The tower defense genre has been made and remade so many times that it’s got to have a pretty big catch or be something quite different from the norm to hook me in these days. It looks like this is what Nintendo’s objective was when they released Dillon’s Rolling Western, a downloadable game on the 3DS eShop, as they have crafted something that stands out from the crowd. If you’ve ever wondered what Nintendo’s take on the tower defence genre would be like, here’s your answer.
Dillon (also known as The Red Flash) is the strong silent type. He doesn’t speak, wears a cowboy hat, and completes the ensemble with the bandana around his neck. You know the type. Oh, and he’s also an armadillo. He has a sidekick named Russ, who happens to be a squirrel (make sure you don’t called him a mouse). Together, they are a team looking to earn an honest living by being Rangers and helping out villages in need. Dillon will do everything he can to protect the villages scruffle hogs (or scrogs) from the oncoming attacks of Grocks (rock monsters) that take place at the end of every day at sundown. It takes three days for Dillon to make sure that a village is safe, and each passing day gets harder as the onslaught of Grock attacks become more frequent. It’s time to Grock and roll!
Each village wants Dillon to gather scruffles to feed their hungry scrogs. The more you save, the more money you will earn. During the day you control Dillon exploring the area, searching for mines for resources, and building up your tower defenses. Once you earn enough money you can build up each tower, equip them with weapons, and even repair them, all of which are dependent on the situation at hand. During the daytime you are free to do whatever you wish, but I highly suggest fortifying what you can and gathering any resources to be found in the mines nearby. You don’t have long before nightfall hits, and when that sky goes red you are going to need to do everything in your power to save the village from the Grocks.
While the daytime serves as your setup period, you’ll little warning before night hits. This warning is your last chance to wrap up any business pronto before the attack. I’m not sure why there’s not a countdown timer to nightfall though, or even why the sky doesn’t gradually get darker, it’s simply just Russ, who is your only warning, popping up out of nowhere telling you to get ready. The next thing you know the sky is red and you have to help Dillon defeat each Grock pack.
At night you’ll see some very large Grocks appear on the mini-map which show you what path they are coming from. As you run into a large Grock, you are put into an area-like fight against 5 or 6 smaller Grocks. You’ll need to use your spins, dashes, and claws to defeat the Grocks as quickly as possible, as time doesn’t stand still in combat as the other large Grocks will constantly be making their way to the village doors. It becomes strategic which Grocks to go after first and this is where your towers will hopefully help you stop their advance before they get to the gate. While the towers will help, I found that doing most of the fighting myself was the easiest and quickest way to defeat the Grocks.
Once you get the hang of the combat and learn how to use your newer skills, it’s quite fun as you start to take down packs of Grocks with ease. As you progress new types of fog rocks will emerge (around twenty or so) that will have you changing your tactics. There are even larger boss Grocks that can summon smaller enemies that need to be defeated before the boss crosses a line, and if he does he gets a boost towards the village gates.
Once you save the day, I mean night, from all the Grocks you can go to town and spend your hard earned money. Here you can learn new skills, pick up side quests that usually have you in search of specific resources, or heal yourself if needed. The more Grocks killed and scrogs saved earns you a bigger paycheque. Each village level is broken into three separate day stages and there are a total of 10 villages to save along your quest that become increasingly more difficult as you advance. Once you wrap your head around the daytime activities, and what you should be doing with your time, it becomes second nature to go mining for resources in an effort to hopefully upgrade your towers to slow the Grocks down in battle.
One problem I had was that for some reason I found the map to be confusing at times, as it would show where Grocks are in relation to you and the village doors, but they would also sometimes completely disappear. This would result in me fighting some Grocks in an opposite corner and then all of a sudden I see that some have snuck up all the way to the door without my map telling me so.
I should also note that each time you get to a new village you are restricted by a budget that limits what you can spend. I assume that this gameplay mechanic is to keep the challenge in check for that first time. So even if you save your money you won’t always be able to spend it all when you want to. Also, by the time you get to the last few villages I felt like the gameplay became a bit repetitive, though the challenge keeps a steady pace. This can’t be played in the traditional sense, as you’ll need to use Dillon as much as possible, more so than relying on your towers to do the work for you.
Dillon’s Rolling Western is extremely stylus centric, to the point of not using the face buttons at all. Even in the menus you tap the screen to select rather than the typical button presses. You need to hold and balance the 3DS in your left hand and the stylus in the right. After an extended play session it may fatigue your wrist a little bit. I also found that and this single handed balancing can make it difficult at times to keep the screen angled correctly when using the 3D slider during frantic combat. This is because rolling is done by taping the screen, pulling down on the stylus, and then letting go to make Dillon dash. It takes some getting used to, as I thought I was only able to dash forwards for the first two villages until I experimented.
For a downloadable title, the art was surprisingly well done; it even almost has a Windwaker-like approach to its art style and shading. The 3D works well regardless of where the slider is and didn’t produce any headaches like some other games with the 3D function on can do. As for the sound, the music is very fitting for the genre, but with Dillon being the strong silent cowboy, don’t expect to hear all that much out of him. Sound effects manage to match the on-screen action, and art style, to a tee.
If you’ve been looking for a reason to dust off your 3DS, or simply looking for a new decent title to download from the eShop, Dillon’s Rolling Western is a safe bet as long as you enjoy the Tower Defense genre, as it may become repetitive for everyone else. Priced at $10, it’s a unique spin on an exhausted genre that makes you feel like you have more of an impact on the outcome rather than just setting up your towers and hoping that you’ve done it properly.