For a game concerned almost entirely with collecting new characters, the original Denpa Men really lacked character. Its contemporary gimmick - using the 3DS's Wi-Fi capability to generate the eponymous Men - worked with an endearingly old-school take on RPG gameplay to combat lacklustre presentation and a practically non-existent story. And it just about got away with it.
Its follow-up is an exercise in lessons learned, changing practically nothing that already worked about its predecessor while tweaking, extending or replacing aspects that didn't. It might seem a little safe, but the game hasn't suffered: this feels like the real, fully fledged deal.
That solid area at the heart of its otherwise flimsy original is now a cornerstone. This party-based RPG recalls the unforgiving muscle of the classics of that genre: it's all dungeon-crawling, outfitting and micro-managing. The twist concerns how you amass that party.
Beginning with a single, randomly generated hero, you'll quickly be asked to search your nearby area for levitating goons in jumpsuits. Different Wi-Fi signals generate different types, determining where they lie on the Pokemon-esque elemental spectrum and whether or not they have any spells to their name (marked by the presence or lack of a corresponding antenna).
The interest lies in how those two systems interact: if you reach a dungeon populated by ice-based monsters when your neighbours' routers aren't pumping out fire-Men, you'll have to explore elsewhere. It might strike some as unnecessary, but for those on the move it offers a genuine sense of urgency and exploration.
Scaring Is Caring
The major flaw of the last game was that it failed to make you care about doing that extra work and pains have been taken to rectify this for Beyond The Waves. For a start, there's a story worth paying attention to, with your main character's family kidnapped by bandy apes, with a sprinkle of more global-scale mystery heaped on top. Speaking of globes, that signals another improvement. The glorified mission-select screen of the first game has been replaced by a full overworld peppered with explorable dungeons, friendly towns, roaming enemy encounters and hidden nooks ripe for pillaging.
Once you've exhausted your continent (which can be warped back to at any point) there's even a pseudo-Wind Waker sailing option to discover new lands to fill with your group of rictus-grinned warlords-in-training.
The newly opened world offers far more opportunities to distract than the bare bones of combat might otherwise permit. There's the fishing activity and the ability to grow collected seeds in towns to provide free items at a later date. There's even some rudimentary multiplayer, enabling you to pit your party against others' at the Coliseum.
StreetPass gets a look-in, too, with each hit powering a lantern that illuminates a specific, treasure-filled dungeon near your hometown.
They're all minute additions, but each one helps prove our point; an idea or gimmick might be perfectly implemented, but it's nothing without context. Genius Sonority has looked beyond the waves this time around and what it has found has helped strengthen the good signals we got last time.