The Denpa Men 3: RPG finds success through iteration

May 26, 2014


With the release of The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave, developer Genius Sonority hit upon a formula that was both compelling and a showcase of the 3DS’ particular strengths and quirks. Since then, the focus has been on augmenting and fleshing out that experience, building upon what was largely a proof-of-concept title and giving you more reasons to stay in the world and let yourself get lost in it. The Denpa Men 3: The Rise of Digitoll seems like the culmination of these efforts, a game so full of bells and whistles that we’re not sure there’s room for any more.

The core formula here remains: you’re tasked with capturing Denpa Men and building a party to explore dungeons and take on foes. The key here is just how those Denpa Men get caught: the game converts nearby Wi-Fi signals into unique creatures, and you use the 3DS’ augmented reality features to spin around, aim and send nets their way to snag them. It’s a compelling use case for the technology and portable games in general, and the connected spin on the Monster Rancher generation formula makes the search for useful characters into an area-wide endeavor.

You can also get Denpa Men through QR codes, or through importing from previous games, but the game incentivizes exploration through scaling new catches to your level, as well as allowing you to retrieve fallen party members at the spot you caught them (rather than losing them forever, as is otherwise the case). The Rise of Digitoll adds more reasons to search: you can also find treasure chests through AR, and sometimes wild Denpa Men are wearing equipment you can salvage.


Building a team is different than most RPGs, and here’s why: each Denpa Man practically has only three attributes (size, color and antenna type), and your party size rapidly scales up to eight members. Instead of having a healer or a magic character, you’ll have one simply capable of reviving, or one that can hit a single foe with a fire attack. This piecemeal approach means picking which to use is a matter of weighing trade-offs. Thankfully, switching people out on the fly is easier in this third installment, as it allows for more experimentation. Why’s that so important? Well, the original game’s very vanilla abilities have since been joined by some peculiar support antennae and even one that can catch enemy monsters and use them to attack later. Of course, cool abilities often come at the expense of durability; as boring as it is, you’ll still probably want an antenna-free tank character or two to chip away at foes.

The Rise of Digitoll puts a heavier focus on overworld exploration than previous titles, while simultaneously spending much less time there than the second game. You really only have to walk somewhere once, and then the fast-travel system kicks in and lets you teleport from any safe area or save point. The fun, though, comes in finding hidden areas, often when using the game’s cannon-based long-range transit system. You can find cool little items, special shops and fishing alcoves to check out, making for a nice change-of-pace from constant dungeon delving.


Speaking of fishing, it’s not the only leisurely pursuit in The Denpa Men 3. You can tell that Genius Sonority has spent some time around the edges of the Pokemon series, as there are lots of little diversions for dedicated players. You can plant seeds in gardens and water them, you can buy furniture to decorate your house, you can rent out characters to other players… none of this is crucial, thankfully, as it’d be tedious if it were, but you’ll probably want to dabble in one or two of these things from time to time.

What makes The Denpa Men so special is just how whimsically it handles everything, and this third installment does nothing to change that. Characters have silly shapes and silly faces, equipment is off-the-wall, enemies’ motivations are delightfully arbitrary and the whole adventure takes place in an upbeat, colorful world. On the edges, this sort of thing can get grating, with NPCs that speak in broken sentences and a soundtrack that calls just a bit too much attention to itself to hold up with a limited downloadable scope. Generally, though, The Rise of Digitoll is a joy-filled experience, and one you’ll be happy to spend more time in taking care of superfluous little tasks.


If you want to play a game that truly feels at home on the 3DS, you should check out Denpa Men, and with no real continuity to worry about, this robust third title is your best option for jumping in. It’s both distinct in its features and nostalgic in its classic-RPG battles, and an example of how the eShop allows some great weird games to come into existence.

Pros: Streamlined party management, still-cool capture mechanic, lots of new extras
Cons: Abilities could be explained better, NPCs are a bit off-putting

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.