We’re slowly coming up to the announcement of the Nintendo NX, and if all rumors prove to be true, your Nintendo 3DS might be in its last year of being your premiere handheld console. Sure, you’ve played all the biggest hits from Super Mario 3D Land to Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Pokémon X and Y, but there’s never been a better chance to squeeze in some of those games you haven’t played yet.
Here are a few of my favorites that have slipped under radars over the last five years.
The Legend of Legacy
About halfway through the Nintendo 3DS’ lifespan, a little game called Bravely Default showed the JRPG world that the genre not only had an audience on the handheld, but it also had a starving one at that. Bravely Default selling a million copies quickly inspired a whole new wave of classically stylized 3DS games to capitalize on its success.
One of these games was The Legend of Legacy, which might look like Bravely Default’s under-budgeted little brother but packs all of its heart in different places. If Bravely Default was inspired by the likes of Final Fantasy, then The Legend of Legacy takes all of its cues from the classic SaGa series, a franchise that has always flipped JRPG mechanics on their heads. This is likely because many of the original SaGa developers worked on the title.
Gone is a single linear plot dragging characters from event to event. The Legend of Legacy tasks players with finding goals and story on their own. Gone is the traditional leveling up system found in every other JRPG franchise. The Legend of Legacy progresses characters through a new system determined by repetitive use of move-sets and incrementally increasing statistics.
Its dungeons and objectives admittedly get a little repetitive, but The Legend of Legacy houses a beautiful world to explore, excellent music, and a lot of interesting techniques and abilities to bring into combat. Those looking for the best offbeat JRPG of the generation need look no further. Check out our review for more details.
And the news even gets better now that developer FuRyu has just announced a brand new game, its first since creating this little gem.
Yoshi’s New Island
I supposed I should come clean as to why I might be the only one who speaks positively about this game. I never played Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island back in the Super Nintendo days because JRPGs had taken over my life by that point. Only when it came to the Game Boy Advance did I really get to explore the classic masterpiece, and even then, I was extremely late to the party and don’t have the same fond remembrance as everyone else.
When Yoshi’s New Island came to the Nintendo 3DS, it was like an all new experience for me. Familiar through my casual experiences with the Super Nintendo original, but entirely new as I dug through the levels. And even to this day, despite many hating it upon release and ultimately forgetting about it, it’s the platformer I go back to the most on the 3DS aside from Super Mario 3D Land.
The graphics, while not as groundbreaking as Yoshi’s Island, are soft and welcoming, and the gameplay is more of a re-establishment of why the first game was good rather than a whole new revolution. However, the music deserves the most of the credit as to why I love this game so much. I love song remixes, and any game that can use the same musical bit in over two dozen different ways always gets my vote.
In that regard, Yoshi’s New Island has one of my all-time favorite soundtracks.
Crimson Shroud/Attack of the Friday Monsters
Level 5 put out an interesting little initiative during the early days of the Nintendo 3DS called the Guild series, giving veteran developers funding to create mini-games that tapped into their design theories. Some turned out decent, most were forgettable, but years from now, we’ll look back on these two as the most impressive of the bunch.
The first is Crimson Shroud, and for such a short JRPG, I certainly have a lot of say about it. Its review is still the longest I’ve ever written for TechnoBuffalo, so I’ll kindly point you in that direction if you want to be filled in more on why you should play this game. For now, I’ll just say that for a game that takes four hours to beat, it’ll keep you coming back time and time again. This is the magic of director Yasumi Matsuno’s ideas You can’t expect less from the man who madeFinal Fantasy Tactics.
Level 5’s other gem is a simple adventure game called Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale. It’s hard to qualify this as a game really since the only real interactions with the world are talking to other characters and playing a simple card game that the local children play. However, the magic comes from the suburban Japanese setting and all the adventures that it promises a young boy with a huge imagination.
Rolling green hills, blue skies, enormous fluffy clouds, local businesses, friendly faces, and yes… giant monsters and alien princesses!
It’ll take you just two hours to beat, but those two hours will remain precious to you until the next time you dive in again.
Code of Princess
It might look like a standard action game on the surface, but Code of Princess provides so much more. RPG-leveling, three planes of combat, and mechanics that run more closely to classic fighting games like Street Fighter. The game might have trouble maintaining a tolerable framerate, but after a bit of getting used to it, you’ll be able to work the lumbering character motion into your combat approach.
The real allure here are the countless characters you be able to control by the game’s end. Code of Princess makes every single one of its monsters and characters playable by the game’s conclusion, meaning you’ll never run out of ways to play this game.
Code of Princess’ biggest claim to fame is that it is very similar to the SEGA Saturn classic Guardian Heroes, probably because it shares a few names in the credits.
Kokuga gets a special mention because it comes from one of the true masters of the SHMUP genre, a man by the name of Hiroshi Iuchi. It doesn’t come close to his usual standards, but when you are competing against the likes of legendary titles like Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun, and Gradius V, then you really don’t stand a chance.
On its own, Kokuga provides a unique SHMUP experience that’s very different from the fast-paced, intense games Iuchi is known for. It’s a relatively slow and plodding game which follows a tank through an open stage, doing away with the self-scrolling design of its predecessors. Levels are also mission based, and they allow players to find different ways to blast through them. Again, it’s a very different approach from the “always forward” games he’s known for.
If you need a shooting fix from one of the genre’s best designers, Kokuga provides a nice, handheld version that does enough to stand on its own.
Nothing much to say here, but this is a sweet little title if you love any game that can take you to another time and place. Fairune perfectly captures the feel of 8-bit The Legend of Zelda and Dragon Quest games in a nice, compact gaming world. The adventure feels more like a puzzle than a full blown adventure, and you’ll run rampant through monsters working through all of the secrets that it has to offer.
If you like what you see, you can pick it up before the sequel launches later this month!
SEGA did a splendid job revamping its classic ninja series for the Nintendo 3DS. Shinobi drips with the company’s best classic arcade action, and fans of the SEGA Genesis originals will feel right at home with its brutal difficulty curve. The biggest problem with Shinobi though is that it is not available digitally! What gives, SEGA?
And sorry, SEGA fans. I haven’t played Rhythm Thief just yet, and I know that’s a popular, underrated gem. Maybe I’ll get around to it one day and any others you mention in the comments section below.