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Published August 20, 2009

The slower DSi launch (compared to its predecessor) makes sense. The Art Style games are mini-masterpieces and Mario vs. Donkey Kong is decent, but DSi owners have gone through many Mondays without that system-defining application, something that would show early adopters that the extra camera lenses and better internet integration were more than bullet points. Well, for most of you, I doubt Flipbook Studio fits that description. But if you’ve got a creative spark and the ability to draw stick figures, maybe you’ll fall in love with this little animation program as quickly as I did.

Then again, Nintendo doesn’t seem to have much confidence in poor Flipbook. Rather than giving it the typical Monday fanfare – yeah, a stretch – the DSiStore decision makers decided to dump it online in the middle of last week. The only reason I even knew it existed was because I caught a Nintendo advertisement hiding in my spam box. Plus, the game was free. This, coming from the company that slapped a $2 price tag on an Animal Crossing clock – not exactly an auspicious sign.

But when I sat down and began tinkering with it, I was shocked to discover how many options it offered. The basic design itself is pretty smart; every time you flip to the next frame, you can see a faded outline of the previous one. You can copy frames or crop them to move individual elements, or you can resize images to achieve a functional “zoom” effect. Better yet, Flipnote Studio uses the camera and microphone too, so if you want to create clips of stick figures crawling out of your buddy’s nose – complete with a soundtrack – go right ahead.

If all the application offered was an animation tool, I’d still be enthused, but I probably wouldn’t devote my 10th blog super revival to it if it wasn’t for the bustling web site and community. Created by Japanese company Hatena, the site lets users upload (and download) their “notes,” as well as rate them and add comments. Mario vs. Donkey Kong had a similar Youtube-lite approach for its level editor, but the Hatena set-up has already garnered much more attention. I think Flipnote Studio is tapping into the “i” in DSi* much more so than any other effort to date.

*supposedly for individual, right?

Even if most people are busy uploading the same damn “Sonic vs. Mario vs. Sephiroth” and anime claptrap that always populate the user-generated sphere, I’m still astounded by the level of sheer talent on display here. You’ve probably already seen my lame attempts scattered throughout the web site, but I’m not sure how I’m supposed to compete with this:

Think of how obnoxious just writing a simple note via Pictochat can be, and then I think you can appreciate my cheer-leading. We talked a bit this week on the show about whether or not the gaming community wants to create rather than simply experience, and the general consensus was that we’re all mostly lazy. However, I’m glad that we have nuts like the artists on Hatena doing the heavy lifting for the rest of us, because the results are pretty fun.Next up: life in NYC, big spoilers for District 9

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