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Nintendo DS Sturdy, But Hard to Play on the Go

2 Nov, 2004 By: John Gaudiosi

Seattle — Nintendo had a host of launch titles available for play at a recent Gamer's Summit, which focused on Nintendo DS, the new dual-screen portable that ships Nov. 21 at $149.99.

More than a dozen DS games will be available over the first 35 days of the portable's launch.

Nintendo DS is a sturdy device. The dual screens are protected with the clamshell closed, making this a device that can be dropped without breaking — keeping consistent with the long line of Game Boy devices. One drawback for a portable is that you need some type of table or flat surface to play the majority of games. It's impossible to hold the DS, have access to the buttons and control anything with the stylus without a desktop surface on which to rest the portable.

The Wi-Fi gaming options work well and add replay value to many of the titles.

Nintendo DS will ship with two pre-installed software devices. The PictoChat program is great for the younger crowd and allows gamers to share text and pictures wirelessly. But what gamers will really enjoy is the demo for Metroid Prime: Hunters — First Hunt. This will be a must-have killer app next year when the full game ships.

Here's a rundown of selected games:

Super Mario 64 DSNintendo's mascot is making his 10th straight console launch appearance with this updated Nintendo 64 game. Rather than just port the N64 game over to DS, Nintendo has actually added a lot of content to this game, including “versus” gameplay for up to four players and a “rec room” filled with 36 mini-games.

Madden NFL 2005Electronic Arts (EA) is supporting Nintendo DS with three big franchises this year. “Madden” is certainly the biggest. Anyone who's played the Nintendo 64 “Madden” game will be familiar with the graphics presentation of this version — although it looks better on a small screen. The game comes with stat tracking, 3-D gameplay, multiple camera angles and instant replays of the action. EA has updated this game with all the current players and 32 NFL teams.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005Another huge franchise for EA and a title that should appeal to the older crowd Nintendo is courting, EA has gone to great lengths to utilize both screens in this new version of the game. The game includes an assortment of modes, including a Legends Tour, quick play and multiplayer for up to four players. There's stroke play, match play, skins and tournaments to compete in. In the Wi-Fi multiplayer, EA allows all four players to compete individually on each hole. Once each has played the hole, they move on to the next hole and play individually again, while the DS tracks scores and will eventually find the winner of the foursome.

EA has gone to great lengths to use the touchscreen capabilities of DS with this game. For instance, while the top screen features a 3-D view of the hole when you first approach, the bottom screen shows an overhead view.

Mr. Driller: Drill SpiritsNamco has a winner with this puzzle game that takes advantage of the dual screen and stylus for Nintendo DS. In a twist to most of the game's using both screens, the action takes place on the touch-screen in this game and the top screen serves as a map. You press the location you want Mr. Driller to go, and he follows. It's very easy to get into this game with the stylus but very difficult to master.

Urbz: Sims in the CityThis portable game expands on the upcoming GBA title and makes use of the touchscreen from the get-go. When you turn on the game, the top screen allows you to choose options, while the bottom screen features a spinning record player that you can scratch at any time to put your own “spin” on the theme music playing. Other exclusive features for the Nintendo DS include 24 new objects, a unique touchscreen menu system, five mini-games, seven characters and five pet species that players can create with the special in-game ‘gene manipulator.' There's also a new story line for the game.

Spider-Man 2Activision is making the most of this year's hottest live-action movie license. This new game was designed from the ground up for DS, and it includes the use of the bottom screen to select new moves for Spidey to perform on-the-fly. While the majority of the game focuses on 2-D side-scrolling action, there are mini-games and boss battles tossed in for some 3-D thrills.

Ridge Racer DSWhile Namco hit a home run in the puzzle category, the racing genre was another story. Ridge Racer looks awesome and runs at a fast clip. It also boasts 20 tracks in diverse locales and wireless play for up to six racers. The problems here are the controls. Rather than allowing players to steer the car with any of the traditional buttons, players are forced to use the stylus to move the on-screen steering wheel that's displayed on the touchscreen (the racing action takes place on the top screen). While this seems like a cool concept, the execution is terrible. There's not enough precise control steering this way. Hopefully, Namco will allow for either more precise control or traditional button controls for the final version.

Urban Asphalt GTAnother racing title comes from Gameloft and features more than 20 licensed cars, ranging from the Hummer H2 to the Volkswagen New Beetle. Jaguars, Audis and Lamborghinis are also in the mix, which includes classic muscle cars and modern power houses. One cool element in this game is the ability to tune the vehicle's engine and body with more than 30 customizable options in the “Evolution” mode.

While the top screen shows the 3-D racing action, the bottom screen provides an overhead view of the track with the location of each racer. This is the best racing game for the launch window, and the wireless gameplay adds to its appeal.

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