Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The best 3DS eShop games you've never played (or, 10 overlooked 3DS eShop games you need to try as soon as possible)

Now that the Nintendo Switch is out and the company's previous portable game system is slowly heading to the grave, I thought I'd finally publish a post about the 3DS eShop titles I think have been most depressingly overlooked during that handheld's lifetime.

Attack of the Friday Monsters!--Originally intended for Level-5's aborted second Guild series compilation, this game eventually saw the light of day as an individual eShop release. That's a big deal because it means you can access it for just a few bucks ($7.99, to be exact) rather than $30 or $40. And believe me, $8 for this little slice of faux nostalgia is a real bargain. I say "faux nostalgia" because, well, I doubt many Western gamers who play Attack of the Friday Monsters! will have experienced 1970s Japan--this game's probable setting. The gameplay embedded within that setting, by the way, is divided between exploration and card battles. Although the latter aspect is enjoyable enough, the former--which involves running around the fictitious town of Fuji no Hana and chatting with its many inhabitants--is the highlight here.

Crimson Shroud--Oh, hey, another 3DS eShop game that began life on one of Level-5's Guild series compilations. This one, however, is Yasumi Matsuno's take on a digital tabletop RPG. (Matsuno is best known for acting as the director of Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII.) Don't worry, you needn't be a fan of tabletop or pen-and-paper role-playing games (like Dungeons & Dragons) to enjoy Crimson Shroud, which first hit 3DS eShops around the globe in late 2012. An interest in the RPG genre in general wouldn't be a bad idea, though, especially since Crimson Shroud will set you back around $8 for what'll likely end up being a five- to 10-hour playthrough (longer if you decide to tackle the "new game plus" that unlocks after beating its main campaign).

The 'DENPA' Men 3--Before I say anything else about this eShop title, let me say this: I actually like the first 'DENPA' Men game more than the pair of sequels that followed in its wake. (Here's my review of The 'DENPA' Men.) I have a feeling most people will prefer the second and, especially, third 'DENPA' Men games to the original, though, which is why I'm recommending the most recent one here. For the uninitiated, The 'DENPA' Men 3, like its predecessors, is a unique turn-based RPG that has players use their 3DS systems' AR functionality to find and capture the titular characters from the world around them. Once you've nabbed enough to form a party (up to eight, eventually), you wander an overworld, explore dungeons and battle enemies just as you would in pretty much every other RPG in existence. The difference in The 'DENPA' Men 3 (as well as in the earlier 'DENPA' games): the bulk of its battles involve your colorful band of big-headed party members running toward and slamming their noggins into opposing baddies. OK, so most of them can hurl magic spells at foes, too, but head-butting is the big differentiator here. Still skeptical? All three of the DENPA' Men titles can be taken for a spin via free-to-download demos. Should you like that experience, I'd strongly recommend handing over $9.99 to buy either the first or third of the series' releases.

Gotta Protectors--To be completely honest, I haven't put as much time into this portable sequel to Ancient Corp's stellar Protect Me Knight: Mamotte Kishi (for Xbox 360) as I'd like. I say that because the hour or two I've spent with Gotta Protectors (known as Minna de Mamotte Knight in Japan) were thrilling. Of course, I've long liked these real-time tower-defense games, so keep that in mind as I slobber all over this particular one. As for what's so great about Gotta Protectors, the fast-paced, responsive, princess-protecting action that serves as its backbone is the first reason I'll toss at you. Also, both its 8-bit-ish graphics and soundtrack are right out of my teenage dreams (that's a good thing). The only negative associated with this digital title, in my opinion, is that it's $12.99 price tag is a bit steep if you're not a fan of the genre or if you're not entirely sure this example will be your cup of tea.

HarmoKnight--I've got to be honest here: I wanted to like this Game Freak product more than I did. And, really, who could blame me for getting pumped up about a digital title that's equal parts platformer and rhythm game and that was made by the company behind the world-conquering Pokémon series? As for what keeps HarmoKnight from being as perfect as I imagined it'd be, the main criticism I'll offer up is that it often feels "cheap"--with enemies and obstacles flying at you from all directions, often without warning. So why am I recommending it here? Because it's not a total clunker. It art style is captivating, and its soundtrack is, by and large, scintillating.  Plus, there aren't many games out there that combine these two genres, so I can't help but feel like the few in existence need to be supported--even those that are less-than-perfect.

The Legend of Kusakari--If you're one of those people who spends way too much time hacking at bushes in Nintendo's Zelda games, you'll probably love The Legend of Kusakari. After all, cutting down clumps of grass is the focus of this Librage-developed title. Sound boring? Believe me when I say it's not. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's more fun, and more charming, than it has any right to be--with the latter aspect coming both from Kusakari's jaunty soundtrack as well as its adorable background details (such as warriors fighting dragons and slimes while you race around in search of new bits of turf to whack).

Pocket Card Jockey--Of all the 3DS eShop games highlighted in this post, this is by far my favorite. Need some proof? How about this little nugget: I declared Pocket Card Jockey to be my favorite game of 2016. Also, since the Japanese version (known as Solitiba) was released back in 2013, I've put more than 120 hours into it and its North American counterpart. If you're wondering how someone can devote so much time to a title that marries horse racing and solitaire, go download and play the Pocket Card Jockey demo and see for yourself. In short, it's one of those games that makes you think, "I'll just play one more round"--and yet you're still plugging away at it an hour (or more) later. Add in the adorable art style (what else would you expect from Pokémon developer Game Freak?) and one of the best soundtracks to hit the 3DS, and it should be easy to at least imagine how someone could become obsessed with this colorfully titled effort. (Bonus: read my Pocket Card Jockey review.)

Rusty's Real Deal Baseball--Nintendo has put out some odd games over the years, but I'm not sure any of them are as bizarre as this 2014 release. Granted, its weirdness is mostly confined to its story, which details the depressing trials and travails of a down-on-his-luck dog who runs a sporting goods store, but its gameplay is a bit bonkers, too. Basically, here's what you do in Rusty's Real Deal Baseball: you play baseball-themed mini-games that are surprisingly rhythmic, you haggle with the aforementioned pup to gain access to more such experiences and you listen to him tell his story of woe. Thankfully, Rusty's tale isn't annoying, and the mini-games he hocks are as enjoyable as they are addictive. Don't take my word for the latter, though; a Rusty's Real Deal Baseball demo can be downloaded from the 3DS eShop.

The Starship Damrey--I dragged my feet on picking up this Level-5 title (yes, it too was supposed to wind up on the company's Guild02 release that never made it to store shelves) for a long time due to various complaints leveled against it on line. One of the most common complaints I heard and read was that the game--made by designer Kazuya Asano and writer Takemaru Abiko, both of whom worked on the classic Japanese visual novel, Kamaitachi no Yoru (aka Banshee's Last Cry)--was painfully short. It is short--I reached its end credits in just under four hours, as I mentioned in my Starship Damrey review--especially for the price ($7.99 once again, though it regularly goes on sale), but I'd still say it's well worth purchasing if you like mysterious and atmospheric games.

Witch & Hero--Some will tell you the second Witch & Hero game is better than the first, but I'm not one of them. Yes, the sequel expands on the original's somewhat basic gameplay, but in my opinion that actually makes Witch & Hero II more complicated than it needs to be. (Check out my Witch & Hero review if you're curious to learn more about it.) Stepping back a bit, Witch & Hero, like Gotta Protectors, is real-time tower-defense game with a decidedly 8-bit aesthetic. Here, though, you step into the shoes of a pixelated knight who is tasked with protecting a petrified witch. Witch & Hero's production values aren't quite as high as Gotta Protectors', but it's still quite a looker. Also, Witch & Hero is notably cheaper than Ancient's title at $3.99 versus $12.99--and you can try it before you buy it thanks to the demo that can be found on the eShop.

Can you think of any other eShop games you think 3DS owners should try before Nintendo inevitably pulls the plug on the service? If so, share their names and explain why you'd recommend them in the comments section of this post.

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