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by the NWR Staff - July 4, 2004, 6:16 pm EDT

We've got some DS questions in this bag, requests for info on Snowboard Kids and Silicon Knights aswell as Zelda and Starfox.

Akay asks:

1. Do you suppose that the ds will get support from the bill gates clan?

2. Is the Ds going to be "unlocked" interms of territoty just like the gameboy?

Jonny says: There's no word on Microsoft support for the DS, but it would not surprise me at all. They have published a couple of GBA titles already, and Rare is still involved with GBA development and will likely be working on DS games as well. Microsoft probably feels threatened by the convergence posed by Sony's PSP and how it integrates with the PS2 (and PS3), so I think they are more likely to support the DS than the PSP.

As for territorial lockout, no one knows yet. We are watching this issue closely, and I'm very hopeful that Nintendo will keep up the tradition and keep the DS region-free.

TYP says: Historically Nintendo has not used regional lock-out systems for its handheld systems, as it is well aware the handheld systems are designed for world travel. It would be very odd if the DS used a lock-out system, especially since the PSP will not have one, last I heard.

Steven says: Since the DS can play GBA games, it wouldn't make sense for it to be region-free for the GBA and region-locked for the DS. It's going to be open just like every other Nintendo handheld product they've ever produced.

Juan Schwartz says: Personally I hope the fact that it won't be released in Australia untill after the US and Japanese release isn't a sign that it will be region encoded, even though I'll probably import a US DS just so I'm not behind.

Aussie Ben says: I probably won't be importing a DS myself, for the reason that the system will probably be like the SP, and have a recharagable battery. Which is why I don't have any Special Edition SPs (shock horror!). As for Microsoft on the DS, the official word is a firm "Hell no" from Microsoft (except in nice PR terminology). Mind, about a week before that statement was issued, a couple of websites were reporting that one Ken Lobb was thrilled with the DS while using it at E3, and blurted out "It's Mr. Pants! would be GREAT with the stylus!", then proceeded to say that Rare was working on not one, but two DS titles.

Sounds like the Microsoft PR statement was a quick patch-up to silence those rumours. Ah, it's always nice to have Rare and their complicated rumours. I'll bet that it all relates back to Stop 'n' Swop. Or Killer Instinct 3. Or even more likely, Stop 'n' Swop IN Killer Instinct 3.

There you are, I've worked it all out in a matter of minutes.

1 2 asks: Why isnt there a Player's Choice Line up for the Game Boy? I know the last time there was one, it was back on the very old Game Boy, what happened? (I'd really like to get Link to the Past for $20)

When is the release date for Disney's Magical Quest 3? It never saw a SNES release in the US, and I havent seen any release dates for the US GBA version. Whats going on?!?

Jonny says: I too am curious about the lack of Player's Choice on Game Boy Advance. I bought Metroid II as a Player's Choice title a few years ago, and I really appreciated the low price and availability of such an old game. It could have something to do with the cartridge prices; we know that Nintendo lowered the price they charge to publishers shortly after the GBA launch, because people complained so much about the high game prices. (The standard GBA game price was $39.99 back then!) So it may be that Nintendo is still taking too big of a hit on the cartridges to sell games for even less. You should keep an eye on your local stores and on the Internet for good prices, though. Retailers often reduce prices if the game is not selling well or has been around for a long time. Cheap Ass Gamer is a great site to find deals on games; I know some of our staffers use it all the time.

Capcom USA hasn't said much about Magical Quest 3, but it is coming...I distinctly remember seeing it on one of their release lists. I'll try to get some more information this week.

Steven says: The reason why Nintendo's GBA games are still $30 is because people are still buying them at $30. They'll only get cheap when people start to not buy them, then a price drop will boost sales and make Nintendo fabulously wealthy.

Olympicar asks: do you guys think the DS was a good idea? cuz i mean the dual screens is pretty cool and all, but it doesnt seem people will be using it that much, it seems that it was be used for a map for the most part. i think it might be a total waste of money and space to make the second screen, what do u think?

Jonny says: I can understand your concern, and it's one I share. The demos at E3 did a great job of showing off the touch screen and a poor job of showing off the dual screen design, with only one or two notable exceptions (Air Hockey). But these were early games, and there are many titles announced at E3 that have still never been shown. I am hoping for a couple of great dual screen applications at launch, but this is a very challenging feature to design for, and it may be a while before DS developers come to grips with it and begin to realize their new ideas.

Daniel says: I too would like to see more ideas on the dual screen front.

I think the dual screen idea would work great for a game like Splinter Cell if they can get a decent 3D engine running on both screens. You would be able to shoot a sticky cam in a corner and watch what's going on with one screen, without losing control over your character on the other. And perhaps you could place the camera controls on the touch screen.

I think a lot can be done with it, but it's up to developers to do more with the concept. Nintendo really needs to lead in this area to show that there's more to it than maps or inventories or keyboards.

TYP says: Nintendo likes to hide things from the consumer (and competition) at E3. I'm sure they have some great ideas they just didn't show. They better, or else Sony's higher-resolution screen will look like a much better option for developers. And that D-pad better somehow become a magical analog directional pad.

Steven says: The second screen is probably going to be more of a gimmick than anything else with the first wave of games, but after developers get a real feel for it, we'll probably see some neat things. Obviously, Nintendo has a bunch of ideas cooked up in Kyoto, and as TYP said, they're not going to spoil the surprises until closer to launch later this year.

Mike says: There were quite a few gimmicky dual screen games at E3. Wario Ware DS simply kept the current game's instructions on the top screen. But there were a couple that made very good use of both screens. Pac-n-Roll combined the touch screen and dual screen elements very well together. I'm sure there will be some better ideas coming out down the pipe line though. For example, there is a Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles game in development for the system. This game will obviously make excellent use of both screens becuase it's already done it before with a TV and GBA screen.

Aussie Ben says: While everyone was jumping on the whole stylus idea, it seemed that no-one was using the second screen creatively in the E3 demos. Map screen on Mario Kart? Map screen on Metroid? And what's this on Mario 64x4? Why, if it isn't our good friend the MAP SCREEN. I really hope that I'm proven wrong, and the second screen is actually used for something. Remember Nintendo's announcement about the DS having two screens, and saying that the reason for this was because "none of the current systems allowed us to express the ideas that we had" or some such thing? They'd better be serious about that, because I will not be impressed if I have to pay extra for a system that has a glorified map screen that could have easily been put in the pause menu or in a smaller section of the other screen.

Daniel adds: I'm actually starting to think that it's not so much that Nintendo wanted two screens so much as they wanted to use the touch screen and then saw that your hand covers important information like radar, etc. On Pac n Roll for instance, you don't even really look at the touch screen; you use it like you would a trackball and watch Pac Man on the top screen.

Michael Melendez asks: I have been hearing some very odd rumors going around that a new Snowboard Kids for the Game Cube will be coming out sometime. I am unsure of a due date, or any sort of thing like that, but I would like to know if you guys can help in finding any sort of information on Snowboard Kids coming out for the Game Cube, if it's possible it even may.

Jonny says: My instinct tells me it's probably wishful thinking from this game's frightening cult fanbase (I kid, I kid), but I'll keep my ears peeled.

Alex Lowe asks: Which Link do you think the new GCN Zelda will follow in the story? The Hero of Time or The Hero of Winds, or a new hero? Even though the graphics are realistic, both Miyamoto and Aonuma have only said "Link has grown up" in a way that now refers to him as a single, universal character, as opposed to being one of the several different individuals over the different installations.

Jonny says: Nintendo sees Link as an archetype, not a character, and that's how they can justify giving him so many different renditions over the years.

As for the timeline, I know this is not the answer that you want, but it really doesn't matter. Wind Waker had the best story yet in the Zelda series, and it still didn't hold a candle to your average RPG story. This series is much, much more focused on gameplay, and the designers have admitted that they don't worry about the story until late in development, after most of the game has already been created. It's an afterthought to them, and it should be to you too. I'm glad that the stories have been improving, but I look at a Zelda game's story as a bonus feature more than anything. It enhances the experience but is not my reason for playing.

Then again, this new game seems to be very cinematic, with some scenes clearly inspired by The Lord of the Rings, so maybe Nintendo is planning to take the series in a new, story-driven direction. We can only guess at this point.

TYP says: Aonuma mentioned at GDC that Nintendo has figured out a timeline, but I get the feeling it will continue to be significantly modified with every addition to the series. I'd guess the the new Zelda takes place after OoT or in the New World after WW, which would support the 'Link grows up' statement. Don't worry about the timeline, damnit. Just play the game when it comes out.

Markus asks: OK, so I understand that I need to be within a 30 metres radius of a public wifi hotspot (like in universities, libraries etc.) to play online with my DS. But what about playing at home? Is there any possibility to install something like this in my home, and how does it work, i.e., will it work via my current ISP, or do I need to pay more?

Jonny says: You can definitely do WiFi at home. It's the same technology used in wireless routers. If you already have a wireless router at home, the DS should be able to use it for access with minimal configuration. But I wouldn't despair if you're on 56K or don't already have a wireless router. If Nintendo decides to really support this feature (which is a big "IF" at this point), they could release a simple accessory that would connect to your modem/router and project a wireless signal for the DS to access.

TYP says: Wifi adds significant cost to the DS; I would be shocked if Nintendo doesn't support the feature in some form. If non-online multiplayer games use WiFi tunneling software is not out of the question, though it is less desirable than true online support.

If Nintendo isn't full of itself, and wants to court developers, it will do what it didn't for the GC and provide WiFi middleware.

Steven says: Nintendo wouldn't have put in WiFi if they weren't going to use it. They're hellbent on having GBAs play with each other (single-pak multiplayer, wireless link adapter, etc.), so they figure it would be best to build it into the DS and get it over and done with so everyone can support it. If a modem of some sort was built in to the GameCube, a lot more people would be using it.

Mike Says: It seems to me that Nintendo is obviously going to make tons of multiplayer games for the DS, E3 made certain of that with both Metroid Prime: Hunters and Super Mario 64x4 on display. It also seems to me that if Nintendo was smart they would make their propritary wireless linking system very similar to an 802.11x (hopefully g) standard. By doing this it will be very easy to develop a multiplayer aspect to a game and have it easily work on both the propritary wireless link and over WiFi.

Joshua asks: What is the latest news on a sequel to Eternal Darkness? Has Silikon Knights give up any news concerning a follow up or is it just merely wishful (gamer) thinking?

Jonny says: We still don't know what Silicon Knights is working on. At the time of E3, they seemed to be meeting with many publishers (including Nintendo), so it is likely they have a game in the works and are seeking a publisher's financial support to make it happen. There is a rumor out now that they may be working with Sega on an Xbox title, but I don't know anything to confirm or deny that rumor. I'll be checking up on SK frequently, though. We know how much Nintendo fans care about this developer.

As for Eternal Darkness, I don't know the specifics of the property, but knowing SK's legal troubles over the Legacy of Kain franchise, they probably retained ownership of the Eternal Darkness series despite Nintendo publishing it. Whether they will actually create a sequel is the more interesting question. There were plenty of questions left open in the first game, and the subtitle combined with comments from Denis Dyack make me think that they were interested in continuing the series. But, as we all know, the game did not sell very well, and with their new financial independence, SK may be looking for a more sure-fire hit to get things rolling. I think we'll probably see Eternal Darkness return in some form, but it may be way down the road. Then again, it might be their next game. It's hard to say what these guys will do...they've already surprised us once this year.

TYP says: I sure hope Sega isn't handling Silicon Knights's next game. They are even worse at promoting non-franchise games than Nintendo.

Shawn Orton asks: IS it just me or is nintendo repeating history?

Think about it the game boy advance is just like supernintendo and its riding high when all of a sudden here comes playstation ( PSP). In a attempt to stop the onslaught they release the Nintendo 64 (DS) making the fatal error of keeping it a cartridge. I hoped that nintendo would always rule the hand held marked. Think about it

Jonny says: You're not the first person to draw this comparison, but remember that history never repeats itself exactly. There are many differences in this situation...for one thing, the Playstation arrived at a time when SNES did not have nearly the monopoly on console games that GBA currently does on handheld games. Genesis was a strong contender in that market, even in the later years.

It's also important to note that the DS does not use cartridges, but rather silicon cards that hold much more data and are supposedly cheaper than cartridges. If this medium has adequate storage capacity and is indeed cheaper to manufacture, it may be a much better choice than Sony's PSP discs. There are a number of advantages to solid-state media, especially for handheld devices. It's probably also helping to keep down the cost of the DS, since Nintendo won't have to worry about expensive disc drives, vibration insulation, etc. UMD may still have some sharp advantages, namely in capacity, but I think the two media will be more closely matched than N64 cartridges vs. CD-ROMs.

TYP says: Yeah, the choice of media format isn't as cut and dry as with consoles, where Nintendo missed the boat. I don't think there's any way around load times on the PSP short of a 32 MB game, and that makes using optical media a pointless choice. (I could be proven wrong.)

Hopefully developers will not feel limited by DS's 128MB with handheld games. Except for superfluous stuff like FMV, tons of voice acting, and long scripted real-time events, I can't think of any reason a handheld game should take up more than that. It's not like the DS can do amazing textures... Nintendo better also make good on its promise of cheaper game units for publishers.

Steven says: If you place a DS cartridge game in one person's back pocket, and a PSP UMD disc game in someone else's back pocket, and the both sit down in a chair forgetting about the game, which one is more likely to be damaged or break? Discs aren't really all that good in the portability realm, and no matter how Sony protects them, they're bound to get thrashed one way or another. People think that discs in a handheld is a no-brainer, but they also said the same thing about a color-screen portable easily overtaking a years-old greyscale screen portable...

FunEGuy asks: Will Star Fox for GC be any good? I am a huge Star Fox fan; I even enjoyed Dinosaur Planet. But the graphics look absolutely horrible. Also, how can Krsytal be flying a ship?!? Let me know what your impressions are.

Jonny says: I didn't play the game as much as some of our other E3 attendees, but I'll be happy to sum up what I think: it needs a lot of work. The flying level was pretty good, certainly much more interesting than the dumbed down bonus levels in Star Fox Adventures. But it didn't really add anything to Star Fox 64's gameplay, and after seven years, I'd kind of like to see some improvements and upgrades. The free-roaming on-foot/tank level was awful. The controls are still twitchy and confusing, and the third-person shooting simply isn't fun. The Landmaster is cool, but the E3 demo level (which was the same as the one offered a year ago) was not a good place to show off the tank's moves. I didn't get to try a lot of multiplayer, but my experience from Star Fox 64 tells me that you can't do arcade-style free-roaming dogfights and keep them interesting, especially not with such huge environments. What little I did play of the multiplayer confirmed that theory.

Daniel says: Well, I actually did enjoy Star Fox 64's multiplayer, and played quite a lot of it when it first came out. I played the multiplayer section of the new Star Fox, but it was only a one-on-one battle, which really doesn't turn out that great for any kind of deathmatch.

In general, I'm not impressed with what I've seen so far. It seems like we're crossing our fingers, hoping that they'll get the Star Fox formula right in the end.

TYP says: I liked the flying level, but yeah, it felt a bit too much like Star Fox 64. Like Jonny said, the land level was pretty bad--except for the awesome boss. I played the multiplayer a bit more than the other guys, and at first it felt pretty unbalanced. A character had a clear advantage over another depending on the fighting style chosen (foot or vehicle). It was way too easy to camp in the E3 demo. But the multiplayer levels are fairly varied in size and design, and the machine battle evened a bit of the balancing complaint.

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