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Old 2005-01-14, 19:54
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Nintendo DS Review

Nintendo DS Review



A month later then planned, but heres my review of the NDS portable console.
For those that dont know the Nintendo DS is a more profesional successor to the Gameboy series. Aside from the obvious huge bump up in CPU power, Nintendo is premoteing it as being "different" due to touchscreen, dualscreen, microphone and other features.
Particularly, Nintendo aims to broaden the market too appeal to people who havnt owned a console, let alone a portable before.


I have had the console since early decembers japanise release, and over the weeks since I got it I now have 4 of 12 release-day games. (a mix of USA and JAP imports)
I feel this is enough to give a good judgement of the console.
I want to give my views on this console, in the hope it will give people a better idea about the system, and yes, I hope it encourages a few mbn members to get one.

For those that think this is too detailed, and shows and stupidly nurdish I am, your dead right..skip to the end for a summery.

Bias: While being a strong Nintendo fan, I like to reassure people I will be critising the console when needed
and will be truthfull in all areas. I wont be bias or ignore negative points.
That said, screenshots were taken with a Sony camera, if they look anything other then totality perfect then its due to the camera in-built anti-nintendo chip


Technical:

I will be using relative terms for most things, as these will be easier for most people.
Name: Nintendo DS (Nintendo Developer System OR Nintendo Dual Screen)
Price: Around £100 (varies from region to region)
Colour: Grey/Silver, allthough a black one is planned
Weight: 300g (including battery & stylus)


Size: Think of it like half a typical sandwhich.


Media:
Two slots, top and bottom.
DS Cards (unique multi layer semiconductors working a bit like SD Cards)
GBA Carts (old fashion cart technology identical to the GBA/GBASP)


Media Storage:
DS Cards ~ 128MB at present
(likely to increase like GBAs did. SD cards go upto about 4GB, we can expect this storage capacity on DS Cards withen a few years)

GBA Carts ~ 2MB for early games rangeing to 32MB for new GBA games.

Media notes: All DS Cards have writeable space on them, Nintendo will not manufactor any ROM-only cards. This means all games will have on-card save slots.

Media Access Speed: Near instant, no loading times for DS Cards or GBA carts.

Additonal Media Notes:
Unlike the PSP and the Gizmondo,The DS has no general perpose media slot built in. It dosnt have memory cards to store games.
Nintendo plan to release a SD Card reader that fits in the GBA slot at a later date for playing music and videos.



Yes, those are FOUR ds cards on the right, they really are that small.


OutPut:

Two Identical backlit screens: Slightly bigger and more pixals-per-inch then the GBA. Colours are vivid, and excelent contrast. Screens can be seen in all lighting conditions.
The backlight is suppiour then the GBA SP's front lighting, you no longer get the blue-tint.


The lower screen does appear slightly darker and less sharp then the top one. This is most likely due to the touch-screen layer overly.
The difference is most noticable on MarioDS as the title logo looks pin-sharp and ultra clear, yet the lower screen dosnt look nearly so good.
When playing its not noticable, or a problem yet, as the graphic intensive DS games at the moment all use the top screen.


Twin Stero Speakers: MUCH better then the GBA's, the sound is amazing, especialy as some games have simulated surround sound as an option. I cant find critism with them really.
I suppose you wont get good bass, but thats true with any small speaker.
I havnt tried earphones.


Input:
Button Layout: Pretty identical to the SNES, both in looks and feel. The D-Pad is ok, the R&L Shoulder Buttons feel perfect...but its nothing amazing. I would have liked analogue sensitive L&R buttons, and certainly an addition
of an analogue stick would be nice.


That said, an analogue stick wouldnt work well with a flip-top lid. Maybe having an 16-direction D-pad would have been better.
The buttons overall dont seem to be as well thought out as most Nintendo consoles. Its durable, and comfortable..but it could have been better.

Additional Buttons: Start & Select...how can I comment on these? Well, select is useless, get rid of it please.
Power Button: Placed above D-pad in a worrying position...but its ok as you have to hold it down for a second before it turns off. Its not possible to hit it accidently.

Touchscreen: Analogue, with higher sensitivity then the screen has pixals. Nintendo have put all there eggs in the touchscreen really, luckly they made sure its the highest quality possible. Responsive, accurate, durable.
The only way it could be better if it could sense two positions at the same time.


Microphone: Positioned below the screen. Works well in WarioWare as a breath sensor...but nothing is released that uses speach recognition or voice-chat yet, so its hard I cant judge quality or range.


Sockets:

Chargeing port: Uses the exact same plug as the GBA SP

Standard Earphone socket: Thank God! Nintendo learnt from their mistake with the SP.

Mysterious Square socket: Not so mysterious, as its got a little headset symbol next to it. Most likely for use with a future-released XBox-live style microphone/headphone combo.

DS Card slot: On the top

GBA Cart slot: on the bottom

Strap tie-on point.

Noticable by its absense is no link-cable socket. This restricts its GBA game usage quite a bit.
While its nice Nintendo are determained to go wireless with all their products, its a shame they didnt think to include such a socket to help the transition.



Power:

Lithem Ion battary pack, replaceable and cheap (£5), allthough it should last 1000 charges.
Takes 2 hours to charge, claimed to last between 6-10.


My own testing shows that Mario64 DS lasts 9 hours playing non-stop, Warioware seems to last longer.
GBA presumably last longer still (one screen, much less cpu). I havnt benchmarked this yet.


The Nintendo stats for the battary thus seem accurate.

DS Standby mode activated automaticaly when you close the lid, and at the very least lasts two days.
(again, I havnt tested longer then that).


Graphical abilities:

Chips: One ARM7 (same as the GBA)
One ARM9


Clockspeed: ARM7 ~ 33Mhz (twice the GBAs clockspeed)
ARM9 ~ 67Mhz



RAM: General:4MB (dosnt seem much, but the system can access the media almost as fast as ram, it dosnt need to buffer stuff like with CD's or even HD's)
Other: about a 1MB spread out between caches and VRAM ect.



Result: Graphical abilities somewhere between the N64 and Dreamcast with a touch of PS1 chucked in to make it more confuseing.

Basicaly, polygon counts, framerate, texture res and anti-aliasing all are much better then the N64.
This is noticeable on MarioDS...everything is smoother at the edges and the game has a rock-steady framerate.


However, the textures dont have filtering...meaning the get pixaly when your up close.
This is PS1 style texturing, the N64 looked better then the PS1 mostly because it had nicely filtered textures.
Not includeing hardware filtering on the DS means its graphics dont look nearly so good as they could do.


Software solutions will show up in second gen games, but for the moment its the most significant thing holding back the DS graphics.

Needless to say it can handel full 3D, 60 frames per second with textures and lighting ect.

Wi-Fi:

Standard IEEE 802.11 for future internet abilities, plus Nintendo own Wi-Fi system for local multiplayer
hub games. (16 players, game download ability, 30-100 feet..uses less power then 802.11 wi-fi)


Ok, now that the techical stuff is out the way, heres the most important stuff:

System Comments:

The system looks quite smart, but nothing special. Its flip-top design makes it quite durable and safe to carry in pockets without a bag or anything.

The hinge seems secure, allthough not quite as steady as the GBA SP's. It opens too two difference fixed positions, allthough it can be put at any angle.
The plastic its made from seems slightly cheap..not sure why, but Nintendo could have put a nicer finnish to it.
The positions of the buttons feel comfortable, and you can easily reach either of your thumbs over the lower screen. (as is required when playing MarioDS or Metroid Hunters).

Its quite light, allthough playing with one hand is out the question for extended periods (dispite some games only needing one hand).

The slot at the back for the stylus is a good idea...and the system comes with a spare one should you lose one anyway.
The stylus, however, should only be used for very specific games.
For general use, the "Strap" is much much better.
The end of the strap fits around your thumb and has an identation at the end...effectively letting you use the touchscreen with your thumb without touching it directly, and with the rest of your hand holding the machine.
Using it this way the touchscreen acts like a "virtual analogue stick", or even a computer mouse in FPS games.

It can not be understated how important the thumbstrap is to play. Playing mario or metroid with a stylus just sucks to the point of irratation. They both have options to play with the D-pad, but that is no where near as precise.

The thumbstrap, allthough essiential, could have been better done.
I would recomend some company develop a thimbal-like thing that goes over the thumb as an alternative. It would be easy to put on, and suit "fat thumbed" people better.

Overall the touchscreen works excelently, especialy for Metroid Hunters makeing it feel just like a PC mouse.

The system has lots of neat ideas apart from its input functions.
Its multiplayer wireless functions let upto 16 players play together from just one card. (no game uses 16 players yet, but theres plenty of 4 player Wi-Fi stuff already).
Its standby mode is brillently usefull, meaning you never really worry about saving. Perfect for quick bursts of play.

Another perks of the system is its compatability with GBA games, instantly giving it a vaste catalogue of amazing games (Golden Sun, Minish Cap, Advanced Wars, SuperStar Saga....all pretty essiential).




So heres a summary:

+ Clear, well lit screen.
+ Touchscreen is high quality.
+ Thumbstrap great idea
+ Nice smooth 3D graphics
+ Multiplayer Wireless games only require one game card
+ Backwards compatible with all GBA games.
+ Standby mode. (close the lid = off, then open it again=resume..just like a fridge light )
+ £20 games
+ Internet Wi-Fi / WLAN features rock.
+ Built in microphone

- No texture filtering by hardware
- Not compatible with very old GB/GBC games.
- Built in functions could be much more extensive. (sure,you gave us a clock/callender...but why not let us set apointments and notes on it?)
- Should have a "wake up if other DS users are near" function that can beep even when your playing another game.
- Analogue stick should have been included, or at least an analogue sensitive D-pad
- Its silver, but chrome would have been nice
- Battary life could be better (sure, 6-10 hours seems ok..but the GBASP gave you 15-20)..plus, if battary packs are just £5, its surely possible to get some more power into there? The two "wings" either side of the top screen seem like they just contain speakers...theres room there for more power!
- A standard multiplayer port should have been included, especialy for use with Gamecube games.
- Could be more shiny

Personal recomodation:

Wait untill its out in your region, then get one. I see no reason why this shouldnt give joy to all gamers out there, regardless of tastes.


Importing, is possible. It is region free, and uses normal GBA SP plugs.
However, you may get hit with import tax, and you will only get it two months early anyways.
Also, waiting for the Euro release means there will be more games for you too chose from.

I would recomend Mario64DS with it *unless* you have completed M64 before with 120 stars.
If you havnt touched M64 before, this is an excuse to catch up with this masterpiece.


While I enjoyed all my other games, none of them are "must haves" unless you like the genra.Metroid Hunters comes free with US systems, so it dosnt count.

No DS game comes close to matching some of the quality GBA releases recently.
If you get a DS but dont like the current game selection, get a GBA game like
Zelda: The Minish Cap or Golden Sun and play that while waiting for the "big hitter" games to come out.
(I'll list information about these "big" games in development later, together with information as to its online abilitys ect).

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Last edited by Darkflame; 2005-01-14 at 20:07.
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  #2  
Old 2005-01-14, 20:42
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w00t! brilliant review!

i have yet to try one..
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Old 2005-01-14, 20:53
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Nice.
I agree with everything DF has said. I played on a DS a few weeks ago, and it was ace. I'll be waiting for a black one myself....
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Old 2005-01-14, 21:17
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Yes, the black ones look very nice, no release date for them

imo, they should make Black standard for Europe
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Old 2005-01-17, 11:14
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Cool - thanks for the review DF.To stop myself importing one, I bought a new digi camera instead . I agree with you about the finish of the DS though, I reckon a nice real metal finish wouldn't have gone astray - hell I'd pay an extra £10 for it (are you listening nintendo) - I am not a big fan of silver plastic as it tends to discolour easily - I guess I'll have to go black if it is released over here
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Old 2005-01-17, 18:58
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Nice camera?
---
Heres a bit more about it:

Future:

Over 3 million have been sold so far, and currently stocks are being used up as fast as Nintendo can make them.
It has yet to truely test the market though as its still in its launch phase.
While Sony will certainly take some market from Nintendo this generation, its highly unlikely the DS will flop, or even sale less then the GBA.
Currently even Nintendo Gamecube is outsaleing the PSP, for the time being at least Sony cant make enough PSP's for it to be a challenge to the DS. By the third quater of this year it will start to catch up though.
However, Both the PSP and the DS will widen the portable market.
With signicantly better graphics and PC-like controlls, the DS might tempt PC-hardcore to get a portable console.

The DS was designed to be a system to appeal to wide demographics, to get more people to play games.
So far it has had some success, as statisticaly more girls are buying NDS's then other consoles.
Its early days yet though.

The console will also be Online, both tunneled and officialy. (early tunneling solutions alread exists)
We *will* have a MBN game league amongst owners as soon as there is a decent universal tunneling solution for it.

What is already know though, is the DS will have some top quality games.
150 are currently being devloped at the last count.

Some key Future games:

First Person Shooters:

Metroid Prime: Hunters (Nintendo),
GoldenEye: Rogue Agent (EA),

RPG:

Final Fantasy 3 (Square),
Animal Crossing DS (Nintendo),
Harvest Moon DS (Nintendo),
Legend of Zelda DS (its not RPG, but what the heck),
Lunar ,
Another (Nintendo..no, its actualy called 'another'..it looks to be a point and click),
Dynasty Warriors,
A new story of Secret of Mana (Square) ,
A new story of Slime Morimori Dragon Quest (Square) ,
Dragon Quest Monsters series (Square) ,
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series (Square) ,

Platformers:

Sonic (Sega),
Rayman DS (Ubisoft) ,
New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo),

Action:

Viewtiful Joe (Capcom),
Egg Monster Hero (Square Enix),


These are what I consider the most important games, allthough there is lots more: http://ds.ign.com/articles/537/537284p1.html (that too is incomplete theres currently 150+ games in development),


Comeing up next:
Current game reviews
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Old 2005-01-17, 19:35
DedalousDiggle DedalousDiggle is offline
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My first thought when I saw the mysterious sqaure shaped socket next to the headphone jack was of a handheld media controller. Like the little remotes you can get for iPods.
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Old 2005-01-17, 20:41
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Nice review.

Nintendo are going to announce the UK release date on the 27th January.


The main problems I can see with the DS is the fact that it doesn't have any 'essential' games as you mentioned, and also that it might be seen as too 'gimmicky', with the touch screen and all. Hopefully, it can avoid this tag by getting games that utilise it to it's fullest.

It also needs a good mix of games to prepare for the fight against the PSP. We all know that Nintendo have seen off all handheld competition in the past, but none of those competitors have been as big as the Sony Playstation brand.

It's a toughie to call.
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Old 2005-01-17, 21:12
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At present the PSP line up is weak too though.
Its going to be awhile before either has truely epic games.

As for the touchscreen, the difference between gimick and essiential is mearly how well it is used.
I can see it become essiental for first person shot-em-ups, as it gives far more precise controll then a analogue stick can.
Nintendo should premote the hell out of Metroid Hunters because it is by far the best demostraction of the system so far.
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Old 2005-01-17, 22:12
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DF - yeah an Olympus C-765. Only 4 MPix but it has full manual controls and 10x zoom (38-380mm equiv)

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Old 2005-01-17, 23:19
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Thats one cool camera! It looks like a bird! ...err..no wait...

Pretty nice quality. 10x optical zoom is great for a digital camera.
(I hate the way all the camera companys boast about digital zoom when that is completely pointless)
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Old 2005-01-17, 23:29
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that is one good picture. *starts dreaming of using it as a logo for something*

EDIT- how about i use it for my future linux-projects a penguin and a robin

Last edited by Echomote; 2005-01-17 at 23:35.
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Old 2005-01-21, 13:41
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Sorry havnt had time to do game reviews yet

However, important news:


Nintendo DS Price : $150 euros (so thats £99.99)
Comes with?: Metroid Hunters Demo (like the US, the japs didnt get this)
When: March 11
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Old 2005-01-24, 10:32
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Do you think it will be released at £99 or do you reckon we will get stiffed (again) and it will cost £150?
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Old 2005-01-24, 11:59
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Nice review!
What about the official Scandinavian release of DS and FF III?
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Old 2005-01-24, 15:01
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umm...I dont know
I would hope withen a few months of europe, and less for the game.
-----
the_angry~ It certainly wont be £150, It will be £99.99 or at worse, £120.
Remember, the gamecube was released at £120

Im more worried about game costs.
DS cards will, for sure, be cheaper then GBA games.
However, how much cheaper might be the question.
I can import DS games for £20!
Yet Im skeptical they will be this price here.

---
For anyone thats interested:
http://www.cubed3.com/staff/jesusraz...ry/nfsds01.jpg
(pictures of Need For Speed Underground DS)
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Old 2005-01-24, 18:48
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I'll import my games from America for about £20 each; sod paying £30+ here.
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Old 2005-01-27, 18:33
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Nintendo have confirmed the release date and price.

11th March, at £99.99

Titles confirmed for launch: Mario 64 DS, Polarium, Wario Ware: Touched, Pokemon Dash, Rayman DS, Project Rub, The Urbz, Spiderman 2.

Individual games will cost £19-99 or £29-99, depending on the game.
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Old 2005-01-28, 01:44
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It's past midnight, and I'm bored, so here's some brief analysis.

DS Price
To be honest, and realistically, £99.99 is the best we could have hoped for. In the UK, we always end up paying much more than they do on the other side of the Atlantic, but this time we should be thankful that it isn't a straight conversion from dollars to pounds ($150 - £150). It's still around £20 more expensive than the Americans are paying, but it sure beats early precitions of a £129.99 price tag. Nintendo need to be careful though. Sony, if the trend in Japan is to be copied, are adopting an aggresive pricing strategy with the PSP, and could come quite close to that price when the PSP launch comes around.

Game Price
This is where Nintendo have slipped on the proverbial banana skin. All games should be priced at £19.99, which is still a little more expensive than the prices on the other side of the Atlantic. This would encourage more people to buy a DS, due to the cheap price of the games. However, it seems likely that the games are going to be priced at £29.99 - the same price as new Game Boy Advance games. Nintendo had a real chance to strike the first real blow to Sony in the UK market here by making the games cheap and affordable at an early stage, but it seems that it will be an opportunity missed. And it shows that once again, European gamers are getting screwed over.

Launch Date
11th March. Not bad, but if Amazon.co.uk is to be believed, the PSP release date will be the 18th March. For Nintendo, if amazon is correct, the release is dangerously close to the release date of the PSP. The DS will need more than a head start of 1 week. I personally think that it is more likely that the PSP will arrive in April, but maybe Sony now have the incentive to release it as close as possible to the DS in Europe, as it could help take some of the gloss off the release of the DS. Also, there are two big game releases in March - Gran Turismo 4 and Metal Gear Solid 3 - which could take some of the shine off the release. Maybe Nintendo could have aimed for a release on the first friday of march, or the last friday of february.

Launch Games
Quite a few launch games, a few of which, such as The Urbz and Spiderman, look total shit. But at least the UK benefits from one release which utilises the touch screen to it's fullest - Wario Ware. Having this as a launch title could prove to be very beneficial, and will provide a good demonstration of the capabilities and possibilities of the machine.

Advertising
Nintendo really need to get the advertising right for this one if it's wants to stave off the challenge of the PSP. It's needs to rid itself of the 'kiddy' image that it has developed since Sony arrived on the scene, and create some hype around the launch of the machine in the UK. From my tiem working in Game over Christmas and January, I can say that the public seemed pretty unaware and not very interested in the DS. A lot more people were asking for information regarding the PSP. Nintendo really needs a good advertsing campagin to start a fuss over the new release.
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Old 2005-01-28, 10:23
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NEWS FOR NINTENDO-EUROPE VIPs

for 1000 points plus £129.99 you can get a DS with Mario DS, Metroid demo and Wario Ware Demo. Not bad value I guess.


EDIT


A newsreport from bbc.co.uk has stated that:

Mr Houlihan (editor of computerandvideogamesmagazine.com) believes that there is likely to be an audience for both the Nintendo DS and Sony's new PSP, with the former aimed largely at a younger audience and the latter expected to be marketed as a multimedia device.

"The PSP is a sexy bit of kit, but Sony's attitude to the PSP has been very understated in Europe, so far," Mr Houlihan said.


Branding the DS for kids is not going to help Nintendo any! There could be serious problems if the opinion given out to the public at large remains thus

Last edited by the_angry_; 2005-01-28 at 15:25.
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  #21  
Old 2005-01-28, 16:37
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Nintendo arnt branding it for kids...or adults.
Their adverts are quite nuetral, at least the US ones.

As for multimedia device! ha!
MP3 player, maybe.
But Sony is kidding themselfs if they think anyone will buy UMD movies.
===
Snap ~ You forgot to factor in US Tax!, the prices are slightly more expensive, here but not much. We certainly arnt getting "screwed over".

The games are at least, cheaper.
New GBA games at £30, or even £35.
£20-30 is much better.
Why should they be cheaper then console games anyway really....no real reason.
£20 for all would be nice, but I dont think it maters
PSP games are unlikely to be cheaper.


As for WarioWare, your right.
But its the Metroid Demo that shows of all the systems features to the best.
Dont underestimate it because its a demo.
(i'll get around to doing a review soon)


btw,New Videos:
http://www.dshandheld.com
(Mario Kart is looking sweat)
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Old 2005-01-28, 17:31
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Nintendo may npot be branding for kids but influential games sites/magazines are! Gamecube was not marketed at kids, but popular opinion said it was and that is what caused the main problems
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Old 2005-01-28, 18:47
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Well, theres not much Nintendo can do that it hasnt already done. (exclusive Resident Evil, getting more "hip" adverts, complete non-censorship of 3rd party titles ect).
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Old 2005-01-28, 19:32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkflame
Nintendo arnt branding it for kids...or adults.
Their adverts are quite nuetral, at least the US ones.
That's the problem. Those kinds of adverts aren't very effective. Sega and Nintendo have always done this, until Sony came along in 1995, targeted it's machine at an older audience, and brought a whole new market of people into videogaming. Nintendo has struggled to cope with the ever changing videogame market, hence why it is stuck with this 'kiddy' image, whether that's the image it wants to portray, or not.

And I know that £29.99 is the same as new GBA games, but were' still paying around 50% more than American cutomers are for DS games. Nintendo really should think seriously about setting the RRP of DS games at 19.99, or maybe 24.99, because it needs to realise that it will no longer hold a monopoly on the handheld market. PSP games probably won't be that cheap, so by reducing the price, it could help sway a few people towards a DS, rather than a PSP.

Because, let's face it; the PSP is like no other competitior Nintendo have faced in the handheld market....
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Old 2005-01-29, 00:10
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No, when Sega first challenged Nintendo, they aimed for an older audience.
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