Despite Sony’s PSP looking far more fashionable, Nintendo’s DS has clearly out-sold the competition, inheriting the massive support of the Game Boy series and incorporating a stylus to bring a new type of interface to portable gaming. The system has been criticized for featuring too many simple, childish games, and there’s little on display at this year’s E3 to change that notion, but with a full suite of great looking titles slated to be released in the coming months, there’s no reason to believe it won’t continue to stretch its sales lead.
Nintendo took the opportunity at E3 to show off the DS Lite, a redesigned version of the bi-screened handheld that’s two-thirds smaller and 20 percent lighter than the now clunky looking original model. Already out and selling like hotcakes in Japan, the Lite will hit U.S. shelves on June 11 for $129.99. The system looks great, and feels great in your hands.
Gamers lined up at Nintendo’s booth to check out
the collection of new DS titles on display.
The new DS Lite, launching in under a month, is lighter,
smaller, and much nicer looking than the original.
One of the most anticipated titles leading up to the show is Final Fantasy III, a remake of the classic Japanese RPG that tragically was never released on American shores. That’s about to change. Final Fantasy III on the DS has not only been translated for English-speaking gamers, but has also seen a complete graphical overhaul that manages to look very fresh while retaining the classic Square style used in the old 8-bit RPGs. The game moves quickly, making it well suited for gaming on the go, and navigating through menus with the stylus feels very natural. This game will be a must-own title when it ships in September.
Final Fantasy III will be one of the
hottest titles to hit the DS this year.
Another big one is Star Fox DS, a sort of return-to-form for the series which has wandered into the realm of the RPG in recent years. This new Star Fox looks and plays a lot like the classic Star Fox 64, but with slightly improved graphics and a new control scheme that has you using the stylus like a flight stick. Additionally, the game has a sort of turn-based strategy element layered over the 3-D action. You move your ships one turn at a time via an overhead 2-D map, then whenever you encounter an enemy the battle is resolved real-time in 3-D. It’s a nice touch and a fun game, due out on August 28.
Starfox DS brings the series back to its 3-D shooting roots.
Finally, there’s a new Zelda game in the works as well for the DS called Phantom Hourglass, using the same cell-shaded visual style of Windwaker but presenting it from more of an overhead view similar to that used on the GBA Zelda titles. The stylus is used to run Link around and the upper screen is either a map or, in boss battles, can give some extra room to display the action.
The Zelda series finally hits the DS
in this follow-up to Windwaker.
There dozens of other great looking DS games in the pipeline as well, meaning Nintendo’s handheld has the games to hold its own against the PSP. With the redesigned Lite on the scene, it has the looks, too.
[Text and original images by Tim Stevens.]