Nintendo DSi – a review

The Nintendo DS (dual screen) range of handheld videogame consoles has been selling like hot cakes since released in 2004. The system features two screens placed vertically on top of each other with the bottom one being responsive to touch via an included stylus or finger. Similar to the Wii, Nintendo has widened its target audience when compared with their previous gaming devices. Games are now being designed with the ‘casual user’ in mind, the library of software available covers both traditional type of videogames as well as a diverse choice of programs covering a myriad of topics, from cooking to brain training, from virtual books to puzzles, from sudoku to edutainment.

Nintendo DSi

There have been various revisions of the Nintendo DS, each one sporting slight improvements – the one we are looking at in this review is the DSi, which comes with two cameras. Switching the console for the first time presents you with an option to personalise the machine as well as a brief tutorial on how to use it. Once you have registered with the system, you are welcomed by a number of icons which you can choose by touch – each option is explained in detail on the top screen. Soothing music plays in the background.

Camera Software

The Nintendo DSi comes with a number of included programs – one of these is the camera software. This allows you to take photos of yourself, using the camera placed in front of the console, or of the environment with the camera found at the back of the DSi. Using a variety of options one can add a number of effects to photos, including distortion, graffiti, colour modes and so on. Images are saved inside the machine’s internal memory, these can be later copied into an SD Card (not included) for easy transfer/distribution. The camera software is quite extensive and kids (and not just) will love it. It may not sport a high resolution or flash option, but the intention behind this feature is not to create award-winning photography but to have fun.

DSi Sound

Another fun software included with the DSi is ‘Sound’. This allows you to record your voice and sounds and save them. Just like with ‘Camera’ software, you can add your own effects by altering the pitch and volume. Music files can be saved into the SD Card and played onto the DSi – unfortunately MP3 sound format is not supported, but AAC is, so MP3 music files you have may be converted on a PC and then transferred to the DSi.

Nintendo DSi Shop

Software can be bought online directly from Nintendo’s store. Unfortunately this option is not available for Malta. A trick around this is to choose UK as your country on the console’s settings. The DSi connects to the internet by wireless, so a router has to be in the vicinity. Programs available on the DSi Shop are quite small and are saved directly into the internal memory or SD Card.

Pictochat

A neat little program found pre-installed in the DSi is ‘PictoChat’. It allows up to 16 DSi consoles to connect AdHoc with each other – users are able to communicate by typing in text and drawings using the stylus. No router is needed as the consoles connect to each other by wireless. This program is simple to use, effective and loads of fun – unfortunately it only works if the systems are only a short distance (up to 3m) from each other.

Interact with peers in real time!

Interact with peers in real time!

Educational Software

A console may have great hardware features, but great software has to be made available for it to make full use of the capabilities. One may criticise Nintendo for the fact that the DS is a closed platform, meaning that only authorised companies can create software for it. In other words, an educator cannot create his or her own content which would be Maltese-context relevant, so one has to look at what is already available.

Puzzle solving solving fun and great story.

Professor Layton - Puzzle solving fun combined with an intriguing story.

The Nintendo DS does have a small library of educational/edutainment software covering Maths, Science, languages and more – although it is not as big as one would wish. Fortunately, there are many programs such as the Professor Layton series that although not created with the classroom in mind, can very easily be adapted for educational use. I think that the Nintendo DSi, with the features and the fun that comes with it, has a place in the classroom. It is up to educators to take advantage of this unique console to compliment current teaching aids to make learning more fun, meaningful and effective.

Conrad Fenech
ICT Support Teacher

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