Thursday, November 21, 2019

15 Nintendo DS games you should think about starting in honor of the system's 15th anniversary

It's hard to believe the Nintendo DS came out 15 years ago today.

Some of you may be surprised to hear I haven't been playing this dual-screened, touch-enabled system since that date.

The truth is, I waited a couple of years before jumping into the fray. In fact, I waited until I was about to head out on a business trip and worried I'd be bored during my down time, so I bought a white DS Lite and a copy of Animal Crossing: Wild World to keep lethargy at bay.

It didn't do the trick. Nor did it transform me into a Nintendo DS fan. What did? I honestly can't remember. All I know is I turned a corner at some later point and never looked back.

I've bought and played and loved a ton of DS games in the ensuing years. The ones named and discussed below are among my favorites.

If you're looking to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Nintendo DS' release, I'd highly recommend starting one--or more--of them as soon as you can.

A Witch's Tale--Although the word of mouth on this game is pretty poor, I had an absolute blast with it last month. It's a role-playing game with turn- and touch-based battles plus a few other interesting twists. It's also fairly short, especially as far as RPGs are concerned. The cherry on top of this pixel-filled confection: the protagonist is a girl. A bratty girl at the beginning, to be sure, but her attitude improves by leaps and bounds as A Witch's Tale progresses.

Contact--I finally played this Grasshopper Manufacture-made game (after keeping it at arm's length for ages) because I liked its EarthBound-esque aesthetic and its European cover art. I quickly discovered that it plays nothing like Shigesato Itoi's classic. This ARPG manages to hold its own anyway, though, thanks in large part to its intriguing, fourth-wall-breaking story and unique costume system.

Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime--This is another of those games that I long ignored simply because it annoyed me that everyone and their mother seemed to adore it. I got over myself eventually. I'm glad I did, too, as I now consider Rocket Slime to be an all-time fave. Why? You play as one of the Dragon Quest series' iconic slimes, for starters. Plus, the writing is silly and the tank battles that end each stage are scintillating.

Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light--This Matrix Software-developed game has its detractors, but it's my favorite DS RPG. Yes, it's got a few issues, which I briefly touched on in this old post, but it makes up for them with its overall appearance, its creative job system, and its ear-pleasing soundtrack. If you're looking for a role-playing game that harkens back to the glory days of Final Fantasy IV or V, pick up a copy ASAP.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective--Most folks call this Shu Takumi creation a visual novel, and while they're not wrong, I do think they're selling it a bit short with that description. Ghost Trick is more of a puzzler than an adventure game, if you ask me. After all, your main task while playing it is to, in the simplest terms possible, quickly connect dots while time clicks away. Don't worry, it's a lot more interesting and engaging--and difficult--than my pithy description here makes it sound.

Hotel Dusk--This CiNG-developed point-and-click game should've become a break-out hit like chart-toppers Animal Crossing: Wild World and Brain Age. I guess the masses just weren't interested in solving novel-worthy mysteries after they were done running errands for furry villagers and training their gray matter. That's too bad, as Hotel Dusk offers players a lot more than an enjoyable whodunit. It also offers them a fascinating cast of characters and some killer tunes.

My World, My Way--You might think of this DS title as being similar to both A Witch's Tale, mentioned earlier, and the much-maligned Super Princess Peach. It's like the latter in that both games' protagonists use their emotions to battle and even interact with enemies as well as alter their surroundings. And it's like the former in that it's a decidedly unconventional RPG. There's no real overworld to traverse in My World, My Way, for example--just small areas that open up as you complete various tasks and actions. Admittedly, this part of the game can be tedious, but you shouldn't find it so tedious it ruins the rest of the adventure.

Okamiden--Capcom may not consider this title to be an actual sequel to its highly revered, but lowly selling, Okami, but don't let the lack of a "2" at the end of its name fool you. Okamiden is a worthy follow-up to the company's original Zelda clone. There are a few elements here that are sure to give some hardcore Okami fans pause--the chibi-fied visuals, in particular. Still, the DS' touch screen is the perfect canvas for the series' "Celestial Brush," and that alone should sway most skeptics.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney--I'm sure some of you will have a hard time swallowing this one. After all, the very same game can be played on far more modern and accessible devices and systems than the DS. This is the last release of the original Ace Attorney that features pixel-based graphics, though, and that alone makes it the go-to option for folks who still have a dual-screened, Nintendo-branded handheld.

QuickSpot--A few months ago, I asked folks on Twitter to recommend some fun, under-the-radar DS titles. Two people I both like and respect suggested I try this one. And do I did, though I was hesitant at first. QuickSpot--Unou no Tatsujin: Soukai! Machigai Museum in Japan--is one of those spot-the-difference or photo-hunt games. Not exactly my cup of tea. What separates this one from the ho-hum pack is that it features a plethora of beautiful illustrations produced by the wizards at Namco. There's not much more to it than that, to be honest, but that was enough for me to spend a full five hours finishing its 100-plus stages (images?) a few months back.

Rhythm Heaven--Rhythm Tengoku diehards aren't aways kind to the series' first sequel. Me, I adore it. Sure, it's not the definition of perfection like its GameBoy Advance predecessor, but it's pretty wonderful all the same. That's especially true of this game's aesthetic, which matches and maybe even exceeds that of the original. I personally think the vast majority of Rhythm Heaven's new tap- and flick-based mini-games are stellar, too.

Style Savvy--I'm fully aware that most, if not all, of this game's sequels have surpassed it in terms of both graphics and content. Still, I think the 2009 original is worth checking out for one simple reason: you play it with your system held sideways. So, if you're like me and you're a sucker for book-style DS titles, give it a try. An added bonus: used copies are dirt cheap these days.

Tetris DS--Some will tell you the GameBoy version of Tetris has yet to be topped. Am I a member of that group? I'm not sure, to be honest. Regardless, I think the argument could be made that this DS iteration deserves the title of "best Tetris game ever," too, thanks to its Nintendo cameos, underrated soundtrack, and bevy of inventive modes.

The World Ends With You--There are all kinds of reasons you should play The World Ends With You if you haven't already. One is that it's a Square Enix title but isn't called Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, or Kingdom Hearts. Another is that it oozes style. And then there are the unique setting, the eclectic soundtrack, and the frenetic dual-screened battles. The mobile and Switch versions of The World Ends With You also feature those first two components, of course, but you'll only find the last one on this DS cart.

Touch Detective--Like a lot of people, I was first attracted to this point-and-clicker's Beetlejuice-esque art style. OK, so I also liked its anthropomorphic mushroom character, Nameko (Funghi outside of Japan), quite a bit. On a less positive note, the cases you're tasked with solving in this BeeWorks-made game can be a touch confusing. Everything else about it is so silly and charming and bizarre that I think it's worth a go anyway if you have even the slightest interest.

Are there any DS games you'd recommend that I failed to point out in this post? If so, let me know about them in the comments section below.

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