‘Mario & Luigi,’ ‘Yo-kai Watch 2,’ more

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In the age of smartphones, the Nintendo 3DS can look like a Discman or a point-and-shoot camera. It’s one of those devices that is supposed to be obsolete in the face of do-it-all machines.

Fortunately for gamers, Nintendo hasn’t given up, and the company continues to publish games for its handheld workhorse. With that in mind, here are some games to keep an eye on this holiday season.

“Monster Hunter Stories” — Those expecting another romp where players slice and dice creatures will be surprised by this spin-off from the legendary franchise. This project is geared toward the younger set.

It takes place in the same universe where players hunt creatures such as a Tigrex or Popo, but it’s done in the style of a Japanese role-playing game. Instead of defeating monsters and carving them up for gear, players search the world for eggs and hatch them. They bond with their monsters via a Kinship stone, becoming a rider who partners with the animal.

Together they battle other monsters, level up and progress through a story where players go beyond Hakum village and search the world for a way to fight a mysterious blight.

Capcom has done a smart job of adapting “Monster Hunter” concepts to this approach. Veterans will appreciate how the game respects the intricacies of creatures and items, but it’s the simple but deep “Pokémon”-style combat system that stands out.

“Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions” — This remake of the original “Mario & Luigi RPG” series will surprise veterans and newcomers alike. It’s a game where Mario and Luigi still stomp on enemies, but the format differs from what fans expect.

It’s centered on a turn-based system where players make Mario and Luigi jump with the A and B buttons, respectively. The gameplay rewards those who can time their button presses with the exact combat moments. It’s different but satisfying, as the Mario brothers travel to the Beanbean Kingdom in order to get Princess Peach’s voice back from the evil Cackletta and her sidekick Fawful.

For newcomers, it will take some adjustment, but in the end, they can appreciate the “Metroidvania”-like structure along with an offbeat adventure that puts Mario and Luigi in unfamiliar territory.

For veterans, the Bowser’s Minions part of the game will be a delight. It’s basically a B-side to the original adventure. It puts players in the role of a simple Goomba, the mushroom fodder that Mario usually jumps on. The Goomba is one of the survivors of the crash that separates the Mario brothers from Bowser, the plumbers’ nemesis-turned-ally.

In the original, the adversaries teamed up to save Princess Peach, but players rarely saw King Koopa’s side of the story. This simple adventure, in which the Goomba Captain and other minions rally to save their leader, is addictive, simple and surprisingly compelling.

Players must arrange their army of koopas, shy guys, lakitus and other minions and have them fight the forces of Fawful, who manages to hypnotize the Koopalings and other allies. The battles hash out automatically, and players can influence the outcome with orders. It’s simple, but it works.

“Yo-kai Watch 2: Psychic Specters” — Nintendo often publishes a well-received RPG like “Pokémon,” and a year later releases a revamped version of the same title. It’s how players get games such as “Pokémon Yellow,” which was a Pikachu-centric version of the original.

“Psychic Specters” falls along the same lines. It’s a new iteration of the sequel “Yo-kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits” and “Yo-kai Watch 2: Fleshy Souls.” This version includes new Yo-kai to befriend, additional quests and unexplored areas.

This game will appeal to those who may have missed the sequel last year or superfans who want more content. “Psychic Specters” lets those hard-core players carry over their data from the previous games into this one.



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