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Gabe / on Wed, Oct 6 2004 at 5:30 pm

More from the Gamer’s Summit

I have to say that I came away from E3 with absolutely no idea what the hell Nintendo was trying to do with the DS. What I saw there made no sense to me. After spending all afternoon with the DS I feel like I understand it a little bit better now. If nothing else I see potential in the device now that I did not see a few months ago.

I feel like the current SP is the perfect size for a portable gaming system. Folded up it fits easily into your pocket. I know Nintendo says the DS isn’t a new Gameboy, but I can’t help comparing it to my current portable game system since that is what it will be replacing, and when I do that the DS just seems too big. I understand that the DS has two screens and all kinds of built in goodies, but gadgets like this are supposed to get smaller not bigger. I honestly think Nintendo sort of blew it by making the SP so fucking perfect. When your business model relies on reselling the same device every few years with slight improvements to its design, you should probably avoid making something as flawless as the SP.

It took me about five minutes of playing before I finally discovered a way of holding the DS that felt good to me. You can grip the DS with your left hand, placing your thumb on the D-Pad and your index finger on the shoulder button just like you would an SP. The problem was trying to use the stylus with your right hand. The DS is significantly bigger and slightly heavier than the SP. I found that trying to write on the touch screen while supporting the device with only my left hand was very awkward. Eventually I started hooking the pinky of my right hand under the right side of the machine while gripping the pen with my thumb and pointer finger. It sounds clumsy but after a few games of Metroid it felt perfectly normal. This gave me the stability I needed to use the D-Pad and the touch screen at the same time. The optimal solution was to rest the machine on the edge of a table but it’s certainly not required.

I went in today hoping I’d see a game that would make me need a DS. Unfortunately that killer app was not present. There were some cool ports and a few interesting new titles but I didn’t see a game that I had to have at all costs or someone would die. I think the best game at the summit today was Metroid Hunters. It’s funny because coming out of E3 I felt like Metroid Hunters was the weakest thing they showed. They’ve really polished it though and now it’s a solid FPS on a portable system, something that I don’t think has ever been done before. The combination Stylus and D-Pd control actually reproduces the feeling of a mouse and keyboard really well. The game has all kinds of different control options to satisfy just about anyone but the default setup is the one I found most comfortable. You use your thumb on the D-Pad like WASD with your index finger on the shoulder button to fire.  You use the stylus on the bottom screen to look around and double tap it to jump. In just a few minutes I was pulling off classic FPS maneuvers like jumping, spinning around and shooting Tycho in the fucking face.

I played a couple four player death match games and I gotta say, they were pretty damn cool. Getting into a multiplayer game was a breeze thanks to the built in wireless networking capabilities of the DS. Someone at the table would simply create a game and it would show up in the multiplayer menu on the rest of the units at the table. Joining a game was essentially instantaneous and once we were all in, the host would start the game. Down on the bottom screen you have a large map and icons for switching into ball mode and selecting weapons. You use the stylus over the map portion of the screen and tapping the icon for missiles or ball mode is quick and easy.

Besides multiplayer, the game has single player training missions that will have you blasting your way through levels full of vile Metroids. You can also play through a Morph Ball mode that’s kind of like Super Monkey Ball, if Super Monkey ball didn’t have cool puzzles and was really boring. Over all I’d say the Multiplayer is the real reason to play Hunters, but it was sweet of them to try and throw in some content for people without any friends.

The really cool thing is that the demo we saw today actually comes with the unit. Right out of the box you’ll be able to get your Metroid on. It had three different multiplayer levels which should be enough to hold you over until the full game ships early next year. It’s kind of cool that one of the best games available at launch is actually free.

I’ll be back later with my thoughts on Mario 64 DS, Picto Chat and a few others.

-Gabe out

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