This spin-off title of the venerable RPG series is a sequel to a Japan-only Game Boy Advance title which follows the exploits of a Slime named Rocket. For the uninitiated, Slimes are essentially the Goombas of Dragon Quest, although with a jovial appeal that's elevated them to franchise mascot status. A cute spin-off it may be, but Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime is anything but a quick cash-in. Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii had a hand in this and while it's skewed towards a younger audience, developer Tose crafted a great experience that took advantage of the host platform's features and is still worth tracking down today.
29. Picross 3D (DS)
Picross 3D is an addictive game which takes everything you love about regular old Picross and adds the third dimension to really start twisting your melon (man). Developed not by Jupiter - the studio responsible for the steady flow of 2D games on Nintendo platforms - but instead by HAL Laboratory, the rules might be a little more complicated but the game offers hours of brilliant puzzle-y content for those willing to persevere, and for anyone who has already played boring old 'normal' Picross to absolute death. Picross 3D Round 2 on 3DS brought stereoscopic 3D to the table and really fulfilled the promise of this game, but the original is still a winner. After all, you can never have too much Picross. Just ask Jupiter.
Rhythm Heaven (or Rhythm Paradise as we know it in Europe) is the epitome of simple, clear game design, yet it never feels half-hearted in any regard. Its bare bones presentation helps new players get into into the swing of things, and once you 'get' it (and its strange sense of humour), you'll find it very difficult to put down. It’s packed full of content and replay value, with tunes you'll find yourself whistling when you're away from the game, and still stands as one of the finest titles to grace the DS. Sure, the Megamix entry on 3DS collects together many of the best games from this and other games in the series, but this is still worth picking up in its own right. Trust us, you'll be in rhythm game heaven (or paradise, depending on your side of the pond).
The second in Level-5's series of Professor Layton games on DS, this one was known as Professor Layton and The Diabolical Box in North America, which is a closer translation of the Japanese title, so there's no Harry Potter-style dumbing down going on here. Whatever you care to call it, it takes the template of the Professor's first puzzle-solving adventure and refines it to produce another excellent mystery that uses the console's features in subtle and brilliant ways. If you enjoyed the original release, there's absolutely no reason for you not to own this gem of a title.
A remake of the original Chunsoft-developed NES game, Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen was made by ArtePiazza, a studio responsible for a number of enhanced remakes of the Dragon Quest series. The DS version featured a new translation and an extra chapter on top of the original game's five, but the base game is very much the winning RPG epic it was when it was known as Dragon Warrior IV in North America way back in 1992. This game appeared again in 2014 on Android and iOS devices, but the DS version is arguably the best way to revisit the game. Players can also get a hit of DQIV nostalgia by taking control of the Hero from this game (Solo) in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, one of the four available versions of the DLC fighter.
Elite Beat Agents is a semi-sequel to the much-loved Japan-only Osu! Tatake! Ouendan which has you tapping and sliding your stylus across the touchscreen along to the beat of your favourite pop tunes. The titular agents are part of a government agency formed to help a population in crisis through the medium of dance and the game's comic book style looks as fresh as the day it was released.
EBA was so good that the cover versions it used didn't bother us a jot; it really didn't matter that it wasn't Avril Lavigne singing 'Sk8ter Boi'. Whether trying to get a baby to sleep or saving the world from an alien invasion, it's a non-stop, feelgood, foot-tapping rhythm-fest of the highest calibre and we're sure we're not alone in hoping the agents will one day return to help us through the crises we're facing in the world. If you're interested in finding out more about the history behind Ouendan and Elite Beat Agents, erstwhile Nintendo Life contributor Liam Robertson has got you covered in his excellent video on the subject. Agents are GO!!
Collecting together all four of the Game Boy Advance games in one convenient package, Inti Creates added an Easy mode and a couple of extra bits and pieces while assembling the Mega Man Zero Collection, but for the most the games were left to sell themselves in this compilation. Fortunately, the Zero series - which arguably follows the same trajectory of quality as the vanilla Mega Man games (good, brilliant, not-quite-as-brilliant, not-quite-as-brilliant-again) - was a short and sweet sideline of the Rockman brand and at a time when franchise fans had little else to look forward to from Capcom, this was one hell of a lifeline.
Advance Wars: Dual Strike isn't hugely different to its two GBA predecessors, and at times it can feel like a new 'mission pack', but when the base experience is this good, that's no bad thing. Additions such as having two CO characters in a battle enable you to fight on two fronts and add extra variety. Survival and Combatmodes add to the replayability, ensuring that like its predecessors there's plenty to keep you occupied.
This was the penultimate outing for the 'Wars' series on DS; the 2008 sequel Advance Wars: Days of Ruin was the last time Intelligent Systems took to the battlefield in a game that didn't have 'Fire Emblem' in the title. With the release of the fabulous Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the developer has another strategy hit on its hands, but we'd still love to see a return of the Wars series someday. Until then, we'll have to make do with returning to previous entries, including this gem.
Portrait of Ruin is another excellent addition to the Castlevania lineage with tunes from Yuzo Koshiro and links to other games in the franchise (and Bram Stoker's original Dracula novel), although it's not one that pushes the boundaries of the format that Konami seemed committed to on DS. The second game on the system, the template was starting to get a little long in the tooth, although if we'd known how Konami would go on to pretty much abandon 2D Castlevania, we might have savoured this one a little more at the time.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village was the first in the puzzle-solving detective series to introduce the world to the titular professor and Luke, the professor's apprentice and very own Watson. Level-5's series brought in a whole new audience of gamers with its particular brand of mysterious adventure, great characters and writing to match. It was games like this that opened up video gaming to an audience who had previously thought it wasn't for them and the franchise's continued success proves it wasn't a fluky one-off. The sequels refined the formula, but it was pretty much perfect right off the bat.