Review by gbarules2999

"I Got a Lite in My Pocket! (Lite vs Phat)"

My old DS had its L button spilled on and now it's not working! Gahh!! Ah, well, what better way to use this as an opportunity to upgrade to a new DS Lite, right?

The DS Lite, while superior to the original, isn't perfect. Nintendo has a knack for releasing many versions of one portable system, and the DS is no different. The Lite has so many improvements in the small things that it's almost hard to imagine before the unit is actually in your hand. But in no way is it worth getting if you already have one, for many reasons.

First, though, if you still haven't bought a DS, grab a Lite now and enjoy. The games will entertain you to no end, and it's a brilliant system. With old and new games that all excel in making some of the best handheld experiences available, it is definitely worth your money.

The first thing that hit me as I used the system is the brightness. It just looks much more vivid, even of the default setting, and when I look back at my old DS, it's just not playable on any more. It's about the brightness of a good, sharp TV, where the DS has a little bit of a glowed look but feels less like an actual backlight. The Lite lives up to its namesake: almost every game in my collection now looks much better and the colors are much more distinct, even in brightly lit areas that I play my games in regularly.

If there is anything wrong here, it's that the DS Lite came after the DS; so many games were developed for the original. Some games--like Mario Kart--seemed washed out or tinted because the games were made for a certain brightness setting. The Lite does have several settings, but it doesn't quite work out. Eventually your eyes do adjust and it looks natural again, but at first it threw me off. It happens on many of the pre-Lite games. The GBA games, especially the Pokemon series are very hampered by this, where a strange lighted effect appears whenever the player is walking. This is more for the GBA hardware, and to see it actually happen in the lighted screen just makes it a little odd.

Another problem with this excellent brightness is the fact that same games weren't meant to have every pixel lighted. Metroid Prime Hunters now looks a little blurry, much like the motion blur in Perfect Dark. Again, this is just a learning curve with the Lite, but it does look very odd at first. Few games do have this problem, and it's more of the games' faults than the system itself. It does its job too well, perhaps.

I also was struck by another major improvement, that being that the stylus is huge. I used to use the old one rarely: it was too thin to fit in my hand comfortably, and it was easily lost. The new stylus is over twice as thick, making it perfect for everything that I previously used my finger for: Metroid Prime Hunters feels like a pearl when played with this new stick, as well as other touch screen driven games, such as Meteos. Some gamers would actually buy stylus from office shops to get a bigger fit; now they don't have to. This is a great step up and is without a flaw that I can see.

The buttons are moves around a little bit, and it really didn't matter a whole lot. The power is on the side and the start and select buttons are below the primary four, but again, it's minor adjustment for the people who didn't like where they were originally. A few more points: the microphone is in the middle, which is a nicer area to talk into; the stylus is placed on the side now, so it's a little easier to grab quickly, but not much; and the screens seem a little touchier, too, but Nintendo claims that they are tougher and will scratch much less.

The buttons are a different beast that the ones on the old. The control pad especially is elevated a tiny bit so that not all of the quick movements of the lower, mushy DS Phat pad could register. I don't have the biggest hands (as you would know) and I have to slip my thumb diagonally to move in a complex direction. My problem is very different from the common hands aren't big enough! Another situation here, where the system just needs an adjustment time...but still. The pad seems loose and not very well placed, and so do several of the other buttons. Only time will tell if the DS will fall to the same fate as the PSP (buttons could come loose of the unit).

The design is cleaner to the point that it has a cool gleam to it, kind of like the i-Pod in a way. It seems chic without being able to describe it, and it just looks cool, at least cooler than the old clamshell. It folds over nicer and cleaner, and it has a nice finish that gives the outside a shinier and much more polished look. It's smaller and also lighter. Flat line, there's not much to say but it really looks much cooler, and I feel a little more proud bringing it into public company.

The battery life it a small improvement as well--a minuscule addition of around two hours is pretty typical, though if you want to conserve you could let it run on lowest brightness setting and get quite a battery life spike. It doesn't really seem to charge faster, but Nintendo says it does, and besides, I don't measure that kind of thing anyway. It's not that big of a deal, it's just another small but appreciated change.

It comes with a cover for the GBA slot which is a nice addition and makes the system more rounded. The bad part is that the GBA slot is smaller, so the game sticks out considerably, to the point that I might not just “take a GBA games along for the heck of it” like I had with the original. Some games actually get in the way of the GBA slot, like Metroid, again, where my hand is propped up beneath the unit. I'll actually have to take the GBA game out so I can stabilize the unit. It's a little annoying, but it's easily solved: just take the game out, dummy!

Okay, the faults of the system, and there are a few. The first huge one is the lack of craftsmanship. From broken hinges to broken pixels, the DS Lite is plagued with possible manufacturer errors. This isn't too big of an issue after a while, but at the initial purchase, you might have to return it once or twice to get a quality unit. This is sad for Nintendo's usual standard, and it's a shame that they are still making these units even with these issues. I really suggest buying the system to a store (not online) close to you, so you can return it if needed, and keep the receipt as long as the warranty lives on.

The second problem is that there is no real huge reason to upgrade. Yeah, these things are all nice, but it doesn't make me want to spend $130 to get them. Everything seems so small enough to make the system a good buy for people who don't have it yet or--like me--have no choice but to replace it. There's no hardware upgrades, nothing fancy about the menus; the Lite is basically the same system with an i-Pod added to it.

So, in summary, the DS Lite is better than the old one. It looks and feels just a bit better. Not by much, though, and it's certainly not worth it unless you have a good reason.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 08/10/07

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