[nextpage title=”Introduction”]The first Nintendo DS broke out of the constraints of the gaming world by introducing a handheld gaming device with not one, but two screens. It also had wireless connectivity for game play and game control by voice and touch. These winning features have produced a gaming device with a big following. Over 84 million DS devices and 454 million DS games have been sold worldwide in just four years. Today we reviewed one of its latest versions: the DS Lite Ice Blue.
The original silver Nintendo DS which debuted in 2004, was replaced in 2006 by a slightly smaller version with a brighter screen. It was called the Nintendo DS Lite and it came in several colors. This year Nintendo introduced two new colors, each with its own package of goodies. The Mari Red Nintendo DS bundle includes a red system emblazoned with a big M for Mario, and a copy of New Super Mario Bros game. The Ice Blue Nintendo DS, which we reviewed, comes with a custom carrying case and the popular Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day game.
As shown in Figure 1, the box includes the Nintendo DS in a pale blue, a similarly-colored patent leather-like case, the Brain Age game, the charging cable, instruction booklet, and an extra stylus. As shown in Figure 2, the case includes a zippered compartment for the gaming device and has three pockets for holding game cartridges and a place to hold the spare stylus. Although the case is very protective and useful, we would have liked to see a place for more cartridges and a place to carry the charging cable in the case.
[nextpage title=”The Nintendo DS Lite Device”]The DS in Nintendo DS stands for Dual Screen. As shown in Figure 3, the clamshell-type case opens to reveal two screens: a regular color LCD screen on the upper portion and a color LCD touch screen on the bottom. The two screens work together to display information and coordinate game play. Often the upper screen is used to give information and an overview of the game. The lower touch screen is where you interact with the game and/or the characters with the included stylus.
One of the big pluses of this device is that both screens are bright and clear. The screen brightness can be adjusted to save on battery power, but the battery is so long lasting that most people just keep it on the brightest setting. Setting the brightness is done from the main screen which appears at startup which is shown in Figure 3. At this screen you can also set the date and time, set alarms, calibrate the screen, and enter personal information. You can also play a built-in game called Pictochat that allows you to send pictures and messages to other Nintendo DS users within range of your DS.
Besides the ingenious use of the touch screen, many games take advantage of the Nintendo DS’s microphone jack. The microphone is the small hole seen in Figure 3 on the hinge between the upper and lower screen. The microphone is used differently in different games. In one game you can blow into the microphone to blow out the candles on a birthday cake. In another, you blow into the microphone to blow bubbles when the bubble maker is on the screen. This is all very easy and very intuitive.The Nintendo Ds also has stereo speakers that can be seen in Figure 3. The sound for each speaker comes from the six holes on the sides of the upper screen. The sound quality is quite good.
Figure 3 also shows several control buttons. To the left of the lower screen is a four-sided toggle. To the right are the A,B,X, and Y buttons. Below that are the Start and the Select buttons. Figure 4 shows two additional buttons as the two corners at the top of the device are also depressible. Depending on the game, these buttons control different aspects of the game. However, some games can be played using only the stylus and the touch screen.
With any device that has a small detachable part, like the DS’ stylus, you always run the risk of losing it. However, Nintendo covers that by having a convenient place to store the stylus right in the device itself. As shown in Figure 5, the stylus completely disappears into the right side of the device next to the on/off slider. Yet, a small depression in the bottom of the device allows you to easily find the stylus and slide it out of its hideaway. Looking at the bottom of the device in Figure 4 you can see the stylus in a slightly protruding position on the left side. The bottom shows the protruding placeholder for the GameBoy Advance cartridges. When this is pushed in, it looks like part of the device. It can also be removed and GameBoy cartridges can be inserted. You can play all of the old GameBoy Advanced cartridges on the DS, but they don’t take advantage of the touch screen.
The Nintendo DS has a rechargeable battery that last about ten hours. The battery is replaceable and can be accessed by the large door on the right in Figure 4. The charging cable, has a plug that folds flat for compact storage. You can see the charging port that the cable plugs into on the left side of the back of the DS in Figure 6. You can also see the slot that holds the DS game cartridge and two holes that can be used to attach a wrist strap. Figure 6 also shows the two corner buttons marked “L” and “R” at the top that we mentioned earlier and saw from the bottom in Figure 4.
In Figure 7, you can see (from left to right), the volume slider, the area for the Game Boy Advance cartridges, and the headset port. This port accepts proprietary Nintendo headsets, but it will also accommodate standard headsets and ear buds like those that come with an iPod. The sound is quite good.
The Nintendo DS comes with wireless
capabilities so you can send notes, drawings, and even game characters to other DS users. For instance, in the popular Nintendogs game, you can invite the dogs from other nearby Nintendog players to play on your device. You can trade dog breeds and send presents to visiting dogs. Some games allow multiple users to play multiplayer games using just one Nintendo DS game card, others require that each DS have the same game cartridge installed.
You can also play some games with others through a Wi-Fi connection. You simply exchange your game code with a friend to play over the Internet, or join other players on the Web.
[nextpage title=”The Brain Age Game”]The game included in this package is Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day. This game is especially attractive to baby boomers who want to make sure that they maintain their mental skills as they age. However, it can be played by anyone wishing to sharpen their brain power and has become quite popular.Like all Nintendo DS games, the game comes in a plastic case similar in size to a CD. The game cartridge itself is much smaller. It measures only about 1 ¼” x 1 3/8” (31.75 mm x 34.92 mm). Figure 8 shows the Brain Age box and the cartridge which you will find inside the box.
This Brain Age game actually is nothing like a traditional video game. There are no guns or fast moving targets. Instead the game is a series of quick mental exercises that were devised by a Japanese neurologist. Brain Age takes advantage of the Nintendo DS touch screen and built-in microphone, so it is very easy to play. Everything is explained on the screen as you move through the exercises. Although there is reading, writing, logic, memory, analysis, and math, the exercises are not boring. In fact, they are very fast-paced. Some of the games sound easy, but are really quite tricky. For instance, in one exercise you try to give name of a color written when the word itself is a different color. You are to say the color of the word rather than the word itself which is the name of a different color. It sounds easy, but you can get tripped up quite quickly.When you finish the first short series of mental challenges, your “Brain Age” is given. We haven’t found anyone whose first brain age score wasn’t older than they wanted it to be. Yet, with daily use of the game, everyone’s brain age seems to improve. That fact alone makes it addictive. You want to play every day just to improve your brain age.
[nextpage title=”Other Games”]The DS has some great games for players of all ages. There are puzzles, sports, brain teasers, role-playing, racing, fast-moving games, and fun game characters. There are currently over 425 games to choose from. Some of these are related to much-loved television shows, movies, and books. In this genre you’ll find games like Spiderman, High School Musical, Nancy Drew, Indiana Jones, James Bond 007, Star Wars, and many more. Some of the Nintendo DS games revolve around special, very popular, Nintendo characters. Mario is a short, pudgy plumber who has appeared in over 200 video games. Kirby, is a loveable, powerful, spherical pick Nintendo character who works his way through adventure after adventure. There are also special series of games like Final Fantasy, Age of Empires, Call of Duty and Legend of Zelda.The wide variety and types of games makes the DS a good device for the entire family. There is something for everyone whether they are 3 or 103.[nextpage title=”Specifications”]
Nintendo DS Lite Ice Blue main features are:
- Dimensions: 5 15/64" x 2 29/32" x 27/32" (13.3 x 7.4 x 2.1 cm) (W x D x H)
- Weight: 7.69 oz. (218 g)
- Top Screen: A backlit, 3-inch, transmissive TFT color LCD with 256 x 192 pixel resolution and .24 mm dot pitch, capable of displaying 260,000 colors
- Bottom Screen: Same specs as top screen, but with a transparent analog touch screen
- Brightness Adjustment: Users can adjust the brightness of screens at four different levels.
- Wireless Communication: IEEE 802.11 and Nintendo’s proprietary format; wireless range is 30 to 100 feet, depending on circumstances
- Microphone: Located at the center of the unit
- Input/Output: Ports for both Nintendo DS game cards and Game Boy Advance game packs, terminals for stereo headphones and microphone.
- CPUs: One ARM9 and one ARM7
- Sound: Stereo speakers
- Battery: Lithium ion battery delivering five to 19 hours of play on a four-hour charge, depending on use.
- Languages: English, Japanese, Spanish, French, German and Italian.
- More information: https://www.nintendo.com
- Suggested Retail Price for the US Market: USD 149.99.
[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]The Nintendo DS was a revolutionary gaming device when it first appeared in 2004. Not only has it held its appeal over the years, but the massive number of available games has made it even more appealing. The device is simple enough for first-time gamers, but multifaceted enough to hold the focus of veteran game players.At a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $129.99 for the device, it is also the most affordable gaming device on the market today. Since it attracts users of all ages, it is also the most popular video game system in this generation.We like the functionality and the portability of this device as well as the long battery life and the vast number of games.The next generation of the DS Lite, which is due out sometime in 2009, will probably add an SD card slot and a camera to this device. With the good sound quality, it would be wonderful if it could also function as a music player.
- Compact portable size
- Intuitive bright touch screen
- Microphone & speakers
- Large choice of games
- Good battery performance
- Good Package
- Games are not hot-swappable, to change cartridges you must power down the device
- No place in case for the charging cord