Nintendo DSi Impressions
A few week ago Nintendo released it’s newest incarnation of the wildly popular Nintendo DS system, the DSi. The system sports a number of new features like built in cameras, internal memory, SD card compatibility, bigger screens, larger stylus and improved sound. The system also features some software upgrades like a new ‘channel’ interface menu, similar to the Nintendo Wii, downloadable web browser, music recorder and editor as well as access to the DSi Shop, which allows users to download apps like the mentioned web browser and original games through a service called DSiWare. Now this is all fine and dandy, but do all of these new bells and whistles really mean you should upgrade your DS or hold out on this one?
360blog.org is here to give you the answer.
The first thing you will notice when taking the DSi out of the box is the new matte finish. Personally I much prefer this over the glossy finish of the DS Lite, as mine is covered in fingerprints that stick to the shiny finish like glue to paper. Once you get passed that (and I hope you do) the biggest new sight on the DSi’s exterior is the small black camera lens on the outside of the unit, complemented by a small pink LED when the outer camera is in use.
Once the system is opened up you notice even more differences. The larger screens are a huge plus, they allow for much more real estate when playing touch only games like The Legend Of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and help with accuracy when you need a quick tap in games like New Super Mario Bros. where you play with the D-pad and buttons but also use the touche screen for extra features.
The buttons also feel better. Gone is the squishy feel of the DS Lite, they now click and feel more responsive, this is true for both the D-pad and face buttons. The shoulder buttons have also gotten a makeover. The stick out more and are easily distinguishable from the rest of the unit. The volume is now controlled by a toggle on the side of the system rather then the slider used in both previous DS models. Also by holding the ‘L’ button and pressing the toggle you can adjust the brightness setting in game (think Game Boy Micro).
The mic is now paired up with a second camera that faces the player, this can cause problems when games ask you to blow or speak into the mic ad you end up with spit on your lens, but a little care can avoid this. Also the system’s power indicator LED’s have been moved to the left side, and are now in blue (on), red (low battery), orange (charging) and yellow (Wi-Fi settings).
Finally the Power button once again finds itself on the inside of the system, also it now serves two functions, holding it will turn off the system completely but a quick tap will send you back to the DSi home menu.
All in all the DSi feels like a cosmetic improvement over the DS Lite, it’s thinner and less likely to slip out of your hands thanks to the matte finish, the larger screens are a huge plus and the buttons are largely improved. But what about what really makes it a new system…
The first thing you will notice when powering up your DSi is the brand spanking new interface designed to be similar to Nintendo’s Wii console. The system comes with seven pre-loaded ‘channels’. The first is the Settings menu, which allows to set all the system’s bells and whistles from the internal clock to Wi-Fi settings. The second is the game card selector where you can launch your Nintendo DS game.
Probably the biggest addition firmware wise for the system is the camera and photo channel. Here you can take pictures of yourself using the internal camera or of your surroundings by using the outer one. Once you have your picture you can edit them with a variety of 11 different lenses ranging from ‘distortion’ which allows you to ‘re-shape’ a picture how you please and simpler ones like ‘frame’ which adds a frame of your choosing to your pictures. You can also save your photos to an SD card and print them from your computer, however be warned, at only 0.3 mega pixels the resolution might not be ideal, but from my experiences it’s still pretty sharp.
Next up is the sound channel. Right off the bat you are given two options: you can either record your voice with the built in microphone for 10 second clips and edit them with zany effects like trumpet and parakeet speak. The second and much more entertaining option is to add your own music (sorry AAC only, no MP3 support) via the SD card and use the DSi as a portable music player. the sound quality is pretty clear, but what makes it actually a fun distraction is that you can ‘play’ with your songs, wether by changing the background they play to, ranging from the standard light show to an 8-bit Mario chasing a Lakitu. You can also change how your music sounds with 4 options that can make it sound like either it’s being played from the radio, instrumental only, an echo or my personal favorite, an 8-bit video game.
The last three channels are the DSi Shop (more on that later), DS download play which allows you to play multiplayer games with other DS owners or download demos from kiosks or the Nintendo Channel on the Wii and good ‘ol Pictochat also makes a return, still without online capabilities which is disappointing.
One notable feature to be removed from the Nintendo DSi is the ability to play Game Boy Advance games, which seriously cuts into the amount of games available for the platform when compared with its predecessors. Hopefully Nintendo can find a way to offer GBA games through a form of digital distribution.
Chalk full of new features ranging from sound editing to playing with pictures the DSi makes Nintendo’s handheld much more then a gaming system and moves it more into the realm of multimedia device, now all we need is a video player / editor and we would be set.
DSi Ware & DSi Shop
After successfully launching the Wii Shop with its Virtual Console and Wii Ware services Nintendo decided to give the same treatment for the DSi. In fact the system comes with 1000 Nintendo points to splurge on software of your choice (may I recommend Wario Ware: Snapped and Art Style: Aquia). Despite several good titles, the service is still lacking as most of the games seem to be old DS and GBA demoes slapped together and sold for 2$. Once downloaded the games appear as their own channel on the DSi menu, and if history has thought us anything Nintendo will likely have to implement a storage solution at some point as they did with the Wii.
You can also download apps like Apple’s iPhone store. Currently the only one available for free is the DSi Web Browser and unfortunatley that’s about what it’s worth. Extremly slow load times and no Flash support means it’s only usefull for text rich websites and Google searches. Also availble for download are an Animal Crossing themed calculator and alarm clock for 200 Nintendo points apeice.
DSi Ware and the DSi Shop have potential. You just have to look at Nintendo’s console to see that success can be had with this type of service, but right now it’s extremly light on content and quality, so take your free 1000 points, grab what’s worth grabbing and wait.
So now you want to know should you take the 179.99$ plunge and upgrade to a DSi? Well the bottom line is it’s up to you. If you have a DS Lite and play GBA games frequently there’s probably no reason to, and if all you do with your DS is game on the road, the DS Lite will again serve you well. But if your looking for a system with a slew of non-game related features and fun apps and don’t mind loosing that GBA slot, then by all means get a DSi, you won’t be disappointed.