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Joystiq presents

Five gifts that PAL gamers should import this Christmas

Gaming sites are inundated with holiday gift guides at the end of the year, listing the best and most popular games that everyone pretty much already has (or knows about). Well, we're not going in for that this year. Our gift guide will help you find the best gifts in categories the other sites won't cover -- because we just made them up.

Nintendo's indifference towards PAL regions is infamous, but there's arguably less room for complaining when it comes to the DS. See, the DS is (and we do not use this phrase lightly) an importer's dream. It doesn't faff around with region-specific software, there's a huge library of diverse and interesting NTSC-only titles, and the games themselves are cheap. As in, cheaper than they'll be when they arrive in the UK/Europe/Australia six months from now. Frankly, we can't think of a good reason for you not to import.

Which brings us to our latest anti-guide, featuring the five DS-related gifts that PAL regions won't be seeing until 2008 at the earliest -- if ever. All deserve to be imported without hesitation, so read on fellow PAL folk, and prep that credit card!

1. Contra 4
PAL release: Unbelievably, there still isn't one. Cry.

Question: just how good is Contra 4? Answer: it's so good that we gave it a perfect score. It's so good that we fully intend to gush about it until every last individual reading this article has procured a copy. It's so damn good, we'd give it to one of our friends five times over. And you know what? They'd totally love us for it. It is the game that is most likely to whiten teeth, end world poverty, and save the rainforests.

As we write, we're still waiting for a PAL release date. Will it ever come to PAL regions? Probably. But the fact that we've not even received a date yet sets alarm bells ringing. Oh sure, if you want to wait another six months before you finally get to try out Contra 4, be our guest.

But consider this: if you were to import WayForward's classic shooter now, you'll be able to look impossibly cool this time next year. When your fellow gamers speak in hushed tones about their dreams of one day completing the game on the easiest setting, you can nonchalantly shrug and reply with, "Oh, Contra 4? That old thing? Yea, I just completed that on Medium." Result: INSTANT POPULARITY. In selected social circles, anyway.

2. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
PAL release: Q1 2008

Ah, so they've dismissed us with another wishy-washy "Q1 2008," have they? Not a problem. Not when sites such as Play-Asia will send you a copy for £22 / €30 right this second. It's certainly well worth picking up as well, if our review is anything to go by.

So let's recap, shall we: wait another two months to pay 25% more for Square Enix's glorious RPG-cum-RTS, or get your mitts on it before Santa starts doing his rounds, and for less than what you'll pay next year. Not terribly hard, is it?

3. Limited edition DS Lites
PAL release: Okay, we'll come clean: we do get the odd limited edition Lite, and we are grateful. But so many cool designs fail to make it over here that we wouldn't blame anybody for wanting to import.

The lack of limited edition Lites in Europe remains a source of considerable anguish for many PAL gamers. It's not as though the few unique DS Lites we do get are all that great, either -- anybody who's seen the Metallic Silver Lite in the flesh will know that it can't hold a light to the gorgeous Enamel Navy model that was available in Japan for well over a year now.

The last six months alone have produced a slew of desirable Lites in the U.S. and Japan, including a little red and black number, the Zelda and Nintendogs-themed models, and the frankly stunning Pikachu Lite (above). But turn that frown upside down, dear reader, because many of these are far from unobtainable; indeed, many are just an import site and funny-looking plug adaptor away from being all yours. What's more, they're often cheaper.

4. Geometry Wars: Galaxies
PAL release: "TBC January 2008," according to our sources.

If, like this writer, you were one of those individuals who sat up night after night in front of Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved on the Xbox 360, bleary-eyed and swearing like a soldier at your TV, you may be apprehensive about the game's leap from glossy HD widescreen to the DS's (comparatively) tiny TFT panels. Don't be. Considering the hardware limitations it faced, Galaxies is an excellent little port, ideally suited to the portable nature of the DS, and well worth -- oh, snap! -- £17 / €24.

5. Dementium: The Ward
PAL release: Much like Contra 4, we're still waiting ...

A real technical tour-de-force this one, and truly damn scary. As we found out last month, Dementium positively drips with atmosphere, delivering some of the most impressive audio ever on the DS.

In PAL regions, the closest relation to Renegade Kid's envelope-pushing survival horror is still the half-decent Resident Evil: Deadly Silence. But heck, that game is as old as the hills, and never forget: importing is all about having the latest software and being a thoroughly elitist and smug git about it. And yet again, this is another game that is just a click away. For £17 / €24, it's an obscene bargain.

So there you go: the five best ways to get your import on over the holiday season. Place your orders quickly enough, and you just might be able to avoid talking to hated family members over the turkey and mulled wine. Finally, as we mentioned in our opening passage, always remember that the DS is an absolute cinch to import games for. There's really no excuse not to!

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