Well folks, we’re back again. So far this week we’ve looked at the Top 10 DSiWare games we’d like to play and our Top 10 WiiWare games of 2009. Today we’re going to head back to Nintendo’s portable and take a look at what our favorite DS proper games of the year were. These are, as usual, presented in no particular order. These are just the 10 games we think stand out above the rest.
Matt Says: Nostalgia is as it’s name implies; a wonderful play on all the tropes that make Japanese RPG’s such a lauded genre. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel in any way; from saving the world from a dark entity to the “she’s really a princess/holy figure!?” plot twist to the turn based combat, it takes the safest approach to entertaining you. Whether it’s pulling stuff from Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest or even Skies of Arcadia, it’s all done in love.
Tony Says: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days has probably the most bizarre title I’ve seen for a game in a while, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good game. The events of the game take place between the events of Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II and explains many of the details that might have been missed between the first two games. Who doesn’t like seeing the Disney crew palling around with some of Squares more memorable characters. It’s the perfect combination and I’ve been sucked in by every game in the series so far. It also was the last performance for Mickey’s long time voice actor Wayne Allwine, may he rest in peace.
Shelby Says: Rhythm Heaven is the western localization of Rhythm Tengoku Gold from Japan. I contemplated importing the Japanese version numerous times assuming that Nintendo would never localize a game with such heavy Japanese roots. Somehow, the gaming cosmos aligned and Rhythm Heaven saw a North American release. With the only controls being tap, flick and release, this game takes the old adage of “easy to play, difficult to master” and proceeds to bring you to your gaming knees. Anyone out there that has played the ping-pong game knows what I am talking about. For those of you that haven’t, consider yourself warned. Rhythm Heaven is a simple rhythm game with such a high kawaii factor (kawaii is Japanese for cute by the way) that you can’t help but smile at the quirky situations you tap your way though. Some will argue that the game’s appeal suffered from its western localization but for those of us that can’t read Japanese, Rhythm Heaven is a great DS game to add to your library and one of our top ten DS games of 2009.
Matt Says: Where as Nostalgia is a love letter to the past, Bowser’s Inside Story trumpets in the glory of iteration. It took the winning formula from Mario’s other role-playing traipses and polishes it to such a sheen that you can just barely look at it. While ham-fisted throughout, the story breaks that fourth wall and makes fun of itself as it travels down the interesting rabbit hole of the Bros. taking arms inside Bowser; which is what makes the whole thing so memorable. What else is there to say other than this game gives us chortles?
Tony Says: E3 this year was the break out time for 5th Cell’s latest DS project, Scribblenauts. The game garnered a huge following based on the play time that many people had there. The release of the game brought much hype, and unfortunately necessary criticism as the game didn’t control very well when doing small, precise movements. Despite that though, the endless possibilities for solving the game’s brain bending puzzles and the hilarity that would often ensue when a Chihuahua faced off against a T-Rex meant it was an experience you couldn’t and shouldn’t pass up.
Shelby Says: Peggle is yet another form of “gaming crack” to come from PopCap Games. Being a sort of upside down pinball, Peggle challenges players to shoot a number or orange pegs with a limited number of shots. It recreates all the fun and excitement of Plinko, which has been scientifically proven to be everyone’s favorite The Price is Right game. With the help of Q Entertainment, Peggle has finally found the platform that best suits its “point and shoot” game play with Peggle: Duel Shot. Not only does Duel Shot match the DS acronym, but it also implies that both Peggle and Peggle Nights are included on the cartridge. That means twice the addictive game play for your buck. The only thing that is different from Peggle DS is a new minigame that you play after hitting 5 purple pegs. The activation of this games makes you bounce your ball around new boards to collect gems and extra balls. Peggle: Dual Shot is without a doubt one of the best DS games of 2009. It is the kind of game you can pick up and play for five minutes or five hours. The combination of the graphics and sound remind me of a slot machine. Thankfully I only have to pay for it once.
Matt Says: In my mind, the original Professor Layton was the kind of game that should pull in the two disparate gamer stereotypes; giving us puzzles that casual players would like and adventure aspects to pull in “teh hardcorz” . Although sales didn’t skyrocket like most Nintendo published titles, it did gain a following and managed to become one of those evergreen titles that constantly showed up on sales charts. Which is a godsend, because it begat Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box. It ups the ante by taking the gentleman on a train, adding even more of those devious puzzles that have become a hallmark, giving us beautiful cut scenes and wonderful voice acting and fulfilling a life-long dream of helping a hamster lose weight.
Tony Says: Was there ever any doubt that this game was going to make the list of best games of the year? Well, actually there always is until the list comes out, but Spirit Tracks brought everything you love about Zelda to you yet again. It fixed the problems that many people had with the previous hand held title Phantom Hourglass and this time Zelda even came along for the ride, so to speak. Despite the game’s limited exploration of the Overworld the stylus based game play of Spirit Tracks proved that it really can be done on the DS and you don’t always need the buttons to control your game. And who doesn’t want their mail delivered by a guy who thinks he’s a train?
Matt Says: Besides the obvious inspiration from Layton, Hatsworth decides to mash-up genres in a different way: adding match three puzzles with platforming. It’s definitely a case of something’s sum being more than the sum of it’s parts; alone the platforming and puzzling is unspectacular, but combined they make for a hectic and colorful adventure. What makes this such a great game this year is it’s undeniable charm and wit, making it this best game involving an old man searching for golden pantaloons ever.
Tony Says: 5th Cell makes the list yet again for another of their great user generated games. This game had you drawing the main character and many of the elements that he or she or it would need to proceed through the adventure. The story was moving at times and at one point I really felt sorry for (spoiler alert) the child who had seemingly lost his mother. The story could drag on at times, but it was so engaging you couldn’t help but put it down. And my hero, Ugly, saved the day yet again.
So there you have it. Another list in the books for this year. Do you agree with our picks? Do you disagree with our picks? Leave us a comment and let us know, or head over to the forums and talk to us there. Tomorrow’s final list of the week brings us to our favorite games on the Wii, so come back tomorrow to see what we’ve picked.
2009 was a very interesting year, at least in my opinion for video games. It was the year I jumped into the realm of video game coverage. I started that journey with a brief stint at Nintendojo beginning in April before circumstances beyond my control pulled me away from gaming for a short period. I decided to jump back into that realm in August with this site and have really enjoyed the experience up to this point. We started small, and we’ve grown to now have a staff of 6, two podcasts and bigger dreams for the next year.
The year in gaming for Nintendo started relatively slowly. January didn’t see any high profile releases and it wasn’t until February and the release of House of the Dead: Overkill that the gaming year really got started for Nintendo. That was a game that brought a new entry in the House of the Dead franchise to Wii and put the series over the top in terms of camp, violence and language. It was a great game that I hope every at least played once. On that same day Electronic Arts would release what would become the last game to come from their relationship with NASCAR. That game would be NASCAR Kart Racing, a Mario Kart style game that featured a number of faces and products from the world of NASCAR racing.
Mad World had the hopes of hardcore gamers everywhere placed on its shoulders this year and its release in March had many people saying that the hardcore market wasn’t something that could be captured on Nintendo. I don’t think it’s fair to place the thoughts of a purely marketing driven demographic on one game, but that’s exactly what happened with Mad World. Sales did not meet the expectations of many people and that hope shifted to another title that would be released 3 months later.
The Game Developers Conference was held during the period of March 23rd to March 27th. Nintendo held a press conference during the event where a number of things were announced. The first was that a storage solution had been worked out for Wii, meaning you no longer had to “clean the fridge” in order to play a WiiWare or Virtual Console title on the system. Games could now be downloaded to and played directly from High Capacity SD Cards up to 32GB in size. While still not a perfect solution it did solve a number of the problems that many people had with storage on the system.
The next installment in the Zelda franchise, The Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks for DS was also announced during GDC. There were few details revealed about the game at that time, but it raised the spirits, no pun intended, of many gamers and we know knew that another Zelda game was on its way.
The last big announcement to come from the show was that a new DS system was on its way. The Nintendo DSi would be officially announced then and it was also announced that the system would go on sale April 5th, just about two weeks after the show. The system would feature a slightly faster processor, two cameras and a new downloadable shop known as the DSi Shop. Users would now be able to download original games and take them on the go, though no portable version of the Virtual Console was announced for the system and still has not been talked about by Nintendo other than to say it won’t be coming.
My pick for one of the best games of the year hit stores in May and brought boxing back to its most simple elements. Punch-Out!! made a return in a big way and brought the feel and fun of the classic franchise with it. The over the top characters and simple, yet in depth game play was something that a lot of people were looking for this generation. Newer gamers had the motion control options, but Punch-Out!! knew what franchise fans wanted and delivered in a big way. The fights were familiar, but brand new at the same time and then threw another wrench in your plans when you had to defend your belt against those same fighters who had learned from their previous mistakes.
The biggest gaming show of the year, E3, returned to the LA Convention Center this year during the first week of June. The show was trying to get back to some of the flair of the past and Nintendo made quite a few announcements during the show. The first and probably most unusual was the Vitality Sensor, a new peripheral that will connect to your finger to take your pulse. There was no software, only some vague ideas of what they wanted to do. There were also two different Mario games announced during the show. The first would be a return to Mario’s roots with New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a new side scrolling adventure that would feature four players for the first time. The second was a direct sequel to 2007’s Super Mario Galaxy, and this time Yoshi would play a part. Probably the most surprising announcement during the show was Nintendo and Team Ninja’s collaboration on a new Metroid game, Metroid Other M. We still don’t know a lot about the title, but it promises to be something interesting.
On the handheld front during the show Nintendo announced a new Golden Sun game for the DS and many games were playable, including IGN’s game of the show, Scribblenauts. We were also able to get our hands on Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story and The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.
Nintendo’s new peripheral, the Wii Motion Plus, would hit store shelves the following week and would be bundled with a couple of different games meant to show off the technology. These were both developed by EA; Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 and Grand Slam Tennis. They both showed off exactly what Motion Plus could do and Tiger Woods benefited most from the technology. The depth that this new motion controller allowed meant that the game was more realistic than ever and gave people hope that the Wii Remote add on would be worth their purchase.
Later during the month of June the most high profile first person shooter to show up on the Wii since Medal of Honor Heroes 2 was released. That game was The Conduit, a sci-fi shooter set in a near future Washington DC. Many people were resting their hopes on this finally being the game that would show that shooters deserved a place in the Wii’s lineup. The game was most notable for being completely customizable. There wasn’t anything about the presentation that you couldn’t change. It was marred by a mediocre storyline and a multiplayer component that was prone to crashing and was easily hacked by cheaters. Despite that it was a good showcase for a shooter on the Wii, and I think there is still room for improvement in the genre on the platform.
Motion Plus made its debut in June, but hit its stride with the release of Nintendo’s first effort with the peripheral; Wii Sports Resort. This sequel to the Wii’s launch pack in added 9 new games, brought back two favorites, added in game achievements and created a new character from the world you inhabited. The simple games had layer upon layer stacked onto them and mixed up the action with a number of variations that created what would be one of the most fun and most talked about games of the year. While Wii Sports might have been a tech demo to show you what the Wii could do, Wii Sports Resort was the showcase for all that Motion Plus could do and it was fun as well.
Nintendo re-released a number of GameCube games during 2009 under the New Play Control banner. This series of games brought back many gamers favorite franchises from the previous generation, and added a new wrinkle in the mix with a brand new control scheme tailor made for the Wii. These games included Pikmin, Mario Power Tennis, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, but probably most notable for not having that banner, but still belonging to the series, Metroid Prime Trilogy. This new release packed all three games from the series onto one disc and added all the functionality of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption to the two original GameCube games. The achievement system and control scheme were both added and the graphics were given a bit of polish to create what was essentially a brand new title.
September saw three really big game releases from third parties from three very different areas of gaming. The first, Muramasa: the Demon Blade brought beauty and simplicity to the side scrolling action game. The levels of depth that were added to gorgeous hand drawn environments were something many thought weren’t possible on Wii. The controls were simple, yet elegant, even if the game was too long for its own good. The second saw the Beatles reimagined in The Beatles: Rock Band. The game even came packed in with replicas of the group’s actual instruments. It didn’t bring a lot new to the Rock Band franchise, but saw the world’s greatest band brought back to life and introduced to a generation who might not have known them. Lastly we have Dead Space: Extraction. This guided first person experience raised the bar for rail shooters on the system that was becoming known for them. It was able to take the visual prowess of the HD version of the game to Nintendo and made for an experience, that was fun, while still frightening.
October is probably best known for Halloween, but Nintendo wanted to make sure you were able to shed those added candy pounds with the release of Wii Fit Plus. This new game added a few welcome features to the original Wii hit with the ability to string exercises together to create a workout play list as well as a bunch of new balance games.
November is always the biggest month of the year for game releases. This year was no exception. November saw the release of a large number of high profile games, Lego Rock Band, Tony Hawk: Ride, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – Reflex Edition and most notably New Super Mario Bros. Wii. After first getting hands on with the title back at E3 gamers were chomping to have a go with three friends in this new entry into the Mario franchise. The action was frantic, fast paced and totally insane. Everyone will tell you the game is a totally different experience when played with friends compared to solo. While many disapproved of the graphical style of the game it is considered one of the best Mario games to come along in a long time.
While there were a lot of highs during the year, 2009 will also be known as the year of the layoff. The last half of the year saw layoffs at just about every studio there is. Here are just a few that saw big hits in their workforce this year; Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft, Maxis, Midway, Eidos, Square Enix, Nokia, Sony, Transmission Games, Slipgate Ironworks, LucasArts, and Harmonix. There’s no denying the economy was not good to anyone this year, and the game’s industry, once thought recession proof, proved that even it is not invulnerable.
So there you go. There’s a bit of a look back at some of the biggest events of 2009. 2010 is proving to be a very good year as well. We know Super Mario Galaxy 2 will probably see release, but there’s also a possibility of the new Metroid, and maybe even a new Zelda game. Stay tuned to the site next week to see what we think might be coming to your living rooms in the next year, and join us back here again this time in one year to see what 2010 had in store for us.