We're so nuts about the DS that we devote most of our lives to talking about it. We know pretty much everything out there, and we spend entirely too much time building our collections. We're emblematic of exactly the kind of brutally insane people for whom it's nearly impossible to shop. That's why we've put together this handy guide to the kind of stuff we would love, but wouldn't necessarily think to buy ourselves. Not because we want you to buy gifts for us, although we certainly won't stop you if you think we deserve a little token of appreciation.
See what we did there? We've given you the gift of an obvious opening through which to insult us! 'Tis the season!
It would take someone fanatical about both the DS and retrogaming to appreciate Game Center CX, and someone fairly in the know to even understand what the hell it is. But from what we hear, it's fantastic, and it's right up the alley of any DS owner who has everything. Game Center CX is a collection of fake parody 8-bit games -- a racing game, a vertical shooter, a Dragon Quest-alike -- presented as a series of in-game challenges. As you complete tasks, more games are opened up. You're helped by mock game magazines that imitate Famitsu. And the whole thing is based on a Japanese TV show about a very overworked man who has to beat old video games. If you know someone who wouldn't balk at the idea of a game intentionally made to look 20 years old, and who either reads Japanese or has no aversion to GameFAQs, consider Namco Bandai's pseudo-retro collection.
SHOCK! Replacement Shell (NDS-Central, $34.90)
For most people, the decision about what color their DS Lite is going to be is made at the store. But it is possible to change that decision later, with the help of an aftermarket shell. Your gift target would have to be both daring enough to attempt console surgery and handy with a triwing screwdriver. Or really stupid and reckless.
If the recipient is adept with electronics, buy a clear shell and throw a couple of LEDs in the package. Then give them the number of someone with a CNC cutter, and a llama-shaped template. They'll have the most obnoxiously unique DS around!
If your recipient is "hardcore," they may scoff at your gift of the latest entry in a kids' series that, like the hardware for which it was produced, is long past its prime. That's when you tell them that this is actually a combo-based sidescrolling brawler which has more in common with Devil May Cry than Crash Bandicoot. Then you keep the game to teach your friend not to be a jerk and scoff at gifts.
Doki Doki Majo Shinpan! promo items (various)
What better way to celebrate one of the weirdest games to come out of Japan than a copy of the game? Pretty much anything else, since, as it turns out, the game's not that great, neither enjoyable nor "enjoyable." But you can still buy ridiculously expensive tie-in items that are every bit as laughably lascivious as the game promised to be. From Japanese drama CDs to the preorder-bonus screen cleaner to the, uh, comfy-looking pillow, nothing says "I'm much too interested in the DS, and also nobody ever sees my room" like DDMS. We want one of those pillow covers, but only because we're really sleepy. Of all the things on the list, we'd be most inclined to recommend this for other DS devotees (in other words, not us specifically). We just think DDMS is funny and couldn't miss the opportunity to talk about it some more. (Mousepad available for way too damn much money at jbox.com/jlist.com)
These two games are very rare creations: third-party training games that not only aren't terrible, but seem like they could actually help. And they're in an underserved genre as well, populated pretty much only by themselves and Spanish for Everyone (which would probably also be a solid purchase, but for other reasons). They probably won't get the attention they deserve this holiday season, which is too bad, because we think they're great. And chances are, DS fans would relish the opportunity to point to their favorite gaming device and refer to it as a Useful Educational Tool. In French, even!
Hardcore DS gamers probably already have at least one copy of Contra 4, unless they have already thrown it into a fire or split it in half with their incisors. But maybe they could use another just to look at, or to carry around in case they meet another DS owner with whom they could play multiplayer. Giving Contra 4 is not just the best gift you could give your gamer friends. You're giving yourself the gift of being able to buy Contra 4 again.
Bonus: Philips CD-I, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon and Link: Faces of Evil (eBay, various)
Okay, this has nothing to do directly with the DS. But it's not an insane gaming habit without a closet full of obsolete systems and a shelf's worth of games bought specifically because they're terrible. Even the most Zelda-obsessed gamer (the kind of person who has imported not just Tingle's Rosey Rupeeland, but Tingle's Balloon Fight as well) probably never picked these up. Some people think they're actually misunderstood gems! Those people are pretty much wrong, but that just highlights how purely interesting this stuff is, in a way that actual good games can't be.