3DS

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In the past, the Mario Golf series has been defined by two separate, equally-viable tracks: the console one, focusing on party play and maintaining a low barrier to entry, and the handheld one, crafting a more personal experience with progression and customization. We live in a different world than we did when the series last appeared on the Game Boy Advance and GameCube, though, and now a handheld game has the potential to be both of these things at once.
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The JRPG is going through an oddly fruitful point in its life right now. On one hand, it is undeniable that the genre lacks the cachet that it had during the 32-bit era, and it is doubtful it will ever reclaim that. However, publishers like Atlus, Nippon Ichi and XSEED  long regarded as some of the biggest risk-takers in publishing have taken it upon themselves to ensure that many of the more offbeat titles in the genre actually make it outside of Japan. That has never happened on this scale before, and it is the only way that a game like Conception II would have ever seen the light of day in English-speaking territories. READ MORE

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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