Review by noj11jon
"Something New, Different, and Completely Amazing"
Welcome to the next level or portable gaming! For those of you who haven't been paying attention to anything for the last year, the Nintendo DS (DS standing for Dual Screen) is Nintendo's brand new portable system, and I personally was very surprised by it! In this review I am going to try to tell you everything I can about the DS, and give you all the reason you need to get one. So if you're ready to educate yourself about your soon-to-be DS then read on!
I'll start off by giving you a run-down on the DS itself. Right out of the box you get the DS, 2 Styli, a Wriststrap/Thumbstrap, an AC Adapter, and Metroid Prime Hunter's: First Hunt (though this may be taken out later). As you can see, the DS is quite small, almost exactly the size of the original GBA when it is closed, though obviously that size doubles when it is open. Each screen is 3 inches wide and backlit (which looks much better than the frontlit screen of the GBASP). The battery will last for 6 to 10 hours, on a 4-hour charge. The DS has stereo speakers, which can provide Virtual Surround Sound (more on that later), as well as a microphone and terminals for headphones. The first time you start it up you will be asked to set the date and time, the language (there are 6), your user name (for use in the chat room and in multiplayer games), your birthday, and the background color. After that you are taken to the DS's main menu, where you are given the option to play games, PictoChat, or edit options.
Obviously selecting play a DS or GBA game is pretty self-explanatory, so I will explain the other stuff. PictoChat is one of the cooler features of the DS. When you select if you can chose from 4 different chat rooms, and have up to 16 people in each one (though all of those people must be in range). Once in the room you can cycle through a 5 different keyboards with various letters and symbols, or just draw or write straight onto the message box. Obviously this way is more fun and a lot faster than typing everything out. The next feature is Download Play. If the game you are playing supports single-card play, the player who has the game hosts the game using the game-card, and the other players simply select Download Play and join the game. Now from the options menu, as well as changing the settings you set earlier, you can also set the alarm (yes, an alarm), pick which screen you want GBA games to be displayed on, set a personal message (like a signature for use in PictoChat), and calibrate the touch screen. As you can see, the DS has many options and features that really make it unique for a portable system.
As of now, these are the best graphics we have ever seen on a handheld. They are most comparable to the N64 or the original PlayStation. However, since the screen is a lot smaller than a regular TV screen, they actually look better since jaggies and blocky edges are not as noticeable. Both screens look equally as good, and are often used as one giant screen to show a larger picture during cut-scenes. As of now not to many developers have had the opportunity to take full advantage of the DS's capabilities, but if you really want to see how good it can get look at Super Mario 64 DS or the Metroid Prime First Hunt Demo. As you can see in Super Mario 64 DS, it looks just as good, if anything better than the N64 version. As for First Hunt, the cinema scenes are absolutely gorgeous, you could almost mistake it for the GameCube version. So then why you ask did I not give this a 10 out of 10? Well that's because another little piece of hardware, also know as the PSP, is coming along very shortly, boosting graphics not only as good as an N64, but nearly as good as the PS2 itself. So in comparison the DS does not look as good. However, on it's own merits it looks great, and this is still a very large step up from the last generation of portables.
Virtual Surround Sound!? Actually, I haven't heard too much as to the details of what this is, but it is there, and already used in a few games. Obviously it sounds great, but I couldn't tell that much a difference between it and Stereo Sound. You can also use headphones with the DS, but I actually found the speakers on the DS to be just as good. You are probably used to portable systems sounding a little grainy, and while the DS doesn't sound quite as good as your television, it is still great, and a huge step up from GBA. Those classic songs in Super Mario 64 sound just as good, and the songs from Metroid Prime in First Hunt also sound just as good as they did on the GCN.
This is the fun part. You have your traditional + control pad. It's almost the same design as the GBASP pad, though it is bigger. You also have your A/B/X/Y buttons placed in a simple diamond. What is weird however is that the B button is on the very bottom, while the A button is on the far right. While this doesn't really affect gameplay as the developers can assign commands to any button they want, it is a little weird, and kind of awkward when playing GBA games. Now what makes the DS really different from any other system is the touch screen. Many people complained that they were still using the control pad instead of an analog stick, and while an analog stick wouldn't have hurt anything the touch screen pretty much makes up for it. By using the thumb strap or the stylus you have analog control, though it feels a lot more like a computer using a mouse than a console using a controller (but what's wrong with that?). The thumb-strap was a great idea, because it is a lot easier to move things around using it, while it's a lot easier to point at things using the stylus.
One of the coolest control schemes is Metroid Primes. You use the + pad like you would the arrow keys in a PC FPS (to move around), and the touch screen like you would the mouse (to look where ever you want while you are moving). Once you get used to it, it works almost flawlessly, but even if you don't like it you can just use the + pad and the face buttons instead. Some people say that the touch screen is a bit hard to use for normal control, and for some games it is, for others you just have to get used to it. Most games give you the option to use the touch-screen or the + pad, so it all works out.
This may sound like a weird section for a hardware review, but I'm really just using it just to talk about the multiplayer. First of all, the touch-screen is going to completely innovate the way games are made for the DS. Most DS games, even ports of other games, will be completely unlike anything you will find on other consoles. Now, one of the things that amazed me the most about the DS was the wireless multiplayer. This thing really works, and it works great. The range is 60-100 feet according to Nintendo, I was playing my friend on a different floor of his house! It's all very easy to set-up, with one person hosting the game and the others simply joining. And it's really just a lot of fun. Just imagine, portable multiplayer gaming whenever you want, without an annoying cord to get in the way when you're on a car or a bus. And not only that, but portable 3-D gaming. It is really just amazing to be playing Super Mario 64 or Metroid Prime with other people on such a little system. Nintendo has also said that the DS is capable of going online through a wireless router, though they have yet to say anything else about it or announce any games that use the feature. So not only do you need to buy a DS, but you also need to convince up to 16 friends to get one as well.
And not only can you play DS games on it (duh), but you can play all of your old GBA games as well. There are a few downsides however. First, it can only play GameBoy Advance games, so no GameBoy Color or original GameBoy. Second, you cannot play in any multiplayer mode in any GBA game on the DS. And last, you cannot use any GBA accessories such as the E-Reader or the GCN link cable. This may sound like you are getting ripped off, but remember Nintendo specifically said they did not want the DS to replace the GameBoy, so we are actually pretty lucky to get what we got.
Well, if you reading this shortly after DS's launch you're probably a little disappointed. As of now we only have one must-have title (Super Mario 64 DS). While there are still a few decent games, including Feel the Magic: XX/XY, Madden 2005 DS, Spiderman 2 DS, and Urbs: Sims in the City, most people were expecting a few more big titles. But don't worry, they are coming, just a little bit late. We finish out 2004 with Ridge Racer DS, Rayman DS, and. Mr. Driller Drill Spirits. Then in 2005 we get it all: Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, WarioWare Touched!, Dynasty Warriors, Yoshi's Touch & Go, Metroid Prime: Hunters, Viewtiful Joe, Animal Crossing DS, Mario Kart DS, Advance Wars DS, Touch! Kirby's Magic Paintbrush, a new Super Mario Bros., a few Pokemon titles, and who knows what else I'm forgetting! As you can see those are all big name titles, so if that's not enough reason to buy a DS, I don't know what is. They may not be here now, but they're definitely coming!
And while a lot of people complain that developers are not using the touch-screen enough, if you really take a look into some of those games, it turns out they are. Yoshi's Touch and Go and Kirby's Magic Paintbrush both involve using the screen to create paths, walls, and move the character through levels. Super Mario 64 has a lot of mini-games that take advantage of it in a lot of ways, and who knows how many things they will think of for it when Wario Ware comes along. So as I said before, the touch screen will completely change the way games are developed for the DS, and I think it will be a change for the good.
I honestly had to think about that for a while. As of now this is only a 9/10 system. The hardware is perfect. Graphics and sound are excellent. To me the control is perfect but there are a few people with complaints. And while the games may not be a 10/10 right now, what about when people are reading this review a year from now? Well then it will be a 10/10, so I might as well just give it a 10 now. This system was a big surprise to me, I honestly wasn't that hyped for it until the night before it came out, but as soon as I got it, it blew my mind. Now many of you reading this may be asking the question; DS or PSP? Well since the PSP isn't out yet it isn't very fair to start comparing them, but I can tell you this... Obviously if you are a fan of Nintendo games go for the DS. Nintendo will give the DS its full support, and you can always count on the best most innovative games coming from Nintendo. The PSP will have generally better hardware all around, and they will also try to draw in a lot of third-party support. However, I think due to Nintendo's current dominance in the handheld market, and the DS's touch-screen, a lot of developers will still come to the DS. So there you have it, that's pretty must the jist of the DC. So if this review wasn't enough to convince you to buy one, as soon as you see all the cool new things that happen with the touch screen you should be.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/02/04
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