16 October 2008
I have mixed feelings about the new DS, which Nintendo has announced for release next year in Europe. On the one hand, it's great that it includes the Opera Browser and the extra memory that requires as standard. The browser is a great tool, but probably was overpriced at £30 - it's a feature people expect to see included nowadays.
The support for SD cards might make it easier for homebrew to run on the device, which would be nice, particularly because it could help to introduce standards that make it easier to get homebrew running. Before we crack open the champagne, though, we should remember that Nintendo's taken a fairly hard line against homebrew in the past. Increasingly there are warnings on games threatening that running unauthorised devices might damage the games, and the new DS introduces region encoding, which hints that other software access controls might also be on the way.
It's also a shame to see the GBA slot go. I've bought a handful of GBA games to play on the DS, particularly retro game cartridges, and it's a real advantage to have access to a different handheld generation's software. Some of the most interesting DS software has used the GBA slot too, such as Guitar Hero (for the fret peripheral), Arkanoid (for the paddle controller available in the US), and My Weight Loss Coach (which has a pedometer that plugs into the GBA slot). The Opera browser also had a memory expansion pack, and Metroid Prime Hunters had a rumble pack (also compatible with Space Invaders Extreme, so I'm told, although since Amazon is taking about three months to deliver my copy, I might never know). That line of innovation will now slam to a halt.
The downloadable content might be good, if it's priced right. There must be a large market for people prepared to pay about a fiver for a retro game, rather than having to pay £15+ for just about anything, and typically around £25 for something good.
There might be some fun new software to emerge from the inclusion of a camera, but generally speaking the DSi feels like a bit of wasted opportunity. The original DS had an exceptional design. I don't think incorporating a couple of weak cameras and enabling music to be played from an SD card is really going to push things that far forward. In order for any improved processing power to make a difference to the software that's designed for the DS family, the DSi will need to first assume market dominance. There doesn't really seem to be sufficient reason to upgrade for most users.