I've owned a DS for about a month or so and I'm absolutely loving it so I thought I might write up a few impressions on the games I've played for anyone looking to buy a DS or a new game, anyways this is what I've played so far. Pokemon Diamond I've always been a fan of Pokemon games, ever since Red/Blue came out, their mix of roleplaying and monster-collecting is hard to beat and while Diamond expands on the series with a whole new set of monsters and a few additions and improvements to gameplay mechanics, I still feel like Game Freak could have done so much more with the game. The story is your usual pokemon affair, choose your starter pokemon (Grass, Fire or Water) and travel along the region to earn 8 badges, win the pokemon league and thwart Team Galactic. For anyone who has played a Pokemon game this is will sound eerily similar and to be honest there are not many twists in the story except maybe for your rival's tame attitude. Not much has been done with the interface to take advantage of the stylus and overall the game feels like a little clunky and inefficient, many of the time you spend with the game will be dealing with the game's slow text menus, pauses and other roadblocks, overall it just feels as if the game could be a lot zippier, especially when gathering and planting berries and when fighting on sandstorms, it can get borderline tedious. Visually and aurally the game remains very similar to the GBA games which in turn were similar to the GBC games, the sprites' resolution has been increased slightly and the battle interface is easier to deal with even if its still "slow", still the game looks like a GBA game except for a few 3D effects in the overworld and in battle here and there. The game tunes are nice but GameFreak really dropped the ball in terms of sound effects, the so called Pokemon "cries" sound like they are coming out of the speaker of a GameBoy Color and they all sound almost identical. That being said, the game is still incredibly fun and addicting and some of the additions are pretty cool, the Wi-Fi features make it easier to build up your collection and battling friends online can be fun as well, there are about a hundred new monsters and most of them are nice well thought-out Pokemon, the legendaries are great and you'll spend hours and hours with this game, I have already put around 35 hours on this game and I still have many things to do and lots of Pokemon to collect. Final Word: I give this game an 8/10, if you haven't played a Pokemon game then the experience should be very fresh for you (it's not like your typical RPG) and I definitely recommend you pick it up, if you have already played through the GBA and GBC games then you will like this but you might feel slightly dissapointed that the series hasn't evolved much. ---- New Super Mario Bros. Super Mario World was the last great 2D platforming romp for Mario, yes Nintendo did release Yoshi's Island (a great game) and gave Mario new life with the 3D games which have been excellent as well but it took Nintendo 15 years to finally release a new super mario bros game. Even if the name is slightly odd, the game remains true to its Mario roots and plays very similar to the Super Mario Bros games of old. The control in NSMB is top-notch, that already makes NSMB a pleasant game to play from the very start. Graphically the game uses a mix of 3D models for Mario and the enemies with 2D levels which looks really well. Gameplay-wise this is your classic Mario, you have your mushrooms, your fire flower and your 1-Up powerups, however NSMB also introduces a blue shell powerup and giant and tiny forms for Mario and a few moves from his 3D adventures as well (like the triple jump) which can be fun but sadly missing from the game is some kind of flying power-up. Levels are well designed and make great use of the new 3D capabilities for interesting mechanics but some levels feel a little constrained at times, the game definitely has a SMB1 feeling with 3D Mario style which works great but some of the stuff that made SMB3 (arguably the best in the 2D platforming Mario games) and SMW so great are missing here, still the game doesn't disappoint in the gameplay department and will definitely please those that have been wanting a new 2D Mario adventure for so long. My only complaints with the game beside what is mentioned above is the music isn't as great as the previous games and the difficulty is a little on the easy side, making the game a little short, still the replay value is pretty high as with any Mario game, replaying the levels is very fun and there are always the star coins (3 in each level) to collect. The game also features some pretty neat minigames and a multiplayer battle mode that is a lot of fun. Final Word: I give this game a 9/10 and recommend it as a must-have, there is little to dislike about this game and a lot to love, just about anyone will have a lot of fun playing this one. All said and done however, NSMB still doesn't bring enough to the table to surpass SMB3 or even SMW so if you haven't played Super Mario Bros 3 (shame on you) then get that first on the Wii VC or the GBA remake before buying NSMB. ---- Elite Beat Agents I've noticed rhythm games have recently rose sharply in popularity and for a good reason too, rhythm games can be a lot of fun and they are usually pretty light-hearted games that are great for relaxing and some good ol' fun without too much complications, they are also pretty good pick and play games. Elite Beat Agents is one of the best rhythm games I've played. One of the things that make Elite Beat Agents so great is the storytelling and the art style in the game, Inis managed to pump so much personality into the story for each song (kudos to the team for the heartfelt story in "You're The Inspiration" that even if the song sucks, it's still possible to enjoy the amusing cutscenes in them and it's all backed up by some seriously solid gameplay. The premise in Elite Beat Agents is simple, using your sense of rhythm you either have to tap numbered circles or slide your stylus in a pattern to the beat of the song to play and it works great. EBA also features what is called a circle marker and it basically involves you spinning the stylus on the screen like a madman without any rhythm whatsoever, it's a stupid mechanic that has nothing to do with rhythm and it can even scratch your screen if you are anything less than super gentle with your spinning but still, it only appears a once or twice per song (with some exceptions) so it doesn't ruin the experience. The gameplay is simple but very addictive and incredibly satisfying, the sense of accomplishment when you beat a song is pretty high, when I beat the final song on hard difficulty, I was literally jumping up and down in excitement, it's just a great experience. EBA also features some generally pleasing tunes throwing in tons of 70's and 80's hits in there though sadly it also features songs like Sk8er Boi that just don't cut it, overall though I think anyone will enjoy the songs in EBA, just remember the game is filled with popular (not pop as in the genre) music. For those with the luxury of importing there is also the japanese version of this game called Osu Tatake Ouendan and its sequel Moero Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu Tatakae Ouendan 2 which are pretty much the same game with different songs and stories. Final Word: I give this game a 9.5/10, this is one of the most fun games I've played yet on the DS and it's most definitely a must-have. ---- Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow The Castlevania series has the privilege of being one of the few ones born on the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) that still live on today, originally born as a straight up, level-based action platformer with a western-horror themed world but the series underwent a drastic evolution during the mid 90s, first with the Metroid-inspired Symphony of the Night for PSX and Saturn and the first 3D outing in the series with Castlevania 64, while the latter was an average game (it took Konami 5 more years to get 3D Castlevania right with LOI on PS2) the former was an unparalleled masterpiece featuring metroid-like exploration and power-ups, intense boss battles, a haunting soundtrack, great 32-bit 2D graphics and one of the coolest characters in a Castlevania game ever, Alucard, the son of Dracula. Since then, the series split off in two different directions, on consoles Castlevania has enjoyed a few decent entries in the series like Lament of Innocence on the PS2 but the true and best Castlevania games have remained on the portables in the form of spiritual succesors to Symphony of the Night, Dawn of Sorrow is the 5th game in the "Metroidvania" series of games (if you count SotN) and it definitely doesn't disappoint, even if sometimes it tries way too hard to emulate Symphony of the Night. If you don't want Aria of Sorrow's story (this game's prequel) spoiled then don't read the paragraph below. The year is 2036, 37 years after Dracula was finished for good in 1999 a cult seeks the upbringing of a new Dark Lord, the Dark Lord candidates are those humans born on the day Dracula died and who posses strange powers. You play Soma Cruz, born in 1999 and the true resurrection of Dracula (besides Alucard, Soma is definitely one of the coolest characters in Castlevania) and you attempt to stop this cult and prevent the upbringing of the new dark lord, returning characters include Julius Belmont and Genya Arikado (a.k.a. Alucard) as returning characters. Soma has the ability of Dominance which allows you to absorb enemy souls and use their abilities, this is the backstory for one of Dawn of Sorrow's most impressive gameplay mechanics. Dawn of Sorrow is yet another Symphony of the Night clone for the portable but unlike the previous games (notably Harmony of Dissonance) this game actually does something to break itself away from the SotN mold and introduces the soul mechanic, this allows you to gather the soul of ANY enemy in the game and gain an ability, this allows you to do a wide variety of things and the soul combinations really depend on your style of game and experimenting always pays off. You can even absorb boss souls and use their abilities which really makes Soma feel like one of the most powerful characters in the Castlevania universe, even more so than any Belmont or even Alucard. Another new feature of the game is the ability to create new weapons by synthesizing an old weapon with a soul, while all trees are pretty linear (except the sword tree but it ends the same way anyway) it's still a nice feature and makes hunting for souls just as fun as hunting for Pokemon in a Pokemon game and that's is saying a lot about the soul collection aspect. The game has it all, great monsters, great level design, great music (Lost Village and Alchemy Lab are some standouts), epic boss battles and some great combat and exploration, Soma controls beautifully and the different souls and weapons really lets you customize Soma to your fighting desires. The game is pretty good graphically, the art style suffered a hit from the incredible style seen in Aria of Sorrow but the game is still pretty darn looking, especially now that the enemies are bigger and there are even a few 3D backdrops here and there, sadly, it's still a shame that SotN is 8 years older on a slightly less powerful console than the DS and it still had a lot more effects and was overall a prettier looking game. Music wise this game is incredible, the tunes fit the mood perfectly and some will actually make you WANT to visit those areas just to listen to the music, seriously, it's definitely up there with Symphony of the Night. The game's replay value is a standout as well, apart from your main adventure (which will take a while to 100%) you then open a mode to play as Julius Belmont (and Konami threw in a nice gift in that mode as you can play with Alucard, in his exact same form from SotN, and Yoko) and a boss rush mode with some nice rewards, the game also lets you replay the game with all your souls and weapons any number of times you want in hard mode plus there are a lot of equipment to uncover and souls to collect, this is definitely an engrossing game Final Word: This game is a 10/10, every DS owner should have it and everyone should consider buying a DS just for this (and the GBA entries as well), it's an amazing game and probably my favorite DS game thus far, the Aria/Dawn of Sorrow games are probably the ones closest to surpassing and advancing beyond Symphony of the Night (and to be honest in many ways they are better games). If you like Metroid or Castlevania or heck, just games in general you owe it to yourself to play Dawn of Sorrow. Other games I've played enough to write a mini-review of: Mario Kart DS Mario & Luigi Partners in Time Mario Party DS Dementium The Ward Brain Age 2 The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass[/B] I'll write the mini-reviews for those games later . So what are your thoughts on these games?