Mark your calendar for June 11th. This is the day that the true Nintendo DS, also known as the DS Lite hits the North American shores. For those of you not familiar with how Nintendo handles its handhelds, allow me to break it down in three easy steps.
- Release handheld that has fantastic games but is lacking in a) some key features or b) looks.
- A year or so later, release same handheld as in Step 1, only now with said missing feature or significantly improved looks/ergonomics/etc, or a combination of the two.
- Cackle with glee as money pours in and they sit on their throne of gilded baby seals.
That last step isn't entirely correct, it may be gilded puppies, possibly infant marmosets. They did it with the GameBoy Advance, which was a stellar piece of hardware except for the part where you couldn't see a goddamn thing, due to the lack of a backlit screen. At the time, Nintendo said that the backlit screen wasn't included because of battery life concerns. Well, the lack of a backlit screen certainly solved that problem as it's hard to drain the battery of a system that you never use because you need lighting conditions that rarely occur in nature. About a year or so later they redesigned the GBA and released the GBA SP which, in my mind, is the greatest handheld video game player ever created. It included a backlit screen, as well as a smaller size and a clamshell design. The backlit screen allowed users to play it even in the blackest reaches of space, and the clamshell design allowed it to be carried in one's pants pockets.
I think it's funny that the original GBA looked nothing like a cell phone, but instead like a video game player. Then came the N-Gage which actually was a cell phone, as well as a video game player, but was shaped more like a GBA which made you look like an idiot when using it as a cellphone. The GBA SP, then came out, which was a video game player shaped like a cell phone and people loved it. I have no idea where I'm going with this. I'll stop now.
While I've never had any real issue with the DS, it's not the most attractive piece of consumer electronics, and certainly can't hold a candle to the PSP's sleek, inky blackness. Now, having been an owner of a PSP, I know that said inky blackness attracts fingerprints on a level rivaled only by stainless steel appliances, which then causes you to blanket your sexy PSP in remarkably unsexy rubber. The DS was also a wee bit large which made it impossible to hold in one's pants pocket unless you wore either cargo pants or those crazy fucking Bag of Holding Dockers with their own personal wormhole pockets. It was also a bit large for holding it as a traditional game player, but seeing how you usually use the stylus for playing, thereby ensuring a non-traditional mode of holding, it hasn't been much of a concern.
The DS Lite, on the other hand is smaller, thinner has a sturdier stylus, a glossy white, iPod like surface and has three screen brightness settings all of which are brighter than the original DS. At the brightest level it can turn the undead and banish evil back to the darkest recesses of the universe. I picture an intrepid advanturer holding it aloft, the DS's brightness turning back some Lovecraftian horror bent on traversing the rift between worlds and subjugating all of humanity. Not today demon spawn, not today.
Basically, the DS Lite is the DS we all wished they had released from the start. It's not that the DS itself is bad, far from it, it's more that the Lite is so much better. Now, one can argue that the improvements aren't enough to warrant my buying of the new handheld, however when you argue that all I hear is a low level humming, much like the steady drone of bees. My current DS's screen is getting a bit scratched up, so from that perspective, a new purchase is almost a necessity. I'm paying for the DS almost entirely in trade-ins, and game returns. Top Spin 2, all I can say is "sorry." I meant to open you up and play you but you came out when Oblivion did, and then the DS Lite came along, so again, my apologies. I'm sure you're a very good game. You can sleep well knowing that the 40 bucks I spent on you pays for almost a 3rd of my DS Lite.
What I find interesting about this whole situation, and I'm sure I'm the only one, is that right around the same time that Nintendo released the North American DS Lite pricing and release info, Lucasfilms released info about the release of the original Star Wars movies on DVD. When I say "original", I mean the real deal, without any newfangled graphics, Hayden Christiansen insertion and Han Solo morals recalibration. Basically, if you saw Star Wars, Empire or Jedi in the theater when they were originally released, this is the version you'll get on DVD. Now, in this case, it bugs me because it's a way for Lucasfilms to make even more money off of this franchise, simply because they know that fans will buy these versions, as the fans have been complaining about not having these versions for what seems like eons. In the case of Lucasfilms spanking us for more money, it bugs me. With Nintendo, not so much. Trust me, I know that there's very little difference. Maybe it's because I think that in the case of Star Wars, any sense of wonderment and magic was shot to shit with episodes 1 - 3, so just having these films won't do anything to bring it back, save for costing me another 60 bucks or something. More than likely, I just don't care any more. Shoot first, don't shoot first, whatever dude. I do wonder what the Star Wars aficianados will complain about now that their precious "original" collection is finally coming to DVD. I'm sure that about 30 seconds after these movies are released epic flame wars will begin as to whether or not these are actually the "original" versions. You've been warned.
So, to sum up: I can't wait for my DS Lite, I could care less about the original versions of Star Wars, I don't mind being financially buggered by Nintendo, but I take issue to the same buggering when Lucas is on the other side of the proverbial barrel. I don't fully understand myself either and any attempts at introspection are met with low level humming. Like bees.