2008 DS Summer Games Preview
Oppressive heat waves, long flights and days at the beach are great reasons to enjoy your DS.
Summer, at least for us U.S. folks, begins June 20 and ends September 20. In between stuffing out faces with hamburgers and checking out hot babes in bikinis, we also plan to enjoy some games, especially ones for the Nintendo DS. The next three months aren't as crazy as the upcoming holiday season, but there are still lots to love about the lineup, and it begins with a classic game revival.
Space Invaders Extreme (Square Enix- 6/17/08)
June 17 is three days shy of summer, but it's ok to cheat with Space Invaders. This Extreme version, released to commemorate the series' 30th anniversary, retains the original's addictiveness and mixes new stages, graphics, music and power ups that enhance the alien blasting action.
Arkanoid (Nintendo- 6/17/08)
Feed your classic gaming brain with Arkanoid, which challenges you to deflect a ball with a paddle and destroy bricks at the top of the screen. New enhancements include power ups, additional modes and multiplayer, both locally and online via Nintendo Wi-Fi connection.
Guitar Hero: On Tour (Activision- 6/22/08)
There's no better way to kick off summer than with Guitar Hero, and the DS incarnation should sell like crazy. Designed from the ground up for the system, the game includes a Grip Peripheral that plugs into the Game Boy Advance slot. Holding the system like a book (similar to Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword), you'll press the fret buttons with one hand and strum the touch screen using an included guitar pick stylus, all the while jamming to 20 plus songs including We're Not Gonna Take It and All Star. An exclusive battle mode (two player only) is lots of fun, as you hit power ups to confuse your opponent and even set his or her axe on fire.
Top Spin 3 (2K Sports- 6/23/08)
Master clay and grass courts in Top Spin 3. Select from a cast of tennis pros (including Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova) and blast rocket serves at your opponent. Rush the net, volley and slam the ball into their faces en route to Grand Slam victories. Tennis games haven't faired well on DS so far, so we're a bit skeptical that 2K Sports can pull this off. Cross your fingers.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2 (Square Enix- 6/24/08)
Square Enix's phenomenal DS support continues with this turn based strategy game, which builds off the original and adds gorgeous visuals and music. You play as a student named Luso who has the unfortunate luck of attending summer school. While in the library, he finds a strange book that thrusts him into the magical world of Ivalice, where you'll command numerous units across detailed game boards.
Wall-E (THQ- 6/24/08)
Pixar's upcoming animated film, Wall-E, promises to be one of the summer's biggest movies. Not sure about the video game, though, which tasks you (as Wall-E and EVE) with picking up garbage and completing various challenges. We can't see it being an excellent game, but probably a solid purchase for the kiddies looking to expand their film experience.
My Weight Loss Coach (Ubisoft- 6/24/08)
Thanks to Nintendo's Wii Fit, exercise games are all the rage across all platforms. Case in point, My Weight Loss Coach, a game that not only gives you exercises to perform, but also gives you nutritional advice. It even comes with a pedometer so you can monitor your progress.
Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 (Atlus-7/1/08)
Put on your scrubs and grab a scalpel. Dr. Derek Stiles and Nurse Angie return for more hospital shenanigans, as you'll once again operate on a series of patients by sliding the stylus across the touch screen to make cuts and perform other life saving actions. The original Trauma Center is sweet, and we're confident that its sequel will be just as cool.
Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution (Take 2- 7/8/08)
For years, Sid Meier's legendary Civilization franchise was PC exclusive, but no longer. Revolution hits the DS this July, offering strategy fanatics a chance to enjoy the deep single player campaign that spans numerous time periods and continents, from India to Egypt to France. Featuring attractive artwork and large maps, this should be a nice complement to Age of Empires.
Carnival Games (Take 2- 7/8/08)
We didn't like Carnival Games for Wii, no thanks to awkward controls, but tons of people gobbled it up. That said, Take 2 plans to capitalize on the popularity with a DS version, which includes numerous games (Frog Leap, Dunk Tank) that make use of the system's touch screen and microphone abilities. It's bound to find an audience, though we can't imagine it being nearly as much fun as the Wii edition, which is decent because of its motion controls.
Final Fantasy IV (Square Enix- 7/22/08)
Now this is a game we can't wait to pour hours into. Square Enix took Final Fantasy IV and revamped it for DS, with slick looking 3-D graphics, full motion video cut scenes, a remixed soundtrack, an Augment System that lets you imbue characters with unique abilities, stylus controls and a local battle mode. If all you can afford is one game and you love RPGs, this could last you the rest of summer and beyond.
New International Track Field (Konami- 7/22/08)
In addition to playing games, summer is a great time for working up a sweat, at least virtually. Konami's New International Track & Field pays homage to the old school classic, with stylus driven events such as the high jump, long jump, archery, 100m sprint and javelin throwing, among others. To sweeten the deal, the company tossed characters from other games into the mix, including Castlevania's Simon Belmont and Silent Hill's Pyramid Head. Frantically rubbing the stylus back and forth looks tiring, but the cute visuals and old school vibe have our attention.
Izuna 2: the Unemployed Ninja Returns (Atlus- 7/22/08)
If Final Fantasy isn't your speed, you can always be a ninja. Izuna 2 appears to be your standard issue dungeon crawler, with you, as a cute female ninja, slicing and dicing foes and collecting items spread out across numerous environments. On the downside, we don't recall much about the original Izuna, so we hope its sequel isn't nearly as forgettable.
GRID (Codemasters- 8/1/08)
Aside from Mario Kart, we haven't had a great racing game on DS, and hopefully GRID will fill the void. Codemasters' impressive looking driving game, already a hit on Xbox 360 and PS3, features a DS exclusive track editor that lets you create your own environments, off and online racing for up to four players and the ability to upload and download new tracks. So long as it controls well, this could be sweet.
Quick Yoga Training (Ubisoft- 8/5/08)
If you love My Weight Loss Coach, then Quick Yoga Training seems like the next logical step to DS fitness. It has over 180 different pretzel twisting poses and supposedly some funky voice navigation via the DS' microphone that lets you contort your body without pausing to press buttons. We're curious how well it works.
Bangai-O Spirits (D3- 8/12/08)
Dreamcast and Treasure fans should already know about Bangai-O, the enjoyable shooter with insane explosions and tons of fruit to collect. Now the action hits DS and in dramatic fashion. Not only do you explore tons of environments and blast things to smithereens, but you can also create your own levels using a handy editor and download new ones through, get this, audio recognition. Using the DS microphone, you'll place your system next to a computer speaker and it'll read sound files to download other user created missions. Bottom line, we played the game. It's lots of fun. Buy it.
N+ (Atari- 8/12/08)
In case you haven't heard, N+ is one of the best puzzle games to come along in a while. Already a hit on Xbox Live Arcade, it challenges you to maneuver a tiny ninja dude through various stages to the exits, paying close attention to enemies and bombs. With the possibility of a level editor, this game could have unlimited potential.
Madden NFL 09 (Electronic Arts- 8/12/08)
Every year, EA finds new ways to make Madden run on DS and we admire its efforts, but it hasn't been able to successfully translate the fun of the other versions to Nintendo's handheld. All we need is a smooth playing game of football. It doesn't have to look that snazzy, especially since the DS doesn't do amazing 3D. Come on EA, dazzle us with some addictive pigskin action.
Bleach: Dark Souls (Sega- 8/26/08)
DS has slim pickings when it comes to fighting games, but Bleach: Dark Souls may be the only brawler you need. Based on the popular anime, it contains 44 characters from the franchise, intense four-player sword slashing in glorious 2D, new moves and attacks and online play, and we've only scratched the surface.
Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness (Natsume- 8/26/08)
Perhaps you're not into fighting or racing. Perhaps you just want to farm. Enter Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness, the game that lets you live out your fantasies on a tropical island. Stranded with four other people, you'll grow crops, tend to animals and discover the mysteries of the island, as well as interact with 100 characters. Sounds like the show Lost, but cute.
LEGO Batman (Warner- 9/1/08)
Another LEGO game hits DS, this time starring the Caped Crusader. As Batman, you'll explore Gotham City and fight crime, battling the Joker, Ridler, Penguin, Catwoman and other enemies. Over time, you'll unlock and play as the villains, which expands the replay value. Of course, the gameplay remains the same, with you punching bad guys into LEGO bricks and collecting items. Indiana Jones and Star Wars play good on DS, and Batman should be no exception.
Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi (Gamecock- 9/2/08)
It's not the flashiest game on DS, but Mushroom Men looks like a solid adventure that could be a sleeper hit. As a weird looking mushroom guy, you explore imaginative environments teeming with enemies. With the ability to take everyday items and forge weapons, you'll beat back the hordes of opponents with swift touch screen strokes. Makes us think twice about ordering mushrooms on our pizzas.
Spore Creatures (Electronic Arts- 9/7/08)
If it ever comes out (it seems like Spore gets delayed every few hours), Spore Creatures could be a huge game for DS. With the ability to create life from goo and evolve it into advanced civilizations (as well as leaving your planet and exploring other ones), this massive video game should keep us busy on long trips. We just hope EA puts as much love into the DS version as it has the PC edition.
Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise (THQ- 9/8/08)
We love Viva Pinata on Xbox 360, so the concept of taking those cute and cuddly critters on the go has us excited. Similar to the original, you'll inherit a small plot of land and fix it up to attract pinata species, which eventually mate and flood the land with their offspring. It's a game of checks and balances, with some pinata reacting violently to other species, so it's up to you to keep order. The concept of transferring pinata to other gamers' DS systems is a decent selling point.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (LucasArts- 9/16/08)
Become Darth Vader's secret apprentice in this Force driven adventure, which sees you hunting down Jedi Knights between Episodes III and IV. Excellent Force powers, such as lightning, enable you to torture and vanquish your enemies, and you'll get to explore all sorts of cool planets. That said, we haven't played the DS version, and it remains to be seen whether LucasArts can deliver the ultimate Star Wars adventure.
Dragon Quest IV (Square Enix- 9/16/08)
We take back what we said about Final Fantasy IV. Once you finish that, there's always Dragon Quest IV: The Chapters of the Chosen, a gorgeous remake of the NES adventure that lets you and your party explore a vibrant and beautiful fantasy land teeming with monsters (slimes perhaps). The first part of the trilogy (which also includes The Hand of the Heavenly Bride and Realms of Reverie), the game features new 3D graphics, improved animation and music.