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Joystiq presents

DS Fanboy Favorites: Alisha's top five

All this week, the DS Fanboy staff is letting you in on a few of their favorite titles. Each day, a different member of the staff will present their personal top five DS games along with a snapshot of their gaming paraphernalia and habits, in an effort to provide our readers with a little more information on the tastes and personalities of our writers.

If there's anything that can be said about my life -- and that includes my gaming life -- it's that it's messy. I'm messy. I have all this organizational garbage that's supposed to make it easier to store and find all my stuff, but see, I keep accumulating more stuff, and so I need more organizational items ... it's a vicious cycle, and it's part of why I love cartridges. I know where the box is for Clubhouse Games. It's about three feet away as I type this. I could get it, but why? Clubhouse Games goes in and out of my beloved handheld so often, I usually just leave it here on my desk along with the other games I'm interested in at the moment, and I don't have to worry about it getting all scratched up because it isn't delicate like some pansy disc. This makes me happy. I have to be more careful with CDs and DVDs ... but that doesn't mean there aren't a few stacks of discs around my workspace. Believe me, if it's at all stackable, I'm gonna stack it, and to hell with the consequences.

Of course, the problem with the size of DS carts means that sometimes I lose my Clubhouse for a while, and that makes me unhappy to the extreme. Luckily, there are other games that can distract me ....

Alisha's Top Five DS Games

1. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin

By now, everyone probably knows that I'm a Castlevania junkie. It's even in my bio as a warning, because anything like objectivity is a challenge for me regarding this series. The next version could be nothing but a string of wall-whipping minigames, and I'd probably rally for the cause. And while I thought Dawn of Sorrow was also a feast of asskickery, to me, Portrait of Ruin was more fun, though I was actually a little hesitant about it at first. The dual-character notion of Portrait of Ruin didn't sound terribly exciting to me until I got my hands on it; then, of course, I realized I was desperately stupid to doubt Koji Igarashi in any way, because of course I ended up loving Jonathan and Charlotte. The best part is that all the awesome little staples are there, and the portrait gimmick is fantastic. It's a great installment in the series ... and any game that utilizes cream pies as weapons wins my love.

I think so many games suffer because people don't pay enough attention to the translation, or to tiny background details, or characterization, or music (never a problem with these) and it's kept games from being considered art. If every game sported the care that is put into each Castlevania, I don't think that the idea of games as art would even be up for debate.

2. Clubhouse Games

Sometimes you just want something you can pick up and play for a little while and then put down again, no harm, no foul. Clubhouse is perfect for that. The collected games are all well-designed and there's enough variety that I can always find something to play. When I take my DS somewhere, invariably, this is the game I select. The multiplayer is great as well, and chatting in Clubhouse is one of the reasons I miss being able to attend Game Night.

Overall, I think Clubhouse Games is just about the pinnacle of the handheld experience, or rather, my handheld experience, except for one thing: Ludo. I so hate Ludo.

3. Final Fantasy III

And then sometimes you need a game that you can't just pick up and put down, but one that requires a little dedication and a lot of sweat. When I picked this up, I'd just stopped playing Final Fantasy XI, and it was nice to get back to the roots of the series. Like Castlevania, I've always felt Final Fantasy demonstrated a quality not found in many game franchises. They've got it all, great dialogue, stories that are always interesting, even though they are sometimes outrageous, and always-incredible gameplay. What makes this particular Final Fantasy installment special is the fact that it was so lovingly redone. In remaking this game for the DS, the Square Enix team breathed new life into one of the franchise's oldest titles, and they squeezed a level of performance out of the system that some found surprising.

Despite my gushing, there are flaws with Final Fantasy III, but those flaws are also part of what made it such a fantastic choice for a full-on remake. Not only was it fascinating to see the nameless warriors of light fleshed out a little, but it also offers a chance for those latecomers to see where so many elements began -- not just elements in the FF series, but in RPGs as a whole. In that context, even the grinding and lack of real utilization of the DS's unique features don't seem so bad, because, hey, you're grinding through history. Final Fantasy III may not be the best game on the DS, but it's still one of my favorites, for these reasons and more than I could possibly list.

4. Kirby Canvas Curse

This may seem like an unusual choice (or it may not; it's hard to judge your own tastes), but I put it here for a very specific reason -- it's one of the games that made me love handhelds. I was never much for handhelds, but we got a PSP and I toyed with that, though beyond Lumines, nothing grabbed me. Still, I credit the PSP with loosening me up for the DS. One day, Kirby Canvas Curse was pressed into my hands, and I was immediately charmed -- and I chalk that up to the DS. If it had been any other game, I might not have fallen so immediately in love with the DS. Sure, Mario Kart DS would have been great as well, but after several iterations, I expect greatness from that series and so might not have been impressed. Kirby Canvas Curse showed me how the stylus was going to change gaming, and I knew I was holding something special. The charm hasn't worn off, either; I still often find myself picking this game up when there's nothing else I feel like playing, and the magic is still there, every time. In fact, uh, if you need me ....

5. Hotel Dusk: Room 215

I thought a lot about putting Dawn of Sorrow in this slot, but I figured no one wanted to read another gushing paragraph extolling the virtues of everything Castlevania, and the very excellent Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is equally deserving of praise. From the moment I saw Hotel Dusk, I knew I would have to have it, and I prayed that it would be good. The game's unique art style caught my attention first, because it looked like something out of a graphic novel. But the game promised a compelling story, and that's what kept me interested and ultimately led to me picking up the title. I'm happy to report that I was in no way disappointed.

Obviously, I enjoy the act of writing, but what I really love is fiction -- the art of storytelling. It's an art that is often sadly lacking in games. Don't get me wrong; I don't necessarily think every game needs a story. A thinly-constructed "story" would probably ruin Clubhouse Games, for instance. But when the action in a game is heavily reliant on plot, I want that plot to make sense. Hotel Dusk is a story first and a game second, and both parts are well-crafted ... but it's the story that impressed me. I'm hesitant to get into any details for obvious reasons, but while I love Phoenix Wright as much as the next DS Fanboy blogger, the stories in a somewhat silly game like that just can't compare to the depth of character development in something like Hotel Dusk.

Honorable mentions: Nintendogs, Mario Kart DS

Both Nintendogs and MK DS are fantastic, but aren't among my favorites for a few very specific reasons: one a matter of taste, and the other a matter of comfort. Regarding the latter: I don't how how others are when they play racing games, but I get very tense, and that includes in my hands. As much as I love MK DS, after a few races, my hands just start to cramp. I have pretty small hands, and it's something I have to watch in a lot of games. As much as Mario Kart is in general, I prefer it in console form ... but that doesn't mean I don't like to throw down every now and then in Delfino Square. I will probably lose, but hey, it's about the journey. Right? Yeah? Let me pretend here.

As for Nintendogs ... that game is amazingly well made, beautiful, pure fun to play, and the biggest electronic guilt trip ever. If I don't play Animal Crossing every day, the worst that happens is I get scolded and I have to spend a little more time on my digital chores. With Nintendogs, I actively felt bad if I didn't play, and visions of starving puppies haunted me throughout the day. Eventually, I just gave in and traded my copy off -- and that's something I almost never do with my DS games. Once it was gone, however, I felt a huge sense of relief. Maybe I'm just an oversensitive marshmallow, but I didn't want to feel bad over pixels.

Cute pixels ... but still pixels.

Game I wanted to love, but just couldn't: Touch Detective

Oh, Touch Detective. For months, I slavered over your screenshots and gobbled up scraps of details. I counted down the days until you arrived on the shelf, sleek and fresh and new. I raced home, game clutched in my sweaty little hand, and immediately leaped headfirst into gameplay ... only to be, well, not impressed. I'm sure this is my fault; Touch Detective looked so amazing and I built it up in my head. My expectations were insane. No game could have lived up to that, and Touch Detective just didn't. It was funny, and as with so many of the titles Atlus brings us, the localization was fabulous ... but there just wasn't much for me beyond the humor.

Though knowing me, they'll hook me with the sequel and I'll try again. In the end, I'm a sucker.

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Reader Comments (Page 1 of 2)

Matt Quinton1

4-16-2007 @ 10:46AM

Matt Quinton said...

Is that a supercard I see there? Tsk tsk. Shame on you.

Now here is the part someone says "but it's for homebrew, not piracy!". Well, to that person. You're wrong.


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4-16-2007 @ 10:54AM

ConstyXIV said...

Yay, a fellow homebrewer. I'm assuming that's what the Supercard is for, right? As far as the list:
Castlevania: yay
Clubhouse: yay
FFIII: dont have
Kirby: yay
Hotel Dusk: yay
Nintendogs: kinda like it
MKDS: bores me
Oh, and Phoenix raises an objection for not getting at least an honorable mention


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4-16-2007 @ 10:57AM

ConstyXIV said...

Oh, and @1 Matt Quinton:
Some of us actually do use these things for homebrew.


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4-16-2007 @ 11:00AM

hvnlysoldr said...

Pirates wear patches for night vision.


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4-16-2007 @ 11:01AM

Naruhodou said...

That's pretty much be my list except with Phoenix Wright instead of Hotel Dusk. Hotel Dusk was a really cool game, but the writing was really tiresome after awhile.


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4-16-2007 @ 11:03AM

strider_mt2k said...

Don't feed the trolls.


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Zachary Hinchliffe7

4-16-2007 @ 12:09PM

Zachary Hinchliffe said...




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4-16-2007 @ 12:26PM

strider_mt2k said...

Oh by the way, only pirates use that stylus.

Just sayin'


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Alisha Karabinus9

4-16-2007 @ 12:44PM

Alisha Karabinus said...

Yarrrrr. I had a comment for #1 earlier, but apparently the interweb ate it because it was angry. I don't need to self-censor; the web does it for me! But yes, it's for homebrew. If you can call my staggeringly slow, hey-wait, let-me-get-the-directions-again-wtf-is-this-error swearing and poking homebrew "usage." I'm such a noob, but the noobishness is worth it for things like Moon Books.

Poor Nick. I love him -- I do! -- but he's got a lot of competition and in the end, he wrestled with Kyle Hyde and lost. He may be an Ace Attorney, but when it comes to throwing beatdowns, he fails. But don't worry. I PROMISE you that some of the other writers are going to weep tears of Phoenix Wright-related joy all week long.

But if Phoenix Wright had a whip and found pot roast in the walls, he would so be my guy.


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Alisha Karabinus10

4-16-2007 @ 12:46PM

Alisha Karabinus said...

Oh, @#8, cb -- I'm going to get an earful later on the lack of Advance Wars love from the fella who shares my DS and collection. He loves that game like ice cream.


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4-16-2007 @ 1:23PM

pixelator said...

I agree with the lack of AW:DS. It just wasn't enough of the new, and the visuals seemed rushed. Still a solid entry in the series, just wasn't the buttkicker the two GBA editions were, for their time.

The only game here I'd knock down a peg or two is FFIII. The grind isn't what kills it for me. Call me a Graphics Person-of-the-Evening, but the 3D and textures in that game were dealbreakers. Great everything else, and it's why I play it still, but it does get a bit old after playing a few hours in... Unlike Minish Cap or the old Phantasy Star series on Genesis.

Portrait of Ruin is a classic. I agree, it's best of show on the DS by a longshot. They fixed what ailed DoS (let's not go there) and just made the best dang Castlevania to date.

I still need to check out more Kirby. My friends who are (unlike me) still in game dev love it.


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4-16-2007 @ 1:51PM

ConstyXIV said...

And a correction to myself:
Finally went down and bought FFIII, and love it. It looks like it's going to join the ranks of PWAA, Hotel Dusk, and Pokemon as games that I'll play until the power runs out
@7: I was well aware.


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4-16-2007 @ 3:03PM

cb said...

No Advance Wars? Blasphemy!


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Ry C14

4-16-2007 @ 4:36PM

Ry C said...

Gigabyte memory cards aren't needed for DS Organizer and janky ass homebrew games. the only reason someone needs a supercard with a massive memory card for homebrew is if they're using it to play back downloaded music and movies.

Which, btw, is the same as downloading games.


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4-16-2007 @ 7:54PM

Aerfall said...

Jeh. I like Hotel Dusk, but I'm stuck and the FAQs don't seem to be telling me what to do, so it's getting rather frustrating. I'm supposed to see a character, but they just don't show up.


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4-16-2007 @ 9:44PM

Kefka said...

Yay for Castlevania - I hadn't played one in the series for yearrrrrs, but totally loved PoR when I got it. Heck, I still haven't completed everything long after I finished it and moved on to other games...

Hotel Dusk I'm still in two minds about... It was fun, and a great proof of concept game, but I felt it was lacking something. Maybe the balance between story and game was just a little off for my taste - I would have liked to see some better gameplay elements and puzzles. Still, I guess that would have detracted from the story a bit...

Clubhouse games is great for quick fun and multiplayer... Pity I can't turn up to game nights either now.


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Bill McCai17

4-17-2007 @ 5:47AM

Bill McCai said...

Surely telling Alisha what games she should of included defeats the point of it being her personal list.

Anyway, the only one of those i have is clubhouse games. Don't hate me, though. Portrait of Ruin was only released here a few weeks ago, and i've only seen it available in one store, and even then it had a $80 asking price (australian dollars, bear in mind. but still a very steep price). keep in mind i picked up clubhouse games and sonic rush for A$35, and you'll see why i was dissuaded.

Although site talked me into buying the first phoenix wright game (the only one released here thus far)


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4-17-2007 @ 9:43AM

strider_mt2k said...

"Gigabyte memory cards aren't needed for DS Organizer and janky ass homebrew games. the only reason someone needs a supercard with a massive memory card for homebrew is if they're using it to play back downloaded music and movies.

Which, btw, is the same as downloading games."

I beg to differ:

I rip my music from CDs I purchased legally.
I also rip movies from DVD I purchased legally.
I do so the exclusive use of my wife and myself.

These are both legitimate ways to fill a memory card with content and bear no similarity to downloading games whatsoever.

Your statement is an oversimplification to say the least.


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4-17-2007 @ 1:15PM

Rx said...

@18: No, they are not legitimate, though CD ripping at the moment has become somewhat of a gray area thanks to the RIAA. Chances are though you'll never find yourself in trouble for that one.

However, ripping your DVDs and watching them through some other method is illegal. DVDs are protected by CSS (No, not Cascading Style Sheets) and to rip them you must circumvent it. This is generally automagically handled by whatever program you're ripping with. Doing so violates the DMCA, and according to organizations like the MPAA, you're a criminal.


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Alisha Karabinus20

4-17-2007 @ 1:42PM

Alisha Karabinus said...

Hotel Dusk definitely could have used more balance -- I include it here because... let's see if I can say this clearly. I don't think it's perfect. I think it's a big step in the right direction, as is the mystery title being written by a novelist. I think that's fantastic and would love to see more writers working on games. Not game-writers, but people more accustomed to shaping fully-fledged stories... because I think those people also may be more aware of what can be cut from a story in order to make the game progress.


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