Nintendo DS hidden gems Episode I: a Monster Tale

With the release of Pokemon Black and White 2 the Nintendo DS has probably ended its lifecycle: games are still coming but hardly anything major, as all big name teams are working on 3DS.
It was an incredible ride for sure: in 8 years more than 152 million units have been sold and many successful games have been released: all Nintendo’s franchises have had at least a DS entry, so do countless other series like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Kingdom Hearts, Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden to just name a few and many new franchises have started on DS and continue today with great success like the Ace Attorney games and the Professor Layton series.
If you ask any DS user about these games, they’ll know for sure: what they probably don’t know are a slew of less known games which, for a reason or another, have been ignored by the masses and, honestly, no one is to blame for this.
They say “Ignorance is bliss”: not in the gaming world I add!
So I’ve thought about giving a bit more exposure to some of these hidden gems. And your wallet will probably thank me too since most of these games can be found for dirty cheap.

Most of the times I like to play games that require my full attention, with intricate plots and complicated gameplay mechanics.
Once in a while though I have the need to play something different, something that will allow me to turn my brain off for a few minutes and just have fun. In one of these periods I encountered “Monster Tale” and it really was a nice surprising meeting because, at first glance, this game looks all cutesy and straightforward but in reality there’s a lot more than that. Presentation is indeed cutesy:
Main character Elle is joined in her adventures in Monster World by Chomp, a legendary monster said to be born only every hundred years.
Together they’ll try to save the monster world from some kids who have escaped from the real world and have become kings, enslaving monsters and using their powers to keep a tight grasp on their realms.

 The game is a 2d platform game in the vein of old 2D Castlevania and Metroid games where players can travel freely between each location. Before being able to continue with the story and explore unreachable areas players must obtain new abilities by exploring the available locations at the given time and defeating bosses. Not groundbreaking in any way but the formula is so well executed that the developers DreamRift can be surely be forgiven.

This game is all about diversity and you’ll never feel like you’re repeating the same thing over and over: the game costantly throws at you new abilities for Elle and they’re all very useful in exploration and combat. More than once I found myself trying to discover some effective skill combination and let me tell you that it was always satisfying discovering a way to keep the monster bashing since keeping an enemy in the air after defeat yields extra experience points for Chomp, money and recovery items.
Adding to the concept of diversity is the already mentioned Chomp: the little monster can only stay at Elle’s side for a limited amount of time. After his power meter is depleted Chomp will be unavailable for some time while resting in the monster sanctuary, located on the lower screen.

Once power is restored, Chomp is ready to get back into the action! This managing mechanic adds some strategy to the game: there’ll be times when monsters will get into the monster sanctuary and it’s up to the player to touch the monsters in the lower screen to make Chomp attack them, something that’ll be frequent during later boss battles.
Adding to the RPG elements is the way Chomp grows and evolves, with three evolution trees and more than 30 forms, each with a special ability which, once learned, can be used by any of the forms.
So I was looking for something on the light side but I endend up playing another game with RPG mechanics. Was I disappointed? Absolutely not since the gameplay mechanics blend well together without ever being too involving. The light story, colorful graphics and soothing soundtrack really allowed me to chill out and be immersed in the game’s atmosphere.
Unfortunately the game is only available in the US. As the DS is region free I suggest fellow European games to try and grab a copy of the game: you could find yourselves pleasently surprised.




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