Something has been building on the Nintendo 3DS. Slowly, but surely, Nintendo, Aksys and XSEED have been contributing to an unintentional agenda. The handheld’s status as a JRPG haven this generation has been cemented since its 2011 debut, but there’s more to it than that. In the last seven months, it’s become the place to go for introductory JRPGs.
What does that mean? Well, people who have always wanted to play a JRPG, but have been worried about complicated mechanics, stereotypical storylines and time commitments, have been bombarded with games appropriate for beginners. Best of all, they’re games anyone can enjoy. These releases don’t pigeonhole themselves, though they may target specific age groups. They’re well rounded and engaging enough to pull in any players and walk them through an adventure that might otherwise put people off, due to that “JRPG” name.
LBX: Little Battlers eXperience kicked things off last August. A Level-5 series with an anime tie-in, it’s clearly geared toward kids, but isn’t limited to them. The complexity often requires a more mature mind. There are over 130 different models in the game to use for people’s custom robots, with different parts offering varying abilities. Thoughtful battling tactics are a must, once you enter the arena for some active battles. You need to always be aware of your energy levels and enemies’ positions. The depth that goes into building a robot’s armor and preparing for a fight is extraordinary.
Yet, LBX‘s story is pure childhood fantasy. Your father was a secret genius, you’re trusted with his prized invention and this means you can eventually save the day. It’s every kid’s dream to suddenly have the power to be recognized by and treated as an adult. Yet, it also manages to transcend that and appeal to older gamers due to that same purehearted intent, combined with solid gameplay. We’re all hoping more important people will recognize and value us for our abilities. This story, combined with a gradual introduction to the game’s concepts, makes it quite inviting.
LBX was followed by two more JRPGs that ease people into the experience with the help of a few unexpectedly adorable creatures. Yo-Kai Watch and Moco Moco Friends both made their debut in November. In each case, people are managing a crew of supernatural characters they’ve befriended throughout the course of the game. Their youthful avatar is taking on errands of growing importance, eventually coming to the aid of their hometowns. You know, more proving yourself and being recognized as the awesome individual you are.
With Moco Moco Friends and Yo-Kai Watch, we see introductory JRPGs that handle battle systems in different manners, but have a similar outcome. Moco Moco Friends is the simpler of the two. It relies heavily on repetition, as it asks people to revisit dungeons to recruit specific plushkins and grind for certain crafting materials to improve or evolve them. It involves a battle system where everyone is always OK after a battle and each turn-based fight isn’t too traumatic. It’s very straightforward, but by the end you are very aware of your team’s capabilities and skills, ready to exploit types to ensure one character has an edge.
Yo-Kai Watch does a better job of masking its depths. On the surface, it’s as easy as Moco Moco Friends. Perhaps it’s even easier, since your Yo-Kai automatically battle for you, there’s no real need to grind and every location is highlighted on the map. Older players and ones who grow throughout the adventure will find it’s possible to train Yo-Kai to boost specific stats, take on more sidequests to boost watch levels and go through the far more difficult post-game dungeons to catch stronger allies. It presents a comforting face, but is ready to lure in people who are ready for something more. The end result is the same, though. You’ll know what each character is capable of and be ready to defeat any enemy with calculated decisions.
Even Nintendo hopped on the introductory JRPG bandwagon in 2016. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is a very simple simple game. You’re on a set path for much of the adventure, being walked along with little freedom to explore until certain abilities are provided. There are plenty of minigames, to break things up for people who might not be able to focus on one timing-based battles after another otherwise. There are only three party members to manage, keeping things from getting too complicated.
Plus, it relys on familiar faces from the Super Mario series to keep people rapt throughout the adventure. It’s part of the reason you pick up a Mario & Luigi or Paper Mario game. You’re getting to see characters you know and love in different environments and take a look into unexpected aspects of their world. It’s a more personable account of events than games like Super Mario 3D World, thanks to the personal interactions. You come for these moments, and they keep you playing even if the gameplay might be outside of your comfort zone. These old friends help introduce you to new things.
Finally, there’s Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale, the 3DS’ most recent release. It’s practically catnip to anyone who’s ever been interested in a JRPG, but worried about the amount of time and skill needed to complete one. This game is sweet, with heartwarming characters and a reassuring storyline. It has simple dungeons that don’t offer too many twists and turns. The battle system introduces strategic elements, but doesn’t force you to keep track of too many characters or complex combinations. Plus, you’ll likely be done with it in between 15 and 20 hours.
Return to PopoloCrois even lures people in with a reassuring and harmless activity. Look, you can run a farm! All those alpacas, chickens, and cows want you to pet and care for them. Don’t worry if those battles are too overwhelming. You can take a break with something more routine and soothing. Then, when you’re ready, you can try saving the world again. Here, this time we’ll turn down the difficulty and lower encounters for you.
Developers and publishers are using the 3DS to make JRPGs more approachable. After all, it can be an intimidating genre. A single game can require at least a 30 hour commitment. Their battle systems can have complicated capture or combo systems. You might even wonder what you’re supposed to do or where you’re supposed to go next, given the size of some worlds. Games like LBX: Little Battlers eXperience, Yo-Kai Watch, Moco Moco Friends, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam and Return to PopoloCrois are all designed to allay those fears. People can enjoy peace of mind when they pick up and play one of these games, as each one will gently welcome them into the JRPG genre.