Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ryan’s Desert Island Handheld Video Games

Yes, that title is, indeed, a mouthful.

I chose a handheld for my list simply because it seemed more plausible (which in these scenarios doesn’t matter in the least) that I could have a small, portable gaming system with me on a desert island, rather than a TV, console and required peripherals.

I’ve also decided, just to make things a littler more stringent, that I’ll only have one handheld device with me: the Nintendo DS.  I chose this because it gives me access to Gameboy Advance games as well, via the system’s built-in GBA port.

How I’m going to re-charge the DS is as suspect as powering the TV and console, but whatever.  I’ll be a master of harnessing the energy of the coconut, or something.  Anyway, on with the list!

5. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

As a lover of Metroid-vania/Castleroid gameplay, I just had to have a Castlevania game on my list.

These games offer very extended gameplay.  There are lots of areas to explore in the castle, tons of enemies to take on, endless weapons to find and try and in the Aria/Dawn of Sorrow mini-series of Castlevania games there are tons of souls to capture, giving your main character Soma Cruz a bevy of abilities.  It’s like Pokemon meets Castlevania: you gotta catch ‘em all!

I had a hard time deciding which of the most recent Castlevania portable games to choose from.  There was Aria of Sorrow (the predecessor to Dawn of Sorrow), Portrait of Ruin and Order of Ecclesia.  I very much enjoyed all of these games, but the collecting aspect of Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow ultimately gives you much more to do than the other titles I’ve mentioned. I basically picked Dawn because of its upgraded graphics and DS functionality, but I suppose I could have just as easily chosen Aria in its place.

If there was somehow a port of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the DS then you’d best believe it’d be on this list.  

4. Mega Man Zero Collection

This is such a cheat, but I’m doing it anyway!  As you may know, I’m a bit of a Mega Man fan and if I were to be stranded on a deserted island for the rest of my days, I would most definitely have to have me some Mega Man on hand.

I’d much rather have all kinds of other Mega Man titles, but as far as GBA/DS go, the best I have at my disposal are the four Mega Man Zero games, released for the Gameboy Advance and then re-released as a collection last year on the Nintendo DS.

I could be real and just choose one of them, and I’m sure any of them would do the trick, but if I can technically have them all in one game, why not!?  

There were two DS-specific Mega Man titles, both of which I’ve owned and defeated, entitled Mega Man ZX and Mega Man ZX: Advent, but if I had to take my pick I’d go with the Zero titles.  Although they’re very similar, at least in playing Mega Man Zero I can play as an actual hero from the Mega Man X franchise, instead of some kid wearing a Mega Man suit.

3. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

This game is very much a compromise, much like taking Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow over Symphony of the Night, because it doesn’t exist on the DS.  If the original Final Fantasy Tactics were available on this handheld, then I’d be taking that game.  Alas it is not, so I’ll be taking its descendant: Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.

The much-hyped spiritual successor to the blockbuster Playstation title, FFT Advance takes the world of Ivalice in an all-new direction for the Gameboy Advance.  You could say it was made much more kid-friendly, and you’d be completely right.  Gone is the political intrigue, the religious overtones and the dark, bloody storyline of the original game in place of some kids finding a magic book and being whisked away to a magical world.

The gameplay is what makes this a must-have on my indefinite desert island excursion.  Putting aside the storyline -- which isn’t bad by the way, it’s just not as good as the original’s -- the turn-based, tactical RPG style that was passed down to FFT from Tactics Ogre is what makes this game amazing.  

Why this over FFT Advance 2: Grimoire of the Rift - the DS successor to FFTA?  FFTA2 (these acronyms are getting to be a bit much, huh?) takes a new spin on the gameplay, which requires too much quest-giving and walks players through the game.  At least in FFTA there are some “random battles”.  I’d rather if there were true random battles like FFT, allowing for power-leveling, but I’ll take the pseudo random battles in FFTA, in the form of clan battles.  Also, obtaining new team members is a major annoyance in FFTA2, and it’s just an inferior game to FFTA (phew).

For my tactics fix, I just have to have Final Fantasy Tactics Advance for the GBA with me on the sandy beaches of my new home (very far) away from home.

2. Super Mario 64 DS

Super Mario has had many classic iterations.  In fact, this writer’s favourite isn’t even Super Mario 64; it’s Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES.  Now you ask, “But, Super Mario Bros. 3 came out for the GBA, didn’t it?”  Why yes, it did.  However, even if I take my time with Super Mario Bros. 3, it doesn’t compare to the exploration that is involved with finding all 120 stars in Super Mario 64.

Super Mario 64 features a giant castle filled with many different worlds, much like other games in the classic Mario series.  However, the game-style is something that hasn’t been matched since, even with newer titles like Super Mario Galaxy, a game that attempts to emulate Super Mario 64 in many ways.

You’re given a “world”, in the form of a castle portrait, and then a clue to where the star may be hidden, or what task you need to complete to find it, and then it’s up to you to find all the stars.  It may only take 70 to reach the game’s end, but there are truly 120 to be found within the world of Super Mario 64.  That is the reason why I would have to have this game with me on a desert island.  Also, it is my second favourite game in the Mario series.

The Nintendo DS port of Super Mario 64 also offers multiple characters and new locations for each of those corresponding characters: Luigi, Wario and Yoshi.  This offers even more gameplay than the original 64 title.  All in all, a must have to keep me content while stranded away from the rest of civilization.

1. Final Fantasy VI Advance

This should be no surprise to the readers that know me, but Final Fantasy VI (formerly known as Final Fantasy III in North America) is my very favourite game of all time.  On a desert island, I’d need a rich, fun storyline.  With 14 different characters, all of which with their own individual abilities and specs, as well as the ability to teach each of these characters magic through the Esper system, there are endless gameplay capabilities found within FF6.

A departure from the usual sword and sorcery storyline of its predecessors, FF6 also has a cool, steampunk theme, which blends the worlds of magic with technology.  It has a storyline that envelops all of its 14 characters (a series record) and features a second half that is completely wide open, with tons of sidequests to keep you playing this game for a long, long time.

The GBA port of this game also features new Espers -- giant summoned creatures that party members can learn spells from, as well as call on in battle -- and an all new set of dungeons, which increases the playability of an already chocked-full game.

This game combines the great story-telling of a novel with a fun game, which inherits all of that great Final Fantasy styled gameplay in what I consider to be the series’ very best.  If I could only have one single game with me on this deserted isle, it would most definitely have to be Final Fantasy VI.


Shane said...

Excellent choices every one of these. I really like how to restricted yourself to one handheld system but still could take advantage of its backward compatibility. Nicely done.

I'm glad to see you picked Dawn of Sorrow. I've played through all the Castlevanias for GBA and DS, and I'd say Dawn of Sorrow stands out as the best. I love the graphics and the soul collection system. I think I've played through it thrice at this point. A close second is Harmony of Dissonance for GBA.

I agree that Tactics Advance is better than the DS title (i've tried several times to get into it, with no luck). I'd say it's a perfect game for a desert island since I can recall putting 50-60 hours into Tactics Advance without even coming close to finishing it.

I'm sorry to say that I've only played a bit of the Megaman Zero games. I really want to get into them. Maybe I should pick up the collection...

Anyway, great picks again.

Cole D'Arc said...

the top two are adaptations of console games but i guess that's ok since it is a desert island situation. i would probably do the same.

i really have no excuse for not owning Dawn of Sorrow or Harmony of Dissonance. maybe it's because i own Order of Ecclesia and i am TERRIBLE at it. i've always been good at the Castlevania games, it's just an embarrassment. but i just can't get anywhere in it. every once in awhile i take it out and i always fail to make any progress.

i don't know why i never finished Tactics Advance. maybe i'll start a new game. haven't played it in years.