Etrian Mystery Dungeon is not your common role playing game. First, it’s a crossover of two of the most hardcore RPGs series you can find on the market. It’s also a kind of game that’s not really common nowadays, which is a plus in my book. And best of all: it’s a hard game on its own, which means you will be punished for every mistake you make –in the most charming way possible.
EMD asks you to form a party of up to four characters, with different jobs like classic protectors, gunner, runemasters and even some more specialized ones like dancers and hexers. Your goal is to navigate through many uncharted dungeons, fighting enemies, gathering items and searching for the stairs to the next level. If you’ve played Shiren The Wanderer or even the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, you will quickly notice the similarities.
Unlike games where you move your character freely, here every move counts as a turn; and that applies not only for your characters but also for your enemies, which means that failing to recover your HP or attacking in the wrong direction can be fatal for your adventure. Preparation before entering a dungeon is key, because dying inside means losing every item in your possession, as well as one equipped weapon or armor from every party member at the moment of your defeat; turning off your Nintendo 3DS before dying won’t circumvent this from happening either!
This challenging experience is Etrian Mystery Dungeon’s biggest charm; you will be threatened, but the engaging combat system and character development is so well done that you will try to reach the next floor as your party progresses and develops further on. The job / class system is the same one as in any other Etrian Odyssey , and those of you that played Etrian Odyssey IV will quickly notice that the skill-branching system is almost the same, layout and all. Combining this with the Mystery Dungeon world is the best, considering the huge amount of possibilities for your team. You can choose a balanced team to start, and later on you can change it to suit more specific situations, when later dungeons require more skill than brawn to complete.
So, what’s the point of going into these dangerous dungeons? Your goal is very simple: you are a guild that arrives in Aslarga, only to discover that there have been some monsters attacking the town. As a brave team, you decide to explore the seven main dungeons, along with a handful of smaller ones, to defeat every D.O.E (Dungeon On Enemy) that tries to escape from the dungeon and attack. The story is told by the other villagers, which later discover that everything is related to a very old town that lived near the village and, without going into to many details, relates to the legend of Yggdrasil. For what it is, the story is not as complex or deep as in other RPGs; it’s very minimalistic, which fits the mood of the game perfectly.
You will get a lot of help from these villagers through your adventures: there are many shops where you can buy or sell items, weapons and armors, as well as store your most valuable items in case you fail and die. They can even keep a record of your enemies and their characteristics. You can take side quests at a restaurant, and even buy some food prior to battle that will enhance some stats of your characters. Food is probably what makes this game easier than its older counterparts, since with a clever combination of certain dishes and items, you can make your adventure much more pleasant than what it looks like.
Even though neither Etrian Odyssey IV nor Etrian Odyssey Untold pushed the hardware of the Nintendo 3DS to its limits in terms of graphics, they were games that looked really good with or without the 3D effect. EMD looks good, but it’s not as breathtaking as the other two. Dungeons, landscapes and characters look great, and every weapon and shield look different from the other. Enemies, on the other hand, and especially bosses, lack polygons and they’re not as detailed as one would expect; but as in most old-school RPGs, these kind of games don’t need pretty graphics to captivate, it’s just a shame that no more went into this.
EMD’s soundtrack is simply amazing. Most of the tracks are remixes of fan favorites tunes from the Etrian Odyssey series, which fit perfectly every dungeon’s atmosphere . There are no voices through the game, but they’re not necessary for enjoyment of the story.
Etrian Mystery Dungeon is a deep, engaging and fun game that fans of the series and RPG followers will love at first glance, even though not every player will enjoy it. Hardcore RPG fans will find this entry relatively easy compared to Etrian Odyssey games, while newcomers or casual RPG players will struggle with later dungeons. If you’re curious about what EMD has to offer, you can’t go wrong with this entry; it’s clever, charming and a blast to play.