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Top 10 DS Games of 2011

While pretty much everyone is thinking about and developing for Nintendo 3DS, there's still a damn fine lineup for the regular 2D version next year as well. In fact, it has a bit more diverse lineup this year (we considered the DS the "portable JRPG handheld" last year); along with RPG heavyweights like Dragon Quest VI and Pokemon, there're some adventure games and even a mysterious platformer or two. So even if you don't make the jump to 3D, Nintendo has you covered handheld-wise.

Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Relevations
Once Dragon Quest VI launches in February, Americans will at last have the ability to play every core title in the long-running Dragon Quest series in English, legitimately. Rejoice! But is DQVI worth the wait? Well, by many fan's reckoning, it's one of the best chapters in the entire series. Its core elements -- the job system and the dual-world structure that allows players to travel into the dream realm to advance the story -- are reminiscent of Dragon Warrior VII, but without the padding. Plus, it has a slime curling minigame. In other words, it's pretty much a guaranteed sale.

Ghost Trick
Capcom knows how to make fun, portable adventure games, and while Ace Attorney Investigations 2 is probably going to be fun, having the team branch out into a new franchise is even more exciting. Penned by Shu Takumi (the same writer behind the Ace Attorney games), we expect a lot of goofball humor, complex puzzles, and entertaining characters. Besides, how often do you get to solve murder mysteries from the point of view of the recently deceased?

Kingdom Hearts Re:coded
Okay, it might get confusing to figure out what the heck every Kingdom Hearts game is, but here goes: Kingdom Hearts Re:coded is a full remake of Kingdom Hearts: coded, that happens to feature gameplay blending elements of Birth by Sleep and 358/2 Days. As in coded, the events of Re: coded take place on Destiny Island, shortly after the close of Kingdom Hearts 2. Yet by being a remake, Re:Coded does something quirky by having the player re-play Sora's memories of his early adventures, but tweaked and improved. It's still confusing to see where this title places in the continuity, but we're happy to play the superior version of this story.

Kirby Game
Not much is known of the as of yet untitled Kirby game for DS -- only that it exists (courtesy of a handful of screenshots). Why would that have us excited? With this year's outing by the pink power puff, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Nintendo has shown that they still have a few tricks up their sleeves when it comes to freshening up an old gaming icon's formula. At the very least, it won't be a portable version of Epic Yarn; the only other concrete detail we notice in the few screens we've seen from Japan is the presence of multiple (we count about seven) Kirbies. Other than that, who knows, but a new isn't mystery exciting?

Layton vs. Wright
It may not have been revealed on April Fools' Day, but we didn't trust that this video was the real thing until Capcom confirmed it. Two of the best current adventure franchises come together for what promises to be a cinematically extravagant and mind-numbingly puzzle-filled journey. We expect lots of finger-pointing, "Objection!" yelling, and "I think I've got it!" moments in a mash-up that, like peanut butter and chocolate, sounds immediately awesome.

Okamiden: Chiisaki Taiyo
The sequel to the sleeper hit Okami has been a long time coming. Okamiden features Chibiterasu -- a younger version of the wolf deity from the PS2/Wii original -- who must now work with others to help restore balance to the world. Players will use the stylus as a brush to draw patterns and perform other actions (which makes a heck of a lot of sense on the DS). Visually, the game carries over the Sumi-e art style of the original, with colorful environments and thick outlines. We fully expect this to be lapped up by Okami fans next year.

Plants vs. Zombies
PopCap's superbly crafted, colorful, and addictive puzzle games are always wildly popular, regardless of platform. Their popular tower defense (flower defense?) game, Plants vs. Zombies has to date made it to just about any platform you'd want, including going mobile on iPhone and iPad apps. But, for those who want to fight zombie hoards with ridiculously powerful peashooters, or exploding chili peppers, on the go and who don't own Apple's portable devices, you're in luck, as PvZ will be headed to DS. And if PopCap can get the controls to work properly with analog stick controls on Xbox 360, then the DS's stylus and touch screen stylus control should be a cakewalk.

Pokémon Black/White
After years of jokes and complaints (along with strong-as-ever sales) about how each successive entry in the long-running series is the same game, with the same creatures, Pokémon is finally get a refresh. In Pokémon Black/White, players will be able to play through an entirely new "catch-em-all" experience thanks to an entirely new catalog of poke-creatures to fight and encounter. Players will also get to explore the brand new modern cityscapes, including a new shop-type that will combine all the conveniences of the Pokemart, Pokémon Center and Global Terminal in one central location. Setting a new record at 2.6 Million sales the first first week of sales in Japan, Pokémon Black/White is an unstoppable gaming force.

Professor Layton and the Specter's Flute
While the fourth entry in the Layton series may have been out in Japan for a while already, the exploits of the traveling professor and his penchant for perplexing puzzles is just now picking up steam in the states. The Specter's Flute delves further into the game's backstory, revealing how Layton first met his ever-present companion Luke. And even more exciting is the added RPG from Brownie Brown -- London Life. There've been rumors that the add-on game might be a getting a 3DS release of its own, and frankly, we'll be happy either way.

Radiant Historia
Time travel is the theme of this Atlus RPG, which drops players into the role of elite government agent Stocke. You've been tasked with turning the tide of a long, drawn-out war between two kingdoms (because your side is losing, you see) -- a seemingly impossible task until you inherit the White Chronicle, a powerful book that lets you travel back in time to ensure history works out the right way. Though hardly the most visually impressive game slated for 2011, its excellent writing and atmospheric score by Yoko Shimomura should be more than enough to inspire gamers to go back to the future again and again.


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