The onset of portable gaming heralded a revolution in gaming, and started the portable gaming evolution that continues to this day. Although handheld games were available from 1977, with Mattel’s Auto Race, the first true handheld console would have to be the Microvision, which followed in 1979. They really took off in the 1980s though, with the iconic release of the Game Boy, which to this day is almost synonymous with the whole concept of handheld gaming. The Game Boy was phenomenally popular, and in 2005 Nintendo claimed they had sold nearly 120 million handsets worldwide – an unbelievable figure.
Competitors and challengers came to the forefront in the early 1990s. First came the Atari Lynx, the first colour handheld ever produced. This was swiftly followed by Sega’s first foray into the market, with the Game Gear. This utilised the operating system of the Sega Master System, giving it a huge range of games. Following on came the colour iteration of the Game Boy, but the popularity of handhelds really surged into the new millennium, and the choice seemingly rests between two systems. One of those is the Playstation Portable, a typically well designed, stylish and multi-functional piece of hardware which handles gaming, music, films and the internet. However, this was seen to be mainly aimed at an older market, with the vast majority of the younger demographic left to one side.
Into this vacuum came the Nintendo DS, which was released in November 2004. The DS comprises a clamshell design, with two LCD screens, a major selling point being that the lowermost one is a touch-screen. Using a stylus on this screen as well as the normal buttons gave a different gaming experience to other consoles, and combining Nintendo’s reputation for classic, brilliant gameplay with this attractive package has led to sales of nearly 100 million to date. Updates came, including the Nintendo DS Lite, but with this new iteration, the Nintendo DSi, the bar has been well and truly raised.
Taking all that was good about the original models, Nintendo listened to what the consumers wanted and attempted to change only what they felt could be improved. Early designs were mooted which had two game slots, but this was eradicated when it became clear the console would be too thick. Instead we have a new sleeker build, which is 12% thinner than the DS Lite, although it is a touch longer. Nintendo have also added two 0.3 megapixel VGA cameras; there is one on the inner hinge that is pointed at the user and one on the outer shell.
The most pronounced difference is probably the new screens, which have been enlarged by a quarter of an inch to 3.25 inches. Improved speakers have also been added, and an SD (Secure Digital) card slot has been added, for the storage of photos, downloaded software and music. It should be noted that the built-in music programme, which also serves as a voice recorder, can only play AAC audio, meaning the DSi can not play MP3s, which could be a small drawback for some people. Wireless internet connectivity is still there and for those of you who like it technical, the nuts and bolts have been updated too, with 16MB of RAM now inside, four times more than the other models had. Finally, as an aesthetic touch, the console is given a matte finish to stop smudged fingerprints from marking the body.
So, in short, it may seem that, apart from a few tweaks, the DSi is much the same as the DS Lite that came before it. However, this is less of a dig than it might at first seem, especially when you consider how good the DS Lite was and is. There is still the internet access, still the huge range of games, still the same easy pick up and play fun to be had, and the addition of the cameras only adds to the functionality.
It is not all blue skies however. The lack of MP3 playability might be a drawback to some, as will be the removal of the front slot that catered for Game Boy Advance Game Paks. The latter is more an issue when you consider that, without the slot, other accessories too can not be used, including the DS Rumble Pak and the special accessory for playing the Guitar Hero games.
In all, the Nintendo DSi is a sleeker, more refined and updated version of an already successful and very good console, and in this way we can presume that it too will be a top seller. If you are looking for easy and fun portable gaming, you could not go wrong by choosing a Nintendo DSi.
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