Welcome to part 2 of my look back at the long and glorious history of the DS. You can read part 1 right here and part 3 here. In this article, I’ll be remembering the second phase of the DS’s life, roughly corresponding with the launch of the Lite, running up to the launch of the DSi.
Super Princess Peach – February 27, 2006
Metroid Prime: Hunters – March 20, 2006
DS Lite – June 11, 2006
Just as the DS was catching fire with titles like Brain Age, New Super Mario Bros., and Tetris DS, Nintendo released a much improved revision of the handheld, known as the DS Lite.
As far as system revisions go, moving from the Phat to the Lite has to be one of the most significant. The screens became brighter, the stylus grew larger and easier to hold onto, the old “cutting edges” of the original DS were replaced by comfortable smoothness. Best of all, the thing looked absolutely spectacular. The DS Lite’s sleek form factor fit well with the rise of white plastic gadgets going on at the time.
A pair of titles from earlier in 2006 that I also wanted to mention: Super Princess Peach and Metroid Prime: Hunters. Hunters came a long way from the rather questionable First Hunt demo that was bundled with the original DS back in ’04, but controlling an FPS on the system still proved an awkward affair. Hunters did offer an online experience that has yet to really be matched by another Nintendo game as well, granting plenty of stat-tracking and even voice chat. Super Princess Peach, meanwhile, was an enjoyable enough 2D platformer, but received plenty of flack for its awkward attitudes toward gender.
Cooking Mama – September 12, 2006
Elite Beat Agents – November 6, 2006
Yoshi’s Island DS – November 13, 2006
Final Fantasy III – November 14, 2006
Following the DS’s blockbuster summer came another strong Christmas showing. Cooking Mama, coming off a “Best of E3” award from IGN that summer, clicked with the DS’s rapidly expanding casual market. The game smartly took simple real-world tasks and turned them into addictive mini-games.
Nintendo finally heard the cries of gamers demanding the company bring Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan over from Japan, and gave us a Western-ized spiritual sequel called Elite Beat Agents. EBA gave the West a taste of the wacky, tap-based rhythm genre when it hit.
Coming as a surprise at E3 2006 was the announcement of a sequel to the SNES classic Yoshi’s Island for DS, which came out later that same year. I remember thinking “isn’t this the Mario game Nintendo forgot about?” Apparently not. It brought much of the joy and cute crayon-y style of the original to the system.
One of Square Enix’s first games for DS hit the Christmas of ’06, and it was a big one. Final Fantasy III, at the time the only Final Fantasy not to have ever come to the West, was remade in glorious 3D for the system. More importantly, it gave a good indication that Square had forgiven its old feud with Nintendo and was willing to work on the company’s systems in earnest once more. The DS would go on to be the home of dozens of S-E’s best RPGs.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Justice for All – January 16, 2007
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords – March 20, 2007
Pokemon Diamond/Pearl – April 22, 2007
Planet Puzzle League – June 4, 2007
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass – October 1, 2007
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trials and Tribulations – October 23, 2007
The Phoenix Wright love-train rolled on in 2007 with the releases of both Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations.
Bejeweled-style gameplay found its natural home when Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords combined the simple puzzle gameplay with RPG elements. The DS was quickly becoming the place to be for puzzle gaming when Planet Puzzle League came out later the same year.
The DS finally got its first true Pokémon games in early 2007 when Diamond and Pearl were released. The games brought everyone’s favourite pocket monsters to the duel screen in a big way. Diamond and Pearl were every bit as good as their predecessors, and sold just as well. The craze lived through the generational leap.
Zelda also made its DS debut in 2007 with Phantom Hourglass. Bringing the Wind Waker style aesthetic to the DS helped compensate for the system’s weak 3D capabilities. The game was fun, charming, and well deserving of its honoured lineage.
Advance Wars: Days of Ruin – January 21, 2008
Professor Layton and the Curious Village – February 10, 2008
The World Ends With You – April 21, 2008
Space Invaders Extreme – June 17, 2008
Final Fantasy IV – July 21, 2008
KORG DS-10 Synthesizer – November 4, 2008
Chrono Trigger – November 25, 2008
By 2008, the DS was an unstoppable juggernaut of awesome, and the hits kept coming.
2005’s Advance Wars: Dual Strike received a sequel with Days of Ruin. The title took the familiar gameplay of its predecessors but mixed things up by introducing a new, grittier world and darker aesthetic. The addictiveness remained.
The DS launched another mega-franchise in 2008 called Professor Layton. Curious Village was a hit with hardcore and casual gamers for its high production value story telling and addictive puzzle elements. The series is still chugging today.
Perhaps the DS’s most innovative RPG was released in April of 2008. The World Ends With You turned the sometimes stale RPG genre on its head with 2-screened battles, a modern aesthetic, pop music, and the rather unique setting of Tokyo’s Shibuya district. I’d call the game the DS’s best RPG, except that 2008 also got an enhanced port of the SNES classic Chrono Trigger, with extra content and cut-scenes taken from the PlayStation port. Square Enix also managed to push out a 3D remake of its beloved Final Fantasy IV in 2008.
I had fun with Space Invaders Extreme, which reinvigorated the Space Invaders formula with power-ups and eye-popping retro-chic colours.
One of the strangest titles ever released for the DS also came out in 2008, KORG DS-10 Synthesizer. More a software application than a game, the title brought serious electronic music composition to the DS.
Check back soon for the 3rd and final installment in this series, where I will explore the DS’s twilight years, beginning with the launch of the DSi.