Blog Flux LinkLog: Outgoing Link Logging and Click Tracking for From the Bottom Up From the Bottom Up: Surprise! Nintendo's Latest Handheld gets a Facelift

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Surprise! Nintendo's Latest Handheld gets a Facelift

Well, not quite two years after the original launch, Nintendo does what it likes to do best: remodel its latest handheld. Each one has gone through many changes (Original Game Boy getting smaller, then colours; Game Boy Advance getting a compact mode with a flip-down, front-lit screen, then changing it to a back-lit screen (they never said anything about that one), then shrinking to bite-size), and while a remodel of the DS was inevitable (and almost necessary), a change so soon was a surprise to me.

How it Looks - System: Incredible, Screens: Incredible!
The shell of the system got a nice overhaul over its beast of a brother. First, the DS Lite is smaller in width, length, and thickness, making it easier to fit into pockets and small pouches in backpacks and luggage. Second, the multitude of colours available are arguably better than those for the original. Sure, North America can only get white, but that looks a hell of a lot better than what was offered at the original DS launch: silver. Not even a cool, flashy metallic silver, but a dull one that easily comes off when rubbed against things over time. As well, the outer shell is covered in clear plastic not unlike a certain popular MP3 player. One final touch is that the top part sticks out on the edges, allowing it to close shut like a clam shell. This makes the system look slick when closed, and helps keep the bottom screen nice and clean (or at least cleaner than the bottom screen on the normal DS).
The screen got a nice change too, as the colours are a richer than on the normal DS. When I first turned mine on with Mario Kart DS, it looked like the colours were too bright. The opening menu shot out at me with blue. It was startling! This was so much different than the DS, with a duller blue. Easier on the eyes a little, but nothing a little brightness tuning couldn't fix: another option is that while the screen's back light can't be turned off anymore, the lighting has four brightness settings: one under the original brightness to conserve battery life, one close to equal, and two brighter than the original, although I doubt anybody would really need a screen as bright as the highest setting. I could see it fine on low in the dark.

How it Sounds: Same
Not much changed here, though there are fewer holes for the speaker to blare through.

How it Feels: Nice
The plastic covering does take a bit of adjustment to hold, since your hands can slide about on it right out of the box (I know mine did), but it is very comfortable. The stylus is moved to under your right hand (where the ABXY buttons are) and has a nice indent that an unused finger can pop it out quickly. The stylus is also longer, dwarfing the original stylus by at least an inch. While no thumbstrap is included, you can still tie your old one (of if they're sold separately) on the back. The only things that may take some getting used to are the LR buttons are smaller, only taking up half the size of the bottom part, and the start and select buttons are now below the ABXY buttons, and made much smaller. If you're used to the start/select buttons above like I was, it will be often that you stick your thumb up only to find nothing.

How it Plays: Similar
While no buttons were added or removed, and the touch screen is as sensitive as ever, the movement of the start/select button may add about a minute or two of a learning curve back onto any game that uses them, since you have to rememorize their location. This is offset by the position of the stylus, making it easier to get to your hand, since you don't have to take your hand off the controls (with a little practice, of course). A couple of other things have also changed for the better: the power/charger light are now in between the screens on the right, so even with the lid closed, you can see the power lights; the microphone is now in between the screens in the centre of the system; and the battery life is slightly extended if you keep it on the lowest setting. This adds more time to the playtime of your games in one sitting.

Verdict: Buy!
While mostly cosmetic touch-ups from one system to another, most of the changes to the DS improve the experience of the games, whether its the better colour quality of the visuals, or the clam shell to keep the bottom screen cleaner. Not one thing that changed from the DS to the DS Lite was done carelessly (except maybe the movement of the start/select buttons). If you don't have a DS, this should give you enough of an excuse to get one. If you already have a DS, never touch a friend's DS Lite if you don't intend on buying one, because you will never be able to go back and enjoy the games the same way. Now if only you could get it in black...

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