Do you know where I was when Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was first released in 2001? I sure don’t recall. Even if I could remember, it probably wouldn’t matter much anyway because I never had the system it was on, the Gameboy Advance. And if that wasn’t on my radar then, then Phoenix Wright and his ace attorney-ing wasn’t either. Over the next several years, the name “Phoenix Wright” would flit in and out of my ears. Once I got a Nintendo DS, I do remember someone asking me if I was going to get “that new Phoenix Wright game.” Well, my man of the hour was, if not Mario, then Professor Layton. His puzzle-y stylings were enough for me. I didn’t need some “law and order” game gumming up the works. Truth be told, it would be a good decade before I’d informally meet Mr. Wright. And it wasn’t in the context of a graphical courtroom but in a fighting game: Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Yep, here was this odd playable character named “Phoenix Wright” with the strangest fighting style imaginable. Who the heck was he? Who was that girl assisting him? And what was with all the “OBJECTION!” madness?? These were questions that bothered me only for a moment as I sought to crush my next opponents with Morrigan and Zangief. Phoenix Wright was just…there.
This month, we’re taking some time out to look at our “favorite” games to see if they remain true favorites. While my post about a “favorite” game that I played last month is forthcoming, this week I wanted to share an article on Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (2009) that I wrote for Geek Force Network a couple years ago. At the time, I had really only dipped my toes into the expansive GTA ocean, and Chinatown Wars was a true surprise. A true surprise on the Nintendo DS, nonetheless. To this day, it remains my most favorite DS game. (And if I still had a DS, I might have played it for our challenge!)
The following article appeared on Geek Force Network, September 30, 2013: Chinatown Wars: Where GTA went really right and a little wrong
It was rather early in 2008 when Square-Enix announced their plans to re-release Chrono Trigger for the Nintendo DS. After playing through the fully upgraded visuals and new 3D perspective of Final Fantasy III, I was eager to see what sort of treatment Chrono Trigger would receive. Would Square-Enix rebuild the game with a 3D engine, or keep the visuals in 2D but re-draw all of the sprites? The soundtrack certainly deserved to be re-mastered, maybe even with a symphonic performance track. My head was buzzing with the thoughts of one of my favorite games being brought back and drastically improved.
Then the first screenshots came out and they were… the same as always. It seemed that the only changes being lauded by Square-Enix were the inclusion of anime-style cutscenes (which were already made for the PS1 port, and could be watched anytime on Youtube), an extra dungeon or two, and a Pokemon-esque battle arena. Hoo-freakin-ray.
Needless to say, I gave up on buying this seemingly lackluster port and moved on to other major releases in 2008. Nearly five years (and one massive sale) later, I decided to pick up Chrono Trigger DS and complete yet another playthrough of a classic RPG. What I found upon this tiny cartridge was not just another lackluster rom-dump of an old game, but the perfect version of a Super Nintendo classic.
Right from the start of the game, there are two new options that take advantage of the design of the DS. The first of these is using the touch screen controls to navigate the game menus and commands. The second gives the option of playing with all of the menus displayed on the lower screen of the handheld, leaving the actual game world on the top screen. This is huge. Chrono Trigger is well-known for its distinct art style by Akira Toriyama, and being able to enjoy the game’s visuals without any sort of menu clutter is an excellent upgrade. All of the memorable battles and gorgeous sprite work were presented like never before, and I was able to appreciate the art from a new perspective.
The story has been expanded to a degree as well. A fresh translation was completed and included, which provides a more accurate and fleshed-out narrative. This means that all of the “cafes” from the SNES version have been transformed back into taverns and pubs, and any sort of mature content/dialogue has returned, which certainly gives the cast of characters more depth. The cutscenes add a bit of flair to the game, and run quite nicely on the DS. Furthermore, an extra ending was added, which creates stronger ties from the game to its pseudo-sequel, Chrono Cross. All of this is topped off with an in-game encyclopedia which catalogs and details every enemy, boss, item, and ending as the player encounters each one.
So far, this post must seem like nothing more than a roaring endorsement of Chrono Trigger DS (guilty as charged), but what I am really trying to get across is that this game serves as a template more publishers should follow when re-releasing older titles. Instead of simply providing players with a fancy emulator to play old games, companies should be piling on special treatment to these classics. Imagine downloading a game from the Virtual Console or PSN Classics and receiving tons of concept art, developer interviews, or even the original instruction manual for a game. Planning to release an HD collection of games from the Playstation 2? Include the original versions, voice actor interviews, bonus games; really the sky’s the limit with this stuff. It may cost a bit more to add these tidbits to a re-release, but the content is certainly worth it and I am ready for video games to receive the same fanfare and treatment as the film industry.
There aren’t a ton of games I’ve played where I thought it was absolutely terrible. Part of it has to do with not being a long time gamer and the other being I’ve based most of my game purchases on reviews and recommendations from trusted friends and family. I did, however, make a newbie mistake in my eagerness to dive straight into the wonderful world of video games.
The one game I made the mistake of purchasing when I was new to the gaming scene and had bought my first portable handheld, the Nintendo DS Lite, was Myst for the DS. The game was originally an adventure puzzle game made for the PC. I heard about the game, but never played it. I never got into PC gaming much. When I was in dire need of a game to play, I looked through the DS section of my local Best Buy, trying to find a game that was fun and affordable.
I saw Myst and read the back of the box. The game has you play as a character who is simply named “Stranger,” who uses a special book to travel to the mysterious island of Myst. You interact with the world to unlock the secrets of the island and its characters. I’m a fan of adventure/fantasy type stories and I thought Myst might be right up my alley. I should have looked up the reviews before purchasing the game.
Fans of the original Myst said their main complaints with the game was the bad transfer from PC to DS. The graphics were smaller, there were too many glitches, and the controls were pretty awkward, considering a lot of the game relies on interacting with the objects you see in the game to gain clues about the mysterious world of Myst.
A lot of the reviewers’ complaints were all correct. While I can’t compare the quality of the graphics between the PC and DS, as I’ve never played the game until the time I purchased it, controlling the game was a nuisance. I didn’t get very far with the game before I left it on my shelf neglected and forgotten. You would think for a point and click PC game, Myst would have translated well for Nintendo’s touch and tap capabilities. It did not.
Reading a book in Myst was annoying. Pages accidentally skipped when I tapped on it, before I had a chance to read the next part of a story or clue. Because the graphics were pretty small, you had to zoom in to read the text in a book. After playing the game for an hour, I didn’t think the world of Myst was as exciting to delve into as I had originally thought. I was instantly bored with the game and stopped playing it after that.
I don’t doubt the original Myst was a better experience on the PC than DS, but I don’t plan on picking up a copy of this game for my computer either. With so many other games to play, I don’t feel inclined to purchase Myst for the PC and play it how it was originally intended to be played––point and click without the graphics being scaled down to fit a small, portable handheld.
I may have wasted about $20 on Myst and have since sold the game back for absolutely nothing, but I did learn a valuable lesson from this experience––always read the reviews before purchasing. Or at least consult trusted friends and family for their recommendations on good games to play.
I really can’t even begin to describe just how attached I was to my DS. Short of playing a borrowed Gameboy way back when, the DS was the first handheld gaming device I owned. And man, did I OWN it. That little white box went everywhere with me. It became the savior of public transportation, a willing companion on any journey, and my knight in shining plastic. I rented, bought, and sold back dozens of DS games over the course of several years. And for a couple of those years, I definitely favored its games over those on any console. But though our connection was swift, our breakup was even faster. With a change in life and commuting, and less time to game generally, the DS went to a young and very excited family member. Will I be able to “borrow” the DS for my island? Will I be able to choose only five games? Read on…oh yes…read on.