The Nintendo DS is a console I hold near and dear to my heart. Not only do I have so many fond memories playing with my brother and sister with the system, the Nintendo DS was the final gift I received from my grandmother before her passing. She has terminal cancer and the last gift she got for us all before her time had come was a Nintendo DS for each of us. She knew how much we loved gaming and she was happy to support our passions and was always a big proponent that what’s fun is good.
With the Nintendo DS I got a few games; Nintendogs, Super Mario 64 DS, and Bomberman DS. The latter of which became the go to game for me and my siblings. We spent hours and hours blowing each other up, it was us against the COMs but it felt like us against the world. We use to pretend that we were playing online against people around the world, even though the game wasn’t online. We would pinpoint one of the COMs and decide what type of player they were and what type of person, and we would work together to take them out. Those memories of playing that game are a big part of why I am so excited for the upcoming Super Bomberman R on the Nintendo Switch.
As the years went on those hours spent playing Bomberman became further and further away, my relationship with my sister became fractured and those innocent times seem like another lifetime ago. Our lives have simply gone on different directions and the three of us have all taken different roads in life, but I can always think back to those simpler times when we all bonded over our grandmother’s final gift. I miss those days.
Remember when flip screens were all the rage? When phones could be snapped open in a showing of bravado, cool and disregard for hinge integrity? Good times. Times that spawned the new form of Nintendo handheld devices. However, where the Game Boy Advance SP was satisfied with a flip design, Nintendo decided that this could be amplified a touch, by adding a second screen. Enter the Nintendo Dual Screen aka the DS.
Yet another of Nintendo’s experimental gameplay devices, the DS brought to the world the secondary touchscreen. Interesting in premise and almost immediately forgotten in favour of simply pressing buttons, like most gimmicks. So, in order to specifically discuss the intricacies of this particular console, I feel I should discuss one of my most touch screen heavy gaming escapades: Pokemon Ranger.
For those who are unaware, Ranger is a series that thought capturing Pokemon was a touch too aggressive and not nearly kinetic enough. Thus, the Pokemon of the Fiore region are befriended via the Capture Styler. Put in real world terms, you have to draw a lot of circles around Pokemon really fast.
Though odd in concept, I really enjoyed the Ranger franchise. Taking a divergence from the usual Trainer Gym trek, Ranger allowed you to play as a preservation expert with a very different set of goals in mind. Sure you still saved the world, but the manner in which you did was just so different from the usual Pokemon fare. With two sequels that expanded on the premise, the games worked on their flaws and whittled down the tedium of the initial outing by altering the capture system. Rather than having to perform a preset amount of unbroken circles, Pokemon were given health bars that slowly degraded after a period of inaction. And boy how I loved that change. Seriously, you try circling a Steelix seven times in a row without being attacked or touching its body. Have you seen a Steelix recently? Those guys are huge…and made of metal. Steel, I think.
Jump Super Stars
The Nintendo DS had quite the lineup of games. Unfortunately, for us living outside of Japan, a lot of what would be considered the best titles never made it to local shores meaning that it would take a fair bit of importing to build a golden collection. Being young and without employment meant that my purchases were actually at the discretion of my Mother who, even to this day, is unable to grasp anything related to the internet. Thankfully I am now a grown man with a full-time job and a debit card that allows me to waste my hard-earned money anywhere across the globe, back then however…it was far more difficult.
Wondering Sydney City one fine day I came across an independent retailer that just so happened to sell imported Japanese video games and related products. Reaching the section of the store that housed Nintendo DS games I noticed a particularly intriguing title by the name Jump Super Stars. The front cover featured childhood heroes like Dragon Ball Z‘s Goku, Yu-Gi-Oh!‘s Yugi Muto, and Naruto‘s…Naruto. I was entranced! “What is this game?!” I questioned internally before glancing at its $120 price tag and immediately recoiling into myself. “I’ll have to work my magic!”, I said, concocting a plan to receive an “early birthday present”; a tactic used by children worldwide to get what they wanted immediately without having to put in more work than it was worth, and thus…Jump Super Stars was mine!
This game, like a mix between Super Smash Brothers and any given issue of Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump, had me captivated day and night! All in Japanese, I would search the internet for countless hours searching for more in-depth walkthrough guides so as to aid me on my journey through the combined worlds of Shonen Jump Manga. One Piece, Bleach, Shaman King, Hunter X Hunter, Katekyo Hitman Reborn, Ultimate Muscle, Buso Renkin, the list goes on! Jump Super Stars was like a dream for me! A fever dream of sorts that transported me into a land filled with the collective imagination’s strongest and most virtuous warriors. Of course, the game wasn’t perfect, in fact, the mechanics were clunky and most characters were hard to use, but the point was not how well it played but what it made me feel. Since then a second game has been released titled Jump Ultimate Stars, and you can bet your bottom dollar that I did everything in my power to get my hands on a copy. Building upon the foundations of the first title, Jump Ultimate Stars used every ounce of the Nintendo DS’ power to create a game, honestly, unlike any other, and if there’s one (or two) titles that I would consider to be my personal favourite for the Nintendo DS it would have to be them.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey
Shin Megami Tensei is more popular now than it has ever been in the last 25 years, and that’s largely due to the appeal of its spin-off Persona franchise and even the critical and commercial acclaim of Shin Megami Tensei IV (and its sequel Apocalypse) on the 3DS. Before it was cool to like Shin Megami Tensei, this series was a hidden gem and no release in this massive franchise is a true hidden gem quite like Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey.
I need to go on a tangent and say that the DS was an absolute haven for RPGs, much like the SNES and PlayStation before it, and it was also arguably the golden era for developer Atlus. The DS was a canvas that gave Atlus free reign to exercise their creative freedom, and really experiment with some cool and unique ideas. A lot of these RPGs have since become rare and expensive, but they are still really worth digging into, such as The Dark Spire, Izuna the Unemployed Ninja, Radiant Historia, and many more.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey was released in English but only in North America. I didn’t hesitate to order my copy because quite frankly I got sick to death of all the Persona 4 nonsense, and was yearning for a more serious Shin Megami Tensei experience. Strange Journey did just that, offering a mature and haunting role playing adventure where a United Nations task force steps into this strange void which turns out to be a Demonic Hell of sorts. At the time it was almost refreshing to play a Japanese RPG where the cast didn’t comprise of overtly talented pre-teens. Persona may have introduced me to Shin Megami Tensei but Strange Journey gave me my first true and authentic experience. Even now, it still stands as among the richest Japanese RPGs to have ever come out of Japan. I’ve enjoyed recent offerings and look forward to the future, but Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey to me will always remain the best in the series, and the one game that truly encapsulates everything about the 25 year old franchise.
The World Ends With You
I didn’t think too much of the DS at the time of its launch. My friends brother had the giant grey rectangle, so I was able to give it a go then. It was a novel idea and, having no knowledge of the Game Boy Advance SP, I was amused about the backlight (and of course Pictochat). On this I played Nintendogs. I played with a little cute yellow dog, then a cute brown dog. I walked it, fed it, I cleaned it, and I brushed it. That damn dog was a brother to me, and then the unthinkable happened… I got bored. At this point I returned the console into the arms of the small, crying child that owned it and continued on with my life.
Fast forward to January 2007. The Wii was out and I had just finished Red Steel and Tuwiright Princessu, but that is for the next article. It was close to my birthday and I needed something for people to buy me because I am important, so I was wondering around when I saw the DS Lite. I knew that I must have it, mostly in part because I am a man child, even at the age of 13, and made it so. That was set in motion but I also saw something in those dark 2017 days of January and that was located in a magazine called NGamer. There was a one paragraph preview for a game called ‘it’s a wonderful world’ boasting that I have seven days to live. It seemed interesting to me, so I made a mental note of it, then completely forgot it existed… Thanks brain.
Now that I had my own DS I was playing it relentlessly, Phoenix wright, Pokémon, Advance Wars: Duel strike, Castlevania, the list goes on. I was happy in my joy. Until a set of events led me to my seediest video game buy in history. My Uncle mentioned that he had seen a game in one of the stores in Sydney that he had not seen before. Something called The World Ends With You. I (not realising it at the time) had never heard of the title but it sounded cool and I wanted it. However, my uncle didn’t buy it and just give it to me, something about “not buying games left and right, I have bills to bay Jake, they’re coming for my legs, Oh god! Call the police, somebody help…” Adults are weird.
Anyway around September-ish the deal was done. I was taken to a back alley in Sydney to a staircase. I turned to my uncle and he handed me $100 and a nod saying “just go in and ask for it”. I nodded back and walked up the stairs, and the other stairs, and the other stairs, until I reached an odd lobby. It was a hallway with four adjacent doors. The only thing signifying its ‘Game Store’ status was a small A4 sign. I walked into a store that could only have been as big as a lounge room and shuffled to the counter. I placed the money on the counter and asked for the game. The man at the counter then said something that still, to this day, chills me to my core. He said “sure thing buddy, did you want game insurance on that?”… Haunting. With game in hand I ran (read: slowly shambled) back down the stairs and back to the safety of my home to play the game.
How was the game you ask? Amazing, un-ironically one of my favourite games of all time. What are you doing reading this? Go play The World Ends With You. You have eBay now so you don’t have to nearly get stab murdered to buy it. Go on, I’ll wait. TWEWY is a work of art and all of those that haven’t played it are worse of for it.