By DrRandle 1 Comments
The Best DS Thus Far
Hey everybody. I've had about 24 hours to toy around with the new DSi and some of it's software, so I've finalized my impressions, and I also thought I'd give you a few tips on how to enjoy the system if you pick one up.
First of all, the system feels more formfitting. It's a little bit wider, while being a little more flat. I'm not sure if it's some swapped guts or maybe just that matte finish, but the DSi just feels good in the hands. The L and R buttons have been slightly altered, likely to help with some damage issues on the Lite. I know my left shoulder button broke for no apparent reason and I think it has something to do with it being part of the back of the unit, whereas these shoulder buttons are set into the top similar to those of the PSP, but more inlaid.
Speaking of buttons, Nintendo has seen fit to return to the more "clicky" buttons on the inside. My biggest complaint with the Light was it's more squishy buttons, as opposed to the GBA SP and DS Phat's more cell-phone like buttons, that had a nice click to them and felt responsive. While the buttons themselves are still the Lite buttons in shape, the insides have been replaced to give it that more tactile push. In short: they feel great, like a handheld controller should feel.
The power button has been turned from that terrible little push-nub to a regular button on the inside of the DSi, located next to the bottom left corner of the touch screen. Pressing this button once can take you from your game to the home menu of the DSi, and pressing it for a few moments turns it off. Quick tip: If you hold the "minus" on the volume control when you turn the power on, your DSi will start in a muted position. In case you've not figured it out yet, the DSi's volume controls are now handled by + and - buttons on the left side. I'm not a fan of this for two reasons: one being that the slider is just quicker for that on-the-go volume control. If you have earphones and somebody is trying to say something, with a quick flick of your thumb you can hear them. Also, there's no reason they had to move it to the left side of the unit. Now your thumb can't even reach it, and you have to sort of work at it. Where the volume slider was is now dead space, so I don't really see what the intent of the move was. That being said, another quick tip for a feature I do enjoy, you can adjust the brightness of your screens on the fly by holding select and using the + and - keys to adjust it.
A few little things, the screens are a little bigger, but otherwise the same. There is an extra brightness level added, just in case. The power led lights are nicer, I think. Your power on is a crisp blue, which looks great on the black model. Wi-Fi status is handled with a green led and if your power is low you get a red indicator. If it's in a critically low position it begins to blink red. Oh also there's a light for charging, and it's orange. The DSi also has two cameras, probably one of it's biggest selling points, one on the outside flap and one on the inside hinge. They're not that great, hardware wise, and I'll save the rest of the talk for when I get to the software. Finally, there is a flap for SD cards on the right side of the unit. It fits SD cards. Whoo.
The DSi's interface is significantly different from that of the old DS models. It's more crisp, and has a decidedly iPhone or Wii-like look to it. Your icons are all large icons lined up horizontally that you can slide one way or another too with either the d-pad or stylus. It's incredibly intuitive and looks great. The top screen will display random photos you've taken every time you turn the system on, the date and time, your volume setting, and finally an actual indication of your power level. Before the DS's only showed you if it was green or red, like the light, which was pointless. This one actually shows you the amount of juice your unit's got stirring around like a cell phone.
One feature of the DSi's software that is a vast improvement is the ability to hot-swap games. Before you would have to turn off and reboot your system to switch games, but now you can just exchange them while on the home menu. When you're playing games, you can press the power button to return to the main menu, but the exclusion of a screen between that process is baffling. The PSP and the Wii both have the ability to pause your game to give you some options, generally returning to the main menu. The DSi could have used this function, if nothing else, so that I could check the time when I'm playing on the go. Aside from that though, the new software is top notch.
First we'll check out the camera function. When you first fire up the program, you're greeted with a calender on the top screen and a few options on the bottom. You can choose between your System and SD Card storage for taking pictures and viewing saved ones. You can also view the camera and leave yourself memos and pictures, similar to the Wii Message board. With this feature, the DSi is that much more efficent as a personal organizer as well. I would say that a phonebook application would be important for this, but logically most people have that in their cell phone, if not already the rest of these applications. If you're like me, though, you use your DS way more obsessively. In any case, the album is intuitive, sorting your photos by date and time while displaying them in the same horizontal method as the channels. You can also assign stickers to them to better sort your favorites, and edit them using various tools. You can also set up a slide show to music, all exactly like you can with the photo channel on the Wii. Only, in this case, a much more effective version of it. It's just smoother, and more refined.
The camera itself is pretty versatile. For starters, you can immediately take picture from the main menu using the l or r buttons. For a more controlled experience, though, you'll want to use the camera channel. First, you can pick from a wide variety of "modes." You've got your standard camera, some graffiti filters that help add some weird personality to them, a distortion filter so you and you friends can all look like you've seen the video from The Ring, and a few merging tools. Most of these serve as little toys and distractions. Hardcore camera lovers be warned: this is not going to be for you. This is for people who just want to have fun. Ideally? I see this being more for high school kids who wanna take fun photos for some memories. This is more about having fun with your photos than just taking them. It's not meant to take great snapshots of your kids first prom dress, but it might be nice for taking pictures of them doing something silly. I don't know, clearly it's up to you, but I wouldn't recomend this be your primary camera unless you can't afford otherwise. It's true a typical digital camera of this quality would run you about 70, 80 bucks, so maybei t's not bad to also have an awesome DS? That's up to you.
The Sound Channel is where you can go to record yourself or listen to music stored on your SD card. I will come right out and say that the recorder is pretty dumb. You can only record ten second snippits to play with. It makes a diversion that's about as fun as it sounds: altering the tone and speed of 10 second long audio clips. That gets you excited, doesn't it. No, probably not. I have found one use for it though, continuing on with my idea of this system being a great personal organizer: It makes a great verbal note pad. "Note to self: Get some milk." That takes about 2 seconds and now you have a memo to yourself. If you've found any other great uses for this thing, I'd love to hear about them. It might amuse the "casuals" a little more, but for people who want a great multi-functional gaming system... it's otherwise pretty pointless. What the sound channel will be used for is listening to music. Quick tip: You can only use AAC supported formats. Here's the Wikipedia entry on AAC formats, but suffice to say you're not using MP3's. Instead try Apple supported formats like the MP4. Seems a little unintuitive to me, but then again the iPod is the biggest music player on the market so maybe it makes sense. Personally I hate iTunes with a seething passion but that's a different blog. Also you can play with your music, yadda yadda. I just want to listen to it.
The DSi Shop channel is nothing particularly worth mentioning: it's exactly like the Wii Shop Channel in functionality. Otherwise you've got your DS Download Channel and Pictochat, which are exactly like they used to be. The settings interface is very much like it's Wii contemporary, down to the layout of the options.
So that's the DSi. My overall impressions are: I love it. It's clearly the best model of the DS released so far, though I wouldn't go so far as to call it the "next stage" in the DS pillar. Just another drastic redesign. My biggest attraction is the downloadable games, which I'll review throughout the rest of the week. Whether or not you should upgrade this is ultimately up to you. If you haven't moved away from the Phat, than you are a fool and you need to get this. If you have the Lite, well it's a matter of priority for you and you alone. I've given you the tools to make that decision, other than the software line up. It remains to be seen if there will be any "DSi only" games, but I wouldn't count on it, I think that will only be held up in the downloadable market.
Have you picked one up yet? If so, what are your thoughts? Otherwise, why haven't you? I'd love to see some feedback on this one, I'm curious to know how people are reacting to this thing.
-Make it a Good One.
Randy "Dr. Randle" Marr
PS: Anybody else hear this thing was supposed to have two touch screens? I swear I read that way back when, but... it doesn't! So, yeah, whatever that's worth to ya...
PS x2: If you have Animal Crossing, sign on and receive your DSi Chair.