As some of you may be aware, I recently attended PAX West to give a panel on kusoge. PAX, along with any other nerd convention in the country, is prime territory for racking up 3DS Streetpass hits. Nintendo, in a move that seemed extremely cognizant of this fact, put out four new purchasable Streetpass Plaza games just before the convention started. I eagerly grabbed them before I went on my whirlwind tour of Seattle and Portland, and spent time not fretting over every tiny detail of the panel and/or playing indie games going through the newest batch of Streetpass stuff.
Then I thought to myself, “Boy, there sure are bunch of these paid Streetpass games now! If you hadn’t bothered with them before, where would you even start? After all, some of them are super good, but others are really not worth time or money at all… I know! I should totally review all of the paid Streetpass stuff, because nobody else seems to be bothering with looking at these games beyond a surface level glance!”
So that’s exactly what I’m doing! I’ve ranked every paid 3DS game here from what I feel are worst to best, categorizing them in five different ranks. (Find Mii 1/2 and Puzzle Swap are excluded since they’re already part of the 3DS package, and technically, you can get either Market Crashers or Slot Car Rivals for free as well.) I tried to go a bit into why I ranked the games why I did, though if there’s not much to a game, I probably have a lot less to say about it than something with meatier mechanics.
DISCLAIMER: If you live someplace like rural North Dakota where you’re not getting Streetpasses regularly, then even the best of these games are tough to recommend. Them’s the breaks, sadly.
NOT WORTH IT
This is easily the worst game of both the newest batch of Streetpass titles and of the whole set. You are an adventurer seeking out hidden treasures from ancient civilizations in far-off lands! But put those dreams of becoming Streetpass Indiana Jones aside, because the reality of this one is pretty harsh.
In order to explore and find treasure, you need to recruit companions through Streetpass, and the number of steps they’ve logged on their 3DS will be added to the distance you can move about for that play session. The problem is that while your movement is limited, you have absolutely no idea where you’re going most of the time. The maps you get showcase objects and places of interest, but not the routes to actually get to them — you have to find those yourself. You’ll get a choice of branching paths at certain points, but it feels like, more often than not, when you pick a route to looks like it would lead to someplace you want to go, it turns into a road full of traps and dead ends, forcing you to waste steps and turn back to pick a different road.
Hazards encountered along the way include vicious wild animals you need to tranquilize by… moving the cursor over a static photograph image, looking for a point to shoot a dart at within a time limit. Exciting! Fail, and you lose a lot of steps. If for some reason you’re out of darts — yes, they’re finite — you lose a bunch of steps whether you like it or not. If they were trying to implement some sort of roguelike design here, then boy did they ever fail miserably.
In short, this plays and feels like a glorified Newgrounds game, complete with an abundance of static JPEGs of animals ripped from stock photos. It feels low-effort, it lacks any sort of charm aside from a stereotypically British toucan guide, and it just makes you angry most of the time. Avoid.
Don’t get me wrong, I love traditional scrolling shooters! A lot! And when the first batch of Streetpass games came with a shooting game, I was pretty psyched about it. Alas, Mii Force is just not very good.
For starters, everything is slow. The cutscenes, filled with cute Nintendo-y dialogue that you really couldn’t care less about because you just want to get to pew-pewing things, are wholly unskippable, leaving you stuck mashing and waiting before you can get to the stages you actually want to play. But there aren’t all that many of those, either — while I’m not the type who insists that all my shooters have to belong to the bullet-hell school of design, the stages in Mii Force are slowpaced and clunky, with little in the way of exciting gameplay. When you’re wanting to clear out your Streetpasses quickly, this game is the Streetpass slog you dread to tap on your menu screen.
The Streetpass element is tied in to the game’s weapon system – the color of shirt that the people wearing determines the weapon power that they give you. This would be neat if the weapons weren’t all kind of gimmicky and annoying. It’s pretty frustrating to wind up with an arsenal of abilities that don’t function well in a particular stage simply because everybody you passed has bad taste in color.
To add insult to injury, the requirements to 100% the game and get all of the Plaza Tickets are grindy as hell. No thanks. I never even bothered to finish this — it lost my interest about three quarters of the way through.
Do you like rock-paper-scissors fights? Do you?! Well, you’re in luck, because aside from making numbers grow bigger and dividing said numbers into groups, that’s basically all that this game is.
You play as monarch looking to conquer to globe and build a giant-ass castle, but you’ll need troops to do so. When you Streetpass other 3DS owners, the number of people they’ve Streetpassed will be added to their army (unless they also own the game, in which case you can try and fight them to steal some of their troops). When you fight another player (who is CPU-controlled, no 2-player here!) or choose to invade enemy territory, you go into what is essentially a giant guessing game. You divide your troops into 3 soldier types (which correspond with the rock/paper/scissors triangle), try and guess what your opponent is doing, and reset if you guess wrong to get more troops and try again. While the game does try to add some spice with enemy “supertroops” and random field conditions that make one troop type more ineffective, the core game still comes down to guessing right and overwhelming with sheer numbers.
Warrior’s Way was mildly amusing when it first came out, but now just feels like a boring slog compared to other, better Streetpass titles. I beat it twice because it’s a pretty fast play, but I never want to touch it again.
OKAYISH, I GUESS
This is one of those games that looks more interesting in its description than it actually is to play. A strategy game about the stock market? That sounds unusual and fun, sign me up!
Unfortunately, there really isn’t much strategy to be had here. You play the role of a day trader, aiming to buy stocks low and sell them high to profit, profit, profit and crown yourself as the king of riches, watching your stash of gold grow taller and taller with each play. (Sadly, you can’t get a Scrooge McDuck money pool.) The people you Streetpass act as advisors who will predict how the day’s stock trade will play out with alarming certainty: the more people you Streetpass, the more advisors you recruit, and the more detailed their predictions will be, allowing you to pinpoint exactly when the best time to buy and unload will be.
And… well, that’s it. It reduces the complex and interesting world of investment to a timing game. You can use your earnings on the market to buy trinkets that can help influence stock prices somewhat, but for the most part, it’s just looking at the chart your advisors made and then mashing the buttons as fast as possible at the right time to buy or sell. It also has the creepiest looking NPCs out of all the Streetpass games by a country mile.
(I must say, though, that I appreciate that Market Crashers and Feed Mii are trying to establish that a bunch of the Streetpass games happen in the same universe. It’s cute.)
Slot Car Rivals
Considering they’re about completely different subjects, Market Crashers and Slot Car Rivals are actually closer in gameplay than you’d think. If Market Crashers is about mashing at the right time, Slot Car Rivals is about pressing and releasing a button at the right time — same principle, different execution!
If you’re unfamiliar with slot cars, you might think that this would be a full-fledged racing title from the “car” in the title, which it most certainly is not. Slot car racing is a real-life hobby involving miniature electric-powered cars on tiny racetracks, which are controlled by speed-regulating devices — unlike, say, RC cars, you don’t actually control the vehicle, as it’s already “slotted” into a set path. That’s exactly what you do in-game, as well: you and your Streetpass-gathered rivals race your customized mini slot cars by pressing and releasing the speed control button. With the right timing, you can go through curves and turns without dislodging your car (and thus losing time). After each race, your rivals will give you a special, one-time-use booster that will give you some stat bonuses the next time you play.
I’ll give the game credit for being a nice representation of a real-life hobby that a lot of people enjoy. It’s low-commitment and pleasant, and decorating your custom slot car can be pretty fun — though your adjustments are purely cosmetic and don’t seem to affect gameplay at all. It’s not a bad game, but it’s also far from the best.
Your Mileage May Vary, by like, A LOT
Yeah, I know, this phrase is super overused in writing, but I genuinely feel like it fits these games perfectly, as you’ll either love them to bits or totally hate them.
You would not believe how many people I know (some of them well-known industry personalities!1) were held in complete thrall of Flower Town when it first came out. Though you may not suspect it, this game is a deep, deep rabbit hole of obsession that can be hard to climb out of, even when you’re past the point of enjoying the game at all. Either you recognize that and get out of it early on, or you let yourself sink ever deeper into a well of floral husbandry.
What is it that makes the sweet scent of Flower Town so irresistible to some? Well, it certainly is not the visuals — someone on Twitter (I forget who, alas) described the freakish NPC movements in this game as “akin to a Japanese horror film,” and they aren’t wrong. This game’s soft, wholly sanitized and inoffensive visuals are uniquely unsettling — perhaps not as bad as Market Crashers’s horrible Muppet rejects, but pretty darn close.
No, the game’s big draw is the temporary joy of ticking item after item off a checklist of potential accomplishments, along with excitement from potential progress lying right in front of you… only to be cruelly crushed as odds and percentages work out decidedly against you. See, in Flower Town, your goal is to grow all of the flowers listed in your diary. In order to do that, you have to cross-pollinate your flowers with that of Streetpass visitors to create seeds. Depending on which flowers were mixed, the seeds can grow into one of up to three potential species, all listed on a preview screen with odds of the seed being that particular flower printed to taunt you. By collecting, selecting, planting, and breeding, you get more seeds resulting in more potential flowers from various floral families, including some fantastical rare breeds that you’ll need a lot of effort and luck to get to sprout.
There are ways to somewhat control what sort of seeds (and thus, what sort of potential flower outcomes) you get, but unless you’re Streetpassing the same people every day, it can be extremely difficult to try and breed for a specific plant outcome. Even when you do get a seed that could sprout into one of the entries you’re still missing in your flower diary, you’ll likely have your dreams crushed as the next batch of Streetpass players water your plant and it blooms into another goddamned batch of tulips instead of that rare crystalline plant. This is how Flower Town becomes an obsession: by dangling victory in front of your face and then smashing it in front of your eyes. But try breeding seeds again, you might get another one with a 9% chance to become that one plant you really, really want!
(I haven’t even gotten into the specialty job board that asks you to grow very, very specific flowers of various shapes and colors. That’s another soul-consuming can of worms.)
I really just want this game to end. I want to escape the unnaturally bright and cheerful Flower Town. But I can’t. Not until those last two plants I have yet to grow finally bloom. Somebody save me.
Battleground Z is a game I really, really loved the first few times I played it, only to completely lose interest as I got further in. I’ve seen quite a few folks who swear that this is the best Streetpass game, though, and I can understand why it has appeal.
This is the requisite 3DS zombie game, though it’s sufficiently cute enough to be inoffensive and sellable to the general populace through the wonder of Nintendo sanitization magic. You play a survivor in a town overrun by zombies, and together with your fellow townsfolk (the people you Streetpass), you go through numerous levels, beating down zombies and accomplishing various objectives to progress and (hopefully) help the scientist you’re chatting with via radio discover a cure for zombification.
Battleground Z is an action game: you use assorted weapons that your Streetpass pals give you to smack down the zombie hordes coming for you. In a neat twist, the weapons you’re given are based upon the hobbies of the people you encounter — a deadly pillow if they like sleeping, a vicious roller suitcase for travel fans, and dangerous drawing tools for artists. Each weapon you get functions differently and has a unique (and limited) special attack. Unfortunately, since 50% of 3DS owners are gigantic nerds, you’re going to be spending most of the time with the Wii Remote weapon (given if someone’s hobby is “playing games”), which kinda sucks.
The big problem I have with Battleground Z is that the zombie-smashing action feels really, really simplistic and repetitive at its core. The developers try to alleviate this in two ways: special challenges to earn extra medals (which help you earn Plaza Tickets) and by changing the objective in every stage. While having a variety of stage objectives is a good thing, it also means that some stages are inherently a lot more fun than others: anything resembling a “protect a certain place/person” mission is guaranteed to be awful. The medal goals vary in difficulty, and some have very specific and difficult requirements (like the means to get certain rare zombies to appear). Like the other Good-Feel developed Streetpass game, Mii Force, getting 100% in this game takes a good deal of time and effort.
If you can deal with a lot of repetition, grinding, and a high level of commitment, you’ll probably dig this — when you’re not sick to death of wielding Wiimotes. I personally dropped it pretty fast.
REALLY GOOD STUFF
From this point on, you’re going to be seeing exclusively Prope-developed games on the list. Perhaps I’m biased, but Prope’s stuff is, in my opinion, far and away the best that Streetpass gaming has to offer — every one of their games is really smartly designed around fun thematic material. Like this one!
In Ninja Launcher, you play as a descendant of a powerful, secretive clan of ninjas fighting against demonic hordes that ravage the land… in a very unorthodox manner. See, the primary means of combat that this ninja school uses is firing its warriors from a gigantic cannon into the enemy. The only downside is that the projectile in question (you) has to be nearly naked in order to be shot at foes at high speed, so you’ll need your fellow ninjas (the folks you meet through Streetpass) to back you up by having them fly gear on kites you’ll collect and put on in mid-air.
If that concept alone hasn’t put a smile on your face, well, you’re probably dead inside, sorry to say.
In order to grab all the goods that your fellow ninja warriors are flying for you, you’ll need to carefully line them up within a time limit so that their kites and your flight trajectory match. This is actually easier said than done, as the flight paths and time limits grow ever stricter as the games go on. Every session of Ninja Launcher is a pretty quick but immensely satisfying play: it’s tons of fun to line up your crew, collect their gear, and careen into a foe with an arsenal of awesome armor and weapons. If you’re looking for a fun Streetpass game that won’t consume of a lot of time, this is the one to get.
If I were ranking these games purely on thematics, this and Ninja Launcher would be the top of the tiers — though they’re still two of the best 3DS Streetpass games available.
So, every 3DS owner has played Find Mii I and II, right? This game takes place in the same universe, where you’ve got a bunch of heroes going out to rescue a monarch. But instead of commanding said heroes, you’re going to be feeding them hearty meals to help them adventure. Each adventurer brings in an ingredient (tied to shirt color), and you’ll be asked to cook one of two recipes for that session with your resources on hand. Make what the adventurers want, and they’ll leave to fight healthy and happy.
There’s a bit more to it, though. By experimenting after business hours with extra ingredients, you can both discover new recipes and refine existing ones to extra degrees of deliciousness. The experimentation and discovery element with creating food is quite enjoyable, as is the presentation: after every meal, you get a newspaper describing the progress of the team you just fed, delivered by carrier pigeon. Sadly, there’s no actual crossover with the Find Mii games — giving the Streetpass squad a jumbo meal isn’t gonna make them any better in those games. A bit of a missed opportunity, if you ask me!
TOP TIER STREETPASS GAMES
Here’s something you might not know about me: I love fish and marine life in general! I can’t get enough of places like aquariums and documentaries about the weird creatures that lurk in the ocean’s deepest depths. Anything with a marine theme is bound to get me excited… except actual fishing, which I find to be the most boring thing imaginable. Maybe it stems from childhood trauma from getting hooks caught in my skin or watching fish choke on hooks they accidentally swallowed, I don’t know… but it just has zero appeal to me.
Fishing videogames, though? I find them pretty hit-or-miss, but in the case of Ultimate Angler, it’s definitely a hit.
You play as what appears to be an extremely privileged individual with enough money and spare time to piss away the days on a seemingly endless fishing resort trip across a series of islands. You’ll wake up every day to greet your fellow fisherpeople, who will gift unto you bait corresponding with the color of their shirts. From there on, you equip a fishing rod from your collection and choose an area to try and score today’s big catch.
There’s a surprising amount of depth to the gameplay here. Fish have particular bait types they enjoy more than others, which you’ll need to take into account if you’re hunting for a specific fish type. Mixing a bunch of bait into a large mass can help — by using multiple bait types that a certain fish likes, you can lessen the chance that something else will creep onto your line as well as attract larger fish. Rod choice plays a key role, too: you’re going to need pulling power in order to reel in the big ol’ lunkers, and crafting and equipping a rod designed for certain areas or with special strength (e.g. resilience to breaking) can make the difference between catching that trophy and watching it swim away. Your Streetpass pals will help, too: when you snag a big one, they’ll aid you with all of their strength, so getting more people to join you at once is tremendously beneficial.
Even better, when you catch fish, you can put them in a personal aquarium, which you can then share with other Streetpass players. The fishing game was good enough, but a virtual aquarium on top of that? Hell yes, I love this game.
It does have one major problem, though — since bait is tied to shirt color, you may well find yourself stuck at points because nobody around you is wearing the shirts that correspond with the bait you need to clear a certain area’s challenge requirement, which you need to do to progress. If you have a 3DS around the Bay Area: start wearing more light green and pink, dammit!
This was one of the first for-purchase Streetpass games released, and it’s still the absolute best of the bunch, in my opinion.
Monster Manor finds you and your NPC assistant, Iris, trapped in a strange house from which there seems to be no escape, surrounded by spooky ghoulies and other aggressive apparitions. You’re not alone in this bizarre pocket dimension, however: other people your encounter through streetpass are here as well, and they each have a special power: they give you colored pieces that you can use on a map to create rooms in the manor to explore and move through. After placing enough pieces, you’ll eventually discover stairs leading to the next floor (you can return to completed floors at any time). But be careful — the manor’s filled with spectres hungry for a bit of human flesh, so you’ll need to you use your wits, your guns, and your items to keep healthy in the face of monstrous threats.
It seems pretty straightforward, but as you play, you begin to discover just how much nuance there is to the game. There’s an element of strategy to placement of room pieces: every piece comes in a color corresponding to the shirt of the Mii who gave it to you. Creating large rooms comprised of a single color with multiple pieces yields more and better rewards than just placing colors randomly all over the map. This allows you to collect better buffing and restorative items, along with guns of varying elements. You’re going to want a big arsenal, too, because monsters come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and specific guns can help target their elemental weaknesses for additional damage. You can also upgrade your best weapons by scrapping less-good stuff, and randomly discovered guns can come with special abilities that will give you the edge in combat (faster recharge time, health auto-recovery, etc).
You’ll realize how valuable this all is pretty quickly — if you try to go into fights with guns blazing, you’re going to get bopped pretty fast. Every weapon has a certain amount of battery charges (which determine how many times it can fire in a row), a set battery recharge rate, and a special attack that needs to be charged. Rather than just shooting like a madman, you’ll need to learn how to ration your weapon energy and use timing to interrupt enemies as they try to smack you.
Monster Manor is a fantastically crafted game in every way. It uses Streetpass functionality in a unique and interesting way, it has a tremendous amount of depth to exploration and combat that its silly-cute exterior doesn’t let on, and it feels incredibly rewarding to play. Be warned, however, that it’s among the most time-consuming of Streetpass games – you’ll be spending a lot of time in combat, figuring out where to place room pieces, and doing other assorted exploring. It’s all time well spent, but it can be a bit annoying if you’re in an environment where the Streetpasses are coming left and right and you want to clear them out fast.
So, yes. Monster Manor is every bit as good as full-price, packaged games. It’s also pretty great even if you don’t have a large pool of people to Streetpass with: the more times you streetpass a particular person, the more options for pieces they’ll give you when you run across them in the manor, making it a lot easier to make the big single-color rooms in the sometimes restrictive map layouts. No matter how you play it, this is a must-own for everyone with a 3DS.
In summary: Prope are the best Streetpass game developers by far, neither of the free-offer games are particularly great, Flower Town is friggin’ DANGEROUS, and more of you people need to start wearing brown or light green shirts for the benefit of your fellow Streetpassers. Now go grab a few of these games and have some fun already!
- totally dropped an unexpected brag bomb here, go me ↩