Well I've been here for a few months, and one thing I've noticed is the lack of a good compilation of the best homebrew. This of course leads to over a million "what homebrwz shud i uz?" threads. With any luck this will help to cut down on that, and show the naysayers what DS homebrew is capable of.
Excluded from the list are emulators and all cart-specific homebrew (read: Rudolph's tool). Special thanks to JPH for the logo, the homebrew developers for making such great applications and games, and the GBAtemp staff for maintaining the number one DS and GBA community on the web!
One of those apps you probably glanced at because it sounds neat, but never ended up bothering to learn how to use it. FlickBook allows you to create frame-by-frame animations on your DS, and export them as AVIs on your PC. You should check out his homepage for per-button descriptions, but summed up it supports any number of frames, copy/paste operations (8 copy buffers), save/load current project, 4 colors, 4 pen sizes, and playback while working in two speeds. The export utility available on his site is coded in Java so its compatible with all operating systems. Its really much simpler than it sounds, so take the few minutes to learn how and make something great. There might even be a contest planned down the line (*wink*wink*).
The premier ebook reader, DSReader certainly gives off a 'complete' feel. The menu is summoned with a quick flick of the stylus and disposed just as easily, which presents four buttons. The left-most is your standard "Open" dialog. Pick your text file and load it in. To the right of that is the Library button. If you haven't already opened a file via the "Open" dialog this session, a list of all previously opened files will appear to select from. Once you have a text loaded, this button becomes the bookmark store. You can save up to three bookmarks per file. Proceeding down the menu bar, we have the "Font" button. This lets you load and TrueType font stored on your card and render your text in it. You can adjust the size, rendering method (standard, anti-aliased, subpixel), and allows you to invert the colors. Last here is "Display Settings". From here you can toggle smart paragraphs, and choose which screens you want the text displayed on (top, bottom, both).
DSNotes is designed for jotting down notes quickly, and it surely excels at that. Naturally, you draw on the bottom screen, and the five tool toolbar is displayed to the left (pen tool, eraser, new page, and 20 level(!) undo/redo). Pressing start saves the note, and it is displayed in a list on the top screen among the other notes you've created in order of last created. These can be cycled through with the d-pad, a preview displayed behind, the R-button bringing it up to full opacity. Once brought up to the front a created note can either be stickied (brought to the top of the list like a forum thread), deleted, or loaded back into the drawing board for editting. All notes are stored on your flashcart as 6kb bitmaps so they take up very little space and can be edited from your computer.
An MSN client, BeUp is quite reminisce of something put out by Microsoft. It supports standard text IMs, avatars, multiple conversations in tabs, and a "drawing" mode which lets you actually send drawn messages. At startup, you'll be presented with the login screen. Here you input your MSN handle and password, and can toggle any of three self-explanatory options: Login Automatically; Automatically connect when connection lost; Switch bands on top (recommended). Once you're all setup you should click "Connect" and if all went well will be viewing your contacts list after a few seconds. From this page you can set your displayed avatar, status and name by clicking on each, logoff, and of course start a conversation by double-clicking a contact. Each conversation is loaded into its own tab, and these can be cycled through either be clicking on them or with the shoulder buttons. Messages can either be sent in standard text format via the onscreen keyboard (with coloring and smiley support) or with the included "draw" mode. The "draw" mode lets you actually draw out messages like you would with PictoChat and send them over MSN in a normal conversation.
Don't be intimidated by the Japanese screenshot; this gem (created by the developer of Moonshell) is probably the most full-featured and well-designed timer application I've seen on any platform. I can barely even begin going over the massive feature list, but here's most of the meat: fully translated in English and Japanese; supports 8 alarms which can be set to go off on specific days of the week; mp3 playback; random mp3 playback from a folder; snooze; complex button combinations to turn off; rumble pack support; gradual volume increase; and a great graphical GUI. To create your .NDS file, run MakeNDSROM.exe, and select "English" as the language. If your cart has auto-DLDI patching select "Extract NDSROM file only", otherwise select "Create NDSROM file for all adapters".
The DS iPod Clone that no doubt you, your mother, and all your neighbors have seen. Lick's Media Player does a pretty damn good job at impersonating an iPod, including a fully functional scroll wheel via the touch screen. Controls are similiar to the device its designed after: 'spinning' the scroll wheel navigates through the menus, adjust the volume while in the "Now Playing" screen; the buttons on the wheel perform their corresponding action. The player sports custom skins, ID3 tags, and a shuffle mode.
For those manga readers out there (I'm sure there are more than a few), this application is right up your alley. ComicBookDS allows you to view CBDS comic archives, which can either be downloaded preconverted or converted yourself from JPEG images using PictoDS. All CBDS files must be placed in the "cbds" directory on your cart. The newest version of the application allows you to view and download comics straight from the official site via WiFi (albeit its a bit slow). There are several viewing methods available with ComicBookDS. The default places the full page on the bottom screen, where you control a size-adjustable magnifier rectangle, with the magnified image being displayed on the top screen. Another mode allows you to span each page across both screens, and either of these viewing methods are available in both landscape (default) and portrait (think Brain Age).
It was a toss-up between this and Colors!, but I had to go with Phidias as its a much more professionally designed tool. Upon starting, Phidias gives you a selection of six different image sizes (from 64x64 to 512x384). Included in the toolbar are a pencil tool, brush tool, blur tool, smudge tool, paint bucket, and eyedropper; along with a two color cache and 8 color palette (which can be selected from pretty much the entire spectrum). All tools (except bucket and dropper) have a strength setting (Right shoulder + Left/Right) and size setting (X/Y or Right shoulder + Up/Down). The pencil and brush tool support custom brushes; 16 come with the app, and the current image can be saved as a brush by pressing 'A' at the brush menu. As far as canvas manipulation is concerned: d-pad moves around the image, A/B to zoom, both shoulders + a direction to flip, and select to undo/redo your last action.
Created by our very own Costello, DSHobro is the fastest image-supporting web browser available. DSHobro is different from the others, instead of directly downloading the page from the internet, it connects to a server hosted on your computer which transmits an optimized image of the page back to the DS. The bottom screen contains a shrunken down full page display of the website and the top has displays a magnified selection. This magnified area can be moved around with d-pad/face button or with the stylus. Select button brings up the overlaying menu, which contains a keyboard, URL field, home/refresh/forward/back buttons.
"NitroTracker is a FastTracker II style tracker for the Nintendo DS. If you didn't understand that, you might want to read up on trackers. For starters, NitroTracker is a versatile tool for creating music - everywhere! It supports the popular XM file format that is used by many PC trackers. With NitroTracker, you can carry your XMs around in your DS and compose whenever and wherever you feel like it. "Tracking on a handheld console? Sounds like a pain in the ass." You might say. But because of the touchscreen and stylus of the DS, it's quite easy. You can compose your melodies using an on-screen keyboard, directly edit your patterns by making selections, copying and pasting - all with the stylus. And that's not where it ends: If you don't have any samples at hand, make your own with the DS's microphone. You can even replace the samples in existing songs with your own recorded ones. There are many possibilities already and there will be even more. "
The all-in-one suite DSOrganize is packed; and the closest thing to an OS the DS has. First I'll go over the organizational features. Theres a calendar, which allows you to set reminders for specific days or can be accessed through the day planner to set hourly events (which are displayed at the top of the home screen as they approach). The address book stores "vCards" which have fields for name, nickname, home and cell phone, address, e-mail, and additional comments. Theres a to-do list, which also displays tasks in top of the home page. A scribble pad, for drawing and saving quick doodles. And of course the file browser, which allows for move/copy/delete/rename operations. Moving into the WiFi-based features, DSO has a quite well-featured IRC client, which supports multiple channels (tabs) and most of the standard commands. The Homebrew Database lets you download other homebrew and game demos directly to your DS. Last but certainly not least, is the text-based web browser, which is the fastest available. In addition to the utilities themselves, DSO gives the users a healthy dose of configuration options.
Most love it, almost all have it. Moonshell is the poster child of DS homebrew; to the point of being integrated by the manufacturer in pretty much every flashcart produced now. Moonshell is the media player for DS, and supports a staggering list of supported files, including: DPG video files, MP3 / OGG / MOD / SPC / MDX/ GBS / HES / NSF / XM / MIDI / low bit rate AAC audio / non-progressive JPEG / BMP / GIF / PNG images, and text files.
Board games are cool yo. The rules are simple: Use your balls to push your opponent's balls into oblivion and the first person to push a certain number of balls off the table wins. You take turns, and can move 1, 2, or 3 balls a turn provided they are in a line. If your balls have numerical superiority in a line, you can push your opponent's balls. The game has 8 AIs of varying difficulty, and a WiFi multiplayer mode. Theres even a PC version of the game (available at his site) which can play against people using the DS version.
Anyone here played "Crayon Physics"? Pocket Physics is a physical construction kit for your pocket, allowing you to draw objects on the touch screen, then watch as they become "physical" and interact with other objects they come into contact with. The game allows you to create solid objects (such as walls, floors, etc) that are unmoving, and dynamic objects which are affected by gravity and can be moved. Drawing can be done while the scene is in suspended animation, or while everything is in motion. It also has support for the DS Motion Card.
LOCKJAW is the ultimate tetromino stacking game because it lets you set the rules. The level of customization available is vast, and with some tweaking will let you create your perfect Tetris experience.
Quite the addicting little Tetris Attack-style game. The objective is to create rows or columns of 3 matching symbols to remove them, and keep the stack from reaching the top. The game has 3 modes: Endless, which streams blocks nonstop; VS Self, which like the name implies means you're playing yourself; and WiFi, which allows you to play other people through the TetattDS server. Graphics and controls are very fluid, and you'll find yourself playing for tens of minutes on end. Both button and stylus controls are seamless.
PuzzleManiak is a port of the Portable Puzzle Collection, which was created by Simon Tatham. To put it simply, its a collection of 27 puzzle games which are played using the touch screen. The collection supports custom themes and is available in 7 languages. One of the most prominent features of PuzzleManiak is the support for all your scores to be sent via WiFi to the PuzzleManiak server, where they are displayed for all to see. There is also a daily challenge which can be downloaded from the main menu.
Nethack purists may disagree, but POWDER is easily the most playable roguelike available. Originally, the game was designed for the GBA, so all commands have been mapped (quite well) to the buttons and d-pad. For those not familiar with the genre, basically this is a hack'n'slash RPG; the toned down graphics allow for a very large number of commands, and really make the game very strategic and deep. With the release of version 093, the game is now entirely playable with the DS' touch screen, although button actions are still preserved if you prefer that. The goal is to defeat enemies, gather items, levelup, and make it to the 25th floor to defeat Baezl'bub (referred to as "ascending"). This is one of the more overlooked homebrew games, probably due to its somewhat bland appearance in screenshots. You owe it to the dungeon crawler inside to check this game out.
For those itching for a little more action, I'm going to refer you to the GBA. Those familiar with the gameplay of bullet hell will feel right at home here, as thats exactly what these two games provide. BulletGBA is bullet hell simulator, containing a vast database of attacks patterns which you can play through consecutively, randomly, or just pick and choose. Its meant to be played vertically, so those with Gameboy Micros would hold it sideways while playing. Vulkanon is more of an actual shmup, with your bullet stream actually being controlled by a button rather than always on. The objective is to beat the boss of each of the 4 stages. Both games save the entire replay of your best run and push the limits of what the GBA is capable of.
A good real-time strategy game on the DS? Makes you wonder why we haven't seen any from a commercial developer. A Touch of War is your standard medieval RTS, made to collaborate almost flawlessly with the DS' control setup. Almost all commands are done using the touch screen, L or R switch the screens, and you can move around the map with the d-pad or face buttons. It supports both left and right handed layouts, up to three (suprisingly smart) AIs, fog of war, and a multiplayer mode via WiFi.
You'd almost think it was commercial. GeoWars is professional from the graphics, to the sound, to the controls, to even the story. Basically this is another shmup, with a unique control scheme. Ship movement is done via the d-pad/face buttons, while the direction of your bullet stream is controlled with the stylus. There are 22 seperate levels to play, all with enemies streaming towards you.
Probably one of the most well-known DS homebrew games. Warcraft: Tower Defense is an adaption of the famous WC3 mod. Its akin to an RTS; enemies will walk in along a designated path (determined by the map), and your goal is to kill them before they reach the end. This is accomplished by strategically placing towers which fire projectiles at the enemies. These towers are purchased with your limited funds, and can be upgraded to different types, destroyed, etc. You can download new maps or design your own.
The only genre I could think that this game falls under is "galactic god war". Peaked your interest? Basically you are the god of a planet, which is located at the bottom of your touch screen. You war with other gods, who are somewhere above the range of the top screen. Battle is done using mana, which is slowly repleted as you use it. This mana can be used to fuel other attacks, shields, upgrades, or even melded into raw shrapnel which can block opposing attacks or be used as a weapon itself. As you shoot your mana off screen in their direction, a HP and shield meter will inform you if you've made a hit. Oh, and did I mention this is all done with the stylus? Meteora really is quite hard to describe, and is one of the most unique in this entire list.
This is Mega Man done right. The game is a bit deeper than most homebrew, including 8 stages with 3 levels and a boss each, and a shop where you can buy upgrades (new weapons, more hp, new abilities, etc). The controls and physics are solid, and what you would find in any other Mega Man game. Now we come to the sad news. Unfortunately MegaETk is not DLDI compatible, which means for a majority of you reading, no saves, music, or touch screen use. I have found however that the NoFAT version is fully playable via the NORflash mode of the EZ-Flash 3 in 1, so not all of you have to miss out.
It is a little buggy, but for the most part Quake runs quite smoothly on the DS. There are three versions of QuakeDS; the standard version, infrastructure for playing on WiFi, and ExRam for utilizing the RAM found in some slot-2 carts. As far as setup is concerned, you either need the full version of Quake, or you can download and install the shareware version here. Once you've obtained either of those, create a folder on the root of your cart called "id1". Find the pak0.pak and pak1.pak (you'll only need the first if you're using shareware) in your Quake directory, and copy them to the "id1" folder you just created. Place this in the root of your cart.
Ah, Doom. Probably the single most ported game in history. Unsuprisingly, it runs flawlessly on DS. To setup, you just need to extract the "doom.nds", "prboom.wad", and "prboom.cfg" to the root of your cart. Now you just fetch the *.wad file from the version of doom you're going to use (doom, doom2, tnt, ultimate, shareware can be found here), copy it to the root of your cart and rename it "doom.wad". DS Doom also supports WiFi play; see the readme for instruction on setting that up.
Its almost amazing how well some games port to the DS. Lemmings DS is an exact replica of the classic Amiga game, with the stylus of course replacing the mouse. The package includes the original 120 levels from the Amiga game, 100 levels from Oh-No! More Lemmings, and all 72 levels from Xmas Lemmings ‘91, ‘92, ‘93 and ‘94. The port features automatic progress saving, an on-DS level editor, and the ability to download and play new levels. Installation consists of extracting the archive to the root of your cart (make sure the files stay in the LemmingsDS directory).
A great game which plays fantastically on the DS. Probably my favorite listed here. Descent is a 3D FPS which was originally released in 1995, where you pilot a ship - which moves in full 3D space - through underground mines. The objective is to go through the solar system and eliminate a virus which has infected all the robots being used in the mines (the very ones that are your enemies throughout). You may seem a little lost when trying to set this up, but its actually quite simple. First of all you'll need to download the archive below, and extract it to the root of your cart. Next you must obtain and install the game Descent. Now the game must be updated to 1.5. First get the "1.0 to 1.4a" patcher located here, and place it in your Descent directory. Run that, and follow the same process for 1.4a to 1.5. Finally, you just copy the "DESCENT.PIG" and "DESCENT.HOG" from that same directory, and drop that into the root.