Amusing way to get new party members; charming presentation and dialogue; ease of play
Gameplay starts to get a little generic
“You’ve probably already noticed,” begins Brandon, my level 12, black-headed Revive Denpa Man, “but we all have different faces.” And the Denpa Men, the eponymous stars of Genius Sonority’s new game for Nintendo eShop, certainly are all different. Which, certainly, wouldn’t be out of place in a dungeon-crawling role-playing game like The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave– especially considering the characters are randomly generated– but the differences go beyond physical and statistical characteristics.
They say different things to you as you prod them with your stylus, forcing them to give up (admittedly useless) information, as Animal Crossing villagers might, only a bit stranger and somewhat more petulant. “You have to look for love outside,” gently reminds Kavden, who is the only Denpa Man in my eight-man party who can heal, and therefore my most overworked and probably disgruntled party member. “It’s important to have time for yourself!” adds Jackson, my DPS man. (His Earth-type ability, Landslide, makes short work of Water-type enemies, which I won’t pretend boggles my Pokémon-trained mind.) “I’m not sleepy,” Al the enemy-slowing support Denpa Man non sequiturs. If platitudes were currency in this odd role-playing game, I’d never lack for potions. Unfortunately, just like any other role-playing game, I’ve got to earn my coin.
Little-known fact: there are Denpa Men everywhere. In fact, you just ate one. Jerk.
So I do. Denpa Men after all is a game made by former Dragon Quest and Pokémon developers, and it shows. You catch Denpa Men, for example, snagging the somewhat creepy Teletubbie-looking fellows out of thin air via the 3DS camera. Ones with antennae have special skills; ones that are shiny
are super rare have extra great stats. And Denpa Men with a different color are always desirable, because they’ve got elemental strengths (and weaknesses) that will pretty much keep you alive once you run into enemies packing fire or water.
Of course, this means that to get the best Denpa Men, you’ll be running around your home and beyond, waving your 3DS like a magic wand, hoping you won’t run into someone you know. Or someone, period. (My advice: invest in a swivel chair, at least.) If you’d like, you can share your Denpa Men by turning them into QR codes, and naturally you can scan other people’s Denpa Men as well. Unfortunately, the QR codes promised on the website aren’t quite up yet– they’ll be there in two weeks– but there’s plenty to catch in augmented reality.
Double the color, double the weaknesses, double the strength, double the fashion faux pas.
And after you’ve gotten your AR on, you’ll smash enemies around via Dragon Quest-style battles in grottoes reminiscent of Dragon Warrior Monsters or Etrian Odyssey. The difficulty is often just what you’d expect, with bosses often taking you for quite the ride, and wandering enemies often chasing after you in tight dungeon hallways. Often this means that it’s difficult to save up for items as you’ll be constantly buying potions– unless, of course, you caught some exceedingly high-stat Denpa Men, or those that can heal or revive. Mostly what it means, though, is a relentless seat-of-your-pants ride, unless you grind monster after monster.
Which shouldn’t be too time-consuming, actually. Denpa Men who die can be revived via magic, potions, or by making an offering at a Dragon Quest-style shrine. Meanwhile, your extra Denpa Men– those elemental ones you have in reserve, for instance– all get experience even when they’re back at the farm. Denpa Men who show up in the camera are always at levels appropriate to your next dungeon, and best of all, when you die in the field, you don’t get a game over– you just appear in town, your Denpa Men at the same levels they were when they died.
To make things even easier, the game offers an auto-battle option for those too lazy to run through the individual actions of eight Denpa Men. Sometimes this is even better because your Denpa Men will change their tactics based on real time. If you plan your individual actions and someone gets mangled during that turn, there’s nothing to be done; if you let your party auto-battle, your healers or buffers will be glad to help anyone who gets hurt unexpectedly. So while I initially thought it better to plan out a course of attack during boss battles, I ended up using auto-battle much more than I’d ever expected. No shame.
It’s no Pikmin, but there’s still plenty of party members here.
As far as story goes, there’s not much to tell. In fact, other than the Denpa Men themselves, there’s little that differentiates Denpa Men from any other rote RPG. The draw of Denpa Men– whose Japanese multiplayer sequel is probably waiting in the wings depending on the sales of this game– is clearly in catching Denpa Men, and the little quirks that come with it are really just window dressing.
That said, it’s all pretty great window dressing. The music is bouncy and almost Earthbound-like; the graphics, especially the Denpa Men themselves, are cartoonish without being nauseous. (Some of their facial expressions are just downright goofy.) Sure, you won’t have a clear idea of why exactly you need to take down the King of Evil (although it’s lampshaded in-game– it’s because he’s, not-really-spoiler-alert, evil), but you’ll have a good time watching and hearing yourself doing it.
Denpa Men: They Came By Wave probably won’t win any awards for originality, but its parts, cobbled together from its RPG brethren, make up a quirky whole that boasts its own personality. It’s a game where your party members are as much pet as partner, where polka-dotted shirts stand equally with Dragon Quest’s ornate steel armors. It’s a game where your party members urge you to take a break from the game, or step out and ask someone out. As rote as it is, Denpa Men‘s a reminder that the traditional RPG will stick around for a long time– so we can go about our daily lives, without worrying about it being gone when we get back.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.