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Nintendo DSi: Lets Do Launch!

Despite the Nintendo DS eclipsing over 100 million units worldwide, Nintendo is still finding a way to sell 400,000+ thousand units each month in the North American market. To help fuel further sales, Nintendo of America have finally released the updated version of the console known as the Nintendo DSi. This is not an all-new console but offers several improvements over the previous generation. We were on hand for a local launch party and here are the details on the new Nintendo handheld.

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Starting with the launch event, a large majority of Gamestop stores--at least those outside of Malls--hosted a midnight launch for consumers to come pick up pre-ordered consoles and were limited to two per person. This is not the type of event where you can walk into a store and buy a console--this is for pre-orders only. I try and choose smaller stores to visit to reduce the number of people there and get out with my hands on the product as soon as possible. The store I chose, in the DFW Area, was such a store and arriving at 30 minutes before midnight, I was able to walk out with the Nintendo DSi, a handful of accessories, a few games, and hit the road just a few minutes passed midnight.

Riding over to the store with my fearless puppy, Felix, I pulled out the Black Nintendo DSi and thanked the good Lord that there were no dead pixels and that my console wasn't that horribly offensive blue color. That has to be the worst console color chosen in the history of gaming! But I digress, I began charging the console with the universal cigarette lighter--a GameStop branded accessory, and headed back to home.

Upon arriving back at the mothership, I brought the bag of goodies in the house and sat down at my desk. I preceeded to place the screen covers purchased in an accessory kit, from Nintendo that featured four extra black styluses, a 4 game plastic holder, Nintendo DS themed polishing cloth, and the before-mentioned screen protectors. They were fairly easy to place on and left a few air bubbles that appear to leave after a day or so.

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When touching the Nintendo DSi, it is clear that that matte finish is a nice touch. The console no longer will become a finger-print holder as the finish makes the unit look much more mature and sophisticated. I was also surprised at how much more I enjoy the interface. While not perfect--the DSi makes the unit feel a bit more simplified like the Wii. After registering my profile, taking a few pictures--which turned out quite well--I found myself setting up the Internet connection. I am one of the many unfortunate people who were unable to setup their older DS console on my network because of using WPA2 Personal network encryption. For whatever reason, the DS Lite was incompatible with this type of network.

I had some brief issues connecting to my network but was able to get around that by using the advanced setup screen. In addition, I had problems updating the firmware to get me on the DSi Shop Channel. However, these problems were nowhere near as widespread as what occurred with the Wii launch. I was able to download, for free, the Opera browser. This downloaded to the internal memory but was a rather lengthy process (probably due to network traffic).

The web browsing experience was adequate but I doubt I will use it often. I would much prefer to pull out my iPhone and use mobile Safari. Still, it is a nice addition and may be useful in certain moments. The one item I never expected to use was the camera. However, I have had an absolute blast with it. Whether I am taking a photo from the outside lens or taking a shot with the inside lens, it is a nice touch. You will need to have a SD card to get photos off and I have not experimented with the quality of the photos once they are off the device. Realistically, they will not be high quality--but it is fun to see random photos appear at the top of your main menu screen.

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The Nintendo DSi has moved away from the sliding volume control. Instead, you push a rolling button up or down--like the Game Boy Advance Micro--to control the volume. This is a welcome addition and something I have complained about for years. To change the brightness of the screen, players hold down the Select button and roll the volume up or down. This can be done, for the first time, in any game or on the main menu. Want to go back to the main menu without power cycling the console? No problem! Hit the power button once and the system will restart quickly to the main menu. Changing a game without powering off? Just pull it out and stick the new one in. it is as simple as that!

The slightly larger screens really make a difference. In fact, we popped in a copy of Peggle Dual Shot, Retro Games Challenge, and Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon, and were just amazed at what a difference the extra screen real estate makes. The drawback to this is the screens take more battery power and since the DSi has a better processor, the battery life can diminish by 2 to 4 hours on the lowest brightness setting. There is also no way for the DS to automatically turn on and off the Wifi signal. You will need to manually do this. Failure to drop the brightness setting and Wifi can definitely result in less than ideal battery conditions.

But the pros outweigh the cons. The Nintendo DSi with biger, brighter screens, downloadable content, better buttons, a much improved d-pad, and a matte finish all result in a system that I feel like DS owners will want to upgrade to. While it is debatable over how much an improvement it is over the DS Lite, if you can stomach a trade in at Gamestop, you will be satisfied with the new DSi. I for one have not used the GBA port in over a year and if I ever want to do so, I will simply pull out a GBA SP or GBA Micro. Don't let the lack of a GBA port keep you from making a purchase.

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By Kaleb Rutherford - 04/05/09

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