The Nintendo DSi might look like an evolution on the previous DS console, but it is more like a revolution.
The console is almost indistinguishable from the previous model (click on the image to see a comparison). By removing the Gameboy Advance game slot, Nintendo has been able to slim the console down by a barely noticeable 13%. The coating is now matte instead of gloss, and the colour options are black and white. When you flip it open, you’ll only notice the bigger, brighter screens if you’re a long-time DS user. From a distance, the only noticeable difference might be the black spot on the cover that belies the revolutionary nature of the DSi.
The black spot covers the lens for one of the two built in cameras. The 3 megapixel external camera is never going to out-shoot your regular digital camera, but it’s more than enough to capture silly memories. The 0.3mp internal camera will no doubt spawn some interesting new games, with at least one Wario title already announced: you leave the DSi on a flat surface, then wave your body around in front of the camera to play. The included camera software is great fun, but doubles as a nice, usable photo archive too, with a calendar to show you when the photos were taken.
I personally prefer to use dedicated devices for photos, music, and gaming, but I’m sure a large number of DSi buyers will appreciate its ability to store and play music files. The downside is the DSi doesn’t support normal MP3 files: you’ll need to convert music to AAC. I have absolutely no idea why consumer electronics companies do this to us. Just stick with the de-facto standards please!
Despite the horrifically bad name (DSiWare? It makes my teeth ache!), Nintendo have stepped up their online game with DSiWare: an online shop that you can use to browse and purchase games and add-ons right on the console (assuming you have access to a Wifi network). If you’ve used the Nintendo store on the Wii console, you’ll be familiar with the approach. Early downloads include a web browser and ebook reader. Unfortunately I can’t test these out yet, because Nintendo have locked the store away until after the April 2 release date. I’ll update once I’ve had a play.
Of course you can also play all your old DS games on the DSi. The removal of the GBA slot means you won’t be playing any old GameBoy games, but there is a huge back catalog of DS games available.
Overall I’m a bit more impressed with the DSi than I ever was with the DS. I’m a little less sure whether it deserves the NZ$150 price premium, but I’m hoping the DSiWare shop and the cameras will bring us some fun times.
Update: I’ve had a bit of a play with the DSiWare shop. The process is almost identical to the WiiWare shop. I tried downloading and installing the web browser, and it was painless. The available games were rather pathetic, but I presume that will improve in time.