Over the years I have quietly enjoyed the various opening actions of Nintendo's clamshell handheld devices. The reasons for this are appropriately two-fold. Not only an iconic defining design feature, the hinged functionality is also an ingenious means of multiplifying screen quantity without sacrificing dimensional compactitude. Furthermore, the lid simultaneously provides unit protection and - in the various DS models at least - operates as a snap-shut pause button. Also, I like opening and closing stuff.
So to neatly coincide with today's UK launch of 3DS XL (and the Olympic 'opening' ceremony if you really want to shoehorn another reason for this article to exist), here are the five Nintendo openings - and closings - I've personally found to be the most satisfying.
A daring departure from its conventional and long established tubular hinge design, Nintendo's 3DS arrived with a hitherto unseen degree of bevelled angularity. When it is closed, the 3DS looks exactly like this:
Bizarrely the screen boasts only two viewing angles - one less than Nintendo's previous DSi XL handheld - and rotational hinge friction feels far less resistant, so the entire opening/closing action consequently feels looser than Nintendo's previous DS variants. When it is open, the 3DS looks exactly like this:
Overall the 3DS opening is not comprehensively satisfying. However, there is a singular facet of its closing action that is entirely more pleasing - it is the only Nintendo handheld with a hinged lid that 'clicks' when it is being returned to a state of being closed. It doesn't click when it opens. Only when it closes. I find this non-conformist characteristic inexplicably satisfying.
The DS released in 2005 and was quickly updated in 2006 by the entirely more sexy DS Lite. But in terms of satisfying openings the next stop in this arguably pointless list is the 2009 Nintendo DSi. The one in the picture below looks a bit like somebody has utilised the top surface for the purposes of upsnorting illegal substances, but I borrowed it from Nintendo Gamer and I'm pretty sure they're not into that sort of thing so it's probably just scuff marks. Here it is all closed up:
In terms of envelope-pushing opening technology, the DSi combines the best elements established by its DS predecessors - it favours the discrete hinge design first adopted by the Lite, the lid functions as a physical lid-based pause button and there are also two pre-determined open screen positions to accommodate viewing variances. Here it is all opened up:
But the DSi supersedes its contemporaries in terms of a satisfying opening because mechanically it's much smoother. Sensory opening/closing feedback is tangibly more pleasurable and the audible 'click' as the screen springs into one of the two defined viewing positions is much softer. I know because I spent 20 minutes opening and closing the DS, DS Lite and DSi in turn and I was most satisfied with the DSi. So that's pretty conclusive.
Game Boy Advance SP
Arriving a year before the original beefcake model DS, Nintendo's Game Boy Advance SP is a drastic redesign of the standard Advance. The 'SP' part is a truncated representation of the word 'SPecial'. The predominately defining special characteristic is the surprise remodelling of the machine to incorporate the Game & Watch style clamshell configuration. Here's a picture of the SP in a definitive state of closedness:
The anally observant will undoubtedly recognise the industrial barrel-style hinge arrangement pioneered by this augmented version of the Advance. And for good reason - it's the same design later popularised by the original DS. Although it's fascinating to note that despite the DS being more dimensionally expansive, the hinges are actually shorter than those of the SP. Here's the SP in a definitive state of openness:
In terms of engineering the opening/closing action is difficult to fault. The lid movement is beautifully tactile and a pair of corner-positioned cushioning nipples on the inside of the flip-top ensure an audibly minimal closing experience. Also, the SP is pretty much the closest a Nintendo handheld has ever come to feeling like a Star Trek communicator when you close it up. Badass and satisfying.
Nintendo DSi XL
The first of Nintendo's handhelds to be given an Xtra Large makeover by upscaling the device's compactitude, DSi XL also delivers an evolutionary advancement in openings by increasing the number of viewing angles to three. An exciting development. This is what DSi XL looks like when it is not open:
Unsurprisingly the progressive triple-tier viewing configuration has been continued by 3DS XL. However, when comparing the two XL machines for the purposes of assessing opening satisfaction, the DSi XL is tangibly the more luxuriant beast to handle. It has a silkier action and is audibly more delicate - by comparison the 3DS XL emits a cheap plasticky sound when it snaps shut or into one of its defined viewing positions. This is what DSi XL looks like when it is not closed:
Also in the DSi XL's favour is the optimised multi-functionality of the extensive hinge unit. Like the slimmer, original DSi, it neatly incorporates a camera, a microphone and three vari-coloured LEDs within the horizontal hinge housing. It's innovational design that utilises the encased rotational mechanism as an integral functionality hub.
Game & Watch
Over 30 years old, this 'Multi Screen' Donkey Kong Game & Watch is one of the earliest examples of Nintendo employing moving components in the design of gaming handhelds. Here it is in the 'closed' state:
The barrel-hinging is rudimentary and offers none of the advanced friction technology evident in modern designs. Instead of snapping into the closed position the moulded latch on the casing is used to clip the lid shut. Likewise, there is no determinable open position - the top LED screen simply unfolds to the farthest point on the axis of rotation and uses the laws of gravity to remain in position. Here it is in the 'open' state:
The hinge is audibly creaky and offers no resistance during either the opening or closing procedures and consequently feels crudely economical. But never mind. This opening is satisfying for reasons that transcend design and aesthetics - prising the device apart and exposing the dual LCD displays is a happy-faced trip down memory lane. As 'nostalgia openings' go, they don't come any more satisfying than this.
Do you have a favourite Nintendo opening? Or perhaps there's one that you particularly don't like for some reason? Either way, now's the time to talk about it right there in the comments.
And if you enjoyed this, please feel free to enjoy the similarly sexy and satisfying 5 most sexy, satisfying ejections in gaming. Also, you might like 11 things you couldn't possibly know about 3DS XL (unless you've got one).
Enjoy the Olympics.
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