Review by RPGs R Awesome

Reviewed: 12/20/04 | Updated: 06/30/08

Perfection never tasted this sweet

This is my third review of the Nintendo DS system. I know that may seem like a lot, but the system is evolving a lot as time goes on. This revision is being made since I recently upgraded from my Launch DS to an Onyx DS Lite. It has been over three and a half years now since the Nintendo DS was released in November 2004, so an update is definitely worthwhile.

My two previous reviews praised the DS for its outstanding innovation, promising future, and fantastic games. I awarded the system a perfect 10 out of 10 both times for the reasons previously stated. Now why am I awarding it the same score as before? The answer is simple: the Nintendo DS is still living up to the hype, and the future looks even brighter, especially with E3 2008 right around the corner. Nintendo has given gamers a portable system that will go down in history for more than just great games; the control scheme is unrivaled and wholly unique.

The design of the DS system is sleek and stylish. As previously mentioned, I now own a DS Lite (in Onyx) and have had three and a half years of experience before purchasing the DS Lite with the original DS. The original DS looks nice, but has nothing on the DS Lite, as it looks even more sophisticated. The system folds over in a laptop-style format. There are multiple colours to choose from, ranging from Platinum to Fire Red on the regular DS systems, to Onyx and Pink on the DS Lite systems. The buttons are laid out like a Super Nintendo controller, with A, B, X, and Y buttons. For the DS Lite, the Start and Select buttons are located near the bottom of the system, aligned vertically beside the touch screen. These are all located on the right side of the lower half of the DS. On the left side is the D-Pad, which is incredibly sturdy and can stand a lot of wear. The power button (that was above the D-Pad on the original DS) has been turned into a slider on the system's right side. You simply slide the button up to turn the DS on and off. The touch screen is located in the middle of the bottom half of the DS system. It can be used in games by touching it with the DS Stylus, which is located in a slot right underneath the power slider on the DS Lite. The new stylus issued with the DS Lite is phenomenal. It is much larger and thick, which may sound like an issue, but it is in fact a welcome change. The older stylus was small, easy to lose, and felt cheaply-made. The new stylus is strong and fits well in the hand, making using it that much easier. The top half of the system features the speakers and the second LCD screen. This screen is not a touch screen, however, but it is used to display any other parts of the game that do not require use of the touch screen. The built-in microphone is located on the hinge of the DS Lite, which is a much more helpful location for the microphone. Also on the hinges are the power and charger lights, indicating when the system is on, being charged, and more.. There is also a slider at the bottom of the system to alter the volume level and a Game Boy Advance cartridge slot, which is used to play GBA games on your DS. The layout of the system is extremely clever and well-designed, one of the sleekest pieces of technology to have come out recently.

This system is sturdy with a capital S. No handheld rivals the Nintendo DS in design and how it holds up. It's arguable that the PSP looks more sleek and stylish, but with the DS Lite out now, the PSP has some tough competition. The DS looks phenomenal and it holds up even when put in danger. You can drop this thing out of your hands and to the ground and it will still be intact, working with only possible scratches. It's tough, which is good news for all of us clumsy people who can't stop dropping their stuff all over the place.

The graphics cannot compete with the Sony PlayStation Portable. No argument there, the PSP was built for power. However, the Nintendo DS still has great graphics and is a huge step up from the Game Boy Advance. The textures are great and the detail it can display is unprecedented, though some games are still being given the shoddy GBA graphical treatment. However, games created in 3D look fantastic and as the system ages, they just keep getting better. For the price of the DS, you get great graphics that will definitely not be an eyesore. GBA games that you play on the DS also look clearer and crisper on the system. Game companies are starting to utilize all of the power within the DS, which just brings more enjoyment to gamers. The DS Lite's bright screens also help in the graphics department, making all games look a lot crisper and colourful.

The speakers on the system are great and the sound they emit is clear. They pump out detailed music and sound effects with ease. The sound is adjustable, by using the moving switch at the bottom of the system, and can be very loud when turned up to max volume. Alternately, if you do not wish to listen to the music, you can turn it right off with one swish of the finger. Easily accessible and well-built, the audio system in the DS is top-notch for the price.

The DS menu is intuitive and very helpful. When you turn on the power, a safety warning appears. After passing this, the main menu appears. From here you can choose whether to play the DS or GBA game currently inserted in the system, use Pictochat (the Nintendo DS built-in chat room), use DS Download play (for playing multiplayer games with one game card wirelessly or for receiving game demos from friends with a game supporting the feature), or change the options. The top screen displays the date, time, and other essential information. The DS can double as an alarm clock if needed, which is an added bonus for those who sleep in on workdays. The menu is well-designed and has a polished feel to it, definitely not a bad way to start your gaming.

The DS Lite also gets fantastic battery life. The battery easily lasts between five and ten hours on the brightest screen setting. The DS Lite is an even better user of battery life when on a lower brightness, getting up to possibly 18 hours of battery life while on the lowest brightness. The DS is unrivaled in battery life for a portable system. The DS charger simply plugs into a wall socket and then into the back of your DS. The DS takes about two to three hours to fully charge, which is also extremely fast. There is absolutely no way the battery life of the Nintendo DS can be matched.

The Nintendo DS is easily the most original handheld ever created, and is a forerunner with the Nintendo Wii in new systems focused on innovation in the gaming industry and changing how we play games as we know it. Developers are finally getting into their groove and utilizing the touch screen endlessly. There are so many uses for it, from interactive cutscenes, minigames, and maps, to controlling the gameplay itself. With the GBA Cartridge slot built-in to the DS, I pretty much forgot about the predecessor to this gaming marvel. The built-in microphone is put to good use in games, with it being used for everything from altering how a game plays to communicating with other gamers in online games. It’s an exciting way to add a lot of variety to any game. The fact that there are two LCD screens is unheard of in the portable gaming industry, but Nintendo pulled it off in style. With double the screens, that means double the action and double the fun, and the DS delivers on all fronts.

The DS has been out for a long time now and there are already tons of fantastic games released for it. The DS started strong with the launch day release of Super Mario 64 DS and picked up more momentum as it went. New AAA titles from Nintendo have surfaced, such as Mario Kart DS, New Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, and Metroid Prime: Hunters. Masterpieces such as Animal Crossing DS, Elite Beat Agents, and Pokemon Diamond/Pearl have redefined how we view portable games as a whole. Puzzle games in turn have had time to shine, producing such great games as Tetris DS, Picross DS, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, and Meteos. RPG and Strategy fans are getting their fix with the Advance Wars games, The World Ends With You, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, and Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift. With games coming out in the near future as well such as a Final Fantasy IV remake, Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen, Kirby Super Star Ultra, and a ton of other games that will be announced at E3 2008, the DS looks as if it is nowhere near the end of its life cycle.

Nintendo’s online system, the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, has already gotten off to a fantastic start and is continuing to take the world by storm. With over 50 games currently Wi-Fi compatible on the DS and more to come, it’s never too late to join in on the fun. From online battling, trading, talking, competitions, and more, the DS online system has finally been established and adds a lot of replayability and enjoyment to the online games.

There isn’t much more I can say other than this: if you do not currently own a Nintendo DS, you owe it to yourself to go pick one up. You definitely won’t regret it, as there are ample amounts of amazing games that await you. Nintendo finally got some competition in the handheld market from Sony’s PSP, but it hasn't quite reached its full potential yet. The DS, on the other hand, took off a while ago; AAA titles are released constantly and satisfied owners spread the word onto others. Be it the innovation that flows from within it, the great handheld graphics it pumps out, the good audio system, the design, the games, whatever, the Nintendo DS is unrivaled in today’s society. It’s a phenomenon that millions of people have already joined in on and you can too. Its cheap price is just the icing on the cake. Don’t let yourself be worried that you won’t like the experience; there’s a little something for everyone on the DS as well as a whole lot of fun just waiting to be had.

10 out of 10

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Product Release: Nintendo DS Hardware (US, 11/20/04)

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