Sunday, February 20, 2022

10 overlooked Nintendo 3DS games you need to play as soon as possible

The Nintendo 3DS is about to celebrate its 11th birthday and its eShop is set to close in March 2023. Neither piece of news is likely to mean much to many gaming fans. After all, most folks who had even a passing interest in Nintendo's second dual-screened handheld moved on to other systems some time ago. 

As you might imagine based on what I write here and what I share on Twitter, I am not one of them. I still regularly boot up my trusty "flame red" 3DS, in fact.

Are you in the same boat and keen to check out one of more of this portable's overlooked offerings? Or maybe you're returning to the 3DS to buy some of its hidden gems before they become difficult or even impossible to find? Either way, I'd strongly recommend that you consider the 10 titles highlighted below.

The Alliance Alive

OK, so an HD remaster of this JRPG is now available for PC, PS4, Switch, and even mobile, but I'm the kind of nerd who prefers to play the original version of a game whenever possible. As for why you should give The Alliance Alive a try (any version, not just the 3DS one), the main reason I'll offer up is that its turn-based battles are deliciously SaGa-esque. Specifically, you regularly, thrillingly, and randomly "awaken" special moves during tussles with this title's enemies. Its at-first-confounding "guild" system ramps up the excitement even more, as towers that dot the surrounding landscape aid your efforts by doing things like stunning all baddies for a turn or weakening their defenses.

Attack of the Friday Monsters!

If you've ever wanted to play one of those Boku no Natsuyasumi games dorks like me have been blabbing about for ages but you don't own a PS1, PS2, PS3, or PSP, here's your chance. Admittedly, Attack of the Friday Monsters! isn't a "real" Boku no Natsuyasumi game, but it was made by the same company and has a similar vibe. One of this game's strengths, in my humble opinion, is how it makes you feel nostalgic for a time and place you likely never experienced. Another feather in its cap: the rock-paper-scissors-esque card battles it has you play on occasion. Not only do they imbue the game with a welcome sense of tension, but they're pretty fun, too. As for negatives, the only one that comes to mind is that Attack of the Friday Monsters! is woefully short. Just think of it as allowing you to replay the game as often as your heart desires.

The 'DENPA' Men: They Came By Wave

This game first made headlines for being developed by the folks at Genius Sonority, chiefly known for working on various Dragon Quest and Pokemon spin-offs. That pedigree is well reflected in The 'DENPA' Men, though this game is more of a dungeon-crawler than either of the aforementioned RPGs. The main draw here is that you "catch" all of your multi-colored party members (who look a bit like spacemen) by scanning your real-life environment using the 3DS' AR capabilities. Each one can use a single skill--from "heal" and "revive" to "ice missile" and "rising flames"--or they can simply bash foes with their shapely noggins. The cherry on top of this quirky role-player: it's a deliciously streamlined affair that keeps the focus squarely on having fun.

Crimson Shroud

I love role-playing games. Always have--or at least I have ever since I played my first (Dragon Warrior for the NES). Although I still enjoy RPGs that are sticklers for tradition, I prefer ones that try something new. Crimson Shroud sits squarely in the latter camp. Chiefly, it changes things up by adding elements of tabletop games, like rolling dice, to the tried-and-true JRPG genre. Crimson Shroud even looks the part, with party members and enemies alike resembling board-game pieces. Beyond that, Crimson Shroud offers players an intriguing story and an impressive soundtrack composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto of Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy Tactics fame. It needs to be noted that the game can be annoyingly obtuse at times, to the point where you'll probably need to consult Google or an FAQ, but those experiences shouldn't overshadow the rest of its positive moments.

Fantasy Life

Truth be told, I've never been the biggest fan of the action RPG genre of games. Role-players with turn-based battles are much more my cup of tea. Still, I gave Fantasy Life a chance upon its release because it looked too charming to pass up. Charming is the perfect word to describe it, too. In particular, filling the shoes of the game's 12 "lives" (jobs) is a blast. Some, like angler and woodcutter, are more delightful than others, of course, but even the relative duds are fun for a while. As you also might expect, Fantasy Life doesn't entirely follow through on its promises--playing as a cook won't mean running a restaurant a la Order Up! or the like--but that shouldn't keep you from enjoying the overall experience.

Hey! Pikmin

Nintendo disappointed a lot of people when it revealed this game and showed it to be a side-scroller rather than the proper sequel they were expecting. Most of those folks probably passed on Hey! Pikmin as a result, and that's a shame. They're right that it's not the Pikmin 4 they wanted, but it's still a lot of fun--and quite intriguing, too. Hey! Pikmin feels like a mash-up of a Kirby, Yoshi, and Pikmin game, if that makes any sense. It's slower and more methodical or thoughtful than your typical Yoshi or Kirby title, though, and all the better for it, in my opinion.

Pocket Card Jockey

I've exalted the virtues of this Game Freak-made eShop title since day one, and for good reason. For starters, Pocket Card Jockey is thrillingly unique, combining horse racing (and breeding, to an extent) and quick rounds of golf solitaire in an adorably addictive package. It also features a Go Ichinose-composed soundtrack that's catchier than it has any right to be. Finally, it includes a colorful cast of characters, each of whom reveal surprisingly and increasingly intriguing backstories the deeper you delve into the game.

Rhythm Heaven Megamix

The best Rhythm Heaven game is the first, a Japan-only GameBoy Advance title called Rhythm Tengoku. This 3DS offering is a solid second choice, however. A few reasons for this: 1) it combines most of the series' best mini-games with a few all-new ones, and 2) it eschews the control gimmicks of the previous two releases and lets players use buttons. Rhythm Heaven Megamix also is among the most accessible options for folks who want to give this rhythm game a try.

Rusty's Real Deal Baseball

Although I think this eShop-only 3DS game was destined to fail, I'm glad Nintendo made and released it. Not only is Rusty's Real Deal Baseball a secret Rhythm Tengoku/Heaven game, but it also offers up one of the oddest--and maybe darkest--stories in a Nintendo-published release. I don't want to completely spoil the "fun," but expect to read about divorce, single-parenting struggles, small-business woes, and more.

Sushi Striker

Sushi Striker would deserve a look even if all it offered players was a puzzle game focused on furiously slinging plates of sushi at an onslaught of oddball opponents. Although these food-themed tussles are the centerpiece of this indieszero-made game, and for good reason, there's far more to the experience. Sushi Striker also features tons of quirky side characters, a silly story that will regularly bring a smile to your face, and a soundtrack that gets and keeps you in the mood for the hours upon hours of sushi-tossing needed to finish it. (Seriously, I put more than 50 hours into Sushi Striker in 2018.)

Honorable mentions: Ever Oasis, HarmoKnight, Kirby: Planet Robobot, Miitopia, The Starship DamreyTheatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, Woah Dave!, and Yoshi's New Island

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