Touch It, Baby!
Rub, touch, stroke and blow to your heart's content! No, it isn't the latest hentai making its rounds...it's the Nintendo DS!
The holidays are here and Nintendo has a new portable! Sure, they might not be using Gameboy "something" in association with their latest handheld, but the big N's dual screened, PDA hybrid is sure to be one of the holiday's biggest sellers. And why not? It plays Gameboy Advance games just like its SP brethren and it comes backlit, so that it can be taken pretty much anywhere. Yet what makes the Nintendo DS unique is the ease at which so many different technologies meld together in this single device.
Touch screen gaming is not just a mere selling point; it's an evolutionary leap that adds so much more interaction with the games. Take Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt, the demo that comes the system. The game can be configured so that the player can use the stylus to fire pinpoint accurate shots at enemies with just a tap of the screen. The system even comes with a strap that has a nub that can be placed on the thumb so that a gamer can tap the screen without fear of getting it smudged with fingerprints.
The system also has a built in microphone, although the only launch title to make use of this feature is SEGA's Feel the Magic XY/XX, a game similar to WarioWare. This game gives players the opportunity to blow out candles, propel a sailboat and even call out to your girlfriend from across a noisy park. This particular game also allows for certain secrets to be unlocked if the game is loaded with another of SEGA's Gameboy Advance titles in the system.
The Nintendo DS also comes pre-loaded with a wireless program entitled PictoChat that supports up to sixteen people in a chat room at once. The chat room is primarily designed with English and Japanese languages in mind, but it has other language characters and emoticons built in as well. The part that makes PictoChat unique is the ability to draw in the area given and then send it to any of the other users in the chat room. They can in turn take what you have drawn, add their own touches and then shoot it back to you.
The console also comes with a limited battery charge and can be played briefly right out of the box before having to be recharged with the included AC adapter. That said, it might be worth pointing out a few of the unique features of some of the launch titles we have had the pleasure of trying out.
Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt demo
Once the initial shock wears off of seeing how much smaller a DS game is compared to that of a GBA cartridge, the first thing many new DS owners are sure to do is boot up First Hunt. It is a nice distraction, but does not have much to offer other than a few awkward timed missions ranging from those requiring Samus to clear a room of enemies before moving on or those where she must race against the clock in her morph ball form.
What is troubling is that gamers have to specify which control set-up they would like to use as the default; one mode limits players' use of the touch screen to just switching in and out of morph ball mode. By changing the screen set-up, players can use the touch screen to fire, but successful jumping and turning is something that will hopefully be tweaked when the full game comes out next year.
Super Mario 64 DS
Much more than a straight port, the dual-screened Mario takes everything that made the Nintendo 64 classic and adds more stars and the chance to play as Yoshi, Luigi and Wario. Camera controls are touchy without analog, making specific jumps spotty at times, but the overall enjoyment is still the same as it was when the game first came out all those years ago.
The biggest difference gamers might notice over the original is that the game begins with Yoshi having to find Mario before he can be used as a character. This change actually adds a different dynamic to the game in that Yoshi has inherently different traits to bring to the table, such as his ability to devour enemies and to jump farther.
The game does come equipped with the ability for wireless multiplayer. While it does take a while to load, the frenzied action from going head to head against friends for the most stars is well worth trying out at least once.
The Urbs: Sims in the City
A traditional Sims game this is not, and yet, it is so much more at the same time. You begin by creating your own fully customizable avatar and answering a few questions to determine your personality type, before being thrown atop of a building to clean up bird droppings. From there, the rest is up to you. Try to find an apartment or get yourself arrested and live at the jail. The Urbs makes for the perfect interactive sim for wasting away those boring lunch breaks.
Feel the Magic XY/XX
Quite possibly the most original of the entire North American launch line-up, SEGA's Feel the Magic is a game that offers the same addictive micro-game play that made WarioWare, Inc. so much fun, but also adds a stylized plot the package. You are literally this blue-bearded guy trying to win the heart of the girl of his dreams. And oh boy, once they finally start going out, things really hit the fan. The girl gets kidnapped and you have to rescue her. You both get stranded on a tropical island, and snakes and plants try to eat you. You get the picture.
Gameplay is fairly simple, and mission objectives for each mini-game are outlined right before it begins by the Rub Rabbits, guys with bunny ears that are helping the main character to get the girl. Missions could be as simple as trying to hold your girlfriend's hand while you walk in a bee-infested park to swatting scorpions off her back!
Truly, Feel the Magic is the underdog of the launch titles as its quirky nature is sure to be overlooked. Good thing SEGA went for sex appeal with its babetastic cover!
Madden NFL, Asphalt Urban GT and Spider-Man 2 were also part of the initial launch line-up, but most of those seem to be mere attempts at shovelware than the "must-have" DS title. Of the upcoming titles coming out, Nintendo's own WarioWare Touched! and UbiSoft's Americanized dating sim, Sprung seem to be a few of the major titles to keep an eye out for until the latest Mario Kart and the intriguing 2D Super Mario Bros. title hits the system.