The good news? It is indeed better than the DSiWare digital shop. That's damning it by faint praise I know, but the eShop is indeed faster and cleaner than Nintendo's previous effort.
It's also better featured. Bringing the service in line with the Wii's WiiWare, the eShop features videos, basic user reviews, and some improved search functions.
When you first boot the service up, you're presented with a nice series of chunky icons. It's visually pleasing, and cycling through the icons does present at a glance the more exciting software available for download. The "new content" is prominent - I expect people will not struggle to keep up to date with what's going on.
On the downside (and this is a massive downside), getting to the content is still a pain. Getting to the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D trailer, for instance, requires three icons to be tapped on - it's buried away under one too many menus.
|Get your classic Game Boy on|
Similarly, aside from a 'highlights' menu of DSiWare, the rest is buried away and has to be searched for by platform and genre. The lack of a simple menu isn't present to jump to the various categories of software (DSiWare, 3DSWare, Virtual Console), surprised me greatly. All up, finding games, especially those that aren't new or "hot" is cumbersome.
Once you found the software you were looking for, paying and downloading it is a snap. Games have real price values now, rather than "Nintendo points," which is a good thing - it provides a better sense of the value of the software. The download animation is really enjoyable and slick (the little shopping bag is my favourite icon of all time), and, like the service itself, faster than previous Nintendo online shops.
But it still doesn't allow download in background. After being spoiled with that seamless experience on the PlayStation Network (for PS3 at any rate), this was a backwards approach.
Of course, an online shopping service is only as good as its content, and for those who skipped the DSi, there is a mass of quality DSiWare there for download. Now we just wait and see if Nintendo can properly support the service going forward.
So, while Nintendo has done a good job of improving the service, it has still yet to meet the standards of Microsoft, Sony or even Apple when it comes to offering a seamless, convenient and easy shopping experience.
Oh, and as a subnote: In Australia, the price of Super Mario Land is $6.50. I can get a mass of PlayStation games on the PS3/ PSP for less than that. I'm sorry Nintendo, but $6.50 is way, way overpriced. And as a second subnote - watch out DSiWare owners; there are some nasty surprises waiting for you when you transfer your DSiWare to the 3DS.