Riding into the Sunset

The 3DS is hitting soon, so I guess it’s time to say goodbye to the DS.  Not that mine is going anywhere for a while, but I expect releases to dry out quickly with new hardware on the market.  It is sad that possibly the best video game system ever created is now entering it final months of relevance, but I was definitely a good run.

I’m not going to do a ridiculous series of posts like my 25 Years of NES undertaking, because that it time consuming and Jeremy Parish at 1UP has beaten me too it.  I do want to list some of my favorite games on the system, list some I missed but am anxious to get my hands on and highlight the glorious send off it is receiving.

I was just going to list my 10 favorite DS games, with a brief explanation why I liked them, but picking only 10 games out of the DS’s expansive library is no easy feat.  So I’ll combine some series into one entry and try to avoid the games in the previously linked articles.  They are in no particular order.

  1. Chrono Trigger: Yes, I know it is a slightly “enhanced” port of a SNES game, but it is a great SNES game.  This is probably my favorite game, and this port is really good.  Having Chrono Trigger on the go would blow the mind of 12-year-old Scott, and 25-year-old Scott was only slightly less impressed.
  2. Etrian Odyssey series: These 3 games from Atlus are hard to recommend to any but old school JRPG players.  They are unfriendly, frustratingly difficult and purposefully ignorant of 20 years of progress in the genre.  Still, I play them.  Because there is nothing quite as satisfying as conquering the series dungeons and mastering their depths.
  3. Ace Attorney series: This series of 4 (5ish) graphic adventures are what sold me on the DS.  They are well written, with have likeable cast and plots only slightly crazier that the usual cop drama on TV.  Screaming “Objection!” into the DS’s microphone is equally embarrassing and enjoyable (and optional).  I don’t think anyone needs to hear anything more than “playable courtroom drama,” though.
  4. Professor Layton series: Like the Ace Attorney series, the Professor Layton games are graphical adventure games.  However, they dispense with the gaminess of the interweaving the puzzles and just sort of drop them in there.  The story parts of Professor Layton are just gravy, delicious animated tales put on top of the real meat and potatoes of the game:  the brain busting puzzles.  I sure do hope the rest of the series makes it over here.
  5. Dragon Quest 4:  Chapters of the Chosen:  There are tons of Dragon Quest games on the DS, and DQ4 is probably my favorite.  This NES remake is not too different from DQ5 or 6, but it has the best cast.  The varied group of heroes that you gather in DQ4 is one of the best parties in any RPG.
  6. Dragon Quest Heroes:  Rocket Slime: Since it is a spin-off, I am glad to allow this game in addition to DQ4.  Rocket Slime is basically a Zelda game starring the weakest enemy from the Dragon Quest series.  With giant tank battles.  And puns, lots and lots of puns.  It is joy on a DS cart.
  7. Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks:  I may not have been completely enthusiastic about this game in my recent review, but it is terrific.  It doesn’t match the home console Zeldas, but as a handheld title, it is hard to match.  And it fixes most of the problems with Phantom Hourglass.
  8. Pokemon Pearl: My save on this game has more than 300 hours on it.  Do I really need to say more?
  9. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin:  Many, perhaps most, people would call this the weakest of the DS Castlevanias.  With its flaws notwithstanding, and most of the flaw’s people point out are accurate, I really like this game.  Maybe it the times when the two character mechanic echoes The Lost Vikings, maybe it the use of the iconic whip; whatever it is I like it a lot.
  10. Suikoden Tierkreis:  Another title that got at best mixed reviews.  I hated it a little at first, too.  Because this spin-off, reboot, whatever it is probably signals the death knell for the Suikoden franchise and I loved the Suikoden franchise.  Once I got past this games un-suikoden like parts, I realized that it is a very well made RPG in its own right.  Many characters and if you can ignore the execrable voice acting not a terrible story.  

While I have managed to play many DS games, there are quite a few that I’ve somehow managed to miss.  Some are big name titles that I just could not afford, some are obscure little niche titles that flew under my radar.  So Part to pf my DS farewell is a list of 10 potentially great DS games I missed.

  1. Contra 4: It’s Contra.  I have meant to pick up this title for a long time, but it always is one of the last games I put down before I buy something else.  I know it is near perfect run and gun gameplay.
  2. Bangai-O Spirits: A puzzle/shooter that I had one chance to buy, choose not to and haven’t seen again.  All reports say it is terrific.
  3. Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure:  Platformer on top and puzzle game on the bottom, this game looks to be an interesting mix of genres.  I’ve heard it has some balancing issues, but I’m still intrigued even if the game has fallen to the backburner.
  4. Puzzle Quest:  Another puzzle hybrid, this time with some RPG elements.  It has two sequels and I’ve failed to pick up any of them.  I was barely even aware of them for a long time.  This is the kind of addictive game that could be stuck in my system for months.
  5. Knights in the Nightmare:  Yet another genre blender.  KitN is a curious mix of RPG, Strategy and Shooter.  It is part of the loose series from Sting that included Riviera and Yggdra Union.  If I ever find it, I will buy it.
  6. Infinite Space: A space-sim RPG that hit and disappeared in the blink of an eye.  By all accounts, it is good, but I have never seen it in the wild.  You put together a space ship and a crew and do stuff in space, I guess.
  7. Super Princess Peach: According to Parish’s retrospective, this is the best Nintendo plat former on the DS.  Like Infinite Space, it is very hard to find.  You play as Peach has she attempts to rescue Mario using her wild mood swings.
  8. The Legend of Kage 2:  This is just a straight-up hack and slash action game in the style of Ninja Gaiden (NES).  I have no reason not to have already played this, just like Contra 4 it is exactly the sort of game I like.  It is the sequel to a terrible NES game.
  9. Lost Magic:  An early DS game that tried to be something of an RTS.  Reviews were quite varied, but it looks charming.  It helps that I enjoyed Revenant Wings, which had similar gameplay.
  10. Lost in Blue: The Lost in Blue series has always intrigued me, ever since I heard about it early in the DS’s lifecycle.  The concept, guiding one or two castaways through life on a desert isle, sounded good but the reviews indicated that Konami never got the formula quite right.  Still I’d like to try it out.

A system as great as the DS deserves a glorious send off.  That glorious send off has already started.  Two weeks ago, Nintendo and Square Enix dropped Dragon Quest 6 in the US.  It is the first time the game, which his more than 10 years old, has been made available outside of Japan.  This week, Radiant Historia hit, courtesy of Atlus.  On March 6, Nintendo is putting out their probable last big DS release, Pokemon Black & White.  Two weeks after will see the release of Okamiden, the sequel to the much loved but little purchased PS2 and Wii title Okami.  And the week after that, a much smaller but still interesting title hits:  Monster Tale, a metroidvania style game from the makers of the creative but uneven Henry Hatsworth.  All of these titles come out in just over a month. While the slate is titled toward RPGs, this is a nice exit for the DS. I do hope that the quality titles do not dry immediately.  They’ll slow to a trickle, but there are tons of games that never made the trip over and still some life in that beautiful clamshell.

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