DSiWare isn't something that gets a ton of media attention. Once in a while a game will pop up that you'll see a review on but usually it goes from Nintendo press release to the ether and you'll never know about. But not me, I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff. And that's why I have compiled this list of my favorite DSiWare games in no particular order except where I tell you the specific order.
Soul of Darkness:
Imagine a Castlevania GBA game stripped of any and all references to being a Castlevania game and you have Soul of Darkness. A *shudders* "Metroidvania" game that doesn't so much pay homage to Castlevanias GBA outings as it does just completely rip them off and make them shorter for the app game experience. Everything is there. New weapons, magical attacks, gothic imagery. For five bucks and being from Gameloft, and lot of time and care was actually put into making a really great budget Castlevania clone.
DigiDrive is a DSiWare re-release of GBA Bit Generations game known as Intersect. The series is designed to be simple sit down for a session then go about your day styles of games. DigiDrives release revolves around the idea of you have this disc and a slowly growing meter (I think they call it a piston) on one screen and a four way stop style intersection on the other screen. There are three different "vehicles" of different colors (Black, Red, and White) that are approaching the intersection. Your job is to direct them using the controls to go into one particular section of the intersection in matching color groups. Five in a row makes the lane that color. You're doing this so you can gain...like...fuel or something. I don't know. All I know is you're trying to stop that piston from smashing into the disc on the other screen and you can just get sucked right into for hours. So much for the quick session gaming.
Mighty Flip Champs:
This is a WayForward Technologies game. A company I have complete faith in when it comes to tackling a retro concept. Think of Lode Runner for minute. You can't jump. You can only climb and walk and shoot bricks. Now, take the shooting out. And add alternate dimensions. You're goal is to get to the fishman in the stage. Hey, sounds easy enough. Except you can't jump, remember? That's where the flipping comes into play. On the bottom screen is an upside down world with a different layout then the one on the top screen you're wandering around in. When you hit a dead end on the top screen, it's because you need to figure out where on the top screen you need to be so when you flip, you're in an ideal non death location. You hit that flip button and the bottom screen flips up and becomes the top screen. As the game progresses, you need to meet up with more characters and have more screens to flip through. You also need to take a breather, because you're gonna get TICKED and feel like a moron.
Photo Dojo executes its one trick with such amazing effectiveness that you wont care that it's a simple, dumbed down fighter. What does it do? Simple. It lets you create your own cast of fighting characters. You snap your profile image, you record the sound effects, you pose yourself in all the silly positions they ask you to pose in and you even choose what you're fireball looks like. It's silly. Silly beyond all comprehension and that's why it is without a doubt one of the must play games of this handheld generation.
It's Cave Story. Why aren't you playing it right now? It's on the PC, it's on the Wii, it's coming to the 3DS. Just play it, dammit.
Dark Void Zero
A lot can be said about Dark Void that isn't nice. But there are a few things that the game did right that you can't take away from it. It had a totally rad soundtrack and it gave us Dark Void Zero. The idea of Dark Void Zero is that it's a joke. It's a game that was being worked on for the NES that was never released. That is its back story. And this joke is pulled off with such excellent execution that you could almost believe it. When you boot it up they have you blow into the microphone on the system to make sure the dust is gone. Even the virtual manual completes the illusion with its history complete with pictures. What ends up being surprising is that they didn't waste all their creative juices on the concept and actually made a really good tribute to every 8-Bit action game of the era.
Puzzle games are a bit of a forte of mine. Right up there with racing games. I've played so many variations of the same style of gameplay, whether it be line up three, Bejewelled style, or even the billion different types of Tetris that exist. What Nintendo has done here is taken the classic idea of a falling block puzzler and mixed it up with a match three concept like that of Dr. Mario or Tetris 2. Take your stylus in hand. Unused blocks start clogging up the screen on top of the blocks that you start out with. You can poke blocks and that block goes into your save spot. If you tap in an area not occupied by a block, the next block in your save queue goes into that space. Your goal is to create chains that lead groups of three or more. The colors are there for more than just matching up. Every time you match color, it goes to the top screen and starts filling in an image. Once you fill in all the image of that certain color just means points and clearing the screen. All of this is wrapped up in a DELIGHTFUL 8-Bit package. Those images you're trying to complete? NES game sprites. This game takes the 8-Bit package presented in Tetris DS and does it better. All of the music in the game are really good remixes of classic NES songs. There is even a Jukebox mode so you can plug in your headphones, listen to the remix and even shut the device and still keep listening to the tracks. It is without hyperbole when I tell you this is one of my absolute favorite DS games, DSiWare or otherwise.
EDIT: As luck would have it, Nintendo announced today (6.2.2011) a list of games that won't be transferable to the 3DS. Everything listed here is good to go. Unfortunately Flipnote Studio and Earthworm Jim didn't make the cut which are two great downloads that I didn't mention here)