IndianVideoGamer Year in Review: Handhelds

The handheld/portable video game system has entertained generations of school kids and commuters. From the cheap Tetris knock-offs available at train stations to the expensive PSP – they all offer a great gaming experience on the go. 2008 saw some jewels on both the Nintendo DS and the PlayStation Portable. Continuing our countdown, here’s the IndianVideoGamer Year in Review: Handhelds:


The World Ends With You


Square-Enix is known for making fantasy RPGs with emotional, engaging storylines, turn-based battles and long cutscenes. Well, take out the fantasy and turn-based battle and you get The World Ends With You. This RPG is one of the best games to come out of the Squenix stable, and definitely one of the most innovative. It takes place in a modern Tokyo and gives a not-so-sly nod to the pop culture infesting the youth. There is a deep and engaging storyline, coupled that with a jazzy art direction and funky music – the makings of a great RPG. Where it really shines is the battle system, which uses the DS to its full capability. You have to control two players simultaneously using the buttons and stylus, and even juggle combos between the players to attack enemies. If you have a DS, this is a must buy. If you don’t have a DS, buy it to play this game.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia


The Castlevania series is known for its combat, huge mansions, tough bosses and punishing difficulty. The series harkens back to the old days, where defeating a boss meant that you had to be good. Order of Ecclesia is no exception. In fact, it notches up the difficulty quite a bit. The bosses are no push overs, and brute force will not get you everywhere. The setting has changed a bit; you’re still on a quest to put Dracula to rest, but you’re no longer part of the Belmont clan. You are part of the Order of Ecclesia (surprise!). The gameplay also sees a change with the favourite whip gone, but with the addition of glyphs to help you out with weapons and spells. Add to it tight controls and great art direction, and this is a must have game for all Castlevania enthusiasts.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village


Professor Layton comes from the mini game genre that made the DS such a hit across the populace. With a multitude of puzzles ranging from mathematics to spatial to word-based, this game offers it all. The reason this game stands out from the other puzzle games, is the engaging story, the beautiful cutscenes, and one of the first DS games to use in game voice. There are over 100 puzzles and there’s the option to download more for free. Nowhere are the puzzles too hard, and if you do get stuck, there’s a hint system to help you out. The story itself is fantastic and unlike games which separate gameplay and storytelling, the two are tied together seamlessly in this game. It’s a shame the English-speaking world did not see the two sequels.

Final Fantasy IV


Final Fantasy IV is remade in the style of FF III for the DS, but with smoother animation, better sprites, excellent translation, a new augment system for battles and not-so-good voice acting. There’s nothing much to write about the actual game – its classic FF. It still remains one of the best FF games ever with a story to rival that of FF Tactics.

Dragon Quest IV


Dragon Quest IV is another beloved classic which was remade. This version has extra content offering more playability. So for purists, this is the must-have version. The presentation is fantastic, using the dual screen for display, and offering excellent environments. The presentation itself is wonderful, making the player play through four different characters before culminating in a final chapter. The battle system has also been tweaked to make it easier to manage battle commands.

Chrono Trigger DS


I am not going to spend much time writing about Chrono Trigger. Suffice it to say that this is the November Rain of JRPGs. This remake will take you back to the days of lovingly created sprites, haunting music and epic gameplay. The same memorable cast of characters return but this time, there’s a new ending and some new quests as well. After WEWY on the DS, this is the must have RPG, and you will play it multiple times to get through its 14 endings!

Also read: IndianVideoGamer Year in Review: Racing

Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures


The Lego Adventures (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman) have one thing in common – ridiculous amounts of fun. The DS version of Lego Indiana Jones will give you the chance to play through the three movies as the professor and his sidekicks. The game translates decently onto the DS from the consoles. There’s nothing much which makes the game stand out, but it sure is a lot of fun.

Guitar Hero: On Tour


The conversion of this cult music game from the home consoles to the handheld is a piece of technical wizardry. Four buttons are used instead of five, and the stylus is used to strum. Star power is enabled by shouting! The game itself is fun to play, although people might look at you askance as you shout “Rock On” into the microphone. The tracklist is mediocre and the sound and graphics are the same. But it is a lot of fun when you can play the guitar in office!


God of War: Chains of Olympus


This game is supposed to hold over the rabid fanboys till God of War 3 comes out, and why not? We fans of Kratos are an impatient and angry lot. The best thing about the game is the technical marvel. The game looks and sounds great on the PSP, and sometimes better than the first game on PS2. The gameplay itself does not change much from the previous games, with a minor adjustment required to the playstyle because you are going to play this on a handheld instead of using the DUALSHOCK controller. CoO takes place before the first GoW and the story is thin enough to say why Kratos is angry and needs to kill a gazillion mythical creatures. Everything else remains the same down to the hoochy mini game. The puzzles have been downplayed a bit from GoW 2, but it still remains a great experience on the PSP.



Patapon is the kind of game that makes owning a PSP worth it. This is in the league of LocoRoco and Lumines, and a must have this year. The gameplay is a mix of rhythm and real-time strategy, with a dash of item collection, an innovative art style and a really catchy tune. You are the messiah who is going to bring the Patapon to salvation since they’ve fallen on hard times. You do this by sending out messages like “charge” and “defend” in time with the beat, and also help out the troops with your God-like powers. The initial battles are easy, but the boss battles are pretty challenging and you will need to figure out a strategy to beat the enemy rather than just button mashing. Pon Pon Pata Pon!

Also read: IndianVideoGamer Year in Review: Sports

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII


The Final Fantasy VII franchise has been milked beyond the last lactose bacteria and there seems to be no end in sight. But if the output is like Crisis Core, all I can say is MOAR. The prequel to one of the best RPGs of all time is great. Crisis Core tells the story of Zack, and that’s all that I can give out about the plot without going into spoilers. There are the usual favourites as well – Cloud and Sephiroth. The game is a technical marvel with great graphics. The gameplay is a bit different though; the battle system is real-time and not turn based. Also, the Digital Mind Wave system which controls upgrades, level-ups and limit breaks can be a bit irritating since it takes the entire upgrade fun out of the player’s hands. The cutscenes and the story are great, and this is a game which is a fitting entry into the FF VII stable.



While NDS sales thrive on the puzzle genre, the PSP has very few to boast of. Echochrome is the rare entry for the PSP, but it does give fair competition. The game has a simple concept – there are a lot of platforms and you need to get your mannequin through the level while collecting four ‘echoes’. But there are gaps in the platforms and the only way to fill them is to shift your perspective. If a column turns to fill a gap in a platform, then that gap is filled. The challenge comes in the 3 minute time limit, which means you have to be fast. The game’s minimalist presentation gels well with the puzzle aspect, which depends on lining up platforms and columns.

There you have it – a great line-up for either handheld. There are games in there like World Ends With You and Crisis Core which are a must if you own either console, and then there are the remakes like Chrono Trigger, which never get old. Happy Gaming!

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