Which DS Should I Have?
I am guessing that most of you already have one of the previous Nintendo ds systems or have had one in the past. Or if you don't, you probably know someone who does. With so many different models of Nintendo hand held system on the market today, it can be a bit confusing deciding which one to play. In my opinion, all of the ds systems have their merits as well as their faults. Each one is the perfect system for a different situation. Should you go with the newest model, the Nintendo 3ds, or should you play the dsixl, dsi, dslite or ds?
The Original Nintendo DS (AKA DS Heavy)
When the DS came on the gaming scene in November, 2004, it was revolutionary. At the time, there were no other portable gaming systems that had two screens and that had a touch screen. The clamshell case was robust and durable, though some thought it was a bit too big to be truly portable. Long-time Nintendo gamers felt right at home when it came to controls, since the DS had shoulder buttons, a plus shaped d pad and the four round a,b,x and y buttons that almost all Nintendo systems had before it. This system was also backwards compatible with the at the time nearly ubiquitous Game Boy Advance system games.
It also featured wireless multiplayer in supported games and pictochat (a way to type or write messages to up to 16 other ds users wirelessly) with other ds systems. There were even adapters released later that allowed you to listen to music in mp3 format on the system. You could also record your own sounds with a built-in microphone. The microphone was also used in novel ways in several games. Towards the end of its time as a new system, they released a program that let you browse the Internet in a limited way too. The ds is an excellent choice if you have large hands and do all of your gaming in well lit rooms or outside (since the screens are not very bright. If you are a fan of Guitar Hero, you'll want this system since the fret bar controller for the DS version goes in the GBA game slot.
The Nintendo DS Lite
Nintendo responded to calls for a lighter, smaller system with brighter screens by releasing the ds lite in 2006. They even made it about $20 cheaper at launch. It had all of the features of the first ds plus it had four brightness settings and felt considerably lighter (hence the name "Lite").
The surface of the system might feel a bit more cramped for those with long fingers, but it is still much more comfortable to play than the Gameboy Advance SP or the Gameboy Micro. The ds lite is slightly less durable than the ds but is more portable.
The Nintendo DSi
In 2009, miniaturized cameras had become so economical to include in mobile devices, that Nintendo released a new ds with not only one, but two of them. One pointing at the user and the other on the outside of the case pointing away from the system. These cameras are fun to play with, taking pictures of family and friends and things around you. After the system was released, some games such as System Flaw, Photo Dojo and Brain Age made clever use of these cameras in the games.
In the process, the backwards compatibility for Gameboy Advance games was left out much to the consernation of GBA and Guitar Hero fans. But, in its place, Nintendo introduced the dsi Shop, an online store where you can buy games with your credit card or dsi points cards. In some ways, this was a good trade because the games were inexpensive and many of them had never been released in the U.S. before.
You could also store games, pictures and music not only on the system memory, but also on an SD memory card. This is great because it supports just about any capacity of SD card, making it possible to listen to hundreds of songs on your dsi while also being able to store photos. You can remove the SD card from the system (while it is turned off) and put it in your computer's sd card reader to download your photos. While you have it in your computer, you can upload music files in MP4 format so that you can listen to them in the fun Nintendo dsi Sound program. Sound lets you play around with the pitch and tempo of the songs while you listen to them. You can also play along with the songs by changing what noises the shoulder buttons make when you press them. Sound also has a recorder so that you can record things with the microphone.
Nintendo also added an Internet browser so that you could check your email and look at websites with pictures in them. Few of the more advanced website features like video or sound were supported by Nintendos version of the Opera browser though. THe dsi is perfect for you if you like to take candid pictures (only in well lit areas as the cameras don't have a flash nor do they have a very wide apeture). It also has improved Internet features over the ds lite and feels even lighter and more compact.
The Nintendo DSi XL
If you find the previous ds models to be to small, then you want to get the xl. It was released in 2010 and is larger in every way than any other ds system. Its dual screens are each four inches wide (a whole inch bigger than previous systems and only .3 inches smaller than the Sony PSP screen). The screens also have a wider viewing angle than previous systems. It also weighs more and has a larger, thicker case.
The stylus that comes with it is longer and thicker than previous ds systems stylui (though you can buy third party stylus for other systems that are also large, but they won't fit inside the system).
The xl plays the same games that the previous systems do and does not really offer any unique features other than being big and having a somewhat longer battery life. This system is perfect for gamers with large hands and for sharing what you are looking at with other people.
The Nintendo 3DS
By 2011, there were so many other mobile gaming devices on the market with touch screens, internet connectivity and cameras, that it seemed that there were no new innovations to be found. Then, Nintendo raised the bar again by releasing the 3ds. The 3ds is the first mobile gaming system to have stereoscopic 3d images that do not require the viewer to wear 3d glasses. The intensity of this effect can even be adjusted with a handy slider on the right side of the top screen. This top screen also is in widescreen format and is a little bigger than previous ds screens (except for the dsxl which is slightly bigger). There is a rumor that Nintendo will release Netflix for the 3ds this summer. If that is the case, the widescreen will really come in handy.
In addition, the camera outside the case is upgraded to a 3d camera system with two lenses. Now you can take photos of people and things in 3d. You can then save these photos to the system memory or an SD card (which is included with the system this time). Unlike the effect you see at the movie theater where it looks like the objects are coming out of the screen towards you, the 3ds takes the opposite approach and makes it look like you are looking out a window at a world that is deeper than the system is thick. I was skeptical about this effect and how well I would be able to see it after reading a few preview articles online. So, I went to my local Best Buy store and tested it out in their display. To my relief, I could indeed see the effect very well. Sometimes when I go to the movies, I have trouble seeing them in 3d even with the glasses on. But with the 3ds, I had no trouble without 3d glasses as long as I stayed directly in front of the screen. If I move to the side or tilt the screen a little, the effect looks a bit blurry and you see double images (or 'ghosting').
So far, I have played Face Raiders and AR Games (which come with the system) as well as Super Monkeyball, Lego Star Wars III, Steel Driver and Pilot Wings on the 3ds. The 3d effect is very well done in these games. In the games where you have to move the system around such as Face Raiders, AR Games and Super Monkeyball, it is difficult to maintain the steroscopic 3d effect. Fortunately, you can move the slider down to turn off this effect. Even with the effect turned off, the games look much better than the games for previous ds systems.
The improved video processor and screen resolution of the 3ds allows for smoother edges, better lighting and shadow effects and more detailed textures in the game graphics. All of the games I've played for the system so far look equally great with the 3d effect turned off. The best use of the 3d effect that I've seen so far are in the Steel Driver and Lego Star Wars III games. These games make great use of the system's ability to create a sense of depth and allow you to hold the system still so that the effect isn't interrupted.
However, I do love the use of the built-in gyroscope (similar to what is in the Nintendo Wii controllers) in games like Super Monkeyball, AR Games and Face Raiders. It is truly fun to move the system around to control these games. Another major improvement in game control for this system is the thumbstick. They moved the plus shaped d pad down a bit and placed the thumbstick just above it on the left side of the bottom screen. This tumbstick is rubberized and has a concave surface making it easy to keep your thumb firmly planted on it while you fratically move your character around on the screen. This is better, in my opinion, than the thumbsticks on the Sony PSP systems which have a slicker convex surface. I find it much easier to control the gokarts in Super Monkeyball and the space ships in Lego Starwars III with this thumbsick than I do with the d pad.
The 3ds has its control system adjusted in a few other ways too. The Select and Start buttons are now in a bar below the bottom screen on either side of a Home button. The Home button lets you pause your game and do something else, such as making notes in the Game Notes program, without losing any progress in the game. The 3ds also has added features such as Spotpass and Streetpass which let you recieve information wirelessly from the Internet and from other 3ds users while your 3ds is in standby mode. It also has a pedometer that counts your steps while you walk around with your 3ds in standby mode.
These new wireless features are used in different ways in different games. In AR Games for example, steps that you take with the system in standby mode can be converted into points that allow you to unlock additional game content. All of the wireless features and many other features such as the cameras and even the stereoscopic 3d effect can be separately locked out in the Parental Controls menu if you don't want to use them or don't want your kids using them.
The stylus for the 3ds is the most unique of the ones to be released with a system to date. It is shorter and slimmer than the one for the dsixl. But it has a metal barrel that telescopes out to make it twice as long as it is when you withdraw it from the system. This is a nice touch since some people prefer londer stylus than others. It also makes it feel like it is stronger than previous stylui.
Another nice improvement is the charging cradle. Nintendo answered concerns about a shorter battery life by making it easier and quicker to recharge the system. This cradle comes with the system which is a welcome change from having to buy rather necessary accessories separately as we usually do. They were also nice enough not to change the size and shape of the power port on the 3ds from what it is in the dsi. This means that if you have car chargers and old dsi chargers, they will work with the 3ds. Nyko, a third party company, has released a replacement battery and charger that it claims will double the battery life of the system. Personally, I have had no trouble with running low on battery life with the stock battery. But then, I usually play for short periods and I do not often leave my system in standby mode.
The 3ds is the least durable feeling of the ds systems, but it is the smallest and thinnest making it more portable than any of the previous ones. At least the hinge feels a bit more robust than it did on the dsi thanks to them moving the internal camera and lights out of the hinge. But as a former video system repair tech, I forsee more problems with parts coming off and cases getting damaged with this system than we ever did with the original ds or ds lite.
This system is perfect for those who want to play the latest games and who are able to see the stereoscopic 3d effect. Some people are simply unable to see it due to differences in how their eyes are formed or to eye problems that they might have. I have a lazy eye that I have to exercise regularly to control my double-vison problem, but I am able to see the 3d effect as long as I hold the system still. People who have trouble controling certain ds games with the plus shaped d pad will welcome the new thumbstick. In my opinion, this is the biggest improvement to how well the system controls games.
The 3ds still uses touch controls on the bottom screen, but I've noticed that more and more ds games make touching the screen optional or use it to a lesser extent than they once did.
DS System Tips
Regardless of which ds system you go with, there are a few tips I'd like to impart as a user of every Nintendo hand-held system ever made. First, get a hard sided cover for your DS. Nerf makes excellent covers for all of the DS systems so far (except the 3ds, but hopefully they are workig on it). These covers snap onto the systems and use Nerf's famous foam to protect your system from getting damaged by drops and scratches.
I also recomend getting screen protectors on the same day that you get the system. Before you even play a game on it, put those covers on. The screens on all ds systems (and all mobile gaming devices for that matter) scratch rather easily. These clear plastic covers protect the screens and are much easier and cheaper to replace, once they get scratched up, than the actual screens are.
Finally, get a hard sided carrying case for the games. Although Nintendo's game cartridges are far more durable than any others, especially more so than the optical discs used by the Sony PSP, it is still wise to protect them in something.
So the Answer is "It Depends"
As you can see, each Nintendo ds system has its unique features. Which one is best for you depends on which features you like the most. If you want stereoscopic 3d and /or love the idea of having a thumbstick on your ds, get a 3ds. If you want to play your vast Gameboy Advance collection on a bigger screen, get a ds or ds lite. If you have big hands and/or bad eyesight, get a dsixl.
Personally, I find the Nintedo 3ds to be the best of the bunch. Though I do still have my Gameboy Micro for playing my Gameboy Advance games on.
While none of the systems are perfect, nothing really is. There is always room for improvement. For one thing, I wish the outside of the 3ds shell was not slick. It looks pretty but it is rather hard to hang on to while playing games. That's why I put a lanyard on it so I can wear it around my neck while playing.
If you get the chance, play the AR Games and the Face Raiders Game if you are not sure about getting the 3ds. Those games are simply amazing and will convince you that the 3d effect and 3d cameras are truly fantastic additions to the innovations in the ds lineup.
New Update! Watch movies & TV shows on your 3DS
If you still need another reason to go out and get a 3DS, how about this one? You can now add a 3DS to your list of devices on your Netflix account. Yes, as long as you have a wireless internet signal, you can watch streaming video right on your Nintendo 3DS. It might take a bit to load the show, but the video plays very smoothly on the system and it has really good video quality. If you have headphones on, the sound is quite good too.
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