Now that the Nintendo 3DS is out, prices on the old models are dropping like birds out of the skies. What better opportunity to buy one if you haven't already bought one? I hadn't, so I bought one. It got delivered today along with three games and I've spent a few hours trying them all out, along with my new console. It's slimegreen, just like above.
Stuck On GBA
For almost a decade now I've been stuck with a GameBoy Advance. It's not a sad story though, it's entirely by choice, I was never really hyped up about the dual screen idea. In fact, I was disappointed that the GameBoy series wouldn't be getting a worthy sequel. All the way from the GameBoy Original, through Color up to Advance, the series had been steadily improved. You could play all old games on the newer consoles, they started eating less batteries, getting more color and more powerful processors (or whatever you call it) while still retaining the same simple and well thought-out set of buttons.
Control arrows, A, B, Start and Select. All buttons serve an obvious purpose. It's easy to get used to, and thanks to this genius design of controls, all games were easy to play. With the Advance version L and R buttons were introduced, and they fit in perfectly with the design. Each model was a step in the right direction. Then they suddenly decided to add a Y and an X and an extra screen and make things twice as complicated. I didn't like it, so I didn't buy a DS. As time's passed my consent towards this device has grown, and the initial faded, yet I never tired of my GBA. I even bought three extra regular GBA and one SP model (with a built-in light, a big improvement), along with quite a few older games. They don't cost very much nowadays. On impulse I decided to step up to the next level and give this product I've been ignoring for so long a try.
The controls took some adapting to, but after about 5 minutes I adapted.
Fortunately the ability to use the buttons instead of the pen is still present, so navigating through menus can be done quickly. One major difference between the DS and the GB series is the boot menu. The screen lets you adjust a few trivial options, along with time, date & your name. There's even an alarm clock function. The device has turned from just a portable entertainment system to more of a digital multipurpose utility. I wonder what features have been introduced in the sequel? There's also WiFi and you can play multiplayer games without a cable. It's both a pro and a con. Pro for simplicity, con for the lack of wires. I don't like the idea of anything roaming freely through the air.
The boot menu itself is a nice addition. The option to boot a game directly (if there is one inserted) or to open up the menu first is an incredibly simple but very useful option. With two game cartridges connected (there are two slots for new DS & old GB games) the boot menu makes it easy to select one of them, a two-button click procedure.
The touch screen, though only operable through the use of the included stylus (neatly tucked away inside the DS console), provides a lot of interesting functionality. In Pokemon you can sign your game card. In Worms you can draw your own levels. In COP you can enter area codes. The lastly named feature has some trouble recognizing the numbers you write, but nevertheless, there's a lot of potential in this feature. As long as games don't completely rely on the touch screen and offer some efficient control through regular buttons, the touch screen seems to work well.
The built-in battery is another new feature. Is it a good feature? The easy answer is a definite no. Changing the batteries just increased in difficulty level. If you're far away from a power outlet, you can no longer just switch batteries and keep playing. Unless you have an extra, but of course an extra battery costs much more than regular batteries do. On the bright side, the battery does last 15-19 hours (according to spec, so expect a little less) and recharges on just 3. So it's a good battery, which is good, but it would have been so much easier with the standard batteries remaining.
I don't think there's much more to say about the console itself, so I guess it's time to present the three games I bought with it. They've been steered partially by price, but also by desire. Here they be, my first three, for the Nintendo D.
First Three Games
Advanced Wars Dark Conflict was a natural game choice. The more natural choice would have been Dual Strike, the first Advanced Wars game for the DS, but as it turns out Duel Strike was infact more expensive than its sequel! Isn't that something? That probably means it's better, but I plan on buying it eventually so that's ok. Just waiting for the price to fall or my income to rise. I've played Duel Strike earlier, so I know what I'm missing, and in comparison it does seem to be, overall, better.
While Duel Strike retains the same cast (though with expansions) from the original GBA games, Dark Conflict brings up completely new ones. It's also more of an RPG than the previous games. There's much more plot, more relation between the characters, and the mission is no longer by area/army, but more of a long series of skirmishes in a land ravaged by disaster. How long? I don't know yet, I've just played through the first few levels in which you join up with an army, find a survivor, and battle a gang of outlaws/mercenaries... but the plot is thickening. The game takes place after a meteor storm has wiped down most of the human race. All that was is gone, but were there's life there's hope. That's the slogan, sorta.
It's a good game. The controls are similar to the old games, and the battle system that has been refined through previous editions is still intact. The graphics have had an overhaul though, and at a glance I don't like it as I liked the old style, but maybe that's something to get used to. Nor is the menu as stylish and feature-rich as it previously was, but the game still has a serious overload of maps and playability, and I'm sure I've just seen the tip of the iceberg yet. Advanced Wars is a series that seems to be getting just more and more popular, and it's no mystery, it's a great game. Also great feature in this is the ability to save 50 custom maps. The limit of 3 design maps on the GBA was a bit frustrating, so at least that's a big improvement. Many of the classic battlefields still remain as well, and of course you can still play against friends, both on the same console and over WiFi. I'm going to spend weeks in front of this I know.
Next game, Pokemon HeartGold. Does this one need any explanation? Pokemon Gold was the first Pokemon game I ever played, and I played it a lot. I've picked up Yellow, Blue and Red later on. I've tried Chrystal and Sapphire and Ruby and even DarkCry (yeah I know it's a fake). This is going to be one big batch of nostalgia and new entertainment at the same time. I'm not out of the house yet in this game, but everything seems promising. The music, the graphics, the menu. Did I say I'd spend weeks with AV DC? With this it'll probably be months. It's Pokemon. You know the drill.
The final game on my list, COP, I bought because it was cheap. Also because it looked good, but mainly because it was cheap. In the game you play the role of a cop (surprise). And your mission? I don't know yet, I haven't gotten that far. So far I've driven around a bit, spoken to a few people, and I'm on my way to a school. The graphics aren't on par with the games above, but they're good enough. The controls are good too, apart from the obligatory use of the stylus. You can't even navigate the main menu with buttons only, and that's one MAJOR downside! The game itself seems like it will be entertaining, the game reminds of GTA with the big difference that you're a good guy. That doesn't mean you can't confiscate cars though, you can take any one you want, and the city is your playground.
Compared to GTA it's not a very big city, nor is there a big arsenal of weapons or a large selection of cars. You can't drive over anybody either, they jump out of the way just in time. Driving is fun, but not the same fun without the mayhem. I haven't started with the real missions though, so we'll see how it goes. I don't hold too high expectations but it'll be interesting to see how the plot develops. And there should be some car chases and action out there too.
So that's about it. I ordered a case for my precious new console too, a car charger, five extra styluses, two game cases, a cloth to wipe the screen clean, protective plastic folio and earphones. All I really wanted was the case though, but it's all in the same package. Well then, I'm off to get some second impressions and maybe, eventually, in a day or two, some sleep.
We finally turned on one heater btw. It's now 15C. ;)