Yes, it’s not a mirage, it’s an actual videogame article! I finally got the next part of this series done. The article should be complete now. I cover some interesting stuff this time.
Table of Contents
K-L – 20 games
Karous: The Beast of Re-Eden
Kingdom’s Item Shop
Kirby Fighters Deluxe
Kirby’s Blowout Blast
League of Heroes
Legend of Dark Witch 2, The
Legend of Dark Witch III: Wisdom and Lunacy, The
Legend of Dark Witch, The
Legend of Kusakari, The
Lionel City Builder 3D: Rise of the Rails
Gal Galaxy Pain
Queen TV-Game 2, The
Kami – Developed by Flyhigh Works (for 3DS) and State of Play (for the original iOS release) and published by CIRCLE Entertainment in 2015. Kami is a puzzle game where you need to make a screen all one color. The game is a port of an earlier mobile game of the same name. The screen starts out with a bunch of different colored blocks, with a Japanese paper-folding visual theme, and you choose from the colors in the image and touch blocks in order to change that colored area to that color. Make the field the same color as the screen border and you beat the stage. Once differently colored blocks are changed to become the same color they merge into a larger block of color. This game is a lot like another puzzle game I covered earlier, Color Zen, but this game is a bit different in that you don’t move objects around on the screen in this game and have to end with one specific color as the color of the whole screen. I think that overall I like Color Zen a little more, but Kami is also pretty good. This is a solid, simple logic puzzle game.
The main catch that makes this game tough is that you have a move limit, and must complete the stage in either that number of moves or one more than that target. You get a better medal for hitting the upper target, a lesser medal for the lower target, and fail and have to retry if you take any more turns than that. The game starts out easy, but after a while it gets pretty hard to figure out what order to color each color zone in in order to make the whole field the same color. This is a tricky logic puzzle game that will keep you coming back for some time. It’s good and I recommend it for anyone who like this kind of game. Also released digitally on iOS and PC/ Mac (Steam).
Karous: The Beast of Re-Eden – Developed by RS34 and published by CIRCLE Entertainment in 2015. The original Karous is a shmup for the Dreamcast, and later also Gamecube (in Japan) and Wii, from the developer Milestone. Milestone was an okay but somewhat average shmup developer, and I never really liked their games. Still, when this 3DS title using the Karous name was released I picked it up eventually. Unfortunately, don’t expect much from this game because you won’t get anything really worth playing. The original Karous was a subpar, but standard, tate shmup. This game, however, changes things up. It instead has a mission-based design with levelling and experience and such. So, yes, it puts grind into shmups. Thanks?
Going for a gameplay window the size of the 3DS’s upper screen makes sense, though it does greatly reduce forwards visibility as your ship is quite large. This is a vertical-scrolling shooter, and there are no stage obstacles to avoid in the levels, only enemies and their bullets. That is normal for this kind of shooter, but this one has much less interesting enemy patterns than a better shmup. Indeed, the boring stages and grind-heavy gameplay are much less sensible decisions than the new screen shape is. In the between-missions menu you can buy upgrades for your ship and choose a mission. There are a lot of missions, though gameplay-wise they are all very similar: fly forward and shoot stuff. After you are done, whether you beat the stage or die, you return to base and get some money to spend on rewards. You get more rewards for winning than losing, of course, but you get some either way as you try to level up enough to actually survive. You will survive better as you get better stuff, but I don’t think that playing the same boring, empty levels over and over to get to that point is at all worth it. Not recommended, this game is not good. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
The Keep – Developed and published by Cinemax (no, not the TV station) in 2014. The Keep is a first-person dungeon crawler RPG, in the classic Western dungeon crawler style. This game has real-time action-ish combat, so it is not a purely menu-based affair. You play as a guy who is exploring a dungeon in order to try to save the locals from the evil wizard holed up within. The game has decent background art, but the character art’s kind of mediocre and the main character guy is a bit odd looking. He doesn’t look like your stereotypical selfless hero, heh. The plot is okay, though, and there are some cutscenes. Regardless, this genre isn’t known for its stories but its gameplay, and the gameplay here is alright. In the classic first person dungeon crawler style the game has plenty of dungeons to explore, with puzzles, traps, and monsters to fight within, along with story scenes here and there. This is certainly a modern game, in that it is pretty kind to the player early on and you should be able to progress steadily. I am fine with that; real ’80s to early ’90s PC dungeon crawlers were often insanely hard and grindey. I prefer this, myself. You can’t even really grind here, enemies are preset and don’t randomly generate as you go around. I like this design.
While you are exploring, you will use both the d-pad or analog stick and the touchscreen. The upper screen shows where you are, with nice stereoscopic 3d depth to the visuals as you would expect. The lower screen has your inventory and interface. A touchscreen is perfect for RPG inventory management, and indeed you will use it for that. Additionally, one button gives you a cursor to move around the upper screen, in order to interact with things there when you want to push a button or lever or what have you. It’s just like having a mouse except on the 3DS and works well. When it comes to combat, as I said, this game is real-time. So, you can kite enemies by attacking them, backing up, waiting for them to move towards you, and repeating this process. Does this make many enemies in this game kind of brokenly easy to fight if you master the technique, perhaps, but still I find it fun. You have a variety of regular weapons to use, but also will get magic runes. If you place the runes in your magic panel in the correct order, as shown in magic spell scrolls you collect, you then can cast that spell by opening the magic panel and activating those runes in that order with the cursor. It’s a simple but fun magic system which is fun enough to use.
Overall, The Keep is a good game. This straightforward, classic first person dungeon crawler will have you traveling through dungeons, looking for switches and fighting monsters as you try to defeat the evil wizard. The game certainly is on the easier side for its genre, but given how crushingly hard many dungeon crawlers are, having one that isn’t like that is a very nice option. And there isn’t even any grinding! Sure, the graphics are bland and the charcter art not very good, but the gameplay beyond those visuals more than makes up for it. I like this game and would recommend it, it’s above average. Digital exclusive. Also available on PC/Mac (Steam) and on Nintendo Switch. This game is the kind of title that’s certainly more fun portably than on a PC and it makes good use of the 3d effect and touchscreen on the 3DS, so get it on this system while you can. Also released digitally on PC/Mac (Steam) and Nintendo Switch. This 3DS release is probably the best version due to making great use of the stylus and 3d effect.
Kid Tripp – Developed and published by Four Horses in 2017. This game is an auto-runner platformer originally released on mobile, as you might expect. The same developer would go on to make another similar but improved game that mostly drops the forced autorunning, Miles & Kilo, but unfortunately this one is an autorunner. You are the boy Kid Tripp, and while flying along in your biplane you get blasted by a flaming attack and are shot down on a tropical island. All of the animals in the area are fleeing in fear, and you join them in running away. The game has decently done, if generic, 2d sprite art graphics with stereoscopic 3d depth. As you run along the game uses two buttons, one for jump and one for a ranged throwing attack. You can also do a head tilt forward charge-ish thing by pressing forward. Beyond that, it’s just up to you to memorize each level enough to actually get to the end without dying. Completing stages here will take memorization, because you will need very good timing to make the jumps and attacks without dying. Some jumps are just basic platform-to-platform jumps, but others involve having to bounce off of enemies with very precise timing both in the jump and in the approach in order to make it over some pits without falling into the water and losing a life. The game is alright, but very frustrating at times as you move somewhat quickly and many situations cannot be discerned without dying, perhaps repeatedly, until you get the timing right. This game is alright I guess if you like dying a lot because of getting the timing wrong, but I’d call it definitely below average overall mostly because of how annoying autorunning is. I greatly prefer being able to stop and take jumps at my own time to having to deal with always moving forward in a platformer. Automatic movement works in shmups, but it does NOT work in platformers. Still, it’s maybe worth a look, though Miles & Kilo is better. First released digitally on iOS in 2013; digital releases on 3DS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch, and enhancements for the Xbox Series X have followed.
Kingdom’s Item Shop – Developed by PUMO and published by CIRCLE Entertainment in 2016. This game is an RPG-lite with a lot of crafting and some light economic-sim elements. In this game you play as a boy or girl running an item shop in a fantasy world. The catch is, you don’t just sell stuff; instead, you have to go into dangerous areas to collect the component parts for the items you will sell. However, you aren’t a fighter and don’t go into dungeons alone. Instead, you hire heroes to fight for you and follow behind them, telling them some basic commands and collecting the items defeated enemies drop. Each area is a linear path made up of a series of fights, and once you defeat each enemy you move on to the next screen and the next battle. Your heroes automatically fight, but you can tell them to defend or attack with the buttons. This is important because in defensive mode they will take less damage, and you want to try to keep them alive because once knocked out they won’t come back that run. The battle system is simple, but the commands are enough to keep battles a bit interesting, and running around collecting items and avoiding enemy attacks while your party fights actually is fun. The issue is, the items enemies drop, and the enemies you fight, is somewhat randomized, so getting specific rarer parts requires a lot of grind as you replay the same handful of areas over and over and over.
Once you return to town, you can go to your shop and choose what you are putting out to sell, go to several crafting shops where you try to combine the items you have into new better items, or try to do missions for people. In both the missions and crafting shops you are given a clue about the item in question, and need to figure out what it is. Crafters will give you a vague hint suggesting what items you need to combine to succeed at the combination, and the mission messages give a little bit of plot hinting at what item the person wants, but you need to figure out what items are required on your own. The early combinations are easy enough to figure out and for quite some time I was having fun with this game, but eventually the clues get extremely cryptic. I do not enjoy crafting much, so it was about at that point, late in the game, when I gave up; the remaining item combinations are just too hard to guess, and getting the supplies to keep trying is extremely grindey. Even so, despite the heavy crafting focus and simple design, I like something about this game and keep going back to it. I recommend this game if it sounds interesting. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
Kirby Fighters Deluxe – Developed by HAL and published by Nintendo in 2014. Kirby Fighters Deluxe is a spinoff Kirby game, based on a minigame from one of the main series titles. The game has decent stereoscopic 3d effects and nice, classically HAL graphics, but there is very little reason to buy or play it. The game is one of several fighting game spinoffs of the Kirby franchise; there are two different fighting game with RPG elements Kirby spinoff series, for some reason. This one is simple, probably too simple. I know this is a cheap downloadable game, but still, you don’t get much here. This game is incredibly similar to a Smash Bros. game, except with only Kirby with a variety of powers, and instead of having to knock the other players off the screen you win by just depleting their health bars. The controls here feel taken straight out of Smash Bros. more so than a 3DS Kirby game, since you have limited flight sadly.
For characters, again, there is only Kirby. The game has a decent selection of different Kirby powers, maybe ten or so total. You choose one each time before you start; you can’t take powers from the others, but instead just have your current power for the current run through the game. For modes the game has a single player mode and a multiplayer mode. The single player is a standard fighting game-style tournament with about eight rounds. Most are against various Kirbies or groups of Kirbies, some of them 1 on 1 fights and some 2 on 1 or 1 on 2 team matches, and two are boss fights. The length is about right for a fighting game, as in short, and there are four or five difficulty options which do a pretty good job of changing the challenge level. On the top setting, this game is honestly challenging. However, that’s all you get for modes unless you have friends with 3DSes, because this game does NOT have online play. Instead, the multiplayer is local only. Good luck playing that ever. Overall, Kirby Fighters Deluxe is a mid-tier game, expanded from the minigame it is based on but with a lot fewer features than its later Switch followup. I can’t recommend buying it unless you are a Kirby completionist. It’s fun enough for a few minutes, but what’s the point of this being its own game? Just play Smash. Sure, this has a few Kirby abilitites and environments you won’t find in Smash, but even so, it is just a cut-rate, very feature-reduced Smash knockoff by Smash’s original developer. Probably don’t bother getting this. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive, technically. This game has a sequel on the Switch, which is also a digital-only release.
Kirby’s Blowout Blast – Developed by HAL and published by Nintendo in 2017. Kirby’s Blowout Blast is a great little isometric side/overhead view 3d action-platform game with very nice stereoscopic 3d effects. As with most of the downloadable Kirby games, this game is an expanded idea based on a minigame from a previous main-series Kirby game. This game was visually inspired by the original Kirby’s Dream Land, which is great. The game looks fantastic with a very nostalgic look, all the enemies and settings of the original game return here. The gameplay is quite different, though. As in that game you play as Kirby and while you can swallow and spit out enemies, you don’t get powers from them.
However, that is where the similarities end. Here your goal is not just to walk, jump, and fly to the end of each level. Instead, it is to defeat all of the enemies, either by swallowing them yourself or by spitting other enemies at them. While this game has some platform jumping, the main focus here is on the combat rooms, areas where enemies attack you and you cannot proceed until they are all defeated. You are scored on your performance in each area, getting more points for getting more kills with a single attack than you do for having to kill each enemy individually. This game is very short, but as with all of the downloadable Kirby games on the 3DS it has good replay value if you want to try to get better scores and rankings in the levels, there is plenty to try to optimize as you try to use fewer attacks and take more enemies out with each blast.
Overall, this is a great and charming game and it’s a definite must-play. The game is simple and straightforward, hence the short summary here, but is extremely fun and rewarding. Of the digital-only 3DS Kirby games this one is by far the best. This game is simple, but it is probably one of the best download-only games on the 3DS and is something everyone with a 3DS should definitely buy. It’s a fun and charming game with good fun gameplay and is plenty of fun. The difficulty is well-balanced too, with easy play for low grades but more challenge for someone who wants to get more points. Buy this game while it is still for sale. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
League of Heroes – Developed and published by Gamelion in 2014. This game is a simple, and not very good, overhead 2d action-RPG. Quite relevantly it is a mobile port. You play as a warrior adventurer guy off on a quest to join the League of Heroes and save the world. The game has nice, well-drawn cartoony graphics with solid use of stereoscopic 3d, but the gameplay is extremely basic and subpar and the controls feel pretty bad. You start in a little town area. There are an equipment seller, an items seller, a guy who gives you new abilities if you have unlocked some, a guy who has quests to complete, and that’s about it. Oh, and while the main game uses stick-and-button controls, all townsperson menus are touch input only for some reason. It’s kind of annoying, use one or the other, not both like this! And that list may make the game sound better than it is, because basically everything in this game is randomly generated, and while there isn’t any paid DLC in this version, they left in some of the real-world timers! It’s just awful. So, once you leave town you go to a world map. Here you can either choose the current randomly-generated stage, or go to a special quest stage if you can based on the current timer. And yeah, that’s about your only options, and 99% of the time only the one random stage as an actual choice you can choose. Games should not rely this heavily on random generation, it very heavily drags them down.
Once you enter the stage, you will find that each level is a smallish rectangular area with scattered enemies and breakable objects or chests with items in them. You complete the stage by killing all enemies. Some areas are just a rectangle with objects randomly scattered around while others follow a more railed path, but either way there is no actual beginning or end to the level, it’s just a space with whatever monster types are present in this stage. While overly simplistic this could be decent if the game was actually fun to play, but it isn’t, at all. To fight these monsters, you have a wide assortment of abilities to use… or not. Nope, you have a sword button and a ranged throwing weapon button, and that’s it. You can’t guard, or use any other skills, or anything, only sword and throw attack. All of the abilitites that you can purchase after reaching certain levels are passives. It’s pretty lame, particularly when combat feels this terrible. Movement, which is done with the analog stick, feels okay, but your weapon feels utterly weightless, like the worst of mobile game controls brought to the 3DS for some reason. The throwing attack is okay, but you have limited ammo and need to purchase replenishment of it from the shop so you can’t rely on it all of the time.
And as for those quests, they feel like they might be randomly generated as well. And if they aren’t they are the most generic boring things ever. Get ready to … get a quest where you have to buy something from one of the shopkeepers? Huh? And while most of this game is mind-numbingly easy and actually dying is hard, some quests even can be borderline impossible, such as if you get a quest to kill a certain number of some enemy type but it isn’t giving you stages with that enemy in them for a while. This game is poorly designed like that. Overall, League of Heroes is a bad game. The graphics are nice, and it tries to be amusing with its writing, but with awful-feeling combat, no depth, completely random boring levels with zero character, no gameplay other than walking around and whacking monsters, and mobile game timers still present even though you can’t pay to get around them in this version, League of Heroes is one to definitely skip. I dislike mobile games and titles like this are a good example of why. This is probably the weakest title covered in this update. The graphics are the only thing good about this otherwise awful borefest. Also released digitally on Android and iOS, but this is the only console version of the game.
The Legend of Dark Witch – Developed by Inside System and published by CIRCLE Entertainment in 2014. The Legend of Dark Witch is a 2d platform-action game. This was the first game in a franchise that would see about a half dozen releases over the years, four of them on the 3DS. Three are platformers, and the rest other genres. I covered the one spinoff released on 3DS, the action-RPG Brave Dungeon, earlier. The games are okay, though there is something about them I’ve never liked all that much. This game isn’t bad, but there is just something about it, and its sequels, that makes me not want to play it. I just have trouble trying to figure out exactly what that is. Regardless, some will like these games. In this game you play as a goddess I guess, or she’s described as such, though for a god she sure dies easily. She is the “dark witch” of the title, Zizou Olympia. The cast is entirely female. The series has an anime fantasy setting with a lot of modern elements. The scripts in all three games are poorly translated, to the point of sometimes being borderline unintelligible. The gameplay here is one part Mega Man, one part shmup, and one very large part generic mediocrity. As in Mega Man, each game has eight bosses that you can fight in any order. Most are new in each game but some of the anime girls you fight return in later games. You do get something from each boss you beat, but also get magic points which you can spend on upgrades in a shop between levels.
In addition to that, these games have a Gradius-style powerup system and a magic meter for your basic attacks. As you use regular attacks the magic meter depletes, and more powerful spells use more magic so using them will deplete the meter more quickly. You will need to wait for it to recharge after that, which is annoying. Mega Man style item meters are probably better. As for the Gradius-style powerup system, it works fine, and I love Gradius and its powerup system, but I don’t know if it was a good idea here. From this meter you add things like higher jump height and float and more powerful shots added to your attack. It is nice when you are powered up, but don’t die or you both go back to the last checkpoint and are reset to default. As much as I love Gradius, here it’s just kind of … there. Having this be the way you get these powerups in this game is just … eh, it’s there. Okay. I get why it’s here, with how many bullets are on screen sometimes there are some shmup elements to the gameplay here so why not a shmup powerup system too, but I don’t know how necessary it is.
One of the major issues with these games is the difficulty balance. You die in only a few hits here, and losing health is easy because the level designs are loaded with enemies attacking you from unexpected directions. There is a tightly timed blocking mechanic if you hit Down just before a bullet hits you, but it’s tricky to get right. The enemy placements are not quite Valis levels of bad, but it’s pretty annoying. This game requires a significant amount of memorization to get through. You can upgrade your health in the shop, but initially you get only three or four hits. It is also easy to lose lives by missing jumps, since many jumps require very tight timing to make, and upon game over you have to restart the current level. Now, these games have four difficulty levels. They generally default to the second of the four, which is a moderate challenge but not too bad. Go up to difficulty three, though, and now enemies never drop health powerups, and your only healing will be magic items you bought in the shop before the level began. That is a pretty ridiculous thing to do in a game this loaded with enemies shooting at you!
The background graphics are another issue with this game. Each level begins with a section without any background detail. You have a starfield behind and shaded blocks for all platforms, and basic enemies that look the same in every level, and that’s it. At some point you eventually get far enough to see the actual stage, which is a relief. The regular stage graphics are okay, decently average 2d sprite art, but the beginning sections before you get the real stage graphics look pretty bad. I really don’t understand why all three games have them, they are NOT a good idea.
The game has some more systems, and you can unlock a second playable character by beating it, but I’ve never gotten anywhere close, or wanted to. This game is way too hard to be fun on the default setting. Memorization-heavy platform-action, as much about shooting as it is anything else, can be great fun, but here I do not find it interesting or enjoyable. The game isn’t BAD, but the constant dying and returning to the incredibly boring looking first part of the level I’m on does not make me want to keep going, not when nothing about the game gets above average. There may be more here if you get into it, but I don’t like this game very much. Objectively it’s average though.
Also available on PC (Steam). There is also a Remastered version of this game on PC (Steam), PlayStation Vita, and Nintendo Switch, which is basically the same as the original but with redone, higher resolution graphics.
The Legend of Dark Witch 2: The Price of Desire – Developed by Inside System and published by CIRCLE Entertainment in 2015. The second game in this series is very similar to the original. Really, this is basically more of the same, with no major changes from the first one. So, again this game is a slightly Mega Man-esque platformer with almost shmup levels of bullet dodging and firing mixed in. You do have some interesting options in this game to adjust how the screen scroll works, and can use the ZL and ZR buttons of a New 3DS or 3DS second stick addon to map some more functions that are annoying to use otherwise, but for the most part this is just more Dark Witch, for people who liked the first one. The new abilities may add a bit to this game, though it does add a bit to the complexity, and the business of the lower-screen display. Once again there are four difficulty levels, though it defaults to a slightly easier one than the first game so if you play on that setting you will actually beat stages. I guess that’s nice, but that doesn’t make the game actually better, it’s still extremely mediocre and sometimes annoying.
This game is also available digitally on PC (Steam).
The Legend of Dark Witch III: Wisdom and Lunacy – Developed by Flyhigh Works and published by CIRCLE Entertainment in 2017. In this third and final Dark Witch platformer on the 3DS, you once again play as Zizou Olympia the god or witch or whatever in a very mediocre platform-action game. This time things are similar, but simplified. A bunch of things have been removed from this game in the name of simplicity and easier play. The interesting ‘adjust the screen scroll’ menu system from the second game is removed. There is less stuff on the lower screen display menu this time than before. You start with fewer abilities than the second game, as well, so while this game supports ZL and ZR they have no function at first, unlike that game. Your only other ability at the start is a new melee-range charge attack on the R button. You don’t get new shot types from beating bosses, so one of the key Mega Man elements of this game is gone. The blocking mechanic is gone. And while the game does have different difficulty levels, you cannot select them at first; you start in the default setting and only unlock more by beating it. So yeah, those are probably downgrades, though it does make the game easy to get into.
Here’s a questionable thing about this game. Remember what I said about poor translation work in these games? Well, it’s no better here than before. It might actually be worse, in fact. This game has a sub-menu with art of the (as usual all anime female) characters, unlocking as you reach them. The first one is for the main character Zizou, and on the right you see art of her wearing shorts as she does in the first two games, then on the right there is art of a dress. Not her in a dress, just the clothing. The subtitle text says that she had shorts before to show how she is kind of a tomboy but they tried something more feminine, does it work? And yeah that’s a pretty strange sentiment, Japan has some questionable views on gender. But even beyond that, I don’t think the actual sprite in this game is wearing a skirt, I think it’s the shorts outfit on the left. So I have no idea what they are talking about unless there’s something unlockable later on.
Other than that though, beyond the simplification or removal of some elements of the more complex previous games, the rest of this game is the same as before. Once again, you walk and jump to the right, use a Gradius-style powerup system, buy upgrades between stages, endure the visually boring first section of each level before you get to actual graphics, and try to learn the jumps and enemy placements so that you survive to the boss. With all of its simplifications this game is the easiest of the three to get into, so despite being the last one maybe start with this game if you want to try a Dark Witch game, before tackling the previous titles. But with the subpar level designs and often annoying gameplay I’m not sure that I’d really recommend any of them. These games are probably just barely below average overall, closer to bad than good. But I’m sure there are some people who will like them, if blending platforming with bullet-heavy shmuplike elements sounds interesting, so maybe try one.
This game is a Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive. It does not have any ports, unlike the previous two titles.
The Legend of Kusakari – Developed by Librage and published by Nnooo in 2016. This game is a top-down puzzle-action game where your goal is to cut down all of the tall grass in each level. This game is set in fantasy Japan during a war between humans and monsters, and you are a random villager guy who decides to help out the cause by … cutting the tall grass, so the soldiers can fight unimpeded by tall grasses. Yeah, that is the plot. The story may be silly, but unfortunately the gameplay here gets boring quickly. This is an easy and straightforward game. In each level you move around, cutting grass. You have two different types of cuts, one which just cuts straight ahead and another better one that cuts all around you. The first doesn’t have more range, so I’m not entirely sure why there are two, the circular cut is almost always what you want to use. You also have a run button for faster movement. And lastly you have a health meter which depletes both when you get hit but also somewhat from cutting grass or walking in certain dangerous terrain types.
In each map there may be enemies, but they don’t go after you; instead, they move along preset paths, as in a Frogger game, and you need to learn their routes to avoid them. There are also various different terrain types, some of which damage you to walk through them or make you move slowly. Each level is fairly small and takes only a minute or two to finish. You do get graded on each level based on how quickly and well you did, but I don’t know if you get anything for getting a better grade. This game is easy and fairly short, and doesn’t really have much replay value unless you really want to go back to levels to get better times. I can see that potentially being interesting, there is plenty you could do to work on routing through the stages, but I don’t know if anyone would put in the effort. I won’t, I just don’t find this game anywhere near fun enough to try. The concept is solid, but it’s too slow and boring to hold my interest. Also, there are no online leaderboards or anything. overall I do not recommend The Legend of Kusakari, it’s an okay but somewhat boring game that I would say is slightly below average and probably won’t hold many peoples’ attention for very long. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
Liberation Maiden – Developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and published by Level-5 in 2012. Liberation Maiden is a mostly 2.5d shmup of sorts from Suda51’s Grasshopper Manufacture. This game is a mini-game of sorts, as it was apparently originally published in Japan as a part of a compilation. In the West it is sold on its own, but it’s a cheap game. This game is fairly short and easy, but is quite fun while it lasts. You play as a teenage girl who was just elected President of New Japan, which of course means that it’s time to get in your flying mecha vehicle and save the country from evil invading forces yourself, because that’s what Presidents do, right? Heh. The story is not exactly the main draw here, the action is, but it’s decent enough. This game is played with both controller and stylus simultaneously. The upper screen shows your view, and the lower is a map and your touch pad. You fly around with the analog stick, dpad, or face buttons, and aim and fire with the touchpad with a cursor you control via touch. The game has a tilted, almost-overhead view and in regular levels you only can move on a 2d plane. As a result, even though this game has nice polygonal 3d graphics and makes good use of the system’s stereoscopic 3d effect, gameplay is mostly two dimensional as you cannot fly up or down. This keeps the game simple, approachable, and fun.
As you fly around, plenty of targets appear and will try to shoot at you. So, target them with the stylus by moving the cursor over those enemies, then lift up the stylus to fire at them. It’s a nice take on the lock-on-targeting style of shmup or rail shooter design, except here you can freely fly around. The controls work great, and since you control the targeting cursor it entirely avoids the frustration of the extremely specific targeting cursor of games like Xevious or RayForce. You also get a second weapon which attacks just by holding the stylus on an enemy. You can also go into strafing mode by holding a shoulder button, to circle around an enemy. The controls are simple and easy to get used to, and the game is plenty fun as you fly around blasting enemies while dodging their attacks. Many enemies take multiple hits to kill, and as in most shooters with a targeting system you can lock on to multiple targets at once. You can even lock on to many of the missiles shooting at you, which is a nice way to not take damage. You can take a decent amount of damage without dying, though. Bosses switch to a tube-ish view instead, where you circle around the enemy and now can move up and down. They may take a bit of practice, but it’s not too hard. On the default Normal difficulty setting the game is only a moderate challenge. There are also Easy and Hard modes if you want, though.
Other than its short length, one of the games’ few real issues is saving. That is, you can’t save during the game, you’ve got to play it in one sitting. If you quit you will lose your progress and score. Now, the game is not super long, but even so most games on this system have a much better save system than this one. They probably did this to give the game a little bit of challenge, because again the game is very short with only five moderate-length stages, but it is a bit annoying. The game does encourage repeat play for score, though, as there are side objectives in the levels as you play through them and there is of course a high score table. There aren’t online leaderboards though, unfortunately. Even so, even if the game is over in just a few hours unless you get into replaying it for score, I recommend Liberation Maiden. This game is a pretty fun free-roaming shmupish game with good controls, fun gameplay, and a silly story it’s a fun ride while it lasts. Play it. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
Lifespeed – Developed and published by Wee Man Studios in 2017. Lifespeed is what you get when you cross an auto-flying tube racing game of the style I have covered several of in this series with a traditional racing game. As in those other semi-automated racing games, you are always flying forward in this game and your only controls are for flying, slowing down, and using items. However, this isn’t just a checkpoint-based game where you are alone in the tube, it is a lap-based racing game where you race against a full field of other flying cars. So, this is a hybrid of AiRace and F-Zero.
Conceptually, I like the combination of a simple tunnel flying game and an actual racing game, but while the game is okay, I don’t think it quite comes together as well as it could have. The issue is, the simple auto-flight gameplay just isn’t a great match for a challenging game like this which requires skill. If you put in the time there is probably a lot to enjoy here, but you will need to memorize the turns quite extensively to have any chance at finishing above last place, and at the speed you’ll be going at in this game that is tough. This is a VERY hard game! I love fast futuristic racing games, and tunnel flying stuff can be fun, but I think this game shows why most of the other games like this, the AiRace series and such, are the simple games that they are and not more full-fledged racing titles. It’s all you can do to just fly down the tube at these speeds, but in this game you also need to consider where the other flyers are, go through the rings for boosts and weapons, and attack the others racers with those weapons. I like the concept here but it still feels both too limited in terms of control thanks to the automatic acceleration, while simultaneously too frustrating in terms of how good you are expected to be in order to do well. Still, I’m sure there is an audience for this game. If you want something which takes that streamlined tunnel-racing genre and changes it into something more challenging and more “normal” while still being an identifiable part of its subgenre, well, this is the game for you.
On the whole, this is a game I really want to like, but just can’t. If it didn’t have auto-acceleration I think that I would like it a lot more, that would make the game much less frustrating. But as it is this game is one I keep giving a chance and then quitting in frustration a few races later. Still, the game is worth a look for sure, it’s interesting. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
Link-A-Pix Color – Developed and published by Lightwood Games in 2018. This puzzle game is one of three ___-a-Pix games, all from the same developer, with very similar visuals but a different spin on the formula each time. One of the three is basically just Picross but with multiple different block colors, but the other two are original. All three have the same interface. Each allows you to choose a puzzle, shows you the clear time, and gives a medal if you don’t use the ‘remove errors’ function. One button brings up the errors menu, which tells you if there are any errors currently and gives you the option of removing all of those errors. Just viewing this screen does NOT affect your medal at all, which is kind of odd — if you want to abuse it by just putting things down one tile at a time and checking constantly but never actually having the system remove the errors, that’s fine, you get the medal! Heh. The Picross-style one is the only one with a bunch of DLC puzzles. That’s really too bad, I wish all three did. This is the one of the three I have played the most of and I wish there were more puzzles here, I’m like 70% of the way through and will miss it when they run out.
So, in this game you are creating a picture by connecting blocks. Each block has a different color and number on it, and you need to figure out which two blocks with that color and number you will need to connect and, with the stylus, drag the blocks out of that tile to link the two blocks together. The background is white, and white is not a tile color, so some tiles will be blank, you don’t fill the whole image with tiles in this game. You will need to figure out where the tiles are to form the image, and find the right paths for each color. Most puzzles in this game are quite large, so each puzzle can take over a half hour, but it’s a fun challenge and I’m quite enjoying it. Sometimes figuring out the route for a link is easy, but other times it is a solid challenge. This is a simple and straightforward puzzle game which is well made and fun, I recommend it for sure. It’s pretty good. The game doesn’t have Nintendo levels of production values of course, but it does well enough. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
Lionel City Builder 3D: Rise of the Rails – Developed and published by Big John Games in 2016. This game is a simple train driving simulator probably aimed at kids. Lionel is a famous model train company, but while this game has their license, this isn’t a game about model trains. Instead, this game is about real trains. The games’ oddly dark, though unspecific, backstory says that society has collapsed, but in this post-apocalyptic world one guy with his train collection can rebuild the world, one train trip at a time. Alright, why not?
In the game, you drive trains with simple touchscreen controls. The game has nice stereoscopic 3d visuals for the upper screen showing where you are going, and you control the train’s speed, stopping, winch for picking up cargo, and more with touchscreen buttons and sliders. The game is forgiving in that if you go past a target spot you can just back up into it, but you will need to do the needed actions correctly to proceed. Before and after the missions, there are story sequences as our hero talks to other people and works on rebuilding society with his trains. It’s all played straight. Beyond the basic setting this game is not dark and depressing or anything and would probably be fine for older children interested in trains, but it is a bit of an odd choice. The gameplay is alright. The touch controls work and your objectives are clearly stated. The game is competent but clearly not high budget. The missions have okay variety, you aren’t just always doing the same thing thankfully.
In addition to the main story mode, the game also has a creation mode. Here you can lay out your own track, place trackside buildings, choose a train, and drive around the loop you created. It’s fine, but could be a lot better. For one thing, when dragging the track into the shape you want, other parts of the track will flop around to new shapes. There are ways to keep them in place, but seriously it should NOT be like this! I’ve never seen a track editor as hard as this one to just make the track you’re creating into the shape you want. The amount of space you have to create a play area in is fairly small, too, which is also disappointing. You can have some fun in the creation mode regardless, but I think it needed more work. For some this probably should be the main feature of the game since this is the part more like what its license is about, building a model train setup and then driving around on it, but unfortunately it’s only worth the time for the dedicated. Too bad. Still, if on sale this might be worth a buy if you like the subject matter. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
Love Hero – Developed and published by Butterfly (Batafurai) in 2019. This is the first of three very odd and unique, and yet very simple and generic, games from an indie developer called Butterfly. Each of these games’ actual gameplay is a very simplistic arcade game. There is also a bit of story in each game telling a weird but generally somewhat depressing story, if you can actually make much sense out of it. This game does not initially have any story, though as with all three titles in this series there are unlockables if you accomplish certain hidden goals in the levels. It starts with a coin sound, so I guess this is supposed to be an early ’80s arcade game. There are five levels in this title.
In each level, you need to survive until the end of a timer shown on the lower screen without getting hit enough times to run out of hearts. Initially you get multiple hearts, quite forgiving by Butterfly’s standards (see below), but by level three they take that away and you die in one hit. You control a small, ’80s-style spaceship, and move it around the upper screen with the analog stick. You cannot use the d-pad to control the character in any of Butterfly’s games. Controls are analog, so it works.
In levels, if you are allowed to fire in the current stage the A button shoots, and you shoot both up and down. You do not have autofire so you need to mash the button to keep shooting. Threatening you are enemies, which are different in each stage. In the first level, the enemies are hearts. As you shoot the hearts they slowly get smaller until after taking enough damage you destroy them. You will need to destroy some in order to have space to move around, but destroying them all is hopeless, they spawn too quickly for that and take too long to destroy. The second level instead has exploding squares for enemies, and the third lines which rapidly move in from the sides of the screen, mostly from below, and kill you if they hit you. I’m not sure about levels four and five because that’s as far as I have gotten so far.
Once you beat each level, you unlock an image of some medical equipment that you can view in the Museum screen. Why? I don’t know, but it will be a running theme in this series. Overall this game is very simple but it’s alright. I have always liked this kind of avoid-the-enemies game, and this is a competent one. Maybe give it a look. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
The Queen TV-Game 2 – Developed and published by Butterfly (Batafurai) in 2020. The second of Butterfly’s three games is perhaps its most accessible, though it is still extremely difficult. This game has a ‘retro early to mid ’80s game’ theme, and it starts with putting a cartridge in a console. This game has voice acting from a woman. She does swear some, so this isn’t for children. This time there are apparently only three stages, though there is plenty of challenge on offer. This time the game is an avoid-em-up, with a different spin on things in each stage. In the first level, you control a quite large block. You use the analog stick to move around, and a face button to use a shield. You need to not get hit by two balls bouncing around the screen for 135 seconds. The shield protects you from damage if you are using it while the ball touches you, but it’s limited. If you get hit even once, as you expect from this developer, that’s it, you lose. Try again.
If you manage to stay alive long enough, you move on to level two. This time you have an even longer counter, over 180 seconds, and control a Breakout-style paddle on the left side of the upper screen. Again you use the analog stick for movement and A is a protective shield. You need to keep two balls from getting past your paddle. If you miss them even once that’s it, Game Over. I have not completed this stage, it’s insanely hard. There are some things to unlock in each stage if you meet certain goals, though it doesn’t tell you what they are and I did not unlock the first one when beating that level so I don’t know what they are. It’s probably story-related. Still, for very cheap this game is interesting enough to maybe be worth a try. This is the first of Butterfly’s games that I got and while very basic, there’s something about it that interested me enough for me to get their other two games as well. Maybe give it a try. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
Gal Galaxy Pain – Developed and published by Butterfly (Batafurai) in 2022. The last of Butterfly’s games is their oddest game yet, though unfortunately not in a good way gameplay-wise. This time, the story consists of images of a woman and medical equipment of some kind and some text explaining some of the story. What is going on? Well, you apparently are protecting the Earth from meteors, while also stealing money I guess. What is going on beyond that, with the woman (maybe you are playing as her, maybe not? I am not sure) and medical equipment and such, you’d probably need to do well at the game to figure out, if it even tells you.
The story is interestingly weird, but the gameplay this time is extremely frustrating. I find this the least fun of Butterfly’s three 3DS games and don’t think I will go back to it much. Gal Galaxy Pain is a touch screen controlled title. This game is basically Missile Command crossed with a calculator. Numbers fall down the upper screen, and you need to punch that number in on the touchscreen numpad on the lower screen then touch the enter button on screen to destroy the number on screen with the same number that you just entered. You have a tight timing window to shoot down the numbers, and if even one number gets to the bottom of the screen, you lose, Game Over. It’s brutally hard.
Still, the first stage has only single-number enemies, and it’s hard but with some practice I got through it. Once I got to the two-number enemies in the second level, though, it was too much and I had to give up. There are probably only a few levels since Butterfly’s other games are short affairs, but it’s too much. Love Hero has an okay idea and I like the touchscreen usage, but the utterly ridiculously high difficulty and very bland visuals make this, I think, my least favorite of the three Butterfly titles here. It’s not awful but is only for the dedicated. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.
Luxor – 3DS port developed by Engine Software and published by Tulip Games in 2013. The original PC game was developed by MumboJumbo in 2005. Luxor is a puzzle game series. The games were inspired by the Ballistic or Zuma style of match-three ball-shooting puzzle game, but instead of shooting from a central point, in this game you instead shoot balls up from the bottom from a paddle on the bottom of the screen that you can move left and right, somewhat Arkanoid-style. The concept is simple, you move left and right and shoot the colored balls up where you want to add them to the balls moving along a track on the screen above, but it is a compelling and fun idea that is well executed here. The tracks in this game can twist and turn, going behind other sections of the path and more, as they wind from their starting point to the end point. If a ball reaches the end point, you lose a life and have the try the level over. There is a lot of variety from level to level, and it’s always interesting to see what the game will throw at you next.
The games have an ancient Egyptian theme and are solidly fun. I think the moving paddle adds quite a bit to these games, it makes them more strategic than the games they take the core concept from. I really like being able to aim my shots from the bottom of the screen by moving to where I want to shoot from. Probably as a result of this, I’ve played more of the Luxor games than of Zuma, Ballistic, or Magnetica. This is a pretty good series, and this is a good port of the original title. These are casual games, but they’re plenty hard! By the end this game gets very hard. Indeed, I’ve never beaten this game, despite a lot of trying. I got to the final level, but it is just insanely hard and I’ve never quite managed to finish it. The level throws a crazy number of balls at you in a complex, twisting track, and stopping all of them is just too much. Ah well, the game is lots of fun anyway.
Quite a few Luxor games were made, particularly on the PC, but unfortunately the 3DS only got a port of the first one. That’s too bad because this platform is perfect for this genre and the port is quite good. I’ve played quite a bit of some PC Luxor games but like this experience better. This game is played with the d-pad or analog stick and buttons, not touch, but even so it is a perfect fit for the 3DS. I’d recommend this game. I wish I was good enough to beat that final level though, it’s just so insanely hard! This game is a lot of fun despite that, though. Originally released both physically and digitally on the PC and Mac. Also released digitally on iOS.