In what is the coolest jobs I've ever had, I write about toys for a living. All day, nothing but toys. It's amazing. When I'm not writing at work I'm writing at home, either working on my screenplay or my children's novel. When I'm not doing any of that I try to get in some video game time. I'm currently rocking Nintendo only consoles because dammit, I love Nintendo. More than Nintendo, I love platform games. Even though my favorite game isn't a platformer (The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker), it is my favorite genre of games.
Follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/thekillerbees and add me to your 3DS Friends List (1633-4277-3240 and let me know so I can add you to mine.) I'd love to meet some people who want play some Kid Icarus, Resident Evil: Revelations and Mario Kart 7.
Today is a bittersweet day for me, because it marks the end of era. Eight years ago this month, the Nintendo DS was released, a system that would change how I looked at video gaming. Today I received a package in the mail. In that package are the last two Nintendo DS games I will ever buy.
I didnít realize it when I purchased these titles, but about an hour later I epiphanized that these were the last two Nintendo DS games I had any intention of playing/buying. The list used to be longer than just two titles, but as time went on and my Wii and 3DS collection grew, I knew I had to cut out games that I would never get around to playing. Games like Knights in the Nightmare, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, Contact, Lufia, Lockís Quest and Mario Hoops 3-on-3. With the massive backlog of games I currently have, I probably wonít finish them all until after the successor to the 3DS comes out.
So I sit here now looking at these two games, games that in a sense represent what I love so much about the Nintendo DS. The DS, for me, is what defined my gaming style, itís what helped me establish my gaming identity. Even from the beginning, I knew there was something special about this weird looking system.
I canít remember exactly when I got my DS, but it was after Nintendo stopped bundling it with Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt. When I first picked up my DS Phat, I bought the only game worth owning at the time: Super Mario 64 DS. This was the first time I had ever played the game. I never owned a N64 and when I did play the system, the only games me and my friends booted up were Goldeneye and Super Smash Bros. So this was my first opportunity to experience what everyone raved about so many years before. I loved that game, and my love affair with the DS grew as my collection grew. Still a student in college, I quickly bought up more games to satisfy my gaming hunger: Tony Hawkís American Sk8land, Trauma Center: Under the Knife, Sonic Rush, Metroid Prime: Pinball, Animal Crossing: Wild World & Mario Kart DS were added to my collection through 2005. I loved every single one of those games. Mario Kart DS still, in my opinion, has the greatest track designs of the entire series.
I was never like this with the previous Nintendo handheld, the Game Boy Advance. I didnít own any iteration of the original Game Boy, so I was very excited to own the GBA when it first came out. I did buy a lot of games over time for that system, but I never really connected with it like I did the DS. Perhaps thatís because so many of the games Nintendo released in the GBA days were just rehashes of old NES and SNES games.
So I fell in love with dual-screen gaming, but the world around me started to crumble. In those days I wasnít really good with my money. I would consistently overdraw my bank account, having to pay huge fees just to get me back into the black. Usually, this required me to ask my parents for help. But in one instance, I couldnít ask anymore. I had to take responsibility and get myself out of this jam. So I sold my DS Phat and all my games except Metroid Prime: Pinball, which somehow escaped Gamestopís grasp. That was my low point. I still remember just being pissed at myself for letting my spending habits get that bad and I vowed never to let that happen again. I havenít overdrawn my account since.
A Second Chance
DS gaming stuck with me through the end of 2005 to the summer of 2006. I survived on my Gamecube and was looking forward to the release of the Wii, but my heart was still broken from giving up my DS. At this time I thankfully had an okay paying job and very little credit card debt (oh, how those were the days). So in August of 2006, I went to Gamestop and went on a spending spree. I picked up the newly released Nintendo DS Lite, New Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart DS, Animal Crossing: Wild World, Brain Age and Tertis DS. I couldnít rebuy all the games I had owned before, but I made sure to buy the ones I loved the most. Yes, all these games were 1st party titles, but they were quickly joined by some smaller games including Cooking Mama and Resident Evil: Deadly Silence.
Finally I was back playing games that filled me a joy that no other game had done before. Little did I know the best was right around the corner.
The Very Good Year
In September of 2006 I was loving the hell out of my DS. By now I had beaten NSMB, unlocked everything in Mario Kart DS, beat all the mini-games in Cooking Mama, traded in RE:DS and expanded my house in Animal Crossing: Wild World. At this time I was also hooked on EGM. In their most recent issue, an very unlikely game was crowned game of the month: Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. I had never played a Dragon Quest game before. I knew nothing of the series or this spin-off. To be honest, the reviews didnít do the best job of explaining just how fun this game was. I believe thatís because there are no words to describe just how much fun I had with this title. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime quickly became my favorite Nintendo DS game, and has survived countless other titles to stay in that position. If you havenít played the game yet, there are two parts to it. The first is a Legend of Zelda-esque adventure where you rescue other slimes. The second part is tank battles. These are what made me fall in head over heels for this game. The tank battles are extraordinarily absorbing. This was the first game since The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past that made me want to collect everything. I still havenít, but I know someday I will have 100%ed that game, because I canít die knowing that there was something in it I didnít collect.
After Rocket Slime, the wave of great DS games came my way. I received Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin for Christmas, bought Metroid Prime Hunters, Contra 4, Puzzle Quest, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Sonic Rush Adventure, Rune Factory, Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol, Theme Park, Dementium: The Ward, Drawn to Life, Diddy Kong Racing, Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck; honestly the list goes on. There were some stinkers in there (Duck Amuck, Revenant Wings, SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters DS), but for the most part each and every game was incredibly fun in its own way. One game in particular that stood out to me was Custom Robo Arena. Pokemon was never my bag (even though I bought and tried to beat a game in the series several times), so I got my massive collecting kick with this quirky, fast-paced title. No other collect-a-thon, not Pokemon, not Fossil Fighters, not Dragon Quest Monsters, would grab my attention as fiercely as that game did.
For sure, I was getting high on my love with the DS, but one game nearly ended that.
Deja Vu Temple
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is a polarizing game. There are those who think the game is fun and there are those who hate the control scheme and wouldnít care to ever try it. I fall into the third (and probably more popular) category of people who like everything about the game except for the Temple of the Ocean King. It is the worst temple/dungeon Nintendo has ever foisted upon its Zelda fanbase. The temple is tedious, repetitive, boring and frustratingly slow. The temple caused me to do something Iíve never done with a Legend of Zelda game before: stop playing. Up until that game I had completed every Legend of Zelda game I started. That game would remain unbeaten for two years, when I decided to push through it to beat it before the launch of The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.
Thankfully, as I put away one game, another one caught my eye. Over Thanksgiving of 2007, I visited a friend who gave me her copy of a game called Hotel Dusk: Room 215. This would go on to be my second favorite Nintendo DS title ever. I played right through that game over the Thanksgiving holiday, nearly drowning in its marvelous story, characters and settings. I wouldnít experience another moment of dumbstruck awe again until 2010 when Destructoid recommended a little title called 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors to its readers.
So Sad To Say Goodbye
There are a lot of other moments and games I could touch on in this post. I could talk about the Professor Layton series, or how Starfy changed my perception of platform games, or why Dragon Quest IX made me fall in love with RPGís all over again, or even why I believe the biggest let down of the DS era was Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (if you knew what the original games mean to me, you would understand that statement). But I donít want to ramble. Instead, I want to focus on the two games I just received in the mail, two games that really represent what the DS means to me.
The first game is Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. I never bought this game when it was originally released. Its predecessor, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, was my first Castlevania game and I fell in love with it. But I missed the sequel until just two weeks ago when I saw it on Amazon for $19 new. Dawn of Sorrow is the classic gamer in me. Itís a platform game (which is my favorite genre) and really something the hardcore gamer side of myself desires all the time. The second game is The Last Window: The Secret of Cape West, aka the sequel to Hotel Dusk: Room 215. This is the first import game I have ever bought, though I didnít import it myself. The Last Window is the new gamer that emerged from me in the DS era. Thanks to this dual screen wonder, I am a more complete gamer than ever before because it exposed me to games that I normally wouldnít have wasted my time on. Thanks to the DS, I am a gamer for life. Itís just a shame that there will never be another game I will buy for the system.