Review by Crazee Boy
"How do you follow up on a slugger like the Game Boy Advance? Well, I have an idea."
So. The Nintendo DS. By sheer luck, my mom was able to get me one the year they came out, right around Christmas. A lost stylus and an awesome Decal Girl skin later, and my DS is still kicking. The touch screen, a bit worse for wear, is still completely functional, and the silver is turning white in the areas I hold it. If you looked at it, you'd say "What a piece of crap." But if you played it, you'd find it's just as good as a brand new DS. That's why I love Nintendo. Drop it, throw it, get it wet (within reason), and it'll still work. Anyway, time for the review.
The DS can provide some excellent visuals, on par (and better than!) the Nintendo 64. Reasonably high polygon counts, vivid colors, gorgeous sprites... It's just difficult to categorize the DS. Here's the deal. When you look at the Game Boy, you think "2D system". The PSP, on the other hand, is most definitely a 3D system. The DS can either be a high-end 2D system, or a low-end 3D system. It's the middle ground in handheld graphics, but games like Phantom Hourglass, which rivals it's GameCube predecessor, Wind Waker, really shows us that the DS has some serious balls in terms of graphics.
Sound and Music: 7/10
Given that the DS is still a cartridge based system, there are clear restrictions on audio. Don't get me wrong; there's some great sound effects and tunes to be heard in DS games. That said, it's probably safe to say that the PSP (a console I don't own, nor have even seen in real life), has better quality audio. Generally, Nintendo knows how to get the most out of their consoles, but in the few third-party games I own, (Trauma Center, Bomberman, and most notably, Meteos) there's some excellent sound and music.
The DS has, of course, the standard digital button setup. It's actually a lot like the late Super NES. You have the D-pad, four buttons (A B X Y), start, select, L, and R. These work great. They're responsive, and... Well, just great!
Ahhh, but the most touted feature of the DS, it's mythical touch screen. Well, it's safe to say that the touch screen is responsive, and really helps to bring you into the game. I may not have a large DS library, but it's got some good examples of proper and improper touch screen use. Games like Wario Ware, Meteos, and Trauma Center make proper use. Mario 64 makes touch controls optional. (I prefer the buttons) Then there's improper use. Star Fox Command, a game that I dearly love, is hated by many for almost exclusively using the touch screen. Phantom Hourglass relies on it a bit much, but in a more intuitive way. It's really just how you look at it. Some people may thing "Meh, this is going to tear the screen up." More optimistic folks may think "Neat, now I'm closer to the game.", which is Nintendo's recent philosophy.
However you slice it, the touch screen has some simply given advantages. It's great for the built-in instant messenger, PictoChat; you can peck at the keyboard or just write a message. It also makes menu navigation a breeze.
The DS really streamlines the past multiplayer formula. Rather than needing a link cable to play with someone else, and an extra cable or some goofy splitter to play with more than one other person, you just go into your game, pop into it's local wireless mode, and you're there! Everyone else who's playing the game just does the same. I forget the system's absolute limit of players, but I know you can have eight (!) players at once in the same race.
No game? No problem! Most games have a downloadable demo. Here's an example. I was in the car with my uncle and cousin, both of whom had a DS, but only I had Mario Kart. All they had to do was power on their DS, go to the "Downloadable Demo" (or something like that) menu, and wait for me. In Mario Kart, I choose the "Send Demo" option. I send, they download, and we play! Most demos are, of course, dumbed down. In Mario Kart, for example, additional players have no say in what character they become. They're simply Shy Guys. However, it's a great concept, since you may find a random person with a DS, and neither of you have the same games.
Online Multiplayer: 6/10
I'm not too impressed with the DS's online capabilities. Now, I've only played Animal Crossing, Mario Kart, and Metroid Prime Hunters online. Mario Kart and Metroid make it easy to play with a random person, but Animal Crossing, I suppose to help protect the young'ungs, will only connect to someone you've got on your friend roster. The friend roster requires the exact names of the player, their town, and a 3-line code. Pretty unwieldy! Mario Kart and Metroid make the friend system optional. In Mario Kart, there's no way to add someone to your friends after a race, and there's also no chatting. In Metroid Prime, you can add someone as a rival, but not a friend. Rivals can look for each other, but only friends can chat, either through text, or voice. The voice chat is extremely high-quality, and I guess the fact that you can only talk to friends is to prevent people from harassing you.
Actually playing online, however, is a different story. In Animal Crossing, since you're most likely playing with someone you know reasonably well, it's usually pretty fun. Mario Kart and Metroid... Are a different story. See, in Mario Kart, there are lots of people who magically disconnect if they start to lose. Metroid is no different, but there are also snipers. Okay, scratch that. There's nothing but snipers. Where's the fun in running around looking for your enemy, and then you suddenly get your head blown into the next level? I stopped playing online for that reason.
There's a good amount of games on the DS. Not including crappy TV show/movie tie-ins and dumbed-down console ports, most of them are pretty fun. My library consists mostly of first-party titles, most of which are excellent, I should tell you. Nintendo's mainstays have been lovingly adapted to the small screens. Anyway, I'll show you, in my opinion, how the DS does in terms of each genre.
Platforming (2D): 8/10
Platforming (3D): 6/10
Not the most definitive list, but like I said, it's my opinion. My tastes are more geared towards adventures than anything else, and I can do without sports and fighting games.
Backwards Compatibility: 7/10
The DS has a Game Boy Advance cartridge slot on it. So far, it's only been used for the rumble pack accessory, and (I believe) the RAM expansion for the Web Browser. Back to backwards compatibility, though, it's not handled too well. You can only play Game Boy Advance games. No Game Boy/Color games. Also, you can't even have any multiplayer in GBA games!
So, the DS. It's a great system, I think. The price is unbeatable compared to the PSP, and while it's not nearly as good in tech specs, it's got great games.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/15/07
Game Release: Nintendo DS Hardware (US, 11/20/04)
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