Thursday, August 30, 2012

The 50 Best Nintendo DS Games - Part Three

For the past two weeks I have been listing what I perceive to be some of the greatest Nintendo DS games of the portable's robust library. We have now reached the third week and third set of ten DS titles. By the conclusion of this piece, we'll be more than halfway through this exhaustive list. If you somehow missed a previous part, check out Part One and Part Two. When all of your preparations are complete (and you remember that list contains North American releases only), feel free to begin perusing this third list of ten DS titles!

Animal Crossing: Wild World

Let me get this out of the way: I love and lost many hours to the original Animal Crossing. Well, technically the original Animal Crossing was the Japan-only Animal Forest, but I digress. Animal Crossing: Wild World has the same basic premise of that the series is known for. You start in a randomized village without a home to speak of. An entrepreneur named Tom Nook gives you a shack that you have to pay off. Bells, the currency of the series, is earned through completing tasks for neighbors, selling off furniture and other housing items, catching fish, and other means. Wild World utilizes the DS system's internal clock to give players a real-time experience. Night, day, and the seasons pass just as they do in real life. (Of course you can cheat by changing the clock yourself.) This entry brought something totally new to the franchise, too -- online play. Many hours vanished telling visitors in my town not to mess anything up. Yeah, I'm that big of a perfectionist and prude.

Elite Beat Agents

Wouldn't it be lovely if life worked the way it does in Elite Beat Agents? Say you have a very critical moment in your life. It's so difficult and vexing that it almost seems impossible to deal with. Enter the Elite Beat Agents who would dance and cheer you on until you solved your problem. Elite Beat Agents is a spiritual sequel to Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. Both games revolve around the same type of gameplay: you touch, tap, and slide the stylus on markers in rhythm with the music. Now, you can rightfully complain about the music of Elite Beat Agents being covers and not the original versions, and you might have a case regarding the song selection. Regardless, the game is massively marvelous in its simplicity, yet deep enough to feel rewarding. Playing through Chicago's "You're the Inspiration" and not feeling the urge to cry manly (or normal) tears means you must have no soul. Perhaps there's some hyperbole thrown in there somewhere, but you get what I mean.

Clubhouse Games

Known by 42 All-Time Classics in Europe, Clubhouse Games is another entry in Nintendo's Touch Generation line of games. Of the 42 classics, all were divided up into several categories such as Card Games, Action Games, Board Games, Variety Games, and Single Player Games. If you didn't like one game, you were bound to like another. It seems with Clubhouse Games there is always one specific game that a person enjoys the most, whether it is Old Maid, Texas Hold 'em, Hearts, Checkers, Chess, Shogi, Billiards, Bowling, Darts, Solitaire, or any other activity. The single-player mode gave players stamps for completing games, but the real draw of Clubhouse Games was the multiplayer functionality. The original Japanese release did not receive online play. The North American and European releases did at launch, allowing strangers and friends (with friends you could write messages a la Pictochat or more recently Swapnote) to play many of the fun diversions worldwide.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Featuring one of Link's greatest companions in Captain Linebeck, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass seems to be getting revisionism on just how good the game was. At the time of release, critics heralded the game's unique touch screen-exclusive control scheme. Players tapped the screen to guide Link around, slashed enemies to have Link swipe his blade at them, and other feats that felt really nice with the sole control option of touching. Now, to be fair, some critics then did complain about how Phantom Hourglass had a more casual approach than past Zelda entries. However, this game did remarkably well because of that approach, in my eyes. I greatly enjoyed the new control method, using old faithful items like the boomerang in new, interesting, and never-before-seen ways, I adored sailing the Great Sea, and I liked the structure of the game. Needing to return to the Temple of the Ocean King was an interesting idea. I can empathize with those who didn't care for the backtracking, however. Nonetheless, all this writing about The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass has put me in a wonderful mood to play the game again!

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

A shake up for the Advance Wars series, so to speak, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin introduced a completely standalone story and cast of characters from previous entries. It was a post-apocalyptic world after a global meteor shower pelted the planet. This made for a grimmer game than what fans were used to. New to the Advance Wars series (aside from the new tone) was the ability for units to level up and increase their stats. However, it is important to note that these increased stats don't carry over through missions. Each missions starts you out with a new batch of units to work with. Perhaps most interesting in the new bullet point department was the addition of a series first - online play. Players could not only do battle with one another over Wi-Fi, but they could exchange custom-made maps. While War Room, a series staple, was omitted from Days of Ruin, I still find the game to be a competent entry in the franchise, despite its forced darker tone.

Phantasy Star 0

Borrowing elements from past Phantasy Star games such as the gameplay workings of Phantasy Star Online and the ability to play a full-fledged story in the offline mode just like Phantasy Star Universe, Phantasy Star 0 was an original Phantasy Star experience exclusive for Nintendo DS owners. (I think I said "Phantasy Star" enough times in that first sentence to fulfill my quota for the day.) The game had over 300 different weapons of varying types like swords, guns, and taking a page from Squall Leonhart, gunblades. Character customization allowed for some diverse creations, and those could be put forth into the game's entertaining online mode containing Free Play, Play With Friends, and Play Alone. There's nothing I love more than some good old fashioned monster hunting, dragon slaying, and boss bashing. Phantasy Star 0 certainly scratched that itch for me when I played the game several years back. If you have friends who love the series like I do, arranging and participating in online games is a blast.

Custom Robo Arena

I like this installment of the series because it was the first entry of Custom Robo to be released in both Europe and Australians. Now my PAL pals can see what all the frenetic fun is all about. I also like this installment of the series because it, like the GameCube game, has what I like to call the "SuperPhillip mode," meaning the game has the option to become easier the more that I suck. After repeated losses, Custom Robo Arena offers the option to handicap your opponent. So let's say I lose on multiple tries, and the game allows me to lower my foe's health by a certain percentage. You might use a tactless term like "weaksauce," but I will wear it loud and proud. The typical Custom Robo Arena match pits two customizable Custom Robo toys in an isometric arena where they duke it out with bombs, lasers, and guns to see which opponent prevails by putting the other player's health to zero. The story of the game might be on the childish side, but if you stick with what's important, the gameplay, you will be surprised at how much you like the game. (The online play certainly helps as well.)

Kirby Mass Attack

I already listed Kirby: Canvas Curse on this list of terrific Nintendo DS titles, and you can be certain that this won't be the last we see of the pink puffball enjoying his 20th anniversary this year. Regardless, like Canvas Curse, you don't actually play the game utilizing traditional controls. Nope, no face buttons, d-pad, L and R. Banish those thoughts from your mind right now. Kirby Mass Attack involves the touch screen solely. The mass in Mass Attack refers to you controlling up to ten Kirbys (you begin with just one), tapping foes, chucking Kirbys to high places or as projectiles, and other feats. Through eating fruit, your militia of Kirbys grows. When a Kirby is attacked, he grows blue. If that unit is hit again, they grow wings and start flying away. Only through tossing another Kirby up to save the gravely injured pink blob. What's awesome about Kirby Mass Attack is that not only is there the story mode to trek through and enjoy, but through gathering hidden medals, you can unlock engaging mini-games like pinball, an RPG romp, and much, much more. Kirby Mass Attack is a massively worthy game for any respecting DS owner's collection.

Pokemon Black and White

A list of the best games on a Nintendo handheld just wouldn't be a credible list without a Pokemon game (or games in this case) on it. (Though feel free to argue if this is a credible list or not, regardless.) Now, we pretty much all know how Pokemon works. You start off as an unsuspecting Pokemon trainer in a rural town. Your local professor gives you the choice of three starter Pokemon, and you begin your adventure to be the best like no one ever was. But new to this generation of Pokemon games is a seasonal cycle (with some areas only being able to be visited during a specific season), updated visuals for an extra graphical bang to the eyes, new Pokemon battle types like Triple and Rotation, and Pokemon musicals (yeah, that last one isn't that spectacular). Regardless, I find Pokemon Black and White to be some of the most complete games in the series's outstanding history. As with so many games on this week's batch of ten DS games, this duo of Pokemon games also featured online play with such things as Pokemon battling and trading.

Super Scribblenauts 

How is it best to describe Super Scribblenauts? Perhaps it's best by saying that it is the potential of the original Scribblenauts fully realized. The game is a 2D action/puzzle game that has you poking in words to summon and collect objects. This go around you can even add adjectives to create characteristics to your created objects. For example, a "red gorilla" or a "strong ox." The ability for a player to think of creative solutions to Super Scribblenaut's problems through crafting the appropriate object (and in many cases, objects) is the main goal of the game. The game is just a brilliantly thought out experience that shows that the West is just as on top of things as Japan when it comes to innovative ideas and charm, but then again, let's not do culture wars here. The level editor is much improved, too, allowing for increased functionality. I eagerly anticipate the Wii U and 3DS release of Scribblenauts Unlimited. 5th Cell has proven that they know how to craft a compelling game.


And with that we are more than halfway through this list of fifty of what I consider to be the fifty best Nintendo DS games ever developed. Next week we will approach the home stretch with Part Four of this five part series. Do you agree with most of the game selections I've picked? Let me know in the comments section.

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