Friday, June 22, 2012

What Handheld should I get? Pros and Cons (Gen VII Edition) Part 1–The Nintendo DS

In the same vein as my last article on the Pros and Cons of the PS3, Xbawks 360, and Wii I’ll be looking at the two main hand-held consoles and their variants. For those uninitiated the two major Handheld Consoles being discussed in this article are the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable. Each handheld has had multiple variants released over the years that either had extra features of better compatibility. I won’t lie and profess that the only handheld consoles released in the seventh generation of consoles were the PSP and the DS but consoles like the Gizmondo, CAANOO, GP2X, Pandora, Zone 30 in 1, and the Mi2. These other handhelds never achieved mainstream popularity and are pretty hard to find in a conventional store, so I have chosen to omit them and instead look at the two behemoths the Nintendo DS and PSP and each of their revisions. This will be a two part article due to how long they will each be.

Nintendo DS
The Nintendo DS is the successor to the Gameboy Advance and was Nintendo’s handheld foray into the Seventh Generation of gaming consoles and was originally released on November 21, 2004. The Nintendo DS was the first successful handheld to utilize a touchscreen and started a trend of companies attempting to be innovative in the gaming industry. The Nintendo DS uses 8-512 Megabyte cartridges utilizing flash memory for all saves (unless of course you are too cool for saving), the increased size of the game carts over their Gameboy Advance cart nephews allowed for improved graphics and even 3D sprites. Another feature of the DS was the beginning of the trend to include WiFi connectivity in handhelds replacing the old link cables of yesteryear. WiFi made playing multiplayer games a breeze and generally had a range of about 7 or 8 feet. WiFi could also be used to play games with people far away by using your own internet connection to connect to a Nintendo server. The revolutionary features don’t end there, you could use the DS to download game Demos from the Wii and for some games you could connect your DS to the Wii itself.
Since the creation of the Nintendo DS it has gone under several revisions including the Nintendo DS Lite, Nintendo DSi, and Nintendo DSi XL. Not to mention the many collectors variants of the handheld.
Pros and Cons of the System (Overall)
Large Number of High Quality First Party Games: The Nintendo DS has an overabundance of great first party titles from many stable franchises like the Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Pokemon and Star Fox.
Decent amount of Quality Second and Third Party Games: Atlus and other third party companies release quite a few good games on the console from stable franchises like the Megami Tensei series and Namco’s Harvest Moon and Rune Factory series.
Inexpensive: Depending on Model a DS won’t usually set you back $60-$75 with the most being around the $100 range.
Almost Non-existent hardware issues: Sans the DS Lite, the DS series suffers very rarely from design issues with the worst possible thing usually being a speaker dying in an old DS Phat.
Large Gaming Library: Overall the Nintendo DS’s game library is massive and caters to a variety of audiences.
Touch Screen Utilization: The Handheld has a touch screen, it works flawlessly.
Cheap and Easy Repair: Regardless of Model Nintendo DS replacement parts are easy to find and for the most part are easy to replace. Screen replacement is as easy as opening the handheld up, unplugging a ribbon and plugging the new one in.
Good Battery Life: All of the DS models have battery lives ranging from 12 to 15 hours of continuous play while having screen brightness set to default. On maximum settings its around 6 to 8 hours.
Region-Free: All DS games are region free and can be played on any Nintendo DS except the iQue Model,because China is communist >:(
Microphone: The Console(s) have a built in microphone which is utilized in certain games that require the player to talk or for certain games that allow voice chatting via Nintendo WiFi Connection or Local WiFi.
Region Locked Consoles: The DSi and DSi XL are region locked.
Large Amount of Shovelware: As with any console with a large library (see: Playstation) there is bound to be a good deal of Shovelware. For every Mario and Luigi game there will be about 15 Imagine Ballerina games.
Limited Backwards Compatibility: Of the line of Nintendo DS’s the only two capable of backwards compatibility are the Original Nintendo DS and the Nintendo DS Lite. These two handhelds are capable of playing Gameboy Advance games but not Gameboy or Gameboy Color games.

          • The Nintendo DS (Original/Phat)
          • Released: November 21, 2004
The Nintendo DS Original or “Phat” as the internet tends to refer it, was the first model of the console and is the second largest in size of the series of consoles. Being the first in the series it only contained the basic features of the console. The Original DS had basic WiFi connectivity in order to play games locally or online via the Nintendo WiFi Connection service. It also has PictoChat, a local chat feature which can accommodate up to 8 people per chat room and there are 4 rooms meaning up to 42 people total in a given area can engage in PictoChat.
Pros and Cons (of the console)
Backwards Compatibility: Capable of playing Gameboy Advance games, not but Gameboy or Gameboy Color games.
Sturdy: From my hands on experience I have deduced that the DS Phat is practically invulnerable when it comes to drops, getting kicked, being sat upon, and other situations in which a lesser console would become irreparably harm.
Cheap and Easy to Repair: Repair parts are cheap and easy to find and require no soldering or any advanced techniques to replace.
Cheap: The Original Model DS is the cheapest model, so for the price conscious it may be best to purchase an Original Model DS.
Small Screen Size: The Original Model DS has a very small screen which is around the size of the Gameboy advances. So for those with very bad eyes it may be better to avoid this particular version.
Dead Pixels: Commonly the Original Model DS’s would have Dead Pixels, which ultimately don’t inhibit Gameplay but are very annoying.
Shortest battery life: Averages 6 to 8 hours.
Best Game of 2010!

          • Nintendo DS Lite
          • Released: June 11, 2006
The Nintendo DS Lite is the most popular model of Nintendo DS, it combines a sleek lightweight design with all the functionality of the original Model. The Nintendo DS Lite has the most color variations and limited edition bundle versions out of any of the Nintendo DS’s and up until recently was the staple DS of choice for many. Despite some aesthetic differences the DS Lite is exactly the same as the Original DS.
Pros and Cons of the System
Compact Design: The DS Lite is about 20% smaller with a sleeker design.
Adjustable Backlight: The DS Lite is the first DS to have an adjustable backlight which could increase battery life by setting the DS the lowest brightness setting, or you could maximize that biatch and illuminate a room. (There are four levels of backlight.)
Easy to Find: Despite the Original Model being cheaper the DS Lite is slightly more common due to it’s overall popularity.
Flimsy Design: Unlike it’s larger older brother, the DS Lite is plagued with problems due either cheap plastics of overall weakness of design. The most common problems are the hinge to the top screen breaking, the shoulder buttons malfunctioning, and the D-pad ceasing to function.
Glossy Finish: The glossy finish on the handheld broadcasts fingerprints and scratches to the entire universe. (Might be a Pro to some people, this is mostly an aesthetic thing.)
You get what you pay for amirght?

          • Nintendo DSi
          • Released: April 5, 2009
The DSi is completely different from the DS Lite and the Original DS in every aspect, while being slightly more compact than the DS Lite it includes two .03 Megapixel cameras built in and a redesigned user interface. The DSi also uses a much more powerful processor and has about 100% more internal memory which can be expanded through the addition of an SD card (up to 32 Gigabytes). Along with the changes the DSi had an E-Shop in which one could purchase applications and games. There are also games which when played on the DSi will either move faster or will have certain features unlocked. An Example of a DS game with bonus features is Pokemon Black/White which not only run faster on the DSi but has a feature for local video chatting utilizing the camera and microphone on the console.
Pros and Cons of the System
Adjustable Backlight: Just like the DS Lite the DSi has an adjustable backlight, only instead of four levels there are now five levels to which you can adjust the backlight. Just think, you could illuminate an entire house with that many levels!
Improved UI: The improved User Interface not only is incredibly smooth and pleasant to look at but it also removes one of the frustrations of the older systems that makes it so that you have to shutdown the console before removing or inserting a game. Now you can merely reset the console by tapping the power button and while on the home screen you can freely remove and insert DS cartridges.
Matte Finish: Unlike the DS Lite the Matte finish on the DSi makes it harder for the handheld to be scratched and doesn’t attract fingerprints.
WPA WiFi Connectivity: The DSi is capable of both WEP and WPA WiFI connectivity making it more compatible with WiFi hotspots.
E-Shop: The DSi has an E-shop where games and applications can be purchased with DSi Points, there are also free applications like Flipnote Hatena which is very popular.
Built-in Camera: The DSi has two built in cameras which can be used to take pictures or video.
Expandable Memory: You can insert an SD card (up to 32GB) to expand the consoles memory for storing games, pictures, or video.
Web Browser: The DSi can download the Opera web browser and can surf rudimentary websites like forums or review websites, though it has a tough time handling video websites.
No Backwards Compatibility: The DSi lacks a slot for Gameboy games so all that can be played on it are DS games and games purchased through the E-Shop.
Expensive: The DSi is one of the most expensive versions only second to the DSi XL.
Region Locked: The DSi is region locked.

          • Nintendo DSi XL
          • March 28 2010
The Nintendo DSi XL did not particularly bring anything new to the table as a revision, the only striking detail about it is that the handheld is significantly larger then all of its predecessors in all respects. Upon release the handheld came with two free games and one free application, however the application is now free and the games were just two copies of Brain Age so it isn’t a huge loss. The DSi XL had the poorest sales out of all the DS models, this is due to the fact that around the time of it’s release the 3DS was announced as the next big handheld. I’m pretty sure we all know where this is going. You can pretty much reread the DSi section as the DSi has no new features besides being larger.
The Pros and Cons of the System
Bigger Everything: For those with bad eyes or what have you, the DSi XL is massive with screens that dwarf all the previous iterations screens.
Special Editions: The DSi XL has a couple of special edition models which are neat.
Free Stuff: The DSi XL will generally come with two copies of Brain Age and a copy of Flipnote Hatena preinstalled.
Expensive: The DSi XL is very expensive, for the price of a DSi XL you may as well go and buy a 3DS as they tend to be $100+
Bigger Everything: Because of the size of the console it is harder to transport as it won’t fit in more pockets like all the previous models, generally you will need some kind of case if you intend to transport it.
Region Locked: The DSi XL is region locked.

The Verdict:
I’d recommend either the Original Model Nintendo DS or the Nintendo DSi, both are pretty easy to find and provide the most features with the cheapest price-tag. The reason I would recommend them over the Nintendo DS Lite or the Nintendo DSi XL is that the DS Lite is incredibly flimsy and has a high chance of breaking, the DSi XL is just a bigger variant of the regular DSi so you aren’t getting anything extra for the bonus $50-$60 you will wind up paying for it. Ultimately it comes down to what you want in a handheld, the DS Lite is slightly more portable then the regular DS and has the most color choices and special editions out of any model, the DSi XL is big.
I’ll just take the one that works.