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Joystiq presents

Eco Creatures on their way to save the planet

From the first whiff of Ecolis, before it became Ecoris, or even the English Eco Creatures: Save the Forest, we were charmed. We didn't need the details to fall in love with the game's whimsical look or the idea of controlling an army of fuzzy squirrels in our mission to save the forest. We're suckers for anything cute, after all, and this game has delivered on that in spades since we caught our first glimpse.

We weren't alone, either. DS owners seem to love strategy games of all types (it's just part of our epic good taste), and from the start, we clamored together for an English-language release, as unlikely as it seemed. As the details unspooled -- the first amorphous hint of Wi-Fi functionality that was revealed to be online multiplayer among them -- our desire to get out there and prevent deforestation shot into the stratosphere. Ecoris was simply irresistible. One of our readers even turned the fruity hero into a sculpture and plans to follow up with Dorian's furry sidekicks. Even before Majesco announced the game's localization, Ecoris became a phenomenon, albeit a small one.

Gallery: Ecoris

But there's more to this eccentric title than cutesy critters and a hero based on an unusual (and apparently, smelly) fruit. The message behind Eco Creatures is sincere; a portion of the game's proceeds in Japan went to the World Wide Fund for Nature, something we hope Majesco continues with their localization. The company isn't afraid to bill the game as "the first eco-conscious game for the Nintendo DS," so we expect to see them put their money where their phrasing is. Sure, we want Majesco to make as much money as possible from sales of Eco Creatures, so that they'll be encouraged to localize even more quirky Japanese titles, but when a game has a message as strong as that in Dorian's struggle to save the forest, it's nice to give a little something to the real struggles taking place all over the world, as well.

And hey, let's not forget that one of the strengths of the DS is that we can take it outside and play there -- so long as we have an outside worth playing in!

Just in case you're not yet convinced about this one, Majesco's been offering up early peeks at the title to several gaming outlets, and all of our hopes for the title have been confirmed. Forget the political issues here -- if what you want is a good RTS title packed with features, Eco Creatures has what you need (plus that army of squirrels we mentioned earlier). The game sounds surprisingly deep, with three basic "units" in the beginning -- beavers, squirrels, and flying squirrels -- that evolve as you play. These three basic units eventually become sixteen different distinct types of helpers, with abilities you'll need to utilize in order to beat the game's forty missions. But it's not all battles; in between, you'll need to work with your furry friends to not only help them evolve, but to reassure them about the situation in the forest. The folks at Games Radar report busting some moves in order to console one creature they encountered. That's something we hope more RTS titles incorporate in the future! What battlefield is complete without dance moves?

All in all, Eco Creatures looks to be shaping up into one of next year's most interesting games, and there's a lot here to like. We can never get enough of strategy games, especially on the touchscreen DS, but it's nice to see someone taking a fresh approach. We've seen so many variations on the standard battlefield that something as quirky as Eco Creatures can only be a welcome change. And if Majesco continues the charitable donation trend, it's something we can feel doubly good about playing, as well.

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