The Denpa Men: They Came by Wave Review

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What do you get when you combine Earthbound with Pokémon, Dragon Quest and AR Features? You get The Denpa Men: They Came by Wave, an odd, but unique Japanese RPG developed by a team that has ties to all three franchises listed above. While its influences are clear, The Denpa Men manages to create an identity of its own.

The Denpa Men tells a story about a hero that needs help rescuing his girlfriend from the King of Evil. The story never gets more complicated than that, but the dialogue in the game is entertaining and humorous, something it borrows from Earthbound.

You are tasked with helping the hero create a team of Denpa Men to oppose the King of Evil. The Denpa Men are a human-like race that live amongst radio waves. They wear tight spandex bodysuits and can specialize in a variety of techniques. To capture Denpa Men, you must use the AR Features of the 3DS by pointing the camera around areas that may emit wireless signals. Denpa Men will appear on the top screen and you must follow them around and catch them with a net. This is by far the most unique use of Augmented Reality on the 3DS at the moment.

You start off with the main hero and the ability to add another Denpa Man to your team. As you progress through the main game you will gain the ability to add more Denpa Men to your party, eight Denpa Men being the maximum. Different Denpa Men will appear in different places, so you must move around to catch different kinds. Some Denpa Men have an antenna which will allow them to use one technique. Denpa Men definitely has the same catch ‘em all vibe that makes Pokémon endearing.

Techniques range from revive to elemental attacks and even buffs.  Antennas will evolve upon reaching certain levels and will upgrade the respective technique. It is possible to gather Denpa Men through the use of QR codes, but they will disappear forever if they die, which means all your grinding goes with them. It is best to stick to caught Denpa Men because they can be brought back with offerings.

That is all there is to know about catching Denpa Men, but the quest is much larger than just the hunt. You start off on an island that features a store, the Denpa Men house amongst other areas. You will be using this island to stock up on items and form your party. There is also a cave here that acts as the game’s first dungeon. After completing said dungeon by defeating beating its boss, you gain access to a ship that opens up travel to other dungeons. There is no overworld map to tread like in most RPG games, meaning navigation is streamlined.

You will have to complete dungeons to progress through the game. Each dungeon has a recommended level for your Denpa Men, but I’d recommend always going in over-prepared. You can expect to find lots of enemies that continuously spawn in each dungeon, but there are no random encounters. You can be approached by the enemy, or you can avoid them, taking a page from Earthbound yet again. The enemies themselves are fantastic in design, including one of the most adorable creatures ever created, the Oink Rabbit; yes, that is a pig combined with a rabbit. You can definitely feel the Dragon Quest influence here.

Battles themselves are basic turn based affairs. You have an attack, item, and a technique option if your Denpa Man has an antenna. If you’re Denpa Men have similar speeds, they will approach and attack the enemy together. There is also an auto function that is quite useful, but you can strategize and design your own attack.

Enemies have weaknesses and strengths against certain elements, but so do the Denpa Men. Battling through the dungeons won’t be tough if you’re properly equipped, otherwise your weaknesses may be your downfall. Strengths and weaknesses are determined by the color of your Denpa Men and can be easily seen in their stats.

Dungeons are mostly linear with little exploration to be done. There is treasure to find and NPCs to learn information from, but not much else. Some may find this a little disappointing, but for me, the game’s charm and challenge kept me pushing along.

Speaking of challenge, this game definitely throws it at you from time to time, though it is quite inconsistent. Sometimes the dungeon is filled with punishing enemies, but the boss is a pushover. Other times it’s either the exact opposite, or a balanced quest. This challenge goes up and down throughout the game, so you can expect hard dungeons towards the beginning, and easier ones towards the end.

Denpa Men grow stronger with each level they gain, but to get through the challenging parts you will need the right equipment. You can equip charms, necklaces, and other items to boost stats, or gain resistance against elements. The Denpa Men can also wear clothing that does much of the same.

The Denpa Men is one of the best looking Nintendo eShop titles, and looks amazing in 3D. In fact, it seems like the visuals get better with the 3D on, and the depth effect is neat, so I turned the function on more than I usually do. This could also be the reason I had to charge my 3DS a lot during my stint with the game.

One of its more disappointing areas is the sound design. There are no real standout tracks that come to mind. Though, the soundtrack is equally as quirky as the game, so it actually does fit quite well.

Final Thoughts:

The Denpa Men is another stellar title on the Nintendo eShop. It is a basic, old-school inspired RPG with plenty of interesting mechanics. I was initially concerned about spending $10 on the game, but after taking 20 hours to complete the main quest, my fears quickly alleviated.  There is also a post-game quest complete with brand new areas that I haven’t even touched yet, so there is plenty of value in my opinion. RPG fans, especially those with an old school mentality, will likely enjoy this game. I couldn’t recommend it to everyone though, but will recommend that you at least check out the free demo. You can even transfer data from the demo to the full game, so your invested time won’t go to waste.

9/10

Obtained by Purchase

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