Going into E3, the 3DS’ 2014 line-up looked pretty weak to me. The only two first-party games were Smash Bros. and Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire at that point. Those two games will undoubtedly go on to sell millions and millions of units; however, it was still a bit unfortunate that the only two first-party offerings included a game that would be better on the Wii U and a remake of a ten year-old game. I realized something after E3, though: the 3DS does, in fact, have a pretty great second half of the year line-up that is primarily made up of third-party offerings. Nintendo will release its two bombs on October 3rd and November 21st, but third parties are releasing major games on the 3DS in nearly every other month of the year.
The first game releasing is the indie title Shovel Knight on June 26th from Yacht Club Games. The game was originally Kickstarted and raised more than four times its original goal. It features 8-bit art and NES-like gameplay to call out to the fans of older, more challenging games. Most interestingly, however, is the main weapon used in the game. Our hero’s weapon of choice is a shovel, which he uses to bounce around and crush enemies in a manner not unlike Duck Tales. This is no platformer, though — as the developers assure that Shovel Knight is a game somewhere in the middle of Mega Man, Castlevania, and Dark Souls. Not too shabby for a $15 downloadable eShop title.
July’s release is One Piece: Unlimited World Red, an action-adventure title developed by Namco Bandai. The game was already released in Japan and received a 32/40 from Famitsu. Those who enjoy the occasional action-adventure title based on Japanese manga may enjoy the game quite a bit.
In August, North America gets the epic crossover between Phoenix Wright and Professor Layton when the two franchises collide for the first time in a title that features both the puzzle-solving gameplay known from Professor Layton, as well as the court-based gameplay expected from Ace Attorney. For those fans already sad about Layton’s departure from the gaming world, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney will offer players one last opportunity to play through a game with the hero while experiencing the world of Ace Attorney at the same time.
Square Enix releases the second game in the Theatrhythm Final Fantasy series in September, with Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call taking the rhythm-based gameplay of the first game and expanding it even further. Whereas the first game included three songs for each mainline Final Fantasy game, totaling around forty tracks, Curtain Call features songs from not only the mainline Final Fantasy titles, but spin-off titles as well. In total, the game has over 220 songs for gamers to play through. The game is massive and should keep players occupied for quite a while.
From this point out, many games do not have a release date yet other than the 2014 window.
The RPG dungeon-crawler fans have Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth to look forward to. The game takes all the famous characters from the Persona franchise, putting them into one shared story. It does not follow traditional Persona gameplay, though, as it’s is much more akin to a game like Etrian Odyssey. In theory, the game is a massive dungeon crawler where players plot their own journey on a map on the bottom screen of the 3DS. Once a player gets into an actual battle, however, the game turns into a traditional turn-based RPG.
On the downloadable end, Gunman Clive is receiving a sequel on the eShop. Although not much is known about the title, we do know that the game will be similar to the original Gunman Clive in gameplay, but the levels will be more dynamic and the environments more diverse. The original game was known for its wonderful 3D animation and art style, as well as its incredibly fun gameplay. Even though not many details are known about the sequel, if it is anything like the original Gunman Clive, we are in for a digital treat.
Sonic Boom is coming out for the 3DS as well and the 3DS version is actually pretty good! There are adventure levels that are fun in their own right and still feature platforming, albeit at a slower pace than Sonic fans may be used to. There are speed levels in the game as well, however, and they are a blast to play through. For those craving a traditional Sonic experience, it seems like Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal is as close as you will get for a while.
Another indie title, Citizens of Earth, is also coming to the eShop. This game is reminiscent of Earthbound, as it takes place in modern times and allows players to recruit almost anyone from the town to fight for their cause. Ordinary people, such as a yoga teacher or your mother, become heroes and for that, this little RPG stands out.
For the farming fans, there are two games coming out! Yes, for such a niche little genre, two farming simulators are making their way onto 3DS in 2014. The first is Story of Seasons, a traditional Harvest Moon game that underwent a name change in order to be published in America by XSEED. Harvest Moon and the Lost Valley is also coming to 3DS, a Natsume-developed Harvest Moon title that is a little less traditional than usual. Lost Valley features Minecraft-like building mechanics and lacks an actual village in the game, resorting to spacing out villagers all across the map rather than holding them in a central location.
Finally, although Fantasy Life is technically being published by Nintendo, it is actually developed by Level 5 and thus making it a third-party-developed game. The game is somewhat akin to Rune Factory, as players not only fish, cook, and mine, but they also battle fantasy creatures in a fantasy-inspired storyline.
Hopefully, this article has given you a taste of what is on the horizon for the 3DS platform. Although Nintendo themselves really only have two major releases this year, third parties are keeping the platform vibrant and lively with plenty of regular releases. This article touched upon just eleven third-party titles coming to the 3DS; however, I have not even touched multiplatform titles like Disney Infinity, Adventure Time, and Skylanders, re-releases such as the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney trilogy, or smaller games like Shantae and the Pirate Curse. Although Nintendo’s second half of the year lineup may be lacking, third parties are creating another killer year for the 3DS!