Announced January 20, 2004, Nintendo's newest handheld game console. The DS stands for Dual Screened (used in the press release). (Update: The screens will be positioned vertically). Even though it's a handheld, Nintendo has stated that it's not meant to take over the GBA SP, but sell alongside it. The screens are "two separate 3-inch TFT LCD displays." The system will also feature dual processors and "semiconductor memory of up to 1 Gigabit." It's supposed to ship worldwide before the end of 2004. Besides this, few other details have been released, such as game medium, controls, battery-life, etc. Also, not much has been said about how the two screens could be utilized besides "players can look forward to being able to manage their game progress from two different perspectives, enhancing both the speed and strategy of the challenge. For example in a soccer game, users can view the whole game on one screen while simultaneously focusing on an individual soccer player's tackle or goal on the other screen."

(Update: March 11, 2004):

Unofficially, Nintendo has made Project Nitro the name of the Nintendo DS project. The day this happened, a leaked document appeared. It confirms that an ARM 7 and an ARM 9 processor will be present in the system. The ARM 9 will run at 67 mhz, and the ARM 7 will run at 33, compared to 16.8 mhz of the GBA's ARM 7. “The unit will feature four megabytes of system RAM, as well as 32K of processor RAM for both ARM 7 and ARM 9, and 656K of VRAM.” According to development sources, the ARM 7 will be used for both GBA compatibility and for aiding Project Nitro games. The two screens will each be at a higher resolution than the GBA's, with 256x192 pixels versus the older 240x160. Also, one of the screens at least will be touch sensitive. In addition, the main focus of the system will be on 3D, “pushing as many as 120,000 polygons a second”, with 2D abilities similar to those of the GBA. The button configuration will be the same as the GBA's, but Nintendo is still considering adding X and Y buttons. “The Project Nitro will also feature 802.11-style wireless connectivity," according to the document, "with some development sources stating that the system can link up to 16 systems using this wireless technology.”

Nintendo's latest offering to the handheld market, the DS (priced at $149.99 MSRP) had its North American launch on November 21, 2004, making it the first Nintendo console ever to be released in the United States and Canada before Japan. The Japanese launch (which will include a somewhat larger and, in my opinion, more impressive lineup of launch titles) is set for December 2, 2004. The rest of Asia will get their DSes in January of 2005, while Europe and Australia seem to be on track for March 2005. This may change, of course, especially considering that the current number of estimated preorders in Japan is around three million, three times the number that will be available at launch.

The DS is a unique gaming console in many ways. The most obvious of these, of course, is the presence of two screens. The DS is built much like a GBA SP, insofar as it consists of two halves folded over in a "clamshell" design. In the DS, the top half contains the stereo speakers and one screen; the bottom half contains the controls and second screen. Why two screens? The primary reason is that the bottom is a touch screen, like those used in PDAs. What's the point, you may ask? The best answer to that is seen in the games that are out and those in development. Take Metroid Prime: Hunters, where the bottom screen (in addition to showing a map of the level) can be used to turn and aim Samus Aran's blaster with mouse-like precision - something previously unheard of in console FPSes. Take Super Mario 64 DS' minigames like "Bob-omb Squad", in which you use the stylus to pull back and aim a slingshot to keep Bob-ombs from destroying your flower garden (somewhat reminiscent of the classic game Paratrooper, but with much more precise controls) or "Mario's Slides", where you must draw lines between ropes to guide Mario safely to a Power Star. Or Madden '05, which is supposed to allow you to draw your own plays (and if it doesn't, Madden '06 will). Or how about the point-and-click adventure game in development by Nintendo with the working title of "Another"? I don't think I have to say anything else there; the mere fact that a major publisher is working on an adventure game says it all.

The DS also features wireless capabilities for multiplayer gaming and more. It supports both IEEE 802.11b standards and Nintendo's own proprietary protocol. A DS in "sleep mode" will wake up if it comes within signal range of another DS (30 to 100 feet depending on conditions, according to Nintendo, though some publications have reportedly gotten it to work from further away). Like the GBA, the DS offers the capability for single-cartridge multiplayer, and Nintendo seems to be pushing third-party developers to support this feature. The DS also features a built-in wireless chatting program called "PictoChat", which allows you to send text and drawings to a chat room of up to 16 people. Nintendo has also openly stated that Internet play via wireless routers is a possibility in the future, and that DS kiosks in game stores may in the future have downloadable game demos which will reside for a limited time in your DS' memory.

Another new feature is a microphone for use in games that will have voice recognition. This probably has the least use of any of the features, but I can well imagine that some developers will find uses for it. It might be fun to say "Knight to Rook B4" or "Megaman, Execute!" out loud, if you don't mind the strange looks you get from people.

Other features? The best graphics on a handheld to date (though Sony's Playstation Portable may claim that title in a few months) - while the 3D in Mario 64 DS and Metroid Prime: Hunters can't hold a candle to Half-Life 2, or even console titles like Halo 2, it is most impressive for a handheld gaming system. A new memory card-like media which is half the length and width of a GBA cart and can hold much more data (currently up to a gigabit, and Nintendo claims to be developing carts with even more space) and are very cheap to produce. The ability to play GBA games (in singleplayer mode only, however). Backlit screens (the first in a handheld released in America since the Game Gear) - and the general consensus seems to be that GBA games look even better on the DS' backlit screen than on the GBA SP. A rechargeable lithium ion battery providing six to ten hours of gameplay between charges.

I know I must sound like a slavering fanboy at this point, so now I'll pose the question everyone's asking: Are there any bad points?

The answer is yes, but not many. The biggest one is a production issue, a large minority of DSes (possibly as many as 10%, but don't take my estimate at face value) shipped with dead pixels - my own unit has a single pixel in the bottom-center of the top screen which will not change from white. However, Nintendo issued a press release within a day of launch stating that even a single dead pixel will be considered adequate grounds for a replacement, though they ask that you try playing for a while with it to see if it truly disturbs your gaming. Some people have complained that the touch screen looks perpetually dirty; this seems to be because the DS uses a relatively inexpensive touch screen, also found in the more moderate-priced PDAs (such as my own Tungsten E). Frankly, I think of this is a tradeoff; a better touchscreen would have made the system cost more money, and $150 is already the most Nintendo has ever charged for a handheld. Besides, it's only really noticeable when the screen is mostly white (as in the menu screen before a game is loaded).

Some people have complained about the lack of GBA multiplayer, and the DS' inability to play games from the Game Boy Color and original Game Boy. I can somewhat understand both of these complaints, but my understanding is that in both cases, it would have increased the amount of hardware present in the DS' already quite-full case. In any event, if you want GBA multiplayer and the ability to play GBC and GB Original games, then you should hold onto your GBA. I suspect, however, that the GBA2 (or whatever it will be called) will probably not support GBC and GB Original games for the same reason.

Other complaints are peripheral to the actual system. The largest complaint is the somewhat lackluster launch lineup, with only one first-party title (and that a port, albeit one with much new material), and a handful of third-party titles, several of them somewhat esoteric. There isn't much to say to this except that more games are on the way; there are over 100 DS games currently in development. Many people (including myself) have also expressed irritation with the short and somewhat flimsy stylus included with the DS, especially since the one coupled with demo models is longer and more durable. It is, however, adequate. There is also the matter of the thumbstrap, which can be used in place of a stylus. The only place to loop it around to tie it to the DS is on the right side, making it slightly harder to use for left-handers; the bottom line, though, is that they simply didn't make it long enough, and I'd think it'd be difficult to use regardless of your hand orientation.

Finally, some people (most notably, Gabe of Penny Arcade) have complained about the size and weight of the system. The size, I can see some people having trouble with, especially if you have small hands. The weight, however... let me put it this way, unless you have a degenerative muscle disorder, you have absolutely no excuse for finding the DS heavy. Go do some reps with four-pound weights.

These factors aside, however, it really is a great system, and the next person who makes a crack about it being the new Virtual Boy is getting slapped with a trout, or something.

Specs/Technical Info

Launch Price: $149.99 - includes power supply, extra stylus, thumbstrap, and (for a limited time) Metroid Prime: Hunters: First Hunt demo
Launch Titles: Asphalt Urban GT (Ubisoft), Feel the Magic: XY/XX (Sega), Madden NFL 2005 (Electronic Arts), Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits (Namco), Spider-Man 2 (Activision), Super Mario 64 DS (Nintendo), The Urbz: Sims in the City (Electronic Arts)

  • Size (closed): 5.85" wide / 3.33" long / 1.13" tall
  • Upper Screen: Backlit, 3-inch, semitransparent reflective TFT color LCD with 256x192 pixel resolution and .24 mm dot pitch
  • Touch Screen: Same as upper screen, but with transparant analog touch screen
  • Color: Capable of displaying 260,000 colors
  • Wireless Communication: IEEE 802.11b and Nintendo's proprietary format; wireless range is 30 to 100 feet, depending on circumstances; multiple users can play multiplayer games using just one DS game card
  • Controls: Touch screen, embedded microphone for voice recognition, A/B/X/Y face buttons, plus control pad, L/R shoulder buttons, Start and Select buttons
  • Input/Output: Ports for both Nintendo DS game cards and Game Boy Advance Game Paks, terminals for stereo headphones and microphone
  • Other Features: Embedded PictoChat software that allows up to 16 users to chat at once; embedded real-time clock; date, time and alarm; touch-screen calibration
  • CPUs: One ARM9 and one ARM7
  • Sound: Stereo speakers providing virtual surround sound, depending on the software
  • Battery: Lithium ion battery delivering six to 10 hours of play on a four-hour charge, depending on use; power-saving sleep mode; AC adapter
  • Languages: English, Japanese, Spanish, French, German, Italian

Complete Title List

To the best of my knowledge, this is a complete list of games released in North America. If you know for certain of any others that are out, don't hesitate to /msg me.

Advance Wars: Dual Strike
Age of Empires: Age of Kings
Animal Crossing: Wild World
Animaniacs: Lights, Camera, Action
Asphalt: Urban GT
ATV Quad Frenzy
Battles of Prince of Persia
Big Brain Academy
Blades of Thunder 2
Bomberman DS
Break 'Em All
Brain Age
Bratz: Forever Diamondz
Burnout Legends
Bust-A-Move DS
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
Danny Phantom: Urban Jungle
Deep Labyrinth
Dig Dug: Digging Strike
Dino Master
Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warrior 2
Dragon Booster
Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
Elf Bowling 1 & 2
Feel the Magic: XY/XX3
FIFA Soccer 2006
FIFA Street 2
FIFA World Cup 2006
Finding Nemo: Escape to the Big Blue
Ford Racing 3
Franklin's Great Adventures
Freedom Wings
Frogger Helmet Chaos
Golden Nugget Casino DS
Goldeneye: Rogue Agent
Greg Hastings Tour Paintball Max'd
Guilty Gear Dust Strikers
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi: The Genie & the Amp
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
Kim Possible: Kimmunicator
Kirby: Canvas Curse2
Lost In Blue
Lost Magic
Lunar: Dragon Song
Madden NFL 2005
Madden NFL 2006
Madden NFL 2007
Mario & Luigi 2: Partners In Time
Mario Kart DS
Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects
Mega Man Battle Network 5: Double Team
Metroid Prime: Hunters
Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt demo
Metroid Prime Pinball
Miss Spider Harvest Time Hop
Monopoly Boggle Yahtzee Battleship Compilation
Monster House
Monster Trucks DS
Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits
Need For Speed: Most Wanted
Need For Speed Underground 2
New Super Mario Bros.
Nicktoons Unite!
Nintendogs: Best Friends4
Nintendogs: Chihuahua and Friends
Nintendogs: Dachshund and Friends
Nintendogs: Labrador and Friends
Open Season
Over The Hedge
Pac n' Roll
Pac-Man World 3
Pac Pix
Peter Jackson's King Kong
Ping Pals
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans' Chest
Point Blank DS
Pokemon Dash
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team
Pokemon Trozei
Puyo Pop Fever
Rayman DS
Real Time Conflict: Shogun Empires
Resident Evil: Deadly Silence
Retro Atari Classics
Ridge Racer DS
Scooby-Doo! Unmasked
Sea World: Shamu's Deep Sea Adventures
Sega Casino
Shrek SuperSlam
Snowboard Kids
Snood 2: On Vacation
Sonic Rush
Space Invaders Revolution
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Spider-Man 2
SpongeBob Squarepants: The Yellow Avenger
Spyro: Shadow Legacy
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Sudoku Grindmaster
Super Black Bass Fishing
Super Mario 64 DS
Super Monkey Ball: Touch & Roll
Super Princess Peach
Tak: The Great Juju Challenge
Tamagotchi: Corner Shop
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare
Tenchu: Dark Secret
Tetris DS
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe
The Incredibles 2: Rise of the Underminer
The Rub Rabbits!
The Sims 2
The Suite Life of Zack and Cody: Tipton Trouble
The Urbz: Sims In the City
Tiger Woods PGA Tour
Tao's Adventure: Curse of the Demon Seal
Tony Hawk's American Sk8land
Top Gun
Top Spin 2
Trace Memory1
Trauma Center: Under The Knife
True Swing Golf
Ultimate Spider-Man
Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble
WarioWare Touched!
World Championship Poker
Worms: Open Warfare
X-Men: The Official Game
Yoshi's Touch & Go
Yu-Gi-Oh! Nightmare Troubadour
Zoo Keeper
Zoo Tycoon DS

1: Trace Memory was released in Europe and Japan under the title "Another Code: Two Memories".

2: Known in Europe as Kirby: Power Paintbrush.

3: Known in Europe as Project Rub.

4: The "Best Friends" edition of Nintendogs is only available with special DS bundles.

Technical specs were shamelessly lifted from Nintendo's list at Titles in development taken from lists from Nintendo and IGN. All other content is my own.

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