Yet another completely random game. I'd been mildly interested in the DSiWare title Art Academy: First Semester when it came out so I picked it up for the heck of it even though I don't have much interest in drawing and painting in real life. The game has spawned several follow-ups, so I thought I would take a minute to collect my thoughts on this first title.

Like the DSi's "killer app" Flipnote Studio, the Art Academy titles provide tools that people more skilled than I can use to create pretty impressive works. This version includes pencils and paints, although you can only draw with pencils before switching over to paints, with the assumption being that you only need them for creating the underdrawing for your painting. I didn't know anything about painting, but the painting features seem pretty robust: the game provides a range of options for selecting and mixing colors, brushes (round or flat, each with three different sizes), and the amount of water and paint you want on your brush. You also get to select a frame for your finished creations, and you can export your images to your DSi's SD card.

The main interest I had in the game was the lessons. The game technically has six lessons, but the first two of them are very basic and more just an introduction to the tools. The lessons were interesting and helped me get over my fear of touching a (virtual) paintbrush, and I particularly appreciated that the game doesn't just give you step by step instructions, but takes the time to explain the motivation behind the instructions. The game also includes "mini-lessons" for the last three lessons. These basically recap the steps of the lessons but with a different subject (e.g. peaches instead of a pear) which I found to be worthwhile since the adjustments required to account for the different subjects help you understand the lessons a bit better, although the NintendoLife reviewer found them to be fairly useless. The game also lets you import any image from your SD card to use as a reference for your painting.

All in all the "game" was pretty entertaining even for a completely inexperienced painting n00b like myself, although four lessons really just feel like a taster. The game's companion Art Academy: Second Semester, was released just two weeks after the first game, and apparently includes an additional four lessons. The reviewer at NintendoLife thought this was a rip-off since it's only four lessons compared to the first release's six, although, as I mentioned, the first two of the first release are introductory and quite short. In any case, all the lessons were included in the retail release on DS, entitled Art Academy, which seems to have been fairly well received. Apparently the main issue with the DS release is that although you can save your creations to the game cartridge, there's no way to export it to anything outside of the cartridge.

Completist though I may be, I'm probably not going to bother with the DS release as the lessons on the 3DS release, Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone!, seem to be fairly similar and more than likely cover the same concepts. There's also the Wii U release as well to check out... eventually. Anyway, this is a title that I imagine most people will find has been superseded by its successors, which offer more features and more lessons. Despite this release feeling somewhat truncated, I enjoyed it overall. (And, of course, you'll enjoy it far more if you have a DSi XL or 3DS XL as that extra screen space makes everything much less cramped.)

Get drawn into these Art Academy: First Semester links:
- Video of random person's lesson results
- Miiverse community of the Wii U titles
- Some info on the developer, Headstrong Games, on Wikipedia, who apparently also made House of the Dead: Overkill, haha.

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