|Release Date||June 2013|
I’m more than willing to admit that the 3DS’ StreetPass function seems more of a novelty at times, but only because it seems generally underutilized. Sure, being able to invisibly and automatically pass information about games you play is nifty, but that’s done by SpotPass; the only game functionality with StreetPass has been Find Mii and Find Mii II. And those are more than a little bare bones; nothing says “dungeon crawling” like hacking away at the same handful of overwhelming and completely pussy looking monsters for several encounters because the Miis in your party are all level 1. Trying to take down the really strong enemies towards the end of the game is a majorly Sisyphusian task. And the second one…didn’t introduce a whole lot of new stuff.
Thankfully, Nintendo seems to want people to get more out of StreetPass with the newest system update to the 3DS and its StreetPass plaza, by offering, among other things, four brand new games to dig into. The first thing you notice about the new plaza is there’s a new section for games. In it are the aforementioned Find Mii mini-games, as well as the exercise in futility known as Puzzle Swap, which stretches the definition of game so harshly you’d be worried the term would pull a hamstring. Those and the other games (as well as the “You’ve Got New Visitors” selection) are all organized in what looks like a park; the new games are Mii Force, Garden Town, Warrior’s Way, and Monster Manor. Each one is $4.99, but the first time you go to buy one, you’re given the offer to buy all four of them for $14.99, essentially giving you one for free.
Mii Force turns the people you passed with into weapons as you fly through side-scrolling shoot-em-up stages. You get a different weapon depending on what color a particular Mii is, and each has their own strengths and weaknesses. The goal of each stage is to just shoot everything in sight and get as much treasure as you can, while shooting through the occasional boss fight. You have four guns altogether—three in the front and one in behind—and you can rotate them with the L and R buttons. When you’re hit, one of your pods will randomly fall off. You can also rearrange the order of the pods with the touch screen, as each gun can be powered up depending on how many pods are behind it. Oh, and stages don’t just scroll in one direction or another; many of them switch scrolling directions, which helps facilitate the rotation of your guns as a feature.
Garden Town is a much tamer game in comparison, and easily the most peaceful of the four. In it, you are a newcomer to the titular town, where everyone’s obsession revolves around gardening. You are given a seed and a flower to grow, which grows a little more with each person you StreetPass with (in this context, they come onto your property and water your plant). Once it’s fully bloomed, anyone watering after that will result in the flower producing seeds, and from them you grow new breeds and/or colors of plants. Your goal is to become a master gardener, having grown 20 unique plants and putting them on display in your garden. Ideally it’s a relaxing little thing you can tool around with—you grow plants, display them however, and you buy/sell more seeds, pots, and backgrounds at the nearby mall. You can also take little part-time jobs/quests to get more of the same. Of course, it all boils down to growing those 20 plants and collecting everything there is. It can be relaxing and entertaining, or boring; it depends on how much you love gardening.
Warrior’s Way puts you as a would-be conqueror whose main goal is, obviously, to take over the entire world. On start-up, you’re given the choice between three totally aesthetic themes: shogun warlord, medieval-style king, or techno-priest. When you StreetPass with others, they can decide to become one of your generals and aid you in your quest for global conquest…if their numbers are low enough (we’re talking 3 digits). If not, they’re presented as an “emperor from afar” and you can either greet them diplomatically, which just dismisses them, or pick a fight with them. Thankfully, if you win, you’ll get all their troops added to yours…the only problem is that nine times out of ten, you’d be staring down armies in the hundreds of thousands while you’re struggling to break out of triple digits. All battles are decided via a technical rock-paper-scissors matchup, with cavalry as “rock”, infantry as “paper” and archers as “scissors.” You get to divide up your troops however you like before the match begins, with gold star divisions always winning and white flag divisions always failing. The rest is typically decided by whoever has the higher amounts of troops in each. When you defeat enemy commanders, you may gain some of their troops as well. Occasionally you will find building materials in the aftermath of the battles, which allow you to expand your pagoda/castle/space-temple, but using them turns soldiers into carpenters to make renovations.
Not going to lie, I have been digging Monster Manor easily the most out of the four games, and, frankly, quite more than I realistically should. In it, you are a private investigator sent to find out why some derelict mansion out in the middle of bumfuck nowhere is haunted. That’s about all the premise you’re going to get; what you’re also going to get is an opening sequence that borrows heavily from Luigi’s Mansion (that is, the launch-title-for-the-GameCube version). Only in this you’re saved by—and get your weapon from—a plucky young junior sleuth sidekick instead of an eccentric old man. There are 30 floors to explore, and the exploration for each room is the same: for every person you StreetPass with, they hand you a piece of a map, which may be anywhere from one to five squares in size and shape. You lay down these pieces to form rooms, which are color-coordinated to that character. The more you StreetPass with any given person, the more pieces of maps you’ll have available to you. When you form rooms of 2×2 or more of a particular color, you get treasure chests, which include weapons, healing items, or miscellaneous knickknacks. You can also improve any particular weapon by upgrading it with other version of that weapon, but if you power up and upgrade a weapon you found on the first floor enough, you’re not necessarily going to want to trade it for one you find later. Combat is simple enough; you shoot and defend with your equipped weapon (the latter by holding down L), and each weapon has its own unique properties, powers, and battery life. You(r weapons) get experience for every enemy they destroy, and your own HP restores and increases every time you enter a new floor for the first time.
Of course, throughout all of the new games, you can pick up Plaza Tickets to buy new hats and/or outfits for your Miis. They run the gamut of Nintendo franchises and icons, and the stock changes around every day…and they’re completely superfluous. And obstructive, especially if you have a particular hairstyle or facial expression for whatever Mii you’re using and don’t want to cover it up with something big and clunky that adds nothing of value except bragging rights.
Good: They give you something more to do with your StreetPass-ing; Monster Manor is cutesy-spooky but has a surprising depth to it; Warrior’s Way can make anyone into a megalomaniac; the all-four-for-$15 deal is worth it, but only if you get it when it’s available
Bad: Kind of lacking overall as games; Mii Force cranks up the difficulty too high too fast, and relies on the colors of your StreetPass people too much; Garden Town can do nothing for people who are looking for action
Overall: They’re not perfect, but it’s a game equivalent of a “buy 3 get 1 free” deal at whatever supermarket you peruse. For all we know, these games may end up growing on you. Hell, anything that’s got more depth than Puzzle Swap is good in my books.