The Nintendo DS was more than just a console – it’s part of my family history | Games

ADue to a move that was getting more complicated day by day, I spent another few weeks in the barbaric situation of not having a gigantic television to play games on. So I continued to seek solace in storage boxes containing handheld consoles from the past – specifically, this time, an old Nintendo DSi and assorted cartridges.

This machine was mainly used by my kids over ten years ago when they were between 6 and 11, so the bag is full of loose games such as Nintendogs, Eco Creatures: Save the Forest, Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop and Catz – games that have no interest for a man in his fifties, and whose spelling shocks me.

I excitedly search for Guitar Hero: On Tour, but then the game informs me that “you can’t rock without a Guitar Hero Guitar Grip(TM)”, and I have no idea where that went. History has swallowed it and its trademark somewhere. No rocking for me. It’s a shame, because I remember it as a pretty cool peripheral, or at least as cool as it gets wrapping your fist around a Nintendo DS and pretending you’re Eddie van Halen.

Photography: Itsuo Inouye/AP

Then I spy gold: the R4 Revolution and the Acekard 2! These were special cartridges, purchased in mythical and distant lands, which could play illegally downloaded copies of DS games. You can fit 50 of them on a tiny micro-SD chip. I have no idea how they got there because obviously I, Dominik Diamond, would never have anything to do with pirating video games. Luckily, they don’t work, so the financial well-being of the video game industry remains intact, along with my legacy.

I try Rainbow Islands Revolution instead. Classic platform action; just what i need. Except that it’s not one of those good revolutions I liked to hear about at school, which gave the world agricultural or railway independence. This one just gives me a headache. The simple fun of rainbow platforming has given way to horribly frustrating pseudo-platforming where you drag your guy across the screen using the stylus. Stylus control is fair weird in a platform game; you can move too freely, relative to the D-pad and buttons. It’s like using a Ferrari to mow your lawn. And my hands are twice as clumsy as they were then. They are middle-aged hammers trying to crack the smallest nuts.

Maybe there’s more, but I’ll never know, because there are no in-game instructions. We complain about the slow tutorial levels, but now I realize how they’ve been crucial since the world put boxes and instruction manuals aside. My old DS games don’t have tutorial levels and they aren’t in their original boxes – so there are no manuals. This means that when I play Harvest Moon Puzzle, it’s like being thrown into Squid Game. I’m in the middle of a game I have no rules for, and it’s giving me a panic attack.

Fortunately, Penguins of Madagascar has tutorial levels. And it’s a delightful little game to play: 3D Lemmings, with no time limit. I remember taking my kids to the movies, that’s probably why I bought the game for them. Cooking Mama is also awesome to play, not only because using a stylus for cooking actions is perfectly logical, but also because it came out at a time when my own children were going to sushi restaurants for the first time, so it was one of our favorites. I feel warm and delicious while playing even when I can’t boil an egg.

Nintendo's star game creator Shigeru Miyamoto with a DS console before its launch in 2004.
Nintendo’s star game creator Shigeru Miyamoto with a DS console before its launch in 2004. Photograph: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

It’s the Nintendo DS for me. This is the machine I shared with my children. It’s not just about the nostalgic sheen of games that have stood the test of time (Elite Beat Agents is still the funniest, craziest, and most beautifully designed stylus game ever) . There is also a bonus level that no game could offer me: the photos saved on the camera of the console.

Every time I turn it on, I get a different picture of my son with superimposed Mario mustaches, crowns, and yellow cartoon tears. He’s the cute eight-year-old of old, unlike the tall, smelly 18-year-old who no longer listens to what I say or wants to play games or watch movies with me. This 18 year old is also on the other side of the world than me just now, and this machine lets me see his beautiful little face. It’s a reminder of Nintendo’s most important legacy. Even though Sega made the jump to Nintendo in the 1990s, with more powerful hardware and more games and cooler advertising, Nintendo became part of family life. I don’t have a Game Gear with pictures of my son from ten years ago, which brings me to tears.

Nintendo consoles are part of my family history, etched in our hearts. It’s more than a game.

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