One of Nintendo's most successful hardware lines, the Nintendo DS family, is slowly settling down into its forever-sleep.
The signs were everywhere last week, and they're continuing into this week, too: Nintendo of Japan is ending repairs for the original DS model (nicknamed the "DS Phat" by its fans), Nintendo reportedly discontinued worldwide production of DS carts (this has yet to be confirmed by Nintendo itself), and the DSi Shop is shutting down next year.
It's not as if every iteration of the Nintendo DS is being laid to rest at once, but each one is slowly being stripped of its relevance and capabilities. Nintendo is more or less being forced to end repairs for the DS Phat because replacement parts are getting scarce, and its decision to shutter the DSi Shop isn't surprising: Servers for games and digital marketplaces rarely remain switched on when there's no longer a profit to be made (much to the dismay of game collectors and historians). Anyway, most DSi games went offline in 2014.
All that said, repairs on DS Lite units are ongoing until further notice, and DSiWare titles will presumably still be purchasable through the Nintendo 3DS eShop, even when the DSi Shop is boarded up. Incidentally, one of the best pieces of DSiWare, Shantae: Risky's Revenge, is now available on the Wii U eShop as well as Steam and the PlayStation Store, though its sequel, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, is arguably the better game. The Nintendo DS is ailing, but don't take out your stylus and pen a dirge just yet.
Still, something undeniably feels final about Nintendo bringing down the curtain on DS Phat repairs. Part of that emotion is admittedly bias: A red DS Phat was the only DS I ever owned outside of the DSi and 3DS. I never graduated to a DS Lite, even though that sleek little superstar quickly became the poster system for the hugely successful DS family. Many DS owners never bothered with the DS Phat and instead went directly for the Lite.
I can hardly blame them. The original model of the Nintendo DS is a husky chunk of hardware with weird contours. It's not too far off the mark from the Nintendo DS prototype Nintendo unveiled at E3 2004 -- a device that spawned a great deal of conversation, but didn't win any awards for prettiness.
That's not a shock. When it comes to hardware, Nintendo has a history of putting innovation ahead of good looks, then going back and tightening up form and function (original Game Boy Advance versus the Game Boy Advance SP, anyone?). The DS Phat didn't have looks, but gosh, it was innovative.
It was also functional, and remains so. Inspired by the handheld's looming end, I dug up my old DS and turned it on. To my surprise, the battery still has a charge even though I literally haven't turned the system on since I got a Nintendo DSi in 2008. The date and time are still accurate, which is impressive. My PSP asks me to reset its date and time if I so much as sneeze in its presence.
There was no game in my DS's cartridge slot, but there was a Castlevania Double Pack cart in the Game Boy Advance slot. Speaking of dying things, there's an example of one more: Backwards compatibility.
I powered my faithful DS Phat off again, and alas, I doubt I'll have reason to pick it up in the near future. That doesn't erase all the love I've poured into the little system over the years, though. Dearest DS, your days of retrospectives are drawing near, but no other handheld deserves its rest as much as you.