|System: DSi||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Nintendo||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 5, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: N/A||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: N/A||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
It only seems natural for gaming handhelds to be redesigned and re-released after they've been on the market for some time. Nintendo continues to do this with great success, so why wouldn't they give it another shot? The DS Lite was a near-perfect redesign of the original Nintendo DS, but we have to admit the DSi is even better than its nice and slick predecessor. But, does this warrant an upgrade for DS Lite owners? Are there enough reasons to go out and buy a DSi right now? Read our in-depth review and you'll find out!
The first thing I noticed when I got my hands on the new DSi is its texture. Though I have recently acquired a new cobalt blue and black DS Lite, I've been using my white one since 2006, and I could tell the DSi was not shiny or as smooth as the first DS Lite design. Nintendo has gone for a matte finish that's still soft and nice enough to the touch, but it doesn't really have that wow factor the original DS Lite did. However, I know people have grown tired of the DS Lite's glossy finish, mainly due to the very noticeable fingerprints it would show, particularly on the black version. This is why I know the matte finish will be welcomed by most, especially considering the first two available colors in U.S. shores are teal blue and black. The new handheld still looks great, and it really wouldn't have to be compared to its predecessor, if it wasn't for its obvious similarity.
The Nintendo DSi is slightly longer than the DS Lite, just about a quarter of an inch. Surprised? In exchange, the DSi is slightly thinner than the DS Lite (about 12%), and its screens are also somewhat bigger. Even though the dual screens have been expanded, games still look great on it, and they don't seem stretched at all. On the contrary, it's very nice to be able to play your favorite games on a bigger display. In addition, two + and - sound buttons have been added on the left side to replace the classic slider. This is very nice, as you can be more accurate when choosing the level of sound you want, which is also of higher quality. The power button (with a newly-added reset function) has been moved to the interior of the device, and there's an SD card slot on the right side (more on that later).
The main reason why the dimensions have been modified is the newly added cameras. What better feature to add to the dual-screen handheld than dual cameras? There's one on the outside and one on the inside. This latter one is more commonly used for specific software based on visual interactions. WarioWare: Snapped is the first DSi game to use this feature, though I'm sure there'll be plenty more to come, thanks to the new DSiWare service.
DSi owners will be able to download new games and applications every week. These will be added in the same fashion as they are on WiiWare, and the prices will range from 200 to 800 points for most titles, though there might be a few upcoming ones with a higher price point, and there will also be a few available for free, mostly first-party applications such as the web browser, which is already offered on the DSi shop.
This free web browser has been designed and optimized by Opera, just like the Wii counterpart and the DS browser that was sold as a game cartridge back in 2007. However, there's a huge difference between the old DS browser and the one offered on the DSi. Websites load a lot faster and navigating with it is a breeze compared to the previous one. It still doesn't support Flash, but then again, not many handhelds do. Overall, I find this web browser to be a great addition to the DSi, even if most of us already own a phone that can go online at any time. In order to get online with the DSi you'll have to connect to a Wi-Fi hot spot (widely available at airports and some cafeterias), or you can simply use your home wireless Internet connection. The DSi also supports WPA-protected connections, though they're still not supported in old DS games. To avoid trouble, you might be better off with standard WEP encryption (if you're not sure of what I mean, don't even worry about it. Chances are you have the right connection at home). In any case, getting online with the DSi is a must. Not only can you surf the web, but downloading new titles and system updates helps to keep it fresh.
Apart from that feature, there are quite a few new things the DSi has to offer. The interface is very slick and easy to use. It's basically a horizontal menu full of Wii-style channels. You can change their order, and new applications will be downloaded into your currently empty channels. It's a nice touch to open them as a present once you've downloaded them. Of course, a few of them are available right out of the box, like the system settings, the game channel (from which you launch the current game cartridge), Download Play (to play locally against your friends or download demos), PictoChat, the shop, the camera, and the sound channels. The first four were also available on the Nintendo DS, and PictoChat hasn't been updated at all (which I was hoping for). However, the camera and sound channels are a nice novelty.
The DSi camera channel lets you take pictures (not very high quality) and even play with them on the go. You can also browse your photo album and edit the pictures, distort them by dragging the stylus over them, add stamps, frames, graffiti, change coloring, and more. You can even merge two different faces, compare them, or create cool kaleidoscopic effects thanks to the built-in mirror lenses.