Another of the home console games to migrate to the handheld, Retro’s Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D took us back to the sidescrolling antics of Rare’s classic SNES series, updating it with beautiful new graphics and mechanics. This version includes an extra world and the system’s stereoscopic 3D once again enhances the experience, turning those lush environments into mesmerising dioramas that have you playing about with the 3D slider like a kid. The game slots perfectly into the console’s collection of quality platformers, and that soundtrack is pretty great through headphones, too.
Wonderfully witty as ever, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies is another excellent entry into the Ace Attorney series. Bursting with humour and new extravagant personalities, Phoenix Wright fans will find much to enjoy, thanks largely to the excellent skills of the localisation and script-writing team at Capcom. The few minor gameplay additions do somewhat polish the investigation and courtroom experience, but — as with any visual novel — it's the story, character developments and gob-smacking plot twists that you really play for, and this one will keep you screaming 'OBJECTION' until the gavel drops.
Whether or not you’re a platforming fan, and whether or not you’ve played any of the previous titles in this series, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is an exceptionally well-crafted game that should not be ignored. The art style and sense of humour aren’t going to appeal to everyone, but they work well together and manage to set a very specific tone that WayForward has clearly spent time perfecting. There is little reason for any 3DS owner to avoid adding this gem to their treasure collection.
Professor Layton Vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney delivers an utterly charming, enjoyable experience to satisfy fans of both franchises; it's a crossover that, when experienced, seems entirely natural. The individual parts are pleasurable and entertaining, as always, though perhaps fall a little below the exceptional standards of their main-series contemporaries, and there's a lingering sense that more gameplay innovation to blend the two brands could have been explored. These are minor complaints in the grand scheme of a lengthy adventure, but Level-5 and Capcom have done a commendable job. The end result is another 3DS title that exemplifies much of what sets Nintendo's portable hardware and supporting software apart; it provides heart-warming, accessible fun, and entertainment to last for many hours.
Wisely eschewing its Flying Fairy subtitle in the west, this JRPG has fine pedigree and shook up some of the dustier elements of the genre with its eponymous Brave/Default mechanic, but still retained the customary hero’s tale and beautiful presentation of Square Enix’s finest titles. It’s a hell of a ride and aside from some questionable (though relatively unobtrusive) microtransactions, it’s up there (along with its direct sequel, Bravely Second: End Layer) with the finest 3DS exclusives and well worth going back to if you missed it first time round.
A console blessed with an abundance of games, 3DS has done particularly well in the RPG department. This example offers top-shelf dungeon-crawling, a deep battle system that sees you fighting and collecting demons across the elemental spectrum and an excellently written story, not to mention the soundtrack. With so many games and so little time, there’s no shame in Easy mode, either, but Shin Megami Tensei IV is a game to savour for fans or newcomers alike.
As the last Fire Emblem chapter on Nintendo’s heroic handheld, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia delivers a perfect swan song for the series’ 3DS days. This is a satisfying, deeply strategic adventure with an engaging, personal story and beautiful presentation, full of appealing art and lovely details that come alive as you play. But more than that, it’s also just delightfully different from its predecessors, in ways that only broaden its appeal: if you loved Awakening and Fates, this is close enough to be comfortable but with plenty of tweaks and additions to feel exciting and fresh; if you didn’t like those entries and yearn for a more ‘traditional’ Emblem experience, you’ll love Echoes’ throwbacks and unique touches; and if you’re a JRPG fan who’s never understood the appeal of the SRPG chessboard, explorable towns and dungeons make this a perfect point of entry to crossover. Echoes is a phenomenal Fire Emblem and a wonderful tactical title to tuck into.
Monster Hunter Stories is an excellent adventure that channels the colourful world of Capcom’s storied series into a joyous JRPG. It suffers from performance issues on non-New 3DS hardware, but it’s still full of personality, beautifully presented and fun to play, with combat that’s easy to grasp but engaging throughout. Longtime MonHun fans will appreciate Stories as a thoughtfully-made spin-off, but the gameplay template and tone are so different that you don’t need to be familiar with — or even enjoy! — mainline Monster Hunter to have a great time here. Regardless of whether you’ve been hunting Hornetaurs since the beginning or couldn’t tell a Felyne from a Fatalis, Stories is yet another charming 3DS RPG that’s well worth your time.
The Game Boy sequel to the original Metroid on NES was remarkable back in the day, but if there was ever a perfect candidate for a remake in Nintendo’s back catalogue, that was the one. MercurySteam did a fabulous job updating Metroid II’s mechanics for the 21st century, giving a whole new audience the chance to experience an important chapter in the series’ story. Handy additions like the map were joined with a new melee attack which introduced a delicate balance of risk versus reward and the result was one of the best games on the system.
It's clear that nothing can ever replace the sublime experience of sitting inside a hulking, moving arcade cabinet, steering wheel shaking and Passing Breeze pumping out of the speakers. But with arcades becoming increasingly rare, the Nintendo 3DS version steps up to the table and makes up for its diminutive size by packing in plenty of extra features, stunning presentation and immaculate controls. (Note: the Ferrari license still doesn't feature) It may have taken the best part of three decades, but M2 has delivered what is quite simply the best ever home version of Out Run. A fantastic version of a timeless classic and another victory punch for Sega's 3D Classics range - 3D Out Run is a beautiful journey that everybody should take.