Etrian Odyssey V

The Etrian Odyssey series is one of my favorites of the last ten years. I have spent a lot of time with my 3DS methodically mapping out dungeons while trekking ever deeper in the their dangerous unknown. I was greatly anticipating Etrian Odyssey V last fall. Then I played it for a handful of hours and put it aside. As I picked it back up and played through it recently, I realized my lack of enthusiasm was because this is a lesser entry in the series.

Most Etrian Odyssey games have a moment when it all clicks; when the party fits together and you have a strategy for taking on a dungeon. I put this down just before I hit that point, when I realized that I was going to get the bulk of my damage out of my Pugilist and the synergy between the Fencer and Warlock, while my Botanist was going for pure healing instead of status effects. But even at that point, the game didn’t really click. I pushed through and enjoyed it, but nothing about this game really stood out. The classes are interesting. Pugilist is one of my favorite classes I’ve encountered, but none of the rest really did much for me. It seemed to take a lot of set up to get most of them going and I don’t really like fiddly classes. Pugilist, a hand to hand fighter class that powers up based on HP shenanigans, is really easy to use and has a great risk/reward mechanic. Otherwise, they classes left no impact. The same is true of the different dungeon stratums, which were either nothing new, all but the third stratum, or new but not especially interesting, like the third strata’s graveyard. It is the motions of the series, but nothing to really make it interesting.

Etrian Odyssey V’s big innovation are its races, but while they add quite bit if customization to the characters, it ends up being largely unnecessary and I honestly forgot about it for much of the game. There are Earthian, Celestrian, Therian and Brouni. They roughly translate to traditional fantasy races, humans, elves, and dwarves, with the Therian’s being the only ones who don’t. They are rabbit people. The Celestrians make good mages, Therians deal a lot of damage, Earthian’s are good all around. There is a lot to consider, but the game doesn’t require it at all. At first the races are restricted to specific classes, but eventually you get the ability to reclass. It rarely makes sense to do so, because a race’s stats are generally closely aligned with their initial classes. Its neat, but unnecessary.

For the most part, the game just feels kind of rote. It doesn’t do anything memorable or interesting. EOIV had the world map, with multiple little dungeons instead of one big one. EO3 had story choice and the sailing mini-game. The first game had originality going for it, and the Untold games had the novelty of a set party. This game is just fine. It doesn’t do anything necessarily wrong, but it doesn’t really do anything interesting either. I enjoyed this outing well enough, but it is one of the last entries in the series I would turn to for a fix in the future.

I thought this was going to be the last Etrian Odyssey on the 3DS, but Atlus has announced Etrian Odyssey Nexus, which is likely to be the series swan song, at least in it current incarnation. While the first Etrian Odyssey hit a little further into the DS’s life than I remembered, (it came out in 2007, more than two and half years after the DS) this series was always one that seemed like a backbone of the system. Etrian Odyssey was certainly never a big seller, but when I think of the DS, it comes to mind, along with Phoenix Wright and Trauma Center. While Trauma Center has kind of disappeared and Phoenix Wright comes and goes, Etrian Odyssey has been there all along. A new game every other year or so, no big changes to the formula, just new classes and new dungeons and new adventures. I am glad I get that one more time and I hope it is more inspired than this one was.

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Video Game Archaeology 3: Tsugunai: Atonement

Tsugunai: Atonement is probably one of newest games that will be covered here on Video Game Archaeology. The goal here is to explore forgotten, old games and Tsugunai only barely qualifies as old. Ten years was my intended cut off point and Tsugunai is not quite there. However, Tsugunai meets the other criteria, that the game be forgotten or at least not well known, no question. Even though it is only from the last console generation, Tsugunai: Atonement seems to have been well and truly forgotten.
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Wolf Pups and Trotmobiles

I want to fully recommend OkamiDen to anyone who owns a DS, but I can’t.  Not because OkamiDen is not a great game, it is, but because it too similar to its prequel Okami.

The original Okami, whether on the Wii or PS2 version, is one of the best games of the last ten years.  It is one of the few games that not only uses the Zelda action/adventure formula, but also uses it as well as the Zelda games do.  Aside from playing perfectly, Okami also looked and sounded wonderful.  It looked like a Japanese watercolor painting come to life.  Okami was just a joy to play and even to watch.  Video game consumers upheld their reputation for ignoring wonderful things by ignoring Okami.  Twice.

OkamiDen, part sequel, part remake, part port, is just the same as its predecessor.  Capcom did a terrific job fitting the game on the DS.  But in the first 5 hours or so, I have seen nothing that was not present in the first game.  It is arguably the best Zelda-like game on the DS; the only actual complaint I have with the game is that the first few dungeons are a bit too simple.  However, if the original Okami is available you should play it instead.  But that little wolf pup (Chibiterasu, the main character) is just so damn cute.  I can’t help but love him.  Play OkamiDen.  Buy it right now and play it.  Just don’t expect the same mind blowing experience as the original Okami.

I also beat Steambot Chronicles this week.  I need to write a big long love letter to this game, but I can’t.  Not right now.  Maybe it’s the fact that I played most of the game more than 2 years ago and it’s a little fuzzy.  Or maybe that fuzziness comes from the fact that I just had my wisdom teeth removed and am currently taking Vicodin.  Either way, I don’t have it in me right now.  But Steambot Chronicles is a very good game. Made by Irem and published in America by Atlus, Steambot Chronicles is a somewhat clunky sandbox game (GTA) with a great hook:  you control a mech (called a Trotmobile in the game) through a Miyazaki-esque world.  About half of the game is played by piloting a mech.  The controls take a little getting used to; one control stick controls the left leg, the other the right, L1 and R1 attack with the left and right hand respectively.  But once you master them, stomping around in a giant mech is just delightful. Your mech originally called the Earl Grey II but you can change it to whatever you want, is highly customizable.  There are all kinds of weapons/arms, legs and bodies, as well as different headlights and roof attachments.  In it, you can do all sorts of things: fight in arenas, transport people and goods, go mining, etc.

There are plenty of things to do outside the mech.  You can choose the amnesiac main character‘s, named Vanilla Beans, dialogue.  You can play him as a cocky jerk, a shy hero or anything in between.  It can make each playthrough slightly different.  One of the first things the player does is join a band with the people who found him on the beach.  By playing a Guitar Hero-esque mini-game, you can play a dozen or so instruments.  The songs are cheesy, but they fit the general tone of the game. That tone is earnestness.  This is a very earnest game.  It is somewhat sloppy, somewhat unfocused, but very earnest.  It is not a game for everyone; someone could easily be put off by the somewhat clunky nature of everything in the game.   But the world and tone make it a game that is easy to love in spite of its flaws.