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Title: Darkstar's Top Ten Obscure DS Games to Watch out for First Half 2008
Posted: January 30, 2008 (05:57 PM)
IGN’s Nintendo Team recently came out with an opinion list of Nintendo DS games to look out for in 2008. Not wishing to be outdone personally, I have come up with my own list of Nintendo DS games to look out for that IGN has listed as tentatively coming out in the first half of 2008. This means it is listed as being the first half of 2008, not ‘TBA’ or “Fall 2008” or “2009”.

But wait! I could just slap down two handfuls of major first and third-party games, and call it a list. Instead, following are ten games that will probably pass under your radar, due either to obscurity, or because all of them are either original IPs or new iterations in series that have not seen a North American release in at least three years. It is unlikely that every one of these games will turn out to be good; however, every game looks to have the potential to be good. If I can convince even one person to look into one of these games and buy it (if it turns out to be decent), then I have done my job.

#10: Eco-Creatures: Save the Forest
Developer: Lightweight Co. Ltd., Headlock Corp.

Since the Nintendo DS was announced, people were hoping for two genres to be revolutionized on the system: First-Person Shooters and Real-Time Strategy games. Both genres made sense on the stylus-controlled touch screen. Yet to this day, there are very few games populating either, with Metroid Prime Hunters being the only notable FPS. Meanwhile, in the RTS side, starting with Taito’s Lost Magic and ending with Square-Enix’s Revenant Wings, nothing was as groundbreaking as was hoped. Which is disappointing, because having played Bits Studio’s Warlocked for the Gameboy COLOR, I know exactly that a decent RTS can be done on handhelds, even without touch-screen controls (and with, it should be even better).

My belief is that in order to try finding something that works, developers need to abandon all the complex stuff for awhile, and focus on trying to find a more simple formula with DS RTSes before trying to build up. Cue Lightweight and Headlock’s Eco-Creatures. While a feel-good ‘save the environment’ story is groanworthy, ignore it and the game actually looks like it might be decent. While you can manage resources, build stuff, train new units and so on, the game looks mainly to focus on the attacking and strategic components, much like Lost Magic originally did. This breath of fresh air should hopefully renew the RTS interest. A demo is also being released at Nintendo DS stations in North America fairly soon, so if you find one, try it.

#9: Ninja Reflex
Developer: Sanzaru Games

This is one of two exceptions I make on this list as to publishers, as the game is being published by Electronics Art. However, the game itself looks to be something likely to be passed over, if not for its concept. Ninja Reflex is, in fact, a collection of mini-games. From what little has been released on this game, it looks to test your skills and reflexes with a series of mini-games designed to test reaction times and other physical and mental requirements to be a ninja. Of course, the game could very much end up sucking as has come to be expected of many games that EA begins to publish, but it may also buck a trend with mini-game collections and offer something new, fresh and worthwhile.

#8 Drone Tactics
Developer: Success

Drone Tactics is a new SRPG offering by Success, being published by Atlus, which sees a group of humans who have established a telepathic link with insects that rule over a faraway planet. Seriously. In any case, the insects need help repulsing a new tribe that has emerged, which is capable of transforming into robotic ‘drones’. Resist the urge to make Transformers jokes here. You take control of the peaceful insect tribes as you try to repulse the Black Swarm. The main innovation here is that you get Battle Cards that you can employ for various effects, either before a battle begins, or during the actual battle to help you overwhelm enemy forces. Comparisons should not be made to Advance Wars, but rather to Fire Emblem; every unit that you bring into a battle is all that you will have for the fight, the actual fighting operates on a triangle system of paper-rock-scissors, and each drone unit can be equipped with various new stuff. If you are an SRPG fan in the vein of Fire Emblem (and even if you just like Advance Wars), this should be a decent game to check out. The only real problem that has popped up so far is that previews state the game to be difficult, even in Easy Mode.

#7: Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles
Developer: Arc System Works

What originally began with Portpia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken way back in 1985 has exploded into a large offering of detective mysteries. Hotel Dusk was the first major game on the Nintendo DS out of this genre to be localized and brought to American shores, and it was a decent success. Coupled with the recent reemergence of text-adventure games on the DS (Phoenix Wright, I am looking at you), and it only makes sense for Aksys Games to bring over Tantei Jinguuji Saburo DS, the DS release of one such series that started on the Famicom in Japan. Casuals should beware, however: unlike the two aforementioned DS titles/series, Jake Hunter is a lot more straight-up text adventure. Nevertheless, from the lone interview given on the game so far, it looks like it will be worth a check. Now if only Suda 51 would give us a “The Silver Case” release date…

#6: Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer
Developer: Chunsoft

Remember the Pokemon Mysterious Dungeon games? Yeah? While the Pokemon license was obviously just there to sell copies, the actual game itself was fairly decent in its dungeon-crawling glory. In between those two games and its next set of MD games, Chunsoft is releasing yet another dungeon-crawler. Shiren the Wanderer is a series that with an extended history across several platforms in Japan, but until now, it has never seen an actual release in North America. IGN has already released a preview of the game, and Nintendo Power has also done an extensive hands on of the game in the same issue as the DS Sonic RPG, so if you liked the Mysterious Dungeon games, then look for this to tide you over until Explorers of Time/Darkness. Or just look for it.

#5: Insecticide
Developer: Crackpot Entertainment

Insecticide seems to be one of those quirky titles that may turn out to be a bit too weird for some folks, but should also be good for a look at. IGN already has a preview up for the game. You play the role of an insect in an insect-dominated world whom goes around shooting stuff up. Your agent also has to investigate murder mysteries, and coupled with what seems to be turning into a darker-themed story, Crackpot Entertainment may have a critical success on their hand. Let us just hope that the developers do not focus solely on the PC version and let the DS game turn to crap.

#4: Project Exile
Developer: Studio Archcraft

With the release of the Nintendo DS, a number of Canadian indie development studios jumped aboard. While some of them will probably never end up releasing any material, Montreal’s Studio Archcraft has labored; their first release, originally titled Black Sigil, also looks to be their magna opus. Originally intended to be released on the GBA, the decision was made to put it on the DS once time began to run out for it to be business-wise to release it on the DS. Project Exile is set in a fantasy background, with its main character a lad who is unable to use magic, in a land where everyone is able to use magic. The battle system appears to be a cross between Chrono Trigger and other RPG systems, while the graphical style definitely draws on late SNES-era RPGs, especially those of the former Squaresoft.

There is not that much material actually released on Project Exile. However, of what is there (an interview and a video) is enough to inspire a great amount of interest, and that is exactly what the two items did when first shown in summer 2006. It should be interesting to see what improvements have been made since then, and what new information will be released on the game in the following months. The crab boss shown also seems to be eerily prescient of the “Massive Damage” meme that seems to have spread over the internet.

#3: Rondo of Swords
Developer: Success

Blah blah blah a king dies, his kingdom plunges into chaos, another kingdom invades. We have all heard it countless times before. From what little material has been shown to us as of yet, the battle system appears to integrate the ‘Tales of’ gameplay into your standard SRPG fare. We will see how that turns out. You can also send individual characters on quests to help level them up, as is being seen in a lot of SRPGs these days. In fact, little information has been released so far on the game, and outside of playing the Japanese release, I cannot offer anymore information than that. However, the game is being published by Atlus, who got the ball rolling on bringing Luminous Arc over, and that was a fabulous game. If they get another good hit again, it is always good news for those of us who adore our fantasy-setting strategy RPG games.

#2: The World Ends With You
Developer: Square-Enix

And this is the other exception on the list to major developers, as The World Ends With You, despite being Squeenix developed, looks to be passed over by the majority of gamers. The storyline takes a few cues from Death Note; you play as a guy who is given an object that allows him to see the thoughts of other people. He has to defeat the manifestations of people’s negative thoughts, called noise, or else he will be erased from existence, in a pseudo-version of The Running Man. All this is at the behest of the Shinigami, who have organized a number of people into this event, which they call the Shinigami name. The battle system also looks to be unique, as you can control your main character on the bottom screen via the stylus, while on the top screen you can have one of three other people, and operate them at the same time with the D-Pad. Hopefully this battle system is intuitive enough to use, and that the game does not become so cheap as to try and overwhelm you with the two different inputs at once. You can also customize your characters, and so on; in other words, worth a look into. The only fault I have so far is that this game is being developed by the same guys who did Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and that was a definite crapfest.

And for #1…

Developer: Destineer

From the developers of such DS hits as WordJong and John Deere: Harvest in the Heartland comes a new virtual pet simulator looking to redefines the entire experience. After the critical success of Ubisoft’s not-really-whored-out “Petz” series, Destineer is set to make a landmark title in the world of virtual pet games. Look out for this title, as it is sure to make you go “Wow” in a good way.





Naw, I am just ****ing you.


#1: Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Developer: Level 5

Seriously. Everything points to this being a sleeper hit. Its developer is Level 5, best known for Dark Cloud and 2, Rogue Galaxy, Jeanne d’Arc and Dragon Quest VIII, the latter four titles all being of very good quality. The Japanese release sold over 500,000 copies. The game itself is very nifty; Professor Layton is a ad-hoc detective who, with his assistant Luke visits a charming out-of-the-way village en lieu of investigating the mysterious inheritance of a billionaire who had died months previously. Not only does the game promise to be engaging plot-wise with its text-heavy premise, but it also offers up literally hundreds of puzzles relating in to the storyline. Most of the puzzles are adaptations of puzzles created by Chiba University Professor Akira Tago, who designed them to be mentally stimulating. Preview puzzles shown in Nintendo Power have already looked good, so the full game should be an interesting experience to watch out for.


Garfield Gets Real
Developer: PAWS

Yeah, laugh if you want. There are dozens of comments that I could think of that somebody might be tempted to post in response to this, but refrain from doing so. The first two Garfield games for the Nintendo DS were surprisingly decent platformers, if not remarkable and good (and that is why this is a bonus, being only the second release on the list with a predecessor coming out less than four years ago). One thing that makes its critical success unpredictable is its development by a new developer (A Tale of Two Kitties and Nightmare both had different developers), so there is very much the possibility of a miss. The storyline also looks like it could be OK – Garfield, not content with his comic strip, breaks out of it into the real world, only to end up having to stop his comic from being cancelled. If PAWS can create another satisfying platformer and poke fun at the quality of the actual strip at the same time, I am game.

Mazes of Fate DS
Developer: Signature Devices, Inc.

The original Mazes of Fate for the GBA was a dungeon-crawler whose old-school influences obviously harkened back to the early 90s and late 80s. While its technical prowess was nothing too impressive, the gameplay was very much a solid experience (at least for those who like dungeon crawlers). The dungeons were massive with their dead-end goodiness. Monsters would not replenish until you left and reentered a dungeon, so you would have all the time in the world after you killed all the foes on a floor to figure out the puzzles. There were sidequests galore. For those who were not hardcore enough to be able to plow straight through a d-c intense experience, there was always stuff in the world above the dungeons to be done. With Mazes of Fate, hopefully SD can provide a more wowing experience graphically, and fix some of the flaws that people had with the first, such as accuracy rates.

As a side note, ‘support’ means ‘buy’. It does NOT mean ‘download’, although it can mean ‘download to see if I like the game and then buy it if I do to support the developers’. Once again, I stress that this is a list of games that I think have potential, and not necessarily ones that I believe will turn out to be good. Nevertheless, if you are serious about trying to find the diamond in the rough of Nintendo DS games not developed/published by a big-name third party or Nintendo, this list should be a good start for investigating the what is new in the first half of 2008.

~Darkstar Ripclaw

Wish Upon a Darkstar

woodhouseUser: woodhouse
Posted: February 01, 2008 (03:35 PM)
I'm interested in Professor Layton, Rondo of Swords, Insecticide, and Jake Hunter. Don't remember hearing about Project Exile before, so I might find out more about that.

darkstarripclawUser: darkstarripclaw
Posted: February 01, 2008 (10:07 PM)
The guys behind Project Exile (which is like, an 8-man team I think) released that video back in summer 2006, and it garnered a fair amount of hype over the game. The hype died down since, but I imagine it will reemerge once people connect this and that.

P.S. Check your actual email if you have not already, please.

~Darkstar Ripclaw

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