Playing the cheerful, clever third instalment in the Denpa Men series, you find yourself wondering why it isn’t more widely enjoyed, and why Nintendo aren’t pushing it to the masses more aggressively. Genius Sorority are a development company that collectively have former staffers and links to a plethora of well received classics such as Earthbound/Mother, Dragon Quest, and Pokémon. They have created some ace little spinoffs, such as the terrific Pokémon Typing Adventure. Their own stab at a cutesy RPG, however, is comfortably their best IP.
Unless you are an excitable child, the concept of augmented reality can be a tiresome one – us older gamers generally prefer to enjoy our RPGs sedentary, in a comfortable nook, expending the minimum of energy. Rise of Digitoll immediately casts these lazy notions aside, requiring that you scan the room you’re in to capture yourself a quartet of Denpa Men lurking in your environs. Depending on where you are, wireless signals will generate different stats and different crazy all-in-one outfits. We drew the line at taking the 3DS out in the street to go hunting, but it is encouraged, so don’t let my inherently English sense of public embarrassment prevent you from trying this out.
Sometimes, the Denpa Men aren’t too happy about being caught and will shoot gooey projectiles that obscure the screen. It can be a tricky old job netting the little blighters, so the game also throws in the occasional treasure chest full of goodies.
It is your job to recruit from a wonderfully designed gamut of diverse little men to rescue the princess and save the world. The plot – involving repeatedly-kidnapped series mainstay, Crystal – is hardly Zelda-esque in its scope and proportions, but once you have selected your team, you embark on a resolutely old-school JRPG style series of dungeons, where you initiate turn-based combat with your monstrous foes. As well as standard attacks, you can go all-in and have your whole party attack mob handed, access special “antenna powers” or even harness the special abilities within some Denpa men that allow them to employ Poké Ball-style capture abilities, allowing you to ensnare bad guys and turn things to your advantage by summoning them in battle.
As well as traversing the main quest, you find yourself embroiled in the surprisingly deep, wider economic universe within the colourful land of Digitoll. The game has a cruelly compulsive materialistic streak that goes beyond mere equipment, weapons and item-buying. Tom Nook would not feel entirely out of place in this universe – as you soon discover there are lots of ways to make, spend, and share money. You can fish, which allows you to level up your Denpa buddies, but also to hook aquatic fauna that can be flogged to earn you some dough. A Coliseum can be entered to battle and earn medals to swap out for items. You can, of course, also sell these. You can buy seeds which can be planted and their spoils harvested for more financial and material gain. You can even visit the Bazaar Island, which allows you to hook up with other Denpa Men players online to buy and sell items. Interacting with other players goes beyond the exchange of items, as you can also pimp out your Denpa men to be hired by other players – for a tasty little financial stipend, of course.
Best of all, you can fix up a home for your Denpa men in true Animal Crossing style, and share pictures of it with other players around the globe. You are soon taken in by the desire to have an MTV Cribs-worthy pad, and then use the screen capture to lay down some wonderfully Japanese braggadocio. I haven’t even started on the Jewels yet – obtained in the AR minigames, by StreetPassing other players, or by making a dreaded in-game purchase – that can be used to access new levels.
VERDICT: The actual combat can become repetitive – but the same could be said of any JRPG, particularly those where grinding enters the equation. The endless pursuit of cash puts Denpa Men 3 firmly in that category, but thankfully, just like the stellar Pokémon canon titles, it has a wealth of distractions to keep your interest. The very definition of a well crafted, slept-on series, this is punching well above its weight, and for the budget price will appeal to a wide section of the Nintendo fan-base.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.