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Five Reasons to Watch the 3DS in 2012

27th March 2012; By Jack

A year ago, we took a look at our most anticipated titles for the then-upcoming 3DS. Since then, the console has seen its release into the world and has certainly resulted in an eventful year. While Nintendo's newest handheld may not be completely out of the woods yet, with a catalogue of great games already out -- both at retail and on the eShop -- along with a large list of interesting upcoming titles, the 3DS' second year is looking to deliver a lot more fun. I've picked out five titles on their way that get me most excited. I hope you'll agree that with games like these, we are in for a treat over the next year.

Mario Tennis Open
When it came to thinking of games that would show off the system's namesake 3D effect both from a visual and gameplay standpoint, the first thing that came to mind was a sports title; tennis in particular. In a game where tracking the balls every movement and making sure you are hitting the right swing in the right place at the right time, being able to track the ball in 3D would be a big advantage. Besides, tennis games are pretty darn fun, and none more so than Nintendo's own Mario Tennis series.

I must admit, my excitement for this title has diminished since its first announcement, mainly due to the fact that the RPG-style Story Mode present in both handheld predecessors will be absent, but the fact remains that the Mario Tennis series delivers an arcade sports experience that is easily accessible while maintaining a lot of depth and variety.

With the game naturally multiplayer-focused, it's great to see Nintendo has included a large number of modes to help enjoy some competitive play with other people. The game will support single-cart Download Play, allowing us to go head-to-head even if our friends don't own a game. This feature has been sadly absent from a number of 3DS releases so far, but has proven an essential addition in many DS and Gameboy Advance games over the years. There is a whole host of online modes as well that will help keep things interesting, whether playing against friends or random opponents around the world. One other feature that piqued my interest is that the game will feature some sort of character customisation, upgrade system and item shop. We don't really know many details yet, but the extra customisation should make things a lot more interesting, especially in multiplayer.

Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure
I'm a big fan of quirky rhythm games, from the likes of Taiko no Tatsujin's drum-'em-up to Elite Beat Agents. So when I first saw Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure, I was immediately interested. That interest only grew as it was revealed that this would be much more than just a toe-tapper.

The game sees you playing as Raphael, a Parisian thief who steals famous artwork, only to return them a few days later. In a similar vein to the Professor Layton series, Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure sees you wrapped up in a mystery, exploring Paris searching for clues about your father's disappearance. The difference here is that rather than managing to trip over a puzzle seemingly everywhere you go, you will instead be transported into Rhythm Heaven-esque rhythm games as you try to hide behind statues in a museum at the right time, or battle to the beat in order to take out adversaries. All three of the rhythm games I got to try in the game's demo (available in EU only at the time of writing) thoroughly impressed me, and the blending of this with exploration, puzzles, and mystery certainly makes it stand out from the crowd. If the final product maintains the quality seen so far, this one will be a real treat.

Animal Crossing*

Animal Crossing's peaceful, carefree (let's not mention Resetii) attitude has made the series a pleasure to sit down with, relax and enjoy. I must admit, after the latest Wii version of the game, which didn't really do anything to innovate over the
Wild World on DS, the series did start to feel like it was starting to get stale. I'm very pleased, however, to see that Animal Crossing 3DS looks to push the series forward with some interesting new changes.

Perhaps the biggest change is that you'll no longer just be a resident of your town (Mapleberry in my case), but instead will be finally giving Tortimer a rest and taking over as mayor. We still don't know all that entails in taking up this position, but one position you'll be in charge of is decorating the town as a whole, being able to place benches, streetlamps, bushes and the sort around town, letting you customise your surroundings like never before. Customisation and personalisation definitely seems to be a big theme in this iteration of the game, and along with designing your town, you'll also be able to redesign the appearance of your house and design your own soft furnishings to really make your home your own. The game also looks to introduce swimming and diving, and although not much is known what you can do with this, it should help increase the games variety. Finally, I cannot talk about Animal Crossing without mentioning the music. Although we have only heard a little of it from the trailers released so far, what I have heard has left me with a big smile every time. I'm really looking forward to seeing what else Totaka (and K.K. Slider) have come up with this time.

The biggest problem with Animal Crossing for me has always been that the games tend to grow a bit too dull and samey once you've managed to pay off your mortgage, but with the whole town to manage, as well as the extra customisation and personalisation, I really hope Animal Crossing's latest entry can deliver a long-lasting freshness that I haven't really felt since the GameCube days.

Professor Layton 5*
The Professor Layton series has been a firm favourite of mine ever since he first set out to that most curious of villages. The series manages to deliver something unique, charming and completely unforgettable, by combining interesting, ingenious and often downright devilish puzzles with exploration, strange and colourful characters, and a perplexing mystery plot that often asks the question, "Which is more baffling, the absurd explanation we give you, or the fact it strangely makes complete sense?"

The professor's 3DS outing continues this tradition by presenting a mystery of a mysterious masked man and a city whose residents are turned to stone in an instant. The game also promises to explore Hershel Layton's past, and why he became an archaeologist. What really grabbed my interest about this latest title is the game's use of SpotPass. Previous Professor Layton games have offered a handful downloadable puzzles (although the Nintendo DS's limited Wi-Fi support didn't always make them easy to get), but Professor Layton 5* steps things up several gears by promising to deliver a new puzzle via SpotPass every day for a year after the game's release, meaning there will be plenty to enjoy and discover even after the main story is complete.

Dr Kawashima's Working Memory & Concentration Training*
I'm a big fan of the Dr Kawashima's Brain Training series, with its range of mental exercises with an arcade philosophy that pushes you to constantly better your own skills and compete with your friends and family. While the DS and DSiWare releases were great fun, scores would eventually plateau and the desire to constantly improving your high score began to fade. Thankfully, this is something the latest entry into the series aims to fix.

Rather than focusing on the mental exercises of the original games, this latest entry in the series instead focuses on honing and improving your working memory and concentration. While not much is known about the exercises themselves, the approach to difficulty and keeping long-term interest certainly looks promising. Rather than challenging static exercises to achieve the best time, the exercises instead will change in difficulty in line with your current progress, always pushing you with a little bit more than you are comfortable with in order to push continual improvement. As the game's difficulty is always set at the very upper limits of your abilities, it has been given the moniker "Demon Training". As they say, no pain, no gain! If Nintendo can once again deliver a variety of fun games that get the brain ticking, the combination of this with the new auto-scaling difficulty should make the final product something rather special indeed.

The Best of the Rest
There is plenty more on the retail side to look forward to as well, including Nintendo's latest entry in the Paper Mario series. It's also great to see that Nintendo's business management/fashion game Style Boutique -- a guilty pleasure of mine on the DS -- will be making a return on 3DS. As a big fan of the RollerCoaster Tycoon series, I'm very interested in seeing how the 3DS version shapes up.

The eShop looks to have a host of interesting titles on the way, too. While both Mutant Mudds & Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword already have a North American release, we are still waiting for their release in Europe and look great. Marvel Pinball 3D also looks promising, especially after the excellent Zen Pinball 3D just a couple months back. escapeVektor and Art of Balance both made a lasting impression on WiiWare as did AiRace on DSiWare, so a 3DS outing for each of these franchises should prove entertaining. Finally, Picross e promises to deliver plenty of puzzling fun and will most certainly be finding a home on my 3DS.

With a large list of interesting and varied titles on the way, the 3DS' future certainly looks brighter than ever. There is still plenty more to come this year that we don't know about yet, especially as we approach the latter half, but if the titles above are anything to go by, there should be something for everyone to enjoy.

Feature by Jack