Not Just Repackaged: The Nintendo DS Lite is a Whole New Game

Improving on a good thing is sometimes difficult to do, and overzealous “improvement” can turn a good thing sour. Not so with the brand new Nintendo DS Lite. When Nintendo announced the DS Lite, I had to do a lot of soul searching to decide if I really wanted to buy what I thought was the same repackaged system I already owned. As soon as I opened it up, I knew I made the right decision. In the Nintendo DS Lite, the venerable brand has continued the tradition of solid gaming platforms, and with an innovative design and an expanding library of great games to play, the DS Lite seems to be just what Dr. Mario ordered.

The Good.
The Nintendo DS Lite has lost some weight since we first met its predecessor. Whether it was simply Nintendo recognizing the only real problem with their original DS or fan suggestions that brought on the change in bulk, the Lite delivers much of what made the DS great in a significantly lighter package than before. In addition to heft and overall size, the Lite has been slightly redesigned for better button control, as well, though the difference between the original DS and the Lite is minimal.

In addition to the redesign, the Lite now features four brightness settings, with the brightest being a wonderfully brilliant back-lit paradise for those looking for a little kick from their screens. The brightness is a grand improvement from the DS, and while the original wasn’t awful in terms of screen luminosity, the improvements in the Lite will make you hope you never have to go back.

The control system on the Nintendo DS Lite is essentially the same as its predecessor. Two screens appear on the system, with the lower screen able to be controlled by a stylus or finger in addition to the standard controller-style buttons. This dual screen/control system makes for intriguing possibilities for game concepts that Nintendo recognizes and is only beginning to tackle. If they use it to it’s full potential, the possibilities will be pretty amazing.

The DS Lite also features solid multiplayer gaming through local wireless and Wi-Fi, and it’s a pretty solid system to boot. While the local wireless is always more reliable, the Lite recognizes almost all wireless hotspots, and it’s not terribly difficult to connect to the network and get playing if you’re looking for a pick-up game. Finding your friends over the network is a little more unwieldy, however, as it requires that you know 12-digit codes to seek out those with whom you wish to play. The built-in microphone also has limited use over the network, although there is little support for between match chat as of this writing. Still, for a company that never really got their network capabilities off the ground in the relatively defunct Game Cube, the Wi-Fi play is an impressive addition to an already impressive system.

The Not-So-Good.
With so many features, so many games, and such potential for new features ready to be realized, finding something that is outright “bad” in the DS Lite is a tough task, indeed. More appropriately, perhaps, there are a few nitpicks that will likely be corrected as the world of the Lite is further explored.

In terms of software, third party support for the DS is minimal at best. While Nintendo already has some great games for the system, it doesn’t seem like many outside the company are interested in taking advantage of the unique two-screen design offered by the Lite. Hopefully other developers will eventually come around, but at this time, their support looks limited at best.

Another hope for the DS Lite is that the multimedia options supported in the Japanese system make it to America. Nintendo has already made a splash with their free Wi-Fi support on the Lite, but it remains to be seen if the generally more advanced Japanese features make it across the pond.

The Bottom Line.
The design, the games, and the remarkable potential of the Nintendo DS Lite make it hands down a better experience than the already popular DS.

Even though I was skeptical about the improvements in the DS Lite, I’ve found not an ounce of buyer’s remorse since the first time I turned it on. If you haven’t bought a DS and are looking for a new handheld, the Lite is well worth the money. Even if you’re currently a DS owner and consider yourself a gamer, the Lite is worth a serious look.

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