Nintendo’s double deuce

Wednesday, 12 May 2004 — 10:29am | Video games

It’s official: Nintendo is cleaning up at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo.

The first major revelation at their pre-show press conference yesterday was the Nintendo DS, a handheld as powerful as the Nintendo 64 and consisting of two screens – one in the clamshell lid, and a touch-sensitive one nestled in the middle of the SNES-style control pad. That’s right – the X and Y buttons are back at long last. The second screen is itself usable as a control apparatus; for example, one early demo was of a new first-person Metroid game, Metroid Prime: Hunters, wherein one can aim Samus’ beam weapon with the stylus and tap to fire. The device also supports wireless LAN over 802.11, which means multiplayer support.

Of course, a system is nothing without some games. Two words and an acronym: Animal Crossing DS. Think about it – it’s perfect. The keyboard-intensive letter-writing and the inventory system currently require scrolling around, and could benefit immensely from a point-and-click interface. The wireless support means that visiting other players’ towns and trading fruit and furniture will become more viable than ever. It’s a dream come true.

Speaking of dreams coming true, Capcom’s listed as having Viewtiful Joe DS in development, and moreover, Nintendo is finally developing the Mario game I’ve been awaiting since about the same time as when the Flames (which are on fire, by the way) last made the playoffs. It’s a traditional Mario side-scroller – that is to say, a real Mario game – but with a 3D-generation look, and of course, dual-screen capabilities.

In addition to this, the DS is backwards-compatible with Game Boy Advance cartridges. It looks like holding off on picking up a GBA SP is paying off after all.

There are a few things I’d still like to know. One is battery life, which will hopefully not be an issue. The DS, unlike the SP’s one major oversight, had better also include a standard headphone jack. A reliable place to store a stylus is something I assume will be a given. There is also the matter of the price, but that only concerns those of you whose Christmas lists I’m on.

Sayonara, PSP – the DS is almost certainly the next-generation handheld to buy.

While on the subject of giving Nintendo money, the other bomb they dropped yesterday was a teaser trailer of the latest incarnation of The Legend of Zelda – no, not the upcoming Four Swords Adventures or Minish Cap, but an entirely original GameCube adventure. This one has a whole new look and feel, going for the photorealism and cinematic tone of The Ocarina of Time but incorporating aesthetic elements that came out of The Wind Waker, particularly the expressiveness in the character animation. Look at Link’s eyes, those pretty, pretty eyes. What more could you ask for, combat on horseback? Oh, wait – they’re doing that.

With Nintendo regaining momentum, one can only hope that their systems will sell like hotcakes. It’s high time for the video game industry to return to where it belongs.

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