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In Touch: Hands-on with the Nintendo DS
By | November 20, 2004

"We've figured out the magic of what makes portable gameplay so attractive to customers..."
-- Reggie Fils-Aime, Executive Vice President, Nintendo of America

Despite its exceptional track record as a innovator of gaming, consumers and the press alike found the concept of a dual-screen portable system difficult to imagine. Some were even outraged, particularly new adopters of the GBA SP, which led many to believe the system would be terminated before its time. How would two handheld platforms manufactured by the same company co-exist? Ultimately, the Nintendo DS generated more attention greater than any of the forthcoming next-generation systems combined.

This year's Nintendo E3 convention unquestionably left a memorable impression amongst all in attendance when the company's new chief marketing officer kicked off the program:

"My name is Reggie. I'm about kickin' ass. I am about takin' names. And we're about making games."

Such a delivery seemed uncharacteristic of a company who we've typically been used to quiet Japanese businessman discussing sales figures and their plans to emerge from their underdog position in the market. But the message was clear - Nintendo would remain dedicated to putting games first, refinforced by its objective to re-examine the manner in which we interact with digital entertainment.

In the case of the DS, this meant a revision of the conventional handheld concept: two screens, wireless functionality and voice-recognition -- significant, innovative features that Nintendo predicts will resonate with gamers. In May of this year, E3 attendees had the opportunity to play-test the Nintendo DS, and like most gamers who sampled the goods, I was instantly impressed with the DS and its forthcoming lineup, enjoying such games as WarioWare: Touched! (formerly WarioWare DS), Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt, and Super Mario 64 DS. Visually however, the system looked like it was targeted for younger gamers and would unlikely appeal to the older crowd. Apparently, in an effort to compete directly with Sony's PlayStation Portable, the system went through a substantial redesign, addressing several key areas, ultimately giving it a more comfortable, stylized look.

But it would take more than just a pretty face to win the hearts of existing gamers and newcomers alike. Although Nintendo established an exceptional sales record with its first-party hits alone, the Nintendo DS would need a strong arsenal of quality titles. Thankfully, the system picked up the support of every major company, announcing over 120 titles. Then, the company delivered another shockwave to the consumer market, revealing plans to release the Nintendo DS in North America first, along with the embedded Pictochat application and a playable demo of Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt which gamers could enjoy right out the box. Clearly, Nintendo had a clear image of "what's going to get the consumer interested in any piece of hardware" based on "the games that you offer them," Reggie noted.

Still skeptical? Curious about the games you should get? Then sit back and check out the next few pages which outlines some titles I had the chance to sit down with. In the following week, we'll take a look at a few other titles in development which Nintendo promises to have available by year's end.

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