Read about how handheld gaming changed Sam.
Last time around, it was a short step from the concept of â€ślife changersâ€ť â€“ the game that changed my gaming life â€“ to the wide green field of Hyrule. That was too easy. Next question, please. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has, and will always, occupy that wedge of memory in which I see myself falling for the videogame as Art. I donâ€™t imagine I will ever feel that way about a game again â€“ short of the lingering fondness that re-builds each time I boot up the N64.
And this time? Iâ€™ve been hard pressed to think of a single title that even runs a close second. I canâ€™t just cite Majoraâ€™s Mask â€“ even though that is arguably the second best game on the system â€“ because that feels like cheating, and truly, nothing has blown my mind quite so wholly as the very first Zelda game in 3D. What I can do, is write a little about a time a few years later, that doesnâ€™t refer to a single title responsible for the same impact, but does mark a change in the way I play.
The first handheld system I spent any real time with was a Game Boy Color, back in the Canadian winter of 2001. What kept me on my mateâ€™s couch and out of the 30 below temperatures was Pokemon Silver. It was the first time Iâ€™d played Pokemon, and the game worked its magic on me like it has so many others. Youâ€™ll all know it as a simple battle system coupled with a silly-ass concept that belies a mind-alteringly addictive RPG. I toyed with the idea of getting my own Color, but my friend told me about an upcoming version of the Game Boy due later that year that would make it a wasted purchase.
The Advance came and went, followed by the smaller, better performing SP, but still I stuck to my home consoles â€“ moving on from the N64 (although packing it away, lovingly, when not in use) and on to a PS2. It wasnâ€™t until the same friend Iâ€™d visited a few years before popped down to Godzone (this was 2005) that I really started to lust after a handheld of my own: he had a Nintendo DS, it played both DS and GBA games, and I had to have one.
I got one.
It was second hand, and on sale not long after The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap had come out for GBA â€“ I scored it for $150 from a now defunct store on Manners Mall in Wellington. After a few days research, and remembering the stab-and-giggle time Iâ€™d had with WarioWare: Touched! back when my mate was in town, I sunk $70 into a copy of that, too.
Once I had my DS, I all but stopped playing my PS2. This thing fit in my bag â€“ hell, it fit in the average pocket. I could take it on buses. I could hide it under my desk in the contact centre in which I worked, playing gleefully while taking a well-below-average interest in the world of life insurance. I could curl up with it on couches, in beds, on a beach, or pick it up between flicking a spatula through the stir-fry and half-watching an episode of Black Books. The DS slid into my life in its wee silver jacket, happy to be picked up and put down as my desire to play ebbed and flowed among the hubbub of regular existence.
Oh â€“ but wait. Itâ€™s not just the small package and the now-you-play-it, now-you-donâ€™t mentality you may attach to games like Mario Kart DS or WarioWare: Touched! that makes the DS a winner. Thereâ€™s also the fact that when I wanted to lose myself in a game, Nintendoâ€™s handheld was able to deliver that, too.
So it was a GBA game that really sold me on gaming on the run â€“ but I always played it on my DS. The fact that you could slam a cart in either side and take advantage of a range of great titles that were starting to appear on TradeMe for relatively cheap was a real good selling point. The game was Fire Emblem, and when I was done with that â€“ Pokemon Fire Red, the wonderful GBA remake of the Game Boy original. When Ruby and Sapphire were released (one of the GBAâ€™s last gasps) I played them too.
Animal Crossing: Wild World also provided an incredibly addictive and immersive world. Carrying a second life around in my pocket soon became a reason to have the thing on me at all times, and there was no reason to spend rainy weekends engulfed in the glow of a full sized television anymore. I still have my original town, with its delightful little goings on and the moving in and moving out of residents. I only recently got it online, but I am starting to see that this might be a life changer all of its own.
By the time Pokemon Diamond/Pearl came out I had extended both my stock of DS and Advance games to the point where I was struggling to give everything the time it needed. I still struggle. But thereâ€™s no doubt in my mind that the Nintendo DS is the console at which I have spent most of my gaming time â€“ I have packed a lifetime of gaming into just a few short years.
I want to finish with a list of my favourite games for the DS, and intersperse a few of the GBA titles I canâ€™t live without for good measure. I wouldnâ€™t expect too many surprises here: major sites and various magazines have published their own lists, and they are all pretty similar.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Pokemon Diamond/Peal, Fire Emblem & Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (GBA), Kirby: Canvas Curse, WarioWare: Touched, Animal Crossing: Wild World, Mario Kart DS, Final Fantasy III, Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire (GBA)â€¦
And thereâ€™s still so much gaming left to do.