Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
20 June 2011
Meet your individual seeking: DS Phat Shell Replacement Part 1
Note: I hate first-person, payoff-delayed, story-mode columns that appear on gaming sites that are so heavy on the autobiography that you'd think it was Mark Twain doing the writing. Tell me about the game, dang it! But then this is a first-person blog post, so it's okay. More of a first-person, overly extended blog rant. Okay? I don't have anyone around the house that appreciates this sort of thing, so you're stuck with it. Continue.

My initial impression of the Nintendo DS was a poor one, based completely on the irrational opinion that every Game Boy should be backwards compatible with original Game Boy games until the end of time, you know, like Nikon F-mount lenses are with Nikon cameras. The GBA plays everything and had gotten pretty cheap to make; why would the DS have to drop backwards compatibility? I won't stand for it, Mr. Iwata! I can't recall if it was playing Elite Beat Agents and Brain Age on Matt's DS or just hearing him drone on about how awesome the games were that changed my mind. I think it was the former. Either way, Matt's PR campaign worked. I wanted my own DS. The question was finding the best way to buy one.

Matt and I have joked about wanting to start a racket that involves us offering folks in line money for systems that they're about to trade in at Gamestop for us to later sell ourselves. There's such a blamed large gap between what Gamestop pays you and what they're going to charge the guy behind you in line who buys your old stuff that they should all but be labeled predatory lenders. Right now, you can pay $70 for a "refurbished" DS Phat, $80 for a "refurb" DS Lite OR for a "recharged refurbished" DS Phat, $90 for a "recharged refurbished" DS Lite, or $100 for a new DS Lite, pick you color. A DSi is $120 used (unrefurbished), and $150 new. I'm sure the folks who traded those in got at least $20-30.

So sure, thirty bucks off of the new price is nice, but if I'm only shelling out $20 less than new if I want a new battery or $10 less if I want a new battery and a system that's not older than the kid I'm buying the DS for, I'm not sure that's a deal. I don't recall the prices in 2005 or 2006 when I was buying, but they were similarly predatory. I'm a cheapskate and didn't feel like paying the Gamestop price. And there's nobody who goes to greater lengths to save a buck when it comes to electronics. Though it often leaves me penny-wise and pound-foolish, I was going to be creative, again.

In this case, being miserly had me hitting eBay, where I found that DSes with cracked hinges were pretty cheap, relatively speaking. I bought a heavily used DS with a cracked hinge and an awesome threaded "9" sticker on it, though I didn't find out about that last aesthetic benefit until after the system arrived. Nor did it have a stylus, which I borrowed from my Palm 3. The DS didn't even have a charger, but used USB DS chargers were about $5. The DS was still insanely expensive for what I was getting, but the hinge-cracked DS with Palm stylus and USB charger was by far the cheapest way in the door to playing DS games. It was fun. Matt lent us EBA and I picked up a few more games. The hinge, however, kept me worried.

Look, the DS Phat hinge system stinks. It's essentially a set of three quarter-inch wide plastic loops that hold the top screen and speakers to the rest of the unit. That sort of connection is fine if we're putting together a scale model Oldsmobile or B-25 bomber that'll sit on a shelf for 40 years. It's not so good if 12 year-olds are supposed to own it and take it with them in the car, in their backpack, and on the playground

Once a hinge goes, you're immediately pretty obviously in trouble. I could play DS games, but the screen would slide out a good half-inch or more if I wasn't careful, threatening to pull the screen off. Nor would it really hold the top up easily, and only really worked completely open. Games that required putting the DS on its side, like Brain Age, were right out. Put sidewise, the screen pulled itself down enough to make me really nervous. So "Number 9" didn't see much play for years. My family would add two DS Lites and my 9 would mostly sit in the drawer, used for an occasional game of EBA or Pac Pix. I'm guessing the folks that eBayed it were happy to get my kaishe.

This past Christmas, used DS Phats were down to some insanely low price, I vaguely recall (I can't seem to Google or that price back up), assumedly to push old inventory and sell some new games. I nearly picked one up. I really wish I could convince someone interested in retail sales numbers to also track prices of used systems, but I just don't know who to ask. I'd swear they were below $60, maybe even $40 or less, but I don't recall. In any event, I didn't bite. I already had a DS, right?

Well, to make a long story longer, this month, I again performed my bimonthly "Nintendo hinge repair" search, and again ended up with The Nintendo Repair Shop, Inc., out of Raleigh, NC, as the best option for parts. It takes about three or four random searches landing on the same spot before I'll actually pull the trigger on anything this wacky, and I'd finally become familiar enough with this site to be brave. It's a good-looking site. Here, "good looking" means that it's content rich and recently updated. It's also domestic, which makes me feel a little better about getting what I order.

Full repair runs a steep $55 plus shipping to their office, but they claim to cover almost anything at that price. That's too expensive for me for a DS that technically works, but they also have replacement DS Phat shells for $9.87, which seems pretty fairly priced. More importantly, they have a 27-minute how-to YouTube video on the page showing how to fix hinges in slow, careful steps. They even make the video in one single take, pulling Martha Stewart's "here's one we already pulled out of the oven," trick just once. This isn't a video made to sell shells so that you'll tear your DS down and later have to send it in anyway. This is a video displaying a realistic repair.

Unfortunately, they are replacing a DS whose bottom two woefully inadequate hinge loops are broken, not the top's like mine, but the video is exceptionally well done. I'm in. They jab me by adding a triwing (triforce?) screwdriver for $5.76 (?!!), but it's a very reasonable $3.24 for shipping, and we're up to $18.87 total. If I pretend I'll successfully fix the danged thing and that my time is free (apparently it is; I'm compulsively writing TWO blog posts about this), that's not a bad deal at all.

My fine Ninetudo DS [sic] shell came in last week, bright red so that I can't misplace the thing nearly so easily as I tend to do in silver. It was my plan (hello, foreshadowing) just to replace the top half of the shell with the broken hinge and then reattach to the silver original bottom. I really don't care how it looks, just that it works. I've been brave enough to upgrade an old iBook G4's hard drive, build a few Windows towers from scratch, and even make pretty serious repairs to my Jeep. A DS shell should be child's play, right?

To be honest, it was the FAQ at the Nintendo Repair Shop that finally goaded me into purchasing with its claim that, "And finally, be patient! We had one careful young mom do a DS Lite hinge repair in a little over an hour." Oh, it's ON NOW. It's time to meet my individual seeking (see #3, above).

(My DS is done, btw. I mean, that's almost obvious, right? Any serious ordeal demands blog-ige. I'll update with whether it's "done for" or "done fixed" in a second rambling, painful blog post later, penciled in for sometime in 2014.)

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--ruffin at 13:43
Comment [ 1 ]

Comments on this post:

Entertaining read! I got a used DS Phat from eBay and the hinge, while not terrible, could probably be better. I was wondering about replacement shells myself.

By Blogger triple_lei, at 31 January, 2013 03:41  

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