The Denpa Men 3: Rise of the Digitoll (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 05.08.2014

Review for The Denpa Men 3: Rise of the Digitoll on Nintendo 3DS

Well known perhaps for its Pokémon spin-off games, Genius Sonority isn't known for much else, to be honest. Outside of the Pokémon games, it mostly worked on eBook types of games and a handful of titles under license, like Disney and Barbie. The Denpa Men series seems to be the only original series of its own that can be boasted about, and the first two episodes were indeed good enough to be noteworthy. The Denpa Men: They Came by Waves was pretty much the first RPG available on the 3DS eShop and had enough of a new twist on the Dungeon RPG genre to make people turn their heads in intrigue. The "Denpa Ningen" series, as it is known in Japan, was typically the kind of thing nobody would have expected to come out of Japan, and yet it did - and not only the first game, but its two sequels as well. Now it is time to dive into the latest instalment to be released in the West, The Denpa Men 3: The Rise of Digitoll.

The Denpa Men are those tiny little humanoid creatures that live inside radio waves. They come in different colours, sizes, with differently shaped heads, and some of them have an antennae growing on their heads. They can't be seen with the naked eye but they are all around on a daily basis. The only way to see them is to purchase one of the "Denpa Men" games available on the 3DS eShop and to use that software and the outer cameras of the console to scan around everywhere for those little, elusive folk. They can be captured when found and will be stored inside the save data to be sent on a virtual RPG adventure inside the handheld console.

To put things in a more "realistic" way, the console typically scans surrounding radio waves, most likely available Wi-Fi networks in the local area since those are the only waves the 3DS can detect, and interpret the scrambled data being exchanged over them to make little creature appear in a small augmented reality game, showing these coloured people floating around wherever the game is being played, and then nets must be launched to capture them. Once an area has been inspected for Denpa Men, the game will, one way or another, register that area inside the game save (most likely based on the list of available SSIDs for where the player is) and will "remember" that this area has already been cleaned of Denpa Men, so no more will appear there, forcing a change of location to go hunting for these Denpa Men 'in the wild,' so to speak. There has to be civilisation near - and thus radio waves - for Denpa Men to be found, so scanning for them in the middle of the woods is unlikely to yield any results.

Screenshot for The Denpa Men 3: Rise of the Digitoll on Nintendo 3DS

The Denpa come in different shapes and colours and, according to the game itself, certain areas are more likely to yield certain colours of Denpa than others, but what these are is left shrouded in mystery. Different colours mean different elemental affinities, which will be very important in the quest that these little people are sent on. Then there are the antennae. Some Denpa have one but most of them won't have any. Denpa that haven't got one are more likely to be good at pure brute force, whereas those with one are capable of using a magic spell. Only one spell, though, which evolves as the Denpa gains levels of experience - so finding many different types of antennae is important, as is finding many of each colour to be able to face the dangers lurking inside of each dungeon. This can be problematic, though, as finding the right colours or antennae that are going to be useful in the next dungeon kind of relies on luck, and pushes the gamers to go outside and start scanning around, which can look idiotic. Denpa can be exported to QR codes and shared on the Internet, and new ones can also be obtained that way but, unfortunately, these are region-locked and it can be tricky to find people on the web, from the same region, and who shared their Denpa with the world, let alone rare ones. Considering that the series isn't as popular outside Japan, having them region-free would have definitely been preferable. Moreover, certain "shapes" of Denpa can only be obtained in certain episodes of the series, apparently, which means that a player looking to have absolutely all of them would, ideally, need to own all three games - but this is certainly not necessary to fully enjoy The Denpa Men 3.

Screenshot for The Denpa Men 3: Rise of the Digitoll on Nintendo 3DS

This third episode starts out with Crystal, a female Denpa, being abducted by a foul creature named Squelch. The hero - who is either generated randomly or can be randomly selected among the available Denpa from game saves of the first two games - sets out to save Crystal from the clutches of Squelch. This is cliché and simple enough for a back story, and some may say unoriginal, yet this is without counting on the quirkiness and overall humour of the Denpa Men series that manages to keep the whole thing interesting enough throughout. The overall plot is no worse or better than in an early Dragon Quest game in terms of originality, and those are still some fine RPGs.

What does surprise, however, is the sheer size of it. The world map is quite large, and on a par with some early RPGs, as far as the amount of places to visit, explore, and search, is concerned! This is expected from a retail game, but for a game sold on the eShop at the price of other small games, the amount of content does indeed come across as surprisingly huge. With the amount of required level grinding and searching for new Denpa that will be compulsory to progress, even more so in the later stages of the game, a roughly 40-hours-long quest awaits, which is quite a lot for a £9 game. Speaking of level grinding, although this will prove necessary to stand a chance against the onslaught of sometimes brutal enemies that inhabit the dungeons, it won't prove enough to resist some violent assaults from the toughest of them. Indeed, elemental affinities are tremendously important in tackling dungeons, so gamers should switch out party members quite often to rearrange the strategy between dungeons. A dungeon of ice, for example, should not be explored with a team composed of Denpa who are weak against it, regardless of pure stats or level.

Screenshot for The Denpa Men 3: Rise of the Digitoll on Nintendo 3DS

A monster ten levels below that of a Denpa with an opposing elemental affinity to its attack set can still potentially one-hit KO the Denpa. That's why it's very important to collect as many colours as early on in the game as possible, so that they get levelled up along the way with the rest of the active party members. Alas, the game isn't very adamant about it and the unaware player will sometimes find this out the hard way, especially when not used to this kind of mechanic. For better or for worse, the Denpa Men series cannot be played the rough way - keeping the same party members throughout just doesn't work.

As with many RPGs, of course, there are a slew of side-quests to tackle, helping to extend the game's length quite a bit. Exploring the world map; completing item, monster, fish, Denpa, and antennae encyclopaedias, are just a few of the many things to see and do. The game offers many ways to make money to buy better items and has a side-currency called jewels that are few and far between in the game, and yet allow some of the best stuff to be bought. Those can also apparently be obtained through StreetPass, though in The Denpa Men 3 a lot of luck is required for this... or the player may choose to spend his or her hard earned real money to convert them into jewels in the game through an in-game connection to the user's eShop balance. This should obviously be used with caution but those with enough money to throw out the window could build a killing army of Denpa out of their real money if they should want.

Screenshot for The Denpa Men 3: Rise of the Digitoll on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

The Denpa Men 3: The Rise of Digitoll takes the original concept of the first two games and pushes it to the next level. The second game was already a vast improvement over the first, and this one takes the idea even further, turning what may seem a "light" RPG from the outset, resting solely on a gimmicky capture system, into its own fleshed out thing. It looks, sounds, and plays very well. It is also loads of fun and has every quality of a fully built retail experience. It even has the amount of content that goes with it... except that it comes at the price of an eShop title. It's no Bravely Default or Shin Megami Tensei IV in the presentation department, let alone in terms of storyline - and probably wasn't built on the same budget either - and yet it manages to "feel" more and more like its own new big franchise, with a world to explore as vast as that of an early Dragon Quest game, along with the familiar design that goes with it, and many dungeons and enemies to fight. Genius Sonority definitely crafted a worthy successor to its second iteration and, given the right budget, probably could give this series an even bigger future title with an even more fleshed out feeling bringing it even closer to the big guns of greater RPG factories like Square Enix, Intelligent Systems, or Level-5. The Denpa Men 3 is totally worth every penny asked for it! A fourth entry is supposed to be out in Japan at time of writing, as a free-to-play RPG called Denpa Ningen no RPG FREE!, but has yet to make any significant noise in the West, but Cubed3 certainly hopes an announcement is soon forthcoming.


Genius Sonority


Genius Sonority


Real Time RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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