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Monday, December 24, 2007

Foward 2008: DS Gaming in 2008

A general look at DS gaming in 2008, the trends, what to expect, personal commentaries, rumors, and wishes and hopes for the DS in 2008.

2007 was a consummate example of Nintendo’s dominance of the gaming handheld market. With the DS Lite constantly topping the sales charts throughout the entire year, there is no doubt that the handheld is the hottest gaming device in the world right now, and will still be the hottest in 2008. 2007 is coming to a close, but you can be sure that 2008 is going to be another great year for DS and DS Lite owners.

Since the inception of the DS platform in late 2004, there haven’t been many third-party hardcore games for the handheld outside of the occasional RPGs from Square Enix and other smaller publishers, but that’s understandable since the underpowered DS isn’t built for the hardcore crowd, but instead, geared towards the more mainstream audience. For months after the launch of the DS, it was not a surprise to hear someone say that the DS wasn’t capable of more than a bunch of kiddy games. The potential of the DS’s unique touch-screen functionalities weren’t fully realized as well. But all these have been changing rapidly in the past several months, with third-party developers and publishers having understood the DS hardware more and knowing what the DS is really capable of. This was clearly evident towards the end of 2007 when some third-party multiplatform games made their debut on the DS, among them Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008. Call of Duty 4 is one of the rare FPS games on the DS, and for a debutant, it fared considerably well, and was certainly a first step in the right direction. Hopefully, Call of Duty 5 would be on DS and improve on its predecessor. WWE, though making full use of the DS’s touch-screen functionalities, did not impress me as it was turn-based, but I would welcome a 2nd WWE game on DS, perhaps eradicating the turn-based formula and going for a more real-time approach.

The trend: More third-party hardcore games on the DS in 2008.

This trend is the one to watch out for in 2008. For one, Assassin’s Creed would be coming to the DS. I am really excited about the prospect of such a game being on the DS and would like to know how the developers are planning to execute Assassin’s Creed on the handheld. Hopefully, Assassin’s Creed wouldn’t turn out to be a 2D side scroller game on the DS because it would be a wasted opportunity. Surely, the delayed Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword has shown that the DS is indeed capable of intensive 3D action games and I would like to see Assassin’s Creed becoming another Ninja Gaiden DS. Another hardcore DS game gunning for a 2008 release is Blue Dragon Plus, the DS version of the already-released Blue Dragon game for the Xbox 360. Though promising in name, speculations currently running around the Internet prove otherwise. There is a possibility that Blue Dragon could turn into a card battle game, but reports by other gaming websites are reassuring, suggesting that Blue Dragon for the DS could be a turn-based strategy game. However, what is sure is that Blue Dragon Plus follows the same storyline as that in the Xbox 360 game and that there will be cut-scenes similar to the ones on Xbox 360. Sounds thrilling? You bet.

Checks on the schedule list revealed another shock debutant on DS in 2008. Console strategy game Tom Clancy’s EndWar is coming to the DS. While I aren’t sure what’s EndWar going to be exactly like, there is no doubt that EndWar could be another game that will push the graphical limitations of the DS and make use of the touch-screen functionalities. The last Tom Clancy DS effort was Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, courtesy of Gameloft, Ubisoft’s handheld games department, which also did Brothers in Arms DS (another good hardcore game there). The other hardcore games coming to the DS are your usual ones, including a bunch of Square Enix games, one of them the much-anticipated Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Rings of Fate, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Alone in the Dark. If you’re a hardcore gamer and own a DS or DS Lite, 2008 will be the year for your DS or DS Lite to satisfy your taste.

Hardcore games are just second in quantity to casual games on the DS, it seems. Wait a moment. Have you noticed that how recent casual games for the Wii and DS always seem to have their titles ending with a ‘z’? Say, Petz: Horsez 2, or Catz or Dogz? Expect a flood of such games in 2008 as well, with Homie Rollerz, more Bratz games, and more Ubisoft Petz series coming. Also, more mini-games collections are in the offing.

New DS model to be officially announced next year? Maybe. But ... ...

It has been 2 years since Mario Kart DS came out, and I wouldn’t mind Mario Kart DS 2. Could we see another Mario Kart game for DS in 2008? Probably no. But hearing some sort of announcement on the said game? Maybe. But I am sure nothing will be bigger news than the rumors of Nintendo having completed a new DS model that has wider screens, internal storage (and that Nintendo is preparing some sort of content download service) and one that does away with the GBA slot, making the new DS model slimmer than the DS Lite. It has also been reported that Nintendo will not release the new DS model until sales of the DS Lite begin to drop worldwide, which I think wouldn’t happen for a while - not at least in 2008. What does this mean? From the details given, it is probable that the new DS model could be a whole new platform and while it could be compatible with the older DS games, GBA games are no longer a go on the new DS model, unless of course, Nintendo puts GBA games up for download on the download service. My hopes for better graphical capabilities are still unfounded, though. Will we see an official announcement addressing this in 2008? Well, maybe. But that will probably make people stop buying DS Lite and wait for the new DS model instead. Hmm ... ...

All in all, the DS should produce another fantastic performance in 2008. Do expect surprise game or hardware announcements and what better place and time to announce something other than at major gaming events? E3 2008? Look out for it. Mario Kart DS 2? It’s anybody’s guess.


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