From a Gamer’s Basement

The Nintendo DS is here, in my hands, and I’ve had the opportunity to play Super Mario 64 DS and Asphalt: Urban GT over the past week and a half. I’ve been eagerly (a mild way to put it for constant readers of this little column) anticipating the DS for quite some time and now that I have it, I figure I’ll give my thoughts on it. Of course if you’re looking for much more in-depth previews of the system and the games I would be remiss if I did not first point you to the feature done by Liquidcross on his time with the DS right here, and the feature done by the entire Inside Pulse Games staff on the launch lineup for the DS here. Both of these features, one of which I did contribute too if you’re looking for a more analytical opinion out of me, are excellent. What you’ll find before you here are just the casual musings of a Nintendo fan who has a brand new toy to play with and has been enjoying each and every moment with it thus far. Anyways, I pre-ordered the DS, something I rarely do for anything, for all of the reasons you can read about in Berg’s latest feature (smooth plug, I must admit.) But since there had been reports on the net for quite sometime that Nintendo was anticipating a shortage of DS systems around the holidays I figured I might as well pony up the cash early to have a better shot at getting it. I was pleasantly surprised when I got little hassle from my local EB employees when I went in. In the smoothest transaction I have ever had I merely handed them my receipt, got my DS, purchased my two aforementioned games and the EB one year warranty (which is a wise move kids ÃÆ’¢?? EB’s warranties are definitely nice, I should know since I had to use mine to replace my NES GBA SP which got a few dead pixels on it right out of the box back in the Spring) and walked out with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.

So I got home and of course the first thing I did was turn that bastard on and begin playing the demo for Metroid Prime: Hunters. I was pretty impressed, and I am definitely a convert to the touch screen. I think it’s going to be huge, and that all we’re seeing thus far is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the DS and its bag of tricks. This demo played well, and I know I’m sold on buying the full version. The controls were smooth, and I really liked the look and feel of the game as I tested some things out. Just playing a Metroid first person shooter on a handheld was surreal as it was. I think that alone will be enough to make it the biggest seller for the DS alongside Super Mario 64 DS when it gets released. The cardboard case was a bit of a disappointment for the demo, but I don’t think I can say enough about how much I love the new hard cases for the DS games. For as small as these games are its great Nintendo finally got their act together in terms of providing casings for handheld games.

Anyways the true fun that was to be had obviously came when I played the two full games I purchased. Since I really did want to see how Asphalt: Urban GT played I popped that in first. I was pleasantly surprised with how it performed. I’m very picky about my racers and this is the only racer I have even touched this year. I personally thought that the game play was pretty decent. While not perfect in terms of it’s use of the DS main features, I think it still serves as an example of what may be in store for us as more developers begin to work with the DS developing various racers. It’s a fun game, no doubt about it, and probably the better of the two racers for the DS right now. Of course I am eagerly awaiting Super Mario Kart DS, which I truly expect to rock out. But there I go thinking ahead again. I have no clue where I will get the money to buy all the games I want, but I digress. The main event of my DS adventures was still to come, and it was the time I’ve spent with Super Mario 64 DS that really has me hooked on this handheld.

Everything was just as it should have been. What was great about this game was that it stayed so true to the N64 version while adding a ton of new content for any Nintendo fan to eat up. Playing as either Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, or Wario is very cool along with the unique abilities each brings to the table. What I found oddly fun were some of the mini-games. They are a neat little way to pass some time and can get very strangely addicting. The main game itself is amazing graphically and control wise. I was a bit dubious of playing Super Mario 64 DS with a d-pad scheme but it really isn’t too bad after a bit of a learning curve. On a more broad basis the size of the DS really isn’t an issue to me. In all three games I never once felt uncomfortable playing or befuddled which was a concern of mine upon first viewing the system and holding it. So far I prefer the stylus pen over the thumb attachment, but that may change as I can see the pros and cons of both. I think it will really depend on the game you’re playing at the time and whatever style feels more comfortable with the game play. The fact that Nintendo included a spare stylus is more than I had expected. It was a nice surprise upon opening the box, because you know kids and adults alike are going to lose those things at least once. Having a second at least doesn’t mean you have to drop the cash to get a new one.

As for Pictochat, I really didn’t get into it that much. Seems nice enough, but I just can’t see myself using it all that often. More like never. Although I do like the connectivity features of the DS. Playing multiplayer games with only one cart is a huge plus, and a step up from the GBA days. I am interested in seeing how a few other games, of different genres, perform as well. Most notably I doubt I will be able to resist owning Feel the Magic for very long after giving it a test at one of my local stores that had it playable. The game just seems so unique that I can’t help but be drawn to it. A few other titles such as Mr. Driller and some of the later releases that are upcoming also seem like must owns, but at least I got the major ones I wanted for now. All in all I tentatively will judge the DS a success. Of course we shall see how things go as it will need stronger titles and better third party support to really make the impact Nintendo hopes it will make. But I don’t see that being an issue in the end, as I think Nintendo has a winner here. Developers are new to the dual screen technology, but its possibilities are pretty open-ended which should be a huge opportunity for them to push games to new limits. Finally I think Nintendo really hit the price tag exactly right. I spent about 230 dollars for the DS, warranty, and two games, and for a launch that really isn’t bad when compared with current day launches of other systems. Sony will be hard-pressed to not match this kind of price range in terms of accessories, games, and whatever to stay competitive with their PSP.

Anyways next week I’ll be back with something new. Until then enjoy the Metroid Prime 2: Echoes review I got up and whatever else comes down the pipe at Inside Pulse games this week.