Nintendo's DS Spa gives your a massage and a sample of DS gameplay. At the same time.

Nintendo's traveling DS Spa gives you a massage and a sample of DS gameplay. At the same time.

It seems Nintendo wants to make it’s casual fans cushy while they learn more about the DS. While at the mall today to replace a crappy iPod case at the Apple store with a fresh, undamaged model, I ran across something that genuinely made me smile. While walking down the halls of a mall I hadn’t seen in months, I came across what looked like a routine random massage booth, complete with fake decorative bamboo on the walls. But then I saw two adults playing DS inside, and I knew something was up. I examined closer – a sign in front of the massage parlor read “Welcome to the Nintendo DS Spa: Please select a complimentary DS Spa treatment.”

As if I was about to let this chance slip away! As a self-proclaimed choir geek, I know a good massage when I see one, and I love to play DS to boot. The combination of the two seemed too good to be true.

Now, I’ll be frank: I didn’t actually expect to get a massage. When one of the Spa workers (all young women, of course) approached me asking if I wanted a complimentary massage and the chance to try a Nintendo DS, I thought for sure that the massage part was a joke, and responded, “I’d love to skip the massage and just play DS!” But she persisted; I ended up in a cushy chair, my backpack securely underneath, and was handed a shiny red and black DS.

Having never used the red and black one, I examined it to see the differences between that model and my own onyx DS. I’m still partial to my onyx; Nintendo wasn’t about to get me to buy a new one.

She asked me if I’d ever used a DS before – I tried to downplay just how often I use my DS, and the fact that I know the hardware pretty well to boot, so I told her that I’d tried a “few” games such as Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, Mario Kart DS, and Phantom Hourglass. She said they had Mario Kart available, and I asked what else they had. After hearing a list of about five games, I settled on trying Mystery Case Files: Millionheir, the only game on the list I’d never played before.

She carefully slipped a DS out of a pocket in her apron and placed it in my open hand. But it didn’t stop there – she kept handling the DS, going so far as to place the game in for me and open the clamshell. The level of service actually quite startled me; she even checked to make sure I knew how to turn it on and where the stylus was.

As soon as I turned on the DS, another employee was behind me giving quite a pleasant massage while I tapped away on the DS’s screen. If you’ve never played your DS while being massaged by good-looking women, I highly recommend starting now, because it’s quite relaxing. Who knew that playing DS could qualify as a zen experience?

The massage lasted for a few minutes, as did my exciting adventure with Phil T. Rich, the filthy rich guy whom you meet within the first millisecond of playing Mystery Case Files. While the game wasn’t too incredible on its own, the simple fact that I was receiving a massage while playing made it entertaining enough. When all was through I was given a small red booklet with information on the DS and a link to, and then, rather out of the blue, I asked them if it was too much for me to take pictures of the joint; I suppose it caught them by surprise. I wasn’t equipped with my usual Nikon D80, so I didn’t look like the paparazzi, but I did have my iPhone with me and that was all I needed.

I ended up getting into a nice chat with two of the DS Spa employees about the purpose of the booth, which I suppose would seem obvious enough given Nintendo’s current direction. The employee who had originally asked me if I wanted the Spa treatment said that the Spa was targeted mainly at adults; that the booth was meant to show that the DS could not only be a gaming device (I assume she meant it was also a bulky ticket to free massages everywhere you go), but also a casual way to have fun and waste a bit of time. Which is really all us humble people want, right?

The Nintendo DS Spa is actually on tour along the East Coast, and I happened to catch it while it was at my local mall. I’ve no idea if more are floating around; sources tell me that there’s a similar booth for playing Wii in a mall around the Philadelphia area. I expect that the Nintendo DS Spa will pick up and shove out after the holiday weekend, so if you’re up for some good DS-playin’ and a relaxing massage (at the same time, remember), better begin scouting your mall – because it could be the Spa’s next stop.