Game Opinion Summaries: Digital-Only Nintendo 3DS Games, Part 3: D-E-F

I have several short articles I’ll post soon, but I wanted to get this done first, and I have.  There are nineteen full summaries this time, plus mentions of the DLC for two of the Fire Emblem games.  There’s some good and some not so good in this update, as usual for digital-only games.

 

Table of Contents

Dangerous Road
Dedede’s Drum Dash Deluxe
Defend Your Crypt
Demon King Box
Digger Dan DX
Dillon’s Rolling Western
Dillon’s Rolling Western: The Last Ranger
Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure
Drancia Saga
Drone Fight
EDGE
escapeVektor
European Conqueror 3D
Excave
Excave II: Wizard of the Underworld
Excave III: Tower of Destiny
Fairune
Fairune 2
Fire Emblem Awakening (DLC levels)
Fire Emblem Fates (DLC campaigns and levels)
Fun! Fun! Minigolf TOUCH!

Rankings

 

 

The Summaries

Dangerous Road – Developed and published by Starsign in 2016. Dangerous Road is a Frogger clone arcade action game. Just like Frogger but with different animals, you play as one of four cute animals, including a racoon and others, and are trying to get to the other side of the many dangerous roads in the game. This isn’t kind of like the modern 3d Frogger games, it’s basically the same thing just with some very small twists. This game has two modes. The main one has 60 levels, and it is a checkpoint-based goal mode. Here you must walk on to all checkpoint tiles in a level, in order, in order to complete each stage. So you can’t just go to the end, but need to find the three checkpoints first and then you can go to the goal at the end of the level. The second mode is a time-based avoidance mode with 40 levels. Here you need to survive to the end of a timer in each small arena-style stage. Avoid everything until the timer runs out and you win.

Along the way, you will avoid incredibly Frogger-like obstacles: roads with traffic and rivers with logs. Yeah, it’s Frogger, but done in simple, low-poly stereoscopic 3d. I do like that the graphics make use of the system’s 3d effects, they look nicer because of it. The controls have more issues than the graphics, though. The controls are as simple as you’d think: the dpad moves you one tile at a time, with each tap moving you one space in that direction. The A button uses your characters’s special ability; each of the four animals you can play as in this game has a different ability. The racoon can slow down time, for instance, twice per stage. That may sound fine, but the controls have a long delay; it almost feels like you don’t move until AFTER pressing the pad! As a result, it can be hard to move exactly where you want to, you’ll often overshoot and die because you hit the dpad six times and a second or two later, after you finally move, realize you should have hit it only five times. And when you die in this game you need to start the level over from the beginning. Levels are short, but still, it’s frustrating stuff that really holds back this otherwise decent game. Other than the controls and complete lack of originality, though, Dangerous Road is alright. I’d call it average, and maybe worth a look for fans of Frogger games. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Dedede’s Drum Dash Deluxe Developed by Hal Laboratory and published by Nintendo in 2014. This is one of a bunch of digital 3DS Kirby games that are expanded versions of game ideas first seen in the two main cart-based 3DS Kirby platformers. This one is a concept from Kirby’s Triple Deluxe. This game is a music game 2.5d platformer. I love platformers but hate most music games, so I wasn’t sure what I would think of this one. Well, it’s alright. You play as the Kirby villain-of-sorts King Dedede, and run to the right in platformer levels made up of drums you walk and jump on and obstacles to avoid such as enemies, spikes, and pits. Each level has a different song taken from a past Kirby game, and they’re all great. The basic gameplay only requires getting to the end of the level without taking too much damage, which is fun enough. You can run and, depending on how you hold the button, make smaller or larger jumps. You can also clap at the peak of the jump with a well-timed button press.

However, just completing the levels won’t get you far; there are only a handful of levels in this game. The amount of content is reasonable for the games’ low price, but unfortunately the ‘music’ part of the genre is unavoidable. In order to really beat the game, and to unlock all of the stages here, you need perfect scores in levels. In order to do that, you must time your jumps to perfectly match the beat of the music AND do a perfect clap at the top of every jump. It’s just too much, I will never be able to do that. This game is fun enough when I play it as a platformer with a bit of a music theme, but the full-on ‘match the beat’ stuff? I just can’t do it. Oh well. This game is decently good anyway. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Defend Your CryptPublished by Ratalaika Games in 2016. Defend Your Crypt is a fun but short tower defense action game with a bit of strategy. You are defending a tomb that “thieves”, or rather explorers, are trying to break into and loot, and must kill all of them. You do this by activating traps with the correct timing. This game is almost exclusively controlled with the stylus. You don’t get to set up your defenses or anything here, this game is simpler than that. Instead, in each one of the 30 levels you have a preset assortment of traps in a stage, and you need to figure out how to kill everyone with them with well-timed trap activation. After each use of a trap that trap has a cooldown timer until you can use it again. You do need to spend some funds to be able to use a trap in the first place in a stage, but these are one-time fees and you generally can get most of a level’s traps right away. When you can’t, you will be able to get the rest by the time you need them. The trap types have some nice variety, including spikes, shooting arrows, water traps, crushing ceilings, and more. Some stages are one screen, while others are two screens; you can switch with the dpad or circle pad, in the games’ only use of the buttons. Activating traps to wipe out the invaders is simple, fun, and satisfying. After you have finished the 30 levels, a Hard mode unlocks. It’s still pretty easy but adds a bit more to the gaem. Still, I finished all levels in both difficulties in under 7 hours. I had fun doing so though, so that’s okay. Recommended.  Also released on PC / Mac (Steam) and Wii U.

Demon King Box Developed by Lanan and published by Circle Entertainment in 2014. This game has a solid idea and some very good art design, but the gameplay? Unfortunately, it is highly repetitve and grindey. In this strategy game with RPG elements, you play as a newly awakened mini-demon lord in the modern manga style. Your goal is to recapture the lands the demon king lost when presumably a hero sealed the previous one or such. You do this by choosing a team, which includes a monster hero and five different types of regular monsters. You start with only five types of regular monsters, but will unlock many more as you play. In your base you can give your monsters food in order to level them up, choose which monsters you want on your team, and view what you have unlocked. This is all done with the touchscreen and sometimes the A, B, and Start buttons. When on the ‘select an option in your base’ screen, instead of selecting a base option you can also move a cursor around a map on the upper screen with the circle pad. Icons mark the levels, and show if you have completed that stage or not. If you hit Start you will enter that level.

Once in a level, the gameplay is simple. Each sides’ hero unit is at one end of the field. In between there are three pathway lines, and both you and your enemy send troops along those lines at the other side. The first hero to run out of health loses. You can’t just send troops infinitely though, each one has a mana cost and a cooldown after creating one. Your mana automatically regenerates, but somewhat slowly. The concept is fine and there is a bit of strategy, as you’ll want to have warrior units go in front with archer and healer units behind, and such, but it generally feels like your units’ levels and quality count for more than any strategy does. When you first unlock a new level, you’ll have no chance of being able to beat it, no matter what strategy you use, and there isn’t much in a game this simple, will get you destroyed. Instead, what you have to do is grind earlier stages. You can play levels as many times as you want to build up food supplies to level up your monsters with. And that is really where this game loses me. I like some things about Demon King Box, but the core gameplay is too simplistic and grindey to actually keep me coming back. Instead, whenever I play this game I look at the pretty well done sprite art and wish it was in a better game. Not recommended. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Digger Dan DXDeveloped and published by Four Horses in 2016. This game is a modern take on the early ’80s classic action/puzzle game Boulder Dash. This is the third Boulder Dash-style game called Digger Dan, one an ’80s title from Ocean, one a DSiWare game from 2011, and finally this one. I don’t know how related the modern two are to the old one, but this game is a graphically enhanced port of the DSiWare title, Digger Dan & Kaboom. The content is largely the same as the DSiWare game, everything just looks a lot nicer now. That game didn’t get much attention, but perhaps partially thanks to the better art this did. The levels here are not all just taken out of Boulder Dash, and there are new gameplay elements here as well, but even so it was similar enough that the rightsholders to Boulder Dash issued a takedown notice to try to get this game removed from sale on the 3DS eshop soon after it released. The developer settled, most likely with a financial agreement with Boulder Dash’s rightsholders. More than your average homage, this game is basically a remake/sequel to the original.

So, as in the original, you control a miner, moving through an underground stage. You can freely move in all directions, and tunnels dig automatically as you go, digging out the dirt. You need to be careful, however, because there are enemies to avoid, gems to collect within a move limit if you want a better rating in the level, and objects to watch out for and use in puzzles. Objects include rocks which will activate and roll once you dig out the ground next to them, a little gopher ally who you can rescue and then switch to in some levels in order to get through narrow passages, warps, blocks which you can drop by digging out underneath them, and more. The concept here is simple and this game is not that hard, but figuring out the best route through each stage may take some effort. I would say more, but figuring out the puzzles is the core of the game, so I will leave that to the players.

Visually, Digger Dan DX has nice prerendered 2d sprite art graphics and good stereoscopic 3d implementation with depth to the background. The game looks quite nice, stereoscopic 3d this good is somewhat uncommon in 2d indie 3DS games. The rest of the game is pretty good as well. Every level feels well laid out and fun to explore, puzzle your way through, and figure out. The first time through a level you may want to just finish it, but going back to collect everything, find the hidden gem, and get to the exit in under the turn limit is quite rewarding. This is a very well made and full featured title with nice stereoscopic 3d, 100 levels, and more to do beyond that if you want to find everything. The core concept is certainly unoriginal, Boulder Dash did this back in the early ’80s, but this is one of the best Boulder Dash-style games released in a long time. Highly recommended. Pick this one up while you can. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive. Enhanced remake of Digger Dan & Kaboom, for DSiWare, which is also a DSi/3DS digital exclusive.

Dillon’s Rolling Western Developed by Vanpool and published by Nintendo in 2012. Dillon’s Rolling Western was an early-ish 3DS game. The game has full polygonal 3d gameplay and a very nice graphical style with Wild West animals such as your hero armadillo Dillon. However, as nice as the visuals and concept are, with simple gameplay and iffy controls, I don’t find it very fun to play. This game plays with the analog circle pad and the touchscreen only and never uses any buttons. Touch-based controls in games can be great, as I have said I love the 3DS’s reactive touchscreen and think it is perfect for touch gaming, but in this game it often feels more of a gimmick than a necessary feature, and the game around it is thin in content variety and repetitive. This game is okay, I guess, but does nothing to make me want to come back and keep playing it. The basic controls in combat are decent, though advanced maneuvers require annoying amounts of precision with your taps.

This game has a structure is closely sticks to. First, each level begins with a phase where you can explore the area. Each level is a moderately large field in a stereotypical wild west desert. You explore on the upper screen while the lower screen shows a map. There are caves you can explore, and you can repair and add weapons to defensive towers scattered at certain points along the marked path the enemies will follow once waves start. After some time, the enemies attack, following those paths in classic tower defense game fashion. You don’t just rely on your towers in this game, though; instead, you will kill a lot of the monsters yourself. When you touch an enemy in the overworld, you go into a battle arena. The combat goes as described earlier, though most of it at first is very slight-feeling as enemies die in very few hits. The other enemies in the overworld are still moving during your fight, though. Considering how frustrating some of the harder moves are that’s probably good, though apparently the game does get harder farther in. Anyway, after you kill all of the monsters in a wave you go into town, which is just a menu. Here you can buy some stuff with the money you have made and save your game. Then it’s on to the next stage.

Or, in my case, to the quit button after only a few levels; this game is decent, but with combat that is both too simple and easy (at first) and yet too frustrating once it actually requires advanced maneuvers due to the touch inputs required and not nearly enough strategy to keep the game interesting, this game lost me pretty quickly, unfortunately. I absolutely love the tower defense genre, but this more action-focused take on the genre just doesn’t quite work. It’s not a good enough action game to match the better action games around, and isn’t much of a strategy game either. You will need to make decisions about where to spend your money — its quantity is quite limited — and eventually will need to try to be in multiple places at once as enemies keep approaching the town from multipole directions, requiring some planning for where to upgrade towers and such, but for me this just doesn’t add up to a game I actually want to play. Dillon the wild west armadillo is a good character and I like rolling around, but the rest of the gameplay is strictly average stuff unfortunately. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Dillon’s Rolling Western: The Last RangerDeveloped by Vanpool and published by Nintendo in 2013. This game is basically identical to its predecessor above, just with new levels. Basically everything else is the same. It even still has the annoying touch-only menus, you’ll still need to tap to select menu options instead of just being able to hit a button once you have selected what you want! In the case of the BoxBoy series, that Nintendo published three very similar games on the 3DS is a good thing because the core concept is fantastic. But with Dillon’s Rolling Western, it is unfortunate that the games are so similar because this game really needed some work. It didn’t get any. Five years after this games’ release, a third game in this series released on the 3DS. I don’t have it yet, but in the US it is a digital exclusive (though it did get a physical release in other regions). Apparently they didn’t change very much during that five year gap. It’s apparently still largely the same thing. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure Developed and published by Nintendo in 2015. Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure is a good, but few-frills, Dr. Mario title. Following up Dr. Luigi for the Wii U, Miracle Cure has both Dr. Mario and Dr. Luigi modes, and has both a 30-stage puzzle challenge mode and traditional stage-based and endless modes, along with online play. Dr. Mario is a classic puzzle game. It’s never been one of my favorite block-dropping puzzlers, but it’s a fine series. The game takes place in a pill bottle, which starts with some viruses in it in three colors, red, blue, and yellow. Two-half pills fall from the top, in several colors. If you match four pill halves or viruses of the same color in a line they disappear. This game has several new powerups in the puzzle challenge mode as well, which will destroy all pills or viruses of their color. And as I mentioned earlier, it has Dr. Luigi mode and levels as well. Dr. Luigi, new to the Wii U game, drops two pills at a time insted of one, linked together to form an L shape. I’d say it’s probably not as good as classic Dr. Mario, but it’s a decent twist which can be fun to play for a while.

There is a decent featureset, but it’s not an ambitious game like Dr. Mario 64 was. There is no story mode or such, only the puzzles, their descriptions, and the classic modes. You play on the upper screen in a somewhat small amount of the frame, with a Dr. Mario or Dr. Luigi character off to the side of the bottle. The lower screen just shows info and stats. There’s minimal to no use of stereoscopic 3d, either. Still, with solid Dr. Mario gameplay, classic Dr. Mario music, good controls, some fun puzzle levels to play through, and online play, this game is good and is well worth getting if you like blockdropping puzzle games at all. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Drancia Saga – Drancia Saga is a very nice looking, but disappointing to play, 2d platform-action game. This title is a mobile port, and unfortunately you can really tell, because you can’t stop moving in this game. Each stage is a side-view single screen area with flat ground. There is no scrolling. Your character, and you have dozens to unlock and choose from in what is probably the games’ strongest feature, always is moving unless you are at one of the two edges of the screen. Your weapon is always out as well, so you don’t need to do anything other than walk into enemeies to attack them. All you can do is change direction, jump and use magic with buttons, and, while in the air, do a ground slam attack with down. You have a health bar, and will have to restart the current stage if it runs out. You get infinite continues but can’t save a game in progress, though with only eight moderate-length stages this isn’t a big deal. Bump attacking can work in a well-designed game, such as the early Ys games, but this is not that; there’s not that level of depth here.

That isn’t to say that the game is a total pushover, though; there are many enemy attacks you will need to try to avoid. Most stages have some kind of environmental hazard that will damage you if you stand in the wrong spots when they activate, some enemies can shoot at you, and others have spikes or weapons it would be better to avoid. There’s some decent variety. The game has eight levels. Each of the eight stages in the game has the same formula: kill all of the enemies, which attack as you defeat their predecessors, then defeat the boss. Bosses take three hits to kill, but are only vulnerable after an attack pattern. You will probably die at bosses a few times until you memorize the patterns, but none are particularly hard. After beating level eight’s boss, there is one final real final boss. It’s not much harder than the previous one, though you do continue from that bossfight if you die. Fighting the enemies would be a fun challenge if you could move around normally, but remember, you can’t; you are always moving forward in this game, auto-runner-style, unless you stand at an edge. This is very poor design which significantly holds the game back. I know that without the auto-movement this game as is would be even easier, and it is not exactly hard, but regardless it would be be much better and more fun that way. It’s a real shame that the game kept this awful mobile autorunner control scheme here on a console, it kind of ruins the game.

After you beat the game, the credits roll and that’s it. There are no difficulty level options here and no unlockable content. Each level plays the exact same way every time. The game strongly encourages a lot of replay, as you only very slowly earn the crystal currency that you can unlock new characters with and only get one new character to potentially purchase each time a game ends in either a game over or game completion. Yes, even if you do have money, you’ll need to go in and die or something in order to get another character to potentially add to your roster. That’s annoying. The game does have guest characters from a bunch of other 3DS indie games if you have them installed on your system, though, and they automatically unlock if you have those games. Gunman Clive 1 and 2 unlock Gunman Clive and Mrs. Johnson; Witch & Hero unlocks the Witch and the Hero; Witch & Hero 2 unlocks the Little Witch and Little Hero; Fairune and Fairune 2 unlock the nameless heroine and three other female characters from those games; 2 Fast 4 Gnomz unlocks a gnome; and Brunch Panic, Urban Trial Freestyle, and Petit Novel Series – Harvest December unlock characters as well. That’s neat, and again the sprite art in this game is all great looking with nice pixel art visuals, but the gameplay is just so bland and mediocre thanks to the annoying mobile game auto-running controls that I can’t quite recommend Drancia Saga. It’s not BAD, but it’s not all that fun either, and it relies very heavily on constantly replaying the same levels over and over and over. It’s not a roguelike or something, the game really is the same every time apart from your character. It can be fun in small bursts, but this game is overall below average. Nintendo 3DS console digital exclusive conversion of an iOS game with added content.

Drone Fight –  Published by Circle and developed by SilverStar in 2018.  This is a low budget flight racing game. The title is half right, and half wrong. This is indeed a game about drones as the planes you are flying in this game are all drones, but “fight”? No, this is a racing game, not a combat game. There are some kart racer-ish attacks, but it is primarily a racing game. Now, one big question in any flight racing game is, how 3d is it? In terms of stereoscopic 3d, it isn’t; if there is any 3d depth here at all I can’t tell. I know lots of indie 3DS games don’t have any 3d effects, and I usually don’t mention that fact, but those other games are 2d games where that makes more sense than it does here in this polygonal 3d behind-the-vehicle racing game. As for the game design though, there is a height component, though in effect this is a “tube” racing game — you have a fairly low maximum flight ceiling. This is fine, and is how most flight racing games work, but this game isn’t quite as well made as the better ones.

For controls, you move up and down and turn with the stick and accelerate, brake, and use items with the face buttons. The controls work fine, though the very over-responsive controls take getting used to and never feel great. Perhaps that is accurate to how drones fly, I don’t know, but you will be flying into walls and trees and such for a while in this game.

This game has four drones to race as, six circuits plus a tutorial, and three speed classes. It’s quite a nice amount of content for the low price this game sells for. In the slowest speed, you can get around any of the tracks in the seven circuits that make up this game without much of a problem. There are checkpoint rings along each track that you must fly through all of, little blue drop pickups which heal damage you have taken, and powerup boxes with those Mario Kart-ish items in them. A blue line floating in the air marks where the path goes that you need to fly along. Many levels are set in narrow canyon-like designs, but even when stages are in a more open space, you always must follow the main path marked by those blue lines, since since you must fly through those checkpoints in order to complete the race.

This game starts out simple enough, but definitely gets hard in the medium or high speed classes. You will need to memorize turns and checkpoint locations in order to finish for sure, or you’ll just be driving into the walls all the tiem and missing checkpoints. That’s fine, it gives you something to work for, the problem is I just don’t find this game fun enough to want to put in that much time with it. With no stereoscopic 3d, simple graphics, twitchy controls, and sometimes frustrating to follow track layouts, Drone Fight is average at best and probably is a bit below that.  This game released on 3DS first, but there is also a Nintendo Switch port that released later.

EDGE Developed and published by Two Tribes in 2013.  This game was first developed for cellphones, before being ported to some consoles such as the 3DS here.  Despite that, though, it’s good.  Edge is an isometric 3d platformer. Or perhaps it should be called an isometric 3d arcade action game? I’d rather call it a platformer; though you can’t jump in this game, the style is all platformer. This game is all about navigating through levels and making your way to the exit. You play as a cube in a world made up of blocks. The game uses mostly shaded polygons instead of textured ones and looks very nice. The game makes great use of the 3DS’s stereoscopic 3d and fits the system very well. The electronic-style music and simple but nice presentation are really good as well. Edge is well made and fun to play.

The controls here are simple: you move the cube around with the dpad, moving tile to tile as you rotate the cube. This game is isometric so the directions are diagonally angled, but you get used to it quickly. By rotating the cube you can climb up one-block ledges, but not more. You do move by rotating, so you can’t go up if you’re in between two blocks, you’ll need to find another way forward. More advanced maneuvers are possible, such as half-going up a block in order to move along the side of moving blocks without falling into a pit. It’s fun stuff. Certain tiles, marked with little white blocks, will cause something in the environment to move around. There are also some prism pickups scattered around each stage. Your challenge is to get to the end of each stage and reach the goal. After beating a level you get ranked, with a grade based on your time, how many of the pickups you got, and if you died. There are a lot of levels in several campaigns, so there’s plenty of content even though most levels are short.

This is a simple game, but it’s quite fun. The stereoscopic 3d effect here looks great, the game controls well, and levels are short and fun. There’s plenty here to keep you coming back for a while. This game is available on many formats, but only this one is in true 3d. Edge is a simple but fun game with good controls, good level designs which are fun to play, and an aesthetic I like. Recommended, this game is good to great. This might be the best version of this game due to the good stereoscopic 3d support.  Also released on PC / Mac / Linux (Steam), Android, iOS, Wii U, BlackBerry, and PSP.

escapeVektorDeveloped and published by Nnooo in 2012. This game is an arcade action maze title. This is a game that plays on a stage made of lines that make paths. These lines are all straight, with right-angle connections. The core gameplay here is basically a modern take on Amidar (Arcade, Atari 2600): you have to travel along all paths in a level to clear the stage. I like this subgenre quite a bit, but while I enjoy this game I found it not as fun as I was hoping I would. A few other games in this subgenre of somewhat Pac-Man-inspired maze games include Zoom! (Sega Genesis), Amazing Penguin (Game Boy), and Pepper II (Colecovision). It’s a pretty fun game style I like. It is important to note, though, that escapeVektor first released with escapeVektor: Chapter 1 on the Wii’s WiiWare shop, but that was only one part of this game. Unfortunately the rest of the game never released on Wii, only in this later title for 3DS and Vita. So, for anyone who has played the WiiWare game, if you liked it this is still worth getting because there is more game here than you find in that one. There are a lot more levels here than in the Wii game.

As with many modern indie action games of its era, escapeVektor has a cool cyber-world look with some nice electronic music. It may not be incredibly original looking and the visuals are simple, but I quite like the look. When you fly over a path it changes color, and once the whole maze has changed color, you beat the stage. Enemies try to get in your way and stop you, though they usually aren’t too hard to avoid. You can speed up or do a ranged attack with buttons, so the game does use more than just the stick. As you get farther more mechanics are introduced as well, including gates with switches which you can lure enemies into to kill them, and more. Once you go on all of the paths in a section of a level, the next part of the level will appear in front of you.

That’s mostly good, but it does have some issues. The game can be a little slow and repetitive. You can speed up, but the speed-ups are limited. Worse, unless you hold the zoom out button down the camera is too close, so if you speed up you can get into trouble. Levels have scores with a bunch of stats tracked, and medals to to work for, if you want to keep playing after you get through it the first time. I didn’t find the story particularly interesting either; yes, there is a plot here for some reason. Overall, escapeVektor is an okay game worth a look. My favorite thing about it are definitely the graphics and music, but the gameplay is a little slow, and having to hold down R all the time to be able to see where you’re going is pretty annoying. The slow pace reminds me of Amidar, though given how old that tile is I give it more of a break. You can see the whole screen all the time in Amidar, too. Overall, escapeVektor is an okay game. It can be fun, but due to some questionable design decisions it isn’t as good as the classics that inspired it in its subgenre. Still, the game is an average to just barely above average title worth playing if you like arcade action games. Also on PlayStation Vita. The Nintendo Wii WiiWare title escapeVektor: Chapter 1 is the first part of this game.

European Conqueror 3DPublished by Circle and developed by Lionant in 2014.  European Conqueror 3D is a board game inspired turn-based grand strategy game. This game is simple at heart, but doesn’t explain itself well at all so it may initially seem complex. Before playing read through the manual, it is helpful. Inspired by board games like Risk and Axis & Allies, but not as good as either, this title can be fun but has some big problems. First, this game is single player only, it has no multiplayer. And the AI is not the best. That’s not good. Anyway though, this is a World War II-themed turn based strategy game. It plays on a map of Europe, and only Europe and a bit of western North Africa. There are twelve nations in the game who have chosen a side, either Allies or Axis. The game has two modes, a campaign mode where you go through a linear series of campaigns, first for Germany and then after that for Britain, France, and the USSR (Russia), and a freeform conquest mode where you choose a nation and try to capture the capitals of all nations in the other alliance. The Axis powers include Nazi Germany, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Spain, and the Allies Britain, France, Russia, Poland, Turkey, Norway. Yes, for some odd reason Turkey is in the Allies. That’s not right. Also the US is not included, which makes things much harder for the Allies for sure. The nations are not equal, each one has different ratings, with the Germans having the best tanks for instance. It makes defeating them difficult. The conquest mode has two variants, a 1939 one and, after you beat that, a 1941 one.

Once you choose a mode and start, you go to the map. In the campaign mode each level plays on only a section of the continent, while the conquest mode of course plays on the full map. The map is broken up into provinces. And here’s the games’ first very odd design decision, of many: while this game has three different core troop types, infantry, tanks, and artillery, you can only have one troop type on a province at any time. If tanks are on a province, artillery cannot move into that province, cannot pass through it, cannot do anything but wait until the troops in the way move to another province or are destroyed. The game does have some nice stereoscopic 3d graphics, so the units stand out above the background map, though. However, making things even worse, while you have allies in your alliance, you cannot move through the territory of your allies, you can only attack them and take their territory. When you attack an ally, their troops will fight back, but they will never attack you in return on their turn no matter how much you attack them, which is pretty stupid. If you want to conquer Germany as Italy, the only thing slowing you down will be how bad Italian tanks are compared to German ones, they’ll never attack any province you take. There is absolutely no diplomacy system here. And remember, all you can fight against is the AI, for which there are three difficulty level options. There is no way to fight against a human.

On each turn, you move troops around the map, attack enemies (or allies), and build units and buy upgrades in a shop menu. The game has analog stick and face button controls for moving units and your cursor on the map, since the map is on the upper screen, but the sub-menus, including the shop and battle menus, are touch control only. It’s a bit odd but works fine. When you move troops onto a territory controlled by another nation, the battle screen appears. As fitting the boardgame style, battles are decided by die rolls. Now, no matter how many troops are on a province, only five attack per turn, except for tanks who can attack again if they take zero casualties. Once the top five of your stack of 50 artillery have attacked, that’s all that entire stack can do that turn. Unit stacks max out at 99, but that stack of 99 will be insanely hard to defeat since it will need to be chipped away five at a time.

It gets worse. You initially can only build troops on your nation’s capitol province. If a nation’s capitol falls, that nation is immediately defeated and removed from the game and the nation who took the capitol gets all of their remaining provinces. However, if you upgrade a province’s structures to level five in the shop menu, you can build units on those provinces as well. This makes effectively impossible to get through defenses easy to set up once you have a large enough empire; you’d be able to replace the dead far faster than the other side could break them down. Only taking your other provinces would allow an opening, but the AI won’t do that if you’re attacking someone in your alliance. The AI won’t usually built massive stacks like that, giving you a big advantage, but this is a pretty flawed game either way. Risk and Axis & Allies aren’t broken like this. You DO have a few options, such as an Airstrike you can buy that will damage a province without you taking any casualties, but this game is very badly balanced.

Even so, while this game made a pretty bad first impression, once I got used to it it’s kind of fun. The game is pretty much totally broken balance-wise; conquering German capitols is obnoxiously difficult due to how good their tanks are and how hard it is to actually chip away at a big stack of units in a province that can build units; the absence of the USA is annoying; the map is missing key parts of the European theater such as Egypt; the choices of nations are a bit odd — I mean, Turkey and Spain were neutral in World War II, why are they beligerents here; there is really only one map; and more, but despite all that there’s something entertaining here if you want to play a not that difficult strategy game for a while. This IS a very cheap game and strategy game fans might want to give it a look. Just know, the game does make you play as the Nazis first in the campaign, which is unfortunate. As in Axis & Allies the game uses the iron cross as the Nazi German flag instead of the swastika, but that’s just papering over reality. I never want to have to be made to play as them… Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

ExcaveDeveloped by Mechanic Arms and published by Bergsala Lightweight in 2015. Excave is a series of three top-down polygonal 2.5d action-adventure games. Yes, action-adventure; there is no levelling system in this game. In the first two games you play as one of a pair of characters, a male human warrior type and a female elf better at ranged attacks. Their looks are preset, though you will get a fair number of weapons and accessories, and each weapon plays differently. This first game has some good and some bad ideas. The second game removes most of the worst things of this game and is overall more fun to play, but first I’ll describe this one. These games are simple average to slightly above average action-RPGs with some Diablo influence, though this game is nowhere near Diablo’s quality.

In Excave you start in a town, which is a menu. Here you can repair your weapons, which break down quickly based on a hidden durability stat; buy items; and manage your inventory. This is a simple game, don’t expect crafting or anything more complex like that. Your inventory you can take into the action is very small, only 12 tiles, though each of the two playable characters does have a separate one. You can’t switch characters while playing though, only in town, so the inventory is way too small. Additionally you do also have 20 panels of 12-item storage in this town inventory menu. The town menus in the first two games are very similar, except the second one has more inventory space. The last option enters the game. In this first title, there is no sub-menu here, you go straight in. This game is entirely predesigned, it is not a randomly-generated title. The graphics are very simple and bland and it looks like it COULD have been randomly generated, but it isn’t. You will get random item drops from enemies, though. During missions, your very limited amount of inventory space will be a problem, as is common in this genre. Making things worse, random enemy item drops appear in chests, and you cannot open the chest to see what’s in it without the space in your inventory to pick up the item inside. And you can’t drop an item and pick it up again, dropping an item destroys it. And lastly, random drop chests disappear after a little while. Chests with key items in them stay around, but not the ones with random items. You also sometimes will get message items which you need to carry around until you can store them in your base, taking up even more inventory.

Once you start a mission, you move around with the circle pad and buttons on the upper screen, while simultaneously controlling the inventory with touch controls on the lower screen. In town you can control your inventory with the stick too, but not while playing. You must use the circle pad here, not the dpad. Controls are fine. It’s great how you get both views at once, and switching weapons and such is easy, though inventory management during combat can get you in trouble of course. Still, the concept is a nice example of what the DS line of systems can do that single-screen systems can’t do as well.

And now we get to the other very odd thing about this game, the level structure. Instead of selecting stages from a list, you need to unlock and enter warp tiles to go to new areas. You will get keys by beating bosses that you will need to use to unlock the doors to new warp boxes to go to new areas. After beating a boss and getting the treasure from the treasure room after it, you’ll need to manually warp out of the dungeon by holding down X. You can do this at any time while playing, but seriously, why not have a warp box out in the treasure room? Anyway, when you enter a new area, you’ll walk past a line of warps before going to the first area past them. There are pointless dead ends sometimes, it’s annoying. Additionally, if you buy silver and gold keys in the town and take them with you, or get some in drops, you can open doors in the levels, some of which have chests in them and some of which are shortcuts. And this game does not have a map. While you get used to it in not too long, I find the structure of this game quite annoying. With a map it’d be less bad, but the dead ends, the keys, the numerous doors and warps… it’s kind of confusing, I’d much rather have a more normal game layout. It wouldn’t be as bad with more variety, but this game does not have much variety. The very bland dungeon environment and boring, extremely simple enemies — almost all of the enemies you fight in the whole first section of the game are generic slimes — really get old fast.

Now, do you remember when I called this an action-adventure game, and not an action-RPG? Yes, this game does have numeric stats. You have health, attack, and defense stats. Weapons also have invisible durability and damage stats. The game does mark stronger weapons with red star numbers, but other than that it doesn’t tell you how much damage weapons do. But with no experience or level system, so there is no reason to fight the enemies unless you are in a room where the door won’t unlock until you kill everything or you have to kill them in order to get by. If you do fight the enemies, you’ll find that you will need several weapons in your inventory for each time you go into the dungeon because their durability won’t last long… except for the elf woman’s bow, which is infinite use. Yeah. I like how each weapon type is different, but this kind of thing is annoying. Oh, and while this game does have magic, it’s not very useful — spell scrolls are single use and just set off an environmental attack that hurts enemies around you for a while. Then you lose the scroll. Pretty lame.

This game can be challenging, though, so it may keep you coming back; it is easy to die, either from enemy attacks, poison if you run out of antidoes, or more. If you die, you are returned to town with no penalty other than having to redo everything you just did. Overall, Excave has decent graphics with way too little visual variety. It’s an alright game which can be fun once you manage to get used to its oddities, and it controls fine, but this is a very generic game. It’s playable but below average to poor overall, and in my opinion this is the weakest game in the trilogy. It might be worth a look anyway, but the sequel is the same basic thing but better.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Excave II: Wizard of the UnderworldDeveloped by Mechanic Arms and published by Bergsala Lightweight in 2015. Releasing on 3DS only a few months after its predecessor, this action-adventure game is very similar to but nicely improved over the first game. First, the odd level structure is gone, in favor of a straightforward level select menu in the base with clearly stated mission objectives given at the beginning of each stage. Beating a level unlocks the next one. You won’t need to manage keys and memorize where to use them anymore, which is great. Additionally, this time you get 18 spots of inventory and 50 panes in the storage screen, both great improvements. Amusingly, the inventory screens quite straightforwardly call the two characters Man and Woman. Heh.

The core gameplay is the same, but with more variety all around. Once again Man and Woman are delving into dungeons looking for loot. The basic setup here is the same as before: go into predesigned levels, fight enemies, kills the boss at the end of each stage, and collect somewhat randomized loot along with the key items the boss drops after you kill them. Then, go back to town to sort through your loot and repair weapons before going to a new level. Some weapons can only be used by each character, as before. There are some new weapon types added here, perhaps most notably magic staffs with attack magic in them. They have just as limited-use durability as most weapons in these games do, but they’re quite fun to use. You play on the upper screen with the buttons while managing your inventory with the touch screen below.

On the game structure, again, the single tree-like stage layout of the first game, with keys that unlock warps to new areas, is gone, and I at least am glad about that. Not only do you have more inventory, but you won’t need to clutter a bunch of it up with keys and notes and stuff, either. The larger inventory is quite welcome, it feels like enough for the length of most missions here. The game just tells you your objective at the start of each level and then sends you off. And the incredibly bland environments are improved on, too. The graphics are a bit better here, and there are more area types. It’s not all the same boring dungeon and forest this time! You even get to fight something other than slimes early on, though the first games’ enemies definitely return in numbers. There’s still plenty of challenge.

Overall, this game is okay, with slightly better gameplay than the first one and a bit more variety as well due to added locations and items. It is very much an iterative sequel released right after the first game, but if you play only one of the first two Excave games play this one. It’s certainly nothing special, and I’d probably call it average to slightly below average due to the very bland design and visuals and only decent gameplay, but that is a good step over the first game and I have had some fun with it. This game is decently entertaining if you are an overhead action-adventure game fan, as I am. This is probably worth a try, at least for genre fans. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Excave III: Tower of DestinyDeveloped by Mechanic Arms and published by Teyon in 2016. The third Excave game mixes things up slightly. The core game is similar, it is still a 2.5d overhead action-adventure game, but it is more Mysterious Dungeon-like now. For one, Man and Woman, the heroes of the first two games, have been replaced with one character, a somehwat scantily clad dark elf woman. She can use all weapons, so the character-specific weapon element of the previous games is gone now. Another change is that levels are much more randomized now. Before, loot was somewhat random, but the actual level designs, enemies, bosses, and such were all preset. This time, the game is much more randomized, for a more roguelike style of randomly generated stages based on premade pieces. While it may add replay value in theory, I’d call this worse than predesigned stages, myself; I prefer the more interesting design of a uniquely made level over random generation that may lead to pretty poorly laid out results. And you will get that here, as always in games with randomized layouts; expect exits sometimes being right next to entrances, and such. There is even less setting variety here than before, too, it’s all the same dungeon environment.

The game has two modes. In the main story mode, you take on a series of dungeons. Your level and weapons and everything reset each time you enter a dungeon, roguelike style, so there is no continuing progression, quite unlike the previous games. There is no shop or anything and you lose your items after finishing a dungeon. I don’t mind this much, I don’t care much about loot, but those who do will hate this more roguelike change. This mode isn’t too long. The other mode, the much longer one, is called the Fantasy Tower. This is a near endless dungeon, which you explore to see how far you can get. The Fantasy Tower has online leaderboards, which is cool. There are a lot of overhead action-RPG roguelikes out there, plenty better than this, but still there is a lot to do in this mode if you get into the game.

So, there are a bunch of changes here. The combat and core gameplay, however, are the same as before. So, expect more decent but unspectacular dungeon exploration and combat. Exploring around, killing monsters with your variety of weapons and spells, and collecting stuff is fun enough. I got all three of these games not just to have them, but because despite my criticism there IS fun overhead action-RPG combat to be had in all three of these games. The combat controls well and the challenge level is reasonable. Overall this game is okay, but I personally prefer the more permanent and predesigned nature of Excave II over this more randomized adventure with no permanent equipment. This game is below average and is a bit weaker than the second one. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

FairunePublished by Circle and developed by Flyhigh Works in 2014.  Fairune is an Ys or Zelda-style overhead 2d action-RPG starring a nameless female protagonist. The game has very nice pixel art graphics that are a good draw into the game and classic-inspired gameplay, for good and ill. This game was first released on smartphones, but also got ported to consoles such as the 3DS here. It is a short game that should only take three or four hours if you can find your way forward. The combat here is simpler than Zelda’s, though; you don’t have an attack button but instead just attack things by walking into them, classic Ys game style. This origin is the most likely reason for the very simple combat, but it does work. I mentioned Zelda and Ys, and elements of both are here. You explore a fairly good-sized area here, exploring, fighting enemies, levelling up, finding items, and trying to figure out where in the world you need to go in order to proceed. The game does have a minimap on the lower screen showing the whole current area map, which is fantastic, and it reveals as you explore areas. Still, even if you know where to go, figuring out how to get there can be tricky unless you look up help outside of the game. I got pretty far in this short game, but eventually got stuck and stopped playing.

In general there is more item usage here than the early Ys games, but much more levelling than Zelda. You can’t just grind up levels, though; only certain enemies will level you up, you won’t even be able to damage ones too high level above you and will get no experience from ones too weak. The game is strict about this, you will only gain experience from very specific enemies at any time. So the game is technically an RPG, but you cannot go grind levels at all. I’m fine with that, I don’t like grinding. My issue here is that the game gives you minimal direction about where you should go. If you want a clearly identifiable path forward in your games, as I do, this structure can be very frustrating, because you will frequently have no idea what to do to proceed. I want games which aren’t linear to either give good clues about where to go or have a clearly identifiable path forward. This game has neither of those, so while it is fun for a while, once I can’t figure out the path forward I eventually give up on the game. The game world is not huge, but there are several different maps which you will work your way through, and what you need to do could be in any of them. Basically, Fairune is a good but simple game with nice graphics and very basic combat. Exploring around is fun, but you will need to be looking closely for very well disguised hidden paths and probably will need a walkthrough at times. I should use one and finish this sometime. Also released on iOS, Android, and Playstation Vita. The game was also released in the Fairune Collection, which released on the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and PC (Steam). It contains both of the Fairune games, a very short new prequel chapter, and an unlockable shmup minigame. I don’t have it.

Fairune 2Published by Circle and developed by Skipmore and Flyhigh Works in 2016.  Fairune 2 is very similar to the first game, just with a larger world and more stuff to find. For fans of the first one this is everything you could want — it’s got all the frustrating puzzle solving exploration of the first one, just with more space to explore and a longer quest. The game is apparently about twice as long as the first one. It’s still short at 6 hours onhowlongtobeat.com, but not quite as much so as the first one. I haven’t gotten far at all into this game, but it is clear that it is extremely similar to the first game. The graphics, gameplay, design, all are the same as its predecessor, just with new areas and items and such. They also added ten ingame achievements, for those who care about such things; I don’t. So, it’s a definitely good game that is not entirely for me due to its nonlinear exploratory nature. When I can figure out what to do these gamse are pretty fun, but I do NOT like the ‘now figure out what to do, wander around and try stuff on things’ element of these games, or the classic titles which inspired them. I know that’s just me, but it holds me back from finishing them or unreservedly recommending them. The ingame maps help, but not enough to get me through. This game was initially a 3DS exclusive, though it was later released on other platforms in the Fairune Collection for the Switch, Playstation 4, and PC (Steam), which, again, includes both games and some little bonus modes.

Fire Emblem Awakening – DLCPublished by Nintendo in 2013.   I’m not reviewing Fire Emblem Awakening here; it is a fantastic strategy-RPG and one of the best games on the 3DS, but it is a cart release. This is here as a reminder that the game has a whole bunch of downloadable content, including a bunch of additional levels to try and some new outfits for some characters. All of this content will become entirely unavailable once the servers are shut down so buy it while you can, there are some pretty cool maps in there. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Fire Emblem Fates – DLC & Campaigns Published by Nintendo in 2016.  I’m not going to write a full review of Fire Emblem Fates here. It’s a great strategy-RPG which I didn’t quite finish but did play a lot of and got deep in to the Birthright campaign of. This is, instead, here to remind people that this game has three campaigns, and you must buy some of them as DLC. You can either buy Birthright or Conquest on their own carts, but to play the other campaign you can’t just buy the other cart, but instead in order for them to link up correctly in-game you need to buy the other campaign as DLC. The third campaign is DLC exclusive* and must be purchased. The asterisk notes that there actually is a very rare release of the game, Fire Emblem Fates: Special Edition, which includes all three campaigns on one cart. This was a limited-edition low print run release, and its price is sure to go up even more once the ability to legally purchase and play the rest of the game is denied people who own either of the regular versions, Birthright or Conquest. Regardless, for that and also for the DLC levels, which just like its predecessor this game has plenty of, buy the DLC for this game while you can. It’s not quite as great as Awakening since its entire game design is basically copied out of that title just with new levels and characters and such, but it’s still a fantastic strategy game and one of the best post-GBA Fire Emblem titles. (Yes, GBA Fire Emblem will probably always be my favorite. It’s not close. Still, these are great.) Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Fun! Fun! Minigolf Touch! Developed and published by Shin’en in 2012. This game is a sequel to a WiiWare game called Fun! Fun! Minigolf, which I did not buy so I haven’t played. Shin’en is a developer who makes games with great tech and usually good gameplay. Some of their games are great all around, such as Fast Racing Neo or the Nanostray games, but others are games which look good but have some gameplay issues. This game, unfortunately, is one of the latter type. This stereoscopic 3d minigolf game has three environments each with three nine-hole courses for its main mode, and three three-hole challenge trick shot stages as a bonus mode. You start with one of the courses, and buy the rest of the stuff in an ingame shop with money you make from playing. There are only two minigolfers here really, a man and a woman. You can change their clothing colors and patterns, for shirt and pants for the man and shirt and skirt for the woman, but there are no alternate clothing options. It’s fine, but with how many courses there are to buy I was expecting some clothing options in the store too, but no. You can play as any Mii on your 3DS, though. This is pretty cool, but it just maps your Mii’s facial data and skin color onto the game’s character of that gender. It’s still a neat feature though. The ingame graphics are pretty good, with nicely rendered, varied holes and fun environments.

As for the gameplay, you can play entirely with the touchscreen, but can use the stick and buttons as well. You rotate left and right either with the stick or by rotating a ring on the lower screen. Using R you can change views to try to line up your shot, though you only have two views, behind the starting point or a side view of the hole from one side. Then you tap or hit A to select that angle. Pull back the club to choose how hard to hit the ball, and ‘will you hit the ball dead on’ marker appears. Tap or hit A when it’s at the strength you want to hit the ball at. It’s a simple control scheme which mostly works once you get used to it, though turning left or right to aim your shot is fiddlier than I’d like. Aiming where you want is harder than I think it should be, particularly for a game which does have stereoscopic 3d! Despite the additional depth of view, I still find myself frequently hitting the ball into obstacles, and I don’t feel like the physics always act like I feel like they should; sometimes the ball hits an obstacle and just… stops dead, even though there should be some momentum.

And then we get to what I’d call the worst thing about this game: when your shot doesn’t go where you wanted, that is onto the green or into the hole, you can’t just keep playing from the spot you shot to. Oh no. Instead, the game says ‘Out of Bounds’ and makes you shoot again from the starting point on the tee until you get the ball all the way to the green on a single shot. A border line marks the border of the “green”, and you must get the ball in that area or you just wasted your shot. This utterly bizarre design decision pretty much ruins the game, because while all holes in this game are designed to be able to reach the green in one shot, this is NOT how minigolf plays, not in the slightest!

Overall, Fun! Fun! Minigolf is not fun, the “you must get to the green in one shot” design concept is awful. It looks very nice, as expected from Shin’en, and plays fine, and can be fun when you’re playing well, but overall this game is not recommended at all. If you’re going to make a minigolf game, have it play like minigolf and not the awful target-shooting design they went for here. I like minigolf, but not this. Don’t bother.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Rankings

These are the best games this update. Get them.

Digger Dan DX (3DS exclusive remake of a DSiWare game)
EDGE

These are also good games. Try these if you like the genres.

Defend Your Crypt
Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure (3DS exclusive)
Dedede’s Drum Dash Deluxe (3DS exclusive)
Fairune
Fairune 2

These are decent mid-tier titles worth a look if you like the genres.

Dangerous Road (3DS exclusive)
Drancia Saga
escapeVektor
Excave (3DS exclusive)
Excave II: Wizard of the Underworld (3DS exclusive)
Excave III: Tower of Destiny (3DS exclusive)
Drone Fight

Not very good, but maybe worth a look anyway…

Dillon’s Rolling Western (3DS exclusive)
Dillon’s Rolling Western: The Last Ranger (3DS exclusive)
Demon King Box (3DS exclusive)
European Conqueror 3D (3DS exclusive)

And last and definitely least…

Fun! Fun! Minigolf TOUCH! (3DS exclusive)

 

About Brian

Computer and video game lover
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