When I received my Japanese Nintendo 3DS console last week, my first port of call was to access the Nintendo eShop and download as many demos of Japan-exclusive games as I could. I have now finally finished playing each and every one of them, so I thought I should do a quick run-down and let you know my thoughts on each one! So, let’s dive into this!
The commercial giant that is GungHo Entertainment’s Puzzles & Dragons Z was my first port of call – as it had gained my attention by topping the Japanese All-Format Charts following its release last December. The best way to describe this game would be the result of what would happen if Pokémon and Bejeweled had a baby. The demo of this RPG-Puzzle hybrid even begins in the bedroom of your home, before you go downstairs to speak to your mum and eventually get dragged to a lab by your friends, where you are given three dragons that are coloured green, red and blue. All of that felt very familiar, but luckily once the gameplay kicked in things felt less familiar. Battles are conducted with your dragons and the opponent on the top screen, while the bottom screen is a Bejewelled-style puzzle game. You attack by moving the gems on the bottom screen so that you get four in a row and they disappear, with larger combos doing more damage. The demo itself was really easy, but I can see this being an effective way of introducing the children of today to the world of RPGs. I have yet to play the original iOS or Android game, but I’ll definitely be giving it a go now.
New LovePlus from Konami is a title that I downloaded more out of curiosity than anything. A sequel to the Nintendo DS dating sim that made worldwide headlines after a Japanese man married his virtual girlfriend, while others smashed their cartridges as a kind of right-of-passage at their weddings (to real people), New LovePlus is basically a game where you have a virtual girlfriend. The demo for this game was really brief and no matter how many times I played it, was pretty much limited to talking to a girl in her bedroom. One thing I will praise this game on though, was its technical skills. New LovePlus uses the Nintendo 3DS’ motion controls to allow you to look around by moving the console (although it did sometimes go a bit wrong and accidentally make me try to look up the girl’s skirt – which understandably annoyed her). One thing which impressed me for no real reason was that by rotating my console, the orientation of the game would change immediately, similar to Apple’s devices. The 3DS’ microphone takes the centre stage in this demo, as you use it to talk to the virtual girl, which is frankly, embarrassing. Also, either my Japanese is really bad or the girl I was talking to was really full of herself (I’m guessing it’s the former). I think I need to bring up this picture of Satoru Iwata using the AR functionality to sit next to a virtual girl – I wonder if his wife approves?
My nostalgia gland went into overdrive when I saw not one Medabots game, but two. Of course, there was only one way to find out which was better – to play them both! Then it was agreed, this match was officially declared as a submission robattle, the rules were simple – the first Medabot game to really impress me wins, the loser then must submit one meda-part to the winner, for keeps. Once both were downloaded and I was ready, it was time for the Medabots to robattle!
The franchise actually originated as a series of roleplaying games that spanned numerous platforms, with Medabots 7: Kuwagata Version (obviously) being the seventh instalment. In this game, your “Medabot” is entirely customisable with additional parts, allowing you to change their head, left arm, right arm or legs which just like equipment in standard RPGs, can influence your stats or the moves that you are able to use. In battles, you can control multiple Medabots as you attack in a turn based system where you target specific parts of an enemy (although hitting their head will do the most damage). I found this game to be enjoyable, but the one that really caught my attention was:
The Medabots game that really caught my eye was Medabots Dual – Kuwagata Version (oddly enough, there were no demos for the Kabuto Versions of either game). While the series has been strictly in the roleplaying game genre since its inception, Dual shakes things up in that the two versions are actually action games with customisable goodness of the RPG series mixed with three-dimensional gameplay similar to the land battles of Project Sora’s Kid Icarus: Uprising, which really feels like a much more natural fit. I daren’t try and stand on the podium of Mr. Referee, but if I were to hope for a localisation of either Medabots 3DS game pair, it would be this one. Come on Natsume, pwetty pwease!
Speaking of localisations, since the recent PlayStation 3 game has been released and the PlayStation Vita version is due out next month, I really hope SEGA capitalise on the success of the Hatsune Miku series of Vocaloid games by releasing Hatsune Miku and Future Stars: Project Mirai 2 outside of Japan. Like with the Sony-platform games, this is a rhythm game featuring numerous vocaloid tracks – the demo only featured two songs, but they could both be played on any of the game’s four difficulty levels. Unlike the other games, the series’ iconic characters are presented in a “chibi” style, but the gameplay is the same, with the same button presses need to be made in the time to music. One thing that does separate this game from its console counterparts though is that if you prefer not to use buttons, you can tap to the tune on the stylus (similar to Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy). Considering that Hatsune Miku is still a niche franchise, it boggles me that SEGA didn’t try to release this game before the PlayStation Vita Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f due to the much larger console install base, but maybe we’ll just have to do something about that =3.
Speaking of rhythm games, the next demo I played was Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, which is the sequel to the original 2012 game, which compiled numerous tracks from throughout the history of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy JRPG series into a rhythm game. This demo features three songs – with one each from Final Fantasy X, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Unfortunately though, aside from slightly improved graphics and different tracks, this demo didn’t really feature anything to make this second instalment stand out when compared to the first. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering how solid the first game was, but I’d like to see a bit more innovation in sequels if I’m honest.
There’s only one word that can be used to sum up E.X. Troopers: “Glorious”. With a beautiful manga-style aesthetic that isn’t afraid to let the comic origins of its style known, the lively J-Pop soundtrack and action based combat that not only plays extremely well, but is incredibly easy to learn and is amazingly responsive, it comes as no surprise that this was one title many people want localised (but it won’t be because apparently, the text is hard-coded into the game as actual art, so localising it would require a hell of a lot of work). It really is an absolute shame, because this was probably the most promising of the demos that I played – I would definitely buy this game…and might just have to buy the Japanese version.
From GameFreak, the developers of the Pokémon franchise comes a unique mix of horse racing and solitaire with Soriti Horse. I think most people will remember this as the announcement that wasn’t a Pokémon x Harvest Moon crossover and to be honest, there isn’t much else to remember as I found the demo to be rather disappointing. The game is relatively simple – the top screen shows the horse race, while the bottom is where the gameplay takes place as you are presented with a 5 x 5 grid of playing cards (which have no suits, just colours). At various points during the race you are prompted to play a game where you have to try and get through as much of your pile of cards as you can by stacking a card that either has a number 1 higher or 1 lower than another. Annoyingly, there are times during a race where are spent simply watching the top screen. It’s also interesting to note that like Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, the game is entirely in 2D (I’m guessing that GameFreak simply don’t like 3D?). Soriti Horse was an interest concept but if this demo is anything to by, it has a poor execution.
And of course, I had to save the best for last. Out of the demos I downloaded, there was one title that really stood above the rest – the recently released Puyopuyo Tetris. This competitive puzzle game features both Tetris and SEGA’s Puyopuyo (a game which has been repackaged overseas as titles like Dr. Robotnik and his Mean Bean Machine). You can choose to have pure Puyopuyo showdowns, Tetris battles, or have a hybrid of the two – with one person playing one, while another places the other. I am admittedly terrible about both games, but Puyopuyo Tetris‘ incredibly cute aesthetic (which features cute characters drawn in a style similar to Ashley from the WarioWare series) and voice acting gives this game an adorable coat of paint – and the 3D effect is really impressive to boot! The only annoyance is, for a game as addictive as this, the demo only having 5 plays (the lowest out of all the demos featured here) should be a crime.
Obviously, there are many more games available on the Nintendo eShop and many more demos for me to explore, but I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my thoughts about the few that I have played. Of course, I won’t only be reviewing demos in the future – I’m currently playing through Attack On Titan: The Last Wings of Mankind, which I am hoping to have a review of up later in the week.