Unmasking The Identity Of An Unusual Nintendo DS

The Nintendo DS family encompasses a dizzying array of portable game systems released over a span of 17 years. The original DS received several refreshes and special editions, and when the next generation 3DS came along, it spawned a whole new collection of spin-offs. But even among all those machines there’s a name that even Mario himself would never have heard of: the Nintendo DS ML.

In a recent video, [The Retro Future] says he discovered this oddball system selling for around $25 USD on Chinese shopping site Taobao and bought one so he could get a closer look at it. Externally the system looks quite a bit like the refreshed DS Lite, but it’s notably larger and the screens look quite dated. That was already a strong hint to its true identity, as was the placement of its various buttons and controls.

Note the conspicuous absence of Nintendo’s name.

But it wasn’t until [The Retro Future] cracked the system open that he could truly confirm what he had on his hands. This was an original Nintendo DS, potentially a new old stock unit that had never been distributed, which was transplanted into a custom enclosure designed to look like one of the later upgraded models. As for what this seller meant by calling this chimera the DS ML is anyone’s guess, though one of the commenters on the video thought “Maybe Legal” had a nice ring to it.

Now assuming these really are brand new systems that were simply installed in fresh cases, $25 is arguably a good deal. So long as you aren’t concerned with playing the latest titles, anyway. But at the same time its a reminder that you get what you pay for when dealing with shady overseas sellers. It’s just as likely, perhaps even more so, that these were used systems that got spruced up to make a quick buck.

Fake components are everywhere. In fact there’s an excellent chance most of the people reading this site have received some fake parts over the years, even if they didn’t realize it at the time. When there’s fly by night companies willing to refurbish a nearly 20 year old Nintendo handheld for $25, what are the chances that Bosch actually made that $2 temperature sensor you just ordered on eBay?

9 thoughts on “Unmasking The Identity Of An Unusual Nintendo DS

    1. In the Japanese language, XL as a concept of size doesn’t exist. The translation is LL. It’s the same idea as repeating the Xs, but they just stuck with Ls. I think 3L is XXL. If they ever super size the XL(LL), it might be the DS 3L in Japan.

      1. Oh, and since this is a chinese variant, I wouldn’t really expect M to mean mini or medium. We’d need someone who speaks chinese to help suss that out. In Japan M is medium and S is small. SS is smaller than small, and MM doesn’t exist. I would expect a mini DS to be the DS S or DS SS if Nintendo followed a similar naming scheme, but I also wouldn’t expect them to be consistent. The Japanese language is undergoing radical change these days, and has been since the 80s or so. Lots of loan words.

  1. When I first saw this I thought it was a hardware clone of the DS.

    Years ago a company made a GBA-on-a-chip (K1), and used it in their line of GBA clones (K101). They teased a DS clone in the works, but I never seen any follow ups on that one.

  2. There was a discussion in China last year, and the final conclusion is to use the first generation DS motherboard with a new shell, which is consistent with the conclusion of the article

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