DS has enjoyed unprecedented success throughout its entire life, but its autumn years have been especially fruitful. Its infant months had been plagued with uncertainty, especially in the face of significant competition, but the console quickly found its footing and matured beyond anyone’s expectations. It has in the years that followed become a veritable breeding ground of quality and innovation, housing in its vast library countless modern-day classics impossible to replicate on any other console. Now with the twin specters of Age and Technological Progress looming overhead, DS is content to enjoy one final round of excellence before it makes way for the future generation of handhelds.
Recent releases like Dragon Quest VI and Radiant Historia serve as an appropriately-grandiose send off for the most successful portable console of our time, but they are not the only titles left in store for the system. A handful of games of equal caliber are scheduled to grace the platform in the coming weeks, ensuring DS’s celebratory farewell continues right up to its successor’s launch. We take a look at the most noteworthy below.
Pokémon Black and White Versions
Release date: March 6
Arriving within the first week of March, Pokémon Black and White are arguably the biggest titles still slated for release on DS. The evergreen series remains hugely popular around the world, and this latest pair of installments should give the system one last sales surge before the release of 3DS.
Set in the entirely new and surprisingly modern region of Unova, Pokémon Black and White represent a sort of rebirth for the franchise. Developer Game Freak has taken great pains to distance the titles from every previous entry in the series, going so far as to supplant the classic monsters gamers have so oft encountered with over 150 new ones to collect and raise. Old favorites, of course, can still be acquired within the games, but for the first time in the series they are not readily available in the wild, making Unova an exotic and entirely unique backdrop for what has become to some an overly-familiar adventure. Beyond this, improved online functionality, greater multiplayer options, a seasonal cycle and countless other additions and enhancements have been added to the titles, offering up an almost-overwhelming amount of content for players to enjoy. These changes, admittedly, may not be enough to entice gamers who have previously avoided the series, but those who do purchase either of the games will undoubtedly find themselves preoccupied for the next several months.
Release date: March 15
The dissolution of Clover Studios made even the very prospect of an Okami sequel seem like nothing more than a pipe dream, but Capcom has heard the pleas of the series’ most fervent fans and delivered a successor on DS. Okamiden stands among the most artistically stunning titles to ever grace the console, retaining the look and feel of its predecessor despite the significant disparity in hardware power. Gamers assume the role of Chibiterasu, son of the celestial wolf goddess Amaterasu, and are charged with purging Nippon of the demons that plague the land.
The shift from console to handheld was an appropriate one– not only does DS’s massive install base make it the perfect environment in which the game can thrive, but its touch controls naturally compliment the title’s gameplay mechanics as well. The Celestial Brush in particular really benefits from this move, and controlling it via the stylus makes the process of drawing a much easier and more precise one. New to the game is the addition of several stylus-controlled partner characters that join Chibiterasu during the adventure. These characters are utilized in a variety of ways and are often necessary in solving puzzles or assisting the wolf pup in combat. The title looks to deliver more of what made its predecessor so universally adored, and gamers can expect another charming, Zelda-esque adventure when it finally hits store shelves in the middle of the month.
Release date: March 22
The brainchild of the key leads of Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure, Monster Tale is a pet game-cum-platformer starring Ellie, a young girl who happens upon the Monster World by chance. While there she befriends the mysterious beast Chomp, and the two set out on an adventure across the land to defeat the evil Kid-Kings who have thrown it into disarray.
Fans of Metroidvania games will find a lot to enjoy in Monster Tale. The title is rife with interconnected pathways, allowing gamers to explore the world in a nonlinear fashion. It also makes use of the platform’s dual screens in innovative ways: Ellie is relegated to the top screen, but her companion Chomp can move freely between either. The bottom screen acts as the Pet Sanctuary, where Chomp can, among other things, read books and eat cookies of his own accord to increase his stats, but he can be summoned at any time to join Ellie on the top screen and offer up his assistance. The beast can also be customized based upon the player’s choices, and he can eventually evolve into approximately 30 different forms, each with its own individual attributes and abilities. The sheer variety of play choices makes Monster Tale a unique and exciting adventure, one that should not escape gamers’ attentions amid the 3DS hype.
Outside of the aforementioned three titles, little else appears to remain in store for DS (save, of course, for a glut of licensed games that will find a home on the console well into the next generation). Despite this, the system is not yet entirely over the hill– if you recall, Game Boy Advance managed to maintain respectable sales well into the succeeding generation, and it is all but guaranteed that DS will do likewise. The console’s vast library, coupled with the lack of a real killer app in 3DS’s launch window, ensure that the system will plug along for at least several more months following the launch of its successor.
The above three games should also achieve success despite being released in the shadow of a console launch. Titles released on the cusp of a new generation often fail commercially because they are lost in the shuffle, but the backwards compatibility of 3DS should help ease this transition– not only does it allow early adapters to fully enjoy the games available for the previous system, but it also helps mask some of the perceived weaknesses in its own launch lineup. The latter point in particular really benefits the above titles, and because of this they will assuredly find a welcoming home on either handheld.