Etrian Mystery Dungeon
Developed By: Spike Chunsoft/Atlus
Published By: Atlus
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Available On: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Role-Playing Game
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Language, Mild Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes
Price: $35.00 on LeapTrade
Thank you Atlus for sending us this game to review!
Etrian Mystery Dungeon is the very first crossover game between Atlus, the creators of Etrian Odyssey, and Spike Chunsoft, the creators of the Mystery Dungeon series. Etrian Odyssey is a series that pays homage to classic first person dungeon crawlers, with a focus on collecting loot to forge new weapons and armor. Mystery Dungeon is deeply inspired by the classic Rogue, with a 2D top down view of randomly generated dungeons. Putting these two together, both with their old-school sensibilities, seems like a perfect match – and it is. Having never played a Mystery Dungeon game, I often wonder how many of the things done here are new to this game or are from their Etrian inspiration, because they fit together so well.
Unlike the Etrian Odyssey Untold remakes, this game has you choosing your own party, from ten available classes. Each one, from the oddly named Landsknecht to the Hexer and Gunner, are clearly inspired by Etrian Odyssey classes. I believe Wanderer is a reference to Spike Chunsoft's own Shiren the Wanderer series, though with the cross shaped scar on the male's cheek, I couldn't help but name him Kenshin. (Bonus points if you get the reference.)
Each of the classes has their own unique skills, abilities, attributes, and weapons and armor selection that makes them unique. While a Landsknecht and Protector may seem similar on first glance, no one can protect their teammates like a Protector can. Abilities like Provoke, and especially Cover do an amazing job at drawing fire to keep your other damage dealers out of harm's way. And with a party of four, there are plenty of useful combinations. But be very careful if you have too many light armor characters – getting your party wiped out is not fun at all.
I learned quickly to run rather than die. And running doesn't really work in the traditional sense, since your party members will often attack nearby enemies despite the leader heading in another direction. So having an Ariadne Thread, which allows you to escape dungeons instantly, is critical to survival.
Strong Points: Seemingly the perfect game crossover; very good music; long, 40+ hour quest with tons of post-game content
Weak Points: Some of the abilities and stats are hard to understand what they do; a couple of abilities seem bugged
Moral Warnings: Foul language like 'd*mn', 'h*ll', 'a*s', and 'p*ssed off' used occasionally; cartoon violence against various fantasy creatures; a few female characters wear very revealing and form fitting outfits; alcohol use mentioned, along with a confusion potion based drink that seems much stronger; a few sexual allusions and innuendos, including a belly dancer saying she is 'on top of the food chain in food and in love'; creation myth involves the Yggdrasil tree, also known as a Tree of Life, which receives prayers and battles evil creatures; channeling, as in the dead speaking through another present in a scene; a few examples of irresponsible parenting
And survival is a real thing here, unlike most other games. There is no such thing as reloading. Before embarking on any dungeon run, the game saves. If the system is powered off, it is assumed that your party was wiped out, and punishes you accordingly. I am generally careful, and only got wiped out once. When this happened, I had to create a rescue party with other characters that I had in my guild. Thankfully, I was able to get back down to them, and bring them back unharmed. This way I did not lose all of the items and money that I had earned up until that point. If I had not been saving money and backup equipment at Kasumi's Inn (like a bank), I would not have had enough equipment for my second party to survive and rescue them. I learned to carry lots of healing items and revival potions from then on. It's also strongly recommended to create a character of each type when you start the game, as characters who are not in your party still get experience, and can still be useful, even late in the game.
Near the end, my party that I had been doing well with for nearly 80% of the game, was no longer performing to my needs. Because I had kept all of my characters in a fort, they gained nearly full experience, and were within five levels of my main force, so swapping them out was easy and worked well. I was never able to form a successful party without a Protector and a Gunner; they are both really great at what they do. Gunners are some of the strongest single enemy damage dealers, and they are ranged. On top of that, they can inflict binding status ailments on the opponent. I couldn't find a better way to keep my light armor classes like Ninja, Hexer, or Runemaster alive than a Protector. Later on, the Hexer or Runemaster especially, can be one hit killed without protection.
The whole reason the town you are in is recruiting adventurers is because the nearby mystery dungeons have begun to have large, powerful monsters called DOEs escape them. If left unchecked, these DOEs can destroy part of the town, requiring significant investment to repair. As you gather more money adventuring, the town provost encourages you to invest in the town infrastructure, unlocking abilities, quests, food, storage, and other useful things to help you in your adventure. You can fight them right in the dungeon, but that may not always be possible. That's where forts come in.
Forts serve a few purposes. Depending on the fort type built, they can provide a geomagnetic pole (fancy Etrian speak for a teleport point) so that you don't have to start every return to the dungeon from the top. Also, you can leave guild members there for defense and improved experience sharing as they train there. Another really useful thing they provide is a scouting feature, where part of the dungeon layout is locked, and any DOEs in the scouting radius will be detected, so you can take appropriate action and protect the village. Worst case, if no one is manning the fort, and you can't get a team there in time, the fort can be sacrificed in exchange for the DOEs destruction. This is greatly preferred to losing part of the town.
The dungeon exploration takes place in quasi-realtime, where each step, attack, etc. counts as your turn. Each character has their own turns, and after each action, the next character or enemy on the list goes next. It can happen very quickly, as each step you take counts as a turn for you and everyone else on the map. In battle, positioning can mean everything; one character in the wrong place may lead to defeat. Since you can only directly control one character at a time, I found it helpful to switch leaders quite often to get everyone doing what I expected them to do. This game is quite challenging, so getting this right can make a huge difference.
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)
Game Score - 86%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5
Morality Score - 71%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 6.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 6/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10
I found the dungeons engaging, and for the most part enjoyable. The quests were varied and kept things interesting. I have to admit that some of the really deep dungeons were not that fun. But once I found a setup that worked, it got a lot better. Mixing up the party a bit occasionally can also help keep things fresh. Some party compositions are really better than others, or come with different tradeoffs.
It is hard to travel without one of the three healing classes: Medic, Dancer, or Sovereign. Medic is by far the best healer, but he doesn't get group heals until very late in the game. Once he did, I found him very valuable – but until then, I preferred the Dancer. The Dancer is part Ninja and part buffer/healer. He can move very fast and often gets double speed. He also can heal anyone sitting next to him. It's very handy. The problem I had was that his less than stellar defense and hit points started causing me problems late in the game. Then I tried my Sovereign. I like her a lot – she has tons of neat buffs. The problem I have is with a bug she has. If you activate her healing skill, sometimes she can resist the regen status you clearly want her to have. This got really annoying very fast. An unreliable healer is unfortunately not of much use. Atlus, please patch this!
The graphics are suitable, with nice, large character portraits, and cute chibi characters in the dungeons. The appearance of your party members changes with the equipped sword and shield, which is a nice touch. A couple of the character portraits during conversations have ladies with very form fitting or bikini style outfits. Chats with the patrons at the Amber Restaurant are just text, with no pictures or audio. None of the speech in the game has voice overs. But a few of those conversations contain innuendos or refer to alcohol or a 'confusion potion' based drink that apparently really messes people up.
There is cartoon violence; simply good guys hitting bad guys (and vice versa). The ESRB mentions mild blood, but I don't recall where that is. There is occasional, but definite PG-13 language used. I noted 'h*ll', 'd*mn', 'a*s', and 'p*ssed off'. The lady running the restaurant calls her husband (and other patrons) a bum because he's off adventuring most of the time while she is stuck running the place and raising their son. There are other examples of poor parenting as well, like the little girl who is left with an aide while the father disappeared. Even the aide wasn't the best caretaker, as she did something similar, though thankfully she returned before too long. In today's world, I'm sure DCFS would have been involved. On the flip side, it was kind of neat to see the whole community rally together and take care of each other.
The music is really fantastic. Most of the songs are remixes of music from other Etrian Odyssey games, and they are great. A few of them do get kind of repetitive after hearing them over and over (why one of the dungeons uses the FOE theme (FOEs are creatures similar to DOEs) from EO as background music I don't understand), but many of the songs, especially the ones for the later levels as well as boss battles, are wonderful. Yuzo Koshiro makes some marvelous music. While he is not as well known as some other more famous game music composers, he deserves to be spoken of on the same level. His works are on display here and it's glorious.
Etrian Mystery Dungeon has been a really fun ride. I always wanted to give a Mystery Dungeon game a shot, and I'm glad I have been given the opportunity. Also, like Persona Q, the Etrian Odyssey formula has been mixed up a bit, and in some ways improved. I really liked the town building aspect, as well as having separate inventory space for monster material drops. While I thought the ESRB rating of E10+ is a little generous, it's probably fine for most teenagers, despite my preference for avoiding alcohol references. The appropriateness issues in general are rare enough where they don't take center stage. If you are looking for an enjoyable RPG adventure somewhat off of the beaten path, I encourage you to take a good look at Etrian Mystery Dungeon.