Got another review for you guys/gals, this time from NintenDaan! He braved the depths of Etrian Mystery Dungeon and came out alive...with a review! You read that and hopefully enjoy. See you in a few, short hours!
When it comes to video games, I always like a good challenge. That's why I have always been intrigued by the Shiren the Wanderer games. I discovered the beauty of dungeon crawling through that series and played as far as I possibly could. Sadly, my knowledge of Etrian Odyssey doesn't run that deep. I dipped into Etrian Oddysey IV and fully completed Persona Q, but certainly that's not enough to call myself an expert. That being said, I was intrigued by Etrian Mystery Dungeon from the moment it was announced. It seemed like a good way for me to see if I would like both franchises more than I currently do. The reaction to that is certainly yes, but I do have some reservations in the grand scheme of things.
For starters, the story is a bit bare bones. The player finds himself/herself in the town of Aslarga, where destruction is coming closer and closer. Now it's up to you and the other members of the guild to come together and complete the tasks that are given to you. While there is a case to be made for its straightforwardness, the recent RPGs from Atlus had me expecting more. When I think of Etrian Odyssey or other games like it, I expect more plot, or at least some voice acting. I can deal without, but it would have been appreciated.
In terms of what Etrian Mystery Dungeon actually entails, it is not really hard to figure things out. While the game is wrapped in Etrian Odyssey colors, it's really more about the Mystery Dungeons. You will move about on an invisible grid where your characters and enemies all move at the same time. You'll have to find your way in these randomly generated dungeons while you destroy everything in sight, collect a variety of things and (hopefully) come out even stronger. While the tutorial doesn't do a great job of teaching you the ropes, you just get the hang of it after a while. The best way to learn is playing the game and taking it step by step.
In the beginning, I had a hard time with Etrian Mystery Dungeon. If you can't plan ahead all that well, then you'll face problems at a very early stage. Every step that you make will cost you energy and you have limited resources at your disposal. At your ultimate demise, you will lose all the loot that you've collected and even stuff you took along for the journey. Therefore, it is important to choose your party well enough and have a good variety in that team. Thankfully, the game has tons of options in that regard and everything from Wanderers to Landsknechts are represented.
While you move on the map, you only control one of these characters. The rest will act as helping AI and they do a pretty component job with it. There are a few times where I wished that they did things differently, but they never became overly annoying. At their worst moments, I could just take control of the problem character and get the mission back on track. This is pretty important, as the dungeons do not joke around. Leveling and equipping skills to your various characters are key, because once you lag behind, the enemies see their chance to destroy you. You will have to earn your way to victory in Etrian Mystery Dungeon and a chunk of people won't dig that.
Your performance becomes crucial in your battle against the DOEs, which are gigantic monsters on a mission to end your journey early. You will have to build special forts to stop them from crawling to the town. These buildings not only stop the beings from causing despair, but it is also a perfect place to train some unusable guild members. These comrades will have to battle, but it is all for a good cause. With battles, I had to really get used to how they played out. Most of it is controlled by AI, so it is all a bit confusing at first. Next to that, you will have to cycle through numerous menus at a later stage. This can definitely complicate matters. The boss battles are nicer in that regard, considering they are slower and there is more control given to the player.
The game looks quite sharp on the Nintendo 3DS. The mazes each have their own special look and feel, which make them great to gander upon. There are absolutely stellar lighting effects and lush colors to make things really fun. Add to that the in-game characters models and the portraits, which are wonderfully put together. That doesn't mean everything is fantastic. I couldn't stand the 3D effects, finding them quite disappointing. With the layering in place, it became kind of hard to look at and I mostly left the slider all the way down. On a more positive note, the soundtrack is brilliant. There are orchestrated tunes that really put you in the mood for the adventure at hand.
Etrian Mystery Dungeon looks and plays great for the most part, but there are many obstacles along the way. The tutorial doesn't do a great job of of getting you going, which can make for a rather troublesome start. You'll constantly have to work hard for any chance at victory. Careless players will get punished a lot. Etrian Mystery Dungeon simply demands your full attention. If you think you can handle a deadly dungeon crawler, then it's certainly worth your time.