Atlus recently released Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan for the Nintendo 3DS. The series is an ode to the past as it is an old-school dungeon crawling role-playing game where you create a party of five characters to explore the full of monsters, explorers, and magic.
Like an older role-playing game, the story is fairly minimalist. If you are looking for a deep story that has complex themes, in-depth main characters, and gorgeous fifteen minute long cutscenes, you might not enjoy this game. What is there is that you are assigned by the Count of the city of Tharsis to explore the Tree of Life, Yggdrasil and the areas leading up to it. Along the way, you travel to many of the caves and dungeons by a customizable airship. You also get to meet inhabitants of many different races who interact with each other in different ways. The story is enough to drive what you do, but do not expect a deep story. In many ways, this can be a good thing as it allows you to get into the gameplay more.
For a first-person dungeon crawler, the graphics are very colorful. With the move to the 3DS, the models for the monsters are all in 3D. While travelling through the world map or through the dungeons, it is easy to get an idea of the scope of the areas you are in. Although, it can get repetitive looking at the same few colors, it at least looks good enough to not be monotonous. The character portraits are a mixed bag dependent on taste.
The gameplay is actually the real meat of the game. As a warning, the game has a fairly steep learning curve. The Etrian Odyssey series has always been known for its difficulty. The regular enemies that you encounter in the caves and dungeons can kill you when given the opportunity. There are special enemies called F.O.Es that act as sub-bosses in a dungeon or even on the world map. It is best that you avoid these enemies the first few times you meet them or else it will be a guaranteed game over if you do not manage to escape. Thankfully, there is a casual mode for people who do not want to deal with starting from the last time you saved. The game is also easier overall on this mode.
While in the dungeons, caves, or even the world map, you can draw your own map. Everything from treasure chests, landmarks, hidden paths, and water to the exits, walls, save points, and the locations of farm points have to be drawn by you. It is important to know what you are drawing as this is the only map that you can rely on in uncharted territories. While in the city of Tharsis, you can buy equipment and items made from the spoils that you acquire, accept tasks from various non-playable characters for currency, items, experience points as well as manage your guild. As stated before, there is a casual mode among many new features. There are also QR codes online that can be used to get equipment, items, and new quests using the 3DS cameras. The Streetpass allows you to acquire Guild Cards from other players and even use a character that that player made as a guest character to help out with quests.
Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan is a true blast from the past with modern twists. If you are not put off by the minimalist story, difficulty, or the character portraits, this game is a very welcome addition to your Nintendo 3DS library. It also continues the tradition of Nintendo’s recent handhelds having a large plethora of high quality role playing games.