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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review: eShop Coverage Part 1

It's a whole lot of eShop. Some good, some bad.
Hey everyone! It's been a while. I've been busy working on some projects and putting together some new content for the website, but I've also been playing a WHOLE LOT of games across a number of systems. I wanted to post some impressions and reviews for a number of games on the 3DS eShop, because I enjoy doing that.

Witch and Hero-
Pros: Simplistic controls, hectic premise, and a substantial amount of content
Cons: Gated abilities and a lack of depth and variety, very ugly

When I first picked up Witch and Hero, I was quite critical of it in a previous article discussing my first impressions. To me, there is a difference between simplistic art design and sloppy design. Witch and Hero has plenty of retro-styled art assets but stretches them, ultimately looking extremely disproportionate and unappealing. I can excuse its simplicity in design and content because of its pricing, but I firmly believe that a game should have a passable art style that remains consistent, which Witch and Hero does not.

The concept is sound- it is more or less a tower defense game with the player avatar acting as the defense. Collecting health, money, and monster blood can benefit you by keeping you alive and allowing you to purchase upgrades and defend your Witch with her powers, respectively. The game unfortunately doesn't get much deeper than that, and ultimately becomes a dull grind where the player attempts to level up, purchase equipment, and prepare themselves for the next wall of enemies that can only be surpassed this way. The final boss features the only gameplay that differentiates from the rest of the game, and while its "gimmick" is very clever, it is much more thoughtful than the rest of the game and almost comes out of the blue.

The Verdict: Lacking in depth and presentation, Witch and Hero relies on shaky gameplay mechanics to make its playtime worthwhile, but they feel too simple and rely too heavily on grinding to feel satisfying. I cannot recommend this game, even at its low price point.

Demon King Box-
Pros: Long playtime and a wide variety of customization
Cons: Terrible localization, disappointing gameplay

Demon King Box is a strategy RPG in which the player must send waves of their own units to either route an opposing Demon or kill a certain number of its forces. While this sounds simple in concept, its depth comes from a wide variety in units and heroes, who each specialize in certain functions. Units are viable no matter what hero you select, but certain heroes give special buffs to specific unit types and specialize in gameplay styles.

For a player who enjoys this sort of genre, it means there's plenty of options to mess around with. There are only two problems with this: most of the game is spent staring at the touch screen, which presents a bland map of the playing field, while all of the action occurs on the top screen. During most matches, no matter the hero, you will be frantically selecting units to summon on at certain points and not really paying attention to the animations on the top screen, which overall makes for a boring experience.

This would be forgivable if the story in between the battles was engaging or colorful, and while the characters have very interesting designs, the localization is absolutely awful, butchering common phrases and making the plot nearly indistinguishable. In the end, I spent a good chunk of time getting through the story with one character (it's not hard to blow through the game maxing out the stats of only one of them), and there is plenty more to unlock after the main game is finished, but it makes little sense to do any of it if the experience overall isn't engaging.

 The Verdict: While there's plenty to do in Demon King Box, the main game is easily completed by focusing on a specific hero and each unit with synergy. Atop that, it's atrocious localization and gameplay focus make it hard to enjoy on any other level than being a generic touchscreen-based line-defense game, and one that I cannot recommend.

Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move-
Pros: Simplistic controls, addictive gameplay, and a wealth of modes
Cons: Score rating is strange, lack of difficulty curve

On the Nintendo side of the eShop, I finally decided to download Mario and Donkey Kong because of my exemplary survey taking on Club Nintendo. Minis on the Move does things a little bit differently from a normal Mario and Donkey Kong title, this time challenging players to craft paths to lead Minis from one section of a map to another by dropping down semi-randomized tiles. The faster you complete the puzzle, the more points you'll get, but you can also create specific shapes using tiles to benefit you in a number of ways.

For a fifteen dollar eShop title, Minis on the Move comes packed with three different main modes with tons of challenges each, as well as minigames that are well-rounded concepts. Overall, the entire experience feels very complete, but it's not without its flaws. The difficulty is pretty low, and the "puzzle" aspect of the game is not its strong suit. I rarely was left scratching my head on what pieces to use in sequence, and the game becomes more of a time attack once you discover the best possible routes, and that's where most of my frustration came from- fighting the timer, not the puzzle pieces.

Ultimately, I played through the majority of the main mode of Minis on the Move and I wasn't sure if it was trying to be a puzzle game or a arcade experience. The faster you complete the map, the more time you'll get- but you are constantly fed a semi-randomized set of puzzle pieces that only varies because if it didn't, a set answer to the puzzle would defeat the purpose of score chasing. However, the pieces-per-map are set- you will always get certain pieces within the first 5-10 seconds of starting a puzzle- so the game is not challenging the player's reaction time so much as restricting it. I find this to be very counter-intuitive as a game with score chasing in mind, but then again, there is a huge number of courses, so a randomized approach would allow anyone with a random chance of getting the right pieces the ability to perform better. Each course acts as its own separate high score game, but it's probable that the best possible time has already been achieved because it's not randomized enough.

But man, is it addictive.

The Verdict: Though its on the high end of the eShop price range, Minis on the Move features enough content to feel like a full-fledged release. However, its lack of difficulty makes it more of "just something to do" instead of a real challenge, though there's a few moments that will test you here and there. I recommend this game for a puzzle fan!

Rusty's Real Deal Baseball-
Pros: Engaging presentation and premise, great writing
Cons: Minigames are too simplistic, illusion of choice

Well, this is a strange one. With Nintendo experimenting in the eShop, they decided it was time to create not one, but two free-to-play games: Steel Diver: Sub Wars and Rusty's Real Deal Baseball. The former is a more predictable F2P experience, with a whole pack of content locked out until purchase (the free version, while competitively viable, feels like more of an infinite demo), but Rusty's Real Deal Baseball is just... weird.

Not weird in a bad way. You play as your Mii and help out poor Rusty as he tries to solve his financial issues by giving you one of his children and haggling for minigames to play on your 4DS. Yeah, the premise is odd, but the fact that the main narrative of the game revolves around you buying more minigames with actual money to progress in the plot is even stranger. It is definitely a Nintendo idea, and not one I think they could get away with ever again- pretty much because the illusion of choice only extends so far with a game like Rusty's Real Deal. Even though you can pay for minigames at a much higher price, you can only haggle so low, and will eventually have to spend a certain amount of money on them in order to either A) complete the visual novel portion of the game detailing Rusty's woes or B) own all the minigames. The way the game is designed to make the player feel good about getting lower prices is certainly interesting, and I would be lying if I didn't feel enraptured myself at one point. But a step back from the game reveals its nature and, even if it's a free download, it lacks in content without investing money.

It also feels pretty cheap even if you do invest money. Most of the minigames, while addictive, are just the right amount of frustrating to make you want to bash your head against the wall. Some challenges are simply stamina tests, and for someone who literally can't play in 3D anymore, I found it extremely hard to discern where the location of the ball, which lead me to fail numerous times. It also makes me think that this is a game that is made for the 3DS and no other system, because I can't imagine trying to best some of the later minigame challenges without 3D.

While I haven't purchased all of Rusty's minigames, I can say with confidence that they are quite varied and come together to make a very satisfying game- which is funny, because the less of them you have, the less the game feels complete, which coerces you to do exactly what Rusty, and Nintendo, want you to do- buy more.

The Verdict: A bizarre free-to-play concept that tries to (politely) rob you at every turn, it's tough to say if there will ever be another game like Rusty's Real Deal Baseball. That might be worth the price of admission alone, but if you're a baseball fan (and have working 3D), you should give this one a try. Why not, right? It is free... at first.

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I also just wanted to say that I don't know how many people read this blog, and that it just recently passed the 22,000 pageview mark, which is a personal accomplishment for me. I enjoy sharing my impressions of video games because I want to give people a look at titles before they purchase them. I don't consider myself to be a journalist, but I do enjoy commenting on updates in the video game world. I write these articles because I enjoy commenting on video games and I enjoy sharing it with you. So thank you!

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