Nintendo DS (Dual Screen) is a handheld console from Nintendo, released November 21st 2004 in North America at a price of US$149 followed by a Japanese release of 2nd December 2004 at a price of 15 000 Yen, a UK release on 19th March 2005, and an Australian release on March 24th 2005. It features a number of ground-breaking innovations such as dual 3 inch screens and voice recognition capabilities.
Prior to its release, online rumours suggested Nintendo were planning new addition to the GameBoy series, called the GameBoy Evolution. This was said to have a planned release date in 2006 and would run of mini discs rather than cartridges, though possible backwards compatibility with the GameBoy Advance was also rumoured using some kind of external device or internet connectivity to download the games. It was also said to have a have a flip-top "clam shell" design similar to that of the GameBoy Advance SP, bluetooth connectivity and a back-lit screen. The GameBoy Evolution never became anything more than a rumour, though it's possble the Nintendo DS is what came of the confused rumours, as some of the features, such as the clam shell design and backwards compatibility with the GameBoy Advance, can be found in the Nintendo DS.
The Nintendo DS is not the first time Nintendo has used dual screens in a handheld. Some of their Game & Watch releases came with dual screens. But back in the 1980s, when they were released, no-one could have imagined how far technology would advance over the next 20 years. The second of the two screens on the DS provides a means of displaying additional information about a game (such as map data, similar to the way the Dreamcast VMU would display information about games on the Dreamcast) and may also be used as a touch screen which means players will no longer have to rely solely on buttons for controlling game play. The touch screen can be operated using fingertips or the provided stylus (like a PDA).
Voice recognition capabilities allow another new method of input using voice commands rather than the traditional button controls. It also would allow players to chat to one another if connected to the Internet using the Nintendo DS's LAN connection, which also allows for an infinite number of players to connect at a hot spot and compete at a central game hub.
The DS also features 802.11 wireless networking for linking players more close together (instead of using link-up cables like found in earlier handhelds). This allows up to 16 simultaneous players and the ability (if the game allows it) to all compete in the same game, even if only 1 player has the game card inserted.
Chat software may also be used with the Nintendo DS, enabling gamers to transmit text, handwriting and drawings to one another. DS games are stored on compact cards, capable of holding over 1 GB of data.
Technically, the DS is rather impressive for a handheld, but probably not quite as good as Sony's PSP when it comes to graphics. It features 16-channel sound and 3D graphics that surpass the quality of Nintendo 64. Games run at 60 frames per second and graphics allow for details like fog effects and cel shading.
It's important to note that the Nintendo DS is said to have been merely a side-project for Nintendo that they were working on in the background as they concentrated mostly on producing the next console in the GameBoy series - the GameBoy Evolution. With the announcement of the Sony PSP, however, Nintendo were said to have released the DS at this point just to stay in the game until the Evolution was ready for release. That's not to say that the DS would never have been released. Nintendo would have certainly wanted to show off the innovative new gameplay methods utilised in the DS, and it is rumoured that the Nintendo Revoltion (Nintendo's next home console) will feature even more "revolutionary" gameplay methods.
Platform: Nintendo DS.