Monday, February 21, 2011


DS Desert Island Games

The DS has come a long way and taken on many forms since it debuted in 2004 next to, what, a remake of Super Mario 64, a cloud-drawing minigame, and a game about making silhouettes vomit goldfish? It's had some impressive and unconventional competition in the form of the PSP and the iPhone. But the platform did eventually prove itself, playing host to the birth of Nintendo's casual-friendly philosophy, the renaissance of 2D Super Mario Brothers games, and an awful lot of bitching about people cheating in Super Mario Kart.

It seems too early to be closing the book on the DS. Indeed, we're probably going to continue to see support for it as the 3DS takes its baby steps. But this feels like as good a time as any to take a look back at my favorite DS games. And not just the ones that I've liked, but the ones that validate the idea of owning a DS in their own right. These are the ones I've loved over and over again, and which I'll never stop being fond of. These are my Desert Island DS games.

It'd be nice and elegant if I could say that, out of the dozens of DS games I've played, that I could name a Top Ten list of essential games, but I can't. I can't even make a Top Five. So this'll have to do.

Shiren the Wanderer

Much as I loved Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, there was just no going back once I met Shiren the Wanderer. For a game where it's possible to go from start to finish in a single sitting, my goodness does this game feel bottomless. The randomized layouts, the crazy enemies, and the varied magical items come together to make this an adventure that's different every time.

Retro Game Challenge

I wonder when this game will get old. There's still something magical about playing through this game's narrative, anticipating and unlocking these amazing little games one by one, reading magazines, chatting with Arino... It's a magic door to your childhood that fits in your pocket. Listen to Arino's gasps of amazement as you bounce around on the heads of robotic ninja drones, and suddenly you're a kid again.

Wario Ware DIY

The driving philosophy behind the Wario Ware games has always seemed to be "simple fun". It completely amazes me that they've managed to take video game development and turn it into something that's so simple, so powerful, and so much fun to use. I remember playing with Mario Paint back in the day and drawing my own Mario levels and what not because those were the assets they gave you to use, and then I would wish that I could actually play them. And now that vision is realized -- the games I design in my head actually come to life now, and I can play them. And the games it comes with are excellent. And the comics are excellent. And the music is excellent. It's a creativity studio, but it's also an entertainment package. I love it so much forever.

Anything with "Ace Attorney" or "Ghost Trick" in the title

Okay, I'm kind of fudging this one, but I don't care. The first Phoenix Wright game enchanted me from the start, and the first trilogy left me with a completely satisfied feeling. So what if the gameplay was essentially the same between them? The stories were fun to follow, and the puzzles were a hoot to unravel. And yeah, maybe Apollo Justice and Miles Edgeworth fell a little short of my expectations, but I'll take 'em anyway. Ghost Trick is a different beast entirely, but the association is close enough to fall under this heading. And even though these games can really only be a "challenge" the first time you play them, they're just so much fun to watch and read that I'll return to them over and over again. It's as "challenging" as reading a book, and just as entertaining. It's just that you're keying in puzzle solutions instead of turning pages.

So, by year:

2005: 1
2006: 1
2007: 3
2008: 1
2009: 2
2010: 1

Nice to know that my favorite games fall all along the lifespan of the system, rather than being bunched up toward the end. Even if this is it for the DS, it's been a good run.


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