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)