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DSi Special Part 15: Impressions

Yes, every single entry about the DSi will have the "DSi Special" branding

 

The principle of not writing things twice dictates that I don't write things twice. So, I won't be writing impressions of the DSi's firmware, since I've already written about them for IGN.

If you want my opinion -- and really, it's the only one that counts -- check these here links that are most pertinent in their pertinence:

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DSi Camera playtest
Where I sample the DSi's shitty camera. Yes, the actual camera devices suck balls -- like two generation old cell phone camera balls. But Nintendo has built some fun software around the cameras that should make the free DSi Camera program the 2008 equivalent of Pictochat. I'm also assuming the camera will bring some fantastic things to games -- specifically download games, since developers of these titles won't have to limit themselves by the rest of the DS owner base.
DSi VS the Internet
Where I sample the various internet connectivity features of the DSi. That includes firmware updates, the shopping channel, and the browser. All three suck, suck, suck. The big problem is speed. The DSi may have improved networking hardware, but doing anything that requires getting a network connection runs too slow. For the shopping channel, firmware updates may improve things, but the internet channel appears to be doomed by the DSi's lack of memory. You won't be surfing the web on your DSi until someone creates a low spec DSi specific website. And even then, I worry that the Opera browser may be too robust for something designed around the DSi's screen limitations. Perhaps Nintendo can have the Opera wizards build a low footprint browser specifically for DSi spec mini sites, with special Javascript calls for interacting with the dual screens, the mic, and the cameras.
DSi Sound playtest
Where I sample the new sound playback and recording capabilities of the DSi. As with DSi Camera, DSi Music has some serious issues if you intend to use it as a serious music player. In addition to not supporting MP3 (AAC is the only supported format), the system has no easy method of interfacing with a PC for transfering data, aside from switching out the SD card every time, which is definitely not ideal. It also doesn't provide a means of manipulating music tracks while closed, even though the music continues playing. Despite these short comings, the DSi Music program may end up offering lots of fun thanks to the free software that Nintendo has included.

Overall, after a few days of use, I have a mixed opinion of the DSi, both from a hardware and a software side.

On the hardware side of things, DSi is without question the best looking gaming device ever. The specs may make it seem like it's not too different form a DSLite, but when you actually see it, you'll appreciate the matte finish and the slight changes in form factor that make the system a bit wider and a bit thinner. The external camera also fits right into the design.

I have some problems with the hardware, though. I don't like the switch from the volume slider to volume buttons, as during games, the system doesn't do anything to tell you your current volume level.

I'm also disappointed in the lack of USB connectivity. The inclusion of the SD Card is a nice step, but the system needs an easier means of interfacing with a PC. Perhaps Nintendo or some third party will come up with a means of wireless data exchange.

The system could also use an external means of toggling brightness, along with an external means of actually switching Wi-Fi on and off. I'm certain these were considered by Nintendo but vetoed in order to keep the system from being overloaded with buttons. That's fine, but Nintendo needs to at least provide a method of toggling these things from games without going back into the main menu.

Which brings me to one of the biggest worries I have with the hardware: the power button. The new power button is on the face of the system's lower shell, to the left of the screen and below the D-pad. To turn the system off, you hold down on the power button. Tapping the power button takes you back into the main menu. It would be really cool if you could tap the power button again to go back into the current game, but that doesn't work.

I'm a bit worried that people will accidentally press the button, unintentionally gong back into the menu screen. The system provides no warnings before taking you out of your game.

To be fair, the power button is pretty hard to push, and I haven't once accidentally tapped it. You can actually apply a good amount of pressure to the button without it actually registering a press. It's hard to describe, but you'll only likely press it only when you're consciously thinking about pressing it. And when you do want to press it, you won't have any trouble doing so.

Still, just as a precaution, a warning message similar to what the Wii gives you when you press the HOME button would be nice. Maybe Nintendo could even use the warning screen to allow for brightness and Wi-Fi adjustements and also as a means of checking battery.

On the software side of things, outside of the articles I wrote for IGN, I do have a few issues with the main interface. You know how everyone was worried about the Wii Channel interface being too limiting? The DSi takes the channel concept of the Wii and drops one dimension. All icons are lined up on a single line, which is bound to get confusing once you start building up a collection of game downloads.

I'm going to have to reserve judgment on this particular area, though. There's only one download at this point -- the browser -- so there's no way to actually fill up more than one screenful of slots. Still, I have a feeling that people are going to complain about this particular area of the system once the DSi Ware program starts in mid December.

I'm also going to avoid giving any sort of final judgment on whether or not you should buy the DSi. This will likely be a growing system, with potential updates to firmware fixing many of the issues that I have. You're going to have to determine whether or not you want a system for yourself based on what type of software comes out over time.

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