Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Nintendo DSi XL: first impressions

Ah, it's here, on launch day.

I've owned many Nintendo (and non-Nintendo) games consoles before; ownership peaked at 14 games consoles. But I haven't bought a console of any kind on launch day for several years, and my last Nintendo handheld was several iterations ago, so I'm unfamiliar with the DSi family. Until today, when my Nintendo DSi XL arrived. Here's the promotional trailer / advert for it:


There's several things intriguing me about the DSi XL (btw Nintendo - really need a shorter and snappier name for it):

  • The outward facing camera. Can take pictures, and upload them (?) and put them on an SD card. Hmmm. Interesting.

  • The SD card means you can put media e.g. music tracks off your PC, and play them through your console.

  • There's a web browser built in.

  • Ebook reading is a significant selling point, making use of both (larger) screens, and with the first app containing "100 classic books".

  • Wifi connection. Splendid. The booklet says I can upload pictures - specifically - straight to Facebook (so I'm assuming Twitpic and Flickr as well?).

  • The pre-loaded software. It comes with an iteration of Brain Training, and a dictionary, built in. Now bearing in mind that some of the most popular digital games are those bundled in for free with PCs (solitaire, minesweeper), and that the work of Consolarium in Scotland has shown that Brain Training can significantly improve maths and concentration, will this result in an otherwise puzzling rise of national math capability over the next few years? Hope so.

  • 3D gaming, possibly. Without silly glasses. With the use of the camera at the front, which can watch you, it's possible to do 3D gaming. Is this cool, or what?:


How about making the device location-sensitive? Why? Because with GPS and 3D capabilities, location-based gaming becomes a possibility? And location-based augmented reality, especially with a camera looking outwards and another one looking back at you? That would also be possible, tho' the hardware only has wifi; unlike a mobile such as an iPhone, there's no network coverage.

So is GPS possible? Yes; one company in China has developed a GPS system that uses 2D and fake-3D Google maps on the previous iteration of the DS:

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="GPS on the Nintendo DS"]GPS on the Nintendo DS[/caption]

Ah, so much potential in one little box. Or, not so little - the XL does feel noticeably larger than the DSi. Anyway, let's not get too far ahead.

Out of the box and turned on. Those screens are a good bit bigger than on previous models. However - the screen resolution is going to be a problem for some people. It's basically the DSi screen, but stretched; no extra pixels. So text on the non-gaming screens can look blocky. The Apple iPhone and the PSP have a big win over the DSi XL on this point.

Other first impressions:

  • For a console that seems to be designed for casual or even non-gamers, and non-teccie people, setting up a wifi connection isn't as straightforward as it perhaps should be. I eventually figured it out, but others may not.

  • The camera picture quality is quite good. As is - crucially - the quality of the graphics in the one game I've downloaded so far, Rayman.

  • The extra stylus (fat plastic pen), instructions, packaging, gives the impression that this is marketed at perhaps older demographics with limited gaming or technical experience. That's in addition to the larger screens.

  • Doing things online is reliable, but slow. The version of Opera makes for cumbersome use of social networking sites such as twitter, though I did manage to send out a tweet without any problems except speed.

  • The sound is noticeably better than on any other Nintendo handheld, and stereo sound is clearly audible.

  • The six language dictionary which comes pre-loaded allows you to type in words - but also to write them (hand recognition, which works quite well) and take a picture with the camera for automatic word/letter detection (mixed results).

I get the feeling there are various little tricks and things hidden away which will become apparent over time. That's for another day.