When Nintendo released the original DS, they got a lot of flak for being such an ugly, fat little thing. They eventually released the DS Lite, which was exactly what the original DS (the DS Phat) should have been to begin with. It was sleek, sexy, and had beautifully high quality screens. Still, though, there were criticisms about the lack of gadgetry of the system. Introducing the Nintendo DSi, the third generation of dual screen gaming. It may not be the revolutionary system the GameBoy was, and I still wouldn’t call it a gadget, but it’s finally a step in the high tech direction.
At first glance, the DSi doesn’t have any standout differences from its predecessor, the Lite. Both possess a boxy, rectangular appearance with two screens, four face buttons, and a D-Pad protected inside of a folding clamshell design. Look a little bit closer, however, and you’ll start to see just how big of an upgrade the DSi’s cosmetics have received.
The first thing you’ll notice is the Lite’s wet, glossy coating has been replaced with a dry matte finish. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this. While the new dry finish definitely provides more friction and protects against fingerprints, but it seems like it is a lot easier to scratch up.
Aside from this noticeable change, the system is now a little thinner and slightly wider. The slimmed down physique can be credited to the removal of the much acclaimed GBA slot usually found on the bottom of the system, and the slightly longer width is there to accompany the larger screens, which are now at 3.25 inches, a quarter of an inch larger than the previous screens.
Speaking of which, the removal of the GBA slot has caused a lot of griping, but it doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t think I ever once used my GBA slot on my Lite, ever. But still, there are people that utilized it and refuse to upgrade to the new system because of the omission. This is a fact that bugs me to no end because I think it’s safe to say the inclusion of SD card support is way better than being able to play Golden Sun for the 30th time through.
Other changes worth mentioning are the two .3MP cameras, one pointed toward the gamer and one away, higher quality speakers, and the new power button which also doubles as a Home button to take you back to the main menu which has also been revamped entirely, but we’ll talk about that in a second.
The face and shoulder buttons are all, of course, in the same place but are now far more comfortable to use. The buttons all have a click to them, like a cell-phone, which was present in the Phat model but Nintendo exchanged them for the mushy buttons on the DS Lite because people griped about it. Now everyone is praising the return of clicky buttons now that they see how uncomfortable it is to play with squishy ones.
The volume slider has, unfortunately been replaced with an analog set of buttons which makes it far more risky to turn your system on somewhere where you shouldn’t have it. Like school or the bathroom at work (What? I like to be entertained when I dump). It has also found a new position on the top left-hand side of the system under the “L” button. On the side opposite the volume control is where you’ll find your SD card port. The bottom of the system is home to the same headphone/mic port.
In between the two shoulder buttons you’ll see that the cartridge and charger locations are basically the same, but you’ll also notice that the charger is different from that of the Lite’s.
Possibly the biggest update to the DSi, aside from the cameras, is the new and much enhanced operating system. This new operating system is exclusive to the DSi and easily worth the 40 dollar difference between the DSi and the Lite. Instead of using the old system of power on, have a few choices, play a game, shut off, repeat. Now the experience is much more streamlined and far cleaner and more tech-savvy.
Upon powering your system on and doing the initial options and yadda yadda, you will finally be able to see the new OS. Now all items are lined up in a horizontal row of icons which you navigate via the touch screen. Each icon can be pulled up and moved to a different position, including the main game icon, to better suit you.
Additional channels are downloaded via the new Nintendo DSi shop which features downloadable content ranging from Free to 800 Nintendo Points, the equivalent of 8 US Dollars. This content can range from full, exclusive games like AQUIA and WarioWare Snapped to small snippets and demos of other games like Brain Age: Math and Bird and Beans to applications like the Opera Web Browser.
Aside from the Shop Channel you’ll find your Options, Game Card Slot, DSi Camera, Pictochat, Download Play, and the Sound Channel, all of which were features on the old DS OS with the exceptions of the Camera and Sound channels.
In the DSi Sound channel you can import music via the SD card slot to listen to in a low quality music player, or record 10 second snippets of your voice and edit them to your liking. It really is the most useless channel, but it provides some care free fun for a little while. After that, however, you’ll find little to no use for it and keep it at the end of your channel list.
The DSi Camera, however, is a completely different story. Here you can use the systems two cameras to take pictures of yourself or your surroundings, which is neat in itself but when you add in all of the editing options you’ve got yourself and awesome little device that’s worth hours and hours of fun. Let’s talk about some of the features of the camera real quick before moving on.
You’ve got two storage options, System Memory or SD Card. You can move each picture over to the opposite storage medium whenever you want. Under that you’ve got your camera and your album, the latter of which lets you examine your past pictures, edit them, and apply stickers to organize them. All of your pictures can also be viewed using the calendar, which displays a slide show of all pictures taken on each day as well as the ability to assign a handwritten memo to each day.
When taking pictures you have access to a plethora of real time editing options. From distorting the screen with the stylus while your subject is posing to applying a kaleidoscope effect for truly trippy creations. You can even capture two people at the same time and do a comparison test to see whether or not they are related, or see what they would look like combined. There’s also an option that puts a pair of Toon Link eyes or a curly mustache on your subjects face, which is auto-detected.
Outside of simple fun, however, the camera can’t be used for too much at all. You’re not going to want to use shots taken on this camera to upload to your MySpace, unless it’s a hilariously warped photo, or use it for anything professional. A lot of big sites like to whine about everything they try to take a picture of turning out as nothing more than a black, featureless blob unless in the strictest of lighting sources. This is a problem I have yet to encounter and have been pleased with the camera in almost all surroundings.
The camera also opens up some new design roads for developers to travel down. The only game to use it so far is WarioWare Snapped, which uses it as nothing more than an EyeToy, but it’s fun to be able to pose to your games instead of just touching the screen. Very refreshing, I must say. I could think of at least 5 better ways to use the camera than in a minigame compilation, but that’s going to wait until my “The Top Five: Ways the DSi Camera Should be Used In-Game” list is finished. That’s also not the final name, just so you know. It’s a little long.
So aside from all the fancy extras, what do we have to look forward to in the most important aspect of any gaming machine? Well for starters you can play the entire catalog of Nintendo DS games which is plenty to keep anyone occupied for a long, long time. And if you need some help on what games to play because you are all burned out on the few you already own, then keep an eye out for our “The Top Five: Best DS Games” which will be posted very soon.
Aside from that, we now have the aforementioned DSi Shop which means plenty of games that will be easily available for very cheap and a catalog that’s updated once every week. It may be barren, but in a few months time it will be filled with plenty of different gaming options for all tastes.
And for those of you disappointed with the removal of the GBA cartridge, which is a disappointment for some, but keep in mind that the new Shop Channel will also eventually enable you to download original GameBoy – GameBoy Advance titles directly your system’s internal memory or an SD card. This is more than worth the omission of GBA cartridge compatibility.
All in all the DSi is more than worth the $40 price difference between it and the Lite, and is Nintendo’s best-designed handheld yet. However, it loses some points for not being a true sequel system and instead being a third generation upgrade. But the new OS, DSi Ware, Cameras, and free web browser make it feel like a brand new system and one that is definitely worth the cost of admission.
- Updated OS
- Matte finish is much easier to grip
- Expandable memory
- DSi Ware
- Cameras are fun
- New finish seems like it could be scratched easily
- Removal of the DS cartridge slot
- New volume buttons replace the slider
Overall: 8.7/10 (Great, definitely worth an upgrade)
Physical Design: 8.25/10 (A lot like the DSi only more comfortable with bigger screens and 2 cameras)
Software Features: 9.25/10 (New OS is leagues above the old one, Camera Channel is fun, free browser and DSi Ware shop)
Games: 8.5/10 (Entire backlog of DS games with exclusives on the way and DSi Ware)