This list is essentially some recommendations I have for the Nintendo DS. I wanted to compile a list of worthwhile titles that are original to the DS (so no ports or remakes like Final Fantasy IV, Chrono Trigger, Broken Sword, etc), and not obvious popular titles that everyone is already playing (like the Castlevania Trilogy, New Super Mario Bros., GTA: Chinatown Wars, etc).
Instead I focused on some great games that many people might overlook for various reasons. Perhaps because the game looks like it was intended more for children, or the game was not promoted well and fell under the radar, or simply because they weren't willing to take a chance on an unusual or different game. Whatever the case, here are five games you should be playing on the bus.
As we all know, the best way to improve something is to add ninjas. And in that regard this game is a success. Falling into the genre of tower defense games, this title stands out for it's funny characters and addictive play. The game is simply a series of levels in which you must protect Ninjatown from swarms of enemies lead by the evil Mr. Demon. The invading hordes follow set paths and it's your job to construct ninjas huts along the path to engage the enemy. It starts simply enough, but the difficulty quickly escalates as new enemies emerge and you have more and more options for ninja huts and upgrades. It's all about managing your resources and time, while utilizing the strengths of your ninjas.
Someone glancing at the box art in a store might assume the game developed by Fisher Price and aimed at 4 year-olds, but there is enough challenge and fun here for any gamer. It's among the best of its genre, and a perfect game to play in short bursts. Plus, what's not to like about business ninjas putting the smack down with a cellphone?
4. Picross DS
The DS system has a lot to offer in the realm of puzzle games, but that's its strength and more suited to gaming on the go. It's the reason there are dozens of sudoku and crossword games, and all the first person shooters are crap. Before I move on, I have to say that the whole sudoku craze is pissing me off. I cannot understand their popularity. I am what you could affectionately call a "puzzle nerd" and I can't stand them. They're not fun or rewarding in the least.
Where was I? Oh yeah. If we group all the puzzle titles that originated as pen and paper puzzles, then Picross is the best by leaps and bounds. This puzzle (also known as Nanograms or Paint by Numbers) is all about using logic to figure out which blocks to fill in on a grid to ultimately create an image. What used to take forever with a pencil, is simpler and more fun on the DS with a touch screen. The game eases you into the rules and offers hundreds of grids to complete with various difficulties (from simple objects to portraits). It's addictive as hell, and I honestly think anyone, even someone who never does puzzles, could pick it up and enjoy.
3. Retro Game Challenge
The game's title is quite vague and one might think it's just another collection of old games, but it's actually much more ingenious. It's based on a Japanese television show called GameCenter CX which is about a guy being forced to play through old video games for our amusement. In RGC you must play through a series of original games and complete challenges in order to unlock more games. Each game is designed with retro graphics and sound, so you feel as if it could have originally been released for the NES.
The games are fun, and reminiscent of actual hits like Galaga, Ninja Gaiden, Dragon Quest, and Megaman, and they are also tough in the way NES games were. But you get access to each game's instruction manual for help, as well as a fictional gaming magazine that supplies you with hints and cheat codes. Basically the whole thing feels like a nostalgia experiment or an alternate universe of some sort. It's a unique title and gets extra points for being a way to relive our childhood. There are even some times when the games in the game don't work and you have to blow on the imaginary cartridges. Now that's bizarre and awesome.
2. Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Sorry to hit you with another puzzle title, but like I said, they just fit for the system. The game is half adventure and half puzzle collection and you play as the genius Professor Layton who travels to St. Mystere with his assistant, Luke, to find a golden apple and unravel the secrets of the strange town. Every location and nearly every conversation leads to a riddle or puzzle of some sort. The puzzles range in difficulty, but luckily there is a forgiving hint system and most you won't have to complete to progress the story.
What makes the game so great, besides the puzzles, is its style. The characters and world are like a fusion of Tin Tin, Studio Ghibli, and a less hideous Les Triplettes de Belleville. The story plays out with fully animated cut scenes and voice acting that are charming and entertaining. I just love the Japanese/European vibe, and the music fits perfectly as well.
As of right now there is only one Professor Layton game released in North America, with a sequel coming in August, yet Japan already has 3 titles with 3 more slated for the coming year, and a full length animated film in the works. Hopefully that gives you an idea of how popular this series is quickly becoming.
1. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
This game is so unbelievably weird, I just don't know how it came to be, or how it ended up being so fun. The game is all about a slime named Rocket (the mascot of the Dragon Quest series) fighting an evil platypus mob (the Plob) with a giant battle tank (the Schleiman Tank) to save his fellow slimes and restore order to Slimenia's capital city (Boingburg). The game is basically the epitome of quirkiness, and its weird characters, self-aware humour, game related puns, and overall absorbing presentation warms the cockles of my video game heart.
As Rocket you explore various levels defeating enemies, collecting any and all items, and rescuing other slimes who have been kidnapped. The game is deceptively simple, and while it seems too easy and cute at first, the game picks up quickly with the introduction of your battle tank and then the real fun begins. With your tank you must face off against enemy tanks - many with great names like Chrono Twigger and The Enforker - and destroy them by managing your cannons inside. It's your job to collect the ammo from around your tank and feed it into your two cannons to deflect incoming shots or damage the enemy tank. The ammo itself comes from a customizable "deck" of things you collect around the levels (anything from sticks to sickles). Later in the game you can begin fusing items and making more powerful ammo like bastard swords, goddess statues, explosives, shields, and much more. On top of that you can recruit a crew of other slimes, and even defeated enemies, to work in your tank during battles to help load the cannons, infiltrate the enemy tank, or protect your own tank from invaders. Throw in some more customizable features, tank upgrades and you got yourself some gaming crack.
This is easily one of my favourite games from previous years, and I've played through it three times. The game delivers an excellent experience all around; the characters are likable, the action is intense and rewarding, the story is funny and appealing, and the game play is inventive. If you ever had the urge to play a game where you could fire statues at an enemy tank, get inside, hit a cat in the face with a sword, then race to the heart of the tank and destroy it with a boomerang ... this is the game for you.