Category Archives: Looking Ahead

All “Looking Ahead’ articles – columns based on the next month’s upcoming 3DS games.

Looking Ahead - November 2012

Looking Ahead @ November 2012: Stickers and Scribbles

Editor’s Note: Just before the start of each month, I will “look ahead” at the upcoming games that are slated for release; then, taking into account the general level of anticipation and the “buzz” within the media, I will select a handful of titles (two to four) that could be worth checking out when launch day finally comes around. Every month, this column will pinpoint the “cream of the crop”, so to speak – just keep your eyes peeled for the games mentioned here!

For whatever reason, each year it seems the major publishers in the gaming industry are more and more hell-bent on bringing forth an onslaught of blockbusters in a two-week time span. This insane rush of “AAA” titles and unexpected surprises generally comes between the start and middle of November.

To say the least, 2012 isn’t playing by special rules…so I hope your wallet is prepared.

“Just…your money, send it directly to us. All of it.”

If you’re a console player, big stuff like Halo 4, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale & the Wii U launch are probably on your mind. If you’re a 3DS owner, this is well and good, because the November release calendar was gutted like a fish over the past few weeks. “AAA” titles such as Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate and Animal Crossing: Jump Out were all set back to “2013″, along with Fire Emblem: Awakening.

There are still some pretty sweet new titles headed to both the eShop and retailers over the next few weeks, and as always, 3DStination would like to focus your attention on the following games as we look ahead at November 2012:

Paper Mario: Sticker Star (11/11)

I hate to sound like a “Daisy Downer” (har har), but Mario Tennis Open and New Super Mario Bros. 2 left me wanting more from my favorite Italian plumber, and I’ve ultimately spent most of the year looking forward to Paper Mario: Sticker Star, hoping for better results. After all, the Paper Mario franchise has always been held to a high standard, and Sticker Star has managed to impress with its apparently brilliant use of the 3D effects and the various gimmicks of the handheld.

I think Sticker Star will prove to be one of the 3DS’s top games of 2012, introducing some of the most clever mechanics seen on the handheld to date. I could be wrong, but if the following footage has anything to prove, Paper Mario will be in top shape when it launches in a few weeks:

Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion (11/18)

The 3DS installment of Epic Mickey, Power of Illusion, has been another highly-anticipated game since its appearance at this summer’s E3 showcase. Where Paper Mario looks to use the 3D effects of the system to go in new directions with its gameplay, Epic Mickey looks like a throwback to the Genesis era of platformers. Its lush 2D visuals and detailed sprites are just part of the charm; apparently the game design is brutally tough and reminiscent of classic side-scrollers.

I hope this one ends up being a big success when it launches in the middle of November; until then, I look forward to playing the upcoming demo version whenever it finally appears on the Nintendo eShop. Check out the footage below to see how this one looks for yourself:

Scribblenauts Unlimited (11/18)

Over the past month or so I’ve noticed myself becoming more and more intrigued by Scribblenauts Unlimited; I can’t really put my finger on a reason, but I can say that I think it looks gorgeous, and I am hoping to see the controls perform better than the original Scribblenauts on the NDS. That’s my only experience with the series, but there is a pretty good chance that I’ll cave in and check out Unlimited when it launches on the 18th – too bad 3DS owners don’t get a chance to play with the characters from Super Mario Bros. or Legend of Zelda, recently revealed as exclusives for the Wii U version. Bummer! Check out the trailer below to see the game for yourself:

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (11/20)

So, this one’s a bit of a bummer: not including Sega’s original confirmation about the 3DS port of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, there doesn’t seem to be a single trace of information, any screenshots, gameplay footage (trailers or off-screen) or otherwise…anywhere on the Internet. Believe me, I’ve looked for anything I could find over the past several months – I’m not even really sure why I am so intrigued by this kart racer, but I’ve followed it as closely as I followed Mario Kart 7 in 2011. I admit that I don’t exactly expect Sonic to out-pace MK7, but I would at least hope that Sega could keep up the pace.

With that in mind: I want a solid roster of characters, a nice selection of tracks, local & online multiplayer features, and most importantly…the fewest possible shortcuts in order to make it all happen on the hardware, just as well as the console versions. That might be a lofty expectation, but I really don’t think it’s completely unfair. The 3D effect is a natural fit for the racing genre, so if done well, I really feel like Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed could be optimized on the 3DS, rather than slipping behind as a “lesser port” of the big console version.

For now, I’m looking forward to the demo version that was promised during one of the recent Nintendo Direct broadcasts. Unfortunately, there’s no trailer featuring the 3DS version, so I’ll skip to the last of November’s notable releases:

Crashmo [*eShop] (11/22)

I was definitely charmed by Pushmo, one of the eShop’s earliest games to draw in a lot of positive remarks from a majority of critics. The sequel, Crashmo, looks to expand a great deal on the gameplay from the original: now players can move around in full 3D, combining the push/pull mechanics and 3D effect to solve the dozens (possibly hundreds) of puzzles found in the game.

Crashmo apparently features the same QR-based level editor, so fans of the original Pushmo can get straight to creating their own custom stages and puzzles. Check out the trailer below, and stay tuned for this one to appear on the eShop on the 22nd:

The Rest:

There are a few more games coming out in November; these may not be completely outstanding on paper, but you never know what to expect these days:

-Freakyforms Deluxe: Your Creations Alive! (11/5)
-Pokedex 3D Pro [*eShop] (11/8)
-Ninja Gaiden [*eShop/Virtual Console] (11/8)
-Zelda II: The Adventure of Link [*eShop/Virtual Console] (11/22)

Looking Ahead - October 2012

Looking Ahead @ October 2012 – Pokemon, Professors & Princesses

Editor’s Note: Just before the start of each month, I will “look ahead” at the upcoming games that are slated for release; then, taking into account the general level of anticipation and the “buzz” within the media, I will select a handful of titles (two to four) that could be worth checking out when launch day finally comes around. Every month, this column will pinpoint the “cream of the crop”, so to speak – just keep your eyes peeled for the games mentioned here!

Let’s not fool ourselves; September wasn’t the hottest month for the 3DS in terms of new releases. There was Fractured Soul; Endgame Studios’ eShop gem was definitely a refreshing challenge, but it was the highlight of a month that was more about sitting back and waiting for Wii U announcements than playing new 3DS games.

October seems to be changing a lot of that; other than the release of the latest Pokemon games, Nintendo will be shipping the first 3DS installment of Professor Layton. There are even some exciting third-party games to look forward to. Without further adieu, let’s take a closer look at some of October’s most interesting upcoming releases:

Pokemon Black 2 & White 2 [NDS] (October 7)

Speaking personally, there isn’t a single game on this page that I am more excited about than these brand-new Pokemon sequels; Pokemon Black 2 & Pokemon White 2. As a die-hard fan of the series (no joke, walking Pokedex over here), any major change to the formula is interesting – and the thought that these versions are the first actual follow-ups is definitely intriguing. I look forward to the twists and turns of the storyline, which appears to be a point of focus this time around.

With all that being said, I am still the most excited about some of the small tweaks and enhanced nuances that ultimately affect the battle system and the core gameplay – how will the sequels transform the series past the original Black & White versions? Early reviews seem to favor some of the replay value-extending features (as if Pokemon really needed them), such as the in-game “achievements” and the expanded regional Pokedex, which now includes some favorites from the previous Pokemon generations. Finally, I will be playing my copy of Black 2 or White 2 (I’m still undecided on which version I’ll be purchasing) on my 3DS – which brings me to the next exciting October release, which you can check out after this “Legendary Pokemon” trailer for the new sequels:

Pokemon Dream Radar [eShop] (October 7)

This eShop app/game comes out simultaneously and is compatible with Pokemon Black 2 & White 2…basically, Dream Radar uses the AR feature of the 3DS to put Pokemon “into the real world”, allowing you to scan your surroundings for the elusive monsters. As reported in the past, you can catch & transfer Pokemon from Dream Radar to your copy of Black 2 or White 2 – another big incentive to play the forthcoming sequels on a Nintendo 3DS, rather than an older DS system. Here’s a trailer:

Code of Princess (October 9)

Atlus’s 2D brawler/RPG caught my eye several months ago, and I have been following it closely leading up to its release. The fast-paced combat is just one selling point; I was really intrigued by the variety of characters and unique fighting styles that have been featured in numerous trailers over the past few weeks. The multiplayer options also sound appealing…co-op brawling action with RPG-like EXP-grinding? Count me in. The 3DS could always use more RPGs, and Atlus looks to have another winner lined up – stay tuned for a review sometime later this month after I get my hands on my own pre-ordered copy. For now, check out one of the latest trailers:

Professor Layton & the Miracle Mask (October 28)

I have never been into the Professor Layton series myself, but not because I dislike the game – I just never really picked up any of the DS installments; I know I’m missing out. Anyway, Miracle Mask is the first 3DS version of the popular Level-5 puzzle series, and it finally makes its appearance near the end of the month. Check out the video:

The Rest:

I would be foolish to skip out on some of the other games that are also headed to the 3DS this October; these may not be the “cream of the crop”, but who knows…we could see some surprises:

  • Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?? (October 23)
  • Skylanders: Giants (October 21)
  • Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward (October 23)
  • LEGO Lord of the Rings (October 30)
  • Spy Hunter (October 30)
Looking Ahead - August 2012

Looking Ahead @ August 2012 – NSMB2, 3DS XL Launch in North America

Editor’s Note: Just before the start of each month, I will “look ahead” at the upcoming games that are slated for release; then, taking into account the general level of anticipation and the “buzz” within the media, I will select a handful of titles (two to four) that could be worth checking out when launch day finally comes around. Every month, this column will pinpoint the “cream of the crop”, so to speak – just keep your eyes peeled for the games mentioned here!

After dropping both Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy and Heroes of Ruin earlier this month, Square-Enix will finish up its triage of new 3DS releases with Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance on July 31. The month of July has been pretty exciting, though the reception for Heroes of Ruin was disappointing, and drove me away from picking up the game as I had originally planned. On the other hand, Theatrhythm was an amazing surprise – I’ll share more about my thoughts on the Final Fantasy spin-off in my full review.

Heading into August, there are some equally-exciting points of interest, but not nearly as many games to look forward to. That being said, it’s not much of a problem when the only game happens to be a brand-new installment of the Super Mario Bros. series. New Super Mario Bros. 2 is slated for an August 19 release, and should be more than enough to satisfy the “core” fans as well as the casual players looking for something new after finishing up Super Mario 3D Land.

…and then there’s the 3DS XL; the brand new re-design will be available in North America on the same day as NSMB 2. Though it seems obvious that the target audience is slightly different than the original 3DS, the thought of “upgrading” has to be in the back of any current 3DS owner’s mind. With all of that in mind, here are more details about the big releases for August 2012:

  • New Super Mario Bros. 2 (August 19)

    What is it? This upcoming Mario title is basically a sequel to New Super Mario Bros. (NDS) and its console follow-up, NSMB Wii. Though it isn’t quite as focused on its multiplayer component as its Wii predecessor, NSMB 2 takes a unique approach with its traditional side-scrolling action and its familiar Super Mario Bros. mechanics. More than ever before, the game is based around collecting coins – in fact, one of its biggest new features is the “Coin Rush” mode. With this option, players can utilize the 3DS StreetPass function and enjoy an intriguing twist on the tried-and-true platforming.

    Why should you care? Aside from the fact that most of the Super Mario Bros. titles are pretty damn good, New Super Mario Bros. 2 looks to be one of the better installments for multiplayer purposes. Players can enjoy the single-player levels in a co-op mode, with the second player controlling Luigi instead of Mario. The Coin Rush mode is based on finishing three levels on a single life, collecting as many coins and reaching the finish as quickly as possible. To make things interesting, high scores in Coin Rush can be transferred wirelessly utilizing the StreetPass function; I am excited to see how this pans out over time. Finally, NSMB 2 is Nintendo’s very first simultaneous retail/digital release; on August 19, consumers can pick up either a hard copy from their local retailer, or download a digital version through the Nintendo eShop. The price ($39.99) is the same for both versions, but digital customers do have the incentive of receiving double Club Nintendo coins (100, rather than 50 – not bad) just for downloading their copy.

    Why should you wait? Unless you aren’t interested in playing another Mario title, there isn’t much of a reason to put off the purchase of New Super Mario Bros. 2. As is the case with almost every first-party title, the price will likely stay cemented at $39.99 for quite some time. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few review scores dip lower than usual, but overall, I anticipate the same acclaim for NSMB 2 as most of the Mario games that came before it.

  • Nintendo 3DS XL (August 19)

    What is it? The Nintendo 3DS XL is a “re-design” of the original 3DS model; it features screens that are 90% larger, a longer battery life, improved Start/Select/Home buttons, and more. The 3DS XL will cost $199.99, and arrives in North America the same day as New Super Mario Bros. 2 (August 19).

    Why should you care? Well, if you look at the image above, you can see that the 3DS XL literally dwarfs the original 3DS. If you are interested in experiencing the very biggest, brightest, and best display with the 3D screen, the XL version is actually not incredibly expensive – just $20 more than the original version. The longer battery life solves one of the 3DS’s biggest hardware-based problems, and the thinner, rounded design of the 3DS XL is undeniably sexy when compared to the rigid 3DS.

    Why should you wait? I can really only speak for myself; if you don’t own a Nintendo 3DS, the 3DS XL is an option that should be highly considered, even it if means waiting a few more weeks. I think it sounds like a great deal, but personally, many of my favorite parts of the 3DS have been based around its easy portability: Play Coins, StreetPass, easy WiFi access, etc. The fact that the XL is so much larger just means that it is going to be harder to carry around safely, which was already one of my biggest concerns when I originally purchased my 3DS last summer. Now that I am comfortable with the idea of carrying my 3DS everywhere, I have maximized the chances of connecting to other players and enjoying all the content available on the system. I have no intentions of limiting that potential with a larger version of the 3DS – when the time comes around and I think it makes sense to upgrade, I won’t hesitate.

Other August releases:

    eShop/Virtual Console – Sonic Blast (TBA)
    eShop/Virtual Console – Sonic Labyrinth (TBA)
    eShop – 3D Solitaire (8/2)
    eShop – Touch Battle Tank 3D (8/9)
Looking Ahead - July 2012

Looking Ahead @ July 2012 – From Square-Enix, With Love

Editor’s Note: Just before the start of each month, I will “look ahead” at the upcoming games that are slated for release; then, taking into account the general level of anticipation and the “buzz” within the media, I will select a handful of titles (two to four) that could be worth checking out when launch day finally comes around. Every month, this column will pinpoint the “cream of the crop”, so to speak – just keep your eyes peeled for the games mentioned here!

June is finally coming to an end, and July is on the horizon. This month was full of excitement, with the gaming industry focused on arguably its single biggest “event” of the year: the annual Electronics Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California. All the headlines and buzz that was generated at the conference was great to experience, but as always, the wake of E3 has slowly settled – and July is starting to look better and better.

In fact, where June was fantastic for all the announcements and reading about upcoming games, July actually seems like the time to purchase some of them. This is especially true if you happen to enjoy RPGs; more specifically, if you are a fan of Square-Enix games. The “house that built Final Fantasy” is publishing not one, not two, but three high-profile games for the 3DS – all of which are slated for launch in North America during the month of July.

The first is a Final Fantasy spin-off called Theatrhythm. The second, a dungeon-crawler reminiscent of Diablo – the ambitious Heroes of Ruin, developed by n-Space. Finally, at the very end of the month comes the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance. There is no question that all three of these Square-Enix games are dramatically different, though one factor is common among them – each game seems to be “breaking ground” and doing something very innovative with the 3DS hardware.

It would be foolish to ignore the “8-Bit Summer” promotion that Nintendo will also kick off at the beginning of July, but I’ve already discussed the weekly downloads in an article that was posted a few days ago. For now, I’d like to take a look at some of these newer 3DS games, all of which I happen to be pretty excited about – and have been for most of 2012. Without further adieu, let’s glance at this trio of Square-Enix titles:

  • Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy (July 3)

What is it? Square-Enix is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its Final Fantasy franchise with this 3DS title; in addition to being a clever, rhythm-based RPG, Theatrhythm features a compilation of music, characters, and scenes that have been taken from all thirteen major Final Fantasy games.

Why should you care? I have been following this one closely for quite some time, actually – I was initially pretty skeptical, but I’ve warmed up to the concept of Theatrhythm over the last few months. It’s an unusual concept for a Final Fantasy spin-off, certainly – but I think this will ultimately satisfy even some of the most hardcore fanboys of the Square-Enix series. Never mind the nostalgia; Theatrhythm really seems like something “different”, despite hosting so many different familiar faces and instantly-recognizable orchestral compositions. I’m not sure how the actual “RPG” part of the game is designed, but it appears that you can lose HP and fall behind in battle if you don’t maintain the correct timing and rhythm. If you’re really keeping score, this will be one of the first 3DS games in North America to feature priced DLC through the Nintendo eShop…if not the very first. I would like to know more about the basics of the game before I worry about extra content, but I am already curious to see how Square-Enix plans to extend the life of Theatrhythm through DLC updates.

Why should you wait? First, Theatrhythm looks a lot like the NDS game Elite Beat Agents. This may sound like a large compliment, considering that EBA generated some very respectable review scores when it debuted a few years ago. Unfortunately, it seems that this FF spin-off is based on timing-based, stylus-tapping mechanics – rather than the precision-based motions, placement, and swipes seen in Elite Beat Agents. The result could hold back the game from proper “greatness”, and my only fear is that there will be a lack of depth, even with the vast roster of characters from the classic Final Fantasy games. Unfortunately, though there were demo versions planned and scheduled for two of the three Square-Enix games coming out in July, Theatrhythm is the odd one out – and we will have to wait until it ships on July 3 to know if it’s properly tuned. On the plus side, that is only 10 days away from when this article was originally written.

  • Heroes of Ruin (July 17)

What is it? This action/RPG, developed by n-Space, is based on dungeon-crawling, item looting, and leveling up by means of hack-and-slash combat. As a result, Heroes of Ruin almost immediately ttracts comparisons to the Diablo series. The difference is that the 3DS is a portable platform, and you can’t really pack up a high-end gaming rig to enjoy Diablo III when you’re on-the-go.

Why should you care? Being completely realistic, Heroes of Ruin will be nothing like Diablo III, and it would be foolish to expect otherwise. Speaking about the gameplay, Diablo has always been a mouse-clicking marathon. Though Heroes of Ruin will definitely test your ability to mash the attack buttons on the 3DS, it looks to offer some variety in the form of four unique character classes. Players can choose between the Savage, Vindicator, Alchitect, and Gunslinger; characters can be fully customized and equipped with special combat abilities, weapons, armor, and more. Heroes of Ruin actually boasts thousands of various items – some can be found by looting the randomly-generated dungeons, but more can be discovered when players take advantage of the game’s StreetPass capabilities. Basically, to summarize this component – which Square-Enix seems to adore – players can purchase the items that have been sold by others through the “Trader’s Network”. Of course, it works both ways: items you’ve gotten rid of will appear for other players to acquire. The game shipped in Europe recently, and the reviews seem to be averaged out at the 8/10 range – roughly what I anticipated.

Why should you wait? Though all the signs seem to point toward “Great” for Heroes of Ruin, I am nervous that there will not be enough support (locally-speaking) for the majority of American gamers to get the full extent out of the StreetPass capabilities and the wireless, local multiplayer component. On the other hand, the WiFi multiplayer should hold up very well, that is as long as the “instant drop” and “instant quit” rules actually work as well for the co-op experience as Square-Enix claims. Enemies will be leveled fairly so that all active players have a chance to put up a fight, but this could become tiresome for experienced players who just want to dive deeper and deeper into the endless selection of items. We will find out for sure when Heroes of Ruin comes out July 17, but in the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for the demo version that was promised on the eShop.

  • Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance (July 31)

What is it? This is the next installment in the popular Kingdom Hearts franchise, and the first on the 3DS – Dream Drop Distance puts you in control of Sora and Riku, two of the main characters throughout the series. It introduces plenty of new Square-Enix & Disney characters as well as stages based on the worlds they’re from – most of them are completely new, such as the stage based on Tron and the cameo appearances from the The World Ends With You characters. Finally, the gameplay is based around the real-time action/RPG combat and platforming sequences seen in past Kingdom Hearts titles, but features a new “FlowMotion” concept that makes the entire system feel and look much, much better.

Why should you care? Kingdom Hearts 3D will be one of the top 3DS games of the entire year, no doubt – that’s why you should care about it. The best way to decide? Download the eShop demo for yourself and give it a shot. Additionally, I’ve written up a “demo impressions” article about the trial version, so check that out (when it’s posted shortly) if you’d like further debate material.

Why should you wait? There really isn’t much of a reason to skip out on Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, unless of course you have no interest in the KH series. This 3DS installment could be among the quality of “system-seller” titles like Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, Kid Icarus: Uprising, and Resident Evil: Revelations.

In case those weren’t enough for you, here are the rest of the games confirmed for next month:

Other July releases:

  • Myst (TBA)
    Rhythm Thief & The Emperor’s Treasure (7/10)

    eShop/Virtual Console - Legend of Zelda (7/5)
    eShop/Virtual Console - Kirby’s Pinball Land (7/12)
    eShop/Virtual Console - The Sword of Hope II (7/12)
    eShop/Virtual Console - Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters (7/19)
    eShop/Virtual Console - Tumblepop (7/19)
    eShop/Virtual Console - Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (7/26)
    eShop/Virtual Console – Sonic Blast (TBA)
    eShop/Virtual Console – Sonic Labyrinth (TBA) 
What will you be picking up for your 3DS this month? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts about the trio of Square-Enix titles, or any of the other July releases mentioned in this article.