It’s time for a new DS. I don’t mean a new iteration of the DS we’ve been using for six years, I mean a new system; something more powerful than the PSP that can also double as a stun gun or a Foreman grill or some other thing that nobody but Nintendo thinks is a good idea, yet ends up becoming wildly popular anyway. 2010 would be a great time for a system like that.
In the meantime, there are still plenty of regular old DS games to look forward to, plus a few for DSiWare that are not clocks. Nintendo has some unusual first-party and second-party stuff lined up, and third parties have a lot of really unexpected games coming up too. The DS is at a point in its life span where the more a game can stand out from the pack, the better its chance of making a profit. That’s why I think we’re being blessed with so many “different” looking games in 2010.
This is the time when the least conventional games (and Pokémon) can succeed on the DS. This is a time for DS celebration. So come celebrate with me and Ashley Davis after the jump.
As a Pokémon fan, the wait for these two games is nearly as exciting as the wait for the original Gold and Silver to come stateside was. Unfortunately, I never did get them. That’s why I don’t intend on missing out this time around.
Some may feel that games like these or Leaf Green/Fire Red are just cheap rehashes of old titles, but the amount of thought and care that goes into making them is astounding. As much as I love Pokémon Red (it was my first), Leaf Green is still my favorite experience from the series. It had all of the familiarity and simplicity of the original mixed in with a ton of new features (none that made the game feel overwhelming), updated graphics and a few monsters from newer games (again, not enough to overwhelm). I can only imagine the great treatment they have given the two games that are heralded as the high point of the series.
My dreams can’t be too far off. The sprite work and art is looking as great as ever, with new designs for the male and female trainers. The pedometer pack-in seems interesting enough; then there’s the fact that you can have any of your Pokémon walk behind you à la Pikachu in Pokémon Yellow. It’s the little things that make these games such a joy to play, in addition to the classic gameplay, of course.
By the way, I’m getting HeartGold. Ho-Oh fo’ lyfe.
If Shu Takumi’s previous work (Phoenix Wright) is any indication, Ghost Trick will turn out to be another fantastic game packed with personable characters and fun action. After working on one series for so long, he’s got to have some pretty great ideas stored away that he can just throw at this game.
Unsurprisingly, what we’ve seen of the game so far looks great. It’s got very slick, stylistic visuals on top of an interesting concept: you play as a ghost who can possess any object on the screen. You must pass from one object to another in order to reach level-specific goals, kind of like a side-scrolling, puzzle-ish Geist. Except good.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey:
As much as I enjoy a good RPG every now and again, I haven’t had much time for them lately. The only way I can get my fix is through games that are built with portability in mind. Thankfully, portable RPGs seems to be all the rage these days, but I’m kinda picky about it; most of the time, I don’t want spin-offs or ports or parts of series that I have no time to catch up on. I want a good, original and self-contained adventure to play!
I’m thinking that Strange Journey may just be what I’m looking for. It’s got an atmospheric, non-typical setting (Antarctica), first-person dungeon crawling goodness and demon summoning/combining. Previews also speak of the Demonica suit, which your characters wear into battle. This suit supposedly grows along with you as you fight, taking your fighting style and adapting to it accordingly.
Everything about this game makes it sound like the strangest, most interesting RPG of its kind, and I am all the more glad that it was made for a portable platform. The positive reviews/previews and reports of accessibility (this will be my first non-Persona SMT game) do not hurt my excitement either.
Golden Sun DS:
Okay, last RPG, I swear! I can’t help that 2010 is going to be a huge year for RPGs on the DS.
Anyway, I’m really looking forward to Golden Sun DS, as I’m sure any other Golden Sun fan is. I wish I could simply say “I WANT THIS GAME” and be done with it, because that’s simply how I feel. Well, that, and we just don’t know that much about it yet, so I’m not really sure exactly what it is that I have to look forward to. But even so, I love the series and am extremely happy to see it continue into this generation.
DS will star a descendant of Issac, in a game that will probably not stray too far from the good old Golden Sun formula (aside from the fact that it’s 3D and that you use the top screen to summon Djinni). Sometimes it’s good to just get more of the same, especially when you’ve been waiting seven years for it.
I did not like Henry Hatsworth very much. This doesn’t mean I have no faith in developers Peter Ong and Ryan Pijai. On the contrary, I’m hoping that since they’ve broken off into their own studio, the potential to make amazing games that I know they have can really start to blossom.
That said, I have a feeling that Project Monster is going to be a huge step up for DreamRift. They have proven themselves to be highly talented when it comes to creating characters, worlds and visuals; hopefully, they’ll get the action on the same level this time. And to be honest, I’m not sure how they can go wrong. Project Monster‘s gameplay has been described as half Metroidvania, half monster battle sim, a combination that just sounds crazy enough to work. Only time will tell if it actually does, but I’m still looking forward to finding out for myself.
I think I’m ready to take the “king of sprite-based graphics” crown from Capcom’s head and hand it to WayForward. Both companies are great at the craft, but the difference is, WayForward actually puts out sprite-based games on a consistent basis. Contra 4, Mighty Flip Champs, and A Boy and His Blob are among the best sprite-based games in recent memory, and all came from WayForward. When it comes to making graphics the old-fashioned way, these guys have it down in terms of quality and quantity.
That’s why I’m so excited to see them return to where it all began: Shantae. The original cult classic on the GBC is one of those games that I always felt was a little too ambitious for the hardware it was released on. This new trilogy for DSiWare looks like it will finally deliver on everything that the WayForward always wanted Shantae to be.
Dark Void Zero:
Capcom may not be the kings of state-of-the art sprite-based games anymore, but they deserve credit for carrying on the low-res, NES-looking sprite-based torch.
Capcom has long been a master of the NES “de-make.” Many of their more “serious” NES outings like Bionic Commando, Section Z, Strider, and Mighty Final Fight were adaptations of games that originally appeared on much more powerful hardware. Capcom took special care to add many new features to all four of those games to make up for the loss of horsepower, which more often than not led to the creation of a better game than they started with. Most people don’t even remember that Bionic Commando started at as an arcade game. It was only when Capcom scaled down the graphics and re-designed everything about the game that it became a classic.
Is that sort of classic making likely to happen with Dark Void Zero? It’s hard to say, but if anyone has a track record for pulling off an 8-bit miracle, it’s Capcom.
Speaking of miracles, Okami is getting a sequel next year.
For those that have never played the game (which, judging from the game’s ho-hum sales, is a lot of you), let me tell you that the original Okami is better than 99% of the games that came out in 2009. Nintendo has been consistently “borrowing” from the game with every Zelda title they’ve put out since Okami was first released. They took the wolf stuff and used in it Twilight Princess, and they took the “draw on the screen” bits and used them for their two recent DS Zelda games.
One can hope that with Okamiden, the series finally finds it audience. The “celestial brush” gameplay mechanic is perfectly suited to the DS’s touch screen, and the cel-shaded graphics work really well on the little handheld. Thanks to the DS’s small screens, and the fact that puppies have a 100% chance at being adorable, Okamiden has every chance at looking (and playing) just as great as the original.
Nintendo definitely seems to be winding down on their DS publishing duties, but they still have a few games coming in 2010 that make my “must buy” list. WarioWare DIY is one of those games. With over 90 micro-games packed in and an endless amount of user-created content, the game could be one that you play all year. After the shocking disappointment that was WarioWare: Snapped!, the series needs a good shot in the arm to get back on track.
Did I mention that when you make your own micro-games, you can also make your own songs by singing into the DS’s microphone? Well you can, and the game even coverts your singing into chiptune videogame music. After that, you can play your games (and the games of others) on the DS, or on your TV with an $8 WiiWare channel (sold separately). With features like that, it’s hard to imagine how the game could go wrong.
Games that Nintendo of America should localize (but probably won’t)
The new Tingle DS game (Color Changing Tingle’s Balloon Trip of Love) and the latest Chibi Robo title (Welcome Home Chibi-Robo! Happy Rich Big Sweep!) have been out in Japan for a while. Both games look much better than their predecessors, and sold fairly well by modern Japanese standards (over 50,000 copies for a DS game in Japan isn’t too bad). Despite the fact that both characters have notable fan bases on this side of the Pacific, neither game has been announced for release outside of Japan. Also worth mentioning is The Last Window, the sequel to the beautifully hand-drawn, highly underrated Hotel Dusk. As of now, the game also has no known future outside of Japan.
I hate to end this list on a negative note, but seriously, Nintendo of America needs to cut the crap. The more successful the company gets, the more cautious they become about releasing games in the US, which is the opposite of the way they should be thinking. Right now, Nintendo can afford to take some risks. In Japan, the company seems more than willing to take those risks. It’s troubling that the company’s US branch is so much more cautious.
It’s like the Green Goblin recently said (via auditory hallucination) to Norman Osborn: “Do you know how men of power lose their hold? It’s because once they get into power they worry so much about holding on to that power that they never do anything with their power.” The DS has become a huge success because Nintendo took some huge risks with both the console’s design and the initial games they published for it. That’s how you succeed in the ever-changing world of videogames. You need to give people something they don’t already have, to surprise them, and show some guts in the process (see: Dark Void Zero).
If Nintendo of America stops making those sorts of choices now, I think they’ll live to regret it.