Friday, April 27, 2012

Five DS Games from 2011 That Nobody Played…

…That You Should Totally Try Out In 2012.


Last year, Nintendo launched the 3DS – a system which, after a rocky start, soon exerted itself as a worthy successor to arguably Nintendo’s greatest handheld console ever. Sure, the newfangled machine is a little light on software options, and Nintendo may still be losing a gargantuan amount of money on the endeavor, but who cares? What really matters is that there are a ton of great games already on the system, and apparently a bajillion gazillion more awesome ones on the horizon. By the end of 2011, you were probably a happy lad or lass if you owned a 3DS – but what about those of us that were still clinging on to our DS units?

Yes, there were quite a few high-profile DS releases in 2011, from the long-awaited “Okamiden” to “Pokemon White, Black, Indigo, Tree Bark Orange and Mild Cheddar Yellow.” That said, there were quite a few under-the-radar releases that came out for the DS last year that, seemingly, nobody ever played – a tragedy, really, since there were five extremely underrated titles that were released in 2011 that were downright fantastic additions to the console’s library.

So, how come nobody ever played these games, you may be asking? Well, that’s primarily because nobody ever heard that they were out, most likely. In today’s glutted gaming market, unless you have mucho dinero to shill your new releases, it’s pretty much a given that your game is going to end up lost in the value bin shuffle…whereas “Brain Training” and “Scene It!” titles from five years ago remain perpetually stocked inventory, often at their original MSRP despite being holdovers from the W. Administration.

Alas, today’s post ain’t about bitching about the state of the industry, but rather, the vaunting of a few year-old titles that really, really deserved better fates than they ended up having. Whether you are a hardcore role-playing-game buff, a retro-gaming enthusiast or just a dude or dudette that enjoys off-kilter, two-dimensional titles, there were more than enough DS releases in 2011 to satisfy your needs, and then some. Now, who’s ready to fire up their handhelds and give a few titles the retroactive recognition they should’ve received back in ’11?

UNDERRATED 2011 DS RELEASE #001:
“Aliens: Infestation”


WHAT WAS IT? A 2D sidescrolling action-adventure game from Sega, based on the popular Ridley Scott/James Cameron/David Fincher/Whoever Made “Alien: Resurrection”-helmed science fiction horror franchise.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE? “Contra III: The Alien Wars” meets “Rainbow Six,” with a little bit of “Todd’s Adventures in Slime World” thrown in for good measure.

WHAT MAKES IT AWESOME? The “Aliens” games seem to fluctuate from really, really awesome to really, really shitty, but you can safely lump this one into the former category as opposed to the latter. If you grew up on side-scrolling actions games (and if you consider your childhood meaningful in any regard, you should have), then this game will be right up your alley. Dig games like “Rolling Thunder” or even the super-duper-awesome “Alien 3” game released on the SNES way back when? Well, this game is very much a worthy great-grandchild of those types of game, with a couple of neat addendums thrown in to the mix. Not only do you get a straight up fantastic action title with crisp graphics and superb sound effects, you also get a shockingly well-scripted story, and even a little bit of strategy elements thrown in there to keep things from being just another blast-a-thon. An outstanding atmosphere, awesome weapons and some truly righteous boss fights make this one of the best straight-up ass-kickers on the DS, and a game you REALLY need to try out if you’re a fan of the genre or license. 

UNDERRATED 2011 DS RELEASE #002:
“Atari Greatest Hits Volume 2”


WHAT WAS IT? A kick-ass compilation cartridge featuring more than 40 old school 2600 and arcade classics…several of which feature 4 person multiplayer support.  

WHAT WAS IT LIKE? Like 1983 never ended, man.

WHAT MAKES IT AWESOME? Granted, a lot of you young whippersnappers with your “Haloes” and your “Calls of Duties” may not recall titles like “Yar’s Revenge” or “Crystal Castles,” but for us O.G.s (original gamers, mind you), those titles remain some of the most vaunted and revered namesakes in all of gaming. The sheer quantity of this compilation cart makes it a must-play, as it features a good 50 or so games that span the spectrum from awesome 2600 sports offerings (in a million years, I never thought I’d see “Super Football” or “Realsports Soccer” again) to coin-op legends like “Major Havoc” and “Warlords” to bizarre-ass inclusions like a “BASIC” programming simulator.  Clearly, your appreciation of “Atari Greatest Hits Volume 2” most likely depends on your age, but even if you aren’t an ancient twenty-something such as myself, it’s hard to not get bogged down in repeated playthroughs of “Combat” and “Liberator.” Long story short, if you are looking for a pick-up-and-play title with a ton of replay value, this one right here is your go-to receiver. And if you pick this one up, I assure you WILL lose at least one day of your life playing “Super Breakout” – it’s pretty much a guarantee.

UNDERRATED 2011 DS RELEASE #003:
“Monster Tale”


WHAT WAS IT? A two-dimensional action-platformer with outstanding visuals, superb graphics and more retro-gaming goodness than a stack of Game Players magazines.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE?Klonoa,” if it was a MetroidVania title (and with just a wee bit of “Pokemon” in the recipe, too.)  

WHAT MAKES IT AWESOME? “Monster Tale” is pretty much everything fantastic about 2D gaming in one cartridge. You get “Mega Man” inspired action-platforming, “Metroid” / “Castlevania”-style exploration and adventuring, and for those obsessive types out there, you can easily spend hours upon hours leveling up both your character and your sidekick, a constantly evolving comrade named “Chomp,” just like you were playing an old Game Boy Color title or something. If there was a fantastic 2D action game you recall playing at any point in your youth, it’s a pretty safe bet that it probably found its way into “Monster Tale,” as well, as the game contains elements of everything from “DuckTales” to “Gunstar Heroes” to “Ninja Gaiden” to “Kirby’s Adventure.” With sweet boss fights, excellent combat and absolutely fantastic gameplay, “Monster Tale” is a title you really need to pick up if you’re jonesing for the good old days…and an outstanding opportunity for all of you Young Turks to figure out what you missed out on during the 8 and 16-bit renaissance.

UNDERRATED 2011 DS RELEASE #004:
“Radiant Historia”


WHAT WAS IT? An absolutely massive strategy-RPG from Atlus with a tremendous storyline, sublime combat and a TON of replay incentives.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE? “Chrono Trigger” fused with “Fire Emblem,” with Playstation-quality graphics.  

WHAT MAKES IT AWESOME? If you are looking for a game that will completely devour your life, then this is just about the most captivating original role playing game you will find on the DS. On the surface, the game appears to be your standard “Phantasy Star” type RPG experience, but the inclusion of a time-travel mechanic makes the game infinitely lengthier…and about a quadrillion times more engrossing than your standard console-RPG fare. If you are a fan of strategy heavy role playing games, like “Final Fantasy Tactics” or the “Shining Force” series, then you need to hunt this one down ASAP. Role-playing-aficionados probably don’t need too much goading to get them interested in this one, but even if you aren’t a major genre fan, I still think "Radiant Historia" is user-friendly enough to be inviting and enjoyable to even RPG novices. If you’re looking for a game to completely immerse yourself in for the summer…yeah, this one will keep you playing until next winter.

UNDERRATED 2011 DS RELEASE #05:
“Thor: God of Thunder”


WHAT WAS IT? A surprisingly awesome licensed game with tremendous 2D graphics and outstanding, Sega Genesis-style game play.  

WHAT WAS IT LIKE? “Gunstar Heroes” meets “Golden Axe,” with a bit of “Streets of Rage” detectable…only with 2,000 percent more walloping dudes upside the head with a hammer.  

WHAT MAKES IT AWESOME? You know, it would have been very easy for Sega to have just shat out a basic movie tie-in here, but by enlisting the unheralded geniuses at WayForward Technologies (the same guys that gave us the eternal gift of “Contra 4,” as well as the aforementioned “Aliens: Infestation” if you weren’t aware), they transformed what could have been just another movie game into one of the most shockingly ass-kicking titles to be found on the system. Fans of old school beat-‘em-up games will be in heaven with this one, although you don’t have to be a veteran of “Captain Commando” to find value in this one. With superb animation and exquisitely detailed sprites, “Thor: God of Thunder” is not only one of the best DS games of 2011 that nobody played, but one of the absolute best games to be found on the DS period. Say what you will about the movie…this game is a modern-day, miniature classic, no matter how you slice it.

Well, there you have it: five kick-ass DS games from the system’s dying days that you really ought to try out if you haven’t. If you’re lucky, you could probably pick up all of these games for about 50 bucks, pending you hit the right bargain bin at the right GameStop at just the right time. Hell, these games are worth ordering off Amazon, if you have to: just don’t be surprised if you end up playing these games more than you do anything on your 3DS for a while…

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