Has it really been ten years since the Nintendo DS arrived on the scene? It feels like Nintendo's dual screen handheld system came out just... well, not yesterday, but certainly not a long ten years ago. After a rough first year of lackluster games in which the development community tried to figure out how this whole touchscreen thing was supposed to work, the DS library stepped up, took off, and never looked back. USgamer to the rescue with an anniversary retrospective article!
While no one disagreed with this sentiment at the time, few looking on could imagine how this third console — the supposed "third pillar" of Nintendo's games business — could be anything but a leaden weight dragging the company's future straight to hell. The DS was introduced without preamble, with barely a hint that a new system was in the works. It was also announced without any sort of imagery; no game demos, no prototype handhelds. No target renders. Simply a statement of intent, and, stunningly, the promise that the console would be on the market by the end of 2004. 1
"Prior to the actual unveiling of the system, my first impression — like many other people's — was confusion regarding the design," says Chris Wright. "The choice to use two screens, combined with doubts about the usefulness of the touch sensitive bottom screen (back before everything everywhere was touchable), certainly left me wondering if we weren't about to see another Virtual Boy. The unusual design choices made the DS an immediate target of mockery and derision before anyone even had the chance to see the real system."
It only took one game to convince me to buy a Nintendo DS, and that was a remake of Super Mario 64. The original game was a major part of my teenage years and helped me to understand how large structures related in three dimensions (which later led to my career working in architecture and building design), so when I heard that Nintendo was adding new levels and new stars to the game, I knew I had to play it. I preordered a DS and Super Mario 64 DS as soon as I could despite not owning a handheld game system since the original Game Boy (which I'd drifted away from once I learned to drive and didn't need to kill time on long car trips anymore).
I started carrying the DS around with me because I never knew when there'd be time for a quick level of Mario, a few rolls of Kirby Canvas Curse, or the need to show off Pac-Pix to friends. At E3 2005, my old Advanced Media Network crew waited around for the Nintendo Media Briefing by circling up and playing a Download Play copies of Daigasso! Band Brothers and Yoshi Touch & Go spread amongst all of us on the team. While playing Star Fox Command one stormy night, lighting struck the electrical pole outside my bedroom window in the same instant as I'd destroyed the first boss which created a wonderful moment of immersion as sparks rained down on my apartment while the boss exploded (let's see Nintendo create a peripheral that recreates that!).
I put a lot of miles on my DS, never upgrading it to the DS Lite or DSi. Ultimately it stayed in constant service until I replaced it with a 3DS in 2011. Even though I've retired the hardware, I keep coming back to the software despite all of the new 3DS games demanding my time. The DS library features some of the best handheld games ever: Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, New Super Mario Bros, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Chrono Trigger, Tetris DS, Kirby Mass Attack, the list goes on and on. That's a difficult legacy to beat.