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The bottom screen also functions as a PDA-style touchpad. It comes with a small stylus, as well as a stylus that attaches to your thumb. This touch screen might be both the best and worst feature of the DS. One one hand, it brings the freedom of PC-style mouse control into gaming, but using it also tends to block what's going on in that screen. For example, while playing the Metroid Prime: Hunters, you could use the left thumb pad to move, the left shoulder button to fire, and the touch screen to look and jump. As you track foes on the bottom-screen map, however, your view will be partially obscured by your own right thumb.
The good news is that Nintendo has stressed a lot of comfort options, both in the operating system and in their games. Want to play Metroid without the touch-pad? Select a different control scheme in the game's option menu, which also includes configurations for lefties. You can even customize your DS to automatically play the inserted title or to start with the main menu, choose which screen to display your GBA games, to add a nickname for wireless play, and more.
That's right, the DS is wireless-enabled. Say good-bye to that daisy-chain of network cables that was previously necessary for portable multiplayer gaming. Nintendo's proprietary wireless format has a radius rated at 30 to 100 feet depending on environmental interference with its signal. Surely, it's more than enough for friends to game from one end of the bus to the other. We experimented in a small, nearly empty parking lot and got great reception at the upper end of that rating. The DS network can handle up to 16 users, though you can expect the maximum number of players to vary from game to game.
But not all is new; Nintendo has re-invested some favorite features of older platforms into the DS. It's backward compatible to the Game Boy Advance, which means that older Game Boy and Game Boy Color games won't work in this machine but GBA games will run fine (sadly, the wireless feature doesn't extend to GBA games). Like the GBA SP, the DS is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that provides approximately 10 hours of play on a four-hour charge. Old timers might recognize the A/B/X/Y face buttons from the Super Nintendo controller, though they're not in the same positions. The standard headphone jack and wide-body comfort of the first GBA model is back, coupled this time with the SP's screen-saving clamshell design. In terms of its ability to display graphics and sound, the DS is a little better -- and a whole lot smaller -- than the Nintendo 64.