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Was the DS Lite worth the wait?

posted on June 13th, 2006 by jay

First, I would like to thank GameStop employees for repeatedly threatening that if I don’t reserve a DS Lite there’d be no chance of me getting one. A few weeks ago when there was news that Targets and Walmarts began selling the system early, I drove from Target to Target looking. The attendant in the GameStop in the same mall as one of the Targets was less than helpful when I asked about the DSL.

“Do you have any used games to trade in?”
“Umm, no. So I hear Target jumped the DS Lite ship date.”
“The DS Lite comes out on the 11th.”
“Ok, but you guys aren’t selling them early by any chance to compete, are you?”
“If you want one you’ll have to pre-order it now. They’ll all sell out the first day. Would you like to pre-order it?”
“No, that’s ok.”
“Do you have any used games to trade in?”

So I had no luck before the official launch date, but this past Sunday I walked into Target at 10, assuming that’s when they opened (I was wrong, it was 9), and bought a DS Lite. It was pretty painless and didn’t require any pre-ordering. And now to analyze the hardware.

One of the biggest hardware changes for the DS Lite is the new screen brightness settings. The DS Dark (the original system) has two settings for its backlight – on and off. The light on is as bright as the DSL’s lowest light setting. Then there are three brighter settings than that. I use next to brightest because the brightest probably devours batteries and is almost too bright (I don’t go outside very often).

The power button is now on the right side of the system and is a slider bar with some resistance. It must be slid up to be turned both on and off (I have been informed by someone smarter than me that this is called a toggle switch), so it is considerably harder to accidentally shut a game off while playing, which is something I’ve done more than once with the old DSDark.

The D pad is a little smaller than the old. It looks like it may be problematically small, but it’s been fine so far. The buttons have rounder edges and must be pushed in slightly further than the old buttons, which gives them a nice feel. They have been shifted up and the start and select button have been moved below them. The shoulder buttons require less effort to press in, though this works well as the DSD’s shoulder buttons felt a bit mushy.

Apparently the stylus on the old system was small even for delicate Japanese fingers/tenticles, so the DS Lite comes packed with a slightly wider, slightly longer stylus. And the system is white! Outrageous.

The weight difference is negligible, and the size difference isn’t as dramatic as I thought it would be. The system feels very solid, though, and the screens fit together better when the unit is closed on the DSL. The bottom screen is raised a little so when closed the screens form a seal, which prevents anything from sliding between them and scratching them. Tests I ran showed pieces of paper can still fit between the screens, so don’t store the system anywhere with a lot of sheets of metallic paper.

And yes, it’s goddamned sexy. It looks iPodish, just like the screenshots made it seem. I pretend that I don’t care about how I look while playing games on the go, but I admit I care a little bit. Not enough to not play games, but enough to feel slightly less self aware with the DSL than I was with the DSD. It looks less toy-like and more like a slick electronic device. Nintendo even removed their name from the top side of the system. In the Nintendo logos place is the dual screen logo. They must realize Nintendo has an image and that image may be detrimental to the DSL looking cool.

Now for the negatives, starting with the worst part: Game Boy Advance games stick out of the bottom of the DSL. This is absurd as it makes the prospect of transporting the DSL in a backpack or purse (it’s European) seem very dangerous if you have a GBA game sticking out of the system. It’s a possibility than Nintendo purposefully made the GBA carts not fit because GBA games are old and they want you to focus on buying DS games. What better way to inspire you to buy new games than sell you a really cool looking system then making old games stick out and look stupid?

I’ll give Nintendo the benefit of the doubt, though, because if you hold up the DSL to the DSD, you see the GBA games extend to exactly the same point with both systems. The Lite happens to be shorter so that half an inch isn’t surrounded by plastic. I tested a GBA game to see if the cart being exposed would pose a problem while playing. While trying to not die, I knocked into the exposed portion of the cart repeatedly, in all four directions. I even pulled it out a little bit. Maybe it’s a holdover from my Genesis days, but I’m paranoid about cartridge games freezing. Nothing I did to the DSL gave me this result, though. The game slot is a very tight fit so Nintendo seems to have foreseen and prevented any problems with GBA carts.

A smaller but still annoying tragedy of the size shrink is the new placement of the microphone. Instead of near the bottom, it is now on the hinge between the two screens. This keeps it nice and protected while the system is closed but also guarantees you’ll spit a little on the screens. Hot breath doesn’t fog up the screens as much as I thought it would, at least.

The DS Lite is an excellent system. It builds on the strengths of the DS Dark — decently portable, variety of strong titles, affordable price — and makes the whole package more appealing through major visual and minor hardware revisions. Because the GBA issue pisses me off, I would not recommend DS Dark owners to rush out to buy a DS Lite. But if you were smart like me and gave your girlfriend the old DS for Christmas because you knew the new one would be coming out soon, then I can wholeheartedly suggest you contemplate the purchase of a DS Lite.

2 Comments

  1. Christian said on June 14, 2006:

    DSL…so you spent all that money on high speed internet? For shame!

    Seriously, this makes two people I know with a Lite. I planned on one for launch myself, but bills came faster than I expected! Next paycheck I might take the leap, because I seriously need to get my Mario Kart on.

  2. pat said on June 18, 2006:

    picked up my lite this weekend. its a beautiful machine. if you dont have the original ds, its definitely worth picking up.

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