The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave 3DS
I was very hesitant to review The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave, but not because I feared it would be a bad game. My hesitations came from the fact that it was a title fresh from Japan that followed the same suit as Katamari. It’s a title that has more than a few culture barriers that make it difficult for some Westerners (Americans, English folks, etc.) to wrap their heads around. While it’s in no way a super bizarre or disturbing title, it’s that unapologetic “weird” that makes your parents wonder what you’re doing with your free time.
Generally, when trying to describe a title, the best thing someone can do is relate it to games similar to it. If that were the case with The Denpa Men, it would be if Pokemon were Pikmin and fought in a manner not dissimilar to the combat found in the Dragon Quest series. It’s a title where you catch small creatures called Denpa Men in the real world (explained later on), then use these fragile beings to help stop an evil king. Conceptually, it’s pretty good. The game is almost completely solid, except for the cultural barriers.
The first issue with the game is the gimmick that sells it. Denpa Men love radio waves. Because of this, they are most commonly found in public areas. Once in a public area, players will scan for Denpa Men by spinning their 3DS devices around in circles and using the built-in camera to track and capture the little creatures. Did I mention you do this in public places?
Just to clarify something: If a small child is holding a 3DS up at eye level and spinning around in jolly circles, it’s adorable. When a grown man does it, it’s flat-out disturbing to most onlookers. What’s even worse, is when the aforementioned grown man is in the toy section of Wal-Mart, spinning around in maddened circles screaming, “Get back here, you blue swine, you!”
This is the catch-22 of The Denpa Men. To progress in the game, you have to go out and perform awkwardly in populated areas. Failure to do so means you either power grind the pathetic Denpa Men you captured when you first started, or you don’t progress at all. Just so we’re clear, the kind of people I assume are going to enjoy this title the most are generally stereotyped as social introverts. Having them spin around in circles trying to catch a Denpa Man at their local train station isn’t going to help boost their self-esteem any. If anything, it’ll make them feel even more socially inept.
The next step after you’ve finished harvesting your harem of Denpa Men is to roll up your sleeves prepare to grind. You’re going to level grind your Denpa Men harder than you’ve ever grinded in an RPG before. Why do you do this? It’s not because the enemies are necessarily harder than anything you’ve previously played against. It’s because if a Denpa Man gets KO’d in combat and doesn’t get revived before you leave the combat zone, he dies. That’s right. Johnny Denpa, loving father of 3 little Denpettes, dies if you fail to revive his sorry butt before you return to home base.
Luckily, death, as is common in Japanese media, is reversible with limited consequence. Did I say limited? I meant to say that a fat chunk of your loot is going to go missing every time one of these things dies. This leaves players with one of two options: they can either level grind on the same few enemies until they’ve leveled enough to one-hit-kill anything that stands in their way, or you put on your big boy pants and dance around in public and collect more Denpa Men.
Once players get past death, socially awkward gameplay, and the bizarre creatures that are Denpa Men, they can open their eyes to the beauty that this game really is. The worlds in this game, while quite common in most RPGs, are beautiful. Even enemies and combat that make up the dungeons found in Denpa Men make grinding for experience less bothersome and more fun. It’s a beautiful title, just insanely odd.
As far as the sound and controls go, they’re pretty standard for any RPG. The entire gameplay circles around collecting these Denpa Men and outfitting them with unique gear to help them overcome the obstacles ahead. It’s the kind of title you can play casually as there’s no complex story to keep track of (I’m looking at you, Kojima); though, I will admit I was more sad when I lost my first Denpa Man than when I watched Aeris get piked. Not because I have any emotional attachment to these things, but because I could already feel my wallet groaning in deep sorrow.
I started this review stating that The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave was an odd title, and it is. It’s very niche and will either be loved or hated by those who play it. It’s a game that’s hard to recommend to someone who didn’t grow up on Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. Additionally, the gimmick of hunting for Denpa Men in public places is great for children, but the inverse of the power grind-oriented gameplay makes it a title meant for those with patience beyond that of a third grader. Still, it’s a cheap RPG that is well worth the asking price. Just don’t get banned from Wal-Mart for playing it like I did.