Review by Macintosh User

"Portable N64 With So Much More"

(Brief Textbook Style Lesson)
Nintendo has released the world's best handheld video game systems for years now. Dating back to the early eighties, when Gunpei Yokoi introduced the simplistic Game & Watch machines, some of which featured two screens. Yokoi also introduced the original Nintendo GameBoy, a rather bulky cartridge-based system that featured a cross-type d-pad, a select and start button, plus two dark purple action buttons, labeled B and A. Eventually Nintendo created a GameBoy Color version, that was seen as a major upgrade to the GameBoy line of hardware. A streamlined GameBoy Pocket was released, that was very thin and light, but featured the same cartridges as past GB designs. GameBoy Advance launched later on, ushering in a whole new era of handheld gaming greatness. The GameBoy Advance was soon unsurped by the GameBoy Advance SP, which featured a better, brighter, clearer display, and a clamshell design to protect the screen. Following on the heels of this major success, Nintendo decided to unleash its 'Third Pillar' a brand new piece of hardware designed to stand alongside the flagship home console, which is currently the GameCube, and is to exist in harmony with the GameBoy line of portables, which at this point happens to be the GameBoy Advance SP. This new piece of hardware once again features two screens, one on top of the other, with two processors, a cartridge slot for GameBoy Advance games, plus a new cartridge slot for the tiny new carts. Enter the newest generation of Nintendo-led portable gaming machines, the Nintendo DS.

(Revolutionary Design & Intricate Technology)
The Nintendo DS utilizes two processors, both of which are ARM-spec RISC chips, both of which are 32-bit, as well as capable of working with one another simultaneously, for massive parallel processing power. The lesser chip of the two, the ARM7 processor that operates at a frequency of just under 33 megahertz. This ARM7 chip is mainly used to power the GameBoy Advance games, but it is also powers one of the two screens during DS gaming sessions. This is specifically for the purpose of creating smooth and fluid animation at all times on both of the screens contained within the DS unit. With one processor per screen you are virtually assured of an intense, fast-paced gaming environment where lag simply does not exist. The second of these two processors happens to be the meat and potatoes of the system's technical wizardry, as this chip is a designated ARM9 RISC-based chip that operates at around 67 megahertz. This processor is really the source that the DS continuously taps into to achieve its amazing visuals as well as other impressive electronic feats.

(Visual Capabilities)
On the visual side of things the DS features two backlit 3-inch thin film transistor (TFT) LCD screens with a resolution of 256 x 192. The machine can display up to 260,000 colors on-screen at any given time, not to mention the ability to push polygons at a rate that far surpasses that of the N64 home console, mostly due to the specialized 3D hardware found within the DS itself. The screens are simply amazing to view, with crystal-clear, razor-sharp detail and bright, vibrant graphics that never look washed-out or pale. Playing Gameboy Advance games on the DS just feels so much better, everything is vastly improved and the DS shines in all categories imaginable.

(Sound Effects)
With incredible stereo speakers installed on the top half of the DS unit, each one is to the side of the top screen, you are given a wonderful dose of richly orchestrated tunes that simply are amazingly well-suited to the task of immersing the gamer within the game they are playing. These stereo speakers are even capable of producing the somewhat successful task of creating an illusion of surround sound waves that seem to come from different points of origin around your head. This is not the most impressive feature, and is definitely not perfect in its execution, but the fact is the stereo speakers are plenty loud, and feature wonderful crystal-clear sounds that sound exactly like they should. Also the DS features a regular headphone input port, meaning you can use any pair of headphones while gaming, simply plug in and play. Very nice.

(Gameplay Mechanics & Control Issues)
The Nintendo DS features a cross-like directional pad, much like that found on the SNES controllers, plus a similar layout of buttons in comparison to the SNES controllers. The Nintendo DS uses a diamond-style layout for the action buttons, there are four buttons in the diamond layout which include buttons labeled B, A, Y, and X plus two shoulder-buttons, cleverly labeled as L and R. This controller design is a direct homage to the Super Nintendo controllers, as both feature d-pads, and six buttons plus the usual start and select buttons. The most curious of the control mechanisms has to be the bottom screen which doubles as a control pad. With the use of a special stylus that fits into a nifty slot on the back of the unit, you are given the choice of using the classic style controls, or using the stylus on the touch-screen (bottom screen). Of course you can use your fingers if you choose to do so, but don't press down too hard. One more control opportunity available for DS owners is control through voice-recognition. That is correct. The DS features a microphone that gamers can speak into to make the character they are controlling perform certain tasks. The Nintendo DS is also Wi-Fi enabled, which basically means this machine can link up to other DS units for multi-player action, or possibly even access the internet, hopefully if Nintendo so chooses.

(Is Nintendo DS Worth $150?)
I think the answer to this question is obvious. Yes it definitely is worth the one-hundred fifty dollar admission. Considering it features two fully backlit TFT screens, stereo surround sound speakers, a touch screen, plus microphone combined with W-Fi gaming capabilities, the DS is a steal at one-hundred and fifty dollars. The Nintendo 64 cost around $250 when it first launched Stateside, so considering you are getting a portable N64 with beefed up graphics, great control options, beautiful stereo sound and a wonderful clamshell design that folds to protect both of the screens when not in use. This little portable Nintendo should be the top dog in the Nintendo stable of systems. Instead of being the "Third Pillar" the DS should be the flagship system that represents Nintendo as a whole. Or if the home system must be the core piece of hardware, then I believe the DS should be second in line. This is far and away the greatest portable system I have ever owned and this should usher in yet a new golden age for Nintendo as a company. Yet this is only phase one of the coming revolution.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/14/05


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