And that brings us, of course, to the main event: the screen. The old DS’s screen was old technology. It was the same backlight used in the GBA SP; it was sufficient, but the latest handhelds were worlds away from the dim, foggy display of the DS Phat. The Game Boy Micro was something of an experiment, I believe, for Nintendo to test feasible lighting tech before implementing it in DS. Held side by side, the Micro and Lite are both brilliant, but the Lite is clearly the cutting edge in screen back-lighting hardware. The colors are stunning, vivid and crisp—booting up Mario 64, I was amazed at just how green the lawns of Peach’s castle were.
In fact there are four brightness settings, each more powerful than the old DS. The first setting is just barely brighter, but still suitable for indoor play or when battery power is running low. The other settings get progressively better and the final brightness is almost eye-bleeding in its strength. I dare say the DS Lite even outshines the PSP by a small margin (no death threats, please).
With these drastic improvements (and Nintendo’s track record with updated portables) one would expect something to be lost in the transition, but all of the DS Phat’s functionality remains intact. The GBA backwards compatibility, the function that most feared would be lost, is the only thing with a small detriment. Because the Lite is considerably slimmer, GBA cartridges protrude about a centimeter from the case. When you’re not playing a GBA game, a small filler cart plugs into the open slot. This is really more for keeping the slim, sexy shape of the Lite and less for keeping out dust, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless. In Japan Nintendo has released a Lite version of the DS rumble pak that doesn’t stick out, and I would’ve liked if the filler plug had been a bundled rumble pak, but Nintendo will probably include the slimmer pak with a new game down the line anyway. I’m hoping for Star Fox DS to include the little rumbler—the N64 Star Fox was the first game to ever use a rumble pak, so it just seems right. But I digress.
Perhaps the only point of contention between gamers would be the actual color of the Lite. In the States the only current choice is Polar White, while Japan gets Ice Blue, Enamel Navy and recently released Noble Pink in addition to the Polar White. Europe lucked out as the only territory to get the black DS Lite, with white available too. Initially I was griped that the U.S. got the short end of the stick in regard to colors, but the limitation might be for the best. By supplying one uniform color, Nintendo avoided the supply/demand nightmare that plagued them in Japan, with two colors arriving later than the first and causing a general retail migraine. With the American launch going smoothly thus far, I’m confident that before the year is out, we’ll have black and maybe even pink DS Lites here in the USA.
I really can’t find a better way to say it: buy a DS Lite. If you’re a gamer, you owe it to yourself to get the best portable on the market right now. And despite its graphical limitations, the DS is simply that—the best. If the hefty software catalogue (including over 700 GBA titles) hasn’t tempted you yet, the assortment of great games coming out this year should change your mind. If you’re one of the early adopters, of which I know there are many, it really is worth it to upgrade to the Lite. For skeptics who haven’t jumped onboard yet, the Lite is the perfect reason to finally try Nintendo’s pioneering little portable. In any case, the $130 price tag makes the Lite almost an impulse buy. With its features, quality, massive software catalogue and fine-tuned, ergonomic improvements, the DS Lite is the best deal anywhere.
DS Lite gets the Gaming Nexus stamp of approval—Definitely Recommended.
The DS Lite is an interesting feat for Nintendo--an upgraded portable with no tradeoffs or obvious shortcomings. The GBA cartidges stick out a little and that detracts from the overall sexiness, but considering the compact size of the Lite it's forgiveable. The vastly improved screens, smaller form factor, massive software library and image-conscious design make the DS Lite a must buy, for serious and non-gamers alike.
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