My Time With The Nintendo DS

A year ago I wrote a post about my time with the Nintendo 3DS. Since I haven’t written off the beaten trail lately, I decided to write a follow-up post, but this time focus on the original dual-screen system. I was very late to the DS world due to being a poor kid. My older brother (being the responsible one) would save all the money he would get from our grandmother to purchase his own when the time came. To this day, he still has his original DS, except that it is a glorified GBA player since the top screen no longer works. My younger brother and I weren’t so responsible as he was. My younger brother was in that phase of “I’m the youngest so buy me everything” phase. He ended up getting a DS before me (which didn’t bother me as much since I was still grooving with my GBA SP). At the time, he didn’t care what type of DS he got as long as he got one, so my mom bought him the only one available which was a pink one. I was still the only one out of my brothers without a DS, but it was fine since there weren’t many things I was super excited to play.

(My original DSi and DS Lite that I picked up later. Still works properly to this day with no broken neck. The DS Lite I bought a few years ago serves to replay games that utilize the GBA slot.)

Then came along Final Fantasy III, the official third game in the series that never came out to the states originally. This was during my big JRPG kick at the time and it just so happen that I finished Final Fantasy & Final Fantasy II not too long ago. I wanted to play this game, and this was the kickstart to me getting my own DS. I bought the game in the hopes that my older brother would let me play it on his DS, but since he put the time and effort into getting his, he was understandably protective of it. So when my younger brother wasn’t using it, I would borrow his. There was a time when he was scared to play his DS out in public since he was a boy playing on a pink device (oh the good ‘ol early young masculine era), so to prove him that he had nothing to be ashamed about, I took his DS with me while I was in high school (you know, the worst place in the world). Did I get picked on by other kids in my class for playing on a “girly” device? Oh yeah… Did I give a fuck. Hell no! I was too busy stressing over the difficulty in FF3 to care at the time. Eventually at some point, my mom surprised me with my own DS Lite (sometime after my GBA died). I wish I could remember the specifics, but better late than never.

For how iconic the DS was, I didn’t really appreciate it until my college days (when it was the only thing I had). Looking through my list of games, most games that I enjoy to this day didn’t come until much later; minus the after mention Final Fantasy III. I never legit finished FF3 since the final Cloud of Darkness boss kept kicking my ass over and over. We had this great device at the time called the Action Replay that could hack your game if compatible. I take no shame in finding a hack that could one-shot all enemies and bosses in the game. I unequipped everyone, went into the final fight, and one punched the Cloud of Darkness since I was really mad at that point. I did get to see the credits roll, so I counted it as me finishing the game (one day I will replay it and beat it fairly). I’ll talk more about the Action Replay when it applies to other games I used it for, but this was my first encounter with a device that could hack into your game and produce interesting results.

One of the stars of the DS was New Super Mario Bros. At this point in my life, I was kinda done with Mario (mostly because around this time I realized that I’m terrible at platformers). I played through it and finished it at one point, but that wasn’t the main reason I would pick this game up to play off and on. The game includes an assortment of minigames that you can play at any time. I think I spent way more time in this mode than the original game. Another reason for this is that the minigames could be played via download play, and my friends and I would play them on the band bus to different competitions. Speaking of the band bus, the greatest game to have on those long rides was Mario Kart DS. Anyone who had a DS on the bus would join in (sometimes even the adults) and just spend the entire trip racing each other. The cart that my brother had got lost or stolen at some point, but we still have the case in case it ever shows back up (its been over 15 years, its long gone). The only other game we would sometimes play on the bus was Advance Wars: Dual Strike. Our friend had the game, and we would pass the DS around when it was our turn to make our moves and assess the results from everyone else’s turn. Didn’t play it as much, but it was a multiplayer game that we played.

Okay. So obviously a big game came out in 2007 that everyone was excited to play. I’m talking about Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. I was one of those kids excited to play a new Pokémon game and I opted to play Pearl since my younger brother wanted to play Diamond. I played all of Pearl, reset it a couple of times, and hacked it with the Action Replay. I know Diamond and Pearl are some of the most loved games in the series, but for me they are somewhere close to the bottom. Something about it just felt bland to me. I liked the new Pokémon introduced and the love shown to older Pokémon getting new forms, but I couldn’t recall anything that made me feel like this is one of the best in the series. Even now my feelings toward the 4th generation hasn’t changed much. I say this as someone who is still going to play the Switch remakes when they come out, and see if a fresh retake on it changes my opinion somehow (I will be playing it side-by-side with Kat, so that will probably alter some of my feelings towards it).

You know which Pokémon game didn’t suck though? Pokémon Black and White are easily in my top three generations of Pokémon. I remember people hating these games at first since it took away everyone’s favorite Pokémon and locked them behind the postgame. I found this to be one of the greatest choices they ever made and it forced me to play the games in a different way. No longer could I go out and seek some of my favorite Pokémon. I was stuck relying on mons that I had no idea of how good they were; and that was exciting! It was a great reason for me to replay the games and try out different Pokémon in my team just like how you would in Red and Blue. I wish Game Freak would do this again especially since its hard to put all the current mons in one game. Just create a whole new batch that we are forced to learn and adapt with and then make a DLC excuse to bring the older mons in the game at a later date. I made it super easy for you Game Freak (I will wait for my check in the mail).

Outside of Pokemon, let’s talk about some of my most played games on the system. There were a lot of games that I discovered on the system, but a few of them stick out to me more than the others. The first one was Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift. I feel like this game is the black sheep of the Final Fantasy Tactics games since I hear no one talk about this game. Maybe since this was my first game in the series, I found it really enjoyable. Outside of Fire Emblem, I hadn’t played that many tactical RPGs and if I’m honest, I can sometimes find them boring unless there is some hook to them. Tactics A2 is as basic as it can get, but for some reason I was compelled to 100% complete it. I never did since I could never figure out the Chocobo missions, and there was this one tough fight where I had to get my characters to max level to stand a chance. If you can explain to me why no one likes or talks about this game, please tell me because to this day I have no complaints about it. I do have to replay the game at some point since I named my character something very inappropriate and I don’t like the idea of leaving that as my legacy (I believe your high school version is the worst version of yourself).

One game that got a lot of playtime out of my DS was Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies. This was my second ever Dragon Quest title that I played after crushing Dragon Quest VIII. What made this game special to me was the bond it created for my younger brother and me. Around this time, he had became the insufferable baby brother that was annoying and liked to cause a lot of trouble. One thing that got us to stop arguing at times was playing this game together thanks to the multiplayer aspect of it. Dragon Quest IX is special since you can play through the entire game solo or with multiple people. You are restricted to only using your main character if you go to someone else’s world, but you can join them in helping them finish the game and vis versa. Most of the time, it would be him coming over to my world and going through the hidden grottos that you can access at the end of the game to challenge tougher enemies and hidden bosses from previous games. This was also the time that we discovered that he really liked to grind in games (his main character ended up being around level 200+ after reincarnating him twice). I still have his copy of the game ever in case he wants to go down memory lane and clear out some grottos if we still have it in us.

There were other games that I really got into once I left home for college and only had access to my DS. I discovered the Etrain Odyssey series and learned how difficult dungeon crawlers can be if you don’t have a base understanding of mechanics. My entry point was Etrain Odyssey III: The Drowned City and the only one that I have finished up to this point. ET3 is brutally difficult if you don’t understand party composition and skill optimization, but once you get it down it feels great playing through. The whole designing you map mechanic was also new to me and added on a fun layer of being responsible for my own map like a true adventurer. A pro tip if you need to grind a bit is to put down automatic walk paths in a good place where you can auto battle and just have it on in the background while the game automatically plays itself to grind levels and materials for you. It takes some of the boredom out of doing it manually. I would love to replay through this game if it ever got the Untold treatment like the first two games did. If dungeon crawling, party management and customization, and high difficulty sounds interesting to you, I highly recommend the series if you still have your 3DS. The games go on sale regularly on the eShop for cheap, so enjoy.

In 2010, I discovered the mainline Shin Megami Tensei games with Shin Megami Tensei: Stranger Journey. I had only played Person 3 & 4 at the time and thought maybe it would be somewhat similar to those. I was greatly wrong. I stopped playing the game close to the end when I discovered I was on the wrong path I wanted to be on and discovered that running from all my fights was a bad thing. At the same time as discovering Strange Journey, I also discovered a game called Knights in the Nightmare. This is a very interesting game where you play as a wisp and have to possess dead spirits in order to clear out the enemies on the screen. It is also a bullet hell where you have to control your wisp on the bottom screen to dodge enemy attacks. I never finished it since I didn’t realize that some of the characters you get can be permanently lost if they get damaged too much while possessing them (I think, its been a while). I definitely need to boot this game back up again and play through this unique game again. Two other games that I did not expect playing all the way through were Radiant Historia and Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. Radiant Historia is a time travel JRPG that I was hoping to be better in my opinion. The story felt generic to me and I wish the time traveling aspect did more than just jumping to different points in the story. I had to look up a guide on how to beat the final boss since it didn’t make sense to me (and still doesn’t since the game never makes you do what you have to do at this point). I have the complete opposite feelings toward Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. I was hooked on this game for a solid week. The gameplay and puzzles were great and felt like a cozy JRPG. I was surprised when I finished the game since it didn’t feel like the ending of the game. The cliffhanger at the end suggest that a follow-up game was planned, but 11 years later we are still waiting to see if the story will get concluded (if it can happen to other games, then I will still hold out for this).

There were other games that I played on the system that I no longer have for one reason or another. Some of them just got completely lost like in the case of Mario Kart DS and Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. Days of Ruin was nothing special of an Advance Wars game, but I was on the final map of the game when I lost it, so I never got the satisfaction of finishing it. This was also during the time where I was a poor child and would sell my games that I no longer played. Some games that I traded in I would soon regret like Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia and Children of Mana. At the time I had finished both games to completion and had nothing else to do in them. One of these days I hope to re-add them to my collection to refill an empty void in my gaming timeline.

There were other games though that I have zero regret getting rid of. Two of those were Luminous Arc and Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume. I finished Luminous Arc and it left a bad taste in my mouth afterwards. It felt like a generic tactical RPG with pretty magical girls for you to look at (nothing wrong with that, but something I wasn’t into at the time). I had high hopes for Valkyrie Profile, but the game lost its appeal to me very quick. I don’t remember much of it since I didn’t get far into it, but it has a mechanic that you can sacrifice party member permanently in order to obtain great power for the main character. I didn’t like that mechanic, so I stopped playing the game. I probably be more open to it now, but I have no desire to seek it out.

But, none of those games can come close to one of my all time favorite games on the system. This is a game that I played the hell out of when I first got it, sold it like the dumbass that I was, and later in life found another copy and cherish it to this day. The game I am talking about of course, is Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales. You have no freaking idea what you are missing if you have never played this game. The game is presented in this pop-up book look and revolves around stopping an evil book by going through familiar children’s stories only with Final Fantasy creatures in them. The gameplay consist most of just minigames that you play in the different stories, but they all range from childish to intimidating when you are trying to go for the high scores. BUT! None of that matters because this game has one of the best card games that makes this game addicting. Its hard to explain, but you main objective is to reduce your opponents HP to zero. You do this by playing cards that summon different monsters and can either attack, guard, or trigger an effect. Each card has four colors on them and you will either find a sword in one that represents if an attack is successful, or shields that block other monsters attacks. Monsters with effects will trigger their effects if your attack is successful or if you have enough crystals in your stockpile to trigger them. It looks simple, but can get very tense when you are trying to guess your opponents next move and if you can block their attack while trying to activate effects with the number of crystals that you have. It is fun and addictive and I wish they would have made a full game where it was nothing but that (Edit: I was not aware that the card game exist in Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon. Unfortunately it was removed from the Every Buddy! edition that came out in 2019.).

All good things must come to an end at some point. My DS had two points where it reached its final playtimes with me. The first happened with my original DS Lite. My DS became the victim of my younger brother’s rage (like all of my handheld devices) when he would borrow it to play it and slam it to the ground if he got angry about something. My GBC and GBA meet their ends to this fate, and I was ready to fight to save my DS Lite during one altercation. The results of one fight however had me breaking my own DS in half while fighting him. That was a painful memory that I wish I could go back and resolve better, but life is like that. Being without a DS put me in a gaming standstill since the only consoles we had were a Wii and PS2 that we had to share between the three of us. Things didn’t stay too gloomy for long when one day my mom asked me if I wanted a new DS. This was around the time when Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver were coming out (the best Pokémon games ever don’t @ me on this). I graciously accepted her kindness and picked up a DSi. I wanted to try out this new model DS since both of my brothers had the original DS Lite and I wanted to be different. I didn’t think I would miss the GBA slot, but soon I realized losing that meant losing access to all my other wonderful GBA games. Nevertheless, my DSi got me all the way through college and is still in good working order to this day. The day I got my 3DS was when I could finally tell a good companion to take the rest it deserved. If I want to play a DS game for fun, I will sometimes pop it into my DSi just for old time sake. Since then, I have obtained a DS Lite that has the GBA slot in it, but that is for mostly games that have extra features when you have a compatible game inserted. During the late 2000s and early 2010s when everyone was enjoying their fancy Xbox 360s and PS3s, I was still rocking and grooving along with my DS, and I thank it for getting me through my good and bad times. There are still a ton of games I have that I never got around to playing, and I’m waiting for the perfect time to find a nice comfy place to sit with my DS and relive through some of my glory days.

Honorable Mentions from my DS Collection:

  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
  • Chrono Trigger (DS)
  • Custom Robo Arena
  • Disgaea DS
  • Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
  • Kirby Super Star Ultra
  • Lunar Knights
  • Pokémon Black 2
  • Radiant Historia
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Strage Journey
  • The World Ends With You
  • Yu Gi Oh! 5D’s World Championship 2011: Over the Nexus

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