Best 3DS RPG
After some understandable worry about whether or not the game would be localized and a strangely quiet announcement at E3 2012, Fire Emblem: Awakening was finally released in North America. It is both a critical and financial success, becoming the best-selling entry in the series thus far. It is not hard to see why, either. Awakening combines and updates unique aspects from previous games, such as the customizable My Unit character from the DS remake of Mystery of the Emblem and the marriage and second generation system from Genealogy of the Holy War with mainstays like the support system and skills. Awakening also has the entirely new pair-up feature, which allows two characters to participate in a fight. All of these mechanics make for very fun and engaging battles.
Awakening also manages to appeal to both veterans of the series and newcomers. For fans, there's the aforementioned gameplay mechanics and the many shout-outs and references to previous games in the form of weapons, legacy characters, and even outright maps replicated in the DLC. The main story only barely connects to earlier games, which is a boon to Fire Emblem neophytes.
This game also sports fantastic music, a delightful cast of characters, lots of additional content in the form of maps and other things unlocked through SpotPass and paid DLC, and an excellent English script. There is also a fairly unobtrusive and accessible tutorial for the game and multiple difficulty settings along with Casual Mode, which turns off the permanent death feature should the player so desire. Fire Emblem: Awakening does many things right, and it's no wonder it has become not just a well-loved 3DS title, but the staff's favorite one in 2013.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds from the very beginning makes no secret of its use of nostalgia, being a sequel to the legendary A Link to the Past. What quickly becomes apparent, however, is this is no mere cash-in on our childhood memories. A Link Between Worlds simply uses a familiar world to present the player with a fresh take on the series. The majority of Link's items are available from the start, and all items use a regenerating magic bar rather than requiring ammunition. This frees the game up incredibly, leaving room for Nintendo's designers to make combat more exciting and dungeons more clever. A Link Between Worlds isn't content to stop there, of course, as there are new mini-games and secrets aplenty for players to discover. The latest entry in this series not only proves there's life left in 2D-styled Zelda games; it's also a brilliant game in general.
The Etrian Odyssey series has come a long way since its first installment, so it was nice to see the first EO game revisited with updated mechanics and the addition of a storyline. Etrian Odyssey Untold: Millennium Girl is more of a full re-imagining than a mere remake, and almost all of its changes are for the better. Although the new story and characters are fairly cliché, the way the party members interact with each other and the world is a breath of fresh air for a dungeon-crawler. Beyond having real personalities and engaging in regular banter about the game's quests, the Millennium Girl party helps with exploration, pointing out secret doors and exclaiming when monsters are nearby. They even remind the player of monster weaknesses during battle, preventing trips to the status screen.
Even without the Story Mode features, Millennium Girl contains a wealth of mechanical improvements and features a dungeon that has been completely designed in a way that makes it much more interesting to explore. All in all, this is a great remake that appeals even to gamers who don't normally play hardcore dungeon crawlers.
by Cassandra Ramos, Michael Apps, Becky Cunningham