Nintendo has undoubtedly ruled the handheld console market with an iron first since the release of the Nintendo DS in 2004, quelling any advances by the PlayStation Portable with entertaining titles that are not taxing on the wallet either. However, interest in the handheld console market has become faint over the last year due to a boom in mobile gaming and a less than spectacular launch of the Nintendo 3DS.
Nevertheless, this does does not mean that there haven’t been any good game releases in 2011 for the Nintendo DS, which has rightfully earned the title of the best selling handheld console of all time, even beating the Nintendo Gameboy. Here’s a list of the top Nintendo DS games released in 2011 that gamers can enjoy on their beloved Nintendo DS consoles on the go.
Top Nintendo DS Games #1. Radiant Historia ($29.99)
Atlus, the makers of the critically acclaimed Shin Megami Tensei series have outdone themselves yet again with a top Nintendo DS game called Radiant Historia, a unique role-playing game with a creative and well thought out combat system and an entirely new concept of a tried and true element in RPG games: time-travel. The game’s plot is driven by strong characterization which keeps the player entertained throughout.
Radiant Historia’s new take on time travel challenges you to use your skills instead of just being a plot element as in most RPGs. The protagonist faces a break in history that splits the timeline into two parallel universes and the goal is to fix history and rewrite it by finding the reason for the break in the space-time continuum. Players have to complete various tasks as they progress towards the main storyline and sometimes players are faced with events that require crucial decisions, some of which may lead to the destruction of the world. There is also a plethora of side quests and unlockables that may change the ending of the game and keep the player fairly busy and entertained.
The magical guardians of the book, which enables your time-traveling shenanigans, offer advice whenever you hit a roadblock and the main menu has a comprehensive chart describing every event in the alternate timelines, which helps you in fixing the timeline. Chances for exploration, as with most story-driven linear RPG titles, are severely limited, not that it’s a bad thing because it streamlines the whole experience and lets the players focus on the tasks at hand. A little flaw is the limited area of operation, however, as you only get to explore a few areas which leads to a fair bit of back tracking. The combat in this top Nintendo DS game is fluid, entertaining and constantly keeps you on your feet with a new grid-based system focused on both strategy and action. Players get awarded experience points based on combos as well in addition to the normal grind of defeating enemies.
Presentation in the game is something to behold and it is quite astounding that the aging console can still produce such detailed character sprites, colorful environments, and some very elaborate cut scenes. This atmosphere is only strengthened by a powerful orchestral soundtrack in action sequences and important moment of the game, while the other parts of the game are mostly dominated by ambient sounds sometimes layered under just plain old good music.
Radiant Historia will take about 30 hours to finish and might take even longer if you choose to finish all the side quests, taking you on an overall fun, entertaining and intriguing journey that will not only satisfy, but make a place for itself in your history. It definitely takes its place as one of the top Nintendo DS games there is.
Top Nintendo DS Games #2. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective ($29.99)
This brilliant game comes from the mind of Shu Takumi, the creator of the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series. The game starts with an interesting plot twist — your character named Sissel is dead — not by any means something new in the story of a game, but the unique element is what follows. Instead of retracing the steps that led to your death like in most games dealing with the death of the protagonist, you are charged with finding out why you were killed and save some more victims along the way in your current state – as a spirit.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective starts off with the main character in a junkyard as a spirit with no memories and another ghost informs him about his two ghostly abilities – first, you can move between objects and interact with them, and second, you can go back in time to four minutes before the death of any nearby person. You then start on your journey to find out your identity and solve your own own murder, preventing others along the way, all the while using these handy abilities.
In each chapter of this top Nintendo DS game, the player has to navigate cluttered environments by first exploring them and then use the four-minute time reversal to make the changes needed to prevent the deaths of people you meet in your quest to solving the mystery of your murder. Ghost Trick has a fair bit of dialogue in it for a puzzle game and a deep and complex story line to boot, and all that with a game that starts of with a dead person, that is worthy of a gold right there in my opinion. All the characters in the games are showy, outrageous and have their own quirks; and each has a unique physical presence with some of the best 2D animation seen in recent memory.
The game is fairly linear though and there is only one way to solve a puzzle, so you don’t get many chances to exhibit flexibility. Still, the game comes off strong due to its well-written and directed story and great presentation, all of which make you want to play the game multiple times just to experience the fun all over again. All in all, this is one top Nintendo DS game you should pick up even if you are dead.
Top Nintendo DS Games #3. Okamiden ($29.99)
Okamiden is an indirect sequel to the PlayStation 2 and Wii hit title Okami, and as such, deserved the hype that preceded its release. First off, I can safely say that fans of the first game will definitely not be disappointed as the game retains the brilliant art style from the previous game, although it’s a bit of a downgrade on the Nintendo DS hardware, along with an exciting and intriguing story and balanced gameplay that will keep you coming back for more.
Chibiterasu, the protagonist and the son of a wolf goddess, was born with powers that let him summon elements and control the environment with the celestial paint brush; and that in turn allows players to interact with the game directly, constantly drawing stuff on the screen to perform actions. The game about breathing life into a corrupted land and restoring the balance of things as the cute and adorable Chibiterasu chases away the evil demons that litter the world. Once you start playing the game, you will be awestruck by the beauty that surrounds you, and this graphical beauty entices you into exploring every nook and cranny of the world.
The gameplay lacks the polished feel of the original game due to clunky controls, but the puzzle elements in the game along with the vibrant and beautiful world are its saving grace. It also helps that Okamiden produces a gorgeous and enticing world that sucks you into the game. One thing that will strike you is the vulnerability of Chibiterasu, who is not as powerful as his mother Amaterasu from Okami, and is just a wolf cub. You team up with various companions along the way in order to decide the fate of the world.
Using the celestial brush is somewhat like the previous games as the gameplay pauses while you use the screen to draw the tool you desire or slash enemies. The game just manages to reach the level of Okami, but does not exceed it because of too many similarities with the original. However, despite some lacking elements and similarities with the original game, it is still a great and beautiful game, which uses its artful presentation to lure you into this world and forces you to care about the events and characters. A must-play for all fans who want to delve deeper into the mythology of Okami and a great starting game for those who just want to have a good time.
Overall, if I had to chose, I would go for Radiant Historia out of these games just because of the bang for the buck you get out of the game due to its sheer size and replay value, and not because of my predisposition toward RPG games. Ghost Trick would be the second obvious choice due to its quirky storyline and characters and enticing gameplay. Meanwhile, Okamiden would be the way to go for fans of adventure games and of the first game.
Which Nintendo DS games do you think have stood above the pack so far in 2011? Which of these games have you played and liked? Let us know in the comments.
Image by: fritzon