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Rhodri Marsden: Is there any point in buying Nintendo's new DSi console?


Gamers would, until fairly recently, have dismissed the mobile phone as suitable only for painstakingly manoeuvring playing cards about, or directing a sluggish snake around in circles. Even phones that tried to muscle in on the gaming world, such as the Nokia N-Gage, were greeted with muffled laughter in some quarters when they were launched. But with larger screens and speedier graphics comes the possibility of 3D semi-realism – and suddenly, your phone is streaking alongside your PSP or Nintendo's forthcoming DSi. So why take two metaphorical bottles into the shower?

While the number of games available for Google Android and the iPhone significantly exceeds other handhelds, you need only download some at random to conclude that all the awkward, malfunctioning simulacrums of board games unfairly boost the tally. Apple has, admittedly, secured top-notch titles such as 'Spore' and 'Real Soccer 2009', but if you've set your heart on playing 'Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars', you'll be drifting Nintendo-wards.

While phones are slimmer and lighter, the DSi probably has the ergonomic edge, but Nintendo's web browser and music player will always fall a bit short. It'll be interesting to see whether the DSi's built-in camera will have game devolopers salivating at the possibilities; so far it's been limited to nose-picking games, but the advent of futuristic tagging games on smartphones, using cameras and GPS, might see them buck their ideas up.

It's important to remember that the DSi's predecessor has been hugely popular with children; how many parents are willing to furnish their offspring with a £30 mobile contract over 18 months just to play games, when the DSi comes in at £150? The DSi isn't a phone, of course, but it would probably like to be one; a Nintendo spokesman said of its new baby (released in the UK on 3 April): "It's more than a gaming system, and more of a personal tool to enrich our daily lives."

The convergence of handheld gadgets into one, glorious über-device that fulfils all our techy needs continues to loom on the horizon. But vigorous competition will inevitably always leave us feeling slightly short-changed, with that nagging annoyance that we should perhaps have bought the other gadget instead. But hey – such is the world of technology.

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