Development and Launch
On December 12 2008, one month after the release of the DSi, Nintendo announced that the Nintendo DS and its companions would be supplemented by a brand new handheld console codenamed Nintendo Zero, set for release in 2009. On February 4 2009, the name was confirmed as the Nintendo Nitro, the codename for the DS. Very few details were released at the time of its announce, except for the sliding design and the multimedia features. As the year went on, more details were revealed; the SD and USB connectors, the new Multitouch touch screen and the unique operating system, tentatively titled Nintendo FMN(File Manager Nitro). The turn and tilt features and launch titles were kept remarkably secret until two months before the consoles release. The turn and tilt functions were revealed, the operating system was renamed Nitro OS, and the titles The Legend of Zelda: Saria's Stone and Kirby: Rush 'N' Roll were unveiled. This turned up the anticipation to breaking point right before the console's release, just as Nintendo had wanted. The console was first launched in Japan on the 25 August 2009 for ¥15,000, and in North America and Europe on the 27 August 2009, for $149.99 and £129.99 respectively. Satoru Iwada, the president of Nintendo, said this of the console's release:
'For me and everyone here at Nintendo, the Nitro's launch is an important event. We have put our all into developing this new product, and hopefully it will attract all sorts of gamers. From the hardcore competitive type, to the casual person who just wants a pick up and play experience. We feel that it is a welcome departure from the DS, which we will continue to manufacture and support.'
Due to the announcement of the Nitro being so close to the release of the DSi, those who purchased the DSi felt that Nintendo had been unfair by announcing a brand new console for release the next year. This caused many people to wait and purchase the Nitro, and others to complain directly to Nintendo about this. Nintendo of Japan stated that they were sorry for any inconvenience or upset that the announcement caused, and reminded consumers that many stores offered refunds or buy consoles if the customers wanted this.
Input and Output
Unlike the DS, the Nitro features one touchscreen, designed for input with the Nitro or the user's fingers. The screen is Multitouch, so it can sense more than one point at a time, whereas the DS can only sense one. It allows players to interact with in-game elements more directly than with buttons; for example, the in-built PictoChat application uses the screen to write or draw.
The buttons are hidden behind the touch screen when the Nitro is closed. However, by sliding the screen upwards the buttons are revealed. On the left, the four directional D-pad is placed. To its right is the C stick, which is located next to the START and SELECT buttons. On the right are the action buttons in clockwise order; X, A, B, Y. On the back of the console is a slot for the game disc, and the L and R shoulder buttons. Between the L and R buttons is the disc slot and small circular eject button. On the left edge of the lower half there is a USB connector port, and an SD card slot. On the right edge is the power button. On the bottom edge is the volume control and headphone ports.
Like the DS, the speakers, located either side of the screen, provide virtual surround sound.
There originally was a microphone planned for the console, but it was scrapped, partly due to the fact that with all the other features, the size of the console would need to be increased to feature microphone compatibility. It has been said that a microphone peripheral is a possibilty.
- Weight: 111.8g
- Screen: 3.8" 480x272 LCD
- CPU: MIPS 333 MHz
- Memory: 64MB RAM
Nintendo Nitro games use a disc format smaller than that of the Nintendo Gamecube's. They slot into the back of the lower half of the console, and are ejected via an external eject button. There is also compatibility with SD cards and a USB connector port, which can connect to all computers. The USB connector cord can also plug into most devices with a USB slot and charge (including the Wii).
The Nitro uses its own firmare called the Nitro OS. The Nintendo Health and Safety Screen is displayed, then the menu appears. There are five options at first; Game Disc, PictoChat, NitroShop, Files and Settings. When applications or games are downloaded to the console, they appear on the menu also. You can slide through the menu with the stylus as on the DSi BIOS.
The firmware also includes an alarm clock, theme preferences, user information and a calendar.
On a full-four hour charge, the Nitro's rechargeable lithium-ion battery can last for around ten hours. Different factors, including the backlight, speaker volume and screen usage can affect the battery life. Some games allow you to turn off the backlight in-game, but there is also a backlight button on the main menu sceen. The original settings are set so that the backlight turns off after 2 minutes of inactivity, but this can be edited in the settings menu.
Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection
Nintendo's free online service is used to connect to players worldwide. It requires a wireless router or a Nintendo WFC USB Dongle, which can be purchased from most games stockists. The service is available on all other currently manufactured Nintendo consoles, and was launched for the Nitro along with the console itself.
Some Nitro games feature Download Play, a feature which allows another Nitro owner without a copy of the game disc to download a small demo-like multiplayer version of the game and connect to the disc-owner. Up to 7 players can download from a single disc, but not all games can do this.
The Nitro is region free, so games from all countries can be played on it. However, two copies of the same game may not be able to connect if they are from two different reasons.
Nitro's PictoChat is essentially the same as the DS version, except for the multitouch screen, so, in theory, you should be able to write two pieces of writing at once.
Turn and Tilt
Sensors in the console allow you to tilt and turn the console to play, similar to the iPod touch. So, the console could be used as a steering wheel in a racing game, but you would watch the gameplay in the centre of the wheel. The feature is officially referred to as 'Turn and Tilt' in North America and 'Turn and Tilt Control' in Europe.
The portable equivalent of the Wii Shop Channel allows you to purchase games, applications and features using Nintendo Points. These are downloaded to your console, and cannot be transferred to SD Cards, like save files can. To use the NitroShop, you'll need to have the latest version of the Nitro OS installed.
The Nitro is relatively new, so no accessories are currently available, other than different coloured hand straps, as opposed to the one that comes bundled with the console. Accessories will be plugged into the USB slot, allowing for many possibilities. Currently, Nintendo have announced a hands-free microphone and a rumble pak to be in development.
Marketing and Sales
The marketing slogans for the Nitro across the world differ slightly. Japan's slogan translates to 'Gaming for everyone', whereas the slogan in North America is 'Gaming, only better'. In Europe, the slogan is 'Play more'. There are currently two colours available for the console: Black and Silver, with silver being the rarest.
The Nitro has sold approximately 7.13 million units worldwide.
There were 24 launch titles available in Japan on launch day, with 15 more available by the end of July. In all regions except Europe, there were five bundles available, which is a new direction for game launches. Nintendo of Europe only had four, because of delays in localizing first-person shooter, Rising. Rising was later released alone. The bundles are as follows:
- Adventure Pack; Includes The Legend of Zelda: Saria's Stone
- Motion Pack; Includes Kirby: Roll 'N' Rush
- Retro Pack; Includes Kid Icarus Nitro
- Family Pack; Includes Nitro Party
- Battle Pack; Includes Rising (Currently unavailable in Europe)