Grass Pants Reviews – The “Denpa” Men: They Came By Wave

A bit of a backstory to this post, just so you guys can hopefully get the ‘this was amusing based on circumstances’ feeling that I got from it. A buddy of mine had visited yesterday and we started talking about the 3DS and the woefully-underused augmented reality features. If you know anything about this game, you’ll get a tiny chuckle out of the fact that I discovered it about five hours later. If not… Well, that’s what I’m here for.

Denpa Men’s main gimmick is exactly what everyone hoped Pokemon would do since the words ‘augmented reality’ started to mean something to us. In this quirky little dungeon crawler, the player needs to assemble a party of little, silly men who live near radio/wi-fi waves. Instead of hunting them down in game, you get to catch these little dudes with the 3DS’s camera and AR features. Selecting the Antenna Tower will let you view the real world through the 3DS’s top screen and hunt for Denpa Men.

Gimmicks aside, the coolest thing about this game is that (to my understanding) everything is randomized. Your ‘hero’ character/starter Denpa Man, the dungeons, even the Denpa Men you find floating about. Hell, even their personalities and appearances are randomized! This means that nobody will have the exact same experience, and that’s pretty damn nifty.

I wouldn’t be going on and on about this if the gameplay wasn’t good, though. At it’s heart, Denpa Men is a surprisingly challenging little dungeon crawler with traditional, turn-based RPG battles. New enemies will kick you in the face a bit, but once you get used to things, Genius Systems has done what more developers need to do: They added a single-button method to put your miniature army on autopilot and made the AI pretty good at reacting. Someone needs healing? Well, if you’ve got someone with healing, he’ll get them back on their feet instead of smacking something for an extra few damage. Also, battles are quick, with every attacking Denpa Man going at the same time in a crazy, multi-colored bumrush vaguely reminiscent of Pikmin.

The game’s also got a few little touches that I’m pretty fond of, too. Denpa Men not in your active party will be put in the Denpa House, which is essentially the PC from Pokemon, except less cold and unfeeling. Normally, it would be a pain to swap out to a different Man or ‘Mon, except for the fact that Denpa Men gain experience alongside your regular party (although perhaps at a slower rate) and will level even when not being used. Another cool little addition is Manner Mode for the Antenna Tower. Since most people don’t like having cameras pointed at them in public, Manner Mode covers the ‘real world’ visuals with a wireframe graphic, showing only Denpa Men in the vicinity. It admittedly takes a bit away from the AR magic, but it’s a nifty setting if you’re hunting for Denpa Men in public.

There are a few problems with it, though, although it’s nothing too huge. Being in a fairly rural area means that I don’t necessarily have an abundance of wi-fi around me, so most of my Denpa Men came from my router. Seeing as how big the AR catching thing is, it’s less than amazing that I’ll likely need to go into town to find a bigger variety of dudes.

Anyway, it’s a cool little game that uses a feature that definitely could use some more spotlight. If you’re not sold by the idea of catching tiny floating men with a camera, the 3DS eShop has a demo that lets you explore the first dungeon (roughly a half-hour of gameplay depending on how catch-hungry you are). Also, there’s a sequel coming on the 30th, which I might pick up on launch day, so keep an eye out for that. Also, if the price point (1o USD) is a bit high, we might even get a price drop when the sequel hits, so it could be worth holding out. Anyway, I’m out for now. As always, thanks for reading and have a good’un!

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