3DS

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At the risk of repeating myself, if you’re a fan of the Professor Layton franchise, you don’t really need to be reading this review. You know what you’re going to find here, and you probably don’t need my recommendation to pick up the sixth and final(?) chapter in the Professor’s puzzling adventures.

If you’re choosing now, of all times, to just get into the series? You might just be picking up the best iteration yet at the worst possible time. READ MORE

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The pace of the Yoshi’s Island franchise has always served as its trademark: its timer-free approach makes it a contemplative, measured sort of game… until you get hit or reach a special section, at which point it becomes one of the most stressful games you’ve ever played. It embraces the idea of being a good caretaker for baby Mario, and encourages players to focus on completing levels by whatever pace-slowing means necessary. The new release, Yoshi’s New Island, magnifies these elements: it’s all about taking the time to think before you flutter-jump. READ MORE

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The world of the Japanese RPG is home to tons of tropes and elements ripe for parody, and putting a game in this setting without playing the role of the traditional hero is a space that’s been increasingly explored. The Atelier series has been joined by Recettear and Hometown Story in running in-game item shops, but Weapon Shop de Omasse is the first to build a game on the experience of being the trusty blacksmith. The result is something that feels totally different from RPGs themselves, but still hinges its appeal on long-time fandom of the genre. READ MORE

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Level-5′s Inazuma Eleven series has enjoyed a long, fruitful life in Japan, and in recent years has also gained a foothold in Europe. This 3DS eShop release marks the first American appearance of the series, possibly because of the relative popularity of soccer in the region. Its appeal isn’t limited to footy fans, though: Inazuma Eleven may have a sports theme, but it’s really a deep, involved party-building RPG with an innovative battle system. READ MORE

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Bravely Default is often a contradiction. Obscure though its terminology may be, the game’s title indicates a bold step backward, and the gameplay itself follows just that philosophy. That said, the moments when it bucks tradition and even crushes it are what define the experience, for better or worse. (Usually better.) READ MORE

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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is essentially a direct sequel to Link to the Past, set in the same world and with many callbacks to one of the finest games ever made. Many of the mechanics, such as the constant switching between Hyrule and another world — in this case the kingdom of Lorule (a bit of wordplay also made by The Wonderful 101, oddly) — make a return in some form or another, but Link Between Worlds adds some modern twists to the classic Zelda gameplay. READ MORE

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Digital distribution has opened up a far wider spectrum of games to be commercially released. In generations past, we could only ever see big-budget retail releases and freeware PC games on the other end of the spectrum, with little to fill the gap (other than, arguably, portable games). Jett Rocket II is a game that simply would not survive in a modern market under the old business model. It is a game with a very specific set of goals, meant to appeal to its own niche and do so with a reasonable price tag. Was developer Shin’en able to create a quality budget platformer for the still-burgeoning eShop? READ MORE

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It’s not often that I am embarrassed to play a game in public. As a man in his mid-30s, I can train pocket monsters and manage my animal-inhabited town without caring who knows about it. But Senran Kagura Burst will never get played outside of my own private home, despite its legitimately-earned (if barely) T rating. Which on one level is something of a shame, and yet on another level completely justified. READ MORE

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Batman: Arkham Asylum drew a lot of comparisons to Metroid when it released in 2009. Arkham City and Arkham Origins have been steadily moving away from that formula ever since, trading upgrade-driven exploration for open-world gameplay. Blackgate, however, channels the Metroid franchise quite a bit, which is unsurprising given developer Armature Studio’s ex-Retro origins. READ MORE

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The first few days of a major game release are always the best.

If you’re lucky enough to pick a game up on day one, there’s really nothing like it. The fandom is abuzz, every social network is on the same page and you suddenly have plenty to talk about with all of your friends. It’s a rush, enough of one to make the most grizzled of critical thinkers gloss over problems in the wake of that irreplaceable joy of discovery. Then, inevitably, a week passes. This is where longer games are put to the test. Plenty of them pass, but not without a few nasty bumps along the way. READ MORE