Review: Deca Sports DS (Nintendo DS)

Deca Sports DS
Genre: Sports
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: 03/02/10

Deca Sports DS, developed by Hudson, features ten separate sports simulation mini-games (Arm Wrestling, Wall Climbing, Clay Shooting, Cheerleading, Skydiving, Ping Pong, Bobsled, Rugby, Golf, and Sepak Takraw). The prefix deca- means ten, which gives the game its name, obviously. Being a pseudo-remake of an apparently rather popular multiplayer sports simulation Wii title gave me a bit of insight as to why it exists, other than to be boring (rest assured it excels at this task), but at no point does it warrant its existence in any other way. I suppose it’ll make money though, and to some people that’s warrant enough. Anyway, on with the review.

1. Modes

This being a sports game, there is no story. Instead I will discuss the modes of the game and the multiplayer. Open Match mode is just open play of each game with no structure attached (other than skill points, which I will explain later). The league mode is nothing special. You pick your team and you run the gamut of games, and after winning the first league you can rank up to harder leagues with supposedly more difficult CPU opponents. I say supposedly because I didn’t actually make it to those leagues. The true difficulty of this game lies in actually wanting to continue playing it in the first place, and after trying out all the other modes I was so drained of all happiness that I would probably have seriously considered suicide had I continued playing. Tournament mode is a mini-league mode in that you play one game and can rank up to harder difficulties (local, national, and global), each with varying degrees of difficulty. Challenge mode just takes each of the games and modifies them slightly. As an example, in Sepak Takraw the goal is to hit glowing panels on the opposite side of the net rather than to score goals, but some of the games just turn into time attack mode, and instead of racing the CPU you race the clock. The team editor is actually somewhat in-depth, giving you options such as sex, size (small, medium, and large), head shape, eyes and more for your members. None of this matters much though because the teams I chose never seemed to have any impact on gameplay, making it feel like an empty option.

Multiplayer is the true reason people will pick up this game. There is a six player downloadable multiplayer option, meaning you only need one cartridge to play with five of your friends, making it extremely easy to play with people, and this is probably the main draw for the game. Whether you’ll have friends after you play this with them is another question entirely. A buddy and I got through three of the mini-games (Rock Climbing, Clay Shooting, and Cheerleading) before he turned off his DS and asked that we never speak of it again.

2. Graphics

The graphics for Deca Sports DS are horrible. The characters look like big-headed bipedal apes with hands bigger than their thighs, and the arenas that you play in are filled with NES quality sprites that take turns cheering with the sprite directly adjacent to them. Nothing looks clear with the exception of the text. That’s right. I’m being forced to talk about how the text isn’t fuzzy. For example: First, as your teammates stand looking at you before every match their facial features glitch in and out of existence as they heave in anticipation (good thing I spent all that time customizing my team’s appearance). Second, I frequently found myself asking the question, “Is that a boy or a girl?”. I know the DS isn’t capable of PS3 quality graphics, but I know for sure that it’s at least capable of male and female 3D models. Third, DS stands for dual screen, and there are only two or three games that even have a screen image on the bottom other than generic Deca Sports symbols. I don’t know, maybe there is a legitimate reason for this other than laziness, but I sincerely doubt it.

3. Sound

The sound effects themselves aren’t that bad, but the music is extremely generic. After about two hours of listening to the sound I turned it off, and put headphones on with my own music. The only game that features a noticeable change in style of music is cheerleading. This is only noticeable because the beat of the song jumps up and I noticed the presence of a lot more of a sound that seemed like it was supposed to be a siren, but I couldn’t be sure. There isn’t an overall recurring melody that I noticed, and as far as I can tell the developers didn’t seem to care at all about the music.

4. Control and Gameplay

There are a very large amount of complaints I have with the controls and gameplay of the game, but I’m going to leave it at a few examples and call it fair. Please note that just because I didn’t mention the mini-game specifically doesn’t mean that its controls are fine, because the exact opposite is most likely true. In cheerleading you are asked to use the stylus on the touch screen in time with a shrinking circle (a lot like Elite Beat Agents which I own and love), but the shrinking circle doesn’t seem to go along with the beat of the horrible music playing in the background, making cheerleading probably one of the most frustrating DS experiences I’ve ever had. Sepak Takraw does a very bad job of explaining how to put the ball onto specific portions of the enemy team’s field, and does a very good job of putting the ball onto the wrong portions of the field once I did learn how to play it. Clay Shooting felt extremely glitchy, and didn’t shoot the gun like it was supposed to most of the time when I released the stylus. The only games where I felt like I had a real amount of control over what my character was about to do were wall climbing and rugby, both of which are overly easy and simplistic. I don’t even know what a ruck, scrum, or a knock on is and I beat the computer on medium difficulty thirty-six to nothing on my second game of rugby.

5. Replayability

The game keeps track of skill points that you can access in a menu on the start screen. It lets you know just how good you are at a given sport by adding and subtracting skill points away from your skill score depending on the difficulty level you were playing on and how well you actually performed. The multiplayer aspect of the game (its selling point) is another game mechanic geared towards replay. Of course, whether someone would actually want to keep playing needs to be factored in, and I can honestly say I don’t know a single person that would like this game. If it weren’t for that fact I would say it had a decent replay value.

6. Balance

The difficulty balance is done well. In the few games that I was able to actually progress in ranks, it seemed like the CPU didn’t spike its difficulty too hard, and the beginner mode was easy enough that the player could get used to the mechanics before progressing. The difficulty curve is much higher for those games that have horrible controls which I mentioned above.

7. Originality

This is a generic sports mini-game compilation by Hudson (the developers of Mario Party). This is right up their alley, and they seem to stick pretty hard to their alley. They get a few points for including Sepak Takraw, but not much. I suppose at this point of the review you’re aching to know what extremely original and exotic sport Sepak Takraw really is. Volleyball with feet instead of hands. Boring? I know.

8. Addictiveness

I wanted to stop playing this game almost immediately after I started playing it. The gameplay, music, and graphics combine to form one of the most awful gaming experiences I’ve ever had. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you’ll pick it up and enjoy it for what it is, but I don’t think so. Half the game is nearly unplayable due to shoddy control with the stylus and the rest is overly simplistic. Any one mini-game in any of the Mario Party games would be more addictive than all of these games combined.

9. Appeal Factor

Deca Sports DS is obviously targeted at a casual crowd or a younger crowd around the ages of 4-7, and it is only that young of a demographic that would accept a game of this quality. After I am finished with this review the only reason this game isn’t going in the trash is because I’m giving it to my nephews, and I’m only doing that because their standards for video games are extremely low. That being said I fully expect them to play it once and never try it again. A casual game shouldn’t mean it’s a bad game, but in this case it definitely is.

10. Miscellaneous

The challenge mode is quite literally the only mode I had any fun with at all. Time attacks have always appealed to me, and a couple of the alternate versions of the games weren’t as horrible as their counterparts. However, a game where fun can only be found after digging into its alternative modes is truly a sad game. Sports games are supposed to be about playing with your friends, or building your team for the final cup/trophy/thing. This game didn’t really have any of that. There was a trophy that you could get for beating each of the leagues, but, as I said, the only fun to be had was in the challenge mode.

The Scores:
Modes: Awful
Graphics: Worthless
Sound: Dreadful
Control and Gameplay: Worthless
Replayability: Very Bad
Balance: Decent
Originality: Awful
Addictiveness: Worthless
Appeal Factor: Dreadful
Miscellaneous: Awful
Final Score: Dreadful Game!

Short Attention Span Summary:
The graphics are horrible, the music is horrible, and the game overall is… wait for it… horrible. I have yet to hate a game this much on the DS. The graphics look fuzzy with character features glitching in and out of existence, and the gameplay is absolutely some of the worst I’ve seen in a long while. The game should be renamed to Ten Different Things to Make You Wish You Were Doing Something Else DS.

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