Nintendo's DS had a phenomenal 2006: 10 million have been sold in Europe alone. The DS Lite redesign helped, of course -- that was when I got mine -- but the overwhelming reason the DS 'pwns' the handheld gaming market is terrific software. As well as titles such as Dr Kawashima's Brain Training and Nintendogs bringing in non-traditional punters (read: old people and girls), absolutely stonking games such as New Super Mario Bros, Advance Wars: Dual Strike and Mario Kart DS are must-buy titles. New Mario was my favourite game of 2006. My girlfriend's too -- sorry about the 'old people and girls' crack, sweetie.
But the pipe has dried up -- there hasn't been an essential purchase since I got my DS last summer. So if Nintendo wants as good a 2007 as 2006, Wii notwithstanding, it has to prime the handle and get pumping. That said, like Bruce Willis in Die Hard 3, I can hear an ominous rumbling and may very well start running away any time now.
The main source of noise heading this way is Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. Frankly, the DS has been Zelda-less for far too long and I'm getting impatient for some portable pot-bashing, rupee-collecting, pointy-eared fun. Whenever a game takes this long to arrive, I'm always wary -- it usually means there was something seriously wrong with it and the underlying problems are rarely solved. But still, fingers crossed.
More quirkily, the DS's touchscreen has given developers tonnes of ideas and my personal fave is Mario Slam Basketball, known as Mario Hoops in the US. You tap the screen to dribble the ball and drag the stylus across to pass. I'm a huge basketball fan and this looks about a million times more fun than any official NBA game. Check out the Japanese ad on YouTube. See what I mean?
Staying on the offbeat tip, Elite Beat Agents looks set to bring the Guitar Hero-inspired rhythm revolution to your commute. This is a Westernised version of the mental Japanese game Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!, which involves superhero cheerleaders saving the world with the power of dance. Look, you tap the stylus at the right time and it's fun, okay?
If you must use your amazing handheld games machine for something prosaic and Western, you'd do worse than the new Castlevania game, Portrait of Ruin, a familiar take on the side-scrolling whip-'em-up genre. A halfway house for the incrementally more adventurous could be Final Fantasy III, a 3D revamp of the cutesy Japanese RPG.