Backstage: Why we’re skipping Nintendo DS | iLounge Backstage

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Backstage: Why we’re skipping Nintendo DS

We were going to review the Nintendo DS here on Backstage, but we’ve decided not to.

As a former game magazine editor and lifelong gadget lover, I’m about as close to a lock for buying portable game hardware as anyone you’d know. And with a cross-country trip coming up next week, I would sure love to have something new to play with. But after serious consideration, I’ve decided to pass on buying the new Nintendo DS system, cancelled my pre-order, and am most likely going to hold off on picking one up for a while.

There are three reasons for this: software, pricing, and the hardware. Click on Read More for the details.

First, not only isn’t the system’s launch library compelling in any way, but the individual titles that looked most promising have turned out to be not that great after all. The system’s big launch title is Super Mario 64 DS, Nintendo’s umpteenth attempt to repackage a Mario game I purchased eight years ago (yes, eight years ago) and sell it to me on a screen with less detail. Since the DS has no analog controller, I can attach a thumbstrap to my hand if I want to simulate analog control. No thanks. I was the world’s biggest Mario 64 supporter back in 1996, but if I’m spending $30 or $40 on a game, I want something new. Since the Game Boy Advance came out, Nintendo has become all about repackaging old games wih minimal improvements, and I’m frankly sick and tired of it.

The rest of the DS’s near-term software library isn’t anything to get excited about, either. They’ve got such a crappy looking version of Ridge Racer coming that they’re almost selling Sony’s competing PlayStation Portable (PSP) title just by showing DS screen shots, some more rehashes of old Electronic Arts games that I didn’t want before, and a once-promising game from Sega called Feel the Magic that’s turned out to be a blow-through-it, average hardware demo. Potentially good games like Wario Ware, Metroid Prime Hunters, and Advance Wars are all a ways off. I don’t want to be suckered into spending $120-$150 on a few titles that I’ll never turn on again after a week or two, so it’s worth waiting for some legitimate software to emerge.

Pricing for the system’s too steep at $149.99, too. As I said here months ago when rumors were circulating as to the DS’s street price, this thing is a hell of a lot more compelling at $99 or $129 than $149, because a perfectly excellent Game Boy Advance SP sells for $79.99, has substantially better battery life, is more portable and pocketable, and plays a huge collection of decent to above-decent games. I was willing to be persuaded otherwise by good software, but it hasn’t happened. As an adult consumer, the DS looks comparatively weak in the practical features I care about and strong only in features I’d never use. It also looks like Nintendo is shaking down early adopters of the DS for around $50 - there were suggestions that the company was once ready to price the DS at $99 just to move units - and a lot of people are going to be pissed a few months from now when the price drops to fight off Sony’s PSP.

There are plenty of Nintendo apologists who would list off DS features and try to convince you that you really wanted two screens and a stylus, but when it really comes down to it there aren’t any games right now that are doing killer things with both of those screens. I’ve played with the system dating back to E3, and while there have been some good ideas for the double display, there aren’t many. Some high-profile games are using the second screen for nothing more than horrid looking control systems or bland 2-D maps. And you can’t practically use the stylus while controlling games with the joystick and buttons.

At $149.99, I’m passing. Even if they sell millions of them, and regardless of whatever ridiculous crap Nintendo is trying to feed people by handing out DS hardware to and getting quotes from a bunch of second-tier celebrities, the Nintendo DS is a console desperately in need of better software and a more compelling price point before I’ll become interested in shelling out cash for it. Nintendo’s already said that a true Game Boy Advance 2 with better graphics is coming out soon (rendering the DS a third wheel on a bicycle), so maybe I’ll even wait for that, instead. For now, I’ll be enjoying my iPod and old GBASP on my trip, thanks very much.

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Comments

1

Your criticisms, especially that last paragraph, sound strangely simillar to the iPod naysayers. There is nothing wrong with not liking the DS’s launch software, but what system has had a good launch line-up? I too am taking a wait and see attitude (my personal rule is that i won’t buy a system till there is at least 3 games that i want to play on it) , but this article smacks of missguided negativity.

Posted by greedycheese in Montana on November 20, 2004 at 1:57 PM (CST)

2

First, I personally thought that the N64 (US launch) had a fantastic lineup, and I’ve liked launch or close-to-launch lineups for everything from the Sega Genesis to the Super NES. US launches have tended to be better than Japanese ones in the past by a landslide, and I could also toss out a couple of others that come to mind in the 32-bit generation, as well, but it depends on whether we’re talking day-of-release or within-days-of-release.

Second, you’re agreeing with my central premise (I’m not buying the DS now, and waiting until some good software comes out), so I don’t see what your problem is. It looks like you’re taking issue with something I never said. I personally like the GBASP a lot, and for my portable gaming needs, it does just fine for now. I’m not writing off the DS entirely for myself, and certainly not on sales, which it will likely achieve. But after “Connectivity,” plus so many GBA rehashes, plus the company’s huge (arguably cataclysmic) mess-ups with GameCube software, and now what looks to be a portable N64/iQue with a touch screen, I’m really getting tired of Nintendo’s hype for reheated software, and hardware that solves problems no one has.

Finally, iPod::DS::Apples:Oranges. I know it makes rhetorical sense to draw the comparison, but there really isn’t any. As products, no one would call either a substitute for the other, and they’re sold at totally different price points. At best they’re complementary goods. Apple’s selling a luxury music player mostly for adults and older teenagers, and no matter how they try to spin it, Nintendo’s selling a mass-market game console with 70% games for the “7 to 77” age bracket, 5% (XX/YY-Sprung) for older teenagers, and 25% games for more sophisticated 15-30 year old players. Software in the Nintendo sense of the word is totally different from that in the iPod sense of the word, and is critical to sell DSes, while fringe to sell iPods.

By the way, this is my personal take on the NDS launch, and I’m fully aware that some people will be caught up in the hype and buy these things even without a single piece of AAA software. It’s not as if I expect to change anyone else’s mind by posting this to my blog. :-)

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on November 20, 2004 at 2:29 PM (CST)

3

:) you changed my mind. Though, its not as if i thought what you said before, i jsut tried to ignore the voice in my head that said it. I fully agree with your attitude towards the DS, and think there will be many more people who do.
And in response to greedycheese….the playstation, playstation 2 and PSP are looking to have great launch line-ups. And i fyou count the ‘PSOne’ and Slimine PS2 as new models then they have mindblowing software launch titles (the full catalogue of their previous counterparts to be exact). So that points is blown out the water there. And as for nintendo rehashing old software…thats EXACTLY what they do. Maybe one or two newer and poor titles. but they rest on hopes of sequels/remakes of older successful games. Nintendo=Hollywood of the game market. and Sony and their game makers are the closest thing to ‘Pixar’ in the gameworld that you’ll come.  Don’t even get me started on Microsoft. :)
Spooky2k/Dan

Posted by Spooky2k in barry, wales on November 20, 2004 at 4:54 PM (CST)

4

The N64 launched with 2 games, mario 64 and pilotwings 64, waverace came out the next week, not exactly stellar. ps2’s line up was


# Tekken Tag Tournament
# Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2
# Wild Wild Racing
# Timesplitters
# Ridge Racer V
# Fantavision
# Silent Scope
# ISS
# Gradius III&IV;
# NHL 2001
# FIFA 2001
# SSX
# Dynasty Warriors 2
# AquaAqua - Wetrix 2

also very weak, and no really good games came out for almost a year.  I think we just have radically different ideas about gaming and that is cool. But I will support Nintendo because they are the only video game company that is trying anything new or innovative now that sega is out of the picture. EA, Sony and Microsoft are happy with the status quo, Nintendo is pushing forward. The problem I have with your tone is that it seems (to me) to be saying “This is over-priced crap and anybody who likes it has just been fooled by the hype” that is the same crap I have to deal with when people attack my iPod and it seemed odd to me that you would express that here. People are not completely stupid if there are 4 million pre-orders for this thing there must be a reason more substantual than hype…

Posted by greedycheese in Montana on November 20, 2004 at 7:00 PM (CST)

5

First, Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64 were two of the greatest games of the 32/64-bit generation, and Waverace was also absolutely spectacular. (Most people agree that Mario and Waverace were even better than their Gamecube sequels, say nothing of the numerous clones they inspired.) Re: titles available shortly thereafter, I would add that I was (and remain) a huge Killer Instinct fan, though at the time there was a lot of excitement over MK Trilogy, Shadows of the Empire, and Cruis’n USA, none of which I thought deserved the attention but all of which sold in the multi-millions if I recall. The launch and pre-holidays 1996 lineup wasn’t _packed_, but there were two amazing games at launch, and in my book four by year’s end, with more on the horizon.

Re: PS2, I purchased TTT, RRV, Fantavision, and SSX with mine, and only regretted one of them (RRV).

Point being, I’d be satisfied with two or three great new games of the caliber of any of those mentioned above. Hell, I’d buy one if there was a great new Tetris game available. But for now, the DS has nothing in the league of even Fantavision in my book. Yet.

And I disagree with the notion that Nintendo is pushing forward by telling people to pay for features the company doesn’t even know how to utilize (also, yet). They’ve had a long time to figure something out, too. Their last great dual-screened game was the arcade Super Punch-Out!!, and that’s only a dual-screened game because they wasted the second monitor. Their dual-screened Game and Watch handheld titles (I know, I own them) were similiarly more a novelty than useful from a gaming standpoint, and abandoned for good reason. I won’t bring up Virtual Boy (again, I have one) because it’s only technically a dual screen system, though no one knew or figured out what to do with that thing either.

When Nintendo was showing off the dual screens back at E3, it was evident that it (and almost every third-party) didn’t know what to do with one of the screens. Wario Ware’s second screen was pointless, as was Mario 64’s, etc. They could’ve set the screens side by side and done Ninja Warriors, Ferrari F355, or any other sort of game like that, but they can’t seem to figure out the point of vertical stacking. Most developers haven’t, either. That’s why the ratio of horizontal-screened games to vertical-screened ones in the arcades was always 9:1 or thereabouts, and why you don’t see vertical screens on TVs or in consoles (save dead/unpopular ones like the Vectrex and N-Gage). Maybe if our eyes were stacked on top of each other…

In my book, selling people this sort of “hardware innovation” is meaningless if you don’t have the software to back it up, and Nintendo has amply demonstrated that it will sell all sorts of hardware (consoles and accessories) on the promise of great things to come, and then stiff people who paid on the strength of that promise. At this point, I’m just waiting until they show me the money (so to speak) before throwing them my support.

Admittedly, Nintendo’s E3 touch screen demonstrations by comparison were actually surprisingly well-conceived and diverse, if not necessarily fun in a classically Nintendo sort of way. I’m still trying to figure out if I really would spend $30 for a game where I draw Pac Man, or for a game where I protect Baby Mario as he falls from the sky. They’re nice tech demos but I’m not sure I think of them as “games.” From Mario to Metroid, the touch stuff right now is in my opinion so bad that it almost proves that Nintendo could have spared itself, developers, and consumers a huge hassle by chucking the second screen and just including an analog control instead. Not new technology, sure, but something we could actually use to play… 3-D games. Like Mario.

Regarding pre-orders, though I think they will sell pretty darned well tomorrow, I think you’ll see a lot of unopened hardware up on eBay and later being resold at a markup in time for the holiday “shortage” Nintendo’s promising. I know people who are buying solely on the assumption that they’ll profit, not because they want the games.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on November 20, 2004 at 9:41 PM (CST)

6

Nintendo DS: Everything you need to know!

http://forum.gbadev.org/viewtopic.php?t=4584

Posted by ManicDevlin on December 19, 2004 at 2:10 PM (CST)

7

I agree with you here. The DS doesn’t seem to be so great that I’d go out and buy it right now. Granted, different people have different tastes, but the only systems that I have gone out and brought on the release date had GREAT launch titles. The Dreamcast had Sonic Adventure and the GBA had Castlevania, among others.

I’ve played with the DS and I’m not really impressed. The controls for Metroid are TERRIBLE IMO. It’s a little more than awkward to use the controls and the touch screen at the same time.

And speaking of which, the Dual Screens are a great idea, but there isn’t really anything spectacular being done with them yet. It seems a little too Virtual Boy-ish for me at the moment. Maybe it’ll get better though.

Posted by Seto Kaiba on January 16, 2005 at 12:42 PM (CST)

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