The Nintendo DS Lite in the image above is a little different than mine—that one is red and mine is pink. Pink was the only color they had left at my local Gamestop during the weekend that the console launched. Younger me was mildly flustered, but I came to understand that the pink DS Lite is the best looking one of the bunch. The color is just right. Now flash forward to 2020, a year of seemingly endless doom coupled with the launch of next-gen gaming hardware (and games press needs to find a better way to talk about the two).
Some much shit is happening and new games are coming out, but all I have been playing lately is my old Nintendo DS Lite that has been recently excavated from a box from two moves ago that I never unpacked. Upon finding it only one game was in the DS slot—Cooking Mama. But I am not really concerned with that slot right now as this thing also plays Gameboy Advance games…so I have been playing a lot of Gameboy Advance games. Gameboy Advance games rule, obviosuly. I’ve sunk so much time to the Castlevania trilogy that is on the system as well as the incredible Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater handheld port. And I recently shot my shot and ordered a bunch of GBA games on eBay because I sold my original lot way back when, which was a mistake. Cole can have a few Gameboy Advance games, as a treat.
Yet, I am not as much concerned about the games that I am playing on the DS Lite as much as I am thinking about the system itself and how it relates to my life in 2020. This year has been a lot and my mind is fried—I can only consume things in pieces. Movies and books have been hard, and games even moreso. But the DS Lite lets me chip away at stuff here and there, in between tasks, and in bed. Too tired or burnt out? Just fold the system. My game will be there when I open it back up again. Yes, most modern systems have qualkity save state features so that I can more or less pick up and play anything, but handheld games that are meant to be engaged with in bursts just enhances the feeling of doing something when I feel like it. I have yet to burn out on my DS Lite whereas there have been swathes of time this year where my Xbox has just stayed off. No time or desire to play Big Games anymore, so why should I force myself to? Plus, being able to pop open this good old pink DS Lite in bed is a game changer. Some days are harder than others and I will stay in better for far longer than usual—I am an early riser but depression and anxiety can be a heavy burden every now and again. So, I’ll just chip away at expanding my map in Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance or I will knock out a few missions in Final Fantasy Tactics. These games ask very little of me and the system, from its base functionality and design, also asks almost nothing of me. I can engage with it on that level because there are some days where I feel like I can barely move. So, I don’t—you can just find me in bed with my pink DS Lite clicking away as the Lite’s meager speakers play chiptune music. But the Nintendo DS Lite and the gaggle of GBA games that I own are more than just things that afford ease of play during small chunks of time, they are avenues of nostalgia. Giving into nostalgia, as I have said before, through an uncritical lens is something one should never do, but I am not perfect. In fact, I am a hypocrite as of right now because I am more than content with feeling the warmth of a childhood long past and too fondly misremebered through the lens of this little console and its games. Plus, it can go with me on the go. Sometimes I bring it on walks and play it at the park where I look like those assholes from that Nintendo Switch trailer. It is fine, I will take these fleeting feelings of joy and comfort where I can. In a year where I’ve felt like I’ve been floating through a miasma of suffocating despair, these small moments have grounded me.
The Nintendo DS Lite is a simple console and the games on it often reflect that. Hell, I can play all of The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass with just a stylus. And you know what? It is fun. That game rules and I know that might be a contentious opinion but it is a direct sequel to Wind Waker, is charming as hell, it radiates Maximum Chill, and sometimes I just want to sail the endless vast blue of the high seas. So many games on the system are just relaxing, both in how they play and through the sense memories they bring to the forefront of my mind. I’ve blocked out a lot of my childhood for various reasons but I am more than happy to let the good memories slip back into my general consciousness. But I am also not in the mood for games to ask a whole lot of me because everything else in my life is generally asking too much of me, and I’m stretched thin. I’m just tired and the Nintendo DS Lite knows that and it doesn’t give a shit, it is just there for me to fold open and click a few buttons for twenty or thirty minutes, and honestly, that is fine by me.