Tag Archives: Nintendo DS Lite

A Decade of Dual Screens – 10 Years of the Nintendo DS

I remember seeing the original GameBoy back in the early 90s.

Display Case #3

GameBoy units at the Nintendo Store

My youngest cousin, some 22 years my junior (which is about the same age difference as between my father and I) had one back then.  While I was mildly interested in it due to the fact that she had the Elevator Action cartridge, which faithfully reproduced the arcade game of the same name that I played in my own youth, overall my reaction was tepid.  I had a computer with a 17″ color monitor that played a myriad of deeper, more interesting, and much more colorful video games than the chubby little monochromatic brick battery hog from Nintendo.

But I had made the jump from arcades and consoles ages before the GameBoy showed up.  I dribbled a bit with a Sega Genesis when somebody gave it to me, but other than that I was strictly a computer gamer.  So the GameBoy was something off in the periphery.  I have vague recollections about changes in form factor, the arrival of color, and the advent of what might be the defining game for the platform, the Pokemon series of games.  Though the latter first came to my attention via the trading card game, which brought me to the TV show, and the finally to the realization that it all started as a video game.  That was at approximately the Pokemon Yellow stage of the series.  One of my nieces had a GameBoy Advance SP, which seemed like a flimsy bit of hardware.

And it still wasn’t of much interest.  The internet and online gaming was where it was at for me.

Then, on November 21, 2004 Nintendo officially launched the Nintendo DS in North America.

Again, something on the periphery of my gaming.  It was a big deal and, thus, hard to ignore.  The news bled through and I remember wondering how a two screen system would work and what advantage it would provide.  I think the fact that the unit had more buttons on it that its predecessors made a bigger impression on me.

Of course, by that time I had a daughter of my own, though she was far too young for that sort of thing.  But time passed.  I remember us being at Toys R Us one day when she started playing with one of the DS units on display.  It had Pokemon Diamond running on it and my daughter was transfixed by the idea of wandering the countryside in the game.

Not too long after that, we were preparing for a flight to Hawaii to visit family (my daughter has been to Hawaii more times in her few years than most people will go in their whole lives), when we discovered that the video player, used to maintain our sanity by keep our daughter busy, was no longer holding a charge.  It would not be an option for this trip.  Faced with six hours of “are we there yet?” my wife sent me out specifically to buy a Nintendo DS and a few games in order to keep our daughter busy during the flight.

And it had to be pink.  This was the era of the Nintendo DS Lite, the overhaul of the original hardware and maybe the best packaging Nintendo ever did.

I remember the bit about the color, because when I got to the store, they only had blue units.  So I bought a blue one because, what the hell, right?  My wife wasn’t having that, and when I arrived home with the wrong item she called around, found a pink unit, and sent me out to exchange the red unit for the pink.  That was a little over six and a half years ago.

The whole thing was a big hit, and I was as interested in the Nintendo DS Lite unit and the Pokemon game running on it as my daughter.  Within a few weeks I had my own cobalt blue Nintendo DS Lite and a copy of Pokemon Diamond as well.  I remain impressed with the unit to this day.  It is solid, the screen is crisp and clear and colorful (though a bit small for my aging eyes these days), the battery life is excellent, and the built in WiFi and connectivity with the Wii was a master stroke.

And, of course, Pokemon.

There have been a few other games we have enjoyed on the DS hardware at our house.  The Mario Kart games have been good, and my daughter has played a lot of Animal Crossing.  But the mainline Pokemon RPG games have been the mainstay of the hardware for us, the reason for having the units.  There are now five DS models in our home, all of which still function.  We have the original two DS Lite units, a DSi XL unit my daughter got as a present, and then a pair of 3DS XL units, which followed the same pattern as the originals, as once my daughter got one… and started playing Pokemon X… I had to have one too.

Overall, I have to say I remain impressed with the design and functionality of the hardware.  I have had the DS Lite out in order to transfer Pokemon between versions of the game as well as to withdraw quite a herd of Pokemon from Pokemon Ranch, and it was still a solid, comfortable device to use.

And I am clearly not alone in my admiration of Nintendo’s dual screen handheld.  Over 150 million units of the original DS line sold during its life, making second only to the PlayStation 2 in console hardware sales, and another 45 million 3DS generation units have sold as well.  That is nearly 200 million units, or nearly 400 million screens.

Nintendo seems to run hot and cold with its living room consoles.  The NES and SNES were both hot, but the GameCube was not.  The Wii was on fire, but the Wii U hasn’t found its killer app.  The game pad controller seems like a weight around the console’s neck.  They should have left that sort of thing to the handheld side of the team, as they did with the Wii.

But on the handheld front, Nintendo has been dominant for years.  How much of it was hardware and how much of it was the games… especially Pokemon… I couldn’t say, but the combination has been a winner for Nintendo for a long time now.  And there is a new 3DS unit on its way to consumers next year.

The New 3DS

Colorful buttons and a second analog control

Over at The Verge they have a timeline of Nintendo portable devices, most of them hot, a few of them… well… not.

A Farewell to Pokemon

We were out shopping on Sunday.  For some reason my wife asked me to come along and for equally inexplicable reasons I said yes.  I do not like wandering around the mall “shopping” and begin to behave like an 8 year old in making up games and distractions to pass the time.  This, in turn, annoys the crap out of my long-suffering wife, so clearly neither of us was thinking straight on this call.

But as we made our way through the electronics section of Target, my daughter went over to the Nintendo section and spotted the new Pokemon X and Y games.

Pokemon X and Y

Pokemon X and Y

She actually seemed both surprised and excited to see a new Pokemon game out.  I knew it had shipped.  I still get email updates from Nintendo and was aware that the new games were releasing world wide this past Saturday.  I just hadn’t said (or written) anything about it.  (Keen and Graev have some posts about the new games.)  But I have to admit I have been interested in the game.

Pokemon used to be one of our things.

My daughter was attracted to the game a long ways back, when we saw a Nintendo DS on display at a store with Pokemon loaded up.  It was colorful, the basic functions were immediately comprehensible to her, and the idea of capturing little pets and making them battle held an attraction for her.  She was into bugs and dinosaurs and animals when she was that age. (Now, however, she screams bloody murder if there is a moth in the shower with her.)

Of course to play Pokemon you had to buy the hardware, a Nintendo DS.  That was the stopping point, until we were about to go on a trip and my wife gave me the mandate to go buy one to keep our daughter entertained on the plane for five hours.  So I went out and bought a pink Nintendo DS Lite along with LEGO Star Wars, Mario Party DS, and Pokemon Diamond.

I could have skipped the first two.  We spent the whole trip playing Pokemon.  My daughter was in kindergarten at the time and needed help reading some of the text in the game… this was before she had been trained by World of Warcraft to skip all quest text… so I spent a chunk of that time reading the game text aloud to her.  That was a bit of a chore for me, but got her motivated to read.

The game was such a success that a couple of months later my wife bought me a cobalt blue Nintendo DS Lite and my own copy of Pokemon Diamond and we were off.

We played through that together, went on to Pokemon Platinum, and really hit our peak during Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver.  We were wearing out Pokewalkers everywhere (and cheating a bit using physics and LEGO).  There were mishaps and tragedies and meddling cats, but we were into it.  We went to the Pokemon regional championships, played with Pokemon Ranch, and in went to the Pokemon Black and White tour when it showed up at a local mall.  I even caught ‘em all, nabbing all 493 Pokemon that were available in the series up to that point.

But then Pokemon Black and White came along and we were not quite as interested.  In part that was because we had played so much Pokemon up to that point.  We might have been a bit burned out having burned through all the predecessors on the DS, plus a couple of the GameBoy Advance versions, which also ran on the DS Lite.

Then there is also the fact that all Pokemon games are very much alike at some basic level.  You start out in the world as a youth, you meet some Pokemon expert, you get your first Pokemon, and you head out into the world to catch Pokemon, battle gym leaders, and eventually take on the regional champions, all while battling a rival and some oddly dressed organization bent on evil.  And all of it takes place in a world completely obsessed with Pokemon and where all conflict is resolved by Pokemon battles.

After a few runs through that, you might get a little tired of it.

And then there are the special features each game brings to the table.  My daughter and I used to enjoy playing together in the underground in Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum.  It was a shared environment you could link up in on WiFi.  We were also fond of the Pokewalker and the way your lead Pokemon would walk around with you in HeartGold and SoulSilver.  In Black and White the key features were the graphics, which were improved, 150 new Pokemon (groan), and a lot of online WiFi connectivity (like Global Link) that did not really click with us.  Neither of us finished Black or White and we never bothered with Black 2 and White 2. (Which I still think were dumb names.)

Finally, there were just other distractions.  Other games to play, other things to do.  My daughter was growing up and little things like Pokemon were no longer quite so important.  So we have not been playing Pokemon for quite a while.  I would say that we are at least two years past the last time either of us played with any read drive.

But the memory of those times, of playing together, of figuring out where to go next, of catching and trading Pokemon, that all remains.  And I think some of that came rushing back to her when we were standing there at the counter looking at the new Pokemon.  She was gushing a bit when she asked, “Can we get it?”

I had to tell her we could not.

While Pokemon X and Y have the usual range of features and even a slick way to transfer your old Pokemon over to the new games via the internet (assuming you have them all in Pokemon Black or White) using a feature called Pokemon Bank, there was a problem.

Pokemon Bank - $5.00 a year

Pokemon Bank – $5.00 a year

Pokemon X and Y are the first versions of the main line of Pokemon games that are exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS generation of handheld gaming devices.  Our Nintendo DS Lites are now pretty much obsolete.  When Nintendo stops shipping Pokemon on a platform, it is done.

There certainly seems to be some hunger for a version of Pokemon on the 3DS platform.  It is on track to be a big seller, moving 4 million units on its first two days.  The top Pokemon games of all time are Pokemon Diamond and Pearl which together move nearly 18 million units.

My daughter had an immediate solution to this problem, which was to buy new hardware!

I have clearly failed to instill any sort of sense as to the value of money in my daughter.

I had to tell her that wasn’t going to happen either.  At least not right then.  Something like a Nintendo 3DS is a Christmas/Birthday present (or maybe a going on long trip present) and not something we just buy on a whim while at the store on a Sunday afternoon.  Even the more moderately priced Nintendo 2DS, about which I am a bit dubious given what I have read (turns out it has just one big LED panel for both screens), falls outside of the impulse buy price range in my opinion.

My daughter’s response was in the “Oh well” range of emotions.  She didn’t seem all that put out by it and I somehow doubt that a Nintendo 3DS is going to make it to her Christmas list.  And if it did, I think she is more interested in Animal Crossing: New Leaf than Pokemon.

So I suspect that we have had our time with Pokemon.

Nnitendo 3DS $170 – DS Lite $100

Well, Nintendo dumped the price of the 3Ds by $80 just four months after its release.

Apparently, sales were not meeting internal estimates according to Nintendo.  And then there is the whole Sony PlayStation Vita thing.  No doubt Nintendo wanted to win on price there early.  But slow sales are registering as the primary concern.

Certainly *I* didn’t run out and buy one.  But for me, the 3Ds has only one compelling feature so far, NetFlix streaming, which did not even go live until last week or so.

3DS and NetFlix

I am tempted by that option, though I am held back when I start thinking about when I would actually use it.  Am I really going to watch that much Star Trek: The Next Generation sitting in bed?

Otherwise, from what I have seen, in person and in the news, there is no killer app for the device quite yet.

Of course, if you own a 3DS already, you might be a little miffed at the drastic price drop.  But Nintendo plans to make it up to you.

Meanwhile, if I were in the market for a DS right now that was just right for what I play most on the handheld gaming device, I would be looking at the DS Lite, which Nintendo has aggressively priced.

DS Lites, While Supplies Last

Sure, the DSi has access to the online Nintendo store and the DSi XL has a larger screen (at the same pixel resolution), but the good old DS Lite has the best battery life of the product line and it is the last of the DS line to have the GameBoy Advance cartridge slot.  That last piece is key for the truly obsessive Pokemon fan, as it gives you access to several more generations of Pokemon games.

So I am not sure what Nintendo marketing thinks they are doing.

They dropped the 3Ds price right on top of the DSi XL price point.  The DSi is sitting not that far behind as well in price.  Meanwhile, they are sending out ads for the DS Lite at a price that pretty much pulls the rug out from underneath everybody.

That is some good work there Nintendo.