"Rolling Down the Same Trail"
While last year's Dillon's Rolling Western didn't reach the height of popularity shared by other early eShop exclusives like Pushmo and Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword, it still stood on its own as a fine game that offered a unique spin on the tower defense genre. Not to mention, it introduced an awesome new Nintendo star in the form of the armadillo ranger, Dillon (seriously, I want him in the next Super Smash Bros.). Such a character was never meant to star in just one game, and now Dillon has returned for a brand new sequel, Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger.
Well, to call it a sequel and leave it at that might be a bit misleading. Very early on, the greatest shortcoming of The Last Ranger becomes clear: it lacks innovation. Those who played the first DRW may be surprised to find that the sequel doesn't come with much in the way of new. From the tower-defense/action gameplay to the western tunes to the visuals, the game can feel more like an expansion than a proper sequel, which might be off-putting to those expecting more from Dillon's second outing.
At the very least, that means the same strong gameplay from before is back in action. Once more, it's up to players to take on the role of Dillon to protect Old West frontier villages (and, most importantly, their herds of livestock) from the nightly invasions of menacing rock-beasts called Grocks. By spending each day beforehand collecting resources outside the village, selling items for some cash, and using that sparse amount of money to set up armed towers, they can build their defenses and increase their chances of success when night falls.
That's when the tower-defense / action hybrid gameplay really kicks into gear. As the Grocks start heading for the village, players have to navigate each level to eliminate them quickly. This often requires players to face the Grocks head-on, using Dillon's array of touch-based roll and claw attacks to dispatch enemies, while leaving the towers and village gates to try to deal with stragglers. This “on the field” approach allows players to get more involved in the action than in most TD games and provides many a nerve-racking moment as they seek to wipe the Grocks off the map.
Even though, as I said before, DRW: The Last Ranger lacks innovation, it does include some new stuff. The main levels now come with trains that make their way through each level, but these don't provide much more than moving targets to protect along with villages. It is the new rangers that join up with Dillon that make up the bulk of the game's new features. In presentation, these characters, which include a sharpshooting lizard and a sniper squid, shine with personality and are cool enough to easily stand alongside Dillon (and in case you need reassurance of this, let me repeat it slowly…sniper squid).
In gameplay, these hired guns can be made to help with collecting resources during the day, and with assisting Dillon against the Grocks at night. They can even be ordered to guard certain spots, and are rather good at holding their own against enemies, allowing Dillon to tackle other Grocks and cover more ground in battle. Occasionally, though, the A.I. in the rangers will take a drop, causing them to take their time in getting to a certain spot and letting Grocks get away in the process.
The Last Ranger can also be bogged by some of the shortcomings of the original DRW, the most jarring of which is the inability to tell how much time is left before the Grock invasions begins. Without a timer or some visual cue, it's possible to be caught off guard and left without enough time to properly prepare defenses. Some issues can also be found in the action sequences, such as the touch-controls for Dillon's attacks being quirky and somewhat tough to grasp at first, as well as poor camera angles that provide plenty of blind spots for enemies to hide in (actually a sound strategy if you think about it in a metaphysical sense).
If you're expecting Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger to revolutionize or build upon the concepts introduced in the original game, you'll be gravely disappointed. There are a few new bits and pieces, but the experience isn't too much different than its predecessor. Though that is the case, it means that the solid mix of action and tower-defense is as solid as ever. In short, if you've never played the original DRW or don't mind more of the same rolling and fighting, you'll have plenty to enjoy here.
If not… well, here's hoping Nintendo innovates more next time, if only to keep Dillon relevant enough to add him to the roster of the next Smash Bros. I really want to be able to roll right through Kirby.
GameDynamo's Score for Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger (3DS)
A writer, journalist, and aspiring storyteller, Peter Grimm has been gaming since the days of the Nintendo 64, and reporting on the goings-on in the World of Gaming since late 2011. His base of writing operations is located within the void between Here and There, or so he would have you think.
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