There’s a certain subsection of gaming — the Animal Crossings and Harvest Moons and Pokémon knock-offs — that has never once grabbed my attention. It’s not because any of these games are lacking in any way (in fact, some of them are quite good), but I generally look for a more meaningful, directed experience instead of the relaxing, few-hours-a-day investment these types of games tend to offer. The Denpa Men 3: Rise of the Digitoll falls squarely into this category of games. I’d be remiss if I said any part of the game was especially lacking, because this is a polished, functional game that does what it sets out to do quite well; it’s just that not once in my 25-plus hours with it did I ever care about what I was doing.
The crux of the game centers on the eponymous Denpa Men, hilariously ugly Mii-like creatures you hunt down with the 3DS camera, filling up an ever-growing battle party to engage in one menial task after another. There’s a good breadth to the different kinds of Denpa Men you can recruit, and many come packing special abilities and different stats; I’d imagine the player who enjoys monster-raising games could find a lot to love here, since there are tons of ways to customize and outfit your hideous little heroes.
As you grow your collection of mutant-faced men, you’ll unlock more islands in the archipelago where the game takes place. You’re able to customize each Denpa Man’s house, and while this wasn’t something I spent any amount of time doing, players who enjoy the Animal Crossing-style of self-guided customization and tweaking will likely find lots to like in this system. You’re also able — or rather, required — to build up your team by diving into the game’s dungeon areas and fighting lots and lots of monsters in turn-based combat. Your party can grow to quite a large size, and so this mandated grind is made a bit easy by the inclusion of a number of tactical commands. I became intimately familiar with the all-out attack order, which quickly sends your team into a frenzy with their best skills and hastily ends most battles. Much like the rest of the game, the turn-based combat is totally functional and even occasionally some mild fun, but not once was I especially invested in the light-hearted story reasons behind the battles, or the actual act of building a powerful fighting force.
For a relatively budget downloadable title, there’s quite a lot of value to be had, and the game is even fairly attractive in the technical sense. It’s colorful, if simple, and is mostly inoffensive to the eye, with the exception of the atrocious Denpa Men themselves. It has the light, inconsequential design of a game made with children in mind but no stronger artistic vision to guide it. The humdrum graphics are complemented by mediocre music that falls into the same mold as the rest of the game: decent, inoffensive, forgettable. There’s a whimsical tone to much of what you’ll hear, and perhaps the best I can say is that the battle music, heard as frequently as it is, never grates on the nerves. On the other hand, the voices of the Denpa Men are definitely a love-it-or-hate-it warble; their dialogue is high-pitched, high-speed, and, at least to my ear, not especially pleasant.
The Denpa Men 3 is not a bad game. It’s a polished game about which I struggle to recall details by the nature of its low-impact, low-interest, low-creativity gameplay. If you’re invested in time-sink character building, monster collection, and Animal Crossing-style world customization, I’m confident you’ll be able to derive some enjoyment out of it, but if you’re looking for something a little more impactful and memorable, I’d recommend looking elsewhere in the 3DS’s tear of excellent JRPGs.