My Review of the Nintendo DS 

Over the last couple of days I've mentioned my acquisition of a Nintendo DS, and a couple of games for it (Mario Kart, Animal Crossing). The DS is a pretty nifty device, a little bigger than I expected, with two pretty bright, detailed screens. The ones in the store don't do the screens justice, as they've been pawed and scratched to crap. It's plastic, but feels very strong and rugged. In fact, I dropped mine today and it's no worse for the wear (I'm a complete spaz).

Visually, playing a game like Mario Kart rocks. The top screen is the game screen, and it's graphics look to be N64 quality. There's no issues with speed or smearing or blockiness; everything looks great. The bottom screen is more than just a novelty gimmick, as it serves as a map/radar, and is absolutely invaluable. Once you play with it, it's nearly impossible to play without it.

I've got a little bit of issue with the size of the controls. I've got tiny hands, but even my hands cramp up using the tiny directional pad and buttons. Still, the controls are tight and responsive, and I'm able to play for an hour or so before I really need to take a break. The size of the directional pad is probably the one thing I would love to change on the DS.

There's only really one gimmicky thing on Mario Kart. In Battle Mode, when playing the traditional Balloon Battle, you actually need to blow up your extra balloons by blowing into the microphone. It's a little ridiculous, but does add a little bit of strategy to the game.

Animal Crossing doesn't have any of the niggling control issues Mario Kart does, as you simply don't have to use your hands as constantly. It's a more leisurely game, looks just like it's Gamecube counterpart, but with a slight curve to the world, which is a bit interesting. The touch screen control helps immensely when trying to write letters, move lots of items, or even just wander around. Animal Crossing is like Nintendo DS crack.

I haven't even touched on the wireless aspect of the DS. First, setup was a breeze, once I worked out a quick setting change I had to make on my fairly old D-Link wireless router. (Amusingly, this change also made the wireless connection to my TiVo significantly more stable, so kudos to Nintendo for that, too). There's room to store 3 different wireless setups, which means I can store my home setup, my work setup, and then use the 3rd to just grab whatever the local access point is. Once you connect, it just works. Mario Kart allows you to race people from around the world, and, again, it just works. Animal Crossing does the same, allowing you to connect to other towns. For this feature, or to race against folks you know in MK, you need a friend code, which I'm thinking basically is just a hash of some constants (the MAC address?) that Nintendo uses to find people who've connected to their network. Enter the code, and you can race against someone, or visit their Animal Crossing town. No charge, and it all works pretty smoothly.

I'd love if Nintendo would add a web browser, and I'm waiting for someone to come out with a media player adapter that accepts SD cards. The Nintendo DS would make a perfect device for a trip: browse the web (across both screens!) in the airport, then watch a movie (video top screen, controls bottom screen) on the flight. Considering companies released such add-ons for the Gameboy Advance, I've no doubt they'll be coming for the DS.