Unlike its big brother, the Wii, who tried to hold on to its innocence for as long it could with family style gaming such as Wii Sports, the Nintendo DS was doomed for corruption the moment it was introduced to the world with its touch screen technology.
With games such as Feel the Magic XY/XX in which you can “interact” with a girl through the stylus (e.g. unzipping her dress as a mini-game) and Pictochat in which you send your friends poorly drawn pictures of phallic fruits, the handheld system is a revolutionary innovation that provides new opportunities for controversial gaming.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Rockstar’s latest release of the popular and controversial GTA series exclusively for Nintendo DS, does not disappoint. The last time a GTA game had been released on a Nintendo system was back in 2004, and it never came close to the success of the PlayStation releases. However, Nintendo’s latest handheld system is able to correct the mistakes of its predecessors and provide violence and mayhem to players on the go.
The protagonist, the character that the players will be controlling throughout the game, is Huang Lee. The spoiled son of a recently murdered Triad boss, Lee arrives in his hometown Liberty City to deliver the family heirloom Yu Jian (a sword) to Uncle Wu “Kenny” Lee.
However, upon arriving in Liberty City, Lee is kidnapped and the sword was stolen. During his journey to retrieve the family heirloom and revenging his father, Lee gets caught up with local crime bosses and their feuds. The story is well-written and is full of plot twists and shocking revelations which add to the chaotic gaming experience.
Fans of the series will immediately be given a taste of nostalgia once granted control, as Chinatown Wars is set in Liberty City, which is the central location for many GTA games of the series. On the other hand, the clever in-game GPS system will guide any newcomers through the city, smoothly around the cops and straight to the drug dealers, arm shops and crime bosses as needed.
It is very easy to get used to the game control. The in-game settings provide many different options for camera and game control, one of which is bound to fit your playing style. The gaming style is very similar to the original two GTA games, with a bird’s eye view of your character and his surroundings. This, plus the above-mentioned genius GPS system, allows you to always be aware of your surroundings in a dangerous city where anyone can be up for your throat.
All the basics that everyone expects from a GTA game are obviously present. Stealing cars, setting explosions and shooting submachine guns are just a fraction of the fun you could be having with Chinatown Wars. In order to promote new material to the genre and fully exploit the DS’s touch screen, the game presents the most controversial (and most fun) aspect, the mini-games.
You don’t know how to hot wire the car you are trying to steal? No problem. Chinatown Wars will teach you how to steal a car properly. How about making a Molotov cocktail? The game will present you with step-by-step instructions that you carry out with your stylus. You don’t think drug trading was fascinating enough in the other GTA games? Now you can personally hand them to your buyers with a simple drag on the touch screen.
The mini games in Chinatown Wars are nothing like, say, the WarioWare series.
They are educational to anyone dreaming of one day becoming a mob boss, and they are also a nightmare to parents everywhere.
The game shows off the DS’s graphic capabilities quite nicely, with a mixture of 2D and 3D environments that present a rather unique look only for the handheld system.
The in-game characters, however, can only be considered borderline Chinese at most. Take any mobster face and paint it yellow or add a mustache to it and you have a Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars character. The stereotypical, but nonetheless flavorful, speaking style makes the occasional cutscenes quite hilarious.
Like all of the GTA games, Chinatown Wars supports a different kind of playing style and depends on your mood. You could either follow the storyline by doing missions and jobs to earn money, or you can start destruction from the onset.
The latter can be easily achieved due to the ease at which the players can manipulate the drug market. You will find yourself to be a businessman in no time, as the reward is hundreds of times better than those from missions. This makes the game easier overall, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Overall, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a fun experience that you do not want to miss if you have a DS. Or maybe you would rather try out the game on your brand spanking new DSi. Although this would in no way be the future of the GTA series, it is a very successfully side project. Chinatown Wars has been one of the few games released in recent memory that utilizes all of the DS’s features.
Chinatown Wars brings the PC and PlayStation franchises to Nintendo fans everywhere who are dying to get a taste of the crime world.