Review by Funky Bob
"After gaming for 16 years, Nintendo still amazes me."
The Nintendo DS is something new, something different, and something absolutely fantastic. They have taken handheld gaming in an entirely new direction with not one, but two screens; and one of them is a touch screen. Now you might think to yourself "I've seen a touch screen before, what's the big deal?". It's true that touch screen gaming has been around for a while in many games you see in restaurants, but with the DS touch screen, and it's many other features, the possibilities are endless.
The Hardware: 10/10
The construction is up to Nintendo's excellent standard of quality. I personally am very paranoid about keeping my game stuff in great shape, so I have never personally tested my DS's strength, nor do I want to. But I have a friend who isn't so careful with his things, and I've seen the DS tested in many ways. Now I've seen it dropped down a flight of wooden stairs, stepped on by a 106 pound dog, and rained on for an entire night. Despite a lot of scratches on the outside, it still functions perfectly. The buttons seem very durable, and I've had no problems with them.
Now you might be wondering about the touch screen. Like all touch screens, it can be scratched. But in my experience, it takes quite a bit to scratch it. I've had my DS since launch (November 21st 2004) and to this day (April 12th 2005) after quite a bit of use, I don't have a single scratch. I've also noticed that it takes A LOT of scratches to affect the sensitivity of the screen. The only ones I've seen that have been affected, are the ones that have been destroyed by little kids at demo stations. Now on to the more specific aspects of the hardware.
The Graphics/Screen Displays: 9/10
For you technical buffs, I'll list all the technical info I can find. The DS uses two processors, a 67 MHz ARM9 processor, a 33 MHz ARM7 processor, and has 4 MB of main system memory. Basically this translates to this: It can display graphics slightly better than the N64 running most games around 60 FPS. As you can see, this is quite a jump from the 32-bit GBA.
Both screens are 3 inches, but can actually be combined during gameplay into one large screen, but I'll go more into that later. Both screens are LCD, feature 256 x 192 resolution, and display 260,000 colors. Both are backlit for gaming anywhere in any light. But I have noticed that in bright sunlight, it can be hard to see the screen. I think that's common of any LCD screen though.
Overall, the DS has some spectacular graphics and display for a handheld. 3D graphics previously unseen on a handheld, and crisp display. Now, this will be compared to the PSP by everyone. The PSP sports much better graphics and display, but for $100 more. That's all I'm going to say since this is a DS review. But on its own merits, the DS has graphics that are fine with me, and all I need in a handheld.
The Sound: 10/10
The DS has THE best sound I have ever seen in a handheld game system. It has two built in stereo speakers on either side of the top screen that spit out some fantastic sound. It's clear, it's loud, and every detail can be heard. Everything you want to hear, you will hear. Of course, there is also a headphone jack built in if you want to use headphones. Like I said, this is the best sound I've ever heard on a handheld game system.
Button/Touch Screen Control and Comfort: 9/10
Technically, this is a handheld system, but while using the touch screen, it's more of a "lap system". You can hold it in one hand while using the touch screen, but it gets heavy even though the unit only weighs 8.84 ounces. While this has never been a problem for me, I just thought I'd warn you. As for the touch screen itself, it's great. It can be used for analog control in a 3D world, aiming in an FPS, great for playing an RTS, and the possibilites just go on and on. I'll go into more detail in the actual use in current games in the games section. The screen is sensitive to every touch, and can be calibrated on the DS main menu if needed. The DS comes with two styli (yes, that's the plural form of stylus), and they fit conveniently into the back of the DS. Although I think they're fine, some find them too short. There are longer 3rd party styli available.
The DS also comes with a thumb strap that you can put on your thumb so you can use your thumb to control without smudging the screen. I don't use it often (I prefer the stylus) But it works fine. It's a nice alternative to the stylus for 3D control.
There are four main buttons A B X Y, two shoulder buttons L R, the d-pad, a start button, and of course, the power button. Now the main complaint is that the buttons are too small and close together. I don't have particularly big hands, but I've never had that problem. All of the buttons are responsive, and work well. The power and start buttons are located above the d-pad. Some also complain that they hit the power button while using the d-pad and turning the game off. Again, I've never had that problem. Nintendo made it so that you have to hold the power button for about a second for it to turn on or off, so it seems to address that problem. Overall, the button layout is fine.
The DS also has a built in microphone for voice control. While few games use it now, the potential is very interesting.
The biggest thing to mention here, is that the DS is compatable with all GBA games. So you don't have to worry about your GBA, the DS does it all. Sadly though, it doesn't play old GB games, nor does it support GBA multiplayer. But it being able to play all your old GBA games is a plus.
The DS also has a built in alarm, clock, calendar, and it will go into sleep mode when you close it, letting it stay on for days on end without being recharged. It also features a built in wireless chat program called "Pictochat" which I will explain later.
Another thing worth noting are the media players currently available for the DS in Japan. They allow the DS to play movies, music, and more. This allows the DS to become even more than a gaming system. Will we see something like that in the US? Only time will tell.
The Battery 9.5/10
A handheld in nothing without a good battery, and the DS delivers. It uses a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery that delivers anywhere from 6-10 hours of life depending on charge. I've found that is averages out at about 8 hours, but I've gotten up to 12 hours on a full charge. The DS has a power display light that is green when you have lots of power and red when you're running low. The only complaint I have is that the red light doesn't give you much warning. When the light turns red, I usually only have about 30-45 minutes left; but that's not a huge problem.
The games: 9.5/10
First I'll explain the technical aspects of the games. The DS uses cards that can hold much more information than the normal cartridge. Right now they hold one gigabit (not gigabyte) of information which is equal to 128 megabytes.
To be totally honest, the DS had a terrible launch. It only launched with a handful of games, and only a select few were worth playing. It has been a test of patience, but it's gotten better. Now there are plenty of games worth playing, including: Super Mario 64 DS, Wario Ware Touched!, Feel the Magic, Asphalt Urban GT, Ridge Racer DS, Rayman DS, Yoshi Touch and Go and for you puzzle game fans Mr Driller, and Zoo Keeper. There's also a Pokemon game called Pokemon Dash for Pokefans. EA sports has also given the DS Madden NFL 2005, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour.
But what really brought the rating up, is the simply amazing potential and upcoming games. Just to mention a few upcoming games: Super Mario Brothers, Mario Kart DS, Animal Crossing DS, Castlevania DS, Need For Speed Underground 2, Metroid Prime Hunters, Nanostray, Xenosaga DS, Age of Empires DS, Baten Kaitos DS, and Goldeneye DS. Another interesting note is the game Nintendogs. You have your own personal dog that you can pet and play with on the touch screen and teach your own voice commands using the microphone. Just a sample of the DS innovation. The rating also went up since it can play the already existing thousands of GBA games. There's plenty more where that came from too.
Just imagine the possibilities. RTS, FPS, RPG, and Puzzle games would work amazingly well with the touch screen. The DS opens up a whole new gate of possibilities with touch control, a microphone, and wireless multiplayer which I'll address next. I've said this many times, but the potential of the DS is simply unmatched.
The DS is perfect for multiplayer play. It features 802.11 Wi-Fi wireless play which allows anyone to play wirelessly upto about 100 feet. What's even more exciting, is that Nintendo says that the DS will be FULLY ONLINE by the end of the year.
Another interesting aspect is the "download play" feature in the DS. This allows multiple people to play multiplayer with only one person having a game card. I also mentioned the "Pictochat" wireless chat program. Right now it's novel, but basically worthless since it only works for about 100 feet. But if it goes online, it could be very fun.
The DS is unlike anything the videogame world has ever seen. With features that have never been used in a handheld before, the future is bright for the DS. Thanks for reading this long review, and I hope it helped. Whether you want to buy one now, or later when there are more games, I highly suggest you buy a Nintendo DS. It's the best $150 you can spend on a handheld.
Nintendo is right, "Touching is Good"
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/13/05
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