One of the many great things about the DS is that it’s inherently region-free; that is, can play games from any country, no modding required. There are some Japanese DS games that have practically become required playing for true fans of the system – Ouendan, Taiko DS, and Jump Ultimate Stars just to name a few.
Yet for all
that’s been paid
to Japanese DS games, no one’s pointed out all the great games the system has in Europe that we haven’t seen here in America. Sometimes Europe gets great Japanese games localized that don’t come to the States for one reason or another, others are made in Europe for that market. So, here are my picks for the 9 best games worth dropping a few Euros on.
9. Giana Sisters DS
If you were a Commodore 64 aficionado in the late 80s you’re probably familiar with this obscure series. Personally, I’d never heard of it until I found the DS edition, so for the rest of us, these games are known for totally and utterly ripping off the Mario platforming games. Seriously, the original Giana Sisters is little more than a sprite-swap of the original Super Mario Bros, and the DS version has a very similar play style.
But since when is that play style a bad thing? Gamers praised New Super Mario Bros for bringing classic sidescroller gameplay to the DS, and this is the same sort of thing: very solid, old-school run and jump action. Sure, it doesn’t have the fancy 2.5D visuals of NSMB, but it’s got a lot of parallax scrolling, which is nice in a different way (even if the titular characters are, in a word, butt-ugly). It’s simplistic enough that it’s not worth paying a whole
lot for, but it is worth playing.
8. B-Team: Metal Cartoon Squad
Sometimes, all you want from a video game is the ability to guide a small band of mercenaries around an enemy encampment, using heavy weaponry to demolish everything in your path. It’s for times like these that games like B-Team were created.
It’s an old-school top-down shooter, with shooting and moving controlled separately. Think Smash TV, or more recently Geometry Wars – except add in a Team America-style parody of over-the-top military action. Your team comes into each level with all barrels blazing, and while the gameplay plays out on the bottom screen, the top screen is dedicated to massive close-ups of your characters’ intense expressions and ammo-guzzling automatic weapons. Add in an extremely destructable environment – you can explode buildings, supplies, even wildlife with sustained fire – and you’ve got a game that might not be original, but sure lets you relieve some stress.
7. Doodle Hex
There was some talk
a while back about this game coming to the US, but so far no dice. It’s a shame, too: Doodle Hex isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s a fun different take on the traditional fighting game.
Doodle Hex puts you in control of a wizard, going up against other wizards in one-on-one duels. Spell casting is done by drawing runes on the touchscreen, but there’s more strategy to it than just sending out the most powerful damage spell over and over. You’ve got to worry about stuff like defense, healing, mana recharge rates, elemental statuses, and so on. It’s got a cute art style that looks a little too Saturday morning, but the touchscreen gameplay is unique and fun, and you can play two players for head-to-head duels.
6. 100 Classic Book Collection
I know, I know. “Oh, wow, a virtual public-domain library! How exciting! Let me fire the DS right up for that
one!” So yeah, okay, it’s not going to be the flashiest, most impressive import in your collection.
What it is going to do is keep you from ever being bored again. Let’s face it: these books are classic for a reason. While there are certainly some stinkers on the cart (and enough Shakespeare to make you feel like you’re back in Sophmore English), there are also some truly badass books: Treasure Island, Call of the Wild, Last of the Mohicans, a couple of Sherlock Holmes collections, Turn of the Screw, and Lewis Caroll’s Alice books, just to name a few.
It’s also got that trademark Nintendo level of polish, with enough great features (bookmarks, a wide selection of background music and noises to simulate reading on the beach, in a café, on a train, and so on, even a quiz that picks what book you should read based on your mood and interests) to make you never want to go back to actual novels. Bonus: If you’re in high school or college and you show this to your teacher, they very well might let you play DS in class! (Disclaimer: don’t blame me if this doesn’t work.)
5. Guru Guru
Remember when I said sometimes Europe gets obscure Japanese games we never see here in the US? Consider Guru Guru Exhibit A. Based on a comedy anime series
that is known for parodying RPG clichés, you might think Guru Guru is an RPG of some kind.
But while stats like strength, speed, and so on do come into play, the game itself is more like a cross between golf, bowling, and shot-put, if both the player and the ball (it’s a little round rabbit-like creature) had magical powers. By throwing or rolling you’ve got to get your chubby rabbit to the end of the course. The game plays entirely with the touchscreen, and there are lots of courses to challenge in the game’s story mode.
This one’s pretty hard to find even in Europe, with only a few European sites selling it
or even giving information
on it, so it’s only for the dedicated Japanese weirdness fans. Of course, you could always settle for the easier-to-find Japanese version, but the language barrier is tough to surpass (not to mention, that would destroy the point of this article).
4. Chronos Twin: One Hero, Two Worlds
Did anybody play Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ when it released last fall? If not, shame on you; it was awesome and you’re the reason it flopped commercially. Anyway, before developers brought us that helping of awesome, they made another one just for Europe, called Chronos Twin.
The basic gameplay is classic 2D sidescrolling action, similar to the Mega Man games (visually the game has a lot in common with the GBA Mega Man Zero series). The gimmick, though, is that you control the same character in two separate time periods, one shown on each screen. Different obstacles in each time require you to be keeping a constant eye on each screen, often having to solve a puzzle on one screen to clear the path on the other. Yeah, the story’s pretty much worthless, but the mind-bending simultaneous action is pretty fun and different.
3. Spectral Force Genesis
The Spectral Force series hasn’t seen a lot of love in the US, but it’s a well-known series in Japan. Genesis is the latest installment, which saw a European release this past spring. Set in the fantasy world of Neverland (no relation to Peter Pan’s home), Genesis puts you in control of a nation, then lets you interact with the rest of the world as you see fit: alliances, trade agreements, and all-out war are just some of your options.
Combat’s handled in an interesting way: your troops rush the battlefield on the top screen, while you direct the combat on the touchscreen like a football commentator, drawing paths and selecting targets for your various armies. There are lots of troop types available, each with special moves and attacks, and if you use them cleverly you can conquer the world.
True, Ignition Entertainment is bringing this one out in the US sometime in the second half of 2009, but for those who don’t mind importing the European version it’s available in English today.
2. Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Sacrifice
Okay, this one’s a qualified
recommendation. Sure, this Europe-only action game based on Joss Whedon’s classic series isn’t really that great. Truth be told, it plays a lot like what you’d expect if you gave the characters from the PS1-era Resident Evil games karate powers.
But it’s Buffy
, damnit. The story’s written with a fair amount of wit, and though it doesn’t mesh with the canon “Season 8” comic series, it tells a decent story set after the end of the show. The gameplay’s decently fun if you don’t mind some backtrack-heavy puzzles, and the combat’s exciting in a button-mashy kind of way. Buffy fans, it’s worth a look. Everybody else, move on to number 1.
1. Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland
More than likely you’ve heard of this one, which stars bizarre man-elf Tingle (from the Legend of Zelda series) in some kind of weird action-RPG. Maybe you’ve thought about tracking down a copy, but you haven’t because you’re not that big a Tingle fan, or it just looks too strange.
Well, I’ve never been a big Zelda fan (Link’s Awakening is the only one I’ve ever even finished) and I loved
this game. And yes, while it is very strange, it’s also one of the most unique and fun action-RPGs you’re going to find on the DS, or any other system for that matter.
Don’t worry about the story, which is nonsense. The game is brilliant for the way it takes every RPG stat (strength, health, money, experience) and merging it into one number to keep track of: Rupees. Tingle is obsessed with the valuable gems, so much so that they’re used for literally everything in the game. Take damage in combat? Lose some Rupees. Need to buy something from the shop? Spend your Rupees. Need to befriend someone before they’ll give you the info you need to continue your quest? Grease their palms with some Rupees.
There’s tons of stuff to do in the game (fight monsters, solve quests, explore dungeons, cook new items, map uncharted territory) so you’ll never be bored. Combine that with the extremely innovative gameplay and some great 2D sprite-based artwork, and you have the
must-play European DS game.
Hopefully you’ve seen something here that caught your attention. US gamers, when you think you’ve played all the great stuff Nintendo’s little two-screened handheld has to offer, don’t forget about all the great games you can find just across the Atlantic. read