Developer: Way Forward
Ping Pals is one of the “launch window” games coming out with the Nintendo DS, the first in a line of communication titles for the wireless messaging and gaming aspect of the system.
The user starts out by creating their own Ping Pal, a customizable avatar with over 2 000 accessories to choose from. Users choose everything from hairstyle to clothing and accessories, body shape, sex, and eye colour. Each avatar has the potential for uniqueness. Messages and games can be played with others using the avatars, and more items can be gained from fulfilling specific requirements (sending a certain amount of messages, or logging on at a particular time of day for example).
To maintain our soon to be sad, sorry addiction to glamifying our avatars, users can win PingPoints by playing various single and multiplayer games. These points can be used to trade items. Items can also be traded and sold with other users.
If online avatar sites have proven anything (www.gaiaonline.com anyone?), Ping Pals will definitely hold us all in its cold iron grasp as we struggle for points to buy shiny new pixel things for our shiny new pixel pal in no time flat.
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Release: Launch Title
Tired of trying to figure out where to pack your spider suit? Here’s a solution that likely to be more compact than hauling your box console everywhere. The new Nintendo DS is going to be releasing Spider-Man 2 as one of the console release titles in November. With the DS boasting of graphics better than the Nintendo 64, it’s no wonder that this game is a beauty to look at. The graphics are smooth and the action pretty intense. Spider-Man2 utilizes the second touch screen in boss battles that can keep things entertaining by using your own spidey-sense to deflect damage you might otherwise incur or to solve puzzles by moving switches. Don’t worry if you left your stylus at home with your web-slinging capsules because the touch controls are broad enough that you can still manuever them easily with just an index finger or thumb.
You could define Spider-Man 2 as a side scroller, but the way the graphics are rendered it’s easy to loose yourself in the 3-D quality of the game. There is a good feeling of depth and detail when looking at the graphics. While wall-crawling and web-slinging you can look at things as a third person but the viewpoint will shift to first person when engaged in a battle with a boss like Doctor Octavius, otherwise known as Doc Oc.
As far as the story line goes, if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll be able to follow it without a hitch. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie or have followed the comic book, just relax and enjoy the action. For the most part it’s self-explanatory. So far Spider-Man 2 looks to be one of the more graphically enhanced titles being released for the Nintendo DS, but the verdict is still out on the complete game play.
Super Mario 64 DS
Release: Launch Title
Ah, Super Mario 64. Platforming game fans relish the memories of playing this opus of 3D design. Wisely released as a launch title with the Nintendo 64 back in 1996, this game remains the pinnacle of 3D platformers. Even its successor, Super Mario Sunshine, doesn’t come close. Non-Nintendo fans have to admit respect for the title, as modern 3D platformers still haven’t reached the gold standard that is Super Mario 64. Classic friends and enemies popped into full 3D just the way they should have, with challenging levels, new and old power-ups, and an engaging quest.
Now why the hell am I going on and on about an eight-year-old game? Because like it or not, it’s being ported to the Nintendo DS as a launch title. Most of my readers know how irritated I get about ports. I see them as a cop-out, especially with a new system launch. There’s absolutely no reason why a developer can’t just make a new game, and force-feeding new gamers old games is a slap to the face. To make matters worse, Nintendo did the exact same thing with the launch of the GBA, when we got a port of Super Mario Bros. 2. Sure, there were a few added niceties, but that doesn’t cut it.
Perhaps Nintendo learned their lesson…somewhat. We’re still getting a port of Super Mario 64, but instead of a few extras here and there, we’ve got a ton of goodies to separate the DS version from its old man. First order of business: more characters. In the original, you could only play as Mario, which of course made sense. This time around, the single-player game can be played as Mario, Luigi, Wario, or Yoshi. Since each character has varying strengths and weakness, it should make for some interesting gameplay. Luigi will likely have his trademark “kick-jumping,” Wario will have brute force, and who knows what that useless sack of flesh Yoshi will have. As of press time, the game will include 150 stars to hunt down. Bear in mind that the original title only had 120, so it seems we’ve got an extra 30 stars that will likely require you to use the other characters to nab.
Speaking of stars…how about fighting your friends for them? If kicking around your peers in video game land is your cup of tea, then Super Mario 64 DS
has a four-player mode that’s right up your alley.
The basic premise is this: your and your friends are trying to nab a star lying somewhere within a level. Once a player gets it, another star will pop up somewhere else. Whoever gets the most stars within the time limit wins! Seems simple enough, but other games with simplistic gameplay like that turned out to be incredibly addicting. Super Smash Bros., anyone?
Wondering how the DS’ second screen will be used? It actually has two uses. During the single-player and multiplayer campaigns, it serves as an overhead map, showing your location as well as the location of your enemies. Very handy. The second use is more interesting, and is the real lure of Super Mario 64 DS: minigames! Rather than just throwing in a few to distract gamers, Nintendo went all out and included thirty-six minigames. That’s nine per character! All will use the second screen, and many will use the stylus, too, for added depth. So even if you ignore the single-player campaign, you’re getting thirty-six other games. That’s more than the Game & Watch Gallery titles!
The final verdict? Super Mario 64 DS may very well be Super Mario 64 1/2. Or Super Mario 64 II. Or Super Mario 64 Gaiden. Or Super Mario 64 Whatever the Fuck Else You’d Call a Remake/Sequel. Releasing an older game (classic as it is) may or may not help boost sales for the DS’ launch, but we’ll just have to see. The multiplayer and minigame aspects alone almost guarantee solid sales for this title.
Nintendo DS Launch Guide: Page 6