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Nintendo Ds

Besides GameCube’s Zelda, the upcoming slate of DS games was the talk of the Nintendo booth at E3. The handheld goes online later this year with Mario Kart DS and Animal Crossing DS, painfully adorable puppy-simulator Nintendogs is right around the corner and could be the next Tamagotchi-style phenomenon (though you cat lovers out there have every right to feel slighted), and Nintendo revealed New Super Mario Bros., which better get a name change between now and when it goes on sale.

Don’t think the quirky games with lots of touch-screen action end with Nintendogs, either; there’s surgical-sim Trauma Center: Under the Knife, music/art fusion Electroplankton, strange adventure Trace Memory, and the indescribable Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, all aiming to deliver on Nintendo’s “innovation” mantra in the upcoming months. Some big franchises (from both the console and PC worlds) looked good on the DS too, such as Viewtiful Joe and Age of Empires: The Age of Kings, a turn-based strategy game with Advance Wars–esque combat.

Nintendo claims worldwide DS sales of 5 million, double the user base of Sony’s PSP—although the more recently launched PSP appears to be slowly gaining ground with higher month-to-month sales.

Notable Games

A quick look at the major titles heading to DS in the months to come. (Games noted with an asterisk are confirmed to have online functionality.)

August

Advance Wars: Dual Strike

Madden NFL 06

Nintendogs

September

Trace Memory

October

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

November

*Mario Kart DS

The Sims 2

Fall 2005

Age of Empires: The Age of Kings

*Animal Crossing DS

Electroplankton

Lunar: Dragon Song

Mario & Luigi 2

Metroid Prime Pinball

Metroid Prime Hunters

New Super Mario Bros.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

*Tony Hawk DS

Late 2005/Early 2006

Sonic Rush

Trauma Center: Under the Knife

Viewtiful Joe DS

2006

*Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles 2

Touch Golf

Report Card

Finally! Online Mario Kart

This holiday season, Nintendo will finally, finally take its games online, starting with some DS titles. “There’s going to be no subscription fee,” says Nintendo VP Reggie Fils-Aime. “We’re not looking at this as a profit-driven program. We’re looking at it as a way to bring more enjoyment and satisfaction to the game.”

Mario Kart and Animal Crossing were both playable online at E3 (and ran smoothly), an online Tony Hawk game is in the works, and the company says more than 25 publishers have online DS games in development. Players will be able to connect wirelessly at Wi-Fi hot spots using IGN’s GameSpy infrastructure.

Nintendo also demonstrated its VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) technology, which would allow for voice chat during online games and, theoretically, free phone calls.

Report Card: B+

Strengths:

+ Broad range of games on the way, from old franchises to quirky new stuff

+ Did we mention online Mario Kart?

Weaknesses:

- The really good games are still

arriving at a trickle

- Many titles use the second screen for a map and nothing more

Overall:

Though few new games were announced, the DS’ lineup is still impressive. GBA is withering on the vine, but DS is stronger as a result.

Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.





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