Nintendo DS: The first five years

A year-by-year look at the world’s most popular handheld

Above: Five years, three iterations (with one more on the way)

To celebrate, we’re going to run through the past five years of the DS’s lifecycle, one that shows no real signs of disappearing in the coming years. We’ll look at its best and worst games, its various transformations over the years and how it helped pull Nintendo back from a distant third place running.

Above: The original design, first revealed in May 2004

E3 2004 was the world’s first glimpse at Nintendo’s Game Boy successor. It was touted as a “third pillar” of the company’s ongoing strategy, the other two being the Game Boy brand and whatever console they were supporting (GameCube at the time). While the first exposure was far from a wholly positive experience, it at least got people talking, and made everyone intensely curious about Nintendo’s out-of-nowhere machine.

2004 |

2004 %26ndash; The Launch

Year in brief: The Nintendo DS arrived on Sunday, November 21, 2004, packed with a Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt demo cart. Its purpose was to showcase the system’s advanced (compared to the GBA) graphical prowess as well as the reasoning for a dual-screened handheld. Nintendo’s argument: a stylus input screen that made games simpler to control and more familiar than those loaded down with confusing button layouts. The demo was crisp, easy to control and a great promise of the full game that would release in 2006.

Criticism: The “simplified controls” plan would come to fruition later, but in the launch window, most games made poor use of both the stylus and the unique dual-screen presentation. In our opinion, we think the DS launch was incredibly weak, and took several months to remedy. A few naysayers also pointed to Nintendo’s long-dead Game & Watch units that clearly inspired the look and design of the DS. If it faded away, why would this $150 version fare any better?

Above: No one knew what to make of this bizarre contraption

Sales: Despite being available for less than two months of 2004, Nintendoreported2.8 million units sold worldwide by the end of the year. This is partly due to Nintendo releasing the DS in the US first (a rarity) to capitalize on the “Black Friday” shopping frenzy.

Best game of 2004: Super Mario 64 DS

The N64 classic received slightly enhanced visuals, new modes and new characters to control, plus a reasonably entertaining four-player mode. We love the original to death, but feel the stylus controls were a huge headache and the lack of an analog stick didn’t help matters either. Play it on N64 or Virtual Console instead.

Honorable mention: Feel the Magic XY/XX

Worst game of 2004: Ping Pals

A crap-ass instant messaging “game” that expanded on the DS’s built-in PictoChat software, but in ways no one cared. Even in 2004 there were easier and cheaper ways to sneak messages around a classroom.

Hateful mention: Spider-Man 2

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