Super Mario 64 DS
Number of Players: 1 - 4
For those of you that skipped out on the N64 generation, here's you're chance to enjoy the classic 3D adventure platformer that pioneered the genre. Although the essence of the portable installment is practically identical to the Super Mario 64 counterpart in a number of ways, the game features plenty of extras and new content to satisfy veterans and newcomers alike.
One of the most significant changes is the ability to play with multiple characters - Mario, Luigi, Wario and Yoshi, each of whom possess different abilities integral to collecting a total of 150 stars (30 more than the original). The single-player adventure mode starts you out playing with Yoshi. Ultimately, you'll discover the caps of the Italian cast, empowering you with their abilities. As noted in our Nintendo Enthusiast coverage, Yoshi can hover and eat enemies. Upon collecting the green cap grants you Luigi's abilities to jump to new heights and turn invisible; pick up the yellow cap empower you with Wario's ability to break bricks and turn to metal (allowing you to walk underwater), and lastly, finding Mario's red cap allows you to punch, kick and collect special power-ups.
Taking advantage of the DS capabilities, players can opt to use the stylus or the thumb-strap. It felt a bit awkward using the thumb strap, so I am inclined to stick to playing with the stylus or d-pad exclusively. You can also use the d-pad, but you'll be limited to walking and will have to press the dash button when you need a burst of speed. From the music to the camera angle, the game feels very polished and looks much sharper than its console counterpart.
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to test out the multiplayer games (anyone out there in the CT area with a DS?) Super Mario 64 DS also features an ample selection of mini-games, several for each character which can be enjoyed solo or by taking turns amongst your friends.
Madden NFL 2005
Developer: EA Sports
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Number of Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Sports (Football)
Although I haven't been much of a fan for handheld sports titles, Madden NFL 2005 on the Nintendo DS offers a relatively decent performance utilizing the system's capabilities. Though in all honesty, the action could be presented on a single screen and wouldn't matter to most players either way.
Gamers can use the touch screen to select plays, call audibles, and perform other commands on the fly while they enjoy the action topside. During gameplay, the lower screen shifts to a "field radar", which monitors all 22 players, represented by X's and O's. Unless you're a football junkie, chances are, this feature will go right over your head.
Graphically, the quality falls in-between N64 and PlayStation games; but you'll easily be able to pick out your favorite players thanks to detailed uniforms. Other notable features include player portraits and touchdown dances (animated in a somewhat jerky fashion, but I'll take my victories anyway I can get).
Players can jump right into the action, go head-to-head against a friend wirelessly (a key component for sports enthusiasts who enjoy multiplayer action), play a season and even collect Madden Challenges. Other notable features includes an impressive 3D replay mode, color commentary from John Madden and crowd sound effects.
Overall, the game looks and sounds as good as any handheld sports title can get. It would have been great if the DS offered some sort of connectivity options with the GameCube, but I imagine EA and Nintendo will cook up something for the next Nintendo platform. In the end, most football junkies will likely stick to their consoles for gridiron action, but if you're a DS owner pondering a portable football action, Madden 2005 will offer a solid simulation experience.
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Number of Players: 1
After my painful experience with the N-Gage edition, I found it difficult to be faithful in another handheld edition starring the web-slinger. Thankfully, Vicarious Visions put my fears to rest and delivered a solid 2D platformer worth playing. No, it really is good - and it does a badass job utilizing the dual-screen technology.
For example, during the game, players can tap on the screen (using the thumb strap or stylus) to choose from Spidey's special abilities. Selecting a move will automatically register it to be used with the R trigger. On occasion, you'll use the lower-screen to play a variety of mini-games, or enjoy an remarkable FMV sequence. If you've played the GBA edition, the story is essentially the same, meaning you can expect to battle against Spidey's most notorious villains including Mysterio, The Vulture, and ultimately Dr. Ock himself.
Aside from a variety of web-based abilities like sticking to walls and ceilings, Spidey occasionally will have to resort to some fisticuff action to dispatch opponents. This essentially consists of mashing out a 1-2-3 combination using the A or Y button to pull off a flurry of punches or kicks, respectively. Tapping up on the d-pad will also allow him to execute "uppercut" moves in conjunction with either of the aforementioned buttons, ultimately taking out enemies much quicker. Further, when your spider-sense is tingling, tapping the L button will trigger the classic "Matrix" effect where time slows down, giving you the opportunity to defeat or dodge your enemies.
Graphically, the game animates incredibly smooth for a handheld game. You'll marvel at Spidey's animation as he zips through the city dispatching enemies along the way. All the missions are time-based but don't worry if you're too slow at the crime-fighting thing, it's only a secondary objective. However, you'll want to strive for completing levels under the conditions specified to unlock new abilities and other surprises.
Compared to the other handheld editions, Spider-man 2 on the Nintendo DS is an amazing title and easily one of the best action handheld games I've played this year.