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Game Review

The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Radioheads

When we first started hearing the news about Denpa Ningen no RPG coming to the West, we didn't know what to expect. Its visual debt to Nintendo's Miis and Pikmin intrigued us, and the fact that the brains behind this game had their fingers in Pokémon Colosseum and great series such as Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy and Ogre Battle meant that we would have been fools not to add this to our watch list. Now that it's been localised as The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave, we couldn't be happier.

In the most direct sense, The Denpa Men is a dungeon crawler. However its unique approach to the genre means that no two gamers will ever have the same experience, and the sharp attention paid to level design and character balancing mean that you will never get complacent with your strategy for long. In short it's a game that always has the potential to fall into dull repetition, but never actually does.

When it begins you'll be assigned a Denpa Man at random. This character becomes your squad's de facto leader, and you'll have to help him manage an ever-growing army in order to take down the King of Evil. The plot itself is nothing to speak of, but the game seems to realise this, focusing wisely on world-building instead. The Denpa Men isn't about resolving a storyline, but it's about exploration and about the magic of the unknown.

It's also a game of enormous personality. The Denpa Men themselves are absolutely charming creations, reacting to nearly everything you do. When you catch one, he'll let you know how he feels about that. Get him killed and he'll have some not-very-kind things to say if you happen to cross paths again. These little soldiers, after all, are more than just living weaponry; they're individuals with distinct attitudes, and they don't take kindly to poor management. The small tantrum they throw when you take away their equipment is evidence enough of that.

But what are Denpa Men? Well, they're all around you right now, apparently...only you'll need your 3DS to see them. The Denpa Men are creatures who live and travel on radio waves. You'll need to seek out as many as you can — and in as many different varieties as possible — to build a well-balanced army, and you do this through WiFi hotspots.

Yes, much like The Hidden, this game relies on multiple WiFi connections. But don't run away just yet; it's actually handled quite well here.

When you first start the game, you'll use the AR capabilities of the 3DS to find and capture Denpa Men around you. You can accumulate a sizeable number of them right off the bat, but as the game progresses and you find yourself in need of different skills you'd do well to travel to a friend's house, a coffee shop, or anywhere else that has a different WiFi connection. Doing so will expose you to different stocks of Denpa Men, with different attributes and abilities than those you'd find elsewhere. Impressively enough, the same Denpa Men will spawn for anyone who visits these connections. For instance, if you explore a particular WiFi signal and find Denpa Men named Damien, Anthony and Darren, your friend exploring the same signal later will find the same three that you just saw, and shouldn't expect to find Corbie, Thomas and Ron.

This leads to the major concern people will have about the game, and that's that not everybody has the luxury of traveling to multiple WiFi hotspots. Fortunately, you won't actually need to. Doing so will certainly help your army grow faster, but you should have enough Denpa Men on your home signal to get you off to a good start. From there, you can purchase items that will redefine the attributes of your little soldiers, for example if you find you need a colour other than what you were able to catch. You can also reincarnate your deceased Denpa Men for a price, and even import and export Denpa Men with QR codes once you hit an early milestone in the game. In short, the game knows that not everybody has access to unlimited WiFi signals, and it does provide alternatives.

The actual gameplay consists of exploring dungeons and other areas with your squad, defeating enemies in turn-based combat and seeking out treasure along the way. The dungeons are large and surprisingly difficult, and the turn-based combat is always exactly as complicated as you'd like it to be. You can have your squad auto-attack, you can choose individual tactics for each Denpa Man, or you can mix it up by choosing tactics for a few and automating the rest. It's a great way to keep the player in control without overwhelming them, and the auto-combat will be a great boon for beginners as well.

In terms of combat, you'll want to brush up on your elemental weakness chains, because the colour of your Denpa Men affects the amount of damage they'll take from a particular elemental attack. This is why it's important to keep a large stock on hand. A powerhouse squad in one dungeon may immediately become sitting ducks in the next!

There's a wealth of optional material to find and purchase, and an unlockable database of Denpa Men types that will have you scrambling to collect as many as you can in order to fill in all the blanks. For a genre that too often gets away with simplicity, The Denpa Men absolutely revels in choice.

As far as presentation goes, it's adorable and positively bursting with personality. The music is fantastic and distinctive between areas, and the 3D effect adds a perfect dash of depth to the diorama-styled fight sequences. As the battles are turn-based it would be pretty difficult to botch the controls, but even so we're happy to report that they work great.

The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave does its best to appeal to both old hands and newcomers, and we think they accomplished that goal with flying — ahem — colours. As the game will play out differently depending upon which Denpa Men you manage to catch it's hard to estimate exactly how long of an experience to expect, but we think it's safe to say that even the fastest, luckiest player can expect around 15 hours of main story. That's excellent value, and it's quite possible that even after the story is done you won't want to leave your new friends behind.

Conclusion

The cumbersome title and suspicious cuteness of The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave may scare off a few gamers, but those who give it a chance will find themselves immersed in a genuinely creative and surprisingly challenging world. The animation is charming and smooth, the soundtrack passively gorgeous, and the experience long and rewarding. If The Denpa Men lacks for anything it's replay value, but the first run will certainly take you long enough, and you can always spend time after the main game collecting unique Denpa Men wherever you travel. After all, there's a Denpa Man somewhere out there that quite literally has your name on it.

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Game Trailer

User Comments (101)

Geonjaha

#2

Geonjaha said:

Dear god...that trailer. >.<
It really wouldn't hurt them to have not fully commited solely to the Telly Tubby crowd.

Late

#4

Late said:

Waiting for European release.

I wonder how many notices what you did here:
if you explore a particular WiFi signal and find Denpa Men named Damien, Anthony and Darren, your friend exploring the same signal later will find the same three that you just saw, and shouldn't expect to find Corbie, Thomas and Ron.

6ch6ris6

#5

6ch6ris6 said:

hope europe gets a demo too. game looks interesting but i dont know if it is my type fo game

Boo_Buster

#6

Boo_Buster said:

It sounds like a new, interesting twist on the RPG dungeon crawling genre... Seems worthy to me. Thanks NL!

zipmonStaff

#8

zipmon said:

Great review Phil!! Glad to see this turned out so well, it sounds like an absolute blast! I love it when things like this make it across the ocean! :D

WiiLovePeace

#12

WiiLovePeace said:

Oh MAN this game looks like an awesome insta-buy, please release in Australia extremely soon! :D

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#13

Philip_J_Reed said:

Do you have to be connected to the said WiFi hotspot or detecting that signal is enough?

Detecting is enough, fortunately. :)

LordJumpMad

#14

LordJumpMad said:

I feel guilty for over leveling my DerpaMen on the Demo just because I was trying to get more "Club" clothes for my party, hopefully the games gets harder, since my party is all ready at Lv10.

@Philip_J_Reed
I'm working on finding that DrepaMen again, with your name, but it might not be named Philip after all :P

XCWarrior

#16

XCWarrior said:

Demo is fun, that 9/10 is well worthy. I can't wait to pick this up down the road... when I have more money on hand. But great review, explains the game well from what I've played thus far. And 15 hours = well worth it!

Spoony_Tech

#17

Spoony_Tech said:

Can't wait to dig into this game later today.

Another question for Philip. Do you know what determines if the Denpo men will have an antenna or ones? I just got a new wifi setup and even my old one didn't give me any antenna ones.

Adam

#18

Adam said:

Thanks for all the compliments on my review, guys. This game is a real gem.

grumblegrumble

#20

grumblegrumble said:

Wow, this review came out pretty quickly. How long have you guys been playing this? I think I'll wait for more user reviews.

Dizzard

#21

Dizzard said:

@grumblegrumble

Philip mentioned in the Denpa Men thread in the forum that he had played 8 hours of the game so far.....and that was about 2 days ago when he posted that.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#22

Philip_J_Reed said:

Do you know what determines if the Denpo me will have an antenna or ones?

I don't...I think it's more or less random. Keep hunting though, you'll need them!

Wow, this review came out pretty quickly. How long have you guys been playing this?

A week. ;) Check the forum thread...lots of questions from players got answered in there!

SammyOfMobius

#23

SammyOfMobius said:

Just bought it, it is awesome! I love it so much and is so challenging yet so addicting! It is cool to see something so new and innovative and have a new IP. Best 3DSWare game of 2012 dudes. Rock n Roll!

grumblegrumble

#26

grumblegrumble said:

I'm not a big fan of dungeon crawlers. I'll stick with Quarth this week, thanks though, guys. It does look good. I've got enough to play as it is! Still working through Kid Icarus: Uprising, too, and collecting coins in NSMB2.

Samholy

#27

Samholy said:

9/10 ? what the hell ?
no way ! its just stupid,comon guys. unless the full game is totally different than the demo...
there are many rpgs on the DS that had lower scores and that are THOUSANDS TIMES better than this.

Shugo

#29

Shugo said:

@Samholy I think it's probably rated in comparison to other eShop offerings rather than in comparison to all other games playable on the system. Take it more as a "Looking for some good eShop games? This is one of the best!"

...I think, anyway.

Big_Al1

#30

Big_Al1 said:

I've heard a lot of people put off by the character design, while others (like myself) find it so silly we're intrigued. It's a pretty solid turn based RPG, and I hope the sequel is released eventually.

Kholdstare

#31

Kholdstare said:

I didn't know WiFi hotspots were needed to collect Denpa men... I thought they appeared when other people are in the cameras view.

Windy

#32

Windy said:

Ive been playing this game all morning and cant take myself away from it. It has exceeded my expectations and is my favorite Eshop download to date now.......Back to the game! Dont forget the sequel has full online co-op and if this title gets enough support we could see a sequel early 2013 wouldnt that be sweet!

Aqueous

#33

Aqueous said:

nice review, I'll be moving my guys into the full game shortly, just got to finish looking at things on the eshop before I start into a game that I think will chew up a lot of spare time.
(I found bus routes excellent, you need to be quick but loads of Denpa Men are drifting around by looking on the buses.)

Windy

#34

Windy said:

@Samholy sorry bud you are most certainly wrong. If you havent played it you shouldnt say it. Just sayin. Previously my favorite RPG on 3ds was Tales of the Abyss which is pretty darn good. But this game has tons more to offer and is a deeper more intriguing battle system than Tales of the Abyss was. I love both games but this smokes tales of the Abyss in every way except the storyline

Slapshot

#35

Slapshot said:

Great review Phil!

This game looks awesome. If I didn't have La-Mulana on my Wii's HD, I buy this in in a heartbeat, but it's going to have to wait awhile longer.

WesCash

#36

WesCash said:

The banner and trailer make me uncomfortable... :| Seems a bit too weird for me, and I don't really care for RPGs, AR technology or the Wifi hotspot thing. It's still good to see quality eshop games though.

Intrepid

#37

Intrepid said:

That is one creepy trailer. I may get this game down the road, but I have too many other games at the moment.

WesCash

#38

WesCash said:

This also reminds me of that really odd Pikmin 2 commercial where the midgets (is that a politically correct term??) are dressed up as Pikmin and fetch this guy a hotdog. Youtube it if you have time, it's ridiculous.

Windy

#39

Windy said:

I wish you guys would post a different trailer it's just plain scaring people away from the game and thats just to bad cause that trailer is creepy and has absolutely nothing to do with the game. It's just plain creepy

Dizzard

#40

Dizzard said:

I think the trailer is funny. It's the most memorable trailer for a game I've watched in a long time too. That has to count for something.

Windy

#41

Windy said:

Yeah its is funny to me and yo. But ive seen to many people post, "thats just creepy. Im not buying." Or something similar to that. The game is execellent and that trailer shouldn't scare you off if you like a dragon quest type RPG

McGruber

#42

McGruber said:

I played the Demo. It was fun for what it was, very basic rpg, with some AR elements thrown in. Definitely NOT a 9/10...

HandheldGuru97

#44

HandheldGuru97 said:

Was going to grab it but, 3DS's battery is failing so I have to buy that first. Next month however this game will be mine!

Drobotic

#45

Drobotic said:

I already got The Avengers on DVD this week.Probably not gonna get it right away.

SuperNictendo

#46

SuperNictendo said:

Finally got home from work after reading this great review at my desk.... ....and now... The DenpaMen

TruenoGT

#47

TruenoGT said:

This convinced me to download the demo and it's super crazy and fun. I have "Backlog 9000" otherwise I'd snag it right away, but I might get it soon anyway just to vote for the sequel to get localized!

Windy

#48

Windy said:

@Lionsgate the full version is much different from the demo. I beleive the review is of the full version and not the demo. The author is right on in my oppinion

sinalefa

#49

sinalefa said:

I got the demo and I liked it a lot. Haven't gotten back to it (Journey Collection just arrived), but I liked what I played, and I don't consider myself a fan of dungeon crawlers. Great that you can transfer your demo data to the main game.

And people put off by a trailer are just judging a book by its cover, doing themselves and this game a great disservice at the same time. At least get the demo first.

WaveBoy

#52

WaveBoy said:

The trailer looks creepy? You guys need to get out more.
It seemed like a cheap & lousy 'do it yourself' looking college side project if anything. I'm not into RPG's, but the actual gameplay footage does look pretty rad. The trailer should be axed though, not because it's silly(which it should be!) but because it's just B-grade quality.

Cengoku

#55

Cengoku said:

I went to the faq of the denpaman website and i read this:
There are no voices in the English version.
The Japanese voices have been replaced with sound effects.

I hate to say this but I don't buy this game just because of that. They could do an option about the japanese voices.

rjejr

#57

rjejr said:

I'm confused about the WiFi. Does the game let you know what you're around? I hate the 3DS wifi set up. We go to a lot of hotels and I never let the kids go online b/c it's such a PITA. With my iPod Touch it takes about 2 seconds literally to connect to a new spot. And bitch about Apple all you want but a Touch and a 3DS XL both cost $199. I can walk to the corner and get a doesn't wifi spots and access 3 of them but my kids 3DS don't work out of the house.

Big_Al1

#58

Big_Al1 said:

@rjejr: The game detects routers and creates Denpamen using whatever esoteric means, it does not need to connect to the internet.

WingedSnagret

#62

WingedSnagret said:

It looks like someone combined Pikmin with Miis and sent them on an RPG mission! XD Although this does look more promising then I thought it would, I'll give it that.

Henmii

#64

Henmii said:

Daft name and trailer, but interesting looking game! So you can also collect Denpa-men by scanning QR codes! That's nice to hear, though I may also try to catch some in my home! After all, that's part of the experience!

By the way: What does Denpa mean in Japanese? And what means Pik (You know, from Pikmin)?

chiefeagle02

#65

chiefeagle02 said:

Played the demo. Reminded me if the dungeon crawling bits from DQ IX starring the unitard people from the Toyota Prius commercial. Will definitely consider. :)

Gioku

#67

Gioku said:

It's good to hear that you only have to detect a signal; there are plenty of signals the 3DS detects around my house but I can't connect to any of them! I may be able to get this game after all! :D

RR529

#68

RR529 said:

I love all the comments from the people who have only played the demo, and assume that gives them the knowledge to totally discredit the 9/10 review written by someone who's played the full game, lol.

Seriously, this game is awesome. It has a really old school difficulty once you really get into it, and it gets really awesome by the time you get to the Tower of Evil (the final of the first set of dungeons).

Obviously, it's not going to offer what a retail game can offer (such as Tales of the Abyss), but you'd be crazy to expect that (it is an eShop game, after all). As far as eShop games go, this is easily the best one yet, IMO.

Berenica

#69

Berenica said:

This is one of those games that your 12 year old self would have KILLED for! A radar to hunt down little men where ever you go!?! HELL YEAH!! Last night I walked to the Grocery store from my house and had the radar on for the entire walk. The radar would clear about every 500 ft. or so and I'm guessing it was connecting to different hotspots as I walked past all the shops in the stripmall. It just so happens that there is a Gamestop along the way as well and I had this suspicion that Gstop could have a little extra somethin' somethin' transmitting from their secret underground bunker. So I hung out in front of the store and low and behold, I found some crazy high level Antenna goodies like "Great Wall", "Haste (all)", "Lullaby (all)" and "Blindfold (all)" in that area. I also found and a super rare "Summer Sun", which, trust me... so far he is the best DMan I've caught, although I won't say why for spoiler reasons. (The rare ones show up as white dots on the radar and will have white halos on the top screen. They are a to catch, but if you miss it, walk away and come back and he'll eventually reappear.) Starbucks was another good place for high level "2 color swirl" men. This was all on the first full day of play too! Not sure if GStop had anything to do with it but honestly I haven't seen Men this powerful anywhere else yet! I've been playing this game for 2 days now and only stopped to briefly sleep and potty, both of which i killed with one stone... don't ask.
So, I know it's early yet, but does anyone know of a good forum where you can share QR codes yet?

RATJUICE

#73

RATJUICE said:

I wish I didn't waste my 10$ on planet crashers..(crappiest rpg ever)
Oh well, I think I will still get this tomorrow since it is so awesome.

KAHN

#74

KAHN said:

everyone, step back, philip's prepared to fight with his life to defend this game :P

NintendoCanada

#75

NintendoCanada said:

anyone know if this game is in french? like for colors 3d?
because i want to play this game in french and i'm not sure if it's in french? :P

Windy

#78

Windy said:

@ryanthehedgehog It's a very solid RPG where you use your systems camera to catch your group members. Each and every Denpa Man you catch has different stats as every dungeon you explore require you to setup your group accordingly. Guys don't let the kiddy looks fool you this is a very good RPG. I wouldnt say Epic or anything but to me the best game in the Eshop so far.

Windy

#79

Windy said:

@RATJUICE Agreed this is what planet Crashers should have been. Anyone have any ideas why planet Crashers has a good rating in the Eshop? Just a Horrible game

RATJUICE

#80

RATJUICE said:

@Windy
I have no Idea who would give that game a good rating, because that is by far one of the worse games I have played... I wouldn't have spent even 2$ on it if I would have been able to play it beforehand..

ouroborous

#81

ouroborous said:

Excellent! Add this to the MUST-HAVE list of eShop games. I'm glad I hung on to the eShop creds that I had until this unexpectedly came along.

realar

#83

realar said:

Best ten dollars I ever spent! Folks, you are looking at the best AR RPG ever made!

True_Hero

#85

True_Hero said:

Wow. This game is getting a lot of love. I might just pick it up sometime when I have the cash.

Hokori

#89

Hokori said:

Fun game, reminds me of Dragon Quest, makes me wonder if I DLed a DQ game on my 3DS if I'd play it more? I've been playing a lot of this game and RPGs are usually hard for me

Dodger

#90

Dodger said:

I'll probably get this when I finish Dragon Quest 9. Recently restarted that after taking a long break. It looks fun and creative. Not a huge fan of AR stuff or spinning around in circles in public places but it looks worth it for the levels.

TheInvisibleTor

#91

TheInvisibleTor said:

@Philip_J_Reed how many dungeons are there in the game. I just got it, and i see three islands to the side of my homebase....is, there, more....??? Cause I would want more than that!!

Jono97

#92

Jono97 said:

The trailer gave me a headache XD. The game didn't appeal to me at first... but after spending 10 minutes on the demo, It's one of my most wanted...

andorob

#93

andorob said:

Possibly the most impressive demo experience I've had from the eShop. Picking up the full version very soon.

supercomet13

#96

supercomet13 said:

me not sure if i should get this game because i can't find a review saying it is bad and yes i know this sounds wierd but i will not get a game unless someone hates it and exsploits every thing that is wrong with it me want it but just can't let myself get it :(

Skeet102

#97

Skeet102 said:

Just got it! That trailer though... it reminds me of the hypno song in a way.

plungie

#98

plungie said:

People, heres some advice on shopping in the Eshop. NEVER trust 5-star ratings!! I got EscapeVektor while it was on sale, and it totally SUCKED. Waste of time and money. [by the way, if you want to find it, its in the indie games section] STILL, good review, but its just the rating thats a little bit too low. I mean, I got 40 WHOLE HOURS OUT OF THIS GAME!!!! Its amazing!! 1010 is the TRUE rating!!!

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