- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

• Nintendo DS from Nintendo, stand-alone product requiring game cartridges, $149.99.

The next generation of hand-held gaming systems arrives just in time for the holidays and gives owners an innovative as well as dazzling entertainment experience.

This multifunctional, technological marvel uses a pair of backlit, 3-inch wide reflective TFT color LCD screens, stereo speakers capable of producing Surround Sound and three-dimensional graphics surpassing a Nintendo 64 at 60 frames per second.

The DS additionally combines tactile and audio commands with traditional controller capabilities that blows the lid off potential gaming adventures.

That means the bottom screen reacts to being manipulated by a fingertip, stylus pen or mini-finger mouse that Nintendo cleverly incorporates into its strap. An inboard microphone can record or process vocal cues, and a directional pad along with both a pair of shoulder buttons and quartet of face buttons help direct the action.

Game playing now turns into a multi-sensory creative endeavor as a player could direct a character via voice recognition, monitor his movements on the top screen and use the touch screen to access inventory items or explore a map.

The clam shell, pocketbook-sized unit runs on a lithium ion battery delivering roughly six hours of use on a four-hour charge. Games come in a 1-inch square mini-cartridge, sized similar to a digital camera card and hold a gigabyte worth of memory.

Additionally, the system can wirelessly communicate with as many as 16 other DS units up to 100 feet apart to make multi-player games a totally new level and is backward compatible with any Game Boy Advance title.

Most importantly, the system flawlessly delivers. Be it using the installed PictoChat software to communicate within range of DS brethren (via a mini-keyboard or by drawing pictures) or playing a solo round on the included demo version of the first-person action game Metroid Prime Hunters.

Without a doubt, Nintendo has blasted another bull’s-eye in the hand-held gaming revolution, and it will score a direct hit into the hearts and imaginations of its audience.

For those coveted few who possess a DS, here is a brief look at just a few of the titles ready to meld with the magical machine.

• Feel the Magic XY/XX from Sega. (Rated T: Content suitable for ages 13 and older, $29.99.)

This really strange simulation has a solo player wooing a female by joining up with the super performance group, the Rub Rabbits and pulling off some spectacular stunts to win her heart.

The game takes splendid advantage of the DS with mini-challenges ranging from blowing out candles on a cake (by really blowing at the system), manually pushing guppies up the esophagus of an unfortunate partyer and carefully driving a vehicle with a thumb while flinging passengers at an enemy.

Illustrated graphics reminiscent of the advertising campaign between the band U2 with the computer company Apple give the game a dazzling hipness along with a soundtrack right out of any 1960s European film.

Spider-Man 2 from Activision. (Rated E: Content suitable for ages 6 and older, $39.99.)

The game based on this year’s cinematic struggles of Marvel Comics’ famed web slinger does not take much advantage of the DS duel-screen technology, but it sure does look great and offers quite an action-packed experience.

Spider-Man has all the moves in this mini 3-D realm as he swings, climbs and zips through 16 chapters and takes on archenemies such as Mysterio, the Vulture and Doc Ock.

• Madden 2005 from EA Sports. (Rated E: Content suitable for ages 6 and older, $39.99.)

The deepest football simulation on the planet makes it to the DS with a full season of fun-featuring rosters, stadiums and uniforms for each of the NFL’s 32 teams crammed into the system.

Although the innovation to the title comes from the impressive 3-D presentation and tons of realistic features including instant replay and use of Madden Cards, the touch screen comes in handy to call plays, track team members on the field, pinpoint receivers and call audibles.

• Mario 64. (Rated E: Content suitable for ages 6 and older, $54.99.)

Yes, it is almost the same title that wowed video-game fans back in 1996, but Nintendo adds characters, stages and puzzles along with a major coat of polish to make it look even better.

The title features touch screen mini-games and uses a virtual analog joystick moved via that marvelous touch screen. Players still need to collect Power Stars, but now up to four DS owners can also wirelessly compete with only one of them having to purchase the game.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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