I've always loved dedicated handhelds since the original Game Boy and for the past few months especially most of my gaming has been on the 3DS and Vita. I've been enjoying playing a mix of new games such as BoxBoxBoy!, Kirby: Planet Robobot, and Zero Time Dilemma (my current game of the year contender) as well as some games I had been sitting on including Professor Layton Versus Ace Attorney and The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel.

While console gaming dominates the Fall and there are plenty of titles I'm looking forward to, I wanted to call out some of the dedicated handheld games I'm most looking forward to this year and beyond to give them some extra attention. While the 3DS and Vita are likely winding down in the grand scheme of things, you wouldn't know it from the large amount of awesome looking games on the horizon.

Since I wanted to make sure I covered the games I'm most excited about, before writing this blog I came up with a shortlist of the handheld games I'm currently interested in. I quickly ended up with a list of 25(!) games which would take far too long to detail so I decided I'd highlight the ten games I'm most excited about and also rank them for added fun. My list primarily includes games already confirmed for US release, but I did include two games that will almost assuredly come out here at some point. Also, despite the heavy rumors about the NX being a handheld/home console hybrid (which would be very exciting!) I've decided to leave it out of the discussion and focus just on the 3DS and Vita since we don't yet have official confirmation for what the NX is.

Before moving into my list, here are my honorable mentions in alphabetical order.

Akiba's Beat (Vita, PS4, 2016)
Caligula (Vita PSN Only, 2017)
Demon Gaze 2 (Vita, 2017)
Dragon Quest Builders (Vita PSN, PS4, October 11)
Dragon Quest VIII Journey of the Cursed King (3DS, 2016)
Etrian Odyssey V (3DS, Not Yet Confirmed For The US)
Ever Oasis (3DS, Q1 2016)
Fate/Extella (Vita, PS4, November 15)
Hatsune Miku Project Diva X (Vita, PS4, August 30)
Pokemon Sun and Moon (3DS, November 18)
Rabi Ribi (Vita, December)
Psycho Pass Mandatory Happiness (Vita, PS4, September 13)
Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse (3DS, September 20)
Sword Art Online Hollow Realization (Vita, PS4, 2016)
World of Final Fantasy (Vita, PS4, October 25)

Ok, let's get started! 

10: Dragon Quest VII Fragments of the Forgotten Past (3DS, September 16)

There were a lot of excellent games to choose from to fill the #10 spot on my list, but in the end I had to pick Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past. The long awaited 3DS localization is finally coming out this year and it cleans up a lot of the rough edges from the original PS1 version of Dragon Quest VII which includies completely revamping the lengthy opening. What edged Dragon Quest VII over other strong contenders is that DQVII features a job system, which is something I always enjoy in RPGs. Not only is there a huge story to play through, which I've heard can take over 100 hours, there is a substantial amount of side quests and other features like randomly generated dungeons to push your playtime well over 200 hours which should give you plenty of time to explore the job system in full. I've never played Dragon Quest VII, so I'm excited to dive into the 3DS remake in September.

9: Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 (3DS, September 30)

The first Azure Striker Gunvolt was a very strange game. While it appeared to be a successor to classic SNES action games like Mega Man X, Gunvolt featured a unique combat system that revolved around tagging enemies to help direct your deadly electric energy that could defeat them. While you could play it rather quickly, more often than not you'd find yourself constantly stopping in place with each enemy encounter which really hurt the pacing. While I have mixed feelings on the original game, I was able to play a demo of Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 at Anime Expo this year that made me very excited for the sequel. In addition to Gunvolt, there is a new character in the sequel named Copen who plays far more aggressively. In order to tag enemies as Copen you have to charge straight through them. You can chain three of Copen's dashes together which helps in both combat and platforming. Since Copen's gun is actually effective at defeating enemies, unlike Gunvolt's fairly worthless blaster, nothing really holds him back from leaping right into the fray. Equally exciting, the platforming sections are far more tighter and interesting than anything seen in the original Gunvolt. Based off the Copen demo I played, I'm hopeful that Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 will be better able to capture the spirit of older 2D action games.

8: Lady Layton (3DS, iOS, Android, 2017)

The Professor Layton series has been quiet since the release of the final game in the prequel trilogy and the announcement of a strange mobile focused game called Layton Seven that would completely discard the puzzle adventure formula that fans loved. While Layton Seven is MIA, just recently a new mainline Layton game was announced called Lady Layton that stars Layton's daughter, Katrielle, who will solve strange mysteries around London while searching for her missing father. Not much information has been shared about the new game yet, but the announcement trailer shows plenty of anime cutscenes handled by A-1 Pictures and the return of puzzles, this time created by a new puzzle master since Akira Tago passed away. The announcement trailer also shows some of the supporting cast including Katrielle's talking dog sidekick and two of her friends which together should help provide a unique group dynamic for this new adventure. The only thing not confirmed yet is classic Layton exploration which let you travel to different spots of a large connected world while poking around individual screens for hint coins, puzzles, and NPCs to chat with. Even if the game will miss that big pillar of classic Layton gameplay, I can't wait to have another Layton game since it has been such a long wait since the last big adventure.

7: Tokyo Xanadu (Vita, PC, 2017 / Enhanced PS4 Version Currently Not Coming West)

Tokyo Xanadu is an action game made by Falcom, the creator of the Ys and Trails series. While it is an action game that plays similar to the Ys games, it is less of an RPG adventure and more of a focused dungeon crawler in structure. Compared to Ys: Memories of Celceta, which occasionally ran a bit rough on the Vita, Tokyo Xanadu is very smooth. There are seven playable characters in the game, each with a different play style, and you can bring two into each dungeon and swap between them as needed. While the action gameplay in dungeons is the main focus, there are some locations to explore in modern day Tokyo and minigames to play including skateboarding and the card game Blade which returns from the otherwise unrelated Trails of Cold Steel. Given how much fun Ys Celceta was on the Vita, I'm looking forward to playing Tokyo Xanadu when Aksys brings it over next year.

6: Cosmic Star Heroine (Vita/PS4 Cross Buy, Xbox One, PC, Mac, 2016)

I really enjoyed Zeboyd Games' Cthulu Saves The World so I have been waiting a long time for them to make another original RPG. At the 2014 PlayStation Experience, I played an early demo of Cosmic Star Heroine which quickly won me over with its classic feel and gameplay as well as its snappy, often humorous writing. From what I played back then (and it could have changed/evolved a lot in the past year and a half), the game felt a lot like Chrono Trigger during exploration right down to the particular diagonal strafing featured in that RPG masterpiece. When you enter battle though, Cosmic Star Heroine offers a very unique battle system that sees you managing special attacks against a rising damage multiplier for both you and your opponents. Each character in the demo I played had about five moves they could choose from on their turn. You only can use each move once in battle unless you wait/defend for a whole turn which recharges all of your used moves. The battle system and writing seemed very strong even a year and half ago, so I'm very hopeful the final game will surpass its strong early potential. Since the game is cross buy and possibly will feature cross save (that feature is still TBD last I heard), I'm intending to play it on both the big screen and on the go so strictly as a handheld game I'm a smidge less excited for it than some of my picks ahead.

5: Steins;Gate Zero (Vita, PS4, September 27)

Steins;Gate Zero snuck up on me, but now that we know its release is imminent I'm really looking forward to playing the true sequel to Steins;Gate. Zero takes place in an alternate timeline where self proclaimed mad scientist Rintaro Okabe fails to save Makise Kurisu from dying. The phone system where you send text messages to characters to change the direction of the plot has been replaced with the RINE system in Zero which also lets you send stickers to characters. Other than that, I actually don't know much else about Zero and that's ok with me. I'm hoping to be surprised when the game comes out in September since the plot is virtually unknown to me.

4: Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice (3DS, September 8)

I love Ace Attorney, so I've been looking forward to the latest game in the series since its initial teaser as Ace Attorney 6. Spirit of Justice features two protagonists with Phoenix Wright visiting a foreign country, Khura'in, and Apollo Justice holding down the fort back home in Japanifornia. Khura'in should be an interesting country for Phoenix to visit since the country no longer has any defense lawyers. Instead, Khuar'in relies on spirit mediums who can see visions of crimes committed and it's up to Phoenix to point out the contradictions in those visions and ultimately discover the truth behind Khura'in. Despite the move to a foreign country Spirit of Justice features a big cast of returning characters including the long awaited return of Maya Fey and I'm hopeful we will see some good character development for characters like Apollo especially. Also for what it's worth, Spirit of Justice's pun game already seems to be well on point so I'm expecting another very entertaining adventure.

3: Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana (Neither The Vita Or The Different/Enhanced PS4 Version Is Yet Confirmed For The US)

Ys: Memories of Celceta is one of my favorite Vita games, so I've been looking forward to Ys VIII since its announcement. While Ys VIII has not yet been confirmed for a US release, given XSeed's record of bringing over every Ys game they get their hands on I'm confident we'll start hearing about a US release by early next year at the latest. So what is Ys VIII? Ys VIII is an action game in the same vein as Celceta which plays sort of like a more action heavy Zelda game. Combat is very fast and snappy and revolves around making good use of your special moves and swapping between characters while awesome rock music plays in the background. Ys VIII seems to be placing a bigger emphasis on story than previous Ys games as there are actually two protagonists this time. In addition to Adol, the protagonist of every Ys game, there is a new character named Dana who you play as in Adol's dreams. By solving puzzles in the past as Dana, you can influence Adol's world in the present. While Ys has always been about exploration/adventure, Ys VIII is bringing the camera closer to the ground to give you an even bigger view of the action and a better view of the world which should help the adventure feel far more grand. I'm excited that Ys VIII is addressing my biggest criticism of Celceta by being double the length of its predecessor at roughly 40-60 hours long and featuring more variety in side content. While a longer game isn't necessarily better, I loved Celceta so much I just wanted more so I'm excited Ys VIII will be a more substantial experience.

2: The Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II (Vita, PS3, September 6)

Trails of Cold Steel II is my most anticipated upcoming RPG. It is the direct sequel to Trails of Cold Steel and is the seventh game in the Trails series which amazingly are all directly connected to one another. I'm currently wrapping up my playthrough of the first Cold Steel which is thoroughly fantastic. The sequel follows Rean Schwarzer and the rest of Class VII as the civil war in the Erebonian Empire continues to escalate. Cold Steel has a fantastic set of characters in its core cast and I'm excited to go on another adventure with them especially now that the stakes have been raised. The excellent turn based combat system returns in the sequel and the link system, where you can pair up characters during battle to trigger combos and other bonuses, is further developed. One of the biggest draws to Cold Steel II, and why it is so high up on my list, is that your save file transfers over between games which allows you to carry over all of your relationships with your party members and NPCs and thus have a more personal adventure. Characters you befriended in the first game can be brought to your home base in the sequel to run shops and provide other benefits. I'm excited we don't have to wait long for Cold Steel II as it is only two weeks away from release. 

1: New Danganronpa V3 (Vita, PS4, 2017)

New Danganronpa V3 narrowly edges out Trails of Cold Steel II as my most anticipated handheld game. While I'm expecting Cold Steel II to be of supreme quality, the high potential of New Danganronpa V3 pushed it ahead to claim the top spot on my list. We know virtually nothing about the latest Danganronpa game aside from a few character designs and that the deadly class trials and the evil Monokuma will return. Unlike previous games where you used evidence to dismantle characters' lies, in V3 you'll actually need to lie yourself in order to reveal the truth behind each murder mystery. The other major piece of info we have about Danganronpa V3 is that is a clean break from the previous continuity despite the presence of Monokuma. While I loved piecing together the greater Danganronpa lore between the games and the currently airing anime, I'm also excited that New Danganronpa V3 will be able to offer nothing but surprises throughout (which series creator Kazutaka Kodaka excels at). It's been a long time since New Danganronpa V3 was announced and I think that once the current Danganronpa 3 anime ends we should start expecting new info on the mysterious next game in the series.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my top ten most anticipated handheld games list! What handheld games are you most looking forward to? I always enjoy reading and responding to your comments so be sure to share your thoughts below!