New handheld officially released in Oz, let's take a look!
Publisher: My wallet
Fri, 25 February 2005
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Thursday 24th of Feb saw the Nintendo DS officially released in Australia. This is the latest handheld from Nintendo, who have long dominated that particular market. The DS however is quite different to any handheld (or any other game system for that matter) that has come before it. Is it worth your money? Well, yes it is and Iâ€™d like to be playing mine right now instead of writing about itâ€¦but Iâ€™ll keep doing this anyway.
First of all though, I would like to say a few words about Nintendo (I must warn you that I feel a bit of a rant coming on, so forgive me if I go on too much). This company has made some of the most innovative products and best playing games the world has ever seen. I love them for that. But they also suck at getting people to stick with them over their competitors. For a first hand example of their crappy promotional skills I can tell you that Buttonhole has not received so much as a reply email from Nintendo. Sony has been very helpful to us. Microsoft has been somewhat less helpful, but they at least still let us know what is going on. These two companies are first and second in the home console wars, while Nintendo is a distant third. I find it interesting that the market leader is also the one that is the most approachable. I know that I have personally spent thousands of dollars on Nintendo products over the years and yet they canâ€™t even be bothered to show me the courtesy of answering an email! I know we are still only a new website, but just a brief reply isnâ€™t asking too much surely?
So, yeah I could be a real arsehole and pretend that I hate the DS just to â€śget back atâ€ť Nintendo for ignoring us. But that would be very petty, immature and just plain dishonest. Because, despite the fact that it was yet more money Iâ€™ve doled out on a Nintendo handheld- after two versions of the Gameboy Advance and about 96 versions of the other Gameboy before that- I am very happy with this system so far.
The thing about the DS that I like the most is that it is so refreshing. Thatâ€™s something that Nintendo seems to be able to do better than just about anyone else; provide an experience that feels really new and unique. As most everyone knows by now the system has Dual Screens (hence,I assume, the name DS), one of which is a touch screen. The screens are slightly larger than that of the GBA SP, both are backlit and produce a good, sharp quality picture. Thereâ€™s also a built in microphone which can be used for software voice recognition, although I donâ€™t think any of the launch games support this feature (correction, WarioWare: Touched, for one, does make some use of it). The DS comes with a rechargeable battery and AC adapter.
Packed in with the DS is a demo of Metroid Prime Hunters (First Hunt). You also get a stylus (plus another spare one) and a wrist strap which has a little plastic pad that you can strap to your thumb to use on the touch screen. I miss the days when new consoles came with a full game packed in, but thatâ€™s just not the way things are usually done now and this is certainly better than nothing. MPH is a pretty good showcase for the system too. The graphics arenâ€™t up to the standard of the Gamecube Metroid games but they are still quite impressive. The control method requires you to use the touch screen much as you would a mouse for a PC first person shooter. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it is very responsive and a great example of what can be done with the machine. The DS also has stereo speakers and Metroidâ€™s high sound quality shows them off well. Of course, being a demo, this is not going to keep you busy for that long, so youâ€™re going to want to shell out the extra bucks and get yourself a full game to go with your new DS.
The other thing you can use straight from the box is PicoChat. When you switch your DS on for the first time youâ€™ll be asked to put in your name, the time, date and your date of birth, then you can play around with the chat features. With PicoChat you can type, draw or write things using the stylus and send it to other DS users, thanks to the systemâ€™s built in wireless communication functions. I havenâ€™t had a chance to really check this function out yet, as Buttonhole only has the one DS at the moment, so I canâ€™t go sending messages to myself! Still, I think it is a very nice little addition. The wireless communication feature will also allow multi-player action with other DS users. Iâ€™m told it works a treat and I look forward to trying it out for myself.
In terms of processing power the Nintendo DS is capable of producing games that are graphically on par with those of the Nintendo 64. When you see Mario 64 DS (review up soon) running on a handheld screen it really does look great. Having two screens can certainly make a difference too, when you see the action taking place on both at the same time the effect is quite special indeed. The potential for utilising two screens is exciting and some of the launch titles hint at what can be done.
The DS software comes on tiny cartridges, or â€śgame cardsâ€ť which are roughly the size of a postage stamp. Theyâ€™re cute little buggers, though they have exposed connectors, so be careful with them if you have younger people around who might get their greasy little fingers on your games. Despite their size these cards are capable of holding plenty of information, actually twice as much as a GBA cartridge. Speaking of GBA games, thereâ€™s a slot on the DS for those too. The only problem there is that youâ€™ll no longer be able to play the Gameboy Advance games in multi-player since the old link cable isnâ€™t compatible. Iâ€™m glad the DS can play GBA software, there are a bunch of awesome games for that system and still a great many more of them scheduled for release.
The button layout of the DS is really what everyone wanted the GBA to be, which is pretty much identical to a SNES controller. A directional pad on the left, four buttons (not just two this time thank God!) on the right and two shoulder buttons up top. The big N invented this layout, Sony wisely stole it and now finally Nintendo has used it again for their latest handheld. The system folds up (â€śclamshellâ€ť is what thatâ€™s called I believe) and when folded it is only slightly larger than the original version Gameboy Advance- still small enough to fit in a jacket pocket. I do find it slightly uncomfortable to hold after playing for a long period of time; despite being rounded the corners tend to dig into your hands just a little. It isnâ€™t too bad by any means and most gamers get used to sore hands or thumbs any way. Remember the old NES pads? Now those things had painful corners, the DS is like a sponge compared to that!
All told I think the DS is a very interesting system and I am very taken with it myself. Sonyâ€™s PSP is going to be launched here later this year and that thing is capable of better graphics than Nintendoâ€™s machine, as well as having an amazingly high quality and large screen to go along with its multi-media capabilities. Sony really look set to finally give Nintendo a run for their money in the hand-held market. Still, I for one appreciate Nintendo for attempting something new and giving us the chance to play some games that are truly different to anything that has come before. From what Iâ€™ve been told by retailers the launch was a successful one, with many systems sold in pre-order. I really hope that the DS and PSP can co-exist because they both have amazing potential but are also quite different kinds of systems. For right now the DS is here and Iâ€™d say that if you have ever enjoyed a Nintendo game in the past (and if you havenâ€™t you must have some serious mental problems) you owe it to yourself to give this puppy a real go. In fact, thanks to the simplicity of the touch screen interface the Nintendo DS is even appealing to people who arenâ€™t usually into games and that is an impressive feat in itself.
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