New Portable Astrology Program for Nintendo DS
In September the video game company Nintendo released a new title in North America for their portable video game console called Astrology DS.
Astrology DS is essential a compact astrology program that runs on Nintendo’s handheld touchscreen video game device called Nintendo DS.
The program offers the user a few advanced astrological features such as the ability to cast accurate natal charts and composite charts, as well as a few not-so-advanced features such as a daily horoscope.
In what follows I will provide a brief overview and review of the program.
North American Port of Russell Grant’s Astrology
Although Astrology DS just came out in North America in September, the original program was actually first published in the UK in May.
The game was originally released under the title Russell Grant’s Astrology, and apparently he was the driving force behind its development. The North American version that was released in September is just a re-branded version of the same program, since no one here really knows who he is (including myself until recently).
I’m going to go ahead and withhold judgment on whether or not this re-branding thing was a good call on Nintendo’s part, as the North American version of the cover design doesn’t quite have the same sex appeal as the original:
Who Is Russell Grant?
Apparently Russell Grant is some sort of “celebrity astrologer” over in the UK. He is the author of such weighty intellectual tomes as Zodiac Baby Names: The Complete Book of Baby Names Defined by Star Sign and You Can Change Your Life: And Create Your Own Destiny.
He also writes some Sun-sign columns, and does some flaky looking shows on television that are a mishmash of weird stuff like past-life regression, lame astrology, relationship counseling, etc.
His website seems to have a lot of stuff about mediums, psychics, tarot, numerology, and Sun-signs. I also read an interview online in which he apparently acknowledges using crystal balls for some reason:
(Interviewer:) Do you use any other mystical tools like crystal balls and tarot cards?
(Grant:) I do, and these can enhance astrological readings, but aren’t necessary for astrology.
So, to summarize, Grant seems to be a highly visible pop-astrologer type. While he claims to be “at the forefront of British Astrology” on the Astrology DS website, this hardly seems to be the case.
Video Preview of Astrology DS
I found a video overview of Astrology DS on YouTube, and although there is no narration, it does run through most of the features, so you can get a pretty good idea of what it actually looks like:
The music you hear is the actual music that plays when the game is open. Its not bad. It ads an interesting ambiance to the game.
Features of Astrology DS – Natal Astrology
The main feature of Astrology DS is that it provides the user the ability to cast a natal chart which lists all of the planetary positions, and also provides some basic delineations of planets in houses, aspects, etc. Unfortunately it doesn’t list the degrees of the planets, but it does seem to cast generally accurate charts otherwise.
Some general points about the natal astrology or ‘horoscope’ section:
- The locations in their atlas are somewhat limited. For example, when I selected the state of Colorado it only gave 16 cities to choose from. My birth city actually wasn’t in the list. If this is the case, then the next option is to enter in the latitude and longitude of your birth city directly.
- All of the natal delineations are only 2 or 3 short sentences long, and a number of them end with an exclamation mark for some reason. Here is one for the Moon in the 1st house:
You are extremely sensitive. It is hard for you to seprate illusions and reality. Be aware of your mistakes, but be optimistic and full of the joy of life, which comes natural to you!
- Some of the delineations are kind of general, and they read like they were written by a Sun-sign author.
- It seems to use pretty tight orbs for aspects. It picks up any sextiles and squares that are within 2 or 3 degrees, while conjunctios have to be within 5 degrees.
- It uses the European glyph for Uranus.
- Doesn’t list the nodes.
- It appears to use Koch houses or something. Its not Placidus, and its not equal.
The natal chart section is probably the main thing that makes the program useful, although there are a number of other features as well:
- You can save up to 8 charts in the database, and the is a relationship section where you can cast a composite chart for two individuals. It provides some brief delineations for certain composite chart placements.
- Elsewhere there is a section for a daily horoscope, which spits out some generalized delineations for different areas of the person’s life, although its not clear how these delineations are derived.
- It has an educational section for learning basic astrological concepts, and taking multiple choice quizzes on what you’ve learned.
- It also has a games section that contains three mini games, such as for example an astrological version of sudoku, and another memory game that involves matching up astrological glyphs.
After playing with Astrology DS for a while I feel somewhat conflicted. On the one hand I’m kind of excited to see a sort of subversive astrological program that can cast natal charts being marketed by a major video game company. The program has the potential to bring the more advanced forms of horoscopic astrology to a wider and younger audience.
For that I think the astrological community may be indebted to Grant in some way, and, despite my feelings about his astrology, my hat goes off to him.
On the other hand, after using the program I am still left with the impression that many of the delineations are just generalized, flaky caricatures of normal horoscopic astrology, and in some ways it seems like this was a missed opportunity to do something more interesting.
One wonders what a more serious and respected British astrologer such as Deborah Houlding would have done if given the opportunity to design a program like this.
Ultimately it seems like my reaction to the program is similar to the reaction that many astrologers have to Sun-sign astrology. They hold a sort of mild disdain for it, because they see it as almost primitive and embarrassing, since to them ‘real’ astrology is so much more complex and multifaceted. But astrologers also depend on Sun-sign astrology in many ways, since it is pretty much the only thing that is keeping astrology alive in the public consciousness – that is, outside of the small fringe group on the outskirts of society called the astrological community.
For that reason I think that Astrology DS is a worthwhile program, because in some way it represents the next step in popular astrology. Its not simple Sun-sign columns, but its not a hardcore, advanced astrological program either. Its somewhere in between.
Whatever that in between stage is, if it leads to a world in the future in which just as many people know the general layout of their natal chart as people today know what their Sun-sign is, then that seems like a step in the right direction to me.