Nintendo eShop on the 3DS is generous with demos for games. I have had the pleasure of sampling four games this week:
Bravely Default, also known as Bravely Default: Flying Fairy
I think your main character is Tiz, I say main, he is the default lead in the party so you run around as him. I know you can change but he’s adorable and the other party members respect him, so let’s stick to tradition.
As per most hand held RPG, you have a little town or city you can walk around platform style, but when you enter shops etc, you don’t go in and have a snoop (so no drawers or pots to steal things from like usual), just a menu comes up. Once you leave said city, it becomes a free-style world where you look like a giant against the backdrop of the city’s defining attraction or building.
With potions in your bag, you prepare for adventure in a party of 4. You get the low down from the tutorial about using streetpass to build a village in the ether of your 3DS which I still don’t understand, but I think it’s a ploy to walk around with your DS on waste the battery and increase replacement battery sales… might be wrong. Battery conspiracy aside, a sweet natured person in a purple toga tells you the forest and castle to the east and south is way out of your league, so better stick to the cave to the west.
After losing one character in the forest and getting obliterated by an owl wizard in the castle, I have established people in purple togas do not lie.
Bravely Default use that most frustrating of style where you are happily running in an empty field before your screen becomes a kaleidoscope singing siren and confronted by two or ten enemies. This style can make a girl hate a game – the only game I forgive it for is Pokemon, because let’s face it, you would basically be wading through a sea of Rattata to see if that grey splodge is a Geodude or the Rhydon you have been searching for since Cerulean to trade for a Gengar (nobody would actually want rhydon). Pokemon needs the invisible structure. Other RPG should follow the brilliant examples of Zelda and Monster Hunter, where your prey is in front of you and is what you see. If it really must give you a surprise, at least copy Star Ocean or some of the more recent Final Fantasy where you have an enemy in view, but when you run into it (or it into you) it takes you to a battle screen which could have a number of different enemies along with the one you saw.
It is also a damn turn taking game! Why did people think turn taking was a good idea? Pokemon, again, can be forgiven, because I love it but also because it just seems right and fair, you know? Star Ocean again shows the true way forward for RPGs, it takes you to a separate battle screen where you control it entirely, like Zelda and Monster Hunter, in a flurry of button mashing… I mean perfectly formed strategies for the weapons you have chosen.
However, Bravely Default has a reason for its turn taking. To be brave, and to default. This is an interesting concept where default means to miss a turn to store an extra move next round, and to brave is to miss subsequent turns in favour of multiple attacks (max four) on this turn.
Within 20 minutes I understood how to use it, but there is a need to be wise about it, while weak, it is dangerous to let your character be without a turn or two while an enemy attacks, because you may need a move to use a potion. Think strategy, so far I have gone with one person use four potions, and three people attack continuously for four turns, or used a potion and attack, sacrificing one turn and receiving two attacks (or more as enemies can brave too). Overall, I quite like Bravely Default.
The opening cut scene promised a monster infested land which the party had to save, the menu shows options to learn magic and ‘summon friend’. This may be the spotpass friends you make, but most RPGs create gods to summon, and I hope Bravely Default will not disappoint. I was a little sad that when I bought Tiz an expensive three-pointed hat it didn’t actually shop up on his avatar. But he has better evasion at least.
This will probably add to my collection in the next 12 months… but I have yet to buy Pokemon X. I really want that stag thing, it would make for a cool cutscene to teach him rockclimb. Also there is a fairy that waves at the stylus when you touch the screen on the menu. Of course this game will be great.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
A novice like me is told to go hunt the Lagombi. The unimaginative 2D picture floating behind 3D text shows me a fat monster which has taken the cute parts of a bunny and a bat, and then messed them up so they look ugly, thrown in a road for a belly and slapped a stupid, scary koala face on it. To top it off, they send me to the Tundra – I hate snow!
There are twelve weapons to choose from, all are heavily detailed. I want them all, they all look feisty, dangerous and have that ‘no scary koala is going to mess with me today’ aura. However, I have always been a dual blades kind of girl and my choice is only further justified with the description ‘powerful demon mode’. They know me so well.
I am suddenly joined by Kayamba and Cha Cha, some cute-but-not-cute short monsters with blunt weapons. They help you fight, and run back to you – or rather pop out of the ground next to you – when you push a button. I forget which. There is no demo tutorial for what button does what, so after maybe drinking a potion and then accidentally entering demon mode before taking my swords out, I finally leave camp.
Within a couple minutes I have killed a mammoth and its defenceless child, twice, a dinosaur, some dear and some short thing that meowed. I finally find my prey… it is just as ugly as I described. I start button mashing the hell out of its road belly, but it really only gets annoyed at me. I am even somehow causing lightning, and red sparks, and then he starts making me into an ice sculpture and drifting all over the place… we keep going till he knocks me out and I am rolled back to camp by meowing things. We do this two more times until I am bored with not understanding how to play on such a tiny DS screen.
I can’t seem to figure out what all the levels on the top screen are, I only accidentally use my items and never the right one, and my two little minions just run around telling me ‘how nice it is’ to chop up a monster after a hunt. I assume the actual game has tutorials and whatever, but I feel it is not a good game if you only play on handheld consoles. The camera is a bugger to control and there are not enough buttons or commands on the 3DS, but I feel this could all be rectified on a nice 48inch television and my trustee xbox controller in my hand.
For laughs, I take on the veteran hunters challenge in the demo. It is an awesome looking goliath, the winged serpent Plesioth, chilling out on an island. I love his green and gold fish fin structure. His roar to the side shows he is too cool to look at the screen. Yup, they know how to make the real hunters out there want to hunt. Again, no tutorial had me lost and trying to figure out how to jump up steps when there is no jump. By button mashing and just holding all my buttons in at the same time I finally dive a thousand feet to a lake where I find the adorable Plesioth… playing underwater.
I accidentally get underwater, but I have no idea how to move closer to the monster… or even how to get away. The only time I land a hit is when he charges at me to eat me.
I feel this game would be better in the full version and it is the demo that puts me off. However, there is so much detail in the characters and the world, the charm is lost on the tiny screen of the DS so it would be better to go large. WiiU has it.
Denpamen: They came by wave
You catch little alien type men using the camera function of the 3DS. They appear from ‘waves’ emitted from radio etc. Each little guy has his or her own personality. You really need to catch the ones with antennas as they will have special powers or abilities you will need later in the game section. The music is annoying and yet so damn cheery. The dungeon element to the game is like any RPG, with a long line of lemmings like Denpamen that follow the leader. Together you destroy monsters and find treasure. The game is simple, a good RPG for young children but it is nothing exciting. Even the artwork is preschool style, nothing to be very impressed about. Using 3D is good for the capture of Denpamen, but I couldn’t care less for the junction. In fact the entire game is probably more fun just spinning around trying to catch ones with funny antenna rather than the story.
The art of balance. Touch.
Simple but fun, the beginning puzzles are predictably easy, letting you fall into that false sense of security that you are very clever and can complete them within seconds. After you pass the introductory levels the game likes to have some more fun with your patience, such as giving you three shapes, a rectangle, a sphere, and one with a flat edge and a rounded edge. Yep, have fun. With a minimum of three odd, mostly rounded shapes you must balance them on a solid object in ‘a bowl of water’ and keep them balanced to the count of three. If anything hits the water… DOOM. You have to try again. No splash, you win. ‘Special’ levels mean you need to build the shapes to a particular height as well as keep them balanced (this is where I met the three aforementioned shapes). This isn’t the zen-like relaxing game the background makes it out to be. It is frustrating and stupid and ridiculously addictive to beat a level. You just can’t let it beat you. The 3D function is unnecessary, it would just give you more of a headache.