The new online system for the DSi does bring a number of advantages with it however and has the potential to be used for more than just thwarting the efforts of bedroom coders though.
For starters, the actual WiFi integration has been completely retooled, so although the DS Lite didn’t support WPA, the DSi supports both WPA and WPA2 effortlessly. This lets you get online a lot easier and more quickly, which is important if you want to access the new DS Online Store.
Unfortunately though, this was one aspect of the DSi that we weren’t able to check out, purely because the platform hasn’t yet been launched outside of Japan yet and so the Nintendo store doesn’t seem to be available yet.
According to Nintendo and if the Japanese store is anything to go by then the store will be used to sell all manner of small software bits, from Internet browsers to small DSi games from approved developers – don’t expect the DSi store to become an instant millionaire-maker, like the iPhone App Store.
The question still remains though about what the DSi offers over the original DS Lite, bearing in mind that it costs an extra £50 at RRP and features mostly incremental updates. Honestly, it’s a question we’re hard pushed to answer; the DSi is slimmer and has larger screens, but these improvements are slight at best and don’t offer any truly alluring benefit to players satisfied by the DS Lite.
The screens in particular are problematic as the actual graphical grunt of the system hasn’t been much improved, so really you’re just seeing the same ol’ graphics, but bigger.
True, the cameras may seem like a tempting reason to upgrade for some, but the reality is that you’ll use the included camera software for about ten minutes, then you’ll forget it ever existed. It’s handy for taking and editing pictures of your cat or your dog, but after the initial giddiness of having a new toy wears off, you’ll realise you just paid £50 for two low-quality cameras. In fact, the only real reason why the DSi cameras might be handy is because they’ll be used in games, but that’s a gimmick that would alienate all the DS Lite owners out there and so it's unlikely we'll see many developers trying to incorporate it into their games.
In the end then, we’re bought back to the online store that Nintendo has promised, which proves to be the main drawing point for the DSi – for gamers who see through the dual cameras the online store is really the only reason to get a DSi. It just happens to be one which we can’t test today and only time will tell whether or not it's a success. Ultimately, it will rely on third-party developers and the promise of future support. Hmm.
This is all putting a bit of a pessimistic spin on it, admittedly. Nintendo has supported the DSi very well in Japan these last few months, adding more than 35 applications since December, a few of which are even free to download such as the Opera Internet browser.
At the end of the day though, the pessimism is pretty close to the truth. Excusing the ergonomic facelift, what does the DSi have which the DS Lite doesn’t? It has an online store and two cameras which, even combined, are worse than you’ll see on most mobile phones. Everything else, such as the ability to return to main menu rather than having to restart the system, is such a minor enhancement that it’s remarkable we’ve managed to prattle on for this long.
The difference between the original DS and the DS Lite was massive in terms of design and usability and overnight it made the DS Lite a must-have gaming gadget for many. The main failure of the DSi is that it can’t claim the same thing, mainly thanks to the fact that it’s so similar to the DS Lite. And in many respects, that's hardly a bad thing.
The DSi is an online-focused handheld and our opinion could easily change in the future based on how many and how good the games are that come out on the online store. For now though, despite the fact that the DSi is just as good as the DS Lite when it comes to on-the-go gaming and overall design, we just can’t justify blindly spending an extra £50 for two cameras and an online store; something which renders the DSi an utterly capable, but still disappointing upgrade to the existing model.