When future archeologists sift through the dusty detritus of the 21st century, I'm pretty sure they'll deduce that the iPod was the central tenet of our civilization. In the past five years, Apple's MP3 player has been purchased by anyone with even a passing interest in music—and in the process, it's revolutionized pop culture. In the meantime, the slickly designed device has influenced the aesthetics of everything, from phones to cars.
The latest recipient of an iMakeover is Nintendo's DS Lite—a revamp of the Nintendo DS, the handheld console that launched in 2004. The DS stands for "dual screen," since the DS has two of them, and one is touch sensitive. In its original incarnation, the DS was a boxy, ugly piece of hardware—the system looked like a holdover from the long-ago, near-mythical era when Nintendo ruled the videogaming world.
But as gamers have grown older and more sophisticated, so have their expectations for software and hardware—a realization Nintendo's finally come to. The DS Lite boasts a svelte, slick redesign that's easily pocket-able, with a few subtle tweaks (a button moved here, a more ergonomic plane there) that make the Lite feel as if it's how the first DS should have been. (And yeah, it's all very iPod—when the folding DS Lite is closed, its glossy white finish and rounded rectangular form are about as close to an iPod as you can legally get.) The "Lite" in the title is twofold: The screens are several times brighter than those of the prior DS, and the whole package is smaller and lighter to boot.
It's here, on the Lite, that Nintendo's portable titles really shine—with sharp, vivid screens that make graphics pop, solid sound from its built-in speakers, and a touch-sensitive screen that enables intuitive controls. Nintendo might be a slow learner, but at least they're figuring out that design matters—not only for aesthetics, but also in making a game system fun and portable. True, the DS Lite isn't an iPod. But it is, arguably, something nearly as cool. ERIK HENRIKSEN