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|[ Writer ] = BAD
|[ 08/07/04 ] = Dualism
Recently, the Nintendo DS has been all the talk among Nintendo fans and casual gamers alike. With dual-screens and a laundry-list of extra functions, fans have been salivating over Nintendo's new "third-pillar" of gaming. While some have praised the hardware for being innovative, others have labeled it a mere gimmick. Over the past few months, I have heard the impressions of many, and now it is time to voice my own...
I stand somewhere in between on the Nintendo DS; for many reasons it is a difficult piece of hardware to pin-down. I was sold by the GameBoy Advance when it came out, and I was elated when I got the GameBoy Player, but as of this writing the Nintendo DS hasn't impressed me as much. Not that I dislike the hardware (it hasn't even been released yet), I'm just not that impressed with what has been shown thus far. My impressions of the NDS are bittersweet; I think the system has potential, but some of its features sound insignificant. I have to see more to be impressed. Below are my initial impressions of the Nintendo DS.
[ Specs ]
The dual processors are also interesting at first glance; the NDS can push 3-D graphics a notch above that of the N64, run games at 60 fps, and create effects like fog and cel-shading. Although I am a big fan of the N64, the truth is that I was a little disappointed to see that Nintendo hadn't made the NDS a bit stronger in the visuals department. When compared to that of Sony's PlayStation Portable, the graphics engine of the Nintendo DS is inferior; the PlayStation Portable is said to be capable of graphics beyond that of the PlayStation 2. Even if the PSP turns out to be capable of only PS2-quality visuals, graphical comparisons could be a difficult hurdle for the NDS to overcome. Affordability is always a factor to consider, but it would have been nice to see a slightly stronger NDS.
On the other hand, even though the NDS can't match the PSP in sheer versatility in graphical ability, the system still has potential. Developers can use the hardware's unique graphics engine and dual-screen concept to design some truly innovative games. While the orthodox approach of the PSP hardware can be used to develop games that refine genres, the unorthodox approach of the NDS hardware can be used to develop games that reinvent genres. For example, developers can remake classics and design them to take advantage of the dual screens; developers can create new ways to play old games. Sure, If developers can create new ways to play old games that we love, they will create new gaming experiences that can only be found on the NDS. However, developers must be be willing to create such experiences.
The NDS also has six buttons, which is a relief. The four-button layout of the GBA was somewhat limiting, so it's good to see that Nintendo decided to go with six buttons for the NDS. I would have opted for all six buttons on the face (for easy access) rather than having them on the corners, but I guess beggars can't be choosers. Then there's the digital-pad, which looks similar to that of the GBASP, but better. It looks comfortable, easy on the thumbs, and in contrast to that of the GBASP, it doesn't look like it will smash in with time (never to return to its original position). In comparison, the NDS looks like it will have a more comfortable digital-pad than that of the PSP. And although it has nothing to do with control, it must be noted that the new, most recently unveiled model of the NDS looks a lot better than what was shown at E3. When I first saw the fat and bulky preliminary NDS model from E3, I thought to myself, "what's up with the design, Nintendo?" It was like an ice cream sandwich that played games. It was almost as if Nintendo wanted to be the ass-end of even more jokes when they designed the preliminary model of the NDS. They're past that now, though, and the new design looks sleek-enough to appeal to the masses. Now, all I have to say is that they better make a model to match their upcoming hardware if they plan to implement connectivity once again.
Functions ] = Essential For Success Of Modern Hardware?
The microphone capability is another feature I could care less about. You can tell characters in games what to do, or you can chat over the Internet. Well, I can see how talking to characters or clapping would be good for the kids, or how music games could work well with it, but who gives a shit about chatting over the Internet with a piece of game hardware? If I wanted that shit, I'd get an N-Gage. I'm not sure what the other extra features of the NDS will be, but chances are, the only ones with redeeming value are the backward compatibility and wireless link functions. Nintendo calls it "more than a gaming system," but the truth is that Nintendo fans are into games, and want to play games.
Support ] = Who's Got Nintendo's Back On This One?
On paper all of this looks good. Capcom says they will bring the Mega Man EXE and Viewtiful Joe series (and hopefully more) to the NDS, Konami has announced a Castlevania title, Sega's bringing good 'ol Sonic, Koei has a Dynasty Warriors game in the works, and even the assholes at Square Enix have a title planned. But how will things really turn out? Will developers end up making only a handful of games for the NDS (similar to the GC and N64), or (like Squeenix) just end up bailing completely? These initial announcements of development sound good, but what will they become? If developers already see successful Nintendo systems like the GC and GBP/GBA as a risk to develop games for, then what do they really think of the NDS (a system whose fate is yet to be determined)? Sure, developers have made warm comments about the NDS, but when it comes down to it, will they embrace and support it as much their comments indicate? I would like to be more positive about the situation of development for the NDS, but the plain fact is that Nintendo is given very limited support from third-party developers. For such a devoted company, time and time again they are denied sufficient third-party support from even the biggest of developers in the industry. Will Nintendo end up supporting the NDS almost single-handedly, like with the N64, or like Sega with the DC? Let's hope not...
] = An Uncertain Future
|[ Extra ] = Features
|[ 1 ] = Official Nintendo DS Site
|[ 2 ] = GameSpy Nintendo DS Coverage