Planet Crashers Review
Ever since dedicated handhelds went online, people have been clamoring for true MMORPGs on the go. A few PSP titles toyed with the concept, but the MMO has remained a strictly PC, and to a lesser degree, console experience. The closest thing to a true mobile MMO has been Gameloft's Order and Chaos, but that one is an iOS title and not available on neither Sony nor Nintendo's handheld devices. Renegade Kid's new 3DSWare title Planet Crashers might not be anywhere close to a World of Warcraft or League of Legends, but its emphasis on 1v1 tournaments and battles, in addition to its single player campaign, shows even the smallest of games are trying things that make the MMO genre as popular as it is.
Planet Crashers comes out of the gate with the deck stacked against it. Its simple, cartoony palette will, I imagine, turn off some otherwise interested parties. On top of that, the in-game visuals never progress beyond the quality on a mid-range DS game. Even worse, the 3D isn't just unnecessary; it is also amateurish and just plain ugly. One of the dumbest behaviors in the gaming public is disregarding games based on how they look. Unfortunately, this time those closed-minded gamers might be right on the money.
Planet Crashers kicks off with a limited but interesting character creation system. There are a few options available right of the bat, but locked items outnumber what you start with by a large degree. Unlocking these new attributes and clothing can become a semi-obsession if you're into that, but the aforementioned sub-par visuals ensure that no matter what kind of hero you design, it won't make too much difference; the characters' chibi-style heads block most of your view of your avatar's body anyway. The option to build a character is welcome, but ultimately moot; dragged down by graphics that do it no justice.
Planet Crashers' gameplay most closely resembles that of most Korean RPGs. If you are unfamiliar with what that entails, this means the game is simply a series of fetch and/or "kill this many" quests with very little story to balance things out. This also means that the game is extremely grind-heavy; you'll visit the same dungeons over and over, killing the same enemies over and over, all in the name of clearing the quest log and building levels. Some people eat this stuff up, but I suspect most will tire of endless, remarkably similar quests long before finishing the game.
The battle system is equally ho-hum. The battles are vanilla turn-based affairs punctuated by timed button presses to up attack power. As you progress, you'll get more attacks and weapons, but the first battle you'll fight will be almost identical to your last one. The KRPG structure often gets a pass for its more action-oriented gameplay, but the boring battles in Planet Crashers just aren't interesting or fun.
This extends to the PvP online component as well. The battles against others are identical to those in the single player campaign, i.e. kinda blah. The problem exclusive to this mode is that there is no matchmaking whatsoever. Enter a battle and you'll be pitted against another live player of any level. It's not uncommon to be paired, at level one or two, against people twenty times beefier than you. It's never fun to hit someone with 21 points of damage only to have them come back with thousands more upon counter-attack. This is plain poor game design, and for a title to emphasize its online modes as this one does is just dishonest.
It looks like the wait for a true MMO on a handheld is going to be a long one, especially if the aspects of the genre are as badly captured or underutilized as they are here. The single player is a bit better than the online, but its repetitive nature and candy-coated (yet somehow bland) color palette severely limit its appeal and any enjoyment one may have otherwise gleaned from this downloadable adventure. There are certainly better games available for download on the 3DS, not to mention better KRPGs spread across the iOS landscape. Unless you are really hard up for some RPG nonsense on your 3DS, Planet Crashers is probably one to skip. Kingdom Hearts 3D is only a few days away, after all. Wait for that one.
Final Rating: 40%. Unless you are really hard up for some RPG nonsense on your 3DS, Planet Crashers is probably one to skip.