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RPG design handbook, entry #12: hit enemy, numbers fly out. It's such an established genre tradition it's amazing we've waited until now for a game to actually make use of those ascending integers. Whack a foe in Beyond The Labyrinth and you'll see their HP float upwards, but while those numbers are airborne you can inhale them with the character whose turn it is next, as a way to recover health without spells or potions. Nifty.
Also clever: the turn-based battle system, which allows you to moderate the strength of your attack. Naturally, there's a caveat to you selecting 'total obliteration' every time - a more forceful blow means you need to wait longer for your next turn. In theory this should allow you to get a feel for a foe before dishing out the pain.
Elsewhere, combat reverts to the JRPG formula - every enemy belongs to one of three elemental alignments, with each element strong against one type and weak to another. Handily, everything seems to be colour-coded, so you can plan attacks in advance when approaching a gang of nasties.
THE CLOTHES SHOW
The one exception to the elemental rule is the white-haired girl seen in all the screenshots so far. Curiously, you escort her at times and control her at others. Occasionally she'll look out of the screen and address you directly, while battle scenes are viewed from a first-person perspective, your attacks flying from the side of the screen as if hurled by unseen hands. Then you'll get to control the flimsily attired heroine, guiding her through labyrinths she seems entirely ill-equipped to inquisitively skip around.
Away from the dungeoneering you can try your hand at fashion design, with an extensive costume customiser that allows you to transfer image data to and from your PC to decorate the girl's dress. Designs are displayed on a silhouetted mannequin oddly reminiscent of Project Rub, and you can swap costume data with other users. Those so inclined can also change the colour of her undergarments, just in case you'd forgotten you were playing a Japanese game.
Given the lack of genuinely hefty 3DS titles so far (Ocarina aside), we're chuffed to hear that completing the game should take around 40 hours, and there are four difficulty settings to add replay value, with - hurrah! - a skip button to whizz through dialogue and story sequences. It might have been gazumped by Resi and Metal Gear as 3DS's prettiest game, but this promises a winning blend of style and substance.
The latest issue of Nintendo Gamer, featuring the world first review of MGS: Snake Eater on 3DS, is on sale now. Subscribe to the print edition, get it for your iDevice via Apple Newsstand or grab it for your PC, Mac or Android phone