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M_the_C’s DS Collection - Mini Reviewed

Written by M_the_C on Saturday, 23 May 20092 Comments

I had originally planned to do this for my Wii collection, but best laid plans and all that, so here is my DS collection.  I’m not much of a reviewer, so rather than try writing a proper review, I’m going to do a mini review of every DS game I own. I don’t like issuing scores, so I shall just order them building up to my favourite.

ds01Or as the title screen calls it, Bomb-berman! Like so many games, this one was bought because of a memory. My first experience of a Bomberman game was the PS1 version, it was a friends and so I only played the multiplayer, but what a game. Such a simple mechanic, move around a maze of blocks, placing bombs to blow up certain blocks and open up new areas. All the while trying to blow up the opposition, before they get you. I have never played the DS version with anyone so I have been stuck with the singleplayer and skirmish modes, which are unfortunately very lacking. The singleplayer is okay, but fairly dull and boring. The Skirmishes against the computer are the total opposite, it could just be my poor skills but they all move quicker than I can think, maybe this would be fun with a human player but against the computer I just felt steam-rolled the whole time. There are many special kinds of bomb available, some being interestingly activated by the DS’ microphone, but there is very little call for using them. A simple scale of around three increasingly more powerful bombs and more game modes would have been better I think. Visually it’s almost identical to the PS1 version, just cleaner and designed for the DS screen (some levels use both) which keeps things nice and simple. Overall I wouldn’t recommend Bomberman DS, it could be fun when you’ve got people to play with on a regular basis but otherwise it’s not worth it.

ds02Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is actually a pretty good game, so long as you don’t expect too much. The main game is a 2D scroller with lightsabre, force throwing action. There is a nice selection of force powers, but they’re nothing you haven’t seen before. There are also a dusting of special powers, but these aren’t very impressive. The levels go from standard action against waves of droids and low-level enemies to duels with major characters. There is a choice of both Anakin and Obi-Wan and they do a good job of following the storyline of the film. The one-on-one lightsabre duels are pretty good, with traditional high, middle, low blocking played out in easily memorable patterns. On higher difficulties this can be quite stressful, giving the feeling, if not the looks or action, of lightsabre battles. On it’s own this would have been a mediocre game (and is what the GBA version is), but they also added a little used feature, space combat. I read a review that mentioned these were similar to Rogue Squadron on the N64, and they were right. Whilst they have none of the depth, they are visually quite impressive and the AI is pretty good. These are mainly used as short levels during the story mode, but luckily they also decided to add a skirmish mode that allows you to pick from a selection of maps and opponents for one off battles. There is a suprising amount of intricacy to this part of the game, three speed settings, two weapons, ship rolling and shield adjustments. The selection of ships is also impressive, featuring many from the different films, although these have to be unlocked. I’m quite surprised that this was never expanded on into a full game. That said, I wouldn’t recommend this game unless it’s at a budget price.

ds03The first Pokémon games on the Game Boy were great, they conveyed the great feeling of the television series (when it first started…) but also had a complex game beind it, you really could Catch ‘Em All. I owned a copy of Pokémon Blue and really got my moneys worth out of it, playing it through several times. I didn’t buy a GBA so when I bought my DS and saw the latest version in the series I read several reviews and decided to buy it. Sadly I haven’t gotten nearly as much use out of it as the first, this is most likely down to the fact that I’m older now and less forgiving of the games flaws. The rules behind the games are pretty complicated and they haven’t changed, I’m still not quite sure why boosting my Pokémon’s special is better than attacking. Plus despite the rather impressive new list of features the game is missing imagination, when I was younger and still enjoying the TV series I filled that gap in myself but now it’s empty again. I still believe I could enjoy a Pokémon game, but it would have to be much more like the series, and less like a stats focused RPG. If you know someone younger who has never played the series, I don’t doubt that this is the best version to get them, it has all the basics plus so many extras and they could probably enjoy it a lot. There is something about them expanding beyond the original 150 that doesn’t quite sit right with me, it’s like the statue of David being clothed. Maybe I’m just getting all nostalgic.

ds04Sonic II was a classic, Super Mario World may be the best platformer in my mind, but Sonic offered a completely different way of playing, the emphasis on fast speed, fast reactions and fast decision-making. Despite the many entries in the series, few have lived up to those early days. While Sonic Rush isn’t quite Sonic II, it does do a lot to recapture the feeling. The level design is a little less interesting, but the game is undeniably Sonic. Rushing (see what I did there) through levels at lightening speeds still has that same thrill, and the levels offer a challenge without slowing you down too often (there was one section that had me stumped for a long time). There are two storylines in this game, one for Sonic and one for a new character, Blaze the cat. She can’t quite match up to the design of Sonic but she’s good enough. The one stand out area for Sonic Rush are the 3D sections. The game is a sort of psuedo-3D for the platforming part of the game, some automated sections moving your chosen character through depth as well as the other two dimensions, but at the end of every section is a fully 3D boss battle even if you are restricted to moving in only two directions. The DS is not very advanced when it comes to graphics, but these sections are some of the best examples of what it is capable of. The thrill as a boss’ limb comes flying at you, and the slideshow from different angles once it is defeated add to the game.

ds05Nintendo already covered the traditional Mario platformer with New Super Mario Bros., this is another direction for the famous brothers. It’s not new, Partners in Time is the sequel to Superstar Saga for the GBA, but it is good. This game is an overhead view platformer\RPG, Mario and Luigi are joined by their younger selves as they once again try to save the Mushroom Kingdom. Jumping on an enemy here triggers a turn based battle, with both sides initiating a variety of attacks. I’m not quite sure what else to say about it, it’s a good game, with a good enough story line, taking place over a variety of locations, combat is thoughtful, but still contains action elements. If you’re looking for a light RPG, or a platformer with a difference this is a definite candidate.

ds06Probably the most well known game, and for once it’s something that isn’t undeserving. Brain Training (don’t make me type out the whole title…) is great in it’s simplicity, the mostly black and white line art design was good choice I think. Has it improved my brain? I doubt it, at least not in anyway that other mental challenges wouldn’t. But for the time while it’s still new it is a great game. The games are interesting, and the daily test is often very challenging. Receiving written input is another great decision, although it does sometimes miss things, if you take care though it works most of the time. As does the voice recognition, although that could be because I have a pretty bland voice. In most games like this the games can get pretty boring over time, to the point where they are unplayable, but the basic calculations and the extra Sudoku are still good for an occasional challenge. But it doesn’t have the capability to hold your attention over the long term, eventually you stop and don’t start again, but for that initial period it is a lot of fun.

ds07The shift towards Open Worlds in gaming has had many results, one of these is the Animal Crossing series. A land of peace and tranquillity, fishing, bug catching and digging up fossils, who wouldn’t want to live there? There are a wide range of characters who randomly move in and out of the town, this conveys a felling of sadness that you don’t come across in games very often, losing a friend. But the silver lining is that there are also new people arriving for you to meet. Creativity also plays a big part in this game, you can go clothes shopping to customise your character as you see fit, camouflage, suits, pink tutus, it’s up to you. You aren’t just limited to the selection on offer either, there are tools that allow you to design your own. My favourite feature is probably the collecting, sadly it’s largely random, but it can be a exciting to finally get that last part of a stegosaurus to complete the model. Sadly as time goes on things become very same-y, this isn’t a game to play in large chunks, but to play a little a day, even then it can get tiring eventually. It’s greatest strength is also it’s greatest problem, real life is boring without a constant stream of new input, and unlike in real life, once things dry up you can’t get any more. Perhaps I’m just looking for a challenge, this isn’t the place to find one. Some people like expressing their individuality and this game is for them, for the rest of us it’s a fun ride while it lasts.

ds08One of the few ‘must have’ games for the DS. 42 All-Time Classics is a compilation of various card and action games, the full list of which can be found here. Whilst some of them are named slightly differently you’ll likely recognise most of them, and all of the games have a help page that has a lot of detail so it should be easy to learn any you don’t know. At first the games need to be unlocked which is a little annoying, but it didn’t take me long and now I can use it in the manner most suited to the game, a travel package. For general gaming it’s pretty good, but when you’re travelling and can’t carry a good selection of games, this one cartridge can fulfill all of your needs. The game also supports local and Internet Wi-Fi so you should be able to find someone to play with almost anywhere, the game even has a built in chat program similar to the default Pictochat, but it has many more features. Unless you have an extreme dislike of cards games this is definitely one to buy, and the fact that it mostly retails for a budget price of around £15 means that it won’t make a huge dent in your wallet.

ds09One of Nintendo’s mainstay series, Mario Kart games have always been fun, and the DS version is probably the best. It has the simplicity that made the SNES and N64 versions so great, along with the interesting track designs and annoying AI. As well as sixteen new tracks, Mario Kart DS also features select tracks from all the previous games, Banshee Boardwalk in particular lives up to the original. Also in this version are a selection of different cars, some of them are shared between characters and the ultimately don’t change much of the game. There is a great selection of multiplayer options, both online and local (although like most online games there is a select few who decide cheating is the best way to have fun…), it even has the ability to send a demo to other DS’ so even if your friends don’t have a copy you can still get in a quick race. As well as the typical races and cups, there is a mission mode where you have to achieve certain goals, such as destroy all the crates or knock a boss character off a platform, they don’t add much depth, but it’s something else to do. Battle mode also features AI players for the DS, they aren’t very bright but they’re fun enough, blowing up balloons (lives) by breathing into the mic is a lot of fun.

One of the highest quality games available on the DS, Chinatown Wars does a good job of living up to the console and PC versions whilst also remaining original. The graphics are very good, everything is 3D despite the perspective,the textures are a little washy at times, but it’s been done so that it appears more comic book-y than low quality. The lowest quality are the people, who often are just blobs. But on the odd occasion you zoom right in you can see they are actually pretty reasonable and it’s more to do with the low pixel count of the DS screen. Some people don’t like the overhead perspective, but I do, it keeps things nice and simple and is only slightly more restrictive than a camera. Plus it has the added benefit of keeping graphics processing low allowing what you do see to be of a higher quality. The story line has a nice selection of weird characters and (once it gets going) can be dealt with at your own pace. I don’t like the beginnings of GTA games, I always find them restrictive and dull, and they go on for too long, but once things got going I had a lot of fun. The cars don’t quite have the same identity as they did in Vice City, but after a while you will be able to tell apart the cars you want to focus on. Unlike the other GTA games, you can’t just get in and steal a car, you have to get it started. For some this means inserting a screwdriver into the ignition, more secure cars need you to remove a faceplate and connect two wires, the most advanced require you to complete a number stopping game. Chinatown Wars makes good use of the touch screen, yes they’re mini-games but the ones you have to do the most (stealing cars) don’t feel very repetitive. A note to any parents reading this, the game is 18 rated, so don’t buy it for your seven year old okay?

ds11Zelda, the marmite of the gaming world. You either love it or you hate it…or you think it’s okay. If you hated the previous games then you can stop reading here, it’s unlikely you’ll feel any different about this latest game. You know what to expect with the Zelda series, it’s proably why it’s done so well. Oh there are differences, new features, minor tweaks and adjustments, but ultimately thy’re very similar. Phantom Hourglass however does that little bit extra to stand out from the crowd, this is one of the best examples of using all the features the DS has to offer, I can’t think of anything not used, and not used well. This game follows the same story line of Wind Waker, the game starting out with the most amazing story boards bringing anyone unfamiliar (as I was) up-to-date with what happened previously. The game can be played without ever touching the buttons, everything can be controlled with the stylus. The best use is with the maps, when in a dungeon the maps stays on the top screen, touching the map button howver brings it down to the touch screen allowing you to draw on it. This allows you to mark out passages and items, orders to push buttons and general directions. Whilst this is of great use to you when you’re playing, you can also load up a previous game and use the maps in a new one. A fair amount of your time in the game will be spent on the high seas, and a similar feature to the maps is used, allowing you to plot a course for the ship to follow, lots of fun. The main problem people have with the game revolves around a temple you have to visit multiple times throughout a game, I personally didn’t find this much of a problem but you might, my tip would be to make good use of the map. Travelling through the same section again and again is much easier when you know exactly what to do to move along. I would recommend this game to anyone, unless you hate the Zelda series (in which case why are you still reading?) I expect you would enjoy it a lot. One of the true ‘must haves’.

ds12BUY THIS GAME, that is all…

What you want more? Okay then, this is probably my most favourite game on the DS. It’s a close run thing, but originality wins it. Before I carry one, I should just say that you shouldn’t expect to complete this game, I haven’t. I’m on the last level and it is just too much for me, the Wii versions allow you to change the difficulty but this one is set, and set high. This game has Harvest Moon Syndrome, that is it’s an idea you wouldn’t think would work as well as it does. You play a young surgeon starting out at a new hospital, and it’s your job to treat the patients within, from removing broken glass, to removing tumours, to fighting new and dangerous diseases. I don’t want to spoil the story, but suffice as to say it could easily have been written by American Soap writers. The mechanics behind the operations are brilliant, so brilliant that they hardly change between this and the two Wii sequels. Down the sides is a selection of equipment for all occasions, without being to specialised. Partly this is helped by the new treatments available (it’s set in the near future), for example the special antibiotic gel that can heal small wounds and knit new tissue into place within seconds, but you don’t have to worry about it getting too strange, all the basics are there as well from scalpels to sucky tubes like the dentist sticks in your mouth. After playing this game it’s surprising it’s never been done before, or since. Surgeons who play games are supposedly better at surgery, so why not the other way round? Surgery contains all the elements of a good game, a challenge, puzzles to solve, constrictions, and dead ends to avoid, literally. DS vs. Wii I would have to go with the DS, nothing beats the feeling of actually holding the stylus.

Pictures from Amazon UK and Game.

2 Comments »

  • Biddenden_Sue said:

    That was a very enjoyable read. Thanks!

    So what do you have against Dr. Kawashima, anyway? ;-)

  • M_the_C (author) said:

    So what do you have against Dr. Kawashima, anyway? ;-)

    He ran over my cat.

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