Whenever the topic of internationally developed homebrew DS games comes up, as it often does among hip and attractive people, most people in "the scene" immediately think of France, whose homebrew community rivals North America's in both size and production. You'll see an occasional release from other countries, such as Spain or Korea, but you'll rarely see much activity elsewhere.
But what about Japan's scene? For a country with so many DSes and a strong independent game development community, outside of Infantile Paralysiser's MoonShell media player, we've hardly seen any DS homebrew projects cross the Pacific. Where are all the doujin developers?
At least one programmer in Japan has been working on creating games for the DS, and we're bringing him out of the shadows to highlight three of his projects, likely games that you've never even heard of, let alone seen. If you're interested in homebrew development at all, you definitely need to pay attention to MeRAMAN!
You've likely seen some form of Arika's Tetris The Grand Master played before -- videos of Japanese gamers playing this insanely fast variant of Tetris often pop up in online gaming discussions, passed along with a "Can you believe this?" tone. Think of TGM3, an unofficial remake of the original arcade game, as a "serious business" version of Tetris DS.
In production since early March, TGM3 is one of the most polished homebrew titles we've ever played for the DS. Already, MeRAMAN's remake features editable controls and mechanics, online leaderboards, a configurable training mode, watchable replays for a single session lasting up to 30 minutes, and several game modes (Master, Death, 20G, and Legacy). You can even play with invisible blocks!
Based on the characters and voices of Yamaha Corporation's singing synthesizer software, Vocaloid 2, Rinlen allows you to (somewhat) control siblings Rin Kagamine and Len Kagamine -- you can throw onions across the screens and change their facial expressions by tapping different buttons -- while a catchy, synthy rendition of traditional Finnish polka tune "Ievan Polkka" plays.
Yeah, we don't understand the purpose of this application either, but it's immensely entertaining, nonetheless. We doubt Rinlen will ever leave our flashcarts.
This one somehow manages to be even more confounding than Rinlen! Though NDS de Princess Bride! isn't actually a real game, of course, it's too wild to not include! The scrolling arrows and Ouendan-esque elements following the character's movements are convincing, but this is more of a fun "what if?" software demonstration than it is a serious project or an actually released ROM.
You can actually find the original clip used for this demo on several different streaming video sites. The masked figure, Okamaid, has recorded a bunch of these performances, and in this one, she's dancing what looks like an Idolm@sterchoreographed routine to singer Kotoko's "Princess Bride." Basically, it's a tangled mess of Japanese things we don't understand, like tentacle hentai or Gundam Mahjong DS.