Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Touch Generations

I miss Touch Generations.

Video games have such a negative image in our culture.  Games are juvenile.  Games appeal to our worse nature.  Games trap us in feedback response loops, turning us into Skinner Box rats.

It was so refreshing to see someone step up and tell us things could be different.  Games can teach us.  Games can help us improve ourselves.  Games can be quiet and gentle, a friendly harbor in the storm of life.  Games can take us places.  It's okay for adults to play.

I know that it's kind of stupid to be fond of a corporate marketing scheme.  Nintendo came up with an idea for a lifestyle where their video games were a necessary component.  I bought into it because they had so many beautiful photographs of fit 60-year-olds in beautiful living spaces, grinning serenely as they poked around with their slick little DS Lites or did yoga poses on a Balance Board or swung their Wii Remotes at their 60-inch flatscreen televisions.  They showed me a fantasy I didn't know I wanted, and I paid in over and over again.

And the brand wasn't always great.  By the end, it was getting pretty saturated.  Some of the games in the set seemed a little shoe-horned (Elite Beat Agents?) and a few were just outright dumb (Personal Trainer: Math).

But you know what?  There was a little something there.  The best of them really followed through on the promise of adding value to my life, whether that was helping me practice real-life skills or just giving me something small, simple, and engaging to chill out with.

These are my favorites.  Not all of these games have the official Touch Generations branding, but I associate them all pretty closely for the feeling you get when you play them.

Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!

The granddaddy of them all, and I still love it.  I bought the sequel, and I have the DSiWare versions, but the original is still my favorite.  I'm not proud that it's mostly because this is the easiest version.

True Swing Golf

For whatever reason, video golf is my go-to for digital sports.  This version, with its touchscreen controls, almost feels like a desktop golf toy.


I have a real dog now, and so I don't play much Nintendogs anymore.  But it always sticks out in my head, whenever I'm at the park or out for a walk and something happens that makes me think, wow, that's just like Nintendogs!  It's quite a cute little pet simulator.

Clubhouse Games

A nice variety of classic board games, card games, and even a little billiards.  Fun in quick bursts, but I can easily find myself getting lost for hours in round after round of Sevens.

Rhythm Heaven

It took a while for Rhythm Heaven to really "click" with me.  I didn't really understand the point of a collection of music games that only featured one song and one rhythm arrangement apiece and no real scoring scheme, but one day it just all made sense all at once.  It's just fun music and cute things happening, and that's great.

Picross DS

Picross has been my logic game of choice ever since I discovered Mario's Picross back on the Game Boy.  It's like potato chips for your brain.  One is never enough.

Animal Crossing: Wild World

Wild World is, in many ways, the weakest entry in the Animal Crossing series to date.  Its world feels stripped down from the Game Cube version, and New Leaf is the superior portable version, but... yeah.  I still drop in on Elms from time to time, even if it's just to pull a few weeds and see who's moved out.

100 Classic Books

I bought this one at the height of my Kindle envy, and even if it's just a collection of public domain works, it's still a sharp piece of software.  Its best feature is a suite of search options that will match you up with a book based on the criteria you give it -- funny, easy to read, not too long, etc.  And the DS itself makes a very charming piece of ebook hardware, with the two screens as facing pages and any number of configurable page-turning options.


Scribblenauts isn't a very strong game simply because the player is so overpowered, but god damn, isn't cool to see what insane ways you can cook up to beat all of the different levels?  Whatever its faults, I prefer it over the later versions that started feeling more like a crossword puzzle than an adventure game.

Jam Sessions

Sweet little piece of music-making software.  I don't play with it enough.

Personal Trainer: Cooking

One of Nintendo's very coolest non-games.  It's a digital cookbook.  There's a variety of ways to sort through recipes to help you decide on something to try.  There's a shopping list feature to keep track of what you need to get to make a recipe.  There's step-by-step instructions that read aloud to you and a few clips of video demonstrations to help you understand certain steps in the process.  There's even a built-in oven timer and a Chef Game & Watch that you can play while you wait.

Personal Trainer: Walking

There's not much software to this one.  Most of the magic comes from the pedometer that you carry in your pocket, which you can link up with your DS to track your daily activity cycles.  And when the Wi-Fi Connection was still up, you could post your steps online to compete in leaderboards and contribute to a global step count.  The world was trying to walk its way out of the solar system.  I didn't keep track to find out how far we got. :(

Cooking Mama

The "Mama" series kind of went off the rails at some point, but the first two Cooking Mama games were a small joy.  It was playing "house" on your DS screen.

Duck Amuck

Yeah, I still love this game.  It's kind of messy and kind of dumb, but it's still charming, like one of those Flash games you keep playing in spite of yourself.

London Life

When I was playing Fantasy Life, it struck me how much it reminded me of London Life, a bonus game included with Professor Layton and the Last Specter.  And small wonder, because they're both games developed by Level-5 and Brownie Brown.  I never paid much attention to it, but I feel like I'll have a new appreciation for it, now that Fantasy Life has sort of primed me for the style of game that it is.


A cool sort of musical toy that you can just sort of sit down and zone out with.  It's a shame the physical version is so rare, but at least now it's downloadable.

Art Academy: First Semester

Really cool piece of software.  Not just a computer paint program, but an actual painting simulation, where you create your palette by mixing colors and you leave realistic brushstrokes on the screen.  It comes with lessons to teach you the basics, and you can export your pictures to SD card to share.

Go Vacation

I'm still on about this one.  Kawawii Island is a place that I want to visit.  It's always fun to drop in, whether it's to swim, ride the train, skateboard down a halfpipe waterslide, ride a snowtube down a mountain, kayak...

Walk it Out!

It's not the best exercise game out there, but damn, Rhythm Island is still a completely wonderful place to visit.  Great music, interesting sights to see, a completely customizable walking route -- it's a great way to take a walk when you can't leave the house.

Wii Sports

Still the king of the motion control games.  Sports and Sports Resort turn your living room into a playground.  Playing tennis is still as much fun as it was eight years ago.

Wii Fit Plus

It's the center of my home gym.  It still feels really good to get on the balance board for half an hour.

Wii Music

For all of its problems, Wii Music is still a pretty cute piece of software.  It's fun to jam for a while, try out Nintendo music with various instruments, and rearrange classical pieces as chiptunes.  If you give it a chance, you can even learn a thing or two about musical style.

Of course, Nintendo has continued to produce many of these games as their own series.  In fact, it's better because many of these games have become downloadable and cheaper.  So maybe it's a little nitpicky and whiny to say that I miss the marketing initiative.  It's like I really need a company to come out and tell me "Here is a lifestyle you might like, and these are the products you need to live it."

But a lot of things come down to perception.  And for better or worse, I do like what these games did to mine.

Going forward?  I am rather curious about Nintendo's proposed Quality of Life platform.  It seems to be a return to the idea of products that make your life better, and I'm interested in seeing what shape that ends up taking.  We'll see how it goes.


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?