The lights are on
The first two Grand Theft Autos were 2D games that carried the same basic element that all the other games after it carried. This, however, was a time when many companies were taking that big step into 3D worlds, so Grand Theft Auto was outdated from the beginning. Still, it was one of the games that, along with Doom and Mortal Kombat, defined the meaning of mature games and how they could cater to a mature audience. Of course, the 2D formula was scrapped with Grand Theft Auto 3, and the only other time we've ever seen it was in the mediocre Game Boy Advance version in 2005. Now we see the return of the formula on the Nintendo DS, and it's even better than the formula at the origin of Grand Theft Auto.
Chinatown Wars takes place in Liberty City. The iconic city looks more like it does in Grand Theft Auto IV, not that that's much of a surprise, but it's smaller. Some roads have been either shortened or scrapped altogether, and Alderney is missing. The city is still huge and brimming with life, though. People interact with different situations, the city shows its age, and many landmarks like Happiness Island are still here. Weather conditions change and time passes in the game. What's strange is that the game is kind of like a 2D game in 3D. There's depth in buildings, in cars, and in the little things like signs and lampposts, which really gives the game life. The camera works well for the most part so you can see all this, but a small problems comes when you're under a bridge or overpass, where you won't be able to see your character.
Saying too much would give something away. The story starts similarly to Niko Bellic's, with Huang Lee going to Liberty City. Unlike Niko, however, Huang is filthy rich and comes Hong Kong to deliver a sword owned by his dead father. Early on, he's ambushed, the sword is stolen, and Huang is left to die. From there, you will do missions, varied and fun, to make a living in Liberty City and get revenge. The story is full of missions and twists, with many side missions, too. It's a lengthy storyline, but you will likely spend time doing other things anyway.
I don't put much of a priority on graphics, but they really are important in a Grand Theft Auto game for the city to seem as though it's really living and breathing. For a DS game, the graphics are fantastic, to the point where they really push the limits of the DS.
The gameplay for all of the Grand Theft Autos have been good, but the way that Rockstar has implemented this in a DS game really stands out. The game utilizes the touch screen really well, with mini-games like loading gas into bottles to make Molotov Cocktails and hot-wiring a car to steal it. There are others, some important and some not. Another big component in the game is drug-dealing. Huang makes the bulk of his money off of this, so you'll have to buy and sell various drugs for a profit. The market is always changing, however, so you'll have to really jump to an opportunity. Gunplay is good, with a basic lock-on mechanic. There are many weapons to choose from. There are tons of vehicles, as always, ranging from garbage trucks to motorcycles, and they all handle differently. A really neat thing to me was that cars will actually flip and jump on ramps, making a 2D world more of a 3D one. There are tons of side missions, story missions, and extra things to find along with the addictive drug-dealing mini-game (Get it? Addictive.), so you should be spending a lot of time on the game.
Sound is another oddly important thing in the Grand Theft Autos that makes the world alive. Cars go buy in busy streets. People yell when they're hurt. There's the sound of a distant helicopter slicing the air. Luckily, everything's fine here. The game sounds great.
Taking Grand Theft Auto wherever I go is a dream-come-true. Playing the game closest to its roots is cool, too. Everything in the game is implemented uniquely into the DS, and it all works out well. The camera can get a little off sometimes, like when you go under a bridge or something, and you won't be able to see your character. That's really the only problem in a fantastic game. If you want to go back to Grand Theft Auto's roots, get this game. If you want to feel the nostalgia, get this game. If you want another good adventure in Liberty City, get this game. If you want a good DS game, get this one. You won't regret it.
Sorry about the typos, by the way.