So I picked up a Nintendo DS on the day of release. Actually, I picked up more than one (ebay time!), but that's not the point of this entry. Nope, for today I will simply share with you my initial impression of Nintendo's newest gadget.
Opening up a new game system is always a great feeling. The crispness of the plastic, the perfectly twisty-tied cables, the minty manuals. Ahhh... so fresh. :) What was I saying? Oh, yeah... first look. One of the first things I noticed is how big the DS itself is. It's about the size of the original wide-version GBA, but double the thickness. This isn't a "Pocket" system unless you have fairly large pockets. It's a nice color I guess, but Platinum doesn't seem like it would hold up to scratches very well. What I will say is that it is a step up from fucking purple. Good game, Gamecube. It also feels a little "cheap". Dunno, that's just the feeling I got from holding it.
I was pleasantly surprised that my DS came with a pre-charged battery. Good deal. I was able to fire it right up. The battery life of the DS is said to be between 6-10 hours. That's good enough for me as I don't see myself playing for more than that many hours at a time. I was actually kind of surprised by the battery life as I was expecting the DS, with its powerful hardware and dual lit screens, to chew right through the battery. No complaints here.
The screens themselves are adequate, but I was somewhat disappointed with the visual quality of the touch screen (the bottom one). It looked noticeably blurrier than the top one. I chalk it up to the fact that it is touch sensitive while the top one is not, and I have to admit that it is by no means a bad screen. As far as the usefulness of Dual Screens... Well, so far it's a joke. The DS is a 3D gameboy with a permanent map screen that can also be used as controller, or to be more accurate, a fancy stylus-pad. I think I would have rather had them make a Gameboy 2 or something with a smaller, single-screen setup and kickass 3D capabilities with a true analog controller... hmmm... wait a minute! I guess what I'm saying is that I'd rather it had been a PSP!
Having the option to use a stylus is kinda nice, but having to use the stylus on every game just because Nintendo wants to push it as a selling point is not. Seems to me that they could have made a Metroid DS game that controlled better than it does now if they hadn't had to incorporate that damn stylus. While they do have a non-stylus control scheme, it sucks balls. This is akin to the GBA connectivity thing. Nintendo gets it in their heads that whatever wacky thing they just thought of is the coolest thing ever, and they push it hard at the expense of the game (4 player Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles or Zelda 4-swords, anyone?) I like that they have 4 face buttons now, but I can't ever fucking use them because I have the damn stylus in my hand. At least the control pad feels OK, the Start and Select buttons are easily reachable (they finally took them out of the bottom middle and put them by the face buttons), and the L/R buttons work just fine. Honestly, the most annoying thing about the control interface is that every fucking menu keeps telling me to "Touch the Screen". I ignore their illogical commands and use the good ol' A button whenever possible.
The first time you power on your DS, you set your name, the date, time, etc. No problems there. After that, the DS boots into a menu system by default. I found out that you can actually boot directly to a DS game, but I left it booting to the menu. The Dual Slots (omg, DS again?) are nice. It can accommodate a GBA game down low and a DS game up top both at once. Hmmm.... Doesn't that just put a nasty thought into your head? Anyway, so if you're planning to use it as much as a GBA as you are a DS, it's best to let it boot to the menu so you can choose what you wanna play. However, if I was designing this thing, what I would have done was incorporate a "hold down A to autoboot DS software, B to autoboot GBA software and X to autoboot the system menu" kinda thing. But what do I know? I've never let my market share slide from a near monopoly to 3rd place. I've never launched flops like the Virtual Boy, e-Card readers and connectivity cables. I've never managed to pigeon hole my company into a kiddy-only market. So, yeah. I'll just keep my opinions to myself. ;) Anyway, moving on... as far as basic system functions is concerned, you can use PictoChat (See below) or Set an Alarm. Whee. That's it. No Phonebook, daily planner, note taker or virtual post-its. I'm sure they're on their way, but that shit should have been built in, right? If they're smart, they'll put that shit out on a GBA style cart so you can leave it in the GBA port full time. But, they're Nintendo, so they won't do that because it makes too much sense. Please make me buy your personal organizer on a DS cart so I have to swap it out whenever I want to play a game... oh, and while your at it, might as well make me us an Organizer only stylus for good measure.
As I already mentioned, PictoChat software comes built into the system. You access it via the main menu and, well, you do nothing. You can only chat with other DS's up to 30 feet away. That's great if you are in grade school, but for the rest of the world, it's useless. (It'll be useless to grade schoolers too since the DS will be banned from classrooms across the world in no time at all.) What they need is to have standard LAN compatibility so you can chat with anybody on the Internet who's connected via Wireless LAN. This has been hinted at by Nintendo, but who knows if and when they'll do that.
The second piece of software you get is a demo of Metroid Prime Hunters. The focus of this demo is obviously multiplayer. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to try it out with any of my DS-owning friends yet. But I will. So far, it seems like it could be fun. The single player missions are basically "training" missions. They're short, but still kinda cool. MPH shows promise. I like it despite the stylus control scheme.
And, of course you know that I picked up the obligatory Mario launch title: Super Mario 64 DS. Now, is it me or has Nintendo just completely forgotten how to make an original Mario game? They need to stop re-hashing their old shit... and quick. The Mario Advance Series for the GBA is a joke. And I wouldn't be surprised to see a Super Mario Sunshine DS in the near future either. So, yeah... Super Mario 64 DS is basically what you'd expect. It's SM64 plus some mini games and new playable characters. The extra features and multiplayer are nice, but seriously, an original Mario game please!
I'd have to say that if you haven't already run out and bought one... don't. Wait until better software appears or the price drops to $99. It really is a nice 3D gameboy. It's just cluttered with unnecessary crap.