the third-party games and RPGs on the Game Boy and Nintendo 3DS systems that made me rather interested in them (if not Must-Buys), the ones on the DS's library lacked that appeal and as a result, I had to feel very lucky to find a DS game that interests me. The library wasn't awful, but to me, it was missing the flavor that the other Nintendo handhelds' libraries had, again I say this.
Nintendo DS also allows for the touch screen to be used in games, whether it be used for map navigation, inventory utilization, or even controlling a character. Although it was the selling point of the system, I wasn't too much of a fan of it as I felt that most games either over utilized it to ridiculous lengths or just not fun to use in general. Some of those games require the player to move, tap, or scribble sprite to progress further into the game (up to the point that some of those some of those games do not use the system's buttons at all) while others never utilized the touch screen at all (with Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time and Sonic Rush Adventure, the ones I played, to name the few). These kinds of touch screen utilization left me rather mixed and is another reason why the system's library lacked the appeal of the other Nintendo handhelds' libraries. The only games that I enjoyed its touch screen utilization were the games that I enjoyed, mentioned in the first paragraph of The Games/Components. Mainly and personally, I only enjoy touch screens that are inventory and map screens; to keep things simple.
I enjoyed the Nintendo DS for what it was and the amount of enjoyment I got out of it, but my personal gripes in the gaming and component department prevent it from becoming a gem that I always fondly looked at any other Nintendo system. Sure, the touch screen was the selling point for the system and had started Nintendo's first digital gaming market with DSiWare (despite only being playable on the DSi and DSi XL systems), those I give the system credit for...but as I said, in my vision, the whole package left a lot to be said. As a Nintendo fan with a massive Godzilla-sized heart, the DS only left me disappointed after the seven years of experiencing it and I gave every ounce of chances it needed from me before I threw in the towel.
Today, the Nintendo 3DS exists, surpassing this system in virtually each and every angle. The technology is better, the games were getting more appealing (if not better), the online shop Nintendo eShop is vastly expanded, the system can play the DS games, online play and local connectivity were becoming more accessible...there was just so many things I enjoyed from that system that after it landed into my hands, I couldn't go back to my old Nintendo DS system anymore and left it at the bottom of my drawer to collect dust for years to come. Because the DS had a hidden legacy that made it an artifact of portable gaming history, I wouldn't really count it out that easily, but of all the Nintendo systems I've experienced that were not the Virtual Boy (which I never owned), the DS is no doubt my least favorite of the line of Nintendo's systems.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 05/03/11, Updated 06/10/16
Game Release: Nintendo DS Hardware (US, 11/20/04)
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