Sam's Blog
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Nintendo DS

I was one of the zealous Nintendo fans who "adopted early" this November when I bought a Nintendo DS on the launch day, November 21st. Now that I've had one for over two weeks, just how do I think it measures up? The answer: not bad, though not over-the-top-fantastic. It's modestly great, and it still has to stack up against its competitor come this March, but so far this little hand held has met my expectations.

Rather than say what's good I'll state what's bad, or rather, what's been bad for me:
  1. Playing with the stylus on a bumpy bus ride does not work well. I've been playing the unit to pass the time on my daily bus commutes to work. Davis has one of those London-style two story buses that it occasionally uses for the E-line, which is my commute. The shocks on this bus are terrible and it bumps and jumbles its way to and from my workplace. My stylus has more than once wandered inadvertantly and caused me grief in my play sessions. It's hard to call this a failing of the system since it's more an intrinsic problem of having a touch screen, but it has still gotten to me somewhat.
  2. The touch screen scratches. This is to be expected, in fact, I should have known better, I once had an iPAQ that suffered worse scratch problems than this thing and it wasn't used for gaming. Still, without using a PDA-like screen protector, expect the lower screen to suffer from scratch buildup. In normal room lighting you won't see the scratches unless you have a light source reflecting the surface of the screen, as the backlight on the lower screen shines through and "hides" the surface blemishes very well. Also, no matter how much the screen scratches, it doesn't seem to affect the sensitivity of the touch screen. Still, it irks me somewhat, and I now carry around a lense cloth with my DS for cleaning my finger prints off the screen, as well as any dirt and grime buildup.
  3. The launch line-up is abysmal. I've never seen a Nintendo system with a such a meger line-up of titles at launch (and I thought the GameCube was bad). Super Mario 64 DS is it. Every other game is just "okay", with Feel the Magic, Asphault Urban GT, Rayman DS [ed. Rayman has been delayed until March!], and depending on your tastes, the Urbz, being the only other titles that justify a purchase. The good news is there are several very interesting titles in development that should be out before the end of next year. The bad news is there are several very interesting titles in development that should be out before the end of next year! Of course, until then, it's an excellent GBA (some people might think I'm being sarcastic with that last comment, I'm not, it plays GBA games perfectly, and the backlit screen makes them look prettier than they've ever looked, and the stereo speakers make them sound better than they ever have, without headphones).
Basically an impressive system with a few slight drawbacks that hasn't realized its potential yet. Parents would be wise to wait until the end of next year before buying for their kids. By that time, the PSP and DS will have duked it out, and there will be a library of titles for both systems worth comparing. Until such time, skeptics beware.

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