There has been a flurry of Nintendo news since the company announced their new DSi handheld on Wednesday night, but that avalanche of stories -- many of them coming from a Japanese press conference -- means there have been a lot of misinterpretations and half-truths reported. We decided to compare notes and round up all the important info on the DSi so far.
Say Cheese -- The most obvious change to the DSi just from looking at it is the addition of a .3 megapixel camera. Did you know the DSi actually has two cameras, though? During the Nintendo of America press conference in San Francisco Thursday morning, president Reggie Fils-Aime revealed that the new portable device has both the obvious camera on the shell pointing at the outside world but also one on the spine that looks at the player. Pictures taken with the DSi can be manipulated and edited via the touch screen, including combining multiple pictures, distorting images, or even slathering them with graffiti. And once you've finished messing around, your images can be instantly shared with any other DSi users in the area.
Size Matters -- Though the DSi is actually thinner than the DS Lite, its screen is larger. At 3.25 inches, the screen is just enough bigger than the DS Lite's to be noticeable.
The Sound of Music -- A lot of early rumors about the next iteration of the DS suggested it would be add full MP3 player functionality. While the DSi can play music, this isn't exactly the case. Songs can be played on the handheld off of an SD card only if they are in the AAC format. What it lacks in compatibility, though, is more than made up in weird functionality. The DSi comes loaded with built-in audio software for fast-forwarding and rewinding through tracks as well as controlling the pitch and speed. You can even apply audio filters if you want -- Reggie used cutting vocals out of a song so you can just hear the instruments as an example. We're not exactly sure how useful these features are, but they're certainly intriguing. In more practical terms, the DSi's built in mic will allow you to record your own voice.
Backward Incompatibility -- Of course, this redesigned DS couldn't be getting all of these nice new bonuses without giving something else up. Because of the additions of an SD card slot and camera while also trying to make the system thinner, the DSi will no longer have a slot for GameBoy Advance cartridges. In theory, this just means not playing old handheld titles that a lot of DS owners probably weren't interested in anyway, but there are some DS titles that use the GBA slot as well, such as Guitar Hero: On Tour and its recently announced spin-off. We're guessing Activision will come up with some kind of solution for this problem in future handheld versions of Guitar Hero, but On Tour owners will probably need to hold onto their older DS systems if they want to enjoy some rock on the road.
Download Pending -- As they did previously with its big console brother, the Wii, Nintendo is introducing downloadable games to the DSi. Titles that will fit onto the system's flash memory -- the size of which remains unrevealed -- will be purchased from the new Nintendo DSi Shop service using Nintendo Points, the new platform-agnostic title for Wii Points. The first available titles on the service will be repurposed versions of the Brain Age games. While there's a lot of potential for cool stuff here, including the tantalizing possibility of GameBoy and GameBoy Advance games appearing in a portable Virtual Console, we'll need a lot more information on how many games will fit onto a DSi and what they'll cost before we really get psyched up.
Lockdown -- One of the most impressive aspects of Nintendo's handheld lineup -- for super-hardcore gamers like us, at least -- is that they have always been region-free. Importing games from Japan was never an issue on the GameBoy, GameBoy Advance, or DS. Since the DSi continues to use regular DS cartridges and is compatible with all previous DS games, we suspect that will remain the same with the DSi...for physical releases at least. Downloadable titles in the DSi Shop will probably be heavily split based on region just as they are on Virtual Console and WiiWare. We can only hope that not all the quirky obscure Japanese titles we so love playing go digital.
Where, When, And For How Much? -- Nintendo isn't yet ready to tell us a specific release date for the DSi in North America. All Fils-Aime would say at the press conference is that the system will not be here until "well into 2009," suggesting at least a six month or longer wait for the new handheld. Eager importers will be able to check it out quite a bit earlier, as the DSi will release first in Japan on November 1, 2008. Of course, the company hasn't released an American price point either, but if the Japanese price of 18,900 Yen is anything to go off of, we're probably looking at a $180 handheld. It's quite a bit higher than the $130 DS Lite but not far from what we'd expect of a sleek new portable device from Nintendo.