Mario Kart DS
Quite possibly the finest iteration of the highly popular Mario Kart franchise, Mario Kart DS was Nintendo's first dabbling with online play. It was a much hyped title for that reason alone, regardless of how bare bones the online actually was. When played with friends across the world, the game was quite fun online. Otherwise it was mediocre. Regardless, that isn't even what I consider to be an important part of the game. No, the inclusion of four Retro Cups based on tracks from past Mario Karts was an exciting addition to the series and brought back waves of nostalgia. The incredible Mission Mode added boss battles and other challenges, something I wish future Mario Kart games would have implemented. (It was a sad exclusion of Mario Kart 7.) Not only all that, but the track design was impressive and showed off wonderful new ideas and courses such as Luigi's Mansion, Waluigi Pinball, Airship Fortress, and Delfino Square (one of my favorite tracks of all time). If you feel the need for speed, Mario Kart DS is the apt choice to get your motor running.
While Tetris: Axis on the Nintendo 3DS featured a smorgasbord of modes to choose from, Tetris DS is my preferred means to get my Tetris fix because of the Nintendo NES nostalgia added to the game. Each mode in the game, from Mission to Marathon, has a Nintendo theme from games like Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and Balloon Fight. For players who wish to expand from the single-player fun of the title, there is online play for up to four opponents to outplay one another. The game is out of print as Nintendo lost the Tetris license shortly after the game was manufactured. If you can find a copy, jump on it. This is one of the best versions of Tetris on any platform, and if you get feelings of warmth for anything Nintendo -- especially the NES era, this is the must-have version to acquire.
Are you familiar with nonograms? These are clever logic puzzles where you have to work with cells on a grid and color them in based on numbered clues. The end result creates a picture. We've seen Nintendo run with this idea with Mario's Picross on the original Game Boy and with an earlier Nintendo DS title, Picross DS. The idea went fully 3D with Picross 3D. Instead of having a 2D grid containing cells, you had a three-dimensional box which needed to be chipped away at to create a specific shape, creature, or object. The catch here is that numbers on all axes clarify how many blocks are present in a given row or column. Trying to break a block that is a part of the finished puzzle results in a strike. Get three strikes and you fail. I loved this version of Picross more than any other because of how the ending shapes animate once a puzzle is completed. I also adored the complexity of the game and the plethora of puzzles included. With the bonus of downloadable puzzles and the ability to create your own, the fun doesn't end for a long time with Picross 3D.
Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
The third and final Castlevania game for the Nintendo DS was Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia. It tried some new things with what some were calling a tired and stale formula. Levels weren't all attached to one another. Instead, different areas were split up on a world map. Don't be mistaken, though, as there was plenty of exploration and secrets to be found, and even an immense castle to plunder. Additionally, a new Glyph system was introduced, allowing the heroine of the game, Shanoa, to find and equip over 100 unique Glyphs, or powers, to unleash on foes and get through the game. Outside of the main game there were side quests to complete, each giving the player a prize for helping out a denizen. I consider Order of Ecclesia to be the most arduous of the DS Castlevania trilogy. That damnable crab in the lighthouse will always give me nightmares as a gamer. If you're looking for a challenge, Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia will bring it to you in spades.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Objection! And thus a million GIFs and messages were posted on forums and comment sections everywhere, with each person using the phrase thinking they were more creative than the last. Originally released in Japan on the Game Boy Advance in 2001, Gyakuten Saiban would finally make it to gamers outside of Japan in 2005, but this time with touch screen controls on the Nintendo DS. Us Western gamers known the game and subsequent series as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. This adventure game follows the cases of the titular lawyer, Phoenix Wright, as players perform two types of gameplay: investigation and trial. Finding the right clues, cross examining witnesses, providing the right evidence at the right time, and yes, objecting when appropriate were all features of this out-there game and series. There is an ardent fan base for the Phoenix Wright series, and the game would spawn numerous sequels and even various spinoffs. If you want a game that is outside the normal realm of what's mainstream, Phoenix Wright may just be "wright" for you.
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
From one adventure game to another, 999 is no reference to Herman Cain's presidential campaign tax plan. No, it is more in line with the mature-rated adventure game starring a cast of characters all held against their will aboard a cruise ship which is set to sink within nine hours. By solving puzzles and working together (despite much suspicion of one another), the nine souls must try to survive their kidnapper's gruesome game. 999 is full of puzzles that the player must solve, and choices in dialogue and doors that affect which of the many endings they will see. 999 is a thrill ride and possesses one of the better stories in gaming. Your decisions definitely affect how you play the game, and the twists and turns will keep you guessing till the very end (or ends). With Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward soon coming for Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita, there's no better time to try out 999 if you haven't already.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time
If there is one type of game that I immensely enjoy that haven't had much influx on handhelds, that would be the action/loot RPG. I've chosen Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time over its predecessor, Ring of Fates, for two main reasons: 1) Magic is much more easier to use. There are no obnoxious combinations to that are forced on the player to use, and instead of having to use Magicite, there is simple MP to use, and 2) There is the addition of much appreciated online play. There's nothing like jumping around, hacking and slashing enemies, unleashing spells, finding treasure, battling bosses, unfolding the story, and teaming up with friends across the globe for one common goal. Echoes of Time was also made available for the Wii that not only does that version show just how poorly third-parties handled and blew it with the system, but it shows that Echoes of Time is more suited for a handheld than a console. A great pickup for loot lovers and action-RPG fans, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time shines just like a crystal: bright and majestic.
Solatorobo: Red the Hunter
Solatorobo: Red the Hunter is the type of game that was destined to be overlooked. It was a new IP, it released near the end of the Nintendo DS' life cycle, and it didn't receive much in the way of advertising. It wasn't just one of those things that damned it to oblivion. It was the combination of variables. Regardless, who can resist controlling a bipedal canine in a mech suit which can grab, throw, and destroy opponents, explore islands in the sky, and complete over 80 missions that advance the story (with many more available for download for free)? I'm not even a dog person and I found the cast to be adorable and interesting. Outside of the main character's mech, he can have better mobility in the form of reaching otherwise inaccessible areas via swimming and climbing ladders, he can flip switches, and he can uncover treasure chests full of valuable booty. The North American version came with a soundtrack CD, sporting off the superb music which is just one part of the impressive presentation this DS game has. Pick up a copy if you're in the mood for something new and something reminiscent (at least to me) of Tail Concerto.
You know, Sonic the Hedgehog has received a lot of criticism over the past decade, some just and some unjust. The handheld (at least on the GBA and DS) Sonic games I view as quite competent titles. Some might rely heavily on speed to overshadow their inadequacies (such as too many bottomless pits), but overall, they are titles that I enjoyed. Sonic Rush is but one of these, and it was the first Nintendo DS Sonic game. It featured zones that sprawled across both screens, the ability to play as both Sonic and newcomer Blaze the Cat, fun special stages, and one of the most sensational DS soundtracks I've ever heard. The game is a joy to look at, the 3D bosses and stages are intriguing and enjoyable, and the level design is mostly well done. It seems many of the more punishing pundits for 2D Sonic compare the more recent titles to the classic Genesis ones and judge them off of that. I judge the games based on how fun they are and how well they control, and not so much how close they are to the original Genesis games. For instance, you can keep me away from Episode I and II, but don't start talkin' trash about the Sonic Advance trilogy or the duo of Sonic Rush games.
Mega Man ZX Advent
The final game of this second set of ten best DS games is Mega Man ZX Advent. It completely abolished my main problem with its predecessor in that it had a much more capable and complete map to see where areas were interconnected for easier travel. Also different from the original ZX is that the game features a full English voice cast for its translation. Very nice. The game is somewhat Metroid-like in where receiving new forms and Biometals allow the main protagonists (either Ashe or Grey) to reach new areas, battle new bosses, and uncover hidden routes and pathways. The ability to transform into defeated bosses takes the classic Mega Man approach of simply taking a Robot Master's weapon and kicks it up to the third degree. If you're afraid of a good challenge, there is always the Beginner difficulty to start out with to get your feet wet with the game. As for replay value, over 80 secret disks containing info regarding the cast (main characters and enemies) are available to be found, multiple medals for defeating the game's bosses by accomplishing specific goals, and multiple difficulties make for a Mega Man experience that was built to last.
Part Two is now complete, meaning that 20 of the best Nintendo DS games are in the books. Join me for next week when ten more top titles are listed. Will your favorites be among those ten? Only one way to find out, and that's by checking here next Thursday.