Review by Glenn_The_Force

"Not as innovative as I thought it would be, but still a good system for the line-up."

The Nintendo DS is probably a system you've been recommended to get time and time over, so finally, a year or three after its release, you've decided to check out a review. Or, you're just browsing. But no matter what you are doing here, the following is a DS Review, or more specifically, a review for the original DS, and not the Lite. This DS is commonly referred to as DS Phat.

Firstly, let's go through the general design of the system. The DS Phat has a length of 5.5 Inches. When closed, it has a width of .7 Inches, and when opened, the bottom half has a thickness of .5 Inches, and the top half has a thickness of .3 Inches. The system's full height when completely opened is about 6 Inches. Both screens have 9 Inches in length, and about 2 inches in height. As you can tell by these statistics, and pictures, both halves of the DS are rectangles.

When opened, the DS follows a similar design to that of early PSX controllers and SNES controllers. A D-Pad on the left, and the buttons A, B, X, and Y on the right, matching the D-Pad in placement. There are two shoulder buttons on each side, going on the top of the bottom half, meaning your fingers will land behind the top half when using shoulder buttons. Above the D-Pad is the Power Button, which you must hold down for half a second in order to turn off the system. Above the ABXY set-up are the Select and Start buttons, Select on the left, and Start on the right. In-between the D-Pad side and the ABXY side is the bottom screen, which is also the touch screen. The touch screen is in a slight (meaning less than a centimeter) ditch, so the two screens don't collide when the system is closed.

On the top half of the system is the top-screen, which cannot be touched to control the game being played. On each side of the screen are two speakers, which come close to matching the placements of the D-Pad and ABXY set-ups on the bottom half.

On the top of the bottom half is the DS Game Slot, looking similar to an SD Card Slot, ironically due to the name. It is directly behind the top screen. Next to the game-slot is the Wrist Strap, which is used to be sure that your DS doesn't fall. There is a piece of plastic at the end up the strap, which won't scratch the touch screen, and is designed to fit one's thumb. This is so that you are able to play certain games with your thumb, rather than a stylus pen. Speaking of the Stylus Pen, there is a space next to the wrist-strap which the stylus slides into. On the other side of the DS Game Slot is the charger-slot, which is where the charger goes in, obviously. On the bottom of the DS are the GBA Game Slot, the volume knob, and the headphone jack.

Now, let's go into the general features of the system. As you may have inferred from the previous sections, this system is able to play both GBA Games, and DS Games. Keep in mind though that it CANNOT play GBC games, also known as Gameboy Color games. The DS has an internal clock and calendar, as well as an alarm feature, in which the DS acts as a digital alarm clock. You are also able to turn off the back-light, but this is rarely a good idea. It is also capable of something called Pictochat, in which you are able to chat with nearby DS owners by using the touch screen to draw pictures, or the virtual-keyboard to write. Keep in mind that this feature CANNOT be used in Internet play. Next to Pictochat is the DS Download Play feature, which allows you to download whatever may be recognizable by the DS near-by, normally something along the lines of a multi-player game, or a game demo if you're near a DS Download Station.

When you first turn on your DS, it will ask you for your name, birth-date, the current date, the time, and your favorite color. When in the main menu, you can edit these settings by clicking on the DS on the bottom of the bottom screen. To set the alarm clock, you click the alarm clock. In order to turn the back-light off, you click on the sun. The main four features are in the center of the screen. The DS game is on top, the GBA Slot is on bottom, Pictochat is on the left, and DS Download Play is on the right. The top screen shows the clock and the calendar.

The DS's game library, is needless to say, quite vast. Though, very few 'gamer' games seem to incorporate the touch screen to a high level. Not that this matters much, but just something one may wish to point out. The DS has been seeing some good support from Square Enix and Konami especially, with a few Square RPG's already on the system, and Final Fantasy 4 and Crystal Bearers on the way, and with Konami, two immensely well received Castlevania titles, as well as a new Contra game on the way. But it would be silly to only count on these titles, as some games, such as Big Brain Academy or WarioWare, while not Hardcore games, are definitely good for the portable realm. It seems as though games of this type are always the ones who use the Touch Screen the best, in which the experience cannot be emulated on another system. The games that, rather than going by an already set genre, go into one of their own. Games that best represent that are most certainly games such as Elite Beat Agents. However, this is not to imply that the only games that use the touch screen well are that of the 'quirky' type. Some games which fall into already known genres use the touch screen quite well, such as Star Fox Command, in which the touch screen is used to steer your ship, or Kirby: Canvas Curse, in which the touch screen is used to control Kirby's path. It just so happens that games such as these are in few numbers.

Now, the DS's Internet capabilities are fun, for sure. The only place where they truly do fail, however, is in the way it is executed. In most games, one cannot chat online, even with friends. And also in many online titles for the DS, you are unable to simply do a friend-search, but rather any of your current friends must be searching for you, and you must be searching for them, and then a game starts. Plus, in order to register someone as a friend, you must register an 8 number long code onto your system. Truly not the best online experience. However, this IS a portable system, and one could already infer that the online experience of either a console or a PC would be better anyway, and these systems are highly likely to be in your house, which is almost the only place in which you'd be able to access the Internet from your DS anyway. But if you truly wish to play an online game with your DS, you can probably arrange a game online through a chat-room or over the phone anyway.

Overall, I'd recommend the DS to most people. The current games are good, the up-coming games are looking great as well. At this point, one cannot simply get all the good DS games, like at the beginning of its life. There are now many to choose from, for any type of gamer. The online is lacking, but good for a portable system.

Final Score: 8/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/09/07

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