REVIEW: The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave
Title: The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave
Platform: 3DS (via eShop)
Developer/Publisher: Genius Sonority
Family Friendly: Click here for more information.
I have been playing The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave daily and nightly since downloading it from the Nintendo 3DS eShop nearly a month ago. I have met fellow players online, trading thoughts and playable characters via QR code. I have been surprised again and again by the depth and length of this $9.99 handheld RPG, and would like to start off this review by making it official…
…I am in love.
I literally cannot wait for a sequel, another chance to go on further adventures with the Denpa I’ve collected and come to oddly care about.
How often does that happen in a game?
In recent weeks, I’ve heard complaint after complaint about supposed AAA titles. People burn through them quickly, enjoying exactly none of the fleeting, $60 experience. That’s not why we game, people. We don’t do this because we’re masochists. It’s time you broadened your horizons and soaked in some radio waves.
Genius Sonority’s The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave first charmed me with this screwball promo video:
That’s good weirdness, my friend. And the game itself more than delivers on this quirky, playful, winking promise.
How often have you felt misled by advance hype after playing the final product?
How often have we fallen for a pretty trailer, only to be met with a cold, hard smack to the face by the reality of the game it hyped?
I’m asking a lot of questions, but it’s fitting.
Experiences like The Denpa Men can open your mind to the new and unusual. This isn’t a swing and a miss; it’s an original IP with endearing critters and ironic writing that fulfills its potential and leaves you wanting more.
For the low price of admission, I can’t recommend The Denpa Men strongly enough.
So, yeah. I liked it.
You’ll start off by capturing a multi-colored Denpa man using the 3DS’s built-in AR camera. He becomes your defacto “main character,” the unchangeable leader of your party (which will grow up to a total of 8 as you play). By searching for them in a variety of locations, you’ll find new and different types of Denpa men, each with unique stats and abilities. Some are strong and boast high HP. Some have low HP but bring helpful and/or devastating magic spells to the table. Some are stronger/weaker against certain enemy types. You know…RPG stuff.
As I hinted at before, I felt an odd kinship with my original team at first. You become familiar with them, and start to appreciate each for the unique strengths they bring to the team. I didn’t want to swap them out of the part once it truly became necessary; I felt a little guilty! But…the Denpa House where all your captured/imported buddies hang out when not accompanying you to a dungeon gives them a pleasant, social place to chill.
Plus, the Denpa you’re not using will level up by themselves even though they’re not gaining any experience points directly! This means you can swap them out with little to no detriment as you progress through the game. I’ve found that Denpa I’ve ingested via QR tend to have very low levels. It will take a little grinding to get up to speed, when the time comes that you need a particular color/ability and meet that need through a helpful fellow player.
I’ve always been a grinder, anyway. The repetitive nature, treasure and fact that all other Denpa are simply getting stronger unnecessarily power me through that (you’ll need it for later dungeons, anyway); it also helps that battles are usually quick and/or exciting. I didn’t find the game tiresome at all, even when a particular dungeon boss (Ice Demon, you bastard) thwarted my efforts many, many times. It’s only with the right team/abilities and proper preparations that you’ll be able to proceed through the game’s difficult later stages.
At no point did I feel punished. Victory always felt just outside my grasp. One more try, one more try, I’ll nail it next time…in a very good way. I don’t mind a challenge, and this game offers plenty of it as you go along.
I can’t tell you the last time I really sat and played my way (happily, without an ever-present strategy guide sullying my immersion) through this kind of game. I used to subsist almost entirely on a JRPG diet. Not kidding. I loved them.
Then? I don’t know. Something changed. Maybe it was the genre? Maybe it was me? Maybe it was my choice of consoles, or the evolution of certain series?
The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave is fun regardless of genre. Perhaps even in spite of the fact that it’s a fairly traditional RPG, The Denpa Men is a fast-paced game filled with challenging, varied dungeons and interesting (often comical) enemy designs.
The enemy design took me waaaaay back to EarthBound. I KNOW. That’s some serious name-dropping. But, I mean…I love Oink Rabbit. C’mon.
And here’s another big name. Like Chrono Trigger, there are no random encounters. You’ll see every monster roaming around before you fight them, and may well be able to wait for them to disappear or simply walk around them in larger areas. Also, if you manage to sneak up on a monster and touch it from behind, you’ll usually score a preemptive strike! Hotness.
You’ll find tons of options for upgrading your party members. From clothing that helps boost against certain enemy types or imparts special abilities to equip-able trinkets that tweak your Denpa men into a fierce, prepared fighting force…you’ll discover a pleasing wealth of customization options and possibilities, here.
It’s a long journey, too! There’s a lot of value for a $10 game – more than you’ll get out of some far-more-expensive, over-hyped “blockbuster” titles! The Denpa Man [mini-spoiler] fake-ends several times. There always seems to be more to the adventure, another wrinkle to your quest for true Denpa peace and happiness. I didn’t feel like the game was dragging or artificially justifying itself, either. I enjoyed each leg of the journey…from saving the one and only Denpa woman (of course the love of your “main character” Denpa man’s Denpa life) from the King of Evil and beyond. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a delightfully deep game.
Bells and whistles like the Denpa museum, QR codes and hidden treasures among the many dungeons add to the overall experience, making a downloadable handheld game feel like a much bigger, beefier thing than you might think.
Humor pervades the game. From the peculiar speech patterns of the friendly dwarves you’ll meet along the way…
…to pre-battle boss banter, there’s some wonderful dialogue. Take, for instance, the following sequence. Before you tangle with the King of Evil, he offers you (the player, directly) a chance to ditch the Denpa and team up with him to take over the world.
KOE: “The ladies love power, and the pension plan is nice too! So?”
[Player says “NO” to striking a deal, King of Evil’s surprised his trick failed.]
DENPA LEADER: Of course it did! No one would fall for a trick like that!
KOE: I’ve had enough of your meddling, you Denpa Dorks! I’ll show you my power!
Are you rolling on the floor? No. But you’re smirking, and definitely not rolling your eyes. It’s a good feeling when a game establishes a connection with the player wherein it wants you to be “in on the joke” and feel like you’re part of some kind of meta-commentary.
Again, cute and playful.
The soundtrack contains a collection of completely fitting, silly-spaceman tracks. It’s very much the soundtrack this game should have; nothing too grandiose, but richer than, say, a minimalist collection of boops and beeps that would certainly have come off as trying too hard. You’ll hear the battle themes frequently, so good that they don’t seem to get old. It’s perfect.
Your adventure will “feel” unique. Even though you’re just going through the same enemies and dungeons I went through, you’ll approach all of them your own way, with your own team. (Unless you import my guys. Check my Twitter @TweetsByTheTony for Denpa Men QR codes.)
This is the true beauty of the game’s “snowflake” approach to building your Denpa collection. By allowing you to become absorbed in a game that makes itself feel personal, then wrapping a satisfying, long, challenging quest in a likable, colorful, ironic style, Genius Sonority has unleashed something unexpected and wonderful.
Both as simple and as complex as you want to make it, players of all kinds will find a lot to smile about while playing The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave. Whether you want to set each individual Denpa’s attack before each turn of a battle, or just plow through by jamming on the helpful “everyone attack without using skills/AP” button (X), you’ll find that even cruising through battles on auto-pilot sometimes won’t kill your interest. And believe me…you’ll need to get involved at some point.
I feel like this review may be a bit short on in-game specifics, but game mechanics are straightforward. Overworld map, dungeons (some of which you can only enter upon reaching a certain experience level or after complete a specific requiremen), treasure chests, baddie bashing, leveling up, shopping, equipping, healing, reviving…
…oh, hey! The Shrine!
When you lose a Denpa man in battle and either fail to revive him before leaving the dungeon or do so because you’re returning to the Denpa House after the loss of your entire party during a particularly nasty fight, his “spirit” can be retrieved by paying Offerings at the Shrine. Offerings are items. You can find and purchase them. QR Denpa don’t apply – Denpa ghosts apparently return to haunt their lands of origin. You’ll have to re-scan them, I guess. Don’t know…I was fanatical about making sure my guys left the dungeons alive; hence, I’ve not dealt with the aftermath of losing a QR Denpa and trying to retrieve him.
But, there’s another security mechanism in place to help reassure you that you’re not really in constant danger of losing good friends forever.
Play it for yourself. The Denpa Men is a blast from the past with enough modern touches and interesting tics to make it feel very modern. It’s retro-cool. And anything that reminds you of the Katamari Damacy cousins can’t be bad…right?
Well, it probably can. But this one’s not!
Do yourself a favor and jump in; there’s a big, exciting Denpa world to explore.
- A funny, original, engaging new IP
- Endless customization and possibilities; no two games will be the same
- Shockingly long and deep adventure for $9.99
- Seriously, this is only $9.99?! Wow.
- Cool, a good RPG with strong localization and likable chracters!
- Occasionally, the game gets really serious and demands that you pull it together and play harder. Is that bad? No, but it could turn off some players.
- Some of the higher-tier items are insanely expensive.
- Some enemies return as slightly tweaked or even palette-swapped versions in later levels. Sometimes funny, but why three shades of flying pigs over something unique to different stages?
- The QR thing is neat and works fine, but…it’s QR. This is more of a system-level complaint about the 3DS, but I wish the process for taking/posting/trading QR codes were a tad less clunky.
- Damn Ice Demon…
It’s pretty family-friendly. Denpa “attacking” happens by running up and headbutting monsters with their enormous, cartoon heads. Nothing super-intense…except for the difficulty, at times. That could be frustrating, but that’s gaming. Aside from a few villains who wield huge axes and dragons with big, pointy teeth…you won’t find any REAL stabbing or shooting or geysers of blood here. Woohoo!