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Game Review

The Denpa Men 2: Beyond The Waves Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Morgan Sleeper

Love is in the air

The Denpa Men: They Came by Wave was a wonderful 3DS eShop surprise last year, combining elements of Dragon Quest and Pokémon with AR functionality and a delightfully bonkers style all its own, so we were definitely excited to spot The Denpa Men 2: Beyond the Waves washing up onto our shores as well. This sequel pulls out all the stops to cast the deserving Denpa Men in a fully featured RPG, and we're absolutely thrilled with the results. Beyond the Waves is an utterly lovable adventure, bubbling over with charm and addictive gameplay, and adding a host of new features that place it head and antenna above the original.

At heart, Beyond the Waves is still very much a dungeon crawler. Moved along by a simple story, you'll take a team of Denpa Men exploring through caves and tunnels, fighting turn-based battles, leveling up and looking for loot. Its appeal goes far beyond that of most games that share this formula, however; from the moment you start up a save file, it's apparent that this is a celebration of everything colourful and fun, starting with the Denpa Men themselves.

The first of these charming creatures you'll meet is the randomly generated leader of your group. There's trouble brewing in his home of Digitown, but he can't fight it alone, and the task of gathering allies falls to you and your trusty, AR-enabled 3DS. Finding and catching the radio-wave-riding Denpa Men as they float around in the "real world" - as picked up by the 3DS' front cameras - is one of the series' big hooks, and though it sounds like a gimmick, it's very well implemented and lots of fun.

Denpa Men live in Wi-Fi signals, but you don't actually need to be connected to a network to see them; simply wandering within range of a signal will be enough to start the Denpa hordes swarming. Once you see one you like, aim with the gyroscope and hit the 'A' button to fire a friendly net and meet your new recruit.

Swinging your 3DS around in public sounds like a recipe for disaster, but in reality Denpa-wrangling can be a relatively discreet process. There's an optional "Manner Mode" that replaces the live-feed background with a generic grid, so self-conscious passersby won't think you're snapping their photo, and the Denpa Men will frequently remind you "Don't come to us, we come to you!" We looked for the little guys in our local café, and managed to snag quite a few without attracting attention - though spotting a Denpa Man of a particularly rare hue was enough to get us out of our seat.

The turn-based combat in The Denpa Men is based on an elemental weakness chain, like Pokémon, with eight colours corresponding to different element types. The battle system is fast and fun, and watching the Denpa Men swarm their opponents as an adorable mob instills the same odd sense of parental pride that Pikmin players know well. Dungeons are impressively vast and peppered with puzzles, hidden paths, and reasons to revisit older areas with new abilities - they also tend to feature enemies mainly of one or two elements, so the more colours you collect for your Denpa rainbow, the better off you'll be.

Some Denpa Men carry antennas, which give them access to special skills in battle, covering everything from healing and support spells to elemental attacks. Along with antenna and standard Denpa Men in the basic colours, there are multicoloured combinations and even special shiny forms to look out for, all of which can be a huge help in battle. The variety is staggering, especially adding in the unique faces and personalities of each character you'll catch - and that's before they even get dressed.

For while being a certain colour grants Denpa Men resistances, it doesn't actually give them a corresponding elemental attack; that's just one of the tasks that falls to the surprisingly captivating domain of Denpa dress-up. Their madcap closet has been hugely expanded from the first game, and along with the colourful onesies that raise defense and add resistances, you'll now find bracelets, anklets, necklaces, capes and scarves all with special effects, as well as more whimsical adornments like carrots and lollipops worn over the back - as you do.

Best of all, the equipment is as fashionable as it is functional. Every item has a unique look, and there's often more than one style to serve the same purpose. Most RPGs would be content with just one type of +3 Defense armour, but in the Denpa Men, you can choose between tricolour, checkered, or striped pyjamas to fit the bill. Need extra protection against soaking spells? Choose the charming fish-patterned outfit. Looking to steel yourself against physical damage? Try the star-spangled leotard. Just by looking after your stats, it won't be long before your group of warriors begins to resemble the Teletubbies dressed as extras in a Prince video, and you'll absolutely love them for it.

The new features in Beyond the Waves extend well beyond the wardrobe expansion, of course. The most notable is the Dragon Quest-style world map that frames the game. More than just a loving tribute to RPGs of old, the overworld changes the way you play, adding a healthy sense of exploration and discovery to the classic combination of combat and catacombs. There are towns to visit - each with their own inhabitants, stories, shops, and secrets - hidden oasis to find, and enemies to fight (or run away from), all of which go a long way towards making your journey feel like an adventure. And as much fun as it is to traverse the map, you'll never need to traipse across a continent just to get back to town - a quick tap of the 'X' button will zap you back to any area you've previously visited.

After a certain point in your quest, the map expands and the game's subtitle picks up another layer of meaning as you gain the ability to sail across the oceans to find new lands. It's a fun new mechanic that really opens up the world, reminding us more than a little of a top-down Wind Waker. You're in direct control of the S.S. Denpa while sailing, and you'll have to contend with sea-bound enemies just as you would on land, with your little heroes fighting from the ship deck.

Along with seafaring, the Denpa Men have picked up a few new hobbies for this new installment, including fishing. Casting your line in the ponds and oceans is a nice, relaxing way to earn some extra gold, and angling is as oddly addictive here as it is in Animal Crossing. In fact, the fishing engine feels like a direct reference to Nintendo's sandbox series, right down to the iconic bobber, fish shadows, and your character's signature pose with a successful catch.

Gardening makes an appearance as well, with flowers that can be turned into dye to change your Denpa Men's colours, and fruit with a variety of item-like effects both popping up in the Denpa patch. You'll need to water your crops often to ensure they don't wilt, and that process is unfortunately tied to real time rather than an in-game clock - frustrating if you're not the type of gamer who sits down to play every day.

As a turn-based RPG, Beyond the Waves' controls are predictably dependable, but there are some nice touches that make the most of the menu-based system. For one, the 'L' button serves the same purpose as 'A' - confirming selections - essentially letting you play the game one-handed. And while you can micromanage each Denpa Man's actions, most of the time one of the three different types of auto-battle will fit the bill - two of the options have their own dedicated buttons as well, so basic strategies can be pulled up with a single press. We also love the analogue movement; many games in this genre stick resolutely to the grid, and there's something truly joyous about leading your conga line of candy-coloured crusaders in smooth arcs around the Denpa world.

The Denpa Men might not roll on a grid, but one genre convention that's left firmly intact is its considerable challenge. There's an old-school heart beating underneath this game's cute and cuddly exterior, and it reveals itself in frequent, often severe difficulty spikes. Strategy is important, but when most new areas bring monsters that can wipe out your party in a few hits, equipment and experience points are just as vital - expect to spend plenty of time grinding for both on easier dungeon floors.

Even when you're plunging back into the same floor for the umpteenth time, however, boredom never sets in; the repetitive nature of the dungeon crawl is alleviated by the fact that Beyond the Waves is an incredibly charming game. Lots of that comes from little touches - like the Denpa Men pouting when you remove their equipment - but it's also thanks to the excellent graphics. Bright, cheery, and genuinely fun to look at, they make the vibrant world a joy to explore. Enemy designs, many of them returning from the first game, are wonderfully whimsical - it's hard not to crack a smile when you're locked in a life-or-death battle against sentient ears of corn and a bunny-pig brandishing a broadsword.

The sole graphical letdown is the underwhelming 3D effect, which simply distances the two-dimensional menu overlays from the background layer, where all the polygonal action occurs. It also takes quite a bit of adjusting to find points on the 3D slider where the small text is sharp and clear - and those points don't necessarily overlap with the best 3D settings.

The audio direction compliments the visuals perfectly, with a catchy, offbeat soundtrack and satisfying sound-effects - witness the Denpa Men throwing themselves at their enemies with a hearty, enthusiastic thud. The Denpa Men's fast-forwarded voices are another highlight, as is the first surreal moment when you realize you can understand them without subtitles.

Fitting for a game thematically centred around radio waves, Beyond the Waves opens up the channels of communication with a new online battle mode in the Coliseum. By registering your team, you'll be able to download and challenge other players' squads from your region. Even though pitting Denpa Men against each other feels wrong at first, this is a fantastic addition; you'll need to use completely different strategies when fighting diverse teams instead of enemies, and the limitless battles seriously extend the game's replay value. Each time you win, you'll take home Victory Medals that you can exchange for helpful items, and you can earn titles for your team based on your records, achievements, and play style.

On a more local level, the Denpa Men also make good use of StreetPass. You can exchange profile cards with game statistics, but the real fun comes from charging up your Street Lamp to comb the Caves of Darkness, special caverns filled with rare items that can only be explored for a limited amount of time. The Street Lamp starts with a measly thirty seconds of power - just enough to find a few items and pique your interest - but StreetPassing other players will increase the time limit. It would have been nice to see a Play Coin equivalent for players who don't live near a Denpa-crazy Digitown, but the Street Lamp is still a welcome addition.

Friends both near and far can take advantage of the QR-code generator, which lets you share your Denpa Men online and scan in helpful heroes from other players. It's an easy process - though the codes are sadly still region locked - and you can output snazzy posed pictures with QR-codes saved directly to the SD card.

As a final note, players who started their Denpa journey with They Came By Wave can import the main hero from the first game right from the start. Before too long, you'll also meet a helpful dwarf who can bring in any other Denpa Men from the previous game's save file, though they all revert to level one once they're beamed over.

Conclusion

Beyond the Waves is everything we'd hoped for in a Denpa Men sequel. It's packed full of the addictive gameplay and quirky charm that made the first game so much fun, and piles on new features that add immensely to the experience. Fans of the original will be over the moon, and for anyone who missed out then, this is the time to jump in. If you're looking for a truly delightful dungeon-crawl, or simply one of the finest, funkiest eShop adventures around, we highly recommend setting your dial to Denpa.

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User Comments (53)

CorporalPegasus

#1

CorporalPegasus said:

Loved the first one! Great that the sequel is so good as well.

The Real Denpa Men ads were creepy tough

RR529

#4

RR529 said:

Fantastic news! I loved the first one, so I'll be sure to give this a go sometime in the future.

Oh, and an online battle mode!?! Heck yeah!

C-Olimar

#6

C-Olimar said:

Sounds brilliant!

Is the fishing just for gold or is there a collection element to it as well? Same with flowers.

Spoony_Tech

#7

Spoony_Tech said:

@mariobro4 You mean 12$ As for the game I'm definitely getting it but I probably wont play it for quite awhile! Nice too know its a worthy sequel! !

Big_Al1

#10

Big_Al1 said:

When you import your party from the first game are they deleted in it?
Or can you still open the first game and play it? I haven't finished the last dungeon.

wober2

#13

wober2 said:

I loved the game until i seemingly got stuck. I lost my denpa men in battle then they stopped showing up at home for me to catch them...

Spoony_Tech

#16

Spoony_Tech said:

@everyone asking if they should buy the first one! Definitely yes. The second one is definitely looking better but the first was also so much fun. You can also dl the demo and see for yourself!

Prof_Elvin_Gadd

#17

Prof_Elvin_Gadd said:

@PORYGON If money is a problem, I'd say get the second one. The first one is a good game, but this seems to be a more fleshed out example of what they really wanted to do with this series. The first one is pretty basic, but still a solid game. I bought it, but never ended up beating it. Perhaps I'll go back and try to.

uximal

#18

uximal said:

Finally, I have been waiting for this review. I am almost finished with the first one, Will be buying this one soon, great series.

zipmonStaff

#19

zipmon said:

@C-Olimar - The fishing is mainly for gold and sidequests, although you can certainly "collect" them in your inventory too, and each fish has a little description. It's a fun little system, you equip different types of bait to attract different fish. With the flowers, you can use them for their dye, to raise stats, or to attract certain monsters to "Feeding Grounds", or you could just enjoy the colour they bring to your garden! :)

@snoox - Good question, and the answer is "yes, sort of"! So the Japanese title of these games is Denpa Ningen no RPG - ningen (人間) means "person"/"human being" but can also apparently mean "man" (maybe in the collective sense? not totally sure), which is how they've chosen to translate it here. In the game there are lots of Denpa Men with traditionally feminine names & faces. The healer in my party is named Cheyenne, another of my favourites is named Eva, and then the main hero's wife and kids feature into the story. So there aren't "Denpa Women", at least in name, but there seem to be both male and female "Denpa Men".

tl;dr: There are female characters & I think the term Denpa Men is a lost-in-translation thing. :)

@Knucklesfanguy & everyone asking about both games - If you can only get one, definitely get Beyond the Waves! They're both great, but this is the better of the two (IMO). To me having a world map to explore, extra equipment, and the online battles is more than enough to warrant the extra $5 over the original on sale.

Edit: Also, I'm 99% sure there'll be a demo of this one coming before too long, because the manual mentions being able to import your progress from one :)

Dpullam

#20

Dpullam said:

I'm definitely going to get this game now! It looks like a really fun game and it has the complexity to back the gameplay up. I can imagine spending many hours traveling over the vast landscapes in search of new dungeons and challenges. I also like the idea of accessories changing your Denpa Men's appearances and abilities. Overall, this game is one of my most anticipated eshop releases of the year.

Icefreak45

#21

Icefreak45 said:

Well, I guess it's time to finish up the first one huh XD. I'll defenitely be picking this one up for this summer :)

BakaKnight

#22

BakaKnight said:

Glad to hear the second title is what is should be, a wonderful update/revision/sequel of the original and not a mere copy :)

Now I need to hurry and finish the first game (thing that I completly forgot to do >.<; )
Hopefully I will succed just in time for next thursday release!

RetroGBHippie92

#24

RetroGBHippie92 said:

This is brilliant! A 9 out of 10 review for the sequel to one of my favourite eshop games! But I thought @Phillip_J_Reed was going to review this one, come on I'm betting this game deserves a 10/10 (despite the 3D being more or less the same as the first game), but oh well beggars can't be choosers, I'm gonna get this first thing next week, it's gonna be sweet!

bboy2970

#27

bboy2970 said:

I was gonna wait on downloading this until I beat the first game but......it just sounds so good! I feel like jumping on this one regardless of the completeness of the first game. That settles it, I'm getting this game next week!

HandheldGuru97

#30

HandheldGuru97 said:

I still haven't beat the 1st one, but this game looks great! I might have to get it sooner than I planned...

Dpishere

#31

Dpishere said:

Wow this game looks fantastic! It is just my type of game I will definitely pick it up in the future!

Skeet102

#33

Skeet102 said:

Can't wait! Got to play the original first. It sucks how it's $11.99 though, the original is going on a discount for $7.99 until the sequel is coming out. If you were planning on playing this franchise, get the first one now!

DarkCoolEdge

#34

DarkCoolEdge said:

Am I the only who didn't like the first one? I had high hopes but they all fell to the ground and shattered into pieces when I played the demo. Catching the denpas is boring but much worse are the combats, totally uninteresting and the dungeons uninspired. Biggest letdown of all 3DS' games (second, Epic Mickey. Third, Mutant Mudds).

H2OAcidic

#35

H2OAcidic said:

So I take with my comment not being answered the poster has yet to beat this game. This is why embargo's should be enforced if codes given early so the reviewer should at least beat a game once.

RetroGBHippie92

#37

RetroGBHippie92 said:

@DarkCoolEdge You only played the demo? meh you should've played the full game, the demo is pretty short and I though it at least was good enough to get me interested and I later played the game from start to finish and thought it was pretty awesome. But you know, the sequel is worth looking forward to IMO, both games have scored 9/10 on Nintendo Life, so I think you should get The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave while it's on sale, I don't predict it'll be that price again.

DarkCoolEdge

#38

DarkCoolEdge said:

@RetroGBHippie92 Nah, I'll pass. The demo was terribly boring and I have too many great games waiting to be played (like Fire Emblem: Awakening, Metroid Prime: Trilogy or Dragon Quest VI). And, sadly, I don't have cash to spare. If so I might dl Denpa 2.

H2OAcidic

#39

H2OAcidic said:

@Dazza Sorry if I came off as rude. Just not seeing other websites posting reviews other than NL had me wondering plus thought there would be an embargo attached so I guess not. I myself have the game and will be reviewing it and can agree that this game is a 9 out of 10.

Once I unlock the battle area me and your writer will have to battle. ;-)

Captain_Gonru

#40

Captain_Gonru said:

Quick aside, but the review's mention of a Play Coin option was a good one. They don't have many games that support them.

MoldyClay87

#43

MoldyClay87 said:

@Zodiak13 Kid Icarus, Resident Evil (Revelations & Mercenaries), Nano Assault EX, SSF4, DoA: Dimensions, Sonic Generations, Pokemon Rumble Blast, Pokemon Dream Radar, Soul Hackers, LEGO Star Wars III, The Sims Pets, Samurai Warriors, all built-in games except Face Raiders, SwapNote and Animal Crossing New Leaf.

Dizzard

#44

Dizzard said:

Really like this series, although I haven't finished the first game yet (need to get on to that)

The only thing I can't understand is why the QR codes are region locked, that's just pointless and idiotic....

slidecage

#45

slidecage said:

4 more days
4 more days

Then the fight start

what will get my time this or class of heroes 2 on the vita...

Kitsune_Rei

#46

Kitsune_Rei said:

I'm very excited! I just wish this wasn't so close to Animal Crossing. I need to go back and finally finish the last bit of the first game. I loved it, but my house was always full- I never wanted to let any go!

Also very cool they put the first one on sale! Great opportunity to pick it up if you were on the fence before. Its probably still worth playing the first one first.

I would echo it would have been nice to be able to use play coins for the streetpass feature- I probably will only know 1 other person with the game unless I get really lucky.

I also think this game deserves the bit higher price tag since they have added several nice new features and it seems like a lot more robust game.

C-Olimar

#47

C-Olimar said:

@zipmon Thanks! Presumably, collecting all the items in the world is a goal of this game, just as in the first game, in which case you would have to catch every fish.
I never bothered to collect every item in the first game (nor did I complete the 3 additional islands after completing the main story) but I can still see myself spending many hours fishing! :)

FredyGarbagis

#48

FredyGarbagis said:

I was waiting for the first one to go on sale, but now that the discount is here I decided to watch the trailer for the sequence and read about it... It looks sooo much better and complete that it turned me off from buying the original.

Now I'll be waiting for the DM2 to go on sale... =P

Besides, It's not like I have my "dungeon crawling" needs unattended right now. I'm playing Etrian Odyssey IV and Soul Hackers is just waiting to get stock to be sent to me.

Fafulec

#49

Fafulec said:

For my 7 years old kid, this was the coolest game ever. I mean Denpa "1". First game of this kind for him. Catching Denpa in various places, this was fun. Also fights with bosses and last boss. That needed some sort of preparation and knowledge and was not that easy. As we are not native English, he had to learn some English to read all descriptions etc. Really rewarding game, I would pay any money for next part. 10/10 for us. The only thing that bothers me are those colorfull "real" men in advert. But ingame characters are really good.

Justaguest

#53

Justaguest said:

ok i know this is gonna be my favourite game. When I went searcing for new denpa men I cought one on steroids saying "Were you watching me fly? Pervert!" lol

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