Top Ten DS Game Disappointments

Ever play a game that was awful?  A game that just really should’ve never existed?  A “weekend-ruiner?” Yeah, we’ve all been there.  They’re not too hard to spot, though; at least, to the trained eye they’re not.  Is that a licensed movie game?  Pass.  Are they using a Z to show pluralization?  Burn it.  Did Suda51 rub his dick all over this?  Stab your face off.

Here’s Suda pushing out his next game.

But sometimes those awful games don’t have any of those tell-tale signs.  Sometimes, a game can just let you down even if you go in with the best of intentions (especially if you go in with the best of intentions).  These are the games that looked, sounded, and played well enough to fool you into forking over the cash to try them out.  These Trojan sons-of-bitches lower your guard by presenting you with something that seems safe and fun only to surprise you when you’re at your most vulnerable, spilling out hundreds of tiny soldiers of Disappointment to wreck havoc on your fragile innards.  Metaphorically speaking.

Probably not the best metaphor to use or name for a condom.

My point: disappointment sucks.  I hate researching and salivating over a game that should have been good, yet somehow it missed the mark.  Barely or significantly?  It doesn’t matter.  Either case, it leaves you feeling more sad than angry because you can see the potential wasted.  It’s a somber feeling, indeed.  And the DS had its fair share of disappointments.

The following are the DS games that left me feeling a little empty inside.  They are my Top Ten DS Game Disappointments.  The rules are simple: I had to have owned the game, I had to have had high expectations, and, lastly, I had to have brutally misplaced those expectations.  But I don’t want to confuse people; these are not my Top Ten Worst DS Games; I don’t plan on making such a negative list, honestly.  These are games that are actually quite good (with glaring exceptions), but they weren’t as good as I had hoped.

10. Windy X Windam

I don’t even know what the hell Windy x Windam is.  It’s a game that completely took me by surprise when I found it, especially since Izuna and Shino from Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja were inexplicably on the front cover.  I’m a huge fan of the Izuna games, so of course I picked this game up immediately.  My experience so far had shown that any game with Izuna in it was awesome: Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja, Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns, Rondo of Swords. All awesome.

It must be her personality.

I also saw that it was a fighting game.  Not too many of these on the DS, I thought.  But then I saw who the publisher was: Graffiti.  I really didn’t know who Graffiti was, but I knew Atlus had published all the games Izuna was in thus far.  Why not this one?  Success, Izuna’s developer, had made Windy x Windam and all the other games mentioned earlier.  Why didn’t Atlus want to publish this game?  Well, after playing, I can confidently say Atlus didn’t publish it because they have standards: Windy x Windam was straight garbage.

Windy x Windam in the early stages of development.

Seriously, this game is terrible.  There really aren’t any redeeming qualities.  Its hit detection was horrendous, the controls were clunky, and the characters were either too bland or too ripped off.  They actually have a little “girl” character that was really a boy.  Sound familiar?

It can’t be unseen.

From the not-too-terrible 2D animation to the bizarre characters, this game looked and felt like a Guilty Gear derivation.  That doesn’t make it inherently bad.  The 90’s were almost exclusively composed of Street Fighter II clones, and I still love me some Fatal Fury and Samurai Showdown.  What made Windy x Windam horrible was everything I mentioned earlier, and the fact that Izuna was in it.  It crushed me to see her flawless gaming record tarnished and dragged through the mud.  Also, infinite juggles.  And it wasn’t like they were even hard to do.  You could make opponents airborne with a strong attack, then keep them in the air with well-timed weak strikes.  It was embarrassing.  I’m glad I lost this one in the fire.

9. The Dark Spire

I don’t even know what to say about The Dark Spire.  I freaking hate this game.  It had everything going for it, too.  Atlus published it, the art style was provocative, and it was a dungeon crawler.  These are all great things to me.  But I distinctly remember reading the back on the case and reading something that likened it to be the “return of the old-school dungeon crawler!”, as if that was a good thing.  Spoilers: it’s not.  The game’s art style became grating after awhile because everything had a heavy contrast, and you could easily be killed by a bat or a squirrel or something in the very beginning because your characters were so lame.  Who in the hell decides to gang up with a bunch of pussies to go kill wildlife for hours so they can get strong enough to actually enter a dungeon?

Should I add them to the party or kill them for the XP?

Moreover, who actually has the time for that shit?  I don’t!  So I went into the dungeon to commence wrecking ass.  Did I wreck any ass?  Nope!  I think a rat farted, and all my characters passed out from sissy-ness, which is bullshit because four dwarfs comprised my team, and dwarfs are bad ass!  Case and point: Beard.

Beard.

Considering how grossly unrealistic this game was, I decided to put it in Shitty Mode.  I don’t think that’s what it was called, but I’m not wasting any time researching this game.  Plus, it’s a very fitting name; it made the game look like shit, like you were playing it on a Vectrex.

As lame as this is, it kinda makes me want to play Star Fox.

Despite how terrible it is, The Dark Spire somehow has a niche audience (like most awful games do), and I unfortunately come across one of the game’s fans more often than not.  The argument is always the same:  “You need to give it time!”  That may be, but I only put time in games that are fun, and if a game is not fun I always choose not to play it even if it gets amazing later.  I’m shallow like that.  I hate grinding, I hate tutorials, and I hate taking time to traverse from one place to the other when a streamlined menu could have done the same thing (I’m talking to you, Red Dead Redemption and Wind Waker).  I’ve very little tolerance for time-wasting simulations unless they are genuinely fun; therefore, The Dark Spire can suck it.

8. Lost Magic

Lost Magic really broke my heart.  This is the kind of game that I had always wanted.  The art style and story were a little bland, but the gameplay and concept were right up my alley.  You played as Little Boy (I think he had a name) whose father died and blah blah blah MAGIC MONSTER SUMMONING!

No caption can do this reference justice.

I can’t tell you the first thing about the plot, but I remember how awesome the game was.  Basically, it was Magic the Gathering but without all that feminine deck building and card tapping.  You were a wizard on the battlefield, you had a gang of monsters poised to attack another gang of monsters, and, by drawing runes and swiping your stylus, your wizard could shoot fireballs for murdering or make large earthen walls for defending.  It was fantastic.

Epic.

So what could possibly make this game suck?  Time limits, that’s what.  I hate time limits.  When used properly, time limits can be used to great effect, causing tension or being a plot device; however, time limits should not be used during every single fight you’re in!  I don’t understand why I always had 5 minutes exactly to beat a level, 10 if it was a boss fight.  5 minutes is not enough time to have a fun, proper monster and wizard fight.  It’s just not!  Especially if you had to fortify strategic areas, fight respawning enemies, and wipe out every monster on the map.  Sometimes you just want to enjoy yourself and watch your monsters die for your cause.  Is that too much to ask?  Apparently for Ubisoft, it is.  Way to ruin my fantasy, assholes.  But keep making Rayman Legends, please!

7. Lock’s Quest

Lock’s Quest is such a freaking amazing game… at first.  It’s a tower defense game, but without all that lame passiveness.  You play as Lock, a boy who has to save the world probably, and you build kick-ass cannon towers and booby traps.  Like most tower defense games, you have a building phase, where you use resources to bulk up and repair your defenses, followed by a defense phase, where an overwhelming swarm of enemies tries to take you down.

The genre is fun because it emphasizes that strategy and forward-thinking are the players’ best assets.  But wouldn’t it be cool if you could go out there and kick some ass yourself?  That’s just what Lock’s Quest lets you do!  Lock can dismantle his robotic adversaries and repair walls and towers as fast as the bastards tear them down.  This sounds really fun at first, but it gets pretty old pretty quick, mostly because it gets tiresome.  The game gets very repetitive with the same enemies coming at you again and again, and the whole “Use Lock to kick ass and repair things in real time” aspect starts to get as overwhelming as the hordes.  The game just gets too busy, and you start to realize why passiveness is so instrumental to the genre.

Tower Defense champion!

Lock’s Quest was a blast to play in the beginning, but the monotonous waves and the difficulty to keep up with everything as Lock becomes cumbersome.  I really wanted to like this one.

6. Sands of Destruction

Boring.  Easy and boring.  That’s pretty much all you really need to say about Sands of Destruction.  But the question remains:  “How can it be boring when one of the characters is a yellow teddy bear assassin with an eye patch?”  It’s sound logic; it really is.  But somehow they still managed to mess it up.  What’s even more perturbing is the fact that it was developed by many of the same people who made the immensely delightful Xenogears.

Why can’t more games focus on psychology, philosophy, and giant robots?

I don’t know how they managed it, but they did.  It’s an accomplishment, really.  Not one to write home to Mom about, but an accomplishment, nonetheless.  If the game wasn’t so easy to the point where combat was more pointless than dull, I might have liked it.  The characters weren’t that bad, the story was interesting (more or less), the combat had potential, and the sayings the characters said during combat actually gave stat boosts, which I thought was unique and cool.  But the difficulty!  Or, more apt, the lack thereof.  All you had to do was beef up your characters’ Flurry Attacks, and you win!  I don’t remember ever struggling throughout the entire game.

Other than the urges to fall asleep or cut my own head off, there was no struggling.

I guess watching the anime and playing the game concurrently didn’t do either iteration any favors.  The cartoon was stupid and bland as hell, and the characters were completely different from one medium to the next.  For example, take the chick who was an important character and kind of looked like a maid.

Sexy and dangerous.  If it weren’t so aroused my penis would be confused.

In the game, she was revered like a princess, and she was very refined.  In the show, she was a hothead who was treated contemptuously by some effeminate dude wearing glasses.  It was really weird seeing the contrast, and she wasn’t the only character that got the “Jekyll/Hyde” treatment.  Most of the characters got that.  I don’t know which came first, the game or the series, but I do know they both sucked and were very boring.

5. Tokyo Beat Down

Wow.  Another Atlus game.  Who would have thunk it?  People who know me know how gay I am for Atlus.  I guess that’s why it hurts so much when they publish a game that’s so obviously terrible.  Tokyo Beat Down is an old-school Beat-Em-Up that just doesn’t cut it.  That’s not to say the game is all bad.  What the game does right it does with a flourish, such as the game’s humor and the dialogue.  The script in this game is so freaking hilarious, and the characters are outstanding.

Such as this integral character to the plot.

You play as Lewis Cannon (the pun is delicious!), and he’s a member of the “Beast Cops.” They’re a bunch of cops who use excessive force with extreme prejudice regardless of the crime (parking in a handicap spot or robbing a bank both get you an ass whoopin’).  The one-liners and the way the cops play off one another like bickering high schoolers (reminiscent of Archer) clash with the gritty, realistic 70’s cop-show vibe the atmosphere exudes (which it exudes brilliantly, might I add).  I really like this juxtaposition of silly with gritty.  They come together hilariously.  You know what’s not hilarious?  The gameplay!

Neither fun nor funny.  Solution: More pile driving.

The hit detection is awful, the controls were unresponsive, the fighting gets old, the environments are boring, and I never felt like I had control over my characters.  This just goes to show that style cannot trump substance in video games.

Wait a minute… is that the third game developed by Success on my list?  What the hell, Success!  You made Cotton and Izuna, for crying out loud!  You need to step it up!  My frail heart can only take so much.

4. DK Jungle Climber

Damn it!  I put three Success games on this list, two of which were published by Atlus, and now I have to put my boy DK on here, too!?  What a crock of bullshit!  Donkey Kong is my favorite gaming character of all time!  How the hell did he get on here?

Oh, yeah…

I don’t know about you all, but DK Jungle Climber is hell on the hands.  I have huge hands, so I can’t play the game for more than 5 minutes before my fingers start convulsing.  Having to play exclusively with the shoulder buttons forces me to hold the DS in a way that just strains my phalanges.  I think it has to do with how you need to hold down the buttons for long periods of time and alternate between them, sometimes in quick succession.  Whatever the case, I don’t love DK enough to get Carpel Tunnel.  Sorry, buddy, but this game is awful.

3. Ketsui: Death Label

I have to preface this one by saying that I really love Kesui: Death Label.  It’s a great Shoot-Em-Up on a platform that should be inundated with Shoot-Em-Ups, but, alas, it is not.  There’s a lot to like here.  The game is very fast-paced (it’s almost a Bullet Hell), and the graphics remind me of some of the Shmups released on the Saturn.  What sucks about Ketsui is that it’s not a full game.  You just fight bosses.  That doesn’t sound too terrible, but there aren’t that many, and one of the best parts about Shmups is going through the level, trying to survive and collect all the power-ups you can so that the final confrontation at the level’s end will hopefully be easier: it’s all about the build up!  Ketsui robs you of that (except for one level), and that’s just mean.

Here, have a teensy stage.

I should also say that this game is only available in Japan, so a lot was lost on me because the text is completely unreadable.  It also doesn’t help that the game is expensive as hell!  It was one of the more expensive pieces in my collection; I think I paid $110 for it?  I can’t remember.  It was complete and came with a DVD I couldn’t watch.  So yay!

2. Chronos Twin (Chronos Twins?)

Chronos Twin was a game I imported from the UK awhile back.  As the name implies, the game involves time travel.  I got interested because you had to control 2 people simultaneously (technically, it was the same person), one on each screen.  The top screen was the present, and the bottom screen was the past.  As with any time traveling game, you could do things in the past to effect the present, e.g. plant a seed in one time and have a vine to climb in the other.  It worked pretty well, and controlling 2 characters at once was more challenging than I expected.  The D-pad always simultaneously controlled both characters, but each character had their own shoot button, which got frustrating when enemies swarmed you on both screens and you’re shooting in the wrong time period (the fact that that sentence exists and contextually makes sense is amazing).

All in all, it was a pretty fun game.  The concept was cool, and the Run-n-Gun aspect of the game, though comparatively slow to other titles in this genre, could get the adrenaline pumping.  I don’t remember the puzzles being real head-scratchers, but if I really wanted a puzzle game I wouldn’t have had to look too far on the DS.

Prof. Layton packing heat does sound like a sweet game.  Or a really bad Slash Fic.

The only thing that let this game down was its bugs, of which it had many.  I don’t remember them all, but the one I remember the most was a deal breaker.  Basically, during a boss fight, the guy would duplicate himself into 4 or 5 people, hover at the top of the screen, and then shoot a beam at you Kamaehameha-style.  If the beam hit you, the game froze.  It sucked.  You’d have to power your DS all the way down and restart it.  Fighting this guy was a pain in the ass.  But, considering that I’m ridiculous and don’t allow games to win, I suffered through this bullshit and eventually beat the guy.  I think I had to shutdown my DS like a dozen times.  I have a real problem.

Wha?  Oh, the kids are tied to the tree out back.  I’ll feed ’em after I beat Shredder.

Another thing that pissed me off about this game was that it didn’t know what its own name was.  The box art says “Chronos Twin,” but the title screen said “Chronos Twins.”  It’s a minor complaint, but it was still unsettling to think that no one caught that.

This is the Wii-Ware version.  I see the confusion went cross-platform.

Chronos Twin/s was a unique and fun game ultimately hindered by a lack of polish.  I’d really like to see Enjoy Up develop a sequel if they’re still around.  The concept is just too cool to let die.

1. Commando: Steel Disaster

Have you ever played a game and, after like 5 minutes with it, thought, “This is totally ripping off (insert better game here)!”  Yeah, Commando: Steel Disaster is that game.  It shamelessly “finds inspiration” from the Metal Slug series, which in turn “found inspiration” in Contra, which ripped off the life and times of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And Arnie’s cool with that.  See?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t really care who ripped off whom.  Metal Slug is one of my favorite series, and Commando: Steel Disaster is a pretty good game.  That’s just like the people who are getting their tampons in a wad because Playstaion All-Stars Battle Royale is a rip off of Super Smash Bros.  So!?  I love Smash Bros., and if someone wants to make a game just like it, by all means, get your ass to work!  I especially want to see Kevin Butler as a secret character.

I thought this is who they added when they announced Big Daddy.

Getting back to Commando: Steel Disaster, it’s totally a Metal Slug rip off.  It looks and plays almost exactly like an MS game.  Commando stole the art style, it stole the tanks, it stole how the bullets flashed when they fly across the screen, it stole the grenades, it stole the weapons, it stole the explosions, and it stole how the soldiers screamed; therefore, Commando: Steel Disaster is awesome. Not for stealing, but for stealing from the right place.  I wish it would have stolen MS‘s sense of humor.  Commando did give you an evasive maneuver, though.  Metal Slug should totally steal that.  I’m pretty sure Commando wouldn’t mind.

I don’t care; honestly, more games should rip off Metal Slug.

I freaking love games that still use a highly-detailed, pixelated art style, whether it be hand drawn or not.  What I don’t like, Commando: Steel Disaster, is how ruthlessly difficult you are and how difficult traversing your environments can be because you won’t let me know if I can jump on something or not!

Yeah, Chuck!  I’d still be welcome if you’d been more clear on what’s jump-able!

It really is frustrating, especially in the vertical levels, when you die because you thought you could jump on a platform only to find that it was actually in the background.  Place in the fact that you only ever have 1 life, and fuck this game.  It really wouldn’t be so bad if the levels weren’t 15 minutes long!  That’s just torturous!  It gets even worse when you keep seeing the same enemies over and over and over again.  And the environments aren’t very interesting.  I remember a lot of brown and industrial settings.  Also, a sewer.  Great.

The boss fights were sweet, though.  They were always huge robots that shot sparks everywhere, and they were challenging, too.  Too bad dying meant you had to do the whole terrible level over again.  It just wasn’t worth it after awhile.

Sounds blasphemous, but huge robot tanks are not worth replaying terrible levels.

I guess Commando: Steel Disaster was my number 1 disappointment because I love Metal Slug so much, and somebody actually had the balls to make a game like them.  It truly is unfortunate that they didn’t quite pull it off.  Multiple lives would have made this game much more tolerable, and I really wish the developer would have at least looked at the colors at their disposal instead of painting the whole game brown.  I bet they’d have benefited from an editor, too.  Most of the in-game dialogue was riddled with grammar mistakes and misspellings.  Oh, well.  I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next Contra or something to get my Run-n-Gun fix.

Thanks for your reading!

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