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.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Anyone looking for a few #PuzzleGameMonth recommendations?

Although platformers and RPGs continue to be my favorite types of games, I'm pretty much always up for playing a good puzzler.

The five brain-busters below fit that bill and more. As such, I think any one of them would be worth playing as part of Anne Lee's latest "community game-along" that's devoted to the puzzle genre. (For more information on this month-long event, go to

I've spent a good amount of time with all of these games, by the way, so rest assured they have my personal seal of approval (should such a thing hold sway over you, of course).

Moai-kun (Famicom)
Guru Logi Champ (GameBoy Advance)--I've mentioned this Compile-made title a couple of times in the past. (Most notably, in my recent post about overlooked GameBoy Advance games you need to play as soon as possible.) To be honest, though, I feel like I should've written about it more, as it's easily one of the best puzzlers to be published for Nintendo's GameBoy successor. What's so great about it? For starters, it offers up a unique twist on Picross' gameplay. Also, it's wonderfully colorful and features a cast of characters that's as cute as it is silly. The cherry on top of all this puzzling goodness: Guru Logi Champ's box, cartridge label and instruction manual knock it out of the park, too.

Loopop Cube: Lup Salad (PlayStation)--Although Guru Logi Champ is at least somewhat of a known quantity thanks to its Compile connection, this similarly impressive PlayStation release from Datam Polystar continues to fly under the radar. Not that Loopop Cube and the above-mentioned GBA game are at all alike. This Japan-only title combines light platforming action with the gameplay of a match-three puzzler. Add to that its cute-as-a-button aesthetic (mirrored in Loopop Cube's packaging) and some catchy background tunes, and you've got an import that should have a much higher profile than it currently does. By the way, if you're not in the mood for buying and playing Japanese PSone games, you can pick up Loopop Cube: Lup Salad for the DS or PSP, too.

Magical Puzzle Popils (Game Gear)--Of all the puzzle games showcased here, this Tengen-developed and -published one is my favorite. Like Loopop Cube, Magical Puzzle Popils (released outside Japan as Popils: The Blockbusting Challenge) is one part platformer and one part puzzler. You don't match blocks in the latter, though; instead, you do whatever's needed to get the "hero" protagonist to the princess who's marooned somewhere on each and every stage. Usually that means punching or kicking blocks out of your way, but sometimes it also means climbing or descending a ladder. Don't worry, it's a lot more fun than I've made it sound here. Plus, it looks great--similar to Bubble Bobble, actually, which makes sense, as the same man (Fukio Mitsuji) headed up both games--and sports a stellar, earworm-worthy soundtrack. (Bonus: virtually flip through Magical Puzzle Popil's instruction manual.)

Onore no Shinzuru Michi wo Yuke (PSP)
Moai-kun (Famicom)--I know, I know. I just slobbered over this Konami cart in my most recent "Manual Stimulation" post. What can I say? I've got Moai-kun on the brain. Also, if any Famicom puzzler is worth mentioning in a write-up such as this, Moai-kun is it. This Japan-only release from 1990 isn't the prettiest puzzle game to see the light of day on Nintendo's first real console, but I'd argue it's the most interesting. Once again, the focus here is on hopping to and from platforms, destroying blocks (using your noggin, à la PC Genjin) and rescuing loved ones. Don't worry if you'd like to try Loopop Cube, Magical Puzzle Popils and Moai-kun, by the way. Although all three are puzzler-platformers, they provide different enough experiences that you won't feel like you're playing the same game.

Onore no Shinzuru Michi wo Yuke (PSP)--I'd include this PSP title, made by Silicon Studio and published (only in Japan, naturally) by From Software, even if it were a total dud. That's because its cover illustration, right, is among the best produced for Sony's first portable system. Also, its Ukiyo-e art style is beyond gorgeous. Thankfully, Onore no Shinzuru Michi wo Yuke's gameplay is just as captivating as its more superficial components. Explaining why that is would take too many words, so I'm going to suggest you check out if you're curious to know more. Just know that if you've still got a PSP and you're at all into games that try their best to overheat your brain, you'll get your money's worth out of Onore no Shinzuru Michi wo Yuke.

See also: my trio of #PlatforMonth recommendation posts