DS Adventure Prospects
Ryan Morgan examines the future of an entire genre... and hopes someone from the heyday of Lucasarts will follow suit.
"Adventure games are dead."
This pronouncement rocked the gaming community in the year 2000, spurring arguments, impassioned editorials, and the outrage of many dedicated gamers. The debate rages anew this month, brought back to the forefront by recent releases Hotel Dusk and Phoenix Wright 2; a pair of adventures that have critics and fans alike declaring the DS the savior of the genre.
Let me be the first to say that nothing would bring me greater pleasure than witnessing the rebirth of the adventure game, but it's more likely we are seeing small flashes from the past rather than the forerunners of a massive invasion. Confirming this is as simple as taking a glance at upcoming DS offerings... it's a short list, and only two entries really stand out: Professor Layton and the Mysterious Village and the rpg-esque Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales. Both appear to be built on strong designs and positively ooze charm, making them actual contenders for the game that just may spark the hoped-for adventure revolution.
toer of hanoi. Unfortunately, no North American date has been announced for Professor Layton yet, so join me in hoping it sells a million copies in Japan where it will be released on Feb. 15th.Professor Layton and the Mysterious Village is in tune with the current mini- and brain-gaming trends, as the story is driven forward by a wealth of stylus-based puzzles. It follows the adventures of Professor Layton and his young assistant as they uncover the truth behind odd happenings connected to a recently deceased billionaire's estate. Not only do all sorts of interesting characters populate the village itself, presumably each with their own puzzles to offer, but the overall art direction could be mistaken for the next Miyazaki film. Even more promising is the fact that Professor Layton's puzzle-master Akira Tago is one of grandfathers of the genre and has thousands of puzzles from his well-established book series to build upon. Expect things to be a little more complex than Big Brain Academy's "find the pair of animals." Think
DQ: Rocket Slime ever hoped to be. Keep an eye out for Chocobo's big adventure this April.Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales also falls into the puzzle-venture category, but with an emphasis on speed and action rather than brain busting. Throw in some RPG elements and card-based battling for a game that pays homage to its namesake while appealing to a wider audience. It may not prove as difficult and lengthy as the traditional FF game, but early reports indicate a system that is surprisingly deep, bolstered by Nintendo Wi-Fi enabled multiplayer. The plot combines elements of the traditional FF "protect the four crystals" storyline with a healthy dose of Myst's "enter the book" adventuring. Completing the minigames in each book you come across not only furthers the storyline, but also earns you new cards for your deck. This deck is then used in a turn-based fighting system that features everything from elemental attacks to classic Final Fantasy summon spells. Also of note is the visual design, which takes FFIII's 3D engine and adds Paper Mario's 2D influences with a splash of Yoshi's Island whimsy. The resulting look is colorful, unique, and cuter than
The DS has already seen quirky adventure concepts turn mediocre with titles like Touch Detective and Contact, but the unusually warm reception (despite uneven reviews) of Hotel Dusk: Room 215 certainly could indicate a brightening future on the DS for adventure gaming. Who knows? If Professor Layton gets localized and Chocobo Tales turns out to be as enjoyable as hoped, developers may decide that it is again safe to tread the waters of good writing and reasonably paced gameplay on a regular basis. In the event this happens, I have one very simple request: bring back some of the old Lucasarts adventure universes... Grim Fandango DS could make so many people happy.