Part four in our Nintendo 3DS RPG series, and we’re not sure it’s showing any real signs of slowing down. In fact, midst writing this introduction we’ve managed to come up with a few more. The depths of this genre on our favourite little handheld knows no bounds, and it just goes to show how much developers of RPG’s specifically love having an additional screen to play with.
To the list then! We’re back, listing another Top 5 Nintendo 3DS RPG Games. Again, these aren’t really in order – we’ll save revealing our particular order for a big summary list, much like our recent Wii U version.
The Alliance Alive
The Alliance Alive in an RPG developed by Furyu, who gamers may recognise for titles such as The Caligula Effect and The Legend of Legacy. It’s the latter to which this title owes many of it’s traits, sharing as it does an art style and the majority of it’s battle system, but alone it is actually a very different title, and deliberately so: The devs took fans’ criticisms of their previous title on board when producing The Alliance Alive, and as such this game features a much more prominent story, improvements to that aforementioned battle system, a fully fleshed out world. Oh, and were it possible to pique our interest any more, they decided to involve Yoshitaka Murayama. To those unfamiliar with that name, he is credited with the creation of Suikoden – our favourite RPG series of all time.
Day one purchase for us then, but why is it considered one of the best on the 3DS?
We’ll be the first to admit that it doesn’t quite approach the heights of Suikoden, but it does take inspiration for quite a few features: There is a world full of people to recruit to your cause, it’s turn based battles can be tweaked with the addition of formations, and the tradition of making the gamer feel guilt at the loss of a character is continued. There are plenty of Easter eggs in there too, alongside a familiar ‘Saga’ series feeling to the gameplay, which all combined makes for a compelling and slightly alternative take on the RPG formula. Of course, we’d recommend experiencing it in HD on the Switch where possible, but that doesn’t prevent it from being one of the best available on the Nintendo 3DS.
Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology
Unconventional RPG games continue then, with Radiant Historia on the DS. This is a title that really hit without warning, almost completely out of left field. RPG games, generally speaking, either come from a franchise, a series of similar titles or perhaps a slightly off-brand version of a beloved title. With a Shin Megami Tensei title, for example, you pretty much know the kind of thing you’re going to get. A brand new title then, based on time travel of sorts, with a new type of battle system and a more mature lead character? We were practically frothing at the mouth.
Happily the game turned out to be a great success, hence the update to ‘Perfect Chronology’ on the 3DS. It centres around Stocke and his interactions with the White Chronicle, a book which allows him to travel in time and have the opportunity to re-write history. Of course this immediately invites comparisons to Chrono Trigger, yet even whilst working in the shadow of such a behemoth it performs well. This is achieved by taking a much more mature approach to it’s subject, focusing heavily on the implications of life and death, from the personal to the political.
This is all book ended by a wonderfully creative battle system. It’s a turn based random battle system, but both your party and the enemies are situated on a 3×3 grid. Abilities and attacks can push and pull opponents around the grid, letting you ensure that big hits land on multiple targets at once. If we’re honest it doesn’t go a great deal deeper than this, but it’s enough of change from the norm to keep you engaged from start to it’s end. Well, one of it’s endings – this being a time travel game, there are quite a few.
Nothing feels quite like Radiant Historia. It’s novel, unusual and unorthadox. It’s another reason, another RPG-reason, why fans of the genre should own a 3DS.
Pokemon Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire
2002 was an interesting time for the RPG genre, particularly because gamers and developers were learning two very critical things: Firstly, the success of the first generation of Pokemon games had shown that gamers love collecting vast amounts of things – monsters, cards and anything with statistics or experience bars had us grasping for our wallets. Secondly, developers had firmly learned that they could sell gamers two games of similar-yet-different-enough content, both at full price, and somehow get away with it. Whilst we may bemoan the continuation of one of these elements, the former had us firmly gripping our handhelds in anticipation.
Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire indicated a developer that was starting to experiment with their formula, and successfully so: Double battles were added, a feature which has survived within the series thus far, and innate Pokemon abilities were debuted, each of which were met with critical acclaim. Updated and re-imagined for the 3DS, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire essentially return the gamer to their original worlds, but with another crop of improvements in tow: New evolutions, side quests, 3D graphics and super training were added. What becomes of this is, essentially, Pokemon X & Y wrapped over the top of the second generation of games. All the more reason to own a 3DS then, as if you needed more.
Tales of the Abyss
Much like Dragon Quest and Shin Megami Tensei, the ‘Tales of’ franchise of games is yet another series that made the jump to the 3DS. Unlike the others however, this one completely flew under our radar. Like many we toyed with Xillia back in the day, and dabbled with Zestiria on Steam from time to time, but never really got hooked. It took Tales of the Abyss on the 3DS to really pull us under, and we’re ultimately thankful that it did.
To those unfamiliar, the Tales Of series takes an unusual stance on RPG gaming, particularly the battle portion of it. Each encounter has the player in full control of their character – their movement, attacks, blocks and spells are all completed in real time. This is such unusual fare for a JRPG, and it’s one that divides the genre fandom: You either love it or you hate it – it feels like someone has squeezed a fighting game into your RPG.
Once we finally pierced through this unusual veil, we were rewarded with a damn good RPG experience. The story of Abyss centres around a noble named Luke and leads the player through varied and nuanced lands, each with their own stories to tell. The game is positively beautiful, rivalling Fire Emblem Echoes for the best looking title on the platform in our eyes, and once you get into it, the battle system is actually quite complex and satisfying.
Having since firmly plumbed the depths of the Tales series since, we consider Abyss one of the high points of it, right up there with Berseria. Yet another testament to the console it inhabits then.
Shin Megami Tensei IV
If you thought an RPG like Tales of the Abyss was hard to get into, meet Shin Megami Tensei, a series that is positively impenetrable to even the most hardened genre fan. Or at least, that used to be the case – Persona, a spin off series, has attracted a huge amount of fans. Even then, we’d wager that most wouldn’t even be aware of the series’ roots. It’s not hard to see why they’ve flown under the radar either: Little to no marketing in the west, limited physical releases and a reputation for huge difficulty are a few of the main reasons.
The worm is turning however. The advent of Strange Journey Redux and SMTIV: Apocalypse, two more reasons to own a 3DS, seem to have reignited the somewhat extinguished flame, and a short teaser of the fifth instalment stoked these fires further.
As we’ve proven however, the series is already alive and well on the Nintendo 3DS, and in it’s main line form no less. Shin Megami Tensei IV is, without doubt, one of the best SMT games in the series. We’re not going to go into great detail about the title, since we’re likely to spoil two games’ worth of lore if we do, but we will say that it’s a true and pure reflection of the press turn system that the series is famed for. You’ll die a lot, you’ll summon demons, meet friends and enemies, discover a wildly unusual world and you’ll die all over again. It’s trial and error in turn based JRPG form. Grab a your 3DS, get a copy of the game, and give Charon our regards.