2008/09/10 02:49:17

the DS, first impressions

The DS was ridiculously prevalent at PAX. So I bought one!

Some thoughts from a guy who hasn't owned a gameboy since the gameboy color:

It's pretty cute, but not as cute as the EEE. The instant suspending trick is pretty neat, but it'd be even neater if the core dumps were persistent across cartridge changes. The failure mode for running out of memory (if you store them on the DS) would be to silently throw away the oldest core dump[*], which is lousy design, but can be avoided by storing them on the cart itself.

*: A physical action obviously can't be interrupted with an "Are you sure?" dialog, so any action the DS's OS takes must be after the fact.

The nearest neighbor scaling the DS uses in 3D mode is almost startlingly ugly after using 4x+ MSAA for the last few years. All games used to look this bad!

The DS itself represents a mania of proprietary "standards". The game cartridges are pretty much thick SD cards, the headset plug is wacky, the power connector looks like a big usb-micro port; the list goes on. This strategy has obviously worked well for Nintendo, since they've made a hojillion dollars selling the things, but still. Disappointing.

I haven't actually used any of the wireless stuff. It's supposed to be awesome? I guess I'll find out.

I got two games with it, Mario Kart DS and Final Fantasy IV. Mario Kart DS is like Mario Kart 64, only with a decade's worth of polish, but FF4 is my first Final Fantasy game, since I'm about as old school as Halo.

FF4 has all the standard J-RPG tropes. Limited save points, unskippible cinematics, five character player names, etc. The first two have bit me in the ass big time, since I've sat through the intro cinematics three times now.[*] First time was a whole-party wipe on a Mist Dragon, with me stupidly not saving; and the second time was me rushing through the intro crap as quickly as possible, and forgetting to get some crucial equipment in the process. (Old school J-RPG trope #4, you can't sleep in the wilderness without a tent, an expensive, single-use, tent.) I closed the DS in disgust, and later changed carts without thinking. Whoops!

*: Protip, past me. Press start twice.

In Mario Kart DS, I have been marching through the Grand Prix unlocks with the grim inevitability of an avalanche, and recently unlocked Dry Bones, which is an animate koopa skeleton. What the hell is a skleton doing driving a go-kart? After death, was he raised by a dire Necromancer, who, in his madness, attempted to raise an army of the Undead, to sweep, unto a plague, across the world of the Living, installing him on the dark throne, a mad Emperor ruling an Empire of the Dead?

But he meddled with forces yet beyond his control, and foolishly raised an abomination with power unimaginable, a black soul forged in hatred, seeking only revenge, against the Hero who exterminated his race, the Mario. This hate machine made of bone and implacable rage turned upon his dark master and slew him, shrugging aside his pathetically weak curses in pursuit of his final goal.

But killing Mario would be too easy. No, he must be destroyed, unmade, made to watch as his works fall before him, his friends murdered, to be left desolate in an uncaring world. Only then, when all else is lost, will he be made to know the black embrace of Death. And the first step in Dry Bones' dark plan is to defeat Mario in the sport that bears his vile name, the Mario Kart.

In victory, he cackles, for he knows what is to come next. In the act of sweeping aside the racers' token acts of resistance, his dessicated vocal cords clatter in a ghastly parody of human laughter, knowing that this is but the prelude to destruction as yet born.

Or not! Probably not, yeah.

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