Skip to main content

Retrospective: Listen, We Have to Talk

John reassesses his relationship with the DS.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

DS, we have to talk. I'm sorry that I'm doing this in a letter rather than face to face, but I need to express all my thoughts and feelings carefully. I need to make sure you understand. I need you to know that I still love you, I've always loved you, but something is wrong.

Remember that love letter I wrote you in 2006? We'd been together for a year and I'd never felt so happy. We were still getting to know one another even then, and you had that ability to constantly surprise me. Every time I thought I knew all about you, you'd pull out another twist, another wonderful talent. Of course we knew this wouldn't last, but then, at that time, it felt like forever.

In August 2006 I wrote a piece of Eurogamer about my unbridled love for the DS. The console had been out for just over a year and what was happening was extraordinary. While the DS was of course home to streams of rubbish, it was also the place to go for your dose of strange. Many spectacularly odd games, ideas that seemed born of fever dreams and lunatics' fantasies.

It was the memory one of these games this week that suddenly brought the reality of my relationship with the DS crashing down on me. I remembered Rub Rabbits.

Oh, remember that year. We were always hand in hand, laughing, playing. There was so much laughter. The games weren't always brilliant, but it was about us, how we interacted, how we learned about each other. Those hours and hours chatting with Phoenix Wright. The strange adventures, exploring with Another Code. Painting together with Kirby: Canvas Curse. It was like nothing else. We were young, we had no responsibilities, people didn't understand us. And we didn't care.

"Project Rub" was a launch title for the DS, and it was extraordinary. Even its name was extraordinary. In America it was the strange, suggestive Feel The Magic XX/XY. But best of all was its Japanese name, I Would Die For You. What a name. And how stunningly appropriate for a game that was about... well, love.

"Rub Rabbits" was the lame, slightly unnerving name for the European sequel released in 2006, the year of the love letter. Rub Rabbits captured those early days of the DS. You begin the game and before you've even selected a profile the top screen says, "Life is a struggle, right from the very beginning..." It's birth.

It's not the best game ever, but it captured the spirit of the DS like nothing else.

Then a warning screen appears: "Warning: continuous stroking, blowing and poking could lead to unwanted attention in public places." This was Sonic Team opening the tops of their heads and letting their brains fly away on little cartoon wings.

The following menu screen, accompanied by fabulous manic J-dance, contains an option for "Baby making". To do this, of course, two people had to play together on a single DS. Tell it your date of birth, age, and blood type, then work together to cut open a cake. There's a baby inside! A baby you can name and keep.

The first level is a festival of insane, attempting to pursue a young lady up a down escalator by furious scribbling on the screen and avoiding top-hatted gentlemen and sumo wrestlers.

On some levels it was pathetic. A man pursuing a woman made of shadows in a yellow bikini, showing off to win her attention. And then there was the microphone.

I remember how much you'd enjoy it when I gently blew on your skin. Those intimate moments. Hot breath. It was novel. It was new.