DS Fanboy Favorites: JC'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.
I am absolutely the target market for a handheld system. I'm busy all the time, and I have weeks where the only times I really get to play games are when I can't possibly do anything else-- like when I'm on a plane, or waiting to pick my wife up from school. So I tend to carry my DS around waiting for opportune moments. Of course, with such concentrated play sessions, I want the most out of my game time. That's not to say that I want simplified games that I can always jump right into, but I need games that are basically going to be awesome every time I play them. I need games that are going to reaffirm my passion for gaming while I'm waiting for a bus.
(The picture doesn't have anything to do with the theme of my little essay. My cat Indiana Jones is just adorable.)
1. Elite Beat Agents
By all accounts, a music game on a handheld should be terrible. Music games require things like speakers and storage media capable of holding large amounts of digitized sound, neither of which are strong suits of the DS. They also require concentration, which is, again, less-than-ideal for a handheld system. Despite these setbacks, Elite Beat Agents manages not only to be one of the best music games ever created, but also the best game on the DS. The touch screen controls eschew fake instruments or complex button combinations for the very essence of rhythm gameplay: memorization and timing. The hilarious 2D storytelling and surprisingly catchy licensed music don't hurt either.
2. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
Of all the complaints leveled against Koji "IGA" Igarashi for his handheld Castlevanias: that they reuse sprites from as far back as Rondo of Blood, that they feature weird "enemies-on-shelves" level design, or that the item-collecting is too tedious, none manage to take away from the fact that even if Castlevania weren't the only game in town for side-scrolling action, it would still be the best.
All of the portable Castlevanias have been great (that's right, Harmony of Dissonance haters) but this one was extra interesting because of its "portrait" mini-levels and sublimely bizarre extra modes.
3. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
If I were to describe Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney to someone unfamiliar with the series, it would be very, very hard to get the appeal across. It's a visual novel that presents murder trials in a humorous way using conventions of anime and manga. Yes, that's very weird. But the writing, both in terms of scenario and translated dialogue, is so solid, and the characters so likable, that the game just works. Phoenix Wright always has me waiting for the next line of text almost as much as it has us anticipating the resolution of each case. I never thought a game about advancing text windows would be so exciting.
Meteos doesn't feel innovative, but that's only because it's so well-done. Really, a falling-block puzzle that makes natural use of the DS touch screen is pretty amazing. I generally prefer DS games that don't make extensive use of the stylus, but I think that's only because most DS games don't use it very well. Meteos, on the other hand, is totally made for the stylus. Just try playing it with the D-pad and buttons. It's basically an abomination.
5. Brain Age
I didn't really want to include this on the list, since for the most part the "magic" is gone for me now. But I did have a lot of fun with Brain Age while it lasted, and I have to admit that what Nintendo did with it was brilliant. They took things like math problems and remembering words that are not games at all, and added just enough primitive game elements (time limits and scores) to make a game.Then they designed it so that you can only play for a few minutes at a time, ensuring that you don't get bored. This, I think, is where they succeeded and all other edutainment failed. Also there's a floating, polygonal psychologist head.
And now a couple of honorable mentions that didn't make the list because they were either: a) not a DS game, or b) not actually out yet.
Favorite DS game that isn't a DS game: Astro Boy: The Omega Factor (Game Boy Advance)
Treasure and Hitmaker accidentally made a licensed anime game that's better than most action games. Now other anime games have standards of quality to live up to.
DS game with the most exciting title: Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2
Forget that the game is going to be awesome. Forget that the original Ouendan and its American counterpart Elite Beat Agents are life-changing gaming events (see above). The title alone (which translates to "Burn! Hot-blooded Rhythm Soul Go! Fight! Cheer Squad 2") is more fun to read than most DS games are to play.