#LightweightRPGs? #FinalFantasyExplorers #LegendOfLegacy #StellaGlow #3DS impressions

Much like the original DS, Nintendo have done a sterling job recently of getting a number of lavish & visually beautiful RPGs on their brilliant little 3D handheld lately, including the likes of Final Fantasy Explorers, Monster Hunter, Rune Factory, Etrian Odyssey, Fire Emblem, Xenoblade, Bravely Default 1 and 2... The list goes on. if you're an RPG fan, you'll no doubt already have begun dedicating hours of your daily commute to staring at your device and getting hooked in beautiful anime art, brilliant battles and marvellous menus galore.

For me, the only downside to this is not actually having that far to travel to work... And therefore little time to dedicate to the often story rich efforts of some truly great developers. I have always been big on my RPG games, ever since playing Zelda: Link's Awakening on the Game Boy Color, and Alundra and Final Fantasy 7 on the PS1, so it does sadden me to have less and less time to lose myself in these games.

Luckily, a number of these games seem to have managed to slot themselves into quite a niche category - that where the story isn't completely paramount, making it manageable to drop in and out of the game for shortish bursts. Perfectly ideal for someone in my situation, and I've found it doesn't always compromise on the quality of story for this either.

There was firstly, Final Fantasy Explorers, Square Enix's approach to a Monster Hunter style game. I love Monster Hunter, but really enjoyed this kind of light weight approach to a similar concept, wandering in Square Enix styled environments killing big beasties for fun. 

It feels a bit like a cross between Monster Hunter and Dragon Quest Monsters Joker. No bad thing. It doesn't look the best for the recently beefed up NEW 3DS though the soundtrack is excellent.

 There could be more variation in battle and enemy animation, but it's polished enough for those quick bursts I like so much. The collector's edition came with a nice Explorers XL carry case and soundtrack CD.

My second 'dip-in-and-out-of'' game for me has been The Legend Of Legacy by Atlus. This looks and sounds exquisite, which is why I'm so glad I've got the collector's edition which comes with a lovely little art book and soundtrack CD.

The graphics are also ace, typical Atlus RPG style with beautifully hand drawn characters and locations mixed in with the CG stuff. The story feels quite light here at the moment (though I'll confess I'm not massively far in and need to get back to it!) and gradually see's you uncovering different character's stories as you recruit and utilise them.

You can explore the world non chronologically it would seem as long as you're skilled enough, and though you do discover things about your characters, the main focus seems to be exploring and filling in the maps (which is auto done for you - no drawing them here like in Etrian Odyssey).

The combat is also immensely satisfying, but can be brutal making saving regularly essential from the get go. I'm looking forward to getting back in to this, but I'm currently focussing on...

...Stella Glow, another stunning delivery from Atlus again with beautifully hand drawn characters and maps, with 3D battles. Predictably, I plumped for a gorgeous looking collector's edition (actually twice, accidentally ordering it twice...), with art book and CD soundtrack. This time, the game feels more story focussed, but it's light enough to remember what's going on at most times and what's more the game gives you a short summary as to what you've been up to every time you load up. Useful!

The characters you work with quickly become likable, and I found myself soon to be emotionally invested with the mix of fighters and witches. Once more the baddies are all interesting enough to feel like they pose a threat but not be annoyed by their inclusion. A good balance.
Exploring the world gives you stints between free time, where you can upgrade items, work for money, or build affinity with the other characters. The mission time is then reserved for battles, and combat here is a simplified version of the tactical RPG formula such as Fire Emblem. It's probably more similar to the likes of Project X Zone, but there are some tactical advantages to be had from character placement and different elemental resistances. The game also has an option to turn off the battle animation, so once you've seen all the pretty attacks, you can turn them off to get in some grinding. Win!

I love my #3DS - it's the game console I play the most - the games are better and more varied than ever before and as somebody with less free time to devote to one of his favourite hobbies now, these RPG's allow me to enjoy my favourite genre of game without the massive time investment needed for earlier generations.

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