Nintendo DS

february 18, 2006

I couldn't resist and picked up a Nintendo DS yesterday with what was left over from the money I got from last week's Ebay firesale. It's the Electric Blue Nintendo DS and it's nice. I know that the Nintendo DS Lite is coming out soon, but hell, Fry's was running an awesome deal on the Nintendo DS: The game unit, WarioWare: Touched!, and Sprung for $129.99 (the price of a DS without games at other places). Sprung is, well, a weird game. I tried it last night and I don't know if I can get into it. WarioWare: Touched! is really fun! It is just like the WarioWare on the GBA, but now it uses the touch screen for all the mini-games. I also picked up the "killer app" for the DS, at least it was the killer app for me: MarioKart DS. MarioKart DS is absolutely a ball of fun. Earlier, I had pitted the DS against the PSP and deemed the PSP the overall winner. I am going to step back from that now. I am now seeing that the two systems are competing on different levels for different audiences. And I am not talking about the whole "DS is for kids" and "PSP is for adults" thing, that is not true at all. I think it can be broken down to this: PSP is serious fun and DS is fun fun. When I play games on the PSP, they aim to be serious and somewhat realistic. Take for example SOCOM. Yes, there are other games like Burnout Legends and stuff, but they all reside in a totally different world than something like MarioKart DS or WarioWare -- or for that matter Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time or Advance Wars: Dual Strike. The games between the two systems have a different feel and different vibe to them. So, what do I like about the DS that has changed my mind? Well, first off, I had based a lot of my opinions on DS versus PSP on pure specs. And Sony plays a mean game of pure specs and features. The PSP has a lot of horsepower, it has a big bright beautiful screen, and loads of storage. On the PSP I can play music, play videos, surf the web, and bring up RSS feeds. On the DS can play games and soon surf the web. The processor in the PSP is more powerful, the graphics engine is also mighty powerful. On a pure standpoint of specs and features, like I had compared before, the PSP rules the portable gaming world. But, I had missed something: Gaming. Gaming on the PSP is great. I love the games I have, but they are all the same as the games from my PS2 and Xbox. Lots of arcade racing. Lots of shoot 'em ups. Lots of First-Person-Shooters. Not much unique and while each of them are "fun", I found that Nintendo has a different sort of "fun" with their DS. The games for the DS are quite unique. Yes, I am racing in MarioKart DS, but it is really different. There is nothing to compare with WarioWare Touched. And even nothing on the PSP that comes close to Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, Advanced Wars: Dual Strike, or Metroid Prime Pinball. And that is where the Nintendo DS gets its power: The games. Sure the 3D graphics of MarioKart DS may not stand up to the 3D graphics of Burnout Legends, but all of that is forgotten when you're firing off red turtle shells at your opponents! It also helps that it has a touch screen. That adds a whole new dimension to gameplay. I have yet to use the built-in mic, but I have heard that adds yet another dimension of gameplay to the machine. Some other things that the DS gets right when compared to the PSP: Load times are nil when compared with the slow loading UMD media, the trade-off is storage space. The speakers are aimed directly at my ears and they are loud -- the PSP speakers are aimed at my chest (those little holes at the bottom, if you haven't figured it out) and the PSP is really soft, even when cranked up all the way. The battery-life of the DS seems phenomenal. I played for an hour and a half on Nintendo WiFi Connections today, racing around in MarioKart DS, on top of that I played Sprung and WarioWare Touched. And on top of that I raced offline for a while also. The battery is still very strong. The PSP's battery can't last that long. The whole two screen thing is not really an advantage for me, but it is cool that it changes gameplay up a little. Last, I wanted to mention Nintendo's fantastic website. Yes, Sony has something in the works called "HUB" that will be an online hub for PS3 and PSP. But, rumor has it that Sony's HUB will be a subscription based service much like Microsoft's Xbox Live. Nintendo runs a gaming hub service also. It is called Nintendo WiFi Connection and it is completely free and is well-done. It may not be as detailed in tracking stats as Xbox Live, but hey, it doesn't cost $50 a year either! Nintendo WiFi Connection works well and it does keep track of when you logged in, what games you're playing and other stuff. It shows stats for other players also. And best of all, it is a single login system that gets me gaming with other people with no fuss at all. This is something that Sony should have done with the PSP when the PSP launched. To this day, Sony still does not have a unifying online system for their PSP or PS2 gaming systems. And though I like being able to play for free via each publisher's servers with current PSP and PS2 games, having a free gaming hub is much better. What is different about Nintendo's system is that it is easy to get online! I mean really easy. I turned on my DS, put in the MarioKart DS cartridge, went into the Nintendo WiFi Connection setup menu and it walked me right through everything. I did not have to forward ports to my DS or fiddle with my access point or router. It just worked after I got the WEP key into the DS. That is amazing! Furthermore, Nintendo has a deal with WayPoint. If you don't have WiFi at home, you can head to your local McDonald's and play online for free. There is no setup needed when you play at McDonald's, you just start gaming. That is a massive plus for the DS. I do have gripes about the system though. The screens are not as vivid as the PSP's, they aren't even as vivid as the Gameboy micro's. The buttons are small and the labels on them cannot be seen easily. Though the DS is about the same size as the PSP, the DS is still rather large. The DS is ugly. The DS feels well made, but the plastic seems really cheesy. The two slots (GBA game slot and DS game slot) are left open, there are no covers. of that, I am leaving a game in each just to keep dust from invading the system. Do I like the DS? Yup! I like it a lot. Does it trounce the Sony PSP? Nope. But, on the flipside, I have realized that the PSP does not trouce the Nintendo DS either. Both have their strengths and both will continue to flourish. Thanks JR for answering all my annoying questions about the DS before I bought it! 

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