The Philip Rational: "DS Well?"
-By Philip "Pocket Squirrel" Wesley-
-This may offend people-
-Posted January 22nd, 2004-

I know my readers (all three of them) and I know what they want to know about. So, I must deliver exactly what they want to know about: What I think of the Nintendo DS. I will refer to the Nintendo DS as (just) the DS from now on for clarity reasons. Here are some more up to date specs on the system.
  1. Two 3-Inch Widescreen Front-Lit TFT Screens
  2. ARM9 main processor and ARM7 sub-processor
  3. Re-writeable medium with a max size of 1-gigabit (128 megabytes)
The Screen: The DS has two 3-inch Widescreen, front-lit TFT screens. Most likely, the same type of screens that will be used in the Game Boy Next in terms of sharpness. The screens are the size of the Game Boy Advance's screen. Widescreen is measured from the bottom left corner to the upper right corner and NOT from left to right. Widescreen is where the screen is longer horizontally than vertically. When the vertical and horizontal are very similar, we call that fullscreen. Here is your breakdown!

  • Nintendo DS = 3-inch widescreen (x2)
  • Game Boy Advance (Both models) = 3-inch widescreen
  • Game Boy Color = 2.25-inch fullscreen
  • Game Boy Next = 4-inch widescreen (Estimated by pixel count)
  • Virtual Boy = 1-inch widescreen (x2 image is reflected off of a larger mirror)
  • Sony PoSP = 6-inch widescreen (Estimated by pixel count)
  • Atari Lynx (Both Models) = 3.5-inch widescreen (H = 3 and V = 2)
  • Sega Game Gear = 3.15-inch (barely) widescreen (H = 2.5 and V = 2)
  • Neo Geo Pocket (All models) = 2.67-inch fullscreen

Screen wise, the DS is closest to the Game Boy Advance. Of special note, the PoSP has a bigger screen than my portable Panasonic DVD-LV60 DVD Player. Between the DVD player and my Game Boy Advance, I can only fit ONE of those in my pants pocket. That would technically make the PoSP almost the size of a DVD Case in estimation. The DS will most likely fold up like the Game Boy Advance SP or the old Dual Screen Game & Watch handhelds. Remember that the original plan for the Game Boy was to create a Game & Watch where you could change the game. It eventually evolved into a handheld NES and then eventually the handheld it is today. So, it makes sense that the DS would copy the old Game & Watch design.

The Twin Processors: The power of the system lies in two processors. The ARM9 is 32-Bit RISC with a subroutine for 16-bit applications. The ARM9 can also do 3-D applications at low power consumption. In other words, you get 3-D visuals without heavy battery drain. The ARM9 can use OpenGL and other freebase languages. The ARM9 instruction set can be extended by the use of coprocessors. The coprocessor here is an ARM7. The ARM7 is ALSO 32-bit RISC. RISC stands for Reduced Instruction Set Computer. The ARM7 can handle most of the same things that the ARM9 can; but not as quickly or as well as the ARM9. The GBA has an ARM7 processor. So, the DS is more powerful than the GBA. In fact, if the processors are used properly, the Nintendo DS can match the PoSP in terms of early graphics prowess.

In fact, early PoSP games and Nintendo DS games may look nearly identical to each other in terms of generation. Both the PoSP and the Nintendo DS are 32-bit systems. Because of the similarity in processors to the Game Boy Advance; developers can start on games for the system almost immediately. This works to screw the Sony PoSP over; because developers ALREADY have most of the information needed to program games for the DS inside their GBA kits. The Twin Processors are an interesting equation to the mix that is the DS.

Consulting the Medium: The medium sounds to be similar to SD Cards. In fact, I could almost bet money that the system uses something close to the SIZE of SD-Cards. While the 128megabytes is nowhere near the 1.5gigabytes (1,500megabytes) of the PoSP discs, the data has no seek time and you will -most likely- not need a seperate memory card to save your game. Remember that Super Mario 64 uses all of 8 megabytes to do what it does. Nothing else is known on the medium, which is unfortunate.

There is no other information at this time. No GAMES, no word on the controls, and not a word on the price. I think the technology checks out pretty well. Do I think this is "Virtual Boy 2?" HELL NO. Look at the processors, this is what Nintendo wants to put out to extend their base and temporarily derail the PoSP momentum. The initial complaints with the PoSP have to do with difficulty of programming -oddly enough- and unfamiliar grounds. The DS has familiarity and -in turn- ease of programming. If they processors get used correctly, it would be possible to -say- make a racing game for the PoSP and DS that look nearly identical. The big difference being that track information and other such information would be delegated to the secondary screen on the DS; leaving room for menu-less gameplay on the primary screen. The same type of information would have to be in the way of the gameplay on the PoSP. Thus, DS games would be more visually appealing to the gamer as you get to see more of the gameplay and less of the menus. In that respect, the Nintendo DS is fucking brilliant. Here are a few examples of how the two screens work creatively.
  1. In a portable "survival horror" game: you just quickly glance down to monitor your life and inventory. If the system has enough buttons, you would be able to cycle through items on the go as you run from demonic creatures.
  2. In a Legend of Zelda game, you would go down a hole on the primary screen and end up in the secondary screen on the bottom.
  3. In a Stealth Action game: your enemy radar would be on the bottom screen, as well as your items or important information from H.Q. In a Psycho Mantis style situation, there would be some CRAZY shit going on in your primary and secondary screens to mess you up.
  4. In a Real Time Strategy game: you could monitor the base while looking for precious materials. This way, you could tell when the Zerg are sneaking up on your base and have time to react. Enemies will suddenly have to work harder to be "off-screen" on the DS.
  5. In a fighting game: you could knock your opponent through the floor and into the other screen; then smash them back up through the roof again.
  6. In an RPG: You could monitor two parties at once, or have a clear view of the action in your primary screen while selecting items in your secondary screen.
  7. In an Soccer (Football) game: You can monitor your goal while attempting to get a goal in the other teams net. No Beckham needed.
  8. In a 3-D shooter: You could seamlessly fly your Arwing from down low (secondary screen) to up high (primary screen) as the two screens work as one LARGE screen for the action.
  9. In a Pinball Game: The top screen is the top of the pinball cabinet and the bottom screen is the bottom part of it. Simplicity in the making.
  10. In a First Person Shooter: If playing team play multi-player, you could keep an eye on your buddy while hunting the enemy. Or at least keep an eye on your Flag.
Is there room for three Nintendo systems? I think there is. Nintendo has already stated that the DS will be seperate from the Game Boy Advance and Game Cube. If Nintendo pulls off marketing three systems at the same time, I'll be a little surprised; but happy.

It could be amazing; but it could also really suck. I will have to see more information on it and on the games it will have before I make a real judgement on it. I HAVE to see a prototype of it before I declare it to be cool or just another piece of shit handheld trying to move in on the GBA. See you next time!

-Philip Wesley-
-Sources: Nintendo/Arm
-Property of