We're always saying here at Pocket Gamer that Nintendo seriously needs to get with the times and embrace online gaming properly.
Sure, it's ditched game-specific friend codes, and you can now play Mario Kart against strangers online, but compared to home consoles the 3DS is still lacking real online functionality.
Fortunately, Square Enix has stepped in to show the Japanese giant how it can be done on the stereoscopic 3D handheld. The first time that a random online player logged in and started thrashing enemies alongside us in Heroes of Ruin, we nearly fell off our chairs in disbelief.
Heroes of Ruin is a landmark release for the 3DS thanks to its online play, made all the more essential through its lengthy string of quests, varying equipment and stats, and hack 'n' slash dungeon-crawling action.We need a hero
Ataraxis, the ruler of Nexus, has fallen ill due to an unknown curse. You play as an outsider mercenary who has come to seek his fortune by finding the cure for the king's illness.
This involves journeying to numerous cavernous areas, killing the enemies found lurking there, and heading back to Nexus to claim your rewards. Think popular PC and Xbox 360 dungeon-crawler Torchlight and you're part of the way to understanding how Heroes of Ruin works.
For the most part you're running around hammering the 'attack' button, and occasionally holding it down for a more powerful attack to cut through the block of larger enemies. Then there are bosses to defeat, secrets to uncover, and a whole lot of loot to grab.
If you're a fan of steadily slicing your way through dungeons, then this is going to be right up your alley. Besides the main quest and side missions, you've also got daily and weekly challenges to beat, downloaded from the online servers each day.
To say there's more than enough for a single player to get through is an understatement - but to stay offline would be to miss the entire point of this game.Far from Ruin
Choose to go online when you first boot up the game and during play you'll be randomly joined by people online, ready to help you out with your quest.
It works surprisingly well. Players seamlessly flit in and out of your game, and you can also choose to follow them for as long as you want if you decide they're useful enough. There's even voice chat which can be enabled in the options, and allow users to talk to each other via the 3DS microphone.
There is no noticeable lag, and playing with people online makes the game several times more entertaining than it would be otherwise. You have a map on the bottom screen so you can keep track of where they are, and at certain points you'll have to band together to get past obstacles.
If you have 3DS friends with the game, you can go to your friends list and form an alliance with them. If you then play online with your alliance you'll earn bonus experience for levelling up, and never lose connection with them.
All in all, it's rather glorious stuff. Throw in an online trading market, where you can put items up for sale to online players and buy stuff from other people, and you're moving into the realms of PC-quality online dungeon-crawling.What's Nexus?
But there's room for improvement.
The stereoscopic 3D is pretty awful, and we noticed a lot of shadowing with the visuals. Turn that slider down and it becomes far more bearable to play, but we would have liked the 3D to enrich the game.
The presentation is lacking throughout. The voice-acting is pretty bad, and story is lacklustre, and the interface - especially equipping weapons and choosing powers - needs a minor overhaul.
But all of these issues pale in comparison to the wonderful achievements that Heroes of Ruin brings to the table. This is true online gaming, and it's on a Nintendo console.
If you're into RPGs, Heroes of Ruin should be your very next purchase. Even if you're not, you should pick the game up to show publishers that this is the direction we want the 3DS to take. Magnificent and essential.