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Etrian Mystery Dungeon is a quirky spinoff in line with series legacy

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Hardcore dungeon crawling with a new perspective

Over the years, Atlus has become one of the more endearing presences in gaming. One thing fans appreciate is its tendency to switch things up. The publisher has a handle on the niche gaming scene, and it's reassuring to know that it recognizes when to branch out and try new things. With the upcoming spinoff for the Etrian Odyssey series featuring a partnership with Chunsoft, Atlus has got its eye on trying something a bit different with its favored dungeon crawler.

Moving away from the first-person view from past titles, Etrian Mystery Dungeon blends the two series' specialties together to make a nice mix of hardcore RPG action with roguelike dungeon exploration. During a special hands-on session with Atlus, I got some time to experience what EMD has to offer. Though the perspective has changed, the spirit of the series remains.

Etrian Mystery Dungeon (3DS)
Developer: Spike Chunsoft

Publisher: Atlus
Release date: April 7, 2015
MSRP: $39.99

For those unaware, Etrian Mystery Dungeon is a spinoff of its mainline series Etrian Odyssey. Playing as adventurers seeking fame, fortune, and glory, you must explore dangerous monster-filled dungeons while helping out local townsfolk in need. In and around the village of Azlarga, you build your reputation amongst the locals who come to rely on you for help. Over the course of your adventures, you'll acquire new weaponry, abilities, and and party members that wish to join in on your successes, and hope to conquer the more nefarious and deadly dungeons that remain untouched by explorers' hands.

In similar vein to last year's Persona Q, EMD takes several of the series' concepts and gameplay ideas, and injects them into a brand new setting. In Mystery Dungeon, the action is moved to the tried-and-true roguelike dungeon crawler school of thought. With an overhead third-person angle, you have to keep watch of your party members and their surroundings as they venture through the environment. Utilizing grid-based movement, positioning is everything. Certain party members use either ranged or close-range abilities, and must be placed accordingly. With only four characters to bring with you into the field, you'll have to choose wisely from the several classes that EMD has to offer.

While exploring, you'll want to monitor the status of your party members. As some traps poison people, or debilitate movement, you have stay stocked up on recovery items. For every step you take, you also drain FP (food points), which affects stamina and combat prowess. Once that's completely drained, your party leader will sustain damage for every move you make. In order to stay ahead of this, you'll have to keep them well-fed, or have another member of the group take point. This puts an interesting spin on exploration, as often times you'll have your tank lead. But if he's too tired to take charge, then you might be forced to escape or have one of your more vulnerable members lead.

Fortunately, there are many different ways to stay on top in dungeons. Certain classes can scout ahead and spot traps and monsters, while others can keep the party buffed and in good health. Also, there are several areas within the labyrinths that are fairly safe, which can be fortified by your group. In these forts, you'll remain safe, and they can be used for quick travel back to the outside. Forts are run by members of the guilds you can join back in Azlarga, and they help monitor your resources. Loot, minerals, and other special resources found in the dungeon can be taken back to the forts, though, keep in mind, they can be still be attacked and destroyed by monsters in the dungeon. So it's important to make sure if you want to invest the time and money to build one, especially in a dangerous location.

The Etrian Odyssey series is known for its tough challenges, and EMD definitely retains that for dungeon exploration. Every dungeon you travel to is randomly generated, which not only keeps things interesting, but has you on your toes. In some cases, the first few floors of the dungeon might be a cake walk, but traveling to a fresh location might have you walk right into several traps and powerful foes. Despite the challenges, there are many opportunities to save yourself and your crew. If you for instance wipe, you can send in rescue units for your team for evac back to town. Unfortunately, you'll lose out on items and currency found at that location. So it's always best to keep a fresh save at all times.

I'm usually not that partial to dungeon crawlers, but I found Etrian Mysery Dungeon to be charming, despite its difficulty. The visuals and art style are vibrant and colorful, which is a welcome departure from the common brown and grey aesthetic of roguelike dungeon crawler RPG titles. I found the presentation to be fun, and the world is one I would love to explore again.

I expect players to be quite taken with Mystery Dungeon. With its release in April, it should also scratch an itch for fans eager to play Etrian Odyssey V, which is still a ways off. Granted, this is a bit different than previous EO titles, but that's actually kind of a good thing. It's another approach to dungeon crawling, sure, but at its heart it's a similar experience fans will love.

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Alessandro Fillari
Alessandro FillariStaff Writer   gamer profile

A San Francisco native, he's an admirer of the city's diverse culture and lifestyle. Prior to joining the staff, he was a contributor and an editor for his college newspaper where he wrote articl... more + disclosures


 


 


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    Filed under... #3DS #Action #Atlus #Dungeon Crawler #Etrian Odyssey #Hardcore #Japanator #Nintendo #Role-Playing Games #Spike Chunsoft #Top Stories

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