10 Outstanding Nintendo 3DS Games Released in 2012
The 3DS may have been released in 2011, but it didn't become a success until this past year. Nintendo's latest handheld has rebounded from last year's sluggish start with an improved model in the 3DS XL, useful new features like the Circle Pad Pro, downloadable content for top titles, and best of all, a bunch of great new games. Here are some of the best 3DS games of 2012, the kind that surely helped push the system's sales past the 20 million mark.
10. Tales of the Abyss
Namco Bandai has had a very poor track record when it comes to bringing its Tales RPGs to territories outside of Japan. Thankfully, they not only brought Tales of the Abyss to American PS2s, but they recently re-released for the 3DS. That's a great thing, because Tales of the Abyss is one of the greatest stories gaming has ever seen.
The game casts players as Luke fon Fabre, a prince prophesized as the chosen one and kept confined to the family manor for his entire life. As a result, Luke is completely spoiled and childish —at least until he's pulled out of his home and sees the world. The game is full of complex and entertaining characters, and it offers an expansive world that draws heavily on Kabbalah culture. The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who's played RPGs, but it uses an interesting mix of the turn-based and action RPG genres, with a wide array of skills for each member of your party to learn. If you haven't played Tales of the Abyss, you can't call yourself a fan of Japanese RPGs until you have.
9. Liberation Maiden
The prosperity gap between Western and Eastern game developers has increased in the last few years, with Japan getting the short end of the financial stick. Many Japanese developers have responded by trying to appeal to Western tastes. Liberation Maiden, on the other hand, is as gloriously rooted in anime culture as possible.
The game casts you as Shoko, high school student turned president of Japan / pilot of a giant mecha fighting the unearthly destruction of the planet. But, though the setting may be culturally specific, the gameplay is not. Liberation Maiden is a fast-paced 3D shooter that floods the screen with enemies. The fact that your defense modules double as your weapons adds a subtle yet pervasive element of strategy, forcing you to use your attacks wisely. The game isn't long, but it's a glorious J-Pop-blaring ride throughout, and well worth the eShop price.
8. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
In terms of its story, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance represents a new low for the Disney / Final Fantasy crossover franchise.
The game takes the already labyrinthine story to new levels of stupid contrivance, connecting everything to a bizarre master plan that involves time travel, body stealing, mind manipulation, artificial intelligence, and plenty of other things that go beyond suspension of disbelief. Players unfamiliar with Kingdom Hearts will have no idea what the hell's going on, and even veterans of the series will find this an unbearably complex way to get to what's essentially a very simple story about the power of friendship. Thankfully, the game itself is the best Kingdom Hearts yet.
The controls allow complete 3D movement, with a “Flowmotion” system that allows players to grind and bounce off of everything in the environment. The worlds are beautifully rendered and draw upon both Disney and Square's rich histories, with levels based on Tron: Legacy, Fantasia, The World Ends With You, and other wonderful settings. Even the “Dream Eaters” that accompany the player go beyond mere Pokemon copies, offering a deep and compelling level of character customization. As long as you don't care about the spider web of plotholes that passes for a story, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is a superb Action RPG.
7. Cave Story Plus
Every gamer should play Cave Story at least once in their life, and Cave Story Plus is the quintessential version of the indie star. The 3DS has already seen two versions, in the bare-bones DSiWare port and the retail-exclusive Cave Story 3D, but Cave Story Plus is the best version in terms of price and content.
For $10 USD, the download includes the full original game, an inventive tribute to 8-bit exploration games like Metroid with a surprisingly dark story about genocide against cute fuzzy animals. It also includes optimized graphics, added difficulty modes, and several new challenges upon completion of the main game. If you love 8-bit games even a fraction as much as Daisuke "Pixel" Ayama, who single-handedly created the original Cave Story, you owe it to yourself to buy Cave Story Plus.
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Neil Kapit is a freelance writer, cartoonist, and "La Li Lu Le Lo" agent based in Los Angeles. His work can be seen on www.therubynation.com.
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