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Well, the 3DS is out, and Nintendo's apparently looking to make this their new handheld platform. So unless it flops horribly before the year is over, the old DS systems will probably be phased out in the next year or two. At any rate, this list is a special request from Vinic, and I've got a few games I'd like to highlight anyway, so away we go!

10. Disgaea DS

While a downgrade graphically from the PS2 version and lacking most of the voice clips, the added content is the real star of the show with this edition of Disgaea, adding in numerous new maps, four new bosses, and even four new playable characters, as well as a two-player competitive mode. It's a game that managed to keep me addicted for well over 200 hours as I strived to power up my characters and defeat the ultimate hidden level 9999 uberboss, so even with its downsides, it still has plenty of staying power.

9. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

It's funny - usually these Metroidvania games tend to bore me straight to sleep with their tedious, predictable progression, but Aria and Dawn of Sorrow were two fantastic, addictive games with dynamite visuals and a soundtrack that was leagues beyond any other I'd heard in a handheld system up to that point. The only weakness here is that you pretty much need to have played Aria to fully appreciate this one - it's one of the few direct sequels in the Castlevania franchise. But other than that, a damn solid game.

8. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

The series may have worn out its welcome after five games and tons of recycled plot elements, but the first one shall always be a classic in my book. With some truly inventive puzzle solving, a great high-stakes storyline and an excellent sense of humor, it's a fun game to play through. Shame that it suffers from the achilles heel of the adventure genre and has so little replay value.

7. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey

Something of a return to form for the Shin Megami Tensei series after its numerous excursions into the territory of school sim (Persona), turn-based strategy (Devil Survivor) and watered-down horse shit (Digital Devil Saga), Strange Journey is a tough-as-nails dungeon crawl that requires a lot of time invested to collect necessary items, map out dungeon floors, and complete all the side-quests (which, as you'll quickly learn, give items and equipment that are absolutely necessary to overcome certain bosses). Thankfully, it's not entirely unforgiving - you can share passwords with friends (or the Internet) to pass around copies of your various demons, which can be a significant edge if you just can't overcome that annoying boss even with the best equipment and monsters you can scavenge.

6. Contra 4

Another return to form for a respected franchise, Contra 4 leaves all of its Playstation incarnations in the dust and returns to what brought it greatness to begin with - running, jumping, shooting, and carefully timed dodging waves of enemies and enormous superbosses. The game even includes minor tributes to the older games - many bosses return with new twists (such as the "enemy base" boss from the first stage of Contra erupting into a monstrosity with massive firepower that towers into both screens), and even features unlockable characters from past games. It's a solid formula that's done well yet again here.

5. 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors

Phoenix Wright may have helped to kick off a revival of the adventure genre, but let's face it - after five games of the same plot twists over and over again, it began to wear out its welcome and become a bit dull. But it's thanks to it, at least in part, that we have games like Sam and Max, Back to the Future and now 999, so there is a silver lining after all.

Anyhow, 999 is far and away my favorite of the genre in recent years. While very dialog-heavy, it does feature numerous paths, puzzles that are challenging but rarely nonintuitive, an extremely well written story and cast of characters, and even six different endings to see, giving it some considerable replay value. Even better, dialog you've already viewed can be fast-fowarded through on multiple playthroughs, so you don't have to suffer through gigantic text blocks you've already seen on your quest to get the best possible ending.

I could talk about the plot, but I think the less you know going in, the more fun you'll have in the long run. So pick it up and give it a play - it won't disappoint.

4. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor

While not the franchise's first forway into the realm of strategy RPGs, it is probably their best. The game is actually a bit of a combination of a turn-based RPG and a strategy RPG - units are actually composed of 1-3 small "teams" of humans and demons, and choosing to attack results in a combat round between both sides (and those that strike an enemy's weak point get an extra turn immediately after to inflict more damage). Between attacks, units can also move about, heal one another, or use their demons' skills to do things like recover status aliments or summon in new demons to replace fallen ones.

Of course, as is the norm for SMT, the game is also insanely difficult. Almost right away, enemies begin attacking you at range (which means they get a turn in, but you don't unless you have a certain skill equipped), debilitating you with status effects, and the bosses are utterly ruthless. Hell, the very first boss has a move that inflicts damage to your entire party regardless of their location on the field AND restores his own HP, and can only be damaged by one very specific attack that only your main character can use - if he dies, it's game over immediately. Did I also mention that he's backed by numerous groups containing ranged attackers, and if you eliminate all of them, he'll just summon more?

Thankfully, the game does give you maps where you can fight enemy groups as many times as you wish and retreat at any time, which gives you plenty of chances to level up and earn new skills, so you're never left in a no-win situation. Still, you'd best come into each fight with a plan of attack and an eye for the best and most valuable skills you can attain from enemies (hint: anything that restores MP is absolutely mandatory). It's a massive challenge, but a very rewarding one.

3. The World Ends With You

A very unique take on JRPGs, to say the least. Combat is almost entirely optional, battles take place in real-time with the action constantly juggling between two characters (on the top and bottom screens), you're granted new attacks via pins, and fashion trends actually factor into battle by giving you statistic bonuses. Pair that up with a unique storyline, a fresh visual style and a great soundtrack, and you've got one hell of a game.

The most amazing thing about this title, though? It's a collaborative effort between Jupiter and Square-Enix.

2. Advance Wars: Dual Strike

The biggest and best Advance Wars to date. New units, every character from both of the previous games along with several new ones, swapping COs in mid-battle to mix up strategy even further, the same ever-addictive multiplayer, and of course several new features to complement the DS system (two-front battles!). It's hard to argue with an addictive franchise like this. Just a pity that Days of Ruin ended up being a step backward on almost every front.

1. Bangai-o Spirits

Treasure at their best - truly insane, over the top gameplay laden with hundreds of explosions. It lacks the comical over-the-top storyline of its predecessor, but it's hard to complain when the gameplay has been stepped up in every weay. There are over 160 stages to tackle, and numerous options for weapons and strategies to tackle them with - homing missiles, bouncing shots, shields to block bullets from a single direction, a special attack that reflects all enemy missiles on the screen, and my personal favorite, the giant baseball bat that sends enemies bouncing around the level (and damaging anything they collide with). But the real draw here is the stage creator, which allows you to create and download new stages via a sound-based system (no Nintendo Wi-Fi connection required). Aside from some occasional slowdown (and even stopping the whole game for several seconds during really huge attacks), it's one hell of a good time.
 
 
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