There’s nothing quite like the anniversary of the release of a machine that you vividly remember buying, to remind you of your own futile mortality and constant visions and nagging in your head that you have accomplished nothing and really should have done more with your life.
This is the Nintendo DS at ten.
About a month ago I saw my original launch day “phat” DS sitting there in it’s place on a bookshelf and I thought to myself “Hey there little buddy! Let’s see if you got some juice in ya still.”
I picked it up and held down the rectangular power button for that half a second it takes to power up. I was greeted with the ever familiar DS turning on jingle. I hadn’t turned this on for years and the battery was still holding some charge. The power light was red and I knew our time together that day was going to be short.
Having become accustomed to the slicked interface of the 3DS, it almost felt like coming home when I saw the basic start screen on the DS. I felt obliged to look in the options and calibrate the touchscreen. This felt quite dangerous as during my time working in a video game store I saw quite a few people bringing them in and their machine being stuck trying to calibrate. I touched the required squares and there was no problem
I exited out of the settings and totally forgot that the DS needs to turn off to apply the changes. How quaint. I left it turned off and went about my business.
Ten years ago I was 19. I was studying multimedia at TAFE. When I say studying I mean I was learning how to use outdated software from online tutorials rather than being taught by lecturers. I was pretty much over my time in this higher education learning and decided I would skip classes to get my pre-ordered DS. Honestly, even if I loved going to classes I would have skipped them.
I’ve told this story before, so feel free to read all about it here: The Adventure is Over: How Working in a Video Game Store Ended It – Part 3
With these memories coming back fresh to my mind, today I thought about writing this thing you’re reading right now. I also decided to charge the DS and have a little play of Super Mario 64 DS, for old times’ sake.
You know what’s even worse to remind you of your own futile mortality and constant visions and nagging in your head that you have accomplished nothing and really should have done more with your life, than the tenth anniversary of your DS? Discovering said DS won’t play games anymore.
It was like seeing someone you love with a gradually debilitating disease. The lights were on but nobody was home. Man, that sentence even insulted me.
I just wanted to see the first DS game I owned running on my original DS, just so I could remember what it was like on those smaller 3-inch screens. I mean, this was something pretty amazing to me back in 2005. Just like how amazed and excited I was to be able to play Super Mario Bros. 3 any time and any place I wanted, thanks to it’s release on the Gameboy Advance. The ability to pull Super Mario 64 out of my pocket and be able to play such a revolutionary game just like that? It seemed unbelievable.
Being the step forward in gaming, which Mario 64 was, it was rather fitting to play an updated version of it on the next step in handheld gaming. But even before I played the game I was impressed with the instruction manual.
Yes kiddies, back then games came with little books that told you how to play them. This was the only DS game I got this from though and it was because of one simple design choice. Instead of opening and being read left to right, it was to be opened and read vertically, just like the clamshell design of the DS.
I just stood up and got the game case to check out that manual again and look what fell out. A ten year old piece of paper.
7:59am. Before retail hours bitches!
I spoke to my brother yesterday and asked him about his DS, that he bought just moments after me. He said he still has it but sadly it stopped working properly about a year ago. It gets stuck in a loop where you turn it on, it asks you to do the initial setup and then when it turns off to save… It doesn’t save. You turn it on and it just asks you to enter the settings again.
I felt bad. I mean this was a Nintendo product. They are built to last. I told him that mine was still working but just needed charging.
Now I feel worse. Two launch day DS consoles, bought and potentially born (manufactured) moments apart, dead before ten. At least functionally dead. Dying maybe?
I have other Nintendo consoles and handhelds that are older and still work. GBA, GBA SP, Gameboy colour, Gamecube, N64. I’m sure the SNES works and with a bit of coercing probably the NES too. The Wii is getting close to ten years old too and that’s working fine.
This makes me think of the first time I got to play the Wii. Now before you start screaming at me for going of on another tangent, this does relate to the DS. So sit down, shut up and keep reading.
I had entered and won a competition with Nintendo to be one of the first people of the general public to play the Wii at a pre-launch event. I can’t remember exactly what my entry was, but it was some kind of poem about Nintendo called “Ode to Shiggy”
I arrived to the event about 45 minutes early, thanks to Perth’s public transport system. It was either that or an hour late. As I sat there waiting to be invited through the doors more people started to show up and wait along side me. Quite a few of us had DSs.
This was the first time I was surrounded by a large group of people that owned the console and also the first time I got to play a DS game, in this case Mario Kart DS, with a bunch of people thanks to the local WIFI. Snakers not allowed of course. It was really cool to play seamlessly with a heap of people that I didn’t know. I even won a few races.
Mario Kart DS was probably the first game I fully completed whilst travelling on public transport. Most the early DS games I played saw their screen time on a train or a bus. Then I got my driver’s licence.
The week I got my licence was also the week I started working at a video game store. These two things combined had a large effect on my handheld gaming. First of all, less travelling meant less game time. Secondly and more impactful was the effect my new job had.
The job had its perks. I could play games without having to buy them. This meant the number of games in my collection are a lot less than they would have otherwise been. The job also showed me the benefits of trading games in. The results? Today I only have seventeen DS games. I would have had a lot more.
I’m sitting here looking at my considerably humble collection of games and I’ve come to the realisation that some of them aren’t even mine.
I guess it didn’t help that in 2011 I went to Bali and purchased one of those questionably legal cards that allow you to obtain games by unquestionably illegal means. In the past I’ve obtained multiple games I would have otherwise purchased. But also a few games that were not available in Australia. The stupid thing is I haven’t even played many of them and the ones I have, barely for even an hour each. I guess what this shows me is that it’s the “having” which appeals to me and encourages me to play.
For legal reasons the previous paragraph may or may not be fiction, being used to enhance this post.
Working in a video game store didn’t also effect my purchase rate. It was dangerous too. I can’t remember why or what it was for, but I actually traded in my DS. That’s right. My launch day DS was traded into the very store at which I worked. The benefit of this was I put a giant sign on it saying “DO NOT SELL! THIS IS WAYNE’S DS!” I even left that store to manage my own and brought it along with me until I could buy it back.
It felt kind of like when Mr Burns left Bobo behind to live a life with a rich uncaring millionaire. Had I betrayed that of which I loved? Not really. It was always my plan to buy it back eventually. It was more like collateral. Collateral for what exactly, I can’t remember. Probably a DSi. It wasn’t too long until my original DS was back in it’s rightful spot beside me.
I never went without. I know that I always had an iteration of a DS when my original was in traded limbo. And even now I have four other machines available to me to play my collection of DS games on, I can’t help but feel a little sad that my first will never get to run a game again to bring me the joy and excitement it once did.
In it’s current state, it feels like some one has presented me with a beautifully wrapped giftbox and I’ve opened it up to reveal nothing inside.
I just had an idea. BRB.
IT LIVES! MY DS LIVES!
Honestly, I had no hope in this working but it actually worked! I just got a bottle of nail polish remover and a q-tip, shoved it in the cartridge slot and wiped it along the contact terminals.
It freakin’ worked. I just played Mario 64 DS and collected the first star. Now I really wanna play this game through again.