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Published June 4, 2010

Say what you will about the wasted potential of the Nintendo DSi platform and spotty third party releases, but May was pretty kind to DSi owners. While not all of Nintendo’s downloadable experiments were entirely successful – see Looksley’s Line Up, for instance – the uniform high quality was enough to make me forget the Game & Watch massive dump from April. However, I’m now left to wonder what exactly comes next. All of the DSiWare games announced at the 2010 Nintendo Summit are available, leaving us in the dark once again. It was nice of Nintendo to drum up a little excitement for once – at least for weirdos like you and I who pay attention to this stuff – but I guess we’ll have to see if E3 brings more goodies in a few weeks.

Anyway, on to my favorites from the past two weeks. Yeah, they’re mostly Nintendo games, but it’s often hard to avoid that. If you’re curious about a game or just want to raise awareness of a hidden gem, please leave a note in the comments.

Metal Torrent
500 Points

While I typically associate developer Arika with the Street Fighter EX and Endless Ocean series, the folks there apparently know how to craft a fun (but brief) shooter, too. Metal Torrent might be one of the most accessible bullet-hells ever; on the easy path, the ship can take several hits before breaking down, and even the harder path offers powerful weaponry and a forgiving hit box. However, even with the reasonable difficulty working in its favor, many will see Metal Torrent as light on content. Instead of stage variety and screen-filling bosses, Arika placed the emphasis entirely on maximizing chains and high scoring. Only pick it up if you live for online leaderboards. (If it were only 200 Points, it’d be a no-brainer for everyone else.)

800 Points

Q-Games’ X-Scape has unituitive controls, boring missions and chunky polygons seemingly* ripped out of the original Star Fox. But despite all of these issues, I give the game a tentative recommendation simply because of its scope. Simply put, from the opening credits to the galaxy-wide scavenger hunt for power crystals, X-Scape just feels huge. There are tons of side-quests to complete and experience points to earn as you try to overthrow a corrupt emperor. The game’s historical ties are also significant, as its a sequel to the Japan-only X. This was Dylan Cuthbert’s first 3D project for Nintendo, which eventually paved the way for Star Fox and Argonaut. I know Tony sounded down on this during our most recent episode, but I think it works as both a legacy title and display of what’s possible on the DSi.

*Keep in mind that I actually like the presentation. It’s minimalist for sure, but that only adds to the sterile, distant future motif.

ArtStyle: light trax
600 Points

The ArtStyle label should be an obvious tip-off, but light trax is great. This is overhead racing parred down to the barest of essentials. You control one of several streaks of light racing towards the finish line. Though the game is based on an old bit Generations title, it differs from its source material in that the camera frequently changes perspective, creating the illusion of depth, even though the track is always flat. Like the best of the ArtStyle games, light trax packs a lot of depth in a visually simple package. Because players can only build up boost energy by being directly adjacent to other racers, every turn must be carefully considered. The speedy freeway mode and pulsing soundtrack also help make this my favorite of the four ArtStyle games released for the Wii thus far.

Wild Guns
Virtual Console/Natsume
800 Points

More “Wild Wild West” than Red Dead Redemption, Natsume’s forgotten SNES shooter pits Clint and Annie against an army of cowboy robots. The camera is fixed over the shoulder of the player as enemies pop up in the background. It’s essentially a light-gun shooter, minus the light gun. Sometimes the action on screen gets a little cramped (especially in co-op), but Wild Guns looks great. The sprites are big and detailed, and environments are highly destructable. While I recall being more of a Tin Star man back in the day (admittedly misguided), this is a solid arcade throwback and a decent addition to a dwindling Virtual Console.

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