Our original review of the Nintendo DS listed only one 'We don't like' characteristic: 'Somewhat bulky'. Whether it was because of early fan discord or because Nintendo has a propensity to redesign its handheld systems, the aforementioned complaint was addressed with a signature Nintendo remodelling. The Nintendo DS has been slimmed down and brightened up, and it's been injected with a serious shot of style.
Rechristened, the DS Lite attempts to make the same fashion statement for videogame systems that the iPod did for MP3 players. Like the iPod, the DS Lite is available in two colours, white and black, which is exclusive to Europe. For the time being the US only has the white version, while Japan boasts navy and 'ice blue' versions. For the impatient and iPod-white averse, the system is completely region-free and supports multiple languages, so you could import a Japanese navy DS Lite and have no problem playing all of your European games.
The DS Lite is released in the UK and Europe on 23 June with an RRP of £99.99. It can be pre-ordered from various online retailers now.
The Nintendo DS Lite, like the original Nintendo DS, is a portable gaming system with two vertically tiered screens. On the bottom is a touch screen that allows you to use a stylus or a finger for anything from selecting options to moving characters. There's also a normal face-button layout that allows a more standard method of control.
The system plays its own proprietary cartridges (which are somewhere between SD and CompactFlash cards in size), in addition to its near-full backward compatibility with Game Boy Advance (GBA) titles -- the system will not play multiplayer modes of GBA games, unfortunately. While DS cartridges are much smaller in capacity than the Sony PSP's UMDs, they play without the often unbearable load times of Sony's proprietary format.
As its name suggests, the Nintendo DS Lite is a much more compactly designed system -- at 133 by 72 by 21mm when closed and weighing in at 217g, it's 39 per cent smaller and 21 per cent lighter than its predecessor. The rounded corners are more finely tapered, and the top and bottom sides are symmetrical, avoiding the underbite-like look of the original's oversized bottom half. It's a much more pocket-friendly system than the original DS. Despite the smaller overall size, though, the trademark twin screens have the same dimensions.
The layout of the DS Lite is largely similar to that of the Nintendo DS, with some slight, beneficial changes. The top half of the clamshell still houses the stereo speakers. They're centred on either side of the upper screen, and despite being smaller than those on the original DS, they're just as loud. The bottom screen is a little more conducive to touch, but it feels flimsier -- almost as if you've kept the protective thin-film screen that overlays many LCDs when they ship from the factory. To the left of the touch screen is the D-pad, which is about three-quarters the size of the original, but just as efficient.
The four face buttons (X, Y, A and B) are essentially the same but feel a little more pronounced than those of the original DS. No longer half-ovals on top, the start and select buttons are now tiny circles on the bottom. The power button has moved from just above the D-pad to the right side of the system. It's a welcome change, as the original looked exactly like the select and start buttons and was situated in the same area on the opposite side -- which led to the occasional turn-off-instead-of-pause blunder.
The front of the system is basically unchanged -- from left to right, the volume control, the GBA game slot and the in-line-enabled headphone port are in the same spots. Formerly slightly above the front of the system, the microphone has been moved to the hinge between screens. In instances where you need to look at the bottom screen while using the mic, you may need to retrain yourself.
The back end of the system is basically the same. The only thing that's moved is the stylus holder, which is on the back of the system, to the left of the power switch. It looks a little more discreet and the stylus fits more snugly. The left and right triggers are slightly smaller, but like the face buttons, they're more pronounced and easier to press. The DS cartridge slot is centred at the top, and the AC power port is off to the left. The system includes an AC adaptor, two styli that match the Lite's colour, and a smaller wrist strap that -- annoyingly -- does not include the thumbpad of the original.