With the year’s end once again drawing upon us the time has come to put our feet up, lie back in a comfy position and take stock of the year now nearly at its end. I have found myself saying this every year since 2011 (and never without truth) but I feel the 3DS really outdid itself this year. 2014 brought us so many special titles, too many for me to mention here (although please feel free to elaborate on your top titles of the year in the comments section as I’d love to hear!)
That said I can confess there has been 5 titles that have stood out amongst the rest in my eyes. So please relax, take a load off and allow me to share with you my top 5 3DS titles of 2014.
1) Smash Bros 4
Release date : October 3rd
Developer : Sora Ltd, Bandai Namco Games
Publisher : Nintendo
Official website : http://www.smashbros.com/en-uk/
3DSBlessed Review : None
The Smash Bros franchise first appeared on the Nintendo 64 in 1999. The way it skilfully brought together the biggest Nintendo icons of its day (a feat it has worked to maintain ever since) and combined this with its frantic, easy-to-pick-up-yet-difficult-to-master gameplay (an unusual feat in a fighting game, especially in the 1990s!) ensured it to be the birth of one of one of Nintendo’s most loved franchises.
However, up until October this year (15 years later) Smash Bros has been the sole preserve of the Nintendo home consoles. That it eventually made its way to the blessed 3DS is a cause of much celebration for Smash Bros fans and handheld fans alike! On a personal note I have owned every Smash Bros title to date (I suppose you could say I’m a fangirl). And spent ample time on each, despite never being much of a fan of playing on home consoles. But no previous Smash Bros game has seen me invest as many hours as I have in Smash Bros 3DS to date, and this has everything to do with me being more of a handheld fan. It’s also convenient that myself and my friends can whip out our 3DSes anytime and have a match without having to deal with the dreaded spaghetti junction that is the preserve of home consoles (especially in the modern day where people tend to have several).
Easily one of the best handheld multiplayer titles ever, with a corking single player mode to boot. Your 3DS library needs this game.
2) Retro City Rampage
Release date : February 6th
Developer : Vblank Entertainment
Publisher : Vblank Entertainment
Official website : http://www.retrocityrampage.com/
3DSBlessed Review : http://3dsblessed.com/?p=1659
Ah, Retro City Rampage, the first (and only) title I have, personally, scored 10/10 on 3DSBlessed to date. This game’s original name was ‘Grand Theftendo’ and that should give those of you yet to play this an idea of what kind of game it is. To clarify ; it’s a Grand Theft Auto-inspired sandbox game squished into an 8bit (well, NES) style experience.
Like any good GTA title this game is teeming with mini games. This includes 12 time attack based games, 14 slaughter sprees and 23 second-rate sprees. In ADDITION to these (which, while demonstrating much deviation and creativity among them, all take place within the Retro City Rampage universe) are a trio of special mini games designed to be played by the protagonist when he enters the game’s video arcade. Those of you who’ve played Shenmué will understand. Although developed by Vblank Entertainment (like the rest) these games take place in other gaming universes, 2 of which pay deep homage to other prestigious indie franchises (these being Meat Boy and Bit.Trip). These 2 titles could rightly serve as eShop titles in their own steed, as could a surprisingly high amount of games from the first 3 categories mentioned (if they only had more levels).
It is in these mini games that Retro City Rampage’s true legacy is realised. Completing the story mode is all well and good, and a genuinely hilarious experience (you can read more about why in my full review of the title). But, for most gamers (myself included) once Story Mode’s over it’s over. It is these wonderful mini games that have kept me coming back to this title again and again, and will continue to do so. If I find myself at home and feeling antsy on a Saturday night there’s no better fix than a quick bash at improving my score in the grim reaper simulating ‘A Slice of Scythe’. Or, better yet, in the fiendishly hard ‘Smut Peddler’. And for when I really need a new challenge I can chase after the wealth of achievements and unlocks I have still yet to accomplish despite my ample time already spent in ‘Theftropolis City’.
Hilarious dialogue? Check. Ample pop culture references? Check. Range of gameplay styles? Check. Longevity? Check. Bang for your buck? Dink Ding Ding!
3) Fantasy Life
Release date : September 26th
Developer : Level-5, Brownie Brown, h.a.n.d.
Publisher : Nintendo
Official website : http://fantasylife.nintendo.com/
3DSBlessed Review : None
I’ll begin by saying that Fantasy Life’s not perfect. It’s grindy, forces you to backtrack and, worst of all, the story’s pretty lame. But despite these facts Fantasy Life is one of my favourite handheld RPGs ever!
As I mentioned in my EGX preview Fantasy Life ties together elements from some of history’s best RPGs to create a package that is wholly charming. Bored of the Tailor career you adopted at the start? Drop it and take on another. When the new one becomes tedious, rinse and repeat. No progress is ever lost. With 12 career paths to master there will virtually always be something entertaining you can be getting on with.
This game is often compared with Animal Crossing : New Leaf because of it’s customisation capabilities, and it is only now I’m 30+ hours in that I’m beginning to appreciate how true this is. You can acquire up to 3 homes, one in each main town, and these can be decorated using any combination of furniture found while travelling the game’s various lands (or that you make yourself if you pursue the carpenter career). The game also allows you to name your mount (although, I believe, restricts the species to horse) and you’re welcome to keep up to 3 small pets of various species. All of which you’re welcome to take out battling with you!
Present all this with fluid Ni No Kuni-esque graphics, and to a soundtrack partly composed by the legendary Nobuo Uematsu himself and you have something quite special. And that’s before I even touch on its multiplayer aspects (which have been compared to a mini Monster Hunter by ex-MHCUK organiser Angela Aquilina). Fantasy Life gives me déjà vu of Final Fantasy during its PSOne days (aka it’s peak). Like those adventures it is utterly spell-binding. A flawed Masterpiece, but a Masterpiece nevertheless.
4) Zombie Panic in Wonderland
Pink skies, pastel colours, kawaii animé characters. These are not things you’d expect from a hands-as-nails on-the-rails shooter. Yet they are, amazingly, what you’ll encounter in this one!
Originally a WiiWare title ; Zombie Panic in Wonderland has been enhanced and remastered for release on a number of mobile platforms this year. Including, luckily for us, the 3DS!
Bestowed with unlimited ammo (awesomely) ; you aim your machine gun using the touchscreen and move your character about using the button controls. The action on screen is hectic at all times and you will certainly need to keep your wits about you. But that’s part of the fun. Besides, you could hardly expect an army of zombies you’re massacring at speeds to simply go down without a fight now could you?
Charming, thrilling and wholly invigorating. The fact this arcade-worthy gem is available for the senselessly low price of £4.50 is just the icing on the cake. There’s pretty much no excuse not to nab this, so what are you waiting for?
5) Theatrhythm : Curtain Call
Release date : September 19th
Developer : indieszero
Publisher : Square Enix
Official website : http://www.theatrhythm.com/
3DSBlessed Review : None
Although I attempted to keep an open mind when I played Theatrhythm : Curtain Call at EGX I must admit I was still typical of original adoptees of the franchise in that I regarded it as merely the original with bells on. This changed drastically when Cyburn bought me the latest incarnation for my birthday. Only though owning it and having access to (and investing time in) the full version can I appreciate just how different it is from Theatrhythm v.1.
Aside from the much inflated music library (220 songs, considerably up on the original’s roster of 77, with 52 available for DLC) the gameplay emphasis has drastically shifted. There is now much more incentive to explore the Versus and Quest modes (taking the form of EXP multipliers, ProfiCard reports and the return of coloured shards, amongst other things). These modes are also massively developed over the original, meaning us Theatrhythm vets will still have heaps to see and do!
Even the way characters are recruited has now been reformed. And the new button controls allows for a greater degree of accuracy than the stylus method ever could (disregard my points to this end from my preview, because the button method has been ironed-out for the final version).
Curtain Call is, by far, the best version of what was already one of the 3DS’ finest games. Please don’t be put off getting it if, like me, you played the original to death. Because you still have masses of Nobuo Uetmatsu goodness to explore!