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A DS In Every Pot 282

At last year's GDC Nintendo President Iwata made the claim that the company was reaching out to everyone, in an attempt to expand the gaming market. They were planning to appeal to hardcore gamers, folks who used to play games, and folks who have never played a game in their lives. At the time, it sounded like a tag line. Today, I have impressions from three titles which suggest they've got what it takes to make us all into gamers. Hardcore players can sink their teeth into Metroid Prime Hunters, and have one of the most intuitive FPS experiences ever to come to a console. Folks looking for some nostalgia can enjoy Tetris DS, blockstacking like it's 1985. Even your grandmother can try Brain Age, proving to her bridge club that even though her license says she's 80 she's got the brain of a 20 year old. Read on for my impressions of three titles that give powerful evidence to support Iwata's grand claim.
  • Title: Metroid Prime Hunters
  • Developer/Publisher: Nintendo
  • System:DS
If you're a PC FPS player, Hunters is precisely your cup of tea. Nintendo has taken the frantic energy of a Quake 3 match and miniaturized it on your DS screen. Hunters is, in reality, not a 'real' Metroid game. It's essentially a shooter based in the classic Nintendo world. While the GameCube and GameBoy games concentrate as much on exploration as action, Hunters is all about shooting for the kill. This focus is obvious in the dirt simple control scheme. You use the joypad to move, the touchpad to aim, and the right shoulder button to fire. You can drop into ball mode and switch weapons with icons on the touchscreen, and to jump you doubletap with your stylus.

What results from this fusion of simple control and Metroid trappings is nothing less than a grown-up shooter on a very small console. Single-player mode has sort of 'mini-Metroids' scattered around a small part of the galaxy. You head into an area, explore, fight a boss, and move on. It's not much compared to some of Samus' other epic adventures, but it is a good way to learn the controls. Despite the size of the single-player missions, they also manage to fit in some nice puzzling.

If you're wifi connected, you can get your ass handed to you by the thousands of people waiting to personally destroy you online. Just like with Mario Kart, the system just works, resulting in a lightning fast asshanding that will leave you wondering why you opened the DS's lid in the first place. There are numerous maps to play on, and many other bounty hunter personas available to change things up from the normal Metroid experience. Online play is wicked fast, with smooth framerates aiding in the sense of speed and danger.

Folks who dislike FPSes will not like this game, and even folks who enjoy the Metroid Prime titles on the GameCube may be turned off by the game's unrelenting speed. Quake 3 really is the best PC comparison I can draw, and being fragged moments after you've spawned is not out of the question. PC gamers who have avoided console shooters may actually be the real winners here, as you're going to find a lot to love in the 'touchpad look' system they've come up with.

I see this title as not only a great game in the here and now, but a preview of what's going to be possible in the DS's future. The control scheme and graphics (which simply should not be possible on a Nintendo handheld) speak of far-off games that will keep the hardcore coming back again and again to Nintendo's twoscreened juggernaut.

  • Title: Tetris DS
  • Developer/Publisher: Nintendo
  • System:DS
Like Metroid, Tetris DS is a new take on a classic Nintendo title. Unlike Metroid, this new title recaptures much of the flavour that obsessed moms across America in the mid-80s. It's not a remake so much as a refresh, with many new modes and ways to play a game we never really put down.

The vivid displays on the DS play gracious host to the new game. Your first impressions of Tetris DS will be of crisp imagery and bright sound. The game manages not only to be a small shrine to the blockstacker itself, but almost every classic Nintendo title. The Mario theme accompanies the Standard mode, while a Metroid background scrolls past in Catch mode. The only drawback to this is that, if classic Nintendo isn't your cup of tea, the music is going to get grating sooner rather than later.

The sheer number of modes can be intimidating at first. Besides the original game (playable both by yourself or vs. other people wirelessly), there is Catch (a strange mode that has you creating four-squares while flying through a Metroid level), Push (a competitive classic Tetris mode), Mission (which has you completing specific objectives), Puzzle (which has you complete a screen with specific pieces), and Touch. Touch is the only mode that takes advantage of the touch-screen, and requires you to move block around in a tower of Tetris pieces. You break down the foundation of the tower, eventually freeing the trapped balloons at the top of the heap. Touch and Push are very fresh experiences, requiring you to use Tetris thinking in lateral ways. Catch is kinda funky, and I didn't get as much out of it.

Even if you're playing the classic game on your cell phone every day, this game is well worth experiencing on the DS. Like all Wifi-enabled DS games, it's seamless to fall into an online match, and the polish level displayed here is going to please every puzzler you know. Nintendo hit it right on the money with this one: Not too much newness, just enough to keep you interested. The only real complaint I have is the title's price. Thirty dollars for the cart is enough to ensure that not everyone that gets a DS will end up with this in their library. Which is a shame; The ubiquitous presence of Tetris for the original GameBoy was one of the pivotal moments in classic gaming. (Or so says my mom.)

  • Title: Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day
  • Developer/Publisher: Nintendo
  • System:DS
The 'not a game' titles available for the Nintendo DS just keep coming. Nintendogs and Electroplankton are obvious examples, but Brain Age manages to slip into that category through the backdoor; It's a game that's also good for you. Brain Age is basically a series of mental exercises designed to give your grey matter a work-out. Lateral thinking isn't the name of the game here: Speed is what matters. One hundred arithmetic problems fly past, and you have to solve them as quickly as you can. Count the number of syllables in the sentence, but do it quickly. The 'easiest' task they'll put to you is forcing you to read snippets from classic works of literature. Reading the Brontes for speed is a new experience, and one which will definitely stretch your prefrontal cortex.

All of these simple games are intended to be completed on a daily basis. You do one or two each day to 'Train Your Brain', and after finishing up the game assigns you a 'brain age'. The younger the better, with 20 being as low as you can go. The amusement factor of the game doesn't sound very high, but the presentation sells it with gusto. The floating head of Dr. Kawashima (the man whose research the game is based on) is a very personable character, turning the DS sideways makes for a different feel to the game, and the cheerful attitude of the interface is hard to ignore.

I have some minor complaints with the title, but they don't detract at all from the enjoyment of the title. Specifically, the handwriting recognition can get a little confused at times. Even a few extra seconds writing out a '9' will seem like forever when you're on the clock. Similarly, I found the voice recognition would occasionally spaz out. I particularly had trouble getting the game to understand me when I said the word 'blue'. Be sure to enunciate your words so that the game understands you.

Those minor quibbles aside, the package is a great, simple, time-waster. For folks not used to playing games this is the perfect setup. Brain Age offers a series of discrete, approachable tasks that only have to be completed once or twice to feel that you've accomplished something. If you play daily, you only have to invest about 10 minutes to get your stamp from the Doctor. If you want to play more, for American audiences a Sudoku game was added. I don't play myself, but I'm told by accomplished players that it's a challenging set of puzzles. They're also convenient, allowing you to write down your guesses on the side of a box before committing yourself to an answer.

While Tetris and Metroid are great games, I'm most impressed by the reaction I've seen from non-gamers sitting down to Brain Age for the first time. There's a smile they get, and a light in their eye. When I talk to them about it, there's an understanding there about games and gaming that wasn't there before. That's the reason President Iwata gave away the title at his GDC Keynote; It's a subversive recruitment tool. You may not get your grandmother playing Unreal Tournament, but Brain Age can be a starter experience for an entire new multi-generational crop of gamers.
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A DS In Every Pot

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  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @02:46PM (#15151529) Homepage Journal
    They'd have a lot more takers if they included pot with every DS.
    • by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @02:47PM (#15151539)
      Ummm, you misspelled tokers.
  • RE: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @02:46PM (#15151531) Homepage
    In all seriousness- Older people who live in retirement villages are ridiculously similar to college students. (My grandfather was in one)
    You have people who have massive amounts of time, and excited about sitting on the couch and enjoy TV. (Of course not all older people or college students are like this)
    My grandfather's place had a dorm feel to it. I could very easily picture the "oldsters" playing video games.
    • And with my luck, I'll still live right across the hall from the guy with the huge stereo and no taste in music.
      • Of course, in the retirement home, there's the additional concern that this person will be mostly deaf, too.
  • Only thing missing: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ZombieRoboNinja ( 905329 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @02:49PM (#15151562)
    A DS tactical RPG, a la Final Fantasy Tactics.

    Seriously, FFT:DS would be an incredibly good idea. A whole extra screen for data readouts? Touchscreen movement rather than awkward scrolling over terrain and through menus? All combined with the awesome portability of FFT:Advance? Sign me up!
    • For turn-based tactical fun, try Age of Empires II for the DS [].

      Dunno why they didn't give it a differant name than its PC RTS cousin.
    • Um... Advanced Wars DS anyone? I loved Final Fantasy Tactics. it's still one of my favorite games. But FFTA was such a let down, i don't have much hope for any other sequels. Advanced Wars however has some awesome gameplay across the entire series, and the plots while hokey are kind of endearing (if you ignore the bizarre overtones romanticizing warfare). Anyway, brilliant game play. No customization like you would in an FFT game, but the strategy elements are definitely more interesting.
      • I know Advance Wars: DS is the Holy Grail of strategy games, but I flat didn't care for it at all. I love Fire Emblem and Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones. I loved the first two Advance Wars and I really liked Tactics Ogre and FFTA (yes, even that game), but AW:DS doesn't do it for me. I really wish they're release a strategy RPG soon.
        • What I would love is Battle Isle 3 ported to the GBA or DS. If you love advance wars, go play that. I still remember spending hours waiting for the PC to make it's move and then spending another hour over mine. (Obviously they would need to speed it up a tad ;))
    • How about a good RPG, period?

      Not to troll, as I own a DS and love it, but there hasn't been a single good one out for the system yet.

    • Check out Lost Magic []. Comes out next week.
    • A DS tactical RPG, a la Final Fantasy Tactics.

      Don't mention it or they might release another drekfest like FFTA! (Warning: Rabid FFT fanboy who hates Squarenix for releasing a sequel which lacked everything that made FFT great)

      What I'd like to see would be an X-Com for the DS. The interface could very much take advantage of the two screens and, let's face it, there hasn't been an X-Com for too long. And no, I'm not talking about Interceptor or the hideous abortion that is Enforcer. Just a remake of the
  • Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by voice_of_all_reason ( 926702 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @02:53PM (#15151596)
    It might've helped if they lowered the price of a DS shortly before announcing that a better, cheaper version was going to come out soon. Anyone who got one for christmas got totally hosed.
    • Re:Well (Score:4, Funny)

      by Babbster ( 107076 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (bbabnoraa)> on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @03:15PM (#15151778) Homepage
      "Hosed" is exactly the right word! The "old" DS design completely sucks - so badly in fact that you can't even really play games on it. Is it even compatible with the newer DS games coming out? And getting it as a gift in December really blows. That might be worst of all since everyone knows that the best part of gaming is waiting six months or more for new hardware!

      I'm pretty sure the above is sarcasm...
      • Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy with it nonetheless -- picked it up in Nov or so for myself, actually. $150 with Mario included, and I've loved the new Castlevania and Resident Evil remake. But the backlight limitation is really noticeable, especially with Resident Evil. I mean, they made sure to scan the bar code on my DS when I bought it -- a discount for those who purchased the original would result in amazing PR, especially since the people who would take advantage of it are their most valuable custo
        • "...a discount for those who purchased the original would result in amazing PR, especially since the people who would take advantage of it are their most valuable customers (buying early and often)."

          Sure it would be "amazing PR." It would also incur an "amazing loss of profit for no good reason."

          There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the original DS design. It may be a tad larger than one would hope and the stylus is a bit too small, but the system is very playable and enjoyable. Further, if thos
    • "Anyone who got one for christmas got totally hosed."

      Bitch all you want, I've thoroughly enjoyed playing with my DS since launch. If you want to waste your time waiting for the latest and greatest, that's your choice, but it's still silly.

      At what point would you have gotten an old one? If they announced the new one two years ahead of time? Three? If Nintendo announced the forthcoming NES-101 back when they were still pushing ROB, would you have cooled your heels for the entire NES era?
    • The DS Lite (Why can't anyone use the word "light") will not be cheaper.
  • Grandmother (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @02:53PM (#15151602)
    Even your grandmother can try Brain Age, proving to her bridge club that even though her license says she's 80 she's got the brain of a 20 year old.

    I have no idea what "Brain Age" is, but wouldn't the Bridge Club get a better idea of her mental faculties based on how she, you know, plays Bridge?
  • by Frag-A-Muffin ( 5490 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @02:54PM (#15151609) Homepage
    [Disclaimer: I'm a Nintendo whore]

    However, recently i haven't been playing as many games as I used to. I actually own Metroid Prime Hunters, Tetris DS, and Brain Age comes out today and I'm going to go pick it up tonight.

    The thing with the DS is variety. And by variety, I don't mean 10 different kinds of FPSes. These are truly DIFFERENT games. It's not just these titles, things like Nintedogs (as mentioned in the summary) and Kirby's Canvas Curse that has brought me back to my handheld. They keep managing to release games that are actually interesting. The last few months, I'd saying my gaming has been split like so: 95% DS, 5% PC (CS, FarCry)

    (I cancelled my WoW subscription, not because I don't love it, quite the opposite. I love it too much :) )

    Maybe I'm just getting old? Oh well. As long as I keep getting my variety of games, I'll be happy. Probably why I'm most excited about the Revolution, just like a lot of others seem to be. I can't wait.

    The gaming industry might be in decline, but Nintendo is showing that it's more resilient than the gaming industry as a whole. (Past AND present!)
    • by Queer Boy ( 451309 ) * <dragon@76.mac@com> on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @03:05PM (#15151699)
      The gaming industry might be in decline

      It's not in decline at all, it's just not experienceing exponential growth like it has, but in the world of Wall Street if your growth isn't insane you may as well be dead. For example, Microsoft has never made money off of the XBox and Nintendo made a huge chunk of change off the Gamecube. Because Microsoft sold a few hundred thousand more than Nintendo, somehow Microsoft is a "winner" and Nintendo was the "loser". Voodoo Economics at their best.

      • ...It's not in decline at all,...

        I thought the march sales numbers were like 25% lower than year ago numbers? That's a decline isn't it? :)

        Anyways, you're absolutely right about Nintendo actually making money vs. MS and Sony. The important thing about all these numbers is this:

        March saw lower sales vs. a year ago. However, Nintendo posted profits WAY above what they expected. The shares have been soaring as of late.

        That in a nutshell tells me that Nintendo is doing something right, and they're actually expa
      • Because Microsoft sold a few hundred thousand more than Nintendo, somehow Microsoft is a "winner" and Nintendo was the "loser"

        I don't know where you got the whole winner/loser ideal in terms of Nintendo and Microsoft, but from a business standpoint Microsoft is much bigger and more diversified. Microsoft might lose money in Xbox, but their incredible market share in software as a whole pegs them a lot higher than the "video game company" that Nintendo might get labeled as. Microsoft has more media expos

        • You're forgetting on thing though...

          MSFT doesn't exist to produce video games. Sooner or later Balmer and the shareholders are going to get sick of sinking $1 billion dollars a year into a black hole and pull the plug.
    • Brain Age comes out today Have you checked your local EB? The already have used copies from all the ones that Nintendo has given away..
  • Funny thing is (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rowan_u ( 859287 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @03:04PM (#15151694)
    Funny thing is, I got almost the exact opposite multiplayer impression from my time spent reviewing Metroid Prime: Hunters on the DS. It's really nothing like Quake 3 or Unreal at all. The difference? amount of health. It takes a lot of whittling to bring down a fully charged bounty hunter in this game. Also, the weapon affinities and alternate forms add layer upon layer to the strategy of your typical deathmatch. Check out my multiplayer play rating at The Game Chair for the full story. []
  • I hope not. My brain was foolish when it was 20. At 80, I hope it's *much* wiser.
  • Just Got Mine (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Antimatter3009 ( 886953 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @03:15PM (#15151781)
    I just bought a DS this past weekend along with Castlevania and Advance Wars. I also wandered into a Best Buy and played a bunch of the free demos from their download center and have tried a few of my friend's games. I must say that so far, this is shaping up to be the best console purchase I've made, especially for the $200 total I spent on it with two games and a couple accessories :)
    • Got mine a few weeks ago w/Advance Wars and Animal Crossing. Both are great games. I also picked up Metroid Pinball from newegg (looks like they have it for only 16 bucks now--get it!), which is a great pinball/arcade game. So far, I agree that it's among the best console purchases I've made, too. I wish I'd gone for it sooner.
  • by dividedsky319 ( 907852 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @03:24PM (#15151866) Homepage
    When I first got Tetris DS, I bought it on somewhat of a whim... I knew there wasn't really anything too special about it, it was still the original tetris... just made a little prettier.

    But once I played it, first I was amazed by the controls. The speed of playing just couldn't happen the same way on the original game boy... the feel of the d-pad and buttons just feels right.

    And once online gameplay was put into the equation, I was blown away. I've totally fallen in love with Tetris again, and I hadn't played it at all in probably 15 years. I forgot how simple, yet addictive, a game it is. I never realized how great multiplayer Tetris could be.

    600 wins online later, I realize it's the best 34.99 I've spent in years...
  • Chicago Tribune review located here [], registration semi-required, etc. etc. Reviewer's email address is at the bottom of the article, DON'T SHOOT THE MESSENGER!


    Nintendo plays with YOUR MIND
    `Brain Age' is for gamers who aren't all thumbs

    Playing "Brain Age" is like taking the SAT all day long. If that sounds like your kind of fun, you'll love this new game for the Nintendo DS.

    You'll solve more than 100 logic and memorization problems. Writing your answers on the DS' touch screen and speaking int

  • 1. DS Lite. Not gonna buy the current DS, the screen is bad.

    2. Adventures and RPGs. Many of them.

    3. Personal organizer software.
  • I'm 25 and I love my DS as does my wife. Haven't broke down and picked one up for her yet...might after the Lite comes out...sort of a hand me down ya know ;)
  • If i'm playing the game in public somewhere i don't want to have a voice recognition task pop up in the middle of a sequence. Playing video games on my DS in public is fine, but i don't want to be like those guys on the blue tooth cellphone headsets wandering down the street talking loudly to themselves.
    • Yes, you can. (Score:2, Informative)

      by ro_coyote ( 719566 )
      Yes, you can. I just picked Brain Age up for myself last night, and before you start an activity that can use your voice, the game will ask you if you're able to speak or not. I was very relieved to have such an option available in the event that I would be out in public.
  • Maybe .doc as well. That way it could capture a slice of the ebook market.
  • by GweeDo ( 127172 ) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @04:14PM (#15152280) Homepage
    I will go ahead and do it though. If you have a Nintendo DS (or are just interested in them) and using the WiFi Service (WFC) I would like to invite you to check out []. We are a social website dedicated to helping you find people to play against and share information in unique ways.

    Here are a few things we have to offer:
    • WiFi Cards to quickly share your info
    • Metroid Prime Hunters Stat tracking/comparisions
    • Animal Crossing Turnip Watch
    • Tournaments for multiple games
    • Full Message Boards
    • IRC Chat
    • Custom sigs for other forums to show your "stuff"
    • It is free, free, free
    So, I hope this plug wasn't too shameless, but it seemed relevent to the topic at hand.
  • Don't listen to these haters, I think the reviews were spot-on. I've been trying to tell everyone that Hunters is basically Quake 3 on a handheld, and as a long-time Quaker I really love what Hunters has to offer. Finally, with the power of /. people can appreciate this game for what it is.
  • Sony has been doing everything in their power to nerf the ability to web surf on the PSP.

    Then we learn that the DS will be able to browse the web via its wi-fi link using a version of Opera designed for it.

    I think Sony needs to change their strategy fast or loose ground to Nintendo fast.
    • I think Sony needs to change their strategy fast or loose ground to Nintendo fast.

      Sony's strategy is today and has always been to fuck their consumers over and convince them that they liked it. It's been working for them so far, what makes you think the DS will change it? The two systems are in pretty different classes in terms of capabilities.

      • Sony's strategy is today and has always been to fuck their consumers over and convince them that they liked it.

        How has the Sony fucked their customers over with the PSP? The device is great, plays movies (that you buy or rip), songs (that you rip), pictures, games, web browsing. There is DRM in there but for the most part it is non-heinous. The only thing I find objectionable about it is the reduced video quality for ripped movies. If (as was rumoured) the UMD video format dies, then Sony can get a lot o

        • How has the Sony fucked their customers over with the PSP? The device is great, plays movies (that you buy or rip), songs (that you rip), pictures, games, web browsing. There is DRM in there but for the most part it is non-heinous. The only thing I find objectionable about it is the reduced video quality for ripped movies. If (as was rumoured) the UMD video format dies, then Sony can get a lot of brownie points by opening up the rip quality in the next firmware they put out.

          You can't format shift UMD,

    • Then we learn that the DS will be able to browse the web via its wi-fi link using a version of Opera designed for it.

      Unfortunately, I think that's currently only planned for the Japanese version...that's the last I heard, anyway. Although yeah, I would probably buy one if I could surf the web on it. It would be the cheapest portable WiFi web browser, hands down, and you can play a ton of great games.
  • I particularly had trouble getting the game to understand me when I said the word 'blue'.
    Did you try 'brue'?
  • If anyone out there is even looking at the Atari Retro Remix DS cart please oh please do not buy it. Even if it was 100% free to you it is not worth having. Their ports of the games suck horribly and are incomplete at best. Finally their "remix" version of the games are simply badly done graphics by supposed great artists that ruin playability and make the already crappy remakes worse.

    I just wish there was a for console and handheld games that would warn people away from the utter crap
  • Here is another classic dual screen handheld from Nintendo: Game & Watch []. Would be cool if they ported this to the new DS.
  • Seriously, the bulk of the profits from ANY game console is in the licensing. When did the Gameboy, or for that matter the Gameboy Advance, really start to corner the portable market? When they fell below $100 per unit, of course. That's why Nintendo beat Sony, NEC, et al, in the handheld wars way back when. Both competitors were asking over $150 per unit, plain and simple. Most folks, both when buying a game system for themselves, or for their kids, find it hard (unless they're really hardcore) to pay more

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