Nintendoís eShop didnít exactly get an excellent start. The service itself was three months following the 3DSís release, and the flow of content was undeniably stalled for the first half a year. It was only when some more promising Virtual Console games and second party developed new IPs like Pushmo began to roll in that the shop began to gain more traction. Now, with games like Mighty Switch Force, VVVVVV, and Mutant Mudds, Nintendoís made it very clear that they are making every effort to steer the eShop as far away from the mess that was DSiWare as possible.
To that end, Nintendoís latest downloadable effort, announced at last Octoberís Nintendo Direct conference, comes to the eShop today. The game is a tower defence game, a genre that itself has seen numerous entries in the past few years, particularly with games like Orcs Must Die.
If nothing else, Dillonís Rolling Western is a good argument against the oft-used criticism of Nintendo sticking to their guns with old IPís. The game stars all new characters, including the titular Dillon, an Armadillo ranger who happens upon a group of Western towns that have been beset upon by evil Grocks, giant rocks that are eating the townís livestock. Itís your job to defend the town, using Dillonís roll, guntowers, and stone gates to protect the town from the attacking monsters.
The livestock is also what you are primarily protecting in the game. Held inside the village, there are only a certain amount of livestock. You can get more through collection of special plants, earned funnily enough by rolling around, but once this livestock is depleted, itís game over. This also occurs if Dillonís hearts run out.
The game takes place over a three day structure for each village. In the day, you spend your time rolling around the landscape, collecting plants to increase your livestock amount, finding randomly placed mines to collect ore and diamonds to increase your defences and sell for money, and building up the various towers and walls you have to protect the village. You also complete side quests for villagers, in return for money. It usually amounts to fetch quests or ďdefeat x amount of enemiesĒ, but itís a nice addition outside of the normal gameplay.
You have a brief warning before the Grocks come, but when it turns to night itís battle time. The Grocks come, and they come fast. Itís a pretty steep difficulty curve, and if youíre not careful youíll find yourself easily outmatched.
You do this mainly via the touchscreen, the circle pad, and the L button. As far as I can tell, the game doesnít use any other buttons. This simplifies the control scheme, but sometimes you get ďthe clawĒ reminiscent of games such as Metroid Prime Hunters. This may be one of the games that the Kid Icarus stand might come in handy for. The primary means of transportation, attacking, and the games namesake, is Dillonís ďrollĒ move. This is quite simply done by pulling down the touch screen and releasing, making Dillon zoom across the desert landscape. Itís really quite a satisfying way of getting round, and the touch screen controls are fairly intuitive, in combat and outside of it.
The combat is interesting; Dillon attacks bigger enemies, which begins a very RPG style random battle, taking you to smaller battle field where you fight either smaller versions of the enemy, or the boss monster. Itís worth keeping in mind that the enemy movement outside your battle continues, so itís a good idea to get the battle over and done with as quick as possible. At first it can feel very repetitive, with Dillon simply rolling and rushing at enemies. But then, as you learn more moves like Dillonís claw attack, the combat becomes very rhythmic, with the player having to tap at the right time to initiate combos. This in turn allows combat to be over quicker (allowing you to get back to the other enemies laying siege to the village), and also lets you get better items.
This alone isnít enough to defeat the Grocks, who easily outnumber Dillon. You have to increase the townís defences. You do this by spending currency and items on upgrading village walls and defensive and offensive towers. There are two types of towers; watchtowers and guntowers. Both provide a form of defence, but the guntowers are the main offensive force outside of your own rolling rush. This, along with all other ďupgradesĒ, including ones for Dillon himself, gives you a lot of chance to customise your own strategy.
Itís not your standard tower defence game, as youíll have to explore and seek towers/mines out to upgrade your defences. There are also hidden caves that hold very Zelda style treasure chests, which hold rare items you can sell for lots of cash. The whole game, with hearts and treasure chests, has a very ďZeldaĒ vibe, and I wouldnít be surprised if some members of the Spirit Tracks/Phantom Hourglass team were drafted in to help with the game.
Something I find most endearing though is the art style. The game strikes a very cute midway between western grit youíd see in the likes of Red Dead Redemption, and anamorphic characters akin to Star Fox 64. Character models are sharp and crisp, using what seems to be a touch of cel-shading. The use of 3D is one of the best Iíve seen on the 3DS so far. Itís a visual treat to roll around the desert at high speed, and the colours are lush. There isnít exactly any story or character development, but the art work is very appealing, and the random characters you do side quests for have plenty of charisma. Dillon himself is just... damn cool! It's like John Marston and Sonic the Hedgehog had a badass, rock smashing child. I'm fully rooting for him in the next Smash bros.
According to Nintendo of Americaís Director of Marketing, Bill Trinen, the game has a length of roughly 20 hours. This is pretty long for a downloadable title, and should go towards justifying the hefty price tag in comparison to other cheaper titles on the eShop. Though saying that, Iím a big believe that not every game should be $1 to be successful. Not naming names. For Rolling Western, I would definitely recommend it as a downloadable game, as the day/night structure fits portable play perfectly.