GameCube: Handheld Hoopla
The Three Kings: Portable Royalty

It's been a handheld heyday. Responding to Sony's demonstration of its PSP, Nintendo fired back with a new handheld of its own and new features for the Game Boy Advance.

Although the DS code name was thought to stand for the dual screens of the device, it is actually an acronym for "Developers' System" said Reggie Fils-Aime, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Nintendo. "It's much larger and more relevant," he said. "It's a brand-new way for players to relate to their games and each other."

One of the screens serves as a touch pad for the DS’s stylus or your finger, and the dual screens allow for more expansive views, the display of additional info such as maps and inventory screens, and both 2D and 3D rendering on each. The DS will be backward compatible with GBA games, offer a built-in microphone for voice recognition, and connect to other DS handhelds at up to 100 feet wirelessly via Nintendo’s proprietary service and to the Internet and other devices via WiFi. Nintendo plans to launch the DS under a new name later this year in Japan and the U.S., with European and Australian launch dates next spring. Check out our hands-on article covering the Nintendo DS in day three’s Show Daily.

But the company's not ready to hand over the GBA just yet. "We're intent on fully playing out our hand," said George Harrison, senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications. "We're focused on the here and now."

That includes new functionality for the GBA, such as a new wireless adapter and video playback. "Nine serious competitors have made a run at Game Boy over the past 15 years, and nine have failed," he said. "The Game Boy Advance owns the portable market.” This fall, a classic NES-themed GBA will be launched to pair with the eight classic games at a $19.99 price point that ship this summer.

Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s president, came out to talk about how proud the company was of its past successes, including the NES, SNES, N64, and Game Boy. "But we are most proud of this," he said, holding aloft the Nintendo DS. "It is not simply new, it is different."

Iwata promised the same for Nintendo’s next-generation home console, although he wouldn’t unveil any details. "Our next system will create a gaming revolution," he said. "The time when horsepower alone made the difference is over."

The crowd responded enthusiastically to the DS, but the largest, most raucous response came during a video of The Legend of Zelda for GameCube and the ensuing on-stage entrance of creator Shigeru Miyamoto dressed as Link. "Even after 18 years, the Legend of Zelda never stops changing," he said, swinging his sword. "In order to grow, Link must never stand still."

It appears that Nintendo isn’t going to stand still either.

BY JOEL STRAUCH


 
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