Given the number of delightful oddities that came out of Japan when the DS first launched, it's been rather sad to see such a conservative first wave of 3DS software. With that in mind, not to mention the relative paucity of announcements at E3 a few months back, this year's Tokyo Games Show was an important week for the handheld. Would developers finally step up with some serious support for the system, or would the industry place all its chips on Vita?
Nintendo's potentially game-changing announcement last week that it had somehow wrestled Monster Hunter 4 away from Sony and onto 3DS firmly put paid to those fears, but the healthy number of interesting titles playable on the show floor was further proof that the 3DS is finally starting to pick up some steam.
While the Vita stand unsurprisingly hogged much of the spotlight, with enormous queues to check out Sony's new system in its first Japanese public appearance, the biggest buzz undoubtedly surrounded a 3DS game. We headed over to the Monster Hunter Tri G booth about an hour after the doors opened only to be told all tickets for a 10 minute slot on one of the 20 or so 3DS units had already gone for the day.
Anyway, here's our pick of the Tokyo Game Show 3DS slate. Bear in mind we've only included freshly-announced titles. Known quantities like Resident Evil: Revelations and Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater were on hand too, while Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright drew crowds to Capcom's stand with an impressive new trailer.
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance
The latest installment in Square's action RPG Disney crossover was one of the prettiest 3DS titles on display. Bursting with colour and lively background detail, visually it was easily a match for many of the games on show over on the Vita stand.
The key evolution since the franchise's last main outing, the PSP's Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, is the speed of the gameplay. Combat is now lightning fast, and returning hero Sora (Riku is also playable) zips around the environments at a maniac clip courtesy of a new rail-grinding ability. On top of that, you also have a couple of eccentric animal allies following you around to help out in scraps.
The demo was too brief - and too Japanese - to get a proper idea of exactly how this will all add up in the finished product, but it was a promising first showing for the game.
Funnily enough, Dream Drop Distance was the only title we played at TGS that had us pining for a second circle pad, with the cumbersome shoulder button camera controls struggling to adequately frame the action, leading to a few frustrating deaths.
Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure
Pardon the pun, but Sega was making a real song and dance over its new rhythm action effort on the TGS show floor, with a huge chunk of its stand given over to the game. And it would be nice if customers' enthusiasm matches the publisher's when this launches next year, as it was one of the highlights of the show.
The premise isn't particularly original - this is essentially a Professor Layton adventure with the brainteasers swapped over for Rhythm Heaven-esque music mini-games - but it's a clever fit nonetheless.
We only got to play two of the games - an Elite Beat-aping one where you had to swipe away at the touch screen to complete a dance routine, and another where the titular thief had to sneak around a museum to the beat of the music. Both offered light, frothy fun and, crucially, the tunes got our toes tapping.
It was hard to make head or tail of the story that the mini-games are wrapped around given that it was in Japanese, but it's beautifully animated stuff. Given the absence of the sort of curios that made the original DS's first few years so interesting, it's heartening to see a new IP matching that sort of spirit finally heading to its successor.