Let’s Play

Date Sun, August 17 2008

I hope that is an adequate opening for the product to which I will sing my praises today. I am speaking of none other than the Nintendo DS (technically “lite” but I shall skip the formalities.

To put it mildly, my DS – in polar white – is the only gaming system I use frequently and is the only newer system to which I have become attached. The Nintendo DS builds upon the strong base that Nintendo’s previous hand-held consoles under the Gameboy moniker, bringing with it tried and true strengths as well as new features.

Although the DS in Nintendo DS stands for “Developer’s System” to the company, the public refers to it as “Dual Screen” because this system has 2 screens. Although not the first dual screen handheld system, the Nintendo DS brings some unique aspects to the concept which set it apart.

Some of the other features of this system include:

Touch Screen
Play with the stylus in addiction to the buttons
Microphone
Add the aspect of sound to your gameplay
Backward Compatibility
Play your GameBoy Advance games
Pictochat
Communicate with others in close range
Wifi
Upload scores and play games with others wherever a wireless connection is available
Download Play
Play games with friends who do not have the game by allowing them to download it temporarily to their system
Lithium Ion Battery
A 4 hour charge provides up to 15 hours of game play

Also available in metallic rose and Onyx Black as well as new duos of Black and Crimson and Black and Cobalt,there is a shade for everyone. The Nintendo DS Lite is actually a sleeker, smaller redesign of the original DS. I chose white because it looked sleek and slightly futuristic.

Of course, no Nintendo DS will be purchased without a game as well. My first game was Nintendogs and I have since added more to my collection including Mario Kart DS and Mario and Sonic at the Olympics. Of course, if you have Gameboy Advance games, these can also be played with the Nintendo DS as it has, true to hand held Nintendo systems, limited backwards compatibility.

The dual screen system allows for information to be displayed in one screen (usually the top) while game play takes place in the other (usually the bottom). Both screens are wider and taller than the screen on the GameBoy Advance which provides a richer gaming experience.

Additionally, the bottom screen is also a touch screen which adds a new and interesting element to game play. Instead of just using buttons, you can draw, rub, and tap with the stylus (which is housed in the bottom of the system and slides out easily) to add variation to the game. For instance, in Nintendogs, you can use the stlus to pet your pup, throw a Frisbee or pull a leash.

The microphone, located between the 2 screens, also adds a new element for use of sound in games. Players can teach their Nintendogs commands by using the microphone and in Mario and Sonic at the Olympics, clapping into the microphone will psych up the character. Mario Kart DS Makes use of the microphone in its Balloon Battles where players blow into the microphone to inflate their balloons.

Of course, if you’re looking for something a little more retro, you can always play your GBA games on your Nintendo DS. The bigger GBA cartridges fit into an additional port at the back of the system and use only 1 screen (the top) for play which lets you continue to enjoy your favourite titles.

Of course, the Nintendo DS has versions of many favourite games, as well as new ones, for today’s gamers. Mario Kart DS includes classic tracks as well as new ones, Super Mario Bros and Mario 64 have both been given slight face lifts to adapt to this new system as well.

The Nintendo DS Lite, like all Nintendo systems is a great way to interact with your friends. Without a game inserted, the Nintendo DS menu has an option for Pictochat which allows you to chat and draw with others in close proximity who also have a DS.

The download play feature of the Nintendo DS allows 2 or more players in close proximity to play the same game when only 1 player has the game (although if both people have the same game, there will be less limitations). You can now play Tetris or Mario Kart with your best friends with up to 8 players.

Of course, if your friends are busy you don’t have to play alone. The Wi-Fi option of the Nintendo DS adds yet another fun aspect to game play. The Nintendo DS supports WEP-encrypted networks and you can connect to play with others across the world.

The last significant feature of the Nintendo DS is its rechargeable LithionIon battery. Equipped with adapter, the battery indicator will change to red from its normal green when power is lower. You can continue to play as your system charges although it will charge faster when turned off. When the charge is complete – a full charge takes 4 hours – the red indicator will turn off and the Nintendo DS will be playable for up to 15 hours. Battery life can be extended by turning down the brightness settings.

The features sound great but how does it work out? Very well, in my opinion.

The dual screen allows for more in depth game play and information. The touch screen offers a new aspect that’s great for casual gamers, such as myself, and children. Some gamers may not like this type of game play and frequently playing with the stylus can require a surprising amount of speed and effort that can leave your arm tired. The same goes for the microphone which adds variety but can seem a little silly, especially when talking to your Nintendogs.

The Wi-Fi options are an improvement over the GBA’s gamelink. I can easily play a game with my husband who doesn’t have the game with Download Play or chat to the neighbours with Pictochat. As someone who likes that sort of interaction, the DS certainly delivers.

However, I have been a bit disappointed with the Wi-FI capabilities. For starters, not all networks are supported. I have only been able to successfully connect to a wireless network once, although the DS detects networks. It seems that the system is not a very strong receiver and that a strong signal is needed. With public networks, this is out of my control. Also, some network settings may need to be adjusted to allow a specific DS system to connect which is, again, impossible with public networks.

It may work better with a private wireless network, which I don’t have. I’m also not positive if the weak reception is an issue with the Nintendo DS in general or just mine as my husband’s DS seems to work a little better in this area.

If I were better able to use the WiFI feature, I would definitely look into the DS browser which allows one to browse the internet with the system.

Despite the issue with WiFI, I still get many hours of enjoyment out of my Nintendo DS on a weekly basis. It’s great when I’m waiting for someone or something, like in an airport, and is small enough for me to carry around in my purse if I suspect I may be bored.

There’s a wide variety of games including first person shooters, racing, puzzle, pet, RPGs, fighting, action, arcade, simulation, strategy, music and educational games so everyone will find something that fits. The games are also significantly less expensive than games for other popular systems.

It’s a good system for solo or interactive play so it doesn’t bore you easily.

If that doesn’t get you, I’m sure the price will; at roughly %100 cheaper than the least expensive full console (Nintendo Wii), the Nintendo DS will not burn as big off a hole in your pocket and the games won’t set you back as much.

I love my Nintendo DS and think it’s a great system for anyone of any age or gender. With an abundant supply of accessories and tools, the Nintendo DS provides a gaming experience like none other. The only thing I would caution about it keeping an eye on your stylus; those small pen-like pieces are easy to lose! Other than that, let’s play!

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