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Nintendo Blindsides Japan With Surprise Chibi Robo Release

Not that it does us non-Japanese-3DS-owning types any good (yet), but it's a start.

Evidently Nintendo wasn't kidding when they said they hadn't shown off everything they'd be releasing this year back at E3. Yesterday in a Japan-exclusive Nintendo Direct video, the company announced a few new 3DS games, including a third chapter in Genius Sonority's totally-biting-off-Dragon-Quest-in-a-good-way Denpa Men series and a new Chibi-Robo.

Everyone's favorite tiny robot slave is back.

The real kicker, though: Chibi-Robo wasn't so much "announced" as "dropped in Japan's laps." The game went up on eShop immediately, accompanied by a demo. At 1500 yen ($15), it's pretty inexpensive. There's a reason for its low cost: It's not exactly a full-fledge Chibi-Robo. Not that many people were probably clamoring for one, given the general obscurity of the series (which debuted as a quirky GameCube title that no one bought and two DS sequels that no one could buy since one was a Wal-Mart exclusive, of all things, and the other never left Japan).

Either way, it's the thought that counts. Called Chibi-Robo Photography, the eShop release does at least manage to stay true to the series' essence (a tiny robot carries stuff around), though the focus of the game seems to revolve around AR and the 3DS's cameras. It's a sort of real-world scavenger hunt that sees players searching for physical objects that correspond to a given silhouette, shooting them, and turning the resulting images into badges for display in a museum.

Do most non-Japanese gamers even own house slippers? They should probably make that object the final boss for the localized releases.

Chibi-Robo Photography looks light on content and more or less inconsequential. On the other hand, it's cute and inexpensive, which is no bad thing. It also sports some rather nice graphics for a 3DS game. Chances aren't too bad that developer Skip is testing the waters here; with luck, the stars will align and we'll get a full-fledged Chibi-Robo again. For now, though, probably best to hope Nintendo localizes this little confection for U.S. release... maybe once Animal Crossing fever has died down and people want to do something with their 3DS that doesn't involve shaking trees for fruit and figuring out how to trick their villagers into wearing outfits inspired by Persona 4 and Battle Royale.

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