Review: 100 Classic Books

100ClassicBooks.jpg Falling into the same class of titles as KORG DS-10 and America’s Test Kitchen: Let’s Get Cooking, 100 Classic Books for the DS is NOT a game. Instead, it is a simple collection of classic literature that transforms your DS into a portable library. Yes, you can actually use your DS to do something productive!

The best thing I can say about 100 Classic Books is that it performs exactly as advertised. You get 100 literary classics (110 if you have Wi-Fi access to download the bonus DLC books) on a single cartridge, and with the two screens, the touch pad, and the system’s vertical orientation, you can read the entire library with the same sensation as reading a real book, swiping the touch screen with your finger (or stylus) to flip through the pages.

In terms of interface, the software is clean and intuitive. All of the touch screen commands register without fail, whether you are flipping pages or touching invisible hotboxes at the top and bottom of the screen to pull open the main menu system or a handy scroll bar to skim along more quickly. Both left- and right-handed orientations are supported – though there is no viewing option for the standard horizontal DS orientation – and if you prefer buttons over touch screen, you can assign page-turning functionality to the your choice of D-pad arrows, face buttons or shoulder buttons.

Other neat features include the ability to save up to three bookmarks within each book (a global auto-save bookmark is also kept for one book at a time); search and sort the library by alphabetic order, length, genre, reading difficulty and so on; take a quiz to have the system quickly pick out a book based on your responses; review completed books on a 10-point scale with a final keyword description (funny, sad, profound, scary, etc.) and upload your rating to the online ranking system; send trial books to other local DS users with only one cartridge; and turn on white noise background sounds to simulate reading in the park, by a stream, on a train, at the beach, or one of many other BGM settings.

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A download system is also in place with 10 bonus books currently available as DLC, but it’s still unclear if Nintendo plans to continue expanding the library with additional DLC books or not. The cartridge holds roughly 1MB of data (after downloading one book I have 953KB of free space on my bookshelf) and, after adding up the file sizes, the 10 books don’t take up that much space collectively. Downloaded books can also be deleted, and DSi and DSi XL owners have plenty more storage space to work with. I don’t expect to see any extra DLC given Nintendo’s poor track record with online support, but these factors lead me to believe that more books are at least within the realm of possibility. I have asked for clarification, but as of press time have not yet received a response from Nintendo on the matter. If I do hear something, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Fortunately, it matters very little if additional books are ever added, because the sheer volume of content provided out of the box is staggering. The quality is outstanding too, as the library is brimming with novels from a wide range of genres, authors and eras. For me, this title has proven to be strangely nostalgic, as I grew up reading many of the included stories throughout my middle and high school years, such as The Scarlet Letter, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Just So Stories (this one is DLC), A Christmas Carol, and the various works of Shakespeare like Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth. Browse the complete book listing here.

100 Classic Books certainly will not replace your Kindle, iPad or other e-book reader of choice, and even though it’s a fair price for 100 novels, $20 still may seem like a lot to pay for a collection of public domain books you can download for free from places like Project Gutenberg. However, I still find myself very impressed with this title, and definitely see it as a worthwhile app for a much broader audience than dedicated e-book devices reach. This is a wonderful edutainment tool for getting kids interested in reading and a great all-around e-book app for the DS, and even though these books may be free elsewhere, 100 Classic Books’ combination of convenience, quantity and quality is worth paying for.

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Pros:
+ Clean and intuitive interface perfectly simulates reading a real book
+ Touch screen page turning is oddly satisfying
+ Great convenience and quantity for the value
+ Covers all the little details expected of an e-book reader

Cons:
– Included books can be found for free online

Game Info:
Platform: DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Genius Sonority
Release Date: 6/14/2010
Genre: Digital Books
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Players: 1 (supports single-card play for up to six users and multi-card play for two users)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!