There are lots of ways an RPG can hook me. Deep character customization, a compelling story, an endless stream of loot that shows on my character and makes them look increasingly bad-ass, or a battle system that is well designed and becomes incredibly addictive. As someone that tries to find the bright spot in any game, I’m sad to say that Planet Crashers for the Nintendo 3DS provided me with none of those things.
In Planet Crashers, you begin by creating a custom character. As a sucker for custom character creators, it was a positive foot to start on. While the options are limited, I did enjoy making my cartoonish protagonist. After a very brief intro, I was thrust right into the story; it was up to me to save the solar system. On my home planet, I found that talking to various citizens wandering around would usually provide me with a quest. “This jerk stole my cheese”, or “Please go beat up this guy who is a jerk,” were the types of things that would come up when talking with the world’s citizens.
And this is when I started to get worried. Every quest I took, whether from an NPC or form the never ending quest board, were all very similar. Not only that, they all wanted me to go down into the world’s green, blue, or red dungeon. No worries, I thought, they are probably randomly generated to keep things from getting too repetitive… right?
Repetition is not necessarily bad in and of itself. Let’s be honest; without repetition, video games as we know them wouldn’t exist. But you have to give me something different enough to keep things interesting or the whole “being transported to a fantastical new world” aspect of gaming that I personally love so much, quickly fades away. This was compounded when I found that the next planet I made it to (and the next after that), continued the trend. Not only did the quests not really change, but the dungeons, while they did each have their own theme, didn’t really do anything for me in the way of keeping things fresh.
Being a turn-based RPG, Planet Crashers also had a difficult hurdle to deal with in trying to keep battles interesting. You have four slots for moves, and can gain more moves to customize your play style from completing certain quests. While you can pick from different moves to customize your list, it never really seemed to matter which ones I was using. The animation changed, sure, and hitting “A” at the right time to add extra damage had different timing, but there wasn’t any obvious advantage to using one move over another.
New weapons are acquired the same way; from certain quest givers. Usually the same quest that will give you a new move also gives you a new weapon. As for new armor, forget about it. I never found any. That was one of the biggest missed opportunity in the game. Here you have a minimalist game with a cute graphical style, but your character never changes. Sure they may have gone from wielding a banana to brandishing a giant pencil, but they never get a sweet new set of armor to match.
While there are thankfully no random battles (you can always see the other characters you are going to fight), it is a shame that every battle consists of a one-on-one fight against another human character. They occasionally throw in a dude dressed in armor or Santa Clause, but there are never any cool monsters to help spice things up in the battles. They also draw from the exact same pool of attacks that your character has. This leads to some very repetitive battles where you see the same animations used over and over again.
On a basic level, the mechanics work fine (though leveling was too grindy for my taste) and the simple graphical style worked fine with the light tone of the game. Sadly, the bad outweighed the good and left me wishing for mechanics that just weren’t found in Planet Crashers. Nintendo handhelds have been the home to some great RPG’s over the years, but sadly Planet Crashers will not be joining those ranks.
This review is based on a copy of the game sent to SideQuesting via eShop from the publisher.