Tuesday, October 7, 2008

In-depth thoughts on the DSi

The DSi was announced early in the morning last Thursday, meaning I've had much time to consider everything we know so far about the successor to the DS Lite. After looking at pretty much every available image of the console and reading all there is to know about it, I'm ready to give my in-depth thoughts on the DSi.

First, the look. I like that they didn't do anything overly drastic with the new design. I've been looking at many DS 2 mock-ups over the years, and most of the time, I felt the artist took things a little too far in the creativity department. If the DSi were revealed to look like this, I'd be pretty upset. It's just too drastic a change. Sticking to the basic design of the DS Lite and tweaking things here and there was a good choice, and I'm happy with how it turned out.

Of course, in order to make the DSi as small and sleek as it is, Nintendo had to axe the Game Boy Advance support. Personally, I think this is both a good and a bad thing. I mean, the GBA has been obsolete for almost four years now. I'm pretty sure most of us have played all the Pokémon Ruby and Drill Dozer we need by now. If we do want to go back to those days, we can always just whip out our older DS models, or heck, even dig out the old GBA! Losing the ability to play GBA games on the DSi is no big deal to me.

However, losing some functionality in a few DS games is worth making note of. With the DSi, we'll no longer be able to transfer Pokémon from our GBA games to Diamond, Pearl or Platinum. We won't be able to play Guitar Hero: On Tour anymore, since there will be nowhere to plug in the guitar grip. Metroid Prime: Pinball will be a lot less involving, since we won't be able to use the Rumble Pak. Many DS games will suffer from decreased capabilities because of the GBA slot being ditched.

Countering the loss of GBA compatibility will be the addition of a music player and camera functions. First off, the music player sounds like a real stinker. I mean, AAC format only? That's a load of crap as far as I'm concerned. Everyone listens to MP3s, Nintendo. The only people who listen to AACs download their songs from iTunes, and they generally already have a music player in the form of an iPod. If I ever want to use this player, I'm going to have to dig up some format converter online, then swap all my MP3s into being AACs. Boy, that sounds like a lot of fun. For the love of god, Nintendo, just pay the extra licensing fee and make everyone's lives easier.

As for the cameras, I'm still not sure what their actual resolution is. Some say 0.3 megapixel, others say 3.0, and yet more say that one camera will be 0.3, and the other, 3.1. Whatever the case, chances are we'll be somewhat underwhelmed with the final products clarity. So yeah, the DSi will stink as a digital camera. Why don't I care?

I don't care because the DSi cameras have the potential to add so much to our games. Now, I know this is generally "taboo", but I'm going to reference... The Gizmondo. Now then, this famously terrible console that went down in a mafia-entangled ball of flames (This "ball of flames" more accurately described as "Ferrari getting sheared in half") actually had an interesting aspect to it: A digital camera. Interestingly, this camera could be used to take pictures of real-life objects and have them translated and utilized in the game. I remember hearing a while back of a game that required the player to draw a symbol on a piece of paper and take a picture of it. The game then interpreted the image to make sure it matched the symbol, then allowed the play to continue. Yes, I know, mega-lame utilization. But just imagine what the camera could be used for...

Remember Monster Rancher? You know, that sort of reverse-Pokémon franchise that involved freeing creatures from discs and fighting alongside them? Back in the days of the Playstation, a trademark mechanic of the game was to remove the disc at a certain point, then place a music CD or another game in the Playstation. If the correct disc was inserted, the player would "free the monster" from it, unlocking the creature to be used in his team. Now, imagine the same basic idea, but with, say, bar codes instead of discs. Players take pictures of bar codes, the game analyzes them, and matching codes unlock a hidden feature of the game. Yeah, so my idea kinda stinks, but I'm sure a variation on it could be imagined! If Monster Rancher were to make a return in a form similar to this, I would be a very happy gamer. Dang it, I liked Monster Rancher!

So yeah, while the DSi may suck as a digital camera, it'll rock for revolutionizing the way the real world influences the game world. The day I get to paste my own face on my Pokémon character's head is the day I can die happy.

Another big addition being made to the DSi is the DSi Store. Similar to the Wii's Shop Channel, the DSi Store will enable users to download software straight from the internet onto the handheld's internal memory, for a fee ranging from gratis to eight bucks. Seriously, this is awesome. With so-far-announced titles such as a notebook application with short animation-making abilities and a handheld Opera internet browser, the DSi Store has the potential to make the DSi the only handheld electronic we need.

Oh my, what's this? Is it an SD card slot I see? Why yes, it is! Just in case the so-far unknown storage capabilities of the DSi aren't adequate, we can just plug in an SD card and add gigs of storage space at ease! Now, let's just hope Nintendo doesn't totally mess it up like they did with the Wii's gimped SD card slot. The day they announce a storage solution for the Wii that actually helps is the day birds start flying upside down (And it won't be because of liquor this time).

Overall, the DSi seems like a worthy successor to the DS Lite. Sure, it's not perfect, and it may even be somewhat flawed, but it's certainly worthy. Not quite awesome enough to warrant every DS Lite owner to rush out and buy it, but certainly worth looking into if you haven't yet made the jump to the DS Lite (Or if your DS Lite is broken). Oh, and if you're one of those crazies still holding on to your original model DS... Just upgrade already. Your cramped wrists, strained retinas and stretched pockets will thank you.

So yeah, I'll pick up the DSi on day one. My old Lite's failing on me, and hey, I'm a sucker for the new-and-shiny. Okay, so the DSi is actually less shiny than the DS Lite, but you know what I mean. It's purdy. Now then, if only I didn't have to wait at least six months to get my hands on it... Curse you region-locking!

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