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Nintendo has held a monopoly on handheld game systems since the release of the classic Gameboy in 1989. Since then, we have seen many different versions of the Gameboy from the Gameboy Color (a Gameboy with color! Okay, only about five colors, but colors nonetheless), the Gameboy Advance (and GBA SP). But suddenly, in 2004 Nintendo released not a new Gameboy but a Nintendo DS (the DS actually stands for Developer's System and not Dual Screen). Then, in 2006 Nintendo released the DS Lite. Gone are the days of the Gameboy, but its replacement is a wonderful handheld in its own right.
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The DS has oodles of cool features. The controls are simple. It has a directional pad on the left and 'A,' 'B,' 'X,' and 'Y' buttons on the right (like the SNES controller!), along with the start and select buttons (in slightly different places for the original DS and the DS Lite). There are also Left and Right buttons on the corners of the DS (similar to the GBA SP).
But the very best feature of the DS are the dual screens, one on top and one on the bottom. Also, the one on the bottom is a touch screen! It can be controlled with the stylus (that fits conveniently into the side of the DS). The DS Lite has brighter screens and is slimmer and lighter (who would have thought it?) than the original DS. I prefer the Lite, but to each their own.
Also, the DS has its own Wi-Fi and can connect to other DS's that are within range. It can also connect to other DS consoles all over the world with a standard Wi-Fi connection. Oh, and then there is the microphone. You can talk to your DS (and sometimes it will listen. Creepy!).
The DS and DS Lite are also backwards compatible with GBA games. That's pretty cool, but they are not backwards compatible with any older Gameboy system's games (like the SP is).
The only problem with the hardware is the touch screen. It is scratched easily and you may want to get a cover for it to avoid that.
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So how many cool games are available for the DS? Quite a few, actually. And, unlike the GBA, a lot of them are very playable. The DS has quite a few originals meant for non-traditional gamers (what else am I supposed to call those weirdoes?) like Nintendogs and Brain Age. However, it also has some really great solid games for actual gamers. The Wind Waker sequel The Phantom Hour Glass is a DS exclusive, as are the remakes of Final Fantasy III and IV. Also, the DS is actually a good port for other games like the Lego franchise. The DS has something for almost anyone, unless you only play FPS's or horror survival games, then you'll only have a couple options each.
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Is it? Yes. It is great for long plane flights, car rides, waiting at the dentist's office or a quiet night by the fire.
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Nintendo knows handhelds. With the awesome touch screen (and all of the really cool games the utilize it well), the DS is one cool console. I play mine everyday. And if that's not a singing endorsement I don't know what is.