A Tale of Two Screens: Memories of the Nintendo DS

When the Nintendo DS launched in November 2004, I had only been 14 for a few months. Having a birthday in the summer isn’t always ideal, and as usual, celebrations were light – a day with some friends and some video games, nothing more. It had been a pretty typical summer, but a nice break from a school year that included a week long stay in the hospital.

I owned a Gamecube, which was almost all I played in those days. On the handheld side of things, I will admit that I was behind the times – I never owned a Game Boy Advance, so I spent my time on road trips playing my Game Boy Colour, and really enjoying it. Despite my lack of interest for handhelds at the time, I heard all the information and rumours about the Nintendo DS through the internet, and it wasn’t impressing the 14 year old me.

Two screens, one of them being a touchscreen – that didn’t appeal to me, at that age, all I could think is that they didn’t have any reason to be there, and they’d get in the way of gaming by turning the Game Boy into a PDA and ruining everything. I’ll admit – I didn’t think everything through when I was younger.

Since I didn’t have any enthusiasm for this strange new handheld, it remained off my typical Christmas list chocked full of video games and the like. I don’t remember what I got that year, but it didn’t involve any fancy screen touching or duality or whatever Nintendo preached to us at the time.

Fast forward two months, when the biggest thing happening is my friend getting a Nintendo DS for his birthday – a rather ugly silver model. Not that any colour of the original DS could be too visually appealing, as the Nintendo DS didn’t start looking good until it evolved into the nicer DS Lite. Anyways, this marked my first experience with a DS, finding myself to be more interested in it now that I could actually see it in action.

It wasn't pretty, but here's where it all began.

The original Nintendo DS wasn’t pretty, but here’s where it all began.

In April 2005, my friend bought Polarium, a rather simple puzzle game that took advantage of the touchscreen, revolving around drawing lines and flipping the game’s tiles between white and black, clearing them by creating rows. While it’s not a classic and addicting puzzle game like Tetris, Polarium seemed to the younger me like a very reasonable use of the touchscreen, an element I wasn’t completely sold on.

Despite not setting the world aflame, Polarium made my fears seem pretty unfounded. With games like Super Mario 64 DS already available, and games on the way to be excited about such as Kirby: Canvas Curse, it was clear to me: I needed to get a Nintendo DS.

When I turned 15, my parents had obviously gotten tired of hearing me talk about the DS, as there it was, sitting on our dining room table, along with Super Mario 64 DS, and some crappy Star Wars game. Of course, the joke is on them – did they really think getting me the system was going to make me talk about it less?

Using some money I’d saved up, I quickly bought Kirby: Canvas Curse and fell in love with it. That game did what Polarium had started – it sold me on the touchscreen. The DS quickly became my go-to system and I played it as much as I could, constantly snatching up new games for it, to the point where I now own over 30 different games for the system.

Like most people who owned an original DS, I would upgrade to the DS Lite not long after its release – the sleeker design and much better buttons, the lighter weight and better, brighter displays – the DS Lite represented the perfect ideal of a handheld system for me. Good god, the DS Lite is a wonderful little thing, and it’s the model which people really picked up on. When these things started to sell, they sold like mad – over 90 million systems in the eight years since it hit the market. Along with the other three DS variations, they’ve combined to sell over 150 million units since 2004, making it the second biggest seller in console history, right behind the PlayStation 2.

Perhaps the most visually appealing handheld ever made, the DS Lite is almost a work of art.

Perhaps the most visually appealing handheld ever made, the DS Lite is almost a work of art.

The Nintendo DS is my favourite handheld system ever, although its younger brother the 3DS has surely made its case over the past couple of years as a formidable system. I’ve written about how the 3DS innovates and brings us games in new ways, and it certainly continues on the legacy of the DS. Its true strength doesn’t lie in stereoscopic 3D – its strength is the ability to bring interesting and exciting games to a handheld.

The DS taught me handheld games weren’t just something to be understood as a game to play on the go, or something without a lot of content (outside of larger handheld games like the Pokemon franchise). My appreciation of the handheld really began with the Nintendo DS, and I salute it. Nintendo has tossed out the idea of bringing Nintendo DS titles to the Wii U, which would certainly bring them back to the fold. For me though, I’m more than glad to pull out my DS Lite again on those days when I want to really bring the experience back to me.