Review by KomaONE

"Touching isn't good; it's great."


Let me start off by saying this: I was a long time video game player of about 10 years until I stopped for a long absence. I hardly ever turned my X Box, Game Cube or PS2 on, let alone log on to a gaming web site. That was before I saw the DS commercial. I immediately rushed to my computer and went to Gamespot to see the news on this quirky dual-screened device. I was almost immediately hooked. The graphics looked great, though not as good as it's rival, the PSP, but what captured me the most was the extremely innovative use of the two screens and the touch screen. Games such as Yoshi's Touch N' Go, something not possible on a previous console or handheld were pulled off seemingly flawlessly.

Although it had only a few launch releases worthwhile, the future of DS looked extremely promising. Games such as Animal Crossing and Mario Kart were a sure seller for me. Nintendo also had a Wi-Fi card in the sleeve of it's platinum-colored coat, which intrigued me due to the fact that Nintendo's previous forays into internet play were less than great. So, I waited for the launch hype to die down and then took a trip to the local game store to make my rebirth to video games purchase. I was suprised to see that it came with a demo of an upcoming game (Metroid Prime Hunters), something that hasn't been done for a very long time but a welcome change nonetheless.


:::PACKAGING:::

First off let me say that the DS now comes in five colors; Platinum, Blue, Red, White and Black. As I unwrapped the system I noticed that it included not only two stylii, but a wrist strap that doubled as a thumb stylus as well. These are just a few of the extras that Nintendo includes to tell it's customers that they care what we think. Now, one thing it's missing is a cleaning cloth. If I'm not mistaken, the PSP comes with a nice little cloth to wipe your screen off, and that would have been a nice addition to the DS, as well. I would also liked to have seen some kind of screen protectors, but I guess I'm asking too much. Of course, it also comes with the neccesary charger and, as I said above, a sweet demo of Metroid Prime Hunters that even goes as far as to include multiplayer functions. I'd like to add that now you can get an all new Hot Rod Red DS bundle that includes one of the best games in the DS lineup, Mario Kart DS.

I'll give an 8/10. Nice extras, but it's missing that cleaning cloth.

:::HARDWARE:::

The hardware is what makes the DS. If it weren't for it's two screens and touch screen, it would just be another GameBoy, and one that would most likely be losing the handheld war to Sony right now. But it isn't just another GameBoy. The two screens make for a great amount of innovation in games. You'll see things on the DS that you would never be able to see in another system. Throw in the touch screen and it's like your in another world of gaming bliss. Games of the past such as Wario Ware, Advance Wars, and Animal Crossing are granted refreshing methods of control thanks to the new touch screen. So many new things can be done with this hardware it's unbelievable. Also, a small chat program, Pictochat, is included with the DS. However, it cannot be used over WiFi, only DS to DS. This makes it almost useless, since the range is short, which makes it much easier to simply shout to the person you want to talk to. The only thing really wrong with this hardware is that the bottom screen is like a nasty dirt magnet, and the dirt and dust will get into the cracks in the bottom screen. I'm sure this couldn't be helped, but it is quite annoying that you have to clean it with a toothbrush every once in a while. Let me note that if you want to play at home you need a wireless router; Nintendo sells a USB WiFi connector that is perfect for this if you don't want to throw away the router that you already have.

This is most likely the system's strongest point. It's innovation earns it a 10/10.

:::GRAPHICS:::

This is the weakest asset of the DS, if it has one. The graphics are behind the PSP's by a long shot. This is extremely apparent when you compare games that are shared between the two systems. Take Burnout for example. The graphics on the PSP for this game are outstanding, even unheard of for a portable system. However, this same game for the NDS has lackluster graphics at best. Don't get me wrong, however. The DS shows off some of it's graphical power with games such as Mario Kart DS and Animal Crossing: Wild World. In the latter, the DS' graphics are as good as if not better than the Nintendo Gamecube version of the same game.

Games like Animal Crossing show that the DS has good graphics capabilities, but most of the time they aren't taken advantage of. I'll give it a 7/10.

:::SOUND:::

The DS definately doesn't fall behind in sound. The sounds are nice and rich, reminding me of the sound that would come from a stereo TV hooked up to my Gamecube. It also has a microphone with voice recognition that is put to use in Nintendogs and, believe it or not, Mario Kart. The sound is great, but that's when I can hear it, and that leads to my one gripe in this category. The volume won't go up high enough. Some games are just plain quiet, I know. But when I have to put on my headphones to hear one of K.K. Slider's songs in Animal Crossing, that's too much.

The volume brings it down in this department, but I'll give it an 8/10.

:::GAME LINEUP:::

The DS has a vastly improved game lineup since the launch, and it is only going to get better. Nintendo's flagship series, Mario, had a good port of the N64's Mario 64 ready for the NDS launch. Now we have even better official games, including Mario Kart and Animal Crossing, two of the best series of all time in my opinion. And coming up are games from Nintendo such as a Mario Basketball game which looks promising, and an all original DS sequel to Metroid Prime, fully equipped with online Multiplayer. Up and coming third party games include new games in the Sonic and Resident Evil series.

Great first party games net the DS a 10/10 in this category.

:::VALUE:::

At just 130 bucks for the base system, this is by far the best money I've spent in a long time. Why would you go buy a PSP for $300 when you could by a system with much better games for less than half of that? I know about the PSP's multimedia capabilities, but if you want an MP3 player, you can buy one with the money you save on the NDS. Plus, it has free wireless internet capabilities. FREE. The game selection is better than the PSP's, as well. Sure, you could go out and buy a PSP, but you would be missing out on what is probably the best handheld ever created when you do. The Nintendo DS is an experience, and it is one that you won't soon forget. It is my hope that the DS sets a standard of innovation for handhelds to come, and shows that same old same old is not always acceptable.

With all of these features at such a low price, the DS is a no-brainer. It has tons of features and lots of great games, plus Nintendo's new wireless network for free.

Touching isn't good; it's great. I give the DS hardware a 10/10.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/16/06


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