Friday, June 19, 2009
As the second overhaul of the Nintendo DS design, the DSi is less about cosmetic changes and more about functionality. The DS Lite was smaller, brighter, and more attractive than the original clunky DS hardware, but the DSi focuses more on its built-in camera and internet features than anything else.
Before you turn the system on, the most obvious additions are the two cameras. One faces away from the system, while another is dead center on the front and focuses on the user. Both of the screens are slightly larger (0.25 inches each), and it's slightly less thick than the DS Lite, albeit a few millimeters longer. The power button has been relocated to the front of the unit, and the volume is now controlled by up and down buttons rather than a slider. One feature that I love is the new ability to change the brightness during a game by holding the select button and pressing the volume buttons.
Upon turning the unit on, you'll be taken to a brand-new user interface that more closely resembles the Wii's than those of the past versions of the DS. It has blank spaces for future downloads such as an internet browser and DSiWare games. The gaming selection right now is fairly limited, with the highest profile title being WarioWare Snapped. This game is fun if you can get it to work, but this is easier said than done thanks to the extremely difficult process of getting the lighting and background just right for it to function. The cameras are only 0.3 megapixels and there's no flash, so don't expect decent quality from them. Another title available now, Mighty Flip Champs, thankfully doesn't require the camera and it's actually a lot of fun. It's incredibly basic, and simply involves navigating levels by flipping the level from the bottom screen to the top. Each screen will have slight changes that allow you to progress further if you "flip" correctly. It's nice to see a quality game offered this early in the DSiWare service.
While you can download a free internet browser, I've had trouble getting it to run at decent speeds regardless of which WiFi connection I use. It's fairly limited, and can't hold a candle to better mobile browsers such as that on the iPhone.
You probably won't be using the DSi much as an internet browser, but I can see Nintendo fans using it often to download new software to their devices. The company has done a great job of releasing a steady stream of Virtual Console and WiiWare titles to the Wii, and their support of DSiWare will hopefully be on the same level.
The DSi may not have the initial "Wow, this is so much better" feeling gamers had when they first held the DS Lite, but it's a natural and welcome evolution of the portable. There's no reason this quality portable won't continue to print money for Nintendo.