Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Review: Nintendo DS Lite + Games

I posted a whole bunch about my experiences with the Sony PSP, which were not good. Well that device has finally been auctioned (thats almost like a divorce) and been replaced with the Nintendo DS Lite. If I had to sum up my experience with the PSP in one word, it would be disappointment. Doing the same with the DS Lite, I would say joy. What is the big deal about the hardware? The DS Lite is designed to play handheld games, and it is fantastic at that. The console form factor is fantastic, it doesn't weigh much, screens are very bright, the stylus is big and heavy enough to be good to use, sound is great with headphones, and button placement is ideal. There are near zero load times! For anyone that has been playing optical disc based consoles for years, it is startling to use a cartridge system again, and honestly very satisfying. I can't stress how great it is to not have to wait on the stupid system when you have just a few minutes to get some playing down. Its so fast it makes me get very angry at my Xbox 360 for excessive load times (Project Gotham Racing 3 you are on notice). This is not to imply that the DS can compete on graphical firepower with the PSP, it can't, but you don't care at all because of the games. With the innovative touch based control scheme in a lot of games, I finally feel like there is innovation in games again instead of retreading everything. But wait, the hardware may be slick, but without software (*cough* PSP) who cares? This is where the DS really shines. The game library is innovative and it there are great titles. Here are the titles I have already bought in 2 months (release June 11, 2006) with the DS:
  • Advance Wars: Dual Strike
  • New Super Marios Bros
  • Brain Age: Train Your Brain In Just Minutes A Day
  • Tetris DS
These games are all great, with Advance Wars and New Super Mario Bros requiring special mention. Nothing on the PSP that I played was as good as any of the DS titles I already have, and Advance Wars and New Super Mario Bros are some of the most fun games I have ever played. Brain Age, Tetris DS, and New Super Mario Bros all got my wife to play, and she hasn't picked up a controller ages. I also got a chance to play Metroid Prime Hunters, Ridge Racer DS (same as the PSP version, only lower rez polys), and Super Mario 64. Metroid Prime Hunters is a lot of fun once you learn the touch screen based control scheme, but once you do, you will cringe at the thought of the PSPs one analog stick in SOCOM anew. There is also a number of games the came out for the DS before I bought one, and Game Boy Advance games (which the DS also plays) that I want to get, here is a sampling:
  • Castlevanie: Dawn of Sorrow
  • Trauma Center
  • Phoenix Wright: Attorney at Law
  • Animal Crossing: Wild World
This doesn't even take care of all the new games coming out this fall and winter, like StarFox and Final Fantasy III. Why didn't you just get the DS when it first came out? The DS Lite is not to be confused with the original DS, which people are referring to as the DS Phat. Check this Wikipedia entry about the DS Lite. I tried a friend's DS Phat when I told her about how much the PSP sucked, and I wasn't impressed with the DS Phat because it was even bigger than the PSP and the screen brightness was awful. I primarily use any handheld system on the train to/from NYC, and their is a lot of sunlight, I need bright screens. Anything wrong with it? I have not a single complaint about the DS Lite, but there have been rumblings of a Cracking hinge problem. I don't have this problem with my DS Lite, and I suspect that its the Internet's propensity to act as a megaphone for those with issues. I certainly don't baby my DS Lite, I toss it in the backpack with both my laptops and other junk, no cracking for me. Conclusion If you like playing innovative, fun games and not just ports from the PS2 (*cough* PSP) on a handheld, the the DS Lite is for you. It doesn't have the best 3D graphics, but the games sure are fun.