Nintendo DS Lite DS Review

Nintendo are hardware whores. Let’s face it, the GBA has seen so many renditions, we’ve lost count, (well, maybe not). The Original Game Boy hardware wasn’t without its makeovers either. But then, who cares? If you can make money out of a product, it makes good business sense to improve that product, if only slightly. Sony does it. Microsoft even does it. The majority of users of Windows only require the suit for basic word processing and data basing. Tell me how this has substantially changed from Office 98. It hasn’t, other than aesthetics, and a few bells and whistles. People are still spelling words the same as they were 8 years ago.

So why is Nintendo different? They aren’t. Everything in the DS Lite is the same as the original DS, except, smaller. Brighter. Lighter. And after getting to play around with the new DS, the verdict is in; It is the greatest handheld in the world. That might sound a bit over zealous to you all. So read on, and you’ll soon see why Nintendo is winning over Sony in the handheld sector.

The original DS was great. It was pleasing to see Nintendo present something a little more stylish than what was introduced at E3 in 2004. However, the console did suffer some ugly qualities. It had a seriously ugly under bite when the system was closed. This presented the console as a ‘glasses case’ of sorts. The buttons also had serious ‘clicky’ issues, meaning they were relatively hard to push. But it did do things right too. Bright screens were one thing, stereo sound, Wi-Fi, all of the little things. But what the original DS did, bad or good, the Lite is leaps and bounds ahead.

The design of the new system is screaming sleekness. Its gloss finish on the outer casing is a marvel to look at, despite its magnet like abilities to pick up oil and dust off of fingers and the like. People have said that it mimics the Apple white finish of Macs and iPods. I laugh at such claims, because the Lite looks better. The system has also lost the apparent ‘cheap’ feel of the original DS. Don’t think that’s a bad thing, the original DS was an excellent piece of hardware (the Lite is no different), however, the Lite just feels more like a consumer electronics product. Due to the decrease in size, it fits much more nicely into jeans or breast pockets.

The system has a much more elegant shape, where the edges are flush when the system closes, doing away with the ‘under bite’. The edges are also rounded to add to the stylish facade of the console. Buttons on the system have lost the stiff, clicky, feel and now are more ‘soft’ touch, much like the buttons of a PSP. However, this is the one thing the DS Lite has issues with; the Start and Select buttons. They are in fact more difficult to press than the original, and are placed in an awkward position. Nevertheless, the system’s buttons are overall leaps and bounds ahead of the original piece of hardware. On launch day, Europeans will be treated to either a black unit or a white unit.

Now, the most important and integral part of the design; the screens. The Lite presents itself as the brightest lit handheld ever. The console is as bright as, if not brighter than the PSP, on the third brightness setting. There are a total of four (five, including off) brightness settings, and at the brightest level of light, you may need to consider wearing sunglasses to play games. It is so bright that the console can be quite easily played, in comfort, in sunlit conditions. The third brightness level is the default, and also feels the most comfortable indoors. At this setting, the DS Lite has approximately the same battery life as the original DS. Brightness settings are controlled from the main user control panel, where you select the game to boot up or to change other settings.

Just like the original DS, the Lite is identical. There are no firmware updates or additions. Everything is the same, from birth date to time of day. This isn’t a bad thing. Although simple in its design, the system maintains the basic functionality, which, for the system is really all that’s needed.

Some of the features of the original DS have been changed around, mostly for the better. As described above, the Start and Select buttons, along with the power button, which is a more PSP-esque switch at the side. The microphone now sits directly in the middle of the open system, between the two screens. The stylus has been put on steroids and is now more beefed up, feeling more like those little pencils they have at bingo or the races. The slot for the stylus is now located at the side of the unit. The arrangement of the A, B, X, Y buttons have moved slightly up and are a miniscule amount smaller than on the original. Also of note is the lack of a thumb strap. It’s strongly suggested that if you trade in the old for the new, retain the thumb strap.

DS cards slot into the same position, however, due to the size of the system, GBA cartridges stick out about 8 or so millimetres. This isn’t too much of a drama, as it doesn’t get in the way while playing. And, while you have no GBA game installed, Nintendo has included a cart designed specifically to fit snugly into the GBA slot. The speakers have also undergone a slight renovation, moving to align with the middle of the top screen. These sound just as good as before, especially in games made to produce virtual surround sound.

However, it’s all about the games. No system has been a success without quality content. Fortunately, the DS delivers in spades. Metroid Prime Hunters is my latest discovery, but there are many others. Tales of the Tempest, Contact, Brain Training, Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, New Super Mario Bros., Castlevania, Meteos, Tetris, Magnetica, Animal Crossing, Nintendogs, Final Fantasy III, Children of Mana, to name a few. These are just part of the DS success. New Super Mario Bros sold over 400,000 copies in Japan, in its first day of sales! (Eventuating to some 900,000 by the end of the week). There are already several multi million selling games on the system, and there are more set to come.

I’m not going to go into graphic detail. We all know the PSP is better graphically. But with handhelds, it’s over kill. The PSP has done a lot wrong, UMDs, multimedia functions… They are nice, but, I can’t remember ever wanting to buy a PSP game. Since its release, I have bought just one, Wipeout, and I’ve lost interest. This is why the DS is outshining the PSP. It is simpler and is pick up and play quality. No load times, more games, better support. Graphics are important, but the DS is far adequate for what is needed.

The system is just such a charm. It looks fabulous and plays just like the original. It is worth buying, it really is. People have complained about Nintendo revamping the unit, but honestly, you don’t have to buy it if you have a problem with it. But keep in mind, you can have two DS units for the cost of the PSP, and they are far better in terms of games. Nintendo has addressed the majority of problems faced with the original DS, and even improved on the strong points of the original. Now, people should have no fear in whipping out a DS Lite in public and showing it off in front of friends. The screens are beyond awesome and dual screen gaming has never been less gimmicky. The DS was meant to be a demo of what the Wii was to offer. We all know that that now means a new way to play, and the DS is precisely the reason why Nintendo will do just fine with the Nintendo Wii. This is the way a handheld should be.

Design 10
Functionality 10
Sound 9.5
Graphics 9.0

10 out of 10
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