Yet another downloadable game. :p Dillon’s Rolling Western is a downloadable title for 3DS that I've had for ages. It, along with Sakura Samurai, was one of the first Nintendo-published eShop titles way back in February 2012.

The anthropomorphic animal characters have a very Star Fox like feel, and generally speaking the main rolling mechanics have a very Majora's Mask feel (specifically, the Goron movement in that game). The game also has a Zelda vibe due to its taciturn title character, his grunts, and the chests he opens and the heart pieces he collects. Despite these similarities to other Nintendo series, the game is overall a unique hybrid of adventuring (rolling around and exploring each stage's map), mining, battling, and collecting resources, and selling resources in order to have enough money to set up watchtowers and gun towers.

The game is generally enjoyable and introduces new enemy types and attacks at a steady rate. However, there are two main game mechanics that really bring down the experience. The first is that the battles, which happen in a closed-off three-dimensional arena, are extremely repetitive. Battles make up about a third of the overall experience, and even with the new enemy types and attacks the mechanics just aren't interesting or deep enough. Although the touchscreen controls took a bit of getting used to, before too long I was able to plow through battles pretty much perfectly and the strategies didn't really change as I progressed through the game. And they become especially tedious since the mining mechanics are identical to the battle mechanics.

The second issue is that while the game has a ranking system, each stage basically requires you to complete it at least twice in order to get the highest ranking. The first time you encounter a stage you're given a small, fixed amount of funds to start with, but once you've conquered it you can use as much of your saved-up pool of funds as you want. Drawing from this larger pool seems to be the only way you would have any hope of getting the five-star rank. This seems like a cheap way of extending the length of the game, although I suppose if you view it more as postgame content rather than required to beat the game it's not quite such an annoyance.

The merging of tower defense mechanics with an adventure game feels fairly unique and the game is quite polished (esp. with the character design), but the monotony of the battling made me give up on this about halfway through. It looks like the sequel adds a couple new features, but by most accounts it seems to just be more of the same. I might try to come back to this later, but for now I'm more than happy to set it aside.

Have some Wild West adventures with these Dillon’s Rolling Western links:
- The official site
- Review at NintendoLife
- Guide to 5-starring every stage, at GameFAQs
- Wikia, which covers the original and the sequel
- Entry at howlongtobeat.com

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I've had my eye on Gunman Clive, a downloadable title for 3DS, for a while. It got great reviews and it was only $2, and people praised its Mega Man like mechanics. Although I enjoy the Mega Man series, I'm not an uber-fan, so it took Clive's inclusion in the Nindies Humble Bundle to get me to finally download it and give it a try.

The game is amazingly well polished, and enjoyable from its start to its ~45 minute later end (on normal mode with the main character). As expected, the Mega Man influence is very strong, but the game has its own personality and offers a number of surprises as well, in the form of boss fights, weaponry, and stage hazards. The game packs a ton of variety in its short length, and there are two additional characters to play as (the unlockable one was such an awesome surprise I found myself grinning in a way usually reserved for first-party Nintendo titles), an additional hard mode, and target times for every stage.

I was suitably impressed with the game and, in true Humble Bundle success story fashion, immediately bought the sequel. I started it and it looks like more of the same although with a higher difficulty, but I'm still looking forward to finishing it before too long to see what surprises may be on store.

Wild Mega Gunman Clive links:
- The official site
- Review at NintendoLife
- Entry at howlongtobeat.com

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Another downloadable game. I've definitely been playing way too many downloadable games, but they're just too darn easy to pick up. This one was HarmoKnight for 3DS. It's a rhythm game, probably most known for being by Game Freak, the developer of the ginormous Pokemon franchise.

The bulk of the game is very similar to Bit.Trip Runner, a game I played about a year ago, but really didn't enjoy much. I found Bit.Trip Runner to require copious amounts of pointless memorization, a problem which HarmoKnight avoids for the most part by being less difficult and more casual. After beating a stage with the highest rank, the game lets you challenge a faster version of it. In general this seems fair since you've already mastered the stage, and also the placement of enemies and hazards seems less obnoxious in general than in Bit.Trip Runner.

The game has a cute 'n colorful cartoon-y style, and the music is enjoyable overall although there are only a few standout tracks. The game shifts from the "rhythm runner" gameplay found in most of its stages to the usual (and really overdone) "Simon Says" type of gameplay for boss fights, made more tedious by extended animations between rounds (the dancing octopus stages have the same mechanics but are more entertaining, and succeed better because they're quite short). Aside from that annoyance, the game does reasonably well at mixing things up with slightly different twists on the regular stages throughout, such as stages where the tempo shifts erratically, or the camera angles change in surprising ways.

As mentioned the game is fairly easy, and it's also fairly short at four hours or so (which I'm not complaining about, since the game mechanics don't wear out their welcome). Beating the game and finding some hidden tokens unlocks a "sky world" that features a set of levels that are much more difficult, but by that time I'd had enough. Individual stages featuring Pokemon music unlock at regular intervals, which was a nice bonus. Enemy design is pretty generic, and although there are two secondary characters who jump in at different points, the transitions to using them are awkward, and they're quite underused in general. Overall, though, this was a pretty solid and polished, if not very surprising, title. It's nice to see new IP, though.

Harmonize with these HarmoKnight links:
- The official site includes some downloadable wallpapers
- Iwata Asks interview. (Worth a read, as usual. I hadn't realized the main character's stick pulses to the beat. And I'd also forgotten about the charge attack.)
- Review at NintendoLife
- Entry at Metacritic
- Entry on Wikipedia

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Like many adult gamers, my backlog is a constant source of shame and anxiety, and at the forefront of that avalanche of shame is the pile of Steam games I've accrued over the years (those darn Humble bundles are just too hard to resist). Swords and Soldiers HD was actually probably one of the first games I bought on Steam, as the WiiWare version had gotten great reviews and it was (presumably, I don't really remember) just a couple of bucks.

I'm not really into tower defense games, but the game's cartoony visuals drew me in. The game features three different factions: Vikings, Aztecs, and Chinese, and the variety of units and special powers is engaging. The game is polished and on my laptop didn't have any slowdown whatsoever, even when the screen was full of skeletons, flaming arrows, angry Vikings, and the like. The game does change things up so that some strategy is required, but for the most part it was pretty casual and mindless. The game includes special powers, such as lightning strikes, that you can activate and direct, and in general feels like it requires more active participation than the only other tower defense game I've spent a significant amount of time with, Plants vs. Zombies (which I found to be completely mind-numbing).

The polished presentation wasn't quite enough to see me to the end of the third campaign, but the three different factions do feel unique and the game was pretty entertaining overall. I can't say that I'm too interested in the sequel, which has gotten positive reviews but just looks like more of the same, though.

Defend these Swords and Soldiers HD links:
- The game has been released on many Nintendo platforms by now. Along with the aforementioned WiiWare release, it was also released on 3DS and Wii U. Apparently it's also been ported to a variety of other platforms, including iOS and Android.
- Entry at howlongtobeat.com
- Entry on Wikipedia

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This is just a quick post about a freebie that flew under the radar, Photos with Mario. The title is more of an app than a game, and although it's a free download the game's cards were originally included in $10 eShop cards that were first exclusive to Target stores but apparently eventually were made available elsewhere. Only three cards, each representing a Mario character, were released in the US (and the original "?" AR card also adds a couple of characters), although Japan got an additional three as well as a Pikmin and Animal Crossing set (with accompanying downloadable titles). In any case, you can easily download and print out your own copies of the cards here.

Overall Photos with Mario feels like a very basic extension of the AR capabilities of the 3DS pack-in title AR games. That title had a mode where you could scan in the character cards and take pictures of various Nintendo characters such as Mario, Kirby, and your Mii characters in various poses. Photos with Mario is very similar to that mode, although you can experiment with scanning two cards at once and get a couple cases where they interact with each other, and there are some additional features (you can find a complete run-down on the Mario wiki page). The characters have animations instead of static poses, but they're pretty limited, and it doesn't take long to go through everything the app and the six cards (+ the "?" card) have to offer.

All in all this is a cute little bonus for the people who bought the compatible eShop cards, but is otherwise pretty forgettable. More cards and more interactions would have made this more entertaining, but people who loved the similar mode in the original set of AR games would probably enjoy this as well.

AR with Mario with these Photos with Mario links:
- Hands-on at NintendoLife
- Official page at nintendo.com
- Official video highlighting all the features
- Handy list of all games featuring AR card compatibility on the official Nintendo site

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