Nintendo's pre-E3 press conference in Los Angeles has seen the Nintendo DS handheld taking a public bow for the first time - confirming the veracity of earlier leaked information and images, and revealing an impressive line-up of software.
As we reported earlier today, the clamshell system has its controls on either side of the lower screen, which is touch sensitive and can be controlled either with fingertips or with an included stylus, PDA-style.
The system, which is somewhat more powerful than the Nintendo 64 console, is backwards compatible with GBA titles and features both Bluetooth and 802.11b wireless networking abilities. It also has a built-in microphone, offering an additional possibility for input as well as the button controls and touch screen.
Interestingly, it would appear that the final name for the system has not been settled upon after all - although it is being called the Nintendo DS in all literature so far, and a Nintendo DS logo appears on the company's stand at E3, this remains only a codename. The final name for the product, along with pricing and release date information, will emerge in the coming months.
One thing we do know about the release date is that the DS won't be arriving in Europe and Australia until the first quarter of 2005, although it's currently on track to be launched in Japan and North America before the end of this year.
As ever with a Nintendo product, the DS is being supported by an impressive range of first party software, much of which exploits both the graphical capabilities of the new device and the unique input mechanisms which it offers.
Among the games forthcoming from Nintendo are multiplayer-enabled titles Metroid Prime: Hunters and Super Mario 64x4, bizarre mini-game title WarioWare, Inc DS, and quirky tool PictoChat, which allows users to send text and drawings wirelessly to other DS consoles in the same area. The company is also showcasing Mario Kart DS, Animal Crossing DS, a new Super Mario Bros title and the unusually titled "Nintendogs" in video form at E3.
Third party support for the system is also strong, with titles on display at the show from Bandai (Mobile Suit Gundam), Hudson (Bomberman), Namco (Pac-Pix, Pac'n Roll), Konami (Yu-Gi-Oh! Nightmare Troubadour), Sega (Sonic) and Square Enix (Egg Monster Heroes).
Even more interesting is the line-up of announced titles for the device which won't be shown just yet; EA is working on a Need for Speed title, Activision is preparing a version of Spider-Man 2, Capcom is doing a Viewtiful Joe game for the system, Koei is releasing a Dynasty Warriors title, Square Enix is producing a new Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicle game and a new Dragon Quest Monsters title, and Tecmo is releasing a Monster Rancher game and another unannounced title from Team Ninja, to name but a few of the publishers who have signed up to the new platform.
Hands-on impressions of the new device will be forthcoming from the E3 show over the course of the week, no doubt, but for now one thing is certain - Nintendo has fulfilled its promise to create a genuinely unique and innovative device which offers the possibility of completely new types of gameplay. What still remains to be seen, however, is what consumer reaction to such an unusual platform will be.