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Nintendo reinvents the Gameboy

Mark Bemenderfer | Thursday, January 13, 2005

For the past decade Nintendo has dominated the handheld gaming market. The Nintendo Gameboy has, since its conception, become a staple for gaming on the go. Competition has attempted interference many times, none of which have been successful. The Atari Lynx, the Sega Game Gear and Nomad and the Nokia N-Gage have all tried to dethrone the Nintendo Gameboy as king. Part of their failure has been due to innovation on the part of Nintendo. Ever since the Gameboy was released it has been continually updated and refined while remaining backwards compatible. The latest from Nintendo, the Gameboy DS, was recently released. While innovation is still evident within the DS’s design, one has to wonder if Nintendo can keep the momentum from previous Gameboys going.The DS is by far Nintendo’s most ambitious project yet. Featuring dual screens, wireless gaming, and backwards compatibility, the Gameboy DS is by far the cream of the current crop. Like the previous Gameboy SP, the DS has a built in rechargeable battery, eliminating the need for AA batteries. The rest of the features just get better, the bottom screen on the DS is touch-sensitive. For most of the new DS games, all one has to do is take out the included stylus to play either the game itself or one of the included mini-games. This presents many amusing options, as one can use the touch screen to draw, direct, move, shoot, etc.The wireless gaming is also impressive, to say the least. Included with every DS is the demo for “Metroid Prime: Hunters,” which is playable immediately out of the box either by oneself or with friends. With every DS a program called “Pictochat” is also included. “Pictochat” allows owners to talk to each other, using the DS, over small distances. All one must do to play the DS with friends is to be in the general vicinity; it is even possible to play the DS on the Internet. A major selling point on every new Gameboy has been the backwards compatibility. No one wants to buy an entirely new system and get rid of all the older games they have. It makes it easier for consumers to buy each new Gameboy because the new ones will continue to play the older games that they have already obtained. The DS is backwards compatible up to the Gameboy Advance. Previous versions of original Gameboy games will not play on it. Most people won’t have a problem with this, but it has the potential to turn others off to the DS.However, even with all the praise that the Gameboy DS has received, it is still not perfect. It is the best handheld console out, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t faults. The gaming library at this point is merely mediocre, which is a common complaint among most recently launched consoles. This doesn’t look like it will change till late February. The touch screen has found some decent uses, but nothing to really make it a necessity.With some promising new games on the horizon, such as the aforementioned “Metroid Prime: Hunters,” the DS still has the possibility of becoming a gaming essential. As it stands, it’s a solid gaming platform with a nifty gimmick.