This is Portabliss, a column about downloadable games that can be played on the go.earlier this month, offering players new opportunities to exploit their 3DS-owning friends to earn new Mii hats and outfits. Like the existing StreetPass games, they're lightweight diversions that you'll either ignore after a few plays or delve into obsessively.
You can count me among the obsessed. I've unlocked every Mii hat available through Find Mii, and I've completed Find Mii II's secret quest multiple times -- the Famicom hat I earned afterward was totally worth it. Despite their simplicity, Nintendo's StreetPass games have a undeniable charm that can keep you hooked for months.
Unlike the StreetPass games that are bundled with the system, however, these new games aren't free. After putting a few dozen unsuspecting Mii Plaza visitors through the new StreetPass offerings over the last several days, I found that some games were more enjoyable and worthwhile than others.
[Mii Force, Flower Town, Warrior's Way, and Monster Manor are priced at $4.99 each. All four can be purchased as a bundle for $14.99.]
Mii Force is an arcade-style scrolling shoot-'em-up, complete with enemy waves, environmental obstacles, and challenging boss encounters. The people you StreetPass appear in-game as weapon pods that you can attach to your ship. Depending on your visitors' shirt colors, they can upgrade your ship with many different types of weapons, including lasers, lock-on missiles, ripple beams and more.
The setup reminds me of Konami's Gradius series, in particular. Unlike Gradius, though, you're given a greater variety of attack options, and as a result, you're able to approach the game's challenges in many different ways. Bosses often have weaknesses to certain elemental properties, for instance; if you fail to finish a stage your first time through, you're likely to have better results when you return with a new squadron of StreetPass visitors.
Mii Force doesn't stick to a particular shoot-'em-up subgenre, and the action can scroll horizontally or vertically, depending on the stage. Some levels don't scroll at all, instead challenging you to protect a central target as enemies approach from all sides. The ability to rotate your ship and reconfigure your weapon loadout on the fly comes in handy, and helps to maintain a solid, consistent flow throughout the game's 15 stages.
Out of all the new StreetPass games, Mii Force is the most essential. It's well worth $4.99, and it would easily stand on its own as a fully fledged eShop release.
Flower Town offers a gentler, more relaxed alternative to its StreetPass cousins, challenging players to refine their botanical skills. In Flower Town, StreetPass visitors water your plants and crossbreed them with flowers that they introduce to your garden. Fully-grown plants produce seeds, which you can either sell or grow into new breeds. Your plant empire grows rapidly, and you'll soon rule over a terra-cotta fortress with the money you'll earn from selling the fruits of your labor.
Flower Town has greater depth than any other StreetPass game released to date, and it offers plenty of optional side-quests in addition to its lengthy storyline. Soon after starting, you're given a series of requests for specific plants, with exotic vases and plots of land offered as rewards. There's a good deal of strategy involved in growing specific breeds, and the steady trickle of rewards provides ample incentive to return to your garden daily.
For what Flower Garden lacks in action, it makes up for it in depth and volume of content. Consider buying this one if you're up for some airy simulation-styled gameplay in between rounds of Mii Force.
Ostensibly a strategy game, Warrior's Way puts you in charge of conquering an island province-by-province. StreetPass visitors add troops to your army based on how many Miis they have in their Mii Plazas. Unlike in other StreetPass games, Mii shirt colors and StreetPass frequency do not grant you in-game bonuses.
While the idea is an interesting one, the execution falls short. Gameplay consists of a linear series of battles with AI-controlled armies. Your job is to assemble your army into three battalions in order to counter your enemy's forces. Troop types are divided into a literal rock-paper-scissors hierarchy, making it easy to spot strengths and weaknesses. A scissors squadron will topple a paper squadron up to twice its size, for instance, while the only way to win a battle between two rock-type squads is to overwhelm your opponent with sheer numbers.
A critical problem becomes apparent when you discover that strategy does not play much of a role in your success. After the first few stages of play, you'll find yourself vastly outnumbered by enemy armies, with few options at your disposal other than sinking tons of Play Coins into your ranks. Worse, your army suffers a massive drop in numbers after a lost battle, often nullifying boosts from StreetPass visitors.
If there's one StreetPass game you can safely skip, it's this one. It helps to think of it as a free bonus for buying the $14.99 StreetPass four-pack, but even in that case, you should keep your expectations low.
In Monster Manor, players battle ghosts and other spooky critters as they trudge through a multi-level mansion. The premise should be familiar to StreetPass veterans, as Monster Manor is essentially an upgraded version of Find Mii, one of the 3DS's built-in StreetPass games. Monster Manor greatly expands on the monster-battling, loot-collecting premise of its predecessor, offering upgradable weapons, new strategic elements, and skillful implementation of StreetPass features.
In Monster Manor, the people you StreetPass offer up puzzle pieces based on their shirt colors, which can be used to build floors within the mansion. Connect these pieces together in a straight line and you'll construct a hallway, which is likely to host an experience-boosting enemy encounter.
Connect like-colored pieces in a square shape and you'll form rooms that contain treasure chests and offer chances to upgrade your equipment. Success depends on your ability to meet and match like-colored StreetPass visitors so that you can upgrade your weapons and earn experience in battle while searching for an exit to the next floor.
Monster Manor adds a layer of complexity to Find Mii's gameplay mechanics, with admirable results. Find Mii was often bogged down by its strict color requirements for enemy battles, at times leaving players at an impasse even after assembling sizable StreetPass parties.
Color-matching is beneficial in Monster Manor, but more importantly, it's optional. Unlike Find Mii, you'll feel a sense of progress and accomplishment with every StreetPass tag, and the weapon upgrading and forging mechanics make it one of the more compelling games in the StreetPass library.
If you enjoyed Find Mii and its sequel, the $14.99 four-pack is your best bet. You'll get many hours of playtime out of every featured game, even though Warrior's Way will try your patience. Otherwise, Mii Force is a must-have, Flower Town is worthwhile, and Monster Manor is a great pick for Find Mii die-hards.
This review is based on eShop downloads of Flower Town, Monster Manor, Mii Force and Warrior's Way, purchased by the reviewer. The games can be bought individually for $4.99, or together as a bundle for $14.99.