It took a long time for the Nintendo 3DS to gain some steam. When it bowed in early 2011, a steep $250 price tag with little to offer besides upgraded N64 games inspired little confidence in the 3D-capable handheld. After a dramatic price slash, fumbling from the competition, and a few standout titles in Super Mario 3D Land, Kid Icarus: Uprising and Crimson Shroud, Nintendo managed a complete turnaround. Now in early 2013, the 3DS is geared to have the best-looking lineup of any hardware this year. Goes to show, you shouldn’t write off struggling endeavors immediately. Vita, there’s hope for you yet.
Resembling the regular DS before it, the 3DS should be home to a volume of great games this year, many of them Japanese RPGs. The following list consists of the ones we can expect to see this year. In Part Two, we’ll look at more 3DS games we hope to get (like Square’s Bravely Default) if localizations ever get off the ground.
Oh, and most of these games will go for $35 – 40, so keep that in mind as you browse and budget accordingly!
Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan
The latest in the soul-crushing, uber-difficult dungeon-crawling series, Legends of the Titan introduces new character classes, an easier difficulty for newcomers and orchestrated music (!!!) from chiptune legend Yuzo Koshiro. Make old-school grid-based maps on the bottom screen while managing your all-female team of moe adventurers (uh, what?!) on the top screen. The demo for this one’s out already, and in a bout of genius, Atlus will allow you to carry over your demo save data to the full retail release when it comes out Feb. 26th. This is an example that other developers should follow.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate
AKA, ”Castlevania All-Stars.” The Belmont family’s well-represented here. Gabriel, Trevor, Simon and fan favorite Alucard are all playable in this sequel to the MercurySteam-developed reboot Lords of Shadow. I got to play this at E3 last year and it was… interesting. Very combo-heavy like its predecessor, but also incredibly difficult. It’s a side-scroller like past “Classicvania” games, so I’m curious to see how the dev team reconciles that style of play with the God of War-like combat Lords of Shadow brought to the series. We’ll see when it’s released in March, or sooner when it gets a demo in a week or so. Warning: It may get an HD re-release a la Resident Evil: Revelations. It wouldn’t hurt to play it on the go, however.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
The series that America has a tough time with returns after a three-year absence and it look and plays great. At least from what I played at New York Comic Con last year. Here’s the gist: you’re a hunter in a seaside town who hunts monsters. Hunt powerful monsters, carve their hides, and craft new weapons and armor from their remains. And do it again! It’s addicting as hell and even better with friends. Unfortunately, the 3DS version is local co-op only. Online mode is unique to the Wii U version, but you can swap character data between it and the 3DS version if you own both platforms. Sounds nifty. You can play the demo today and expect the full game in March.
Shin Megami Tensei: Soul Hackers
Atlus came out of the blue with this announcement. A port/remake of a forgotten Sega Saturn game that never came out here in the States, Soul Hackers finds new life on the 3DS. I’m excited for this one as it looks like a nice time capsule of mid-90s cyberpunk, when rapidly typing and proclaiming ”I’m in!” was all the rage before it peaked with The Matrix (or Live Free and Die Hard). Cyberpunk demons should make for a very unique game in April.
Game Freak surprised the world last month when it unveiled the next generation of the monster-collecting juggernaut. And it looks like the culmination of everything a Pokemon player could want. First, the move to 3D. Seeing old-school monsters like Pikachu in well-animated cel-shaded graphics was a long time coming. Second, it was a thrill to find out that yes, this is indeed a new generation, with new monsters and plenty of old favorites as well. Lastly, the announcement of a worldwide October release was the biggest surprise. For the first time for this particular series, Japan will no longer have the running start. Hopefully, other companies will follow suit and step up their localization efforts (more on that in Part Two).
Project X Zone
Namco Bandai, SEGA, and Capcom join forces in a crossover once considered the least likely thing to leave Japan. But hey, we’re getting it! This follow-up to the PS2 strategy-RPG (Japan-only) Namco x Capcom (check out its awesome opening) introduces SEGA characters like Ulala, John McClane from Die Hard Arcade (really!) and … someone from Valkyria Chronicles III. Huh. Would’ve been nice if we got that one first. And Capcom, er, enthusiasts will be pleased to see the original white-haired, pizza-eating Dante returns along with — do my eyes deceive me?! — Mega Man X.
Look out for our Nintendo 3DS import preview to learn which games you should pick up from your favorite hardcore gaming shop.