For the longest time, Nintendo's eShop was a great big pile of suck. In the last few months, that has finally changed. One of the best offerings of this new situation is Dillon's Rolling Western, a hybrid arcade-brawler/tower defense game with a hint of Zelda for good measure.
Graphics: Employing Nintendo's classic sense of style, developer Vanpool plays to a sem-cel shaded style here, with bold colors, thick lines and simple designs. The graphics are cartoony in a good way and the game is overall pretty colorful. The 3D is effective, if not particularly necessary. It really only 'pops' in the menus in town or at the towers. Overall, it evokes a classic Nintendo feel.
Story: Well, this game has less of a story than Starfox or other such games. The plot is that Dillon and his pal Russ are posing as Rangers, travelling from town to town fighting monsters and protecting the frontier towns. Also, the monsters are getting worse and they need to find out why. It's a plot that's beyond threadbare, but the mayors of each town are colorful, in a overly kid-friendly way.
Sound: 5 second music and sound loops abound! However, some of the sounds are good and the music, while it gets repetitive, is pretty inoffensive, if not terribly memorable. It doesn't get in the way and feels appropriate, but you're not getting a "Hyrule Field" in here.
Gameplay: Here's where the game shines. Gameplay is broken into ten towns, with three days per town. Each town has it's own map with unique features. Each town has a pattern: spend the day collecting resources, spend the night fighting rock monsters, called Grocks. Protect the village, which has sheep things called scrogs that the grocks will steal and kill. You can increase the number of scrogs the town has by finding scruffle plants spread on the map and then turning them into town.
Dillon, your character, is an armadillo who gets around by spinning. He controls like a truck. The controls are all stylus-based (draw down to get Dillon in a ball and then release to start him rolling), which can get a tad tiring for longer sessions. Dillon rolls into enemies, killing them. As the game goes on, Dillon can grind on tougher enemies or slash with his claws. He can charge up his attacks or even burrow underground before attacking. As you hit enemies, they drop loot. Grind or hit successively and rack up combo numbers for higher rewards. The rewards can be sold in town for money to build, equip and repair towers.
In addition, there are features like temples (with hidden treasure), catapults, collapsible walls and raisable gates on different levels to keep things interesting. There are also mines on every map that move each day that have gems and rocks you can cash-in for money or use to fortify the town's walls. The monsters start getting more varied quickly, with bosses, megabosses, lava monsters, burrowers, jumpers and so on. Determining what order to deal with them as they make for the town is a critical part of the game.
An odd feature of this game is that you can't choose the locations of the towers that aid Dillon in defending the town, just what kind of tower. There are gun towers, that can have shotguns, gatling guns or cannons, and lookout towers that just remove the fog of war from the map. You also can choose where the gun turrets target, which is annoying since you can place a gun that is totally useless if you're not careful.
Finally, you can purchase equipment in town (which wears out over time) and take on up to three quests which grant cash at the end of the day. If you beat a town, your winnings go into a pot which you can use in the town after you've beaten it once, in hopes of starting with more cash to get a better rating. Each stage is rated from 1-5 stars and later stages can only be unlocked by earning a certain number of stars.
Summary: if you'd like a game that's a little bit Zelda and a lot of Tower Defense, you could do MUCH worse than Dillon's Rolling Western. For $8, you get AT LEAST 20 hours of gameplay. I've been playing for about 25 hours and am just now on the 9th stage (out of 10).