Releasing a soccer title in the US is tough. We already see FIFA and Winning Eleven on a yearly basis, so any other competition is lost between that struggle for supremacy. In the N-Gage domain though, that dual-company struggle doesn't exist, and FIFA is the only other title alongside Marcel Desailly Pro Soccer.
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Activision's over used skateboarding series did everything to make the extreme genre, well, a genre. It was the controls, the real athletes, and the multi-player that made it such a joy. That was six years ago, and since, the Tony Hawk franchise has seen a whopping 35 different incarnations across the many platforms it's landed on. The N-Gage was the first fully 3-D version on a handheld, and that's the only thing it can be remembered for.
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Offering little in the way of originality, Spider-Man 2 doesn't make its appearance on the N-Gage meaningful. This standard, flawed, and sometimes even boring romp is a typical action/adventure title slapped together to take advantage of the film it's based on. As a small consolation, at least it's better than the Nintendo DS version.
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Ditching much of the complexity and trickery of the home version, Splinter Cell on the N-Gage is a translation of a Game Boy Advance game (like far too many N-Gage titles are). This 2-D side scroller has a lot of the charms of a 16-bit title, including extensive platform jumping. It's not Sam Fisher as we have grown to know him, but a small, interesting diversion marred by its controls.
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Set up more for simple pick-up-and-play titles, the N-Gage was never meant to play games beyond its capabilities. Still, give a developer the tools, and they'll make some small miracles happen. On par with any standard first-person shooter on the PS One, Ashen is a technological marvel in the graphics department, though they drag this one down in heavily detailed areas.
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It's hard to sell a new system when its launch titles are ports of seven-year-old games, and not even complete ones at that. Much like Tomb Raider, Pandemonium! hasn't aged well, and even if there are die-hard fans still lingering, even they should be able to admit it's uneventful now. This is a dull 16-bit platformer mixed in with some nicely rendered 3-D landscapes. To call it anything else would be cheating yourself.
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Another port from a Game Boy Advance game, N-Gage players will find Sonic N familiar. It's a direct translation of Sonic Advance, a fantastic 2-D title in the series. Any flaws here are due to the hardware, and in this case, it's nearly enough to ruin the playability.
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It's easy to make the argument that graphics do not make a game great. However, it's games like SSX Out of Bounds that show how they can make a game terrible. The technical limitations destroy every ounce of Out of Bound's playability, and everything else shoved onto the tiny game card is for naught.
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Even if it's missing features, has a terrible frame rate, and doesn't end up online, the basic golf mechanics of EA's golf franchise always make an enjoyable outing. The single N-Gage Tiger Woods entry (and only golf game for that matter) is a success. It has trouble in the area of features, and that because this is a port of a Game Boy Advance title from the same year.
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Directly porting the Game Boy Advance title King of Fighters EX 2: Howling Blood, Hudson has taken a great game and nearly ruined it on the N-Gage. The benefits over Nintendo's handheld are wonderful, including wireless multi-player and plenty of buttons. Sadly, it runs at barely half the speed, and for veterans of this series (anyone who would even give this a second look), that's unacceptable.
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Taking the gameplay from the home versions, X-Men Legends becomes a solid conversion for the N-Gage. With the great interface, it has the makings of a superb title. Sadly, combat is dull, aggravating, and not particularly fun. It's the only thing holding back this semi-RPG/semi-action title.
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If the N-Gage wasn't created fast-paced action titles in mind, that's not a problem since there are games like Pathway to Glory. While the last thing gamer's need is another World War II title, Glory earns the right to co-exist in a crowded market with unique turn based gameplay. It's not intricately detailed, but accessible and easy to understand quickly.
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Team 17's Worms series is one of the best in the history of the industry. In the realm of easy to pick up turn-based strategy titles, there is no comparison. It's brilliant by game design standards, and on the N-Gage, none of that changes.
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Colin McRae Rally 2005 may look dated on the N-Gage hardware, but playing it reveals a rally racing game as deep as anything on the home consoles. This is a meticulously detailed representation of a rough sport, and even without an analog stick, the precise controls necessary are included. Unless you don't enjoy the style of racing, there's no reason for this title not to find a spot in your portable gaming collection.
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A video game that is beyond unnecessary, WWE Aftershock stands as the only pro wrestling title on the N-Gage. The problem is that the N-Gage didn't have a need for a wrestling game. The plain, dull Aftershock proves why.
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If there's a system no one thought would see a fully 3-D Splinter Cell title, it's the N-Gage. Chaos Theory is a miraculously accurate translation of the same console title, and the control scheme becomes a highlight. Nothing here except for the graphics and sound has been stripped down. It's a more than admirable port, though the frame rate may be enough to turn off players more accustomed to the steadiness of the home versions.
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Trying to bring Contra into 3-D doesn't work. It's not a style of game that is easily transferred. That didn't prevent Torus games from loosely trying to mimic a classic in Operation Shadow, a far too typical 3rd-person action title.
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Fondly remembered for reasons we have all forgotten, this N-Gage translation of Lara Croft's first adventure fails for all the reasons it did back in 1996. Most notably, the controls are simply terrible. It's enough to render this translation unplayable, mostly due to time.
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Revered on home consoles, the resurrected Prince of Persia series was a critical success. The control over the lead character was incredible, simple to perform, and incredible to watch. Bringing problems was the camera, and now in 2-D on cell phones, this sequel translation is a mild success, hampered by a convoluted control scheme that leads to unnecessary death and aggravation.
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Taking the concept from a short lived Godzilla series on the Game Boy Color, War of the Worlds is a fun shooter, even without the full control players would want. It's extended to say the least, and for a cell phone game, possibly too long. There's plenty to play with here, though that initial shock over the gorgeous graphics wears off about half way through.
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Even after countless awful (and at times unplayable) sequels, Double Dragon is one of those games that has refused to die. This 1987 arcade classic has reasons to stick around too. As the innovator of the beat-em-up, it's still a great time killer, and that's just what you're looking for on a cell phone.
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is © 2003
by Ken Edwards and Matt Paprocki. Some Rights Reserved
Contact Ken: ken [at] meancode [dot] com
Contact Matt: videogamer [at] bex [dot] net
: The opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of any corporation, business entity, group or club the author has ever been associated with. Feel free to quote anything I say but do me the courtesy of a link back (see Creative Commons license)