Editorials and Features
Article by: MrCHUPON
Editorial: Happy Birthday Nintendo DS [Written 2006-02-07]
November 21st, 2004 - Nintendo DS Launch
Walking out of the Gamestop with a brand new Nintendo DS in hand was a landmark experience for some. For those chomping at the bit for totally new experiences in videogaming, the Nintendo DS was to be a shining ray of light amidst the me-too 3D sequels and spin-offs. Yours truly was one of the giddy ones. Not being able to partake in the 3D revolution with the Playstation and Nintendo 64 launches, and considering the Gamecube launch simply the next great iteration in the 3D already present in the world for 5 years, I'd never had the feeling of stepping into a genuinely new world since the Super Nintendo launched more than 10 years prior.
But for many a gamer, myself included, the brave new world promised by Nintendo got off to a cowardly slow start. Recall "Roses" - an editorial written prior by me regarding the Nintendo DS's awkward status at the time:
"A portable version of Super Mario 64, 1996's revolutionary Nintendo 64 title, Mario 64 DS is a touched-up, extended version of a nearly 10 year old title that remains as one of the best pioneers of three dimensional platforming.
So what's wrong? Part of what made the N64 original so great is the emphasis on the new kid on the block: analog control. The Nintendo DS' touch screen analog stick 'emulation' just doesn't cut it. Worse, those who expected the innovations Nintendo was pushing so hard got, well, a port. The myriad of minigames, addition of a few levels and the multiple-character dynamic only barely makes up for these shortcomings.
...Other options on launch day included EA's Madden 2005 and Urbz: Sims in the City, Sega's Feel the Magic XY/XX, Activision's Spiderman 2 DS, and Ubisoft and Gameloft's Asphalt Urban GT. While Asphalt turns out to be a very fun racer, and Feel the Magic is a charming, challenging title, doesn't something seem a little wrong about walking into a product launch with only six titles to choose from -- with nary a killer app among them?
Furthermore, even with the titles slowly trickling in throughout the following months, where was the revolutionary innovation Nintendo promised? To date, only four of the 15 titles make extensive use out of the system's special features -- and one of them doesn't make use of them in the main game mode."
The premiere launch title - a port of Mario 64? Wait, wasn't this supposed to be the system that ushered in the dawn of a new era in gaming?
The gaming world responded to this launch with many mixed reactions. The Metroid Prime: Hunters demo showed how the DS could usher in true mouse-like precision, but did little to cover up the huge hole left by the wretched launch offerings. Using the stylus and having tactile interaction with their games made gamers smile a little, but not having anything in the way of a killer app took those smiles away. The next batch of games that popped up between launch and June 2005 - yes, six months - produced two more fresh titles and again a whole bunch of meh. To be able to show off only Yoshi's Touch n' Go and Wario Ware for that long of a span of time wasn't the ideal way to spend time as a DS owner.
But then, it got hot.
The Games of Summer
Ah yes, summer. When the sun is here to stay, the beach is rife with eye candy (for both sides), and - in 2005 - Nintendo DS games finally come out to play. After an endless stream of titles that seemed like nothing more than tech demos in shrinkwrap and watered-down ports of console offerings, Kirby: Canvas Curse finally showed gamers how the DS innovate with and breathe new life into traditional gameplay. It was a huge helping of fresh air, finally showing gamers that there was more to be had beyond technical showpieces. It may sound like nothing now - an innovative DS game that had real substance - but waiting half a year to truly reap the benefits of a $150 hardware purchase will make the first heavy hitting title all the more heavy, and all the harder hitting.
Soon after was the next touch-screen behemoth, Meteos, that presented frantic tactile involvement with puzzle game pieces not seen since, well, ever. Where the critically acclaimed Lumines for PSP reinvented the house that Tetris built, Meteos took off in a totally different direction - inserting a Smash Bros. level of craziness to what was supposed to be a zen-like genre. The results were spectacular, and could only be topped by online play - hint, hint.
There was a dearth during July. Aside from Shin'En and Majesco's pleasant ode to shooters, Nanostray, fear of another gaming drought was not unfounded. Two from Nintendo and a $20 price-drop, however, ended those fears before they really materialized. In the process, a quintillion Gamespot forumites and fanboys screamed out in joy (sorry, I had to) as the site awarded both Nintendogs and Advance Wars: Dual Strike with Editor's Choice ribbons. Forget about what one site said, though - these two games were widely considered as the first two truly "killer" apps for the Nintendo DS... and only after an eight month weight too.
Birthday Gifts Come Early
Not content to leave us with two games and call it a wrap for the year, quality traditional and unique titles started continued coming down the pipeline with regularity. The road from September to November brought traditional point-and-click adventure gaming with Trace Memory, a powerful 2D vampire slaying experience with Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, a medical game-like-no-other with Trauma Center: Under the Knife, and "the freaking LAWYER GAME" - better known as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. And who could forget the absolutely surprising Metroid Prime: Pinball, which effectively washed the bitter taste of Mario Pinball Land out of many a mouth?
Over the course of a few months, the DS went from red-headed stepchild to the system to own. Coupled with great games - both traditional and unique - and the promise of Wi-Fi connectivity to come at a specific date, things were finally looking up. Scratch that - they were looking sky-high. The problem of "what games are there?" became "what games can I afford?" for more than a few, all the while finally delivering the new experience that Nintendo promised nearly a year prior.
But the real celebration came one week before the Nintendo DS' first birthday, with the launch of three killer apps: Mario Kart DS, Tony Hawk's American Sk8land, and the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection upon which the two games would showcase the system's online play. Finally, a centralized Nintendo service for gamers to compete wirelessly and across the world was in play. The suffering Nintendo fans who clamored for broadband games with the stubbornly disconnected Gamecube finally had their dreams come true.
Mind you, Sega and Capcom didn't forget to bring presents either. Silently slipping through in the midst of the Wi-Fi hubbub were two eagerly-awaited titles in Sonic Rush and Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble. Though not Wi-Fi connected, these two games are yet more examples of bringing the best of the old with the freshness of the new.
So here we stand today, November 21, 2005: Happy Birthday, DS. The Growing Pains took way too long to go away, but the wait was worth it.
Nintendo Online for Real: Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection
Rewind to March
Let's take a look back at the end of March, again to the "Roses" editorial:
"Unfortunately, the Big N has had a small history of disappointing the faithful. Including a broadband adapter accesory in the Gamecube's lineup, only to have it used for a paltry two games online, is the biggest offense. For Gameboy Advance owners, when was the last time you had anything new for your e-Reader? Do you think you'll be using that Wireless Adapter much at all? And when many people expected Nintendo to announce - and LAUNCH - an online service in March, isn't it a bit disappointing to hear Iwata say that the infrastructure is 'almost' ready to go? With Nintendo, sometimes you can never tell.
Will Metroid Prime: Hunters support online, as well? Will this title be what brings in the slew of First Person Shooters that control how they should - with analog 'mouselook' emulation? Will Animal Crossing and Mario Kart live up to their expectations? When will Nintendo's online infrastructure finally come to fruition? If the answer to these questions is 'no,' 'no,' 'no' and 'not for a long time,' then when November comes around the Nintendo DS will have come full-circle back to its opening state: disappointing."
So let's answer those questions.
So there you have it - "Yes", "delayed", "yes" and "it's up already". Disappointing - not anymore.
So How's Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Doing?
Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection (NWFC from here on out) is a pretty nice job for Nintendo's first attempt at doing what it should have done four years ago. It's got a centralized hub at http://www.NintendoWiFi.com with a chockful of information about specific games and their regional activity. Top cities, most active racers, gaming habits sorted by day and by night, et cetera.
Setting up the connection isn't always smooth sailing. If you don't own the Nintendo USB Wi-Fi adapter, claims of it being the easiest thing in the world to set up are undeniably bunk. For instance, my specific Netgear router required me to allocate a specific IP address for my Nintendo DS. Then I had to set that same IP up in the DS itself. My router also locks out unauthorized MAC addresses, so I had to find the DS' MAC address though that was very easy (Options -> System Information, right above your NWFC ID). The process took about 15 minutes of trial and error, figuring out what was blocking access, and then realizing that I should reboot my router just in case.
Once connected though, making my way into online games of Mario Kart and Tony Hawk's American Sk8land was almost literally, "Do you want to connect to WFC? Ok, how do you want to find people? Ok, here you go. Bye, have fun!" I should say that without Battle mode, only 16 tracks and the inability to drag items, Mario Kart's online multiplayer is outdone by Tony Hawk's robust wealth of options. True, in Tony Hawk you can only skate against one other person. But there are different modes of play, between Trick Attack, The Price is Wrong, and others. There are online leaderboards. Mario Kart's got... 4 player racing. That's it.
Nintendo can definitely improve some areas. There needs to be some sort of system to keep players from disconnecting from Mario Kart races when they find out they're losing. I'm an honorable loser - I'll stick with a losing game til the end. But once in every two races I've participated in had losers drop out. And Mario Kart doesn't fill in the spot with an AI player. Boo.
Also, the next iteration of Kart NEEDS to find its way around whatever technical limitations were imposed on the first one and give us more online options. Battle mode is SORELY missed, and I'd like to be able to see how people are doing without having to go online to the NWFC homepage. Lack of voice chat, though, is a blessing in disguise; no immature whiners talking about your mom, dad, dog, or doing certain unruly activities to certain body parts.
A Year of DS - Chupon's Ride
A small collection of my thoughts about the best and worst games throughout the first year of the DS era.
The Games - Highlights
Following are the top five DS games I own, in order of most to least favorite:
The Games - Lowlights
Following are some of the games I wish I'd never bought. Thankfully, there aren't enough to make a top 5 list, so here are 4.
Chupon's DS Collection
Many thanks to Gamespot's Game Collection tracker:
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