Gallery: Kirby Super Star Ultra
Lock's Quest solves my tower defense problem, creating something that is playable by even non-crazy people. In the process, developer 5th Cell has added something that seems rather difficult to add to this kind of game: a story, and a good one at that.
Though it first appeared as a freeware PC game and was then remade and enhanced as an Xbox Live Arcade game, there is no denying that N is an ideal handheld game. You really couldn't come up with a better design for an on-the-go game.
N+ from Atari is basically N, on the DS, with new levels. So, naturally, it works out pretty well.
Bangai-O Spirits has all the hallmarks of a Treasure shooter. It doesn't take itself seriously, but provides more than enough of a challenge for any gamer. It features the same gimmick as the other Bangai-O games, and will be instantly familiar to fans of those. In fact, it seems to be the ideal Treasure game. At the same time, it completely subverts the usual Treasure dynamic, with brilliant results.
Gallery: Bangai-O Spirits
I struggle to think of anything at all that is wrong with this game. At the risk of sounding like an overly soft reviewer, Soul Bubbles is a masterpiece, with evidence of loving thought in everything that goes on the screen(s).
Gallery: Soul Bubbles
That doesn't mean that this particular version is great -- it just means that the DS remake of Final Fantasy IV is built on an excellent foundation. But it's not exactly the game you remember, and if you didn't play it, it's also pretty far removed from many of the other RPGs on the system. The result is an odd hybrid of old school and new.
A game case really only needs one thing: a place to securely hold games. Everything else, including cuteness, is basically extra, even if we consider it essential (and oh, we do). We know the Penguin United cases are cute. We know they hold a lot of games. But are they worthwhile? The short answer is yes. The long answer is full of misdeeds, games, and vinyl, and is located after the break.
Gallery: 24X Game Card Collection Pouch
Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns is a lot like its predecessor -- it's tough, it requires more than a bit of caution, and there are a lot of silly jokes about boobs and being in a game. If you didn't play the first one, that's okay; feel free to pick up the sequel, as all you'll miss out on is a little bit of the backstory and relationships between characters ... none of which is particularly important. The story of Izuna 2 is merely stage-setting. It gives you something to watch between dungeons.
Gallery: Izuna 2
That's right -- while Izuna's games definitely fall under the roguelike label, they're a fingernail easier than the traditional dungeon crawler. That doesn't make them any easier to me, but the hardest of the hardcore may scoff at Izuna's differences, while the rest of us can actually attempt the game without "accidentally" dropping the DS or anything. What's different? In both Izuna 2 and its predecessor, when you die (and will you ever die), you keep your levels. In keeping with the roguelike tradition, you lose everything else, but it's not absolutely everything in a square-one sort of way. Izuna 2 adds something else on top of that: the tag team system. And that's where things get a little sticky.
Gallery: Izuna 2
But length and depth aren't the only measure of a game. For some the latest Tactics may be a great way to while away the month(s), but others will find the paper-thin story and the hand-holding approach a turn-off. In a field of excellent Square Enix titles, Grimoire of the Rift isn't exactly a stand-out, but mediocre Square Enix still tends to be pretty good in the long run.
Gallery: Final Fantasy Tactics A2
Civilization is an intense experience. After all, you're starting with a few guys dressed in ill-fitting skins and attempting to conquer the world through a variety of strategies. The games are often enormous, sprawling across a map that can take up most of the globe (oceans be damned), and due to the sheer size of the games, they've just never worked well on consoles. This game changes that, but in a very intriguing way. Civilization Revolution isn't a port. It's not a remake, or even really a reimagining. It's a complete rebuild, with such radical changes in some areas that it hardly feels like the same game, and yet, the base gameplay of one of the world's best turn-based strategy franchises somehow manages to remain intact. It's not without flaws -- and some are pretty serious -- but Civilization Revolution does manage to accomplish a very simple goal, and that's stripping down Civ and making it a manageable (and fun!) portable experience.
Gallery: Civilization Revolution DS
But when the gameplay is so good that there are few complaints, it's a lot easier to nitpick other aspects of the title, and we've got nitpicks in spades. That's all they are, though: tiny complaints that hardly matter. Under the Knife 2 should be remembered as one of the most satisfying experiences on the DS. Unfortunately, that's not likely to happen.
Gallery: Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2
Enjoy that little feature while it lasts ... and it doesn't last long. After that, Etrian Odyssey quickly becomes one of the most difficult experiences to date on the DS -- but it's also one of the most fun. Heroes of Lagaard isn't for the faint of heart, though, so if you glaze over when we wax philosophic about Shiren and Izuna, this one may not be for you. If you're willing to jump in, though, Heroes of Lagaard will deliver one of the best gaming experiences of the year.
Gallery: Etrian Odyssey II