By Santiago Melo
Another year, another DS. Recently Nintendo announced the DSi, and while it looks like a simple update, further investigation reveals the direction Nintendo is going to take in terms of its future as a software and console manufacturer. A first look gives nothing more than increased size for the screens, two cameras, removal of the GBA slot, and a smaller size. Yet there is much more to the DSi than meets the eye (and sadly no, it isn’t a Transformer):
1) Two cameras: The DSi will have two cameras added — one where the microphone used to be and the other one outside in the upper right corner. Nintendo has already confirmed that these are not state-of-the-art cameras, the best one having a 3.0 mp resolution. Additionally, new DS software has been developed to allow users to modify the pictures they’ve taken. The inside camera is capable of recording low resolution video. While no games have been announced yet, the DSi is on the path of becoming a portable webcam.
2) Revised interface: The new DS interface is designed around the Wii’s interface. The menu and navigation system developed to closely resemble its Wii counterpart. While it seems like a purely aesthetic change, looking beyond this shows that games for the DSi will begin to feature increased connectivity with the Wii system, and possibly the development of partner games for each system. Letting you take your Wiis into the new Final Fantasy is a step in this direction. Yet it remains to be seen what Nintendo is planning for their big franchises. I dream about a Zelda adventure that spans worlds on both the DSi and the Wii. Or what about a portable Smash Bros? The options are endless.
3) Larger Screens: Instead of the 3′ screens the DS Lite currently has the DSi will have 3.25′ screens. It doesn’t seem like much, but considering they have an increased brightness setting, Nintendo is probably expecting you to do more than play video games. The best answer is that they are intended for video watching and internet navigation. It now is up to Nintendo to determine what are the formats the DS can play, and if they are planning to create their own video store like Microsoft, Sony, or Apple.
4) Internet Connectivity: Nintendo has confirmed that using your DSi you will be able to login into the Internet from anywhere in the world. Speculation abounds as to whether the DSi will use a different format than the DS Lite uses to connect to the Internet, as this would determine the speed of the connection. Additionally, the quality of online game modes for the DS would be improved with the faster internet. Some of the functionalities that the DSi opens up are interactive maps, instant messaging, flash, streaming videos. It is all up to Nintendo to see what they allow and how (Remember they invented Friend Codes).
5) Internal Memory Increase: With a bigger memory comes increased processing speeds. This means better graphics, improved AI routines, and an overall increase the quality of the games for the DSi. Although it has to be made clear that Nintendo hasn’t taken the time to put in a dedicated 3D graphics chip, more memory means an improvement in all areas. An increase in memory also means that the DSi will be able to play videos in multiple formats, surf the internet faster, emulate other Nintendo systems like SNES or GBA better than the DS does now, and in general offer a better multimedia experience.
6) SD Card slot: It initially came as great news to everyone in the Homebrew community, a supported SD card would allow for better integration with Homebrew software. Yet Nintendo quickly crashed those dreams when they announced that they are developing a new interface for the DSi, which can only mean increased security measures. For the moment, the main function of the SD card will be to hold music and pictures, but can be logically thought to evolve into a small hard-drive for the DSi where users can carry downloadable games whether from the VC library or a DS/Wiiware store.
7) DSi specific games: No word has come out yet as to what we can expect. It has been made clear that games developed for the DSi won’t be playable in the DS, which points to the speculation of these DSi games having better graphics, use more memory, and even make use of the new DSi features. The only hopes gamers have is that the new games don’t turn the camera into a gimmick. (Nintendo’s Wii is the master of gimmicky games)
8) No GBA slot: The decision to remove the GBA Slot shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Nintendo wants to expand the catalogue of games in its Virtual Console, and this is a great way to do it. It won’t be long after the DSi is released when games like Golden Sun or Oracle of Ages begin to appear. Additionally, with users being able to connect to the Internet through a better connection, purchasing games on the go will be a great thing.
9) Region-lock: Soon after the announcement of the DSi everyone in the Internet was already trying to find a way to import one. That is when Nintendo announced the DSi will be region locked, which is a first for the DS and GBA line of Nintendo products. Software developed for one region will not play in another DSi. It is clear there is more to it than making games from one region unplayable in another: locking is probably a result of Nintendo trying to stop piracy. Is this the best way to do it? I don’t think so. We will have to wait and see as to what the Homebrew community creates.
Nintendo has one clear purpose with this new iteration of the DS, which is to put a DSi on the hands of every person in Japan (and later conquer the world). Will the cuts and modifications be appreciated everywhere? Will they even have enough strength to carry users from the DS to the DSi? Will the DSi be the new portable gaming device or will it just become another SKU update (like Sony’s different PSP iterations)? These questions will have to wait until later this year to be answered.