In general, 2013 has been an utterly fantastic year for the Nintendo 3DS: hardware sales continue to impress, and new releases such as Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and Fire Emblem: Awakening have provided some top-notch experiences for 3DS owners to enjoy.
Looking ahead, it’s unlikely any of that will change, as new installments of both Legend of Zelda and Pokemon are set to arrive by the end of the year. Alongside a handful of ambitious third-party games, both the hype and sales for the Nintendo 3DS are likely to rise to levels we haven’t seen since the handheld launched in 2011.
To be honest, I have been increasingly overwhelmed by all the great games released over the past few months. My back-log of unfinished 3DS games has been quickly piling up all year: I’m struggling to finish all of the secret levels in DKCR 3D, I’m having trouble working through the final mansion in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, and my town in Animal Crossing: New Leaf has gone to hell from being neglected for weeks. I recently downloaded the brilliant SteamWorld Dig, which has been my go-to choice for a quick and mindless experience…but it has been entertaining enough to become more of a time-sink than I had really expected. At least there’s the relief that my Facebook news feed no longer features a dozen new screenshots of my Animal Crossing house on a daily basis.
It has been a good year, no doubt, but there is one genre in particular that has stood out and seems to be the culprit for my ever-increasing stack of unfinished titles. Rather than the usual selection of console shooters and eShop downloads, it’s all the damn role-playing games released in 2013 that have been consuming virtually all of my free time.
Fire Emblem: Awakening. Shin Megami Tensei IV. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Those three games are certainly top-grade exclusives to the 3DS, and all of them were released in 2013. Personally speaking, I have invested more than 55 hours between them all, yet they all remain incomplete.
I have been slogging through Shin Megami Tensei IV at a snail’s pace, befuddled by the confusing sense of progression yet unfazed and thoroughly enjoying every minute of the wandering-and-XP-grinding process. Even after a dozen hours, I feel like I have hardly cracked the surface of Fire Emblem: Awakening, and I honestly would not remember what was happening in the game if I were to turn it on right now. The recent release of Mario & Luigi: Dream Team has not helped the matter, and the shiny new game has further distracted me from getting through all of the aforementioned titles.
I am not really complaining; although the lack of completion and progress is usually discouraging, I can’t remember the last time I was so compelled by RPGs. While some console-focused gamers are convinced that the genre is slowly fading and losing its essence, 3DS owners are enjoying a lot of great games – enough so that many of 2013′s highest-profile releases on the platform are RPGs.
The role-playing games of 2013 found on the Nintendo 3DS are ambitious, inventive, accessible, portable-friendly…and there’s a lot to say about that, really. The fact that the handheld has become such a great platform for RPGs is encouraging and refreshing; Nintendo was backed up with three Square-Enix games in 2012 (Heroes of Ruin, Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance) and continues to see a lot of support from Atlus (Code of Princess, Etrian Odyssey IV, various Shin Megami Tensei titles). To say the least, fans of both traditional and modern RPGs should find it hard to be bored, almost regardless of their preferences.
With games such as Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl, Pokemon X & Pokemon Y, Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and the 16-bit throwback Grinsia (eShop) headed to the Nintendo 3DS by the end of 2013, there’s still plenty to be excited about for RPG fans.
Looking into 2014, Square-Enix’s Bravely Default: Flying Fairy could be one of the most exciting confirmed releases, as it was received very well by Japanese critics and appears to incorporate a very slick battle system and gorgeous 3D visuals.
Needless to say, even if you think the genre has been sputtering on consoles for the past few years, it has only gotten sweeter and flourished on the Nintendo 3DS – and the future still looks very bright for role-playing games.