Thursday, September 13, 2012

The 50 Best Nintendo DS Games - Part Five

Amidst all of this Nintendo Wii U coverage, I have something that I hope doesn't get lost in the shuffle. Why, it's the fifth and final set of ten of The 50 Best Nintendo DS Games. We've gone through forty of the top titles of what I consider to be the greatest handheld of all time. Now, we have reached the home stretch. It's all smooth sailing from here. If one of your favorite DS games has yet to be listed, perhaps it will be a part of these final ten games! As a reminder, no non-North American releases will be represented on this list. There are great games that missed a North American release date, and seeing as the majority of DS systems out there aren't region-locked, be sure to track some down, too. With that out of the way, let's get to the final ten!

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn


It was a long wait between Golden Sun: The Lost Age and Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. That lengthy period of time made the wait for the game unbearable and they hype for the third installment to be impossible to satisfy fans. While I did enjoy Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, I do not hold it up to be in the same league as both Game Boy Advance prequels. However, both Golden Sun prior to Dark Dawn were in an echelon of RPGs that were quite high in my opinion, so it's sort of hard to achieve that level of greatness. Regardless, what we got with this sole DS installment was an incredibly capable RPG with wondrous puzzle elements. In the case of exploration, the tradition of using magic (Psynergy) outside of battles to solve said puzzles was a fascinating approach to things, and a cool tradition of the Golden Sun series. One of the main problems people have with Dark Dawn is that for the majority of the game, the battles were relatively easy. I can recall only having a real tough go of it with the final boss, and that was a sharp increase in difficulty from past battles. Regardless, what the sum of all of these parts equaled was a superb role-playing game with lots to admire and enjoy.

Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime


An action-adventure game and a spinoff of the Dragon Quest JRPG series, Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime pits players into the form of a Slime named Rocket as he ventures around the wilderness, defeating foes, helping out fellow Slimes, and shipping back important items and objects to his hometown of Boingburg. Rocket Slime consists of two types of gameplay. The first has Rocket moving around outside Boingburg in search of Slimes and objects to send back to his hometown. Slimes sent back to Boingburg reward Rocket with new items and town functionality. The other type of gameplay has Rocket and his tank doing battle with an opponent and his tank. The goal here is to insert ammunition into one of two cannons and fire them at your foe. However, your adversary is doing the same thing. If two objects crash into each other in midair, they fall to the ground. Things can get overwhelming in a jiffy as you multitask between inserting ammunition to fire, protect your tank from being invaded, and coming up with a plan to enter your opponent's tank. In all honesty, Dragon Quest Heroes was my first introduction to the Dragon Quest series. It made me interested in acquiring as many games from the franchise as possible, even if I sadly don't have the time to play them.

Contra 4


Even though this DS entry is named Contra 4, it was actually the eleventh installment of the franchise. The numbering structure was meant to make it the sequel to the NES and SNES Contra games. It also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the franchise in 2007. WayForward, the minds behind Shantae and Mighty Switch Force, were the force behind Contra 4. The game was a wonderful homage to classic Contra games, offering familiar stage and enemy types, the old school means of upgrading weapons, and other clever touches. There were three difficulties to play through, though the Easy mode did not give the player full access to the game's ending or final levels. In addition to the campaign, there was a Challenge Mode, where players completed various levels with the goal of accomplishing certain tasks. Unfortunately, Contra 4 never made it into PAL territories, including Europe and Australia. However, PAL DS owners could thankfully import the game and play it on their systems thanks to no region-locking. While the game is certainly challenging, Contra 4 gives off a brilliant sense of nostalgia and old school game design philosophy -- and I mean that in a positive way.

Dragon Ball: Origins


Before I get into admiring this game, there was some confusion regarding the tagline of my review for Dragon Ball: Origins. If you carefully examine the box art of Origins, you can see Puar (the green cat-like creature) seemingly looking up the skirt of the blue-haired girl, Bulma. Nonetheless, this first Dragon Ball game for the DS featured controls similar to both DS Zelda games. But unlike those two titles, Dragon Ball: Origins allowed the player to move around with the d-pad. I remember being incredibly impressed by the graphics of the game, the 3D models especially. I appreciated the charm and gameplay Origins possessed, and there was quite a bit of humor as well. One particular scene shows Bulma lifting up her skirt, exposing herself completely. However, the space between the two screens of the DS obstruct the player's view of this. Humorous moments like these run rampant throughout the game. Even as someone with a passing interest on the lore of the Dragon Ball universe, I found myself really enjoying Dragon Ball: Origins. A sequel would be released on the same system a year or so later.

Kirby Super Star Ultra


What I think is the ultimate version of the Super Nintendo classic, Kirby Super Star, the Nintendo DS system's Kirby Super Star Ultra contains all of the content of its original game plus several new additions. You still have Spring Breeze to breeze through, Dyna Blade to defeat, the Gourmet Race to run, The Great Cave Offensive to mount, the Revenge of Meta Knight to face the titular character's fury with, Milky Way Wishes to explore the vastness of space, and The Arena to get your inner gladiator on with. Adding to the bargain collection are Revenge of the King, a more challenging Spring Breeze; Meta Knight Ultra, where Meta Knight takes over for Kirby and plays through several of the collection's titles; Helper to Hero, where several helper characters take the lead; and The True Arena, where every boss in the collection is faced one by one. The value of this package is absolutely immense. While I prefer Kirby: Canvas Curse for its pure innovation and interesting gameplay more, Kirby Super Star Ultra is definitely a Kirby game to track down for DS owners.

Super Mario 64 DS


One of the most influential 3D games in gaming ran and jumped onto the Nintendo DS game scene right at the new system's launch, Super Mario 64 DS. It was not a mere port, but instead it was a fully realized remake with thirty bonus power stars to track down, noticeably improved visuals, new playable characters, and several new (but bite-size) levels to partake in. On the matter of new playable characters, players started off with newcomer Yoshi before unlocking new characters like Mario, Luigi, and Wario throughout the game. Each character had their own unique abilities to shake things up and make switching between characters important for the player's success. Also included in Super Mario 64 DS were several multiplayer modes and a sampling of touch screen-centric mini-games. Now that the little caveat of having to use the d-pad to control Mario and friends in a 3D space has been remedied by simply playing the game on the Nintendo 3DS, I consider the DS game to a terrific supplement for the Nintendo 64 original.

Sonic Rush Adventure


Expanding on the ideas of Sonic Rush, Sonic Rush Adventure adds some... well, this is too obvious... adventure elements into the game. Rather than simply going from one act or zone to the next, players spend time traveling to each zone via waterbike, sailboat, hovercraft, and submarine. Some might call this padding, but I consider it to be something to add some more longevity to the game. Each of the four aforementioned ways to traverse in or on the water control through different methods, spicing up things. There are two playable characters in Sonic Rush Adventure, the needless to say one because it's so apparent, Sonic, and Blaze the Cat, returning from her debut in Sonic Rush. There are seven or so zones in Sonic Rush Adventure for both characters to play through, and each character has their own set of emeralds to gather. Sonic obtains his through winning races against Johnny, one of the antagonists of the game, while Blaze needs to complete a series of missions to gather hers. Only through obtaining all fourteen emeralds can the player try out the final story elements. Sonic Rush Adventure contains a large amount of high speed platforming fun that shows that Sonic still has some semblance of a groove.

Chrono Trigger


Chrono Trigger is without a doubt one of the most cherished RPGs in the history of gaming. It offered such a change of pace from other rivaling RPGs of that time period. Rather than run around in dungeons and randomly get into a battle, players moved around maps and could see enemies and decide if they wanted to run into them to battle them. And instead of encounters taking place on a separate battle screen, they took place within the same field/dungeon map. If you've played and/or owned the Super Nintendo version of the game, you might be wondering what is the point of getting the DS version. That is a competent question without a doubt. A fair reason to own this version is the sheer portability of it. Fighting against Magnus aboard the bus to work, or venturing through a fantastical forest while waiting in between classes made for some fun. But most importantly, the DS version brought to the table all of the content of the PlayStation 1 disc, such as anime cutscenes, but it left out the long loading times. A new translation for the game was made specifically for the DS version, as well as dual screen capabilities, showing a map on the bottom screen that fills itself in as you run about, and several new arena challenges. Is it the definitive version of Chrono Trigger? You bet your sweet Lucca it is.

Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver


Remaking a large amount of Pokemon fans' favorite Pokemon games, Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver brought the land of Johto to Nintendo DS players worldwide. The game is so legendary  because after you have become a great Pokemon master in Johto, you most likely think your adventure is just about to wrap up when it has only just begun. The entire land from Pokemon versions Red, Blue, and Yellow, Kohto, makes it reappearance for players to traverse, capturing more Pokemon, obtaining more badges, and challenging more trainers. Both versions of this remake of the second generation of Pokemon games contained a Pokewalker within the box. One could grow their Pokemon simply by walking. Trading and battling between Pokemon was also a notable feature within the two games, offering Wi-Fi functionality. Besides the obvious new addition of improved visuals, the other new elements of Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver compared to its Game Boy originals make these two games a must have for any aspiring Pokemon master.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective


Also available on iOS devices (though I do not know if that version has all of the content of the DS game, so please let me know), Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective takes adventure gaming to supernatural heights as players take the role of a spirit named Sissel. Switching between the Land of the Living and the world infested with ghosts allows Sissel to manipulate people's actions and environment and allow him to possess different objects within his reach to give him access to new areas and proceed through the game's levels. While in the Land of the Living, time moves normally, but in the ghost world, time slows to a stop. Sure, there is a lot of trial-and-error involved in the gameplay, but once you get the feel of things and figure out the solution to a given level, a smile will beam from your face. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is exactly the kind of game that I enjoy seeing on handhelds and smartphones. It simply seems sensationally suitable for those types of platforms. If you like puzzling adventure games outside of the norm, Ghost Trick just might do the... trick.

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And there you have it. That concludes the fifty best Nintendo DS games currently available on the market. We've laughed, we've cried, and perhaps we've even learned a thing or two along the way. I hope this list has encouraged you to seek out some DS games that you might not have thought about before. As for me, all this list did was make me want to replay a bunch of these titles!

Next Thursday will mark the start of a brand-new 50 Best list. This time around we will be focusing on the Wii, as the Wii U's release approaches. It will be five straight Thursdays of Wii gaming goodness, a console whose library is so often ignored. We'll catch you here later!

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