I got three things to say about the Nintendo DS that have come to mind recently. First off, I ride the train to work every weekday. The DS is perfect for the train rides. I beat Kirby on the train this morning, what a great game. But sometimes the train shakes, a lot. When it does this it becomes near impossible to play anything requiring the touch screen. I imagine airplane turbulence and bumpy highways might also cause similar difficulties. It’s a little thing that not many notice, but it makes a big difference as those are places the DS is used most.
The second thing is a note about the lack of DS games. You might notice that there isn’t a particular surplus of titles for the DS. However, this rarity in turn has somehow increased demand. I’m not sure if Nintendo did it on purpose or by accident, but it helps them a lot. Think of it like this. There are tons of GBA and PS2 games out there. Because of this gamers have to be very discriminating in which games they purchase rent and ignore. Only the best games get money. On the DS players are dying to be able to use the touch-pad, the microphone, and especially the wireless multiplayer. But if they had a large selection of games available they would likely only buy one or two of them. Nintendo is rationing the titles. Look at me, I’m seriously considering spending money on games like Polarium, Yoshi Touch+go and Puyo-Pop. Fucking Puyo-pop. These are games I would normally ignore on the GBA. But the wireless multiplayer elements of Polarium and Puyo add so much. Add the fact that there aren’t a lot of other games out there offering access to these features of my hardware, and you’ve got big sales of games that normally would get none. I’ve already bought Mario and Kirby, my roommate bought Mario and Bomberman. At least with the multiplayer games we only need to buy one copy between the two of us. Just don’t be surprised if you see above average sales for titles like Bomberman on the DS.
Lastly, I want to talk about the gimmickiness of the features of the DS. Before the DS came out many people had fears that the touch screen, microphone, two screens and wireless would be gimmicky. Anyone who remembers the infra-red port on the Gameboy Color knows what they were thinking. It turns out however, that each and every one of these features can be used for gimmick or not. And it all depends on each individual game whether or not the feature is gimmicked or not. Take Bomberman for example. Bomberman uses the two screens very well. It also uses the wireless for multiplayer flawlessly. However, it uses the microphone in a gimmicky way. Certain gameplay modes allow making loud noise into the microphone to trigger bomb explosions or shields. I played it, and while it might be fun once, after that it sucks. It just hurts, you have to be loud and it’s not worth it. Thankfully every microphone mode has a clone mode sans-microphone. So to all you DS developers out there. Don’t feel obligated to use every feature of the DS. Use only the ones you need when you need them in appropriate ways. If you aren’t making a touch screen game like Kirby, then don’t use the touch screen at all. Nobody wants to take the stylus in and out of its holster during play. And if you aren’t making a game where voice control or communication is necessary and polished, don’t use it at all. And if you don’t really need to put anything on the second screen, don’t. Just stick the HUD up/down there and be done with it. When you’ve got a hammer everything starts to look like nails. Don’t use something just because you’ve got it. Use the stuff appropriately and your games will be better.