Nintendo DS

Image Caption: Original Nintendo DS “Fat” in Blue. Credit: Evan-Amos/Wikipedia

The Nintendo DS is a hand held game console with dual screens developed by Nintendo and released on November 21, 2004 in North America. On December 2, 2004 it became available in Japan, February 24, 2005 in Australia, and March 11, 2005 in Europe. On March 2, 2006, Nintendo released the Nintendo DS Lite, it was redesigned slimmer and lighter with a brighter screen. On November 1, 2008 the Nintendo DSi was released having several improvements and new features. Over 153.67 million units have been sold since its launch, second only to the PlayStation. In March 2004, the code name for the device was “Nitro”, but was changed to “Nintendo DS” just a few months later, in May.

The Nintendo DSi had two digital cameras and a 3.25 inch display with both internal and external storage. The Game Boy Advance slot was removed. The Nintendo DSi XL also had two cameras, a larger 4.2 inch display and an improved battery life. Both had a SD card slot for extra storage and 16 MB of RAM and came with the Nintendo DSi Browser installed.

The bottom screen has a touchscreen overlay that accepts input from a stylus, a finger, or an optional plastic tab. This allows for the user to interact with the game instead of pushing buttons. There is also a directional pad, four lettered buttons X, Y, A, B. start, select, and power buttons. A game card slot, two shoulder buttons, a stylus holder, and the power cable input is located on the top of the device. On the bottom there is a card slot for Game Boy Advance games. When using Game Boy Advance games, the touchscreen and the X and Y buttons are inactive.

On each side of the upper display screen there is a stereo speaker for a surround sound experience when using certain software. There is a built in microphone on the left side of the bottom screen. This is used for speech recognition, online chat, and with software that needs voice or sound input.

The Nintendo DS’s displays are three-inch diagonal screens. It has two CPUs, 4 MB of RAM, and 256 KB of flash memory. It also has built-in wireless network connection. The 3D hardware is only designed to render one screen at a time so when rendering both screens performance is greatly reduced. It has 656 KB of video memory and two 2D engines, one for each screen. It has a replaceable battery that will last up to ten hours of game play depending on the software, speaker volume, whether one or both screens are used, and if a wireless connection is being used. The battery life will begin to drop after about 500 charges.

The Wi-Fi can be used for accessing Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, PictoChat, compete with other players using the same game, or browse the internet with a special cartridge and RAM extension.

The sleep mode is activated when the device is closed, which will pause the game being played, saving battery usage. However, it does not enter sleep mode while playing Game Boy Advance games and will continue to use the battery normally.

Game save data is stored on the game cartridge, which consists of 64 MB to 4 GB storage. Larger cards have a 25 percent slower transfer rate. Some game cards have no save memory such as Electroplankton.

When the device is booted up the device will display a health and safety warning first; the main menu will display four options: play a DS game, use PictoChat, DS Download Play, or play a Game Boy Advance game. It also has secondary options like date, time, GBA screen, and touchscreen calibration. It also has an alarm clock and user information preferences which can be used in some games.

Nintendo offers a free service called Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, where users can compete with others over the network using the same game. It was launched on November 14, 2005 with Mario Kart DS.

Download play for the Nintendo DS is a multiplayer platform that lets players within wireless compete with each other using just one cartridge. It also enables a user with a DS Download Station to select and play demo games, but once the device is turned off the download is erased.

McDonald’s in Japan began to offer a service called “Nintendo Zone” that offers demos and available games and works similar to the DS Download Station.

Multi-Card Play allows the user to play multiplayer games with other users playing the same game. Each device must have a game card installed of the same game.

PictoChat is where up to sixteen users can enter a chat room that is within a local wireless range, exchange text with an on-screen keyboard, or draw pictures with a stylus.

Some accessories for the Nintendo DS include a Rumble Pack, which vibrates when a player bumps into an obstacle or loses a life, a headset that has an earphone and a microphone, an Opera browser expansion pack, Wi-Fi USB connector that uses a PC‘s USB port, MP3 player cartridges that store audio files, and a guitar grip controller for playing Guitar hero.