Best 3DS RPG
Apparently what it took to get more people to play Etrian Odyssey was putting the mechanics into a totally different series. The Persona games are no strangers to attention around here, but Etrian Odyssey always owned the first-person dungeon-crawling niche — until now. Enticed by the promise of playing a game with characters they already know, lots of people stumbled upon Etrian Odyssey's dungeon mechanics and found them quite entertaining.
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth isn't just a copy and paste from the Etrian series, though, as its dungeons boast some inventive and entertaining puzzles for almost every floor. Even when the scenery doesn't change much at a glance, the things players have to do to progress through these dungeons become intricate and absorbing for each floor. Reaching a new level of each dungeon is a genuine achievement, one that is often accompanied by a new FOE to be intimidated by. It has a bunch of other cool stuff too. Characters going through entertaining escapades, an excellent soundtrack, highly effective combat, and a superb incentive to take everything dead enemies drop back to Theo — all of these make for a smooth ride. It's also one meaty package of a game, taking plenty of time to do everything possible. It's hard to see many people who bought Persona Q being turned off.
Bravely Default is a throwback to the classic Final Fantasy-style story, from a wide array of jobs to saving crystals. There are plenty of unique characters in the game, several modes of transportation, and even a town to restore. As much as the game is a throwback to the classic Final Fantasy formula, it modernizes turn-based combat in a way that feels fresh. The ability to fast-forward time in encounters to speed up the battles is a great addition and useful when grinding EXP, gold, or JP. Another unique feature is the ability to adjust random encounters. You can have anywhere from 0 to 200% of normal random encounters. It's great when you're traversing an area and are low on health and need to find a save point or return to an inn. It's also great for times when you need to gain another level or two. As for the story itself, it's nothing earth-shattering, and there's a twist that turns many people off due to the repetition it brings to the gameplay. It's still a solid RPG and definitely one that should be part of any 3DS gamer's library.
Despite consistently scoring in the good to great range in RPGamer reviews, the Pokémon series often gets passed over when it comes to award time. With the 3DS having a bit of a dry year, the evergreen series is finally getting a moment in the sun with Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Though Game Freak could have done a bit more to spruce up the world design in these remakes of Ruby and Sapphire, the new mechanics and features highlight the many ways that Pokémon has evolved since the dawn of the DS era. The new Pokémon models and animations, introduced in X/Y, remain delightful and full of personality. The new post-game storyline is a major narrative improvement over the old, main-game story. Diving underwater and soaring over the world astride your Latias look and feel fantastic. Pokémon may never see a major revolution in gameplay, but its slow evolution is a pleasure to experience.
by Mike Moehnke, Paul Engemann, Becky Cunningham