The Good The Nintendo DS employs innovative dual-screen and microphone-enabled gameplay without load times on a higher-resolution display than Game Boy Advance SP while remaining backward compatible with older GBA games. The inclusion of Wi-Fi multiplayer capabilities and a touch screen allows for a growing list of original and fun games that you can't play on any other system.
The Bad Third-party support for the system hasn't matched the originality and ingenuity of Nintendo's games, and multimedia potential remains exclusive to Japan. The system is quite bulky. The much more stylish and comfortable DS Lite is available for the same price.
The Bottom Line While it lacks the multimedia and graphical finesse of the Sony PSP, the feature-packed Nintendo DS is a worthy successor to the Game Boy Advance--but the new and improved DS Lite is available for the same price.
Editors' Note: The 2004 version of the Nintendo DS reviewed here has effectively been discontinued and replaced by the Nintendo DS Lite, which offers all of the same functionality as the original DS, but with brighter screens and a smaller, sleeker body.
Riding high on the success of the mega-popular Game Boy Advance (GBA) line of portables, Nintendo decided to take a risk when it released the Nintendo DS--short for dual screen. Forcing a second visual output and a touch screen on a generation of gamers weaned on controllers could have resulted in a disaster of Virtual Boy proportions. It faces some tough competition in form of Sony's graphically superior , which also features movie and music playback, but fortunately for Nintendo, the system has been a breakout success, due in no small part to the uniqueness of its titles.
The Nintendo DS is a portable gaming system with two vertically tiered screens. On the bottom is a touch screen that allows you to use a stylus or a finger for anything from selecting options to moving characters. There's also a normal face-button layout that allows a more standard method of control. The system plays its own proprietary cartridges (which are somewhere between SD and CompactFlash cards in size), in addition to its near-full backward compatibility with GBA titles. While DS cartridges are much smaller in capacity than the PSP's UMDs, they play without the often unbearable load times of Sony's proprietary format. The system currently retails for $130 and is available in two colors: Titanium and Electric Blue. Nintendo also often releases special higher-priced DS bundles that include a game. With the DS Lite--a slimmer, brighter, and more stylish version of the DS--also available for $130, expect a price drop, more bundling, or discontinuation of this iteration of the system.