I originally wasn’t planning on getting the Nintendo DS for two reasons: the price tag is steep ($150 is more than what a Gamecube costs) and I wasn’t so sure I was going to use it much. The DS boasts dual LCD screens, wireless multiplayer up to 100 feet, and a newly added touch-screen. I ended up picking one up on launch day, and here’s the skinny.
First of all, the DS excels over the Game Boy Advance SP in a few areas. You get the ability to choose between the dual screens when playing a GBA game, and I always choose the top, since it seems just slightly clearer than the bottom LCD. You also get two much LOUDER speakers that what came with the SP, so sound should no longer be an issue. A great thing is that the DS works with ALL GBA and GBA SP accessories, so you won’t even have to replace your charger if you still have your SP one plugged into the power outlet like me. Gameplay-wise you won’t see much difference than playing on an SP, since you won’t be able to use the DS’s two new buttons or touch screen features with GBA games. Another downside that I personally don’t like is the fact you can’t play GBA games multiplayer with the DS, meaning you can't enjoy wireless connectivity with The Zelda of Zelda: Four Swords multiplayer, for example, which would have been sweet. In addition, the buttons on the DS seem just slightly less responsive than those on my GBA SP, possibly because they’re about half the size of those on the SP.
As for the DS-specific features, they have a lot of potential. You can do a Pictochat chat room with people who have a DS within the vicinity of 100 ft., (essentially, it’s like chatting with handwriting or pics you draw), which is a neat feature if you’re at a convention or other event where a lot of people might have these. It’s just too bad you can’t connect to the internet for some real hijinks. The ability to play wireless multiplayer is good, but honestly, how many people in your immediate area do you think will have a DS? Unless you plan to get together with friends who bought one, or you’re already at someplace where people might have one (a convention or video game tournament for example) then the chances of this happening are slim. And let’s face it, when my friends get together, the last thing they want to do is stare at two tiny LCDs when we could be playing PS2 or Xbox on a TV, or PC games over my LAN network.
The touch-screen is very good, very responsive, and a great idea. You’ll have multiple ways to control each game, including the stylus, a thumb strap with a pad to use on the touch-screen, and the regular d-pad. Variety is good, but I found that using the thumb pad didn’t last, because the Nintendo DS is so wide (and my thumbs are short) that it actually hurts after a few minutes. This leads me to my next point: the DS is pretty heavy and hefty to be a portable gaming system. While folded the system can slim into a larger pocket, it reminds me of the old Game Gear days, and when you unfold the system it’s ridiculously large. The screens, which should have increased in size since the system is more than twice the size of the GBA SP, are pretty much the same, although a little clearer. My biggest gripe is the weight; it’s about three times the weight of my very small and portable GBA SP, and I’m not so sure I would want to be carrying this around in my pocket...which kind of eliminates the purpose of “handheld” gaming altogether.