Impressions of some DS games

2008-02-16

in Geek stuff

After about a month with a Nintendo DS, I feel capable of commenting on a few of the games, for the benefit of anyone who already has this excellent system or is considering buying one. For about $150, you can get a DS, a plug-in mod chip that lets you run downloaded software, and a micro-SD card to store that software on.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: I was a big fan of A Link to the Past on the SNES, but never enjoyed any of the 3D Zelda games for other systems. The type of puzzles and combat in Zelda are just better suited to a 2D environment. As such, this game is a welcome return to that tradition. It also makes brilliant use of the distinctive hardware of the DS: almost completely (and very intuitively and engagingly) controlled using the touchscreen. Using the boomerang has never been so much fun. Like all Zelda games, it includes some dungeons too frustrating to finish without a walkthrough guide. Recommended strongly.

New Super Mario Bros. A good 2D platform game, in the spirit of Super Mario 3 and Super Mario World. Yoshi and flying are gone and some new powerups have been added. Basically what you would expect from a Mario game: recommended.

Metroid Prime Hunters: Frustrating to the point of being unplayable. 3D first person shooters just don’t work on this console. Get a SNES emulator and play Super Metroid instead.

Mario Kart DS: Exactly what you would expect from Mario Kart – virtually identical to every version on every platform since the NES. Recommended.

Advance Wars: Dual Strike: Turn-based strategy game with a fairly steep learning curve. While quite addictive, the game can be very frustrating if you haven’t cottoned on to the appropriate way to deal with any particular level. The dialogue is annoying and interminable, the soundtrack is a single track looped indefinitely, but the game is addictive and fun overall. There is also some nice artwork. Recommended.

Worms Open Warfare: Poorly adapted to the DS, based on how Worms is fundamentally horizontal and the DS screens are stacked vertically. The least fun version of Worms I have played on any platform.

Overall, I am really impressed with what the DS delivers for $100. I was initially attracted to the WiFi capability and possible use as a web browser and IM client. While possible, neither of those activities works well on this hardware. The absence of a keyboard makes both too frustrating, though the DS makes a decent RSS reader. Those shortfalls, however, are more than made up for by the high quality of the hardware and game design. Particularly for people with slow computers and no televisions, the DS is a gaming option to consider.

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