Wii

North America

Shiren the Wanderer

by Andy Goergen - March 4, 2010, 9:08 am PST
Total comments: 17

7

Shiren picked up a Frustrating Game + 1. Shiren is cursed.

It's likely that if you're seeking out a review of Shiren the Wanderer, the latest Mystery Dungeon title for Wii, then you're probably already familiar with the game. The series of Mystery Dungeon games, of which the original Shiren on SNES is a founding member, are referred to as roguelikes amongst their fans, a reference which dates back to an early 1980s computer game called Rogue. If you count yourself as a fan of Mystery Dungeon games, understand that this review was written by someone who had previously never played a roguelike before, and thus this review is not aimed at you. If, on the other hand, you've been curious about the genre and wondered how it played from an outside perspective, then this review should be right up your alley.

Roguelikes are known for several key traits: severe punishment for death, randomly generated dungeons, and turn-based combat. All of these traits are represented faithfully in Shiren the Wanderer, and the game does a fair job of laying this all out for you in a series of optional tutorial screens that are more like an on-screen user manual than a real tutorial. The game does seem to assume that you already know what you're doing when you start, but this is offset by a fairly low difficulty level in the first 5 to 10 hours of the game.

It should be noted that even though the difficulty is lax in the early stages, this is still a roguelike, and the penalty for death is severe if you play the game on normal. For those who are uninterested in replaying many hours after death, an easy difficulty mode is provided. The only difference is the penalty for dying; on normal, you lose all of your items, but on easy, there is no such item loss. Even on easy, however, a death might result in a loss of 40 to 80 minutes of gameplay, depending on how long it has been since your last save. On more than a few occasions while playing on easy, I died at the boss fight at the end of a dungeon that had 8 to 12 floors, meaning that after scouring for loot and grinding in the dungeon for an hour or so, I lost all of my progress. The game gives you some recovery herbs, a passive item that lets you revive one of your characters, but these items are hard to come by, so once you're out, you're more likely to just lose your progress should one of your characters be ambushed by a monster-filled room.

After you get past the first 10 hours, the difficulty rises significantly, and you can expect to have to replay dungeons to gain the experience and gear needed to proceed through the game. Not only is it necessary to grind to gain levels, but also to stock up on essential items such as healing herbs, escape herbs, and recovery staves.

Most of the folks who enjoy roguelikes do so for the feeling of risk and reward when they carefully plan out an attack and see it through to success. If this is the kind of gameplay concept that appeals to you, you'll find it abounds in Shiren the Wanderer. The actual battles in the game aren't incredibly complicated, but there is a lot of strategy in how you manage your inventory and improve your weaponry. In one instance, after I realized how precious inventory space was, I stumbled across a holding jar in a dungeon. I was happy to have a place to put extra items, so I placed all of my riceballs in the jar. The riceballs are required in the dungeons, as without them, your character will starve to death. I was happy to have a new holding jar specifically for riceballs, and immediately after I ran into a monster, he stole my jar (riceballs included) and vanished. As I didn't have any idea this could occur, I became incredibly frustrated. This is the type of occurrence that happened over the course of the time I played the game; just as I started to figure out another aspect of the strategy of the game, a new monster or trap would come along and add another layer of complexity, often costing me an hour of gameplay. It was frustrating, but I often felt like I learned something from the untimely death that would help me the next time I attempted the dungeon.

The game presents itself nicely as a Japanese role-playing game, with a town to explore and lots of NPCs to interact with. The story is interesting, and has several twists and turns even in the first few hours. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it helps drive the gameplay and gives you compelling reasons to keep exploring the dungeons. It's a lengthy experience, taking 30 to 40 hours to complete, and there's plenty to do to lengthen the game even further if you like.

The music in the game is also interesting, but somewhat repetitive. It consists entirely of original compositions that do a nice job of evoking the feeling of Feudal Japan, but aren't necessarily memorable. The graphics in Shiren are very nice during cut scenes, but feel a little dated inside the game. Most of the dungeons look bland, and if it weren't for the auto-map feature, it'd be very easy to get lost as you explore.

Mystery Dungeon games aren't for everyone; in fact, I'd go so far as to say they're not for most people. They're frustrating, time consuming, and not particularly straightforward. However, if it is a genre that you have come to love, Shiren will deliver it for you with a bit of style, and a lot of substance.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
7 7 8.5 6.5 8 7
Graphics
7

The graphics in the game are great at times, and passable at others. Most of the time, however, they're merely average. The NPCs don't stand out from one another, and the tiles in the dungeons are all very similar. The cut-scenes, on the other hand, look fantastic.

Sound
7

The music in the game is decent, but forgettable. There's no voice acting for the considerable amount of dialog.

Control
8.5

The game gives you plenty of options for control configuration. After testing Wii Remote and Nunchuk, Vertical Wii Remote, Horizontal Wii Remote, and Classic Controller, I stuck to the Classic Controller setup, as it required the least amount of awkward button-reaching.

Gameplay
6.5

If you like exploring randomly generated dungeons and micromanaging inventory, this is the game for you. The game does what it sets out to do very well, but most people new to the genre will find it very difficult to enjoy. The game lets you seamlessly switch back and forth between controlling just Shiren, or Shiren and his two other party members alternately, making it easy to change between exploring and strategic placement during bosses.

Lastability
8

The game will take you 30 to 40 hours, not counting replaying sections because of death. After you finish, several bonus dungeons are unlocked adding even more additional content. A stand-alone "Portal" dungeon is available at anytime, taking place completely away from the story mode of the game. For an RPG, the game consists of infinitely replayable content thanks to the random dungeons.

Final
7

As a Mystery Dungeon game, this game delivers. Apart from the franchise, the game is certainly playable, but 5 to 10 hours in would scare off most players. If you like the idea of balancing risk and reward and progressing through countless floors of dungeons, this is the game for you.

Summary

Pros
  • Interesting soundtrack that plays well with the narrative
  • Lengthy single-player experience
  • Multiple control configurations
Cons
  • Lots of time will be spent learning from your mistakes
  • Random level design makes for some incredibly varied difficulty spikes
  • Too hard to replenish supply of recovery herbs
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

noname2200March 04, 2010

Great review! It was a quick, but fully accurate, summary of the game's pros and cons. I especially like how you didn't bash the game or genre because they don't appeal to you personally, but you didn't shy away from telling everyone that it's definitely reserved for a masochistic niche. And you perfectly captured the spirit of the game when you wrote that death was always frustrating, but always a learning experience. Good job!

Thanks for the kind words, sir.  Glad you liked the review. 

TJ SpykeMarch 04, 2010

The GameTrailers review said this was easier than most Mystery Dungeon games (especially the DS game Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wander), with one reason being that when you died in the DS version you would lose all your items and your experience.

Yes, this game has an easy mode, which most previous Mystery Dungeon games do not have. 

TJ SpykeMarch 04, 2010

From what i've heard, they don't even offer the option to lose everything when you die (which someone who likes that aspect of the Mystery Dungeon games might be disappointed in losing).

While I have never been a fan of these types of games, I can understand their appeal.

When you play the game on normal difficulty, all items are stripped of you when you die.  Unlike other Mystery Dungeon titles, however, you do keep your level.

The game is uprfront and clear about this when you start.

noname2200March 04, 2010

Quote from: TJ

From what i've heard, they don't even offer the option to lose everything when you die (which someone who likes that aspect of the Mystery Dungeon games might be disappointed in losing).

There's an optional dungeon which resets you to level 1 when you enter, and which strips you of your items if you die in it. It grows to 30 floors, and essentially replicates the "ouch-that-doesn't-go-there" difficulty of the original. The only problem is that it takes a while to grow it to 30 floors.

Quote from: NWR_DrewMG

When you play the game on normal difficulty, all items are stripped of you when you die.  Unlike other Mystery Dungeon titles, however, you do keep your level.

The game is uprfront and clear about this when you start.

Sounds like Izuma, but with better graphics and without bewbies.

Andy, you and Jeremy Parish convinced me to try this genre. I picked up the DS version of Shiren for $15. It starts off easy, but definitely seems complex. I expect it to ramp up very soon.

TJ SpykeMarch 05, 2010

I may get it once it is cheap, maybe I will also try out the DS game first.

Jonny, I make no claims that you won't hate it, but I am really looking forward to your impressions of the game.

greybrickNathan Mustafa, Staff AlumnusMarch 06, 2010

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

Andy, you and Jeremy Parish convinced me to try this genre. I picked up the DS version of Shiren for $15. It starts off easy, but definitely seems complex. I expect it to ramp up very soon.

Did you find it in a retail store? Nobody around where I live seems to stock it.

Also, if you are interested in this genre and have an iPhone/iPod Touch the game "iNethack" is excellent. It is a port of the PC game Nethack, and both versions (PC and iPhone) are free. The thing about Nethack is how free form the gameplay is, and on the iPhone version you don't have to memorize as many commands since there is an extended command menu. I fell in love with the game when after dipping an item into a fountain that summoned a water nymph, the nymph proceeded to try and seduce my pet cat, who I promptly polymorphed into a gnome king to fight the nymph. After the two ran off in another direction I tried summoning a cloud, but ended up chocking on the gas and dying forever. :)

noname2200March 06, 2010

Quote from: TJ

I may get it once it is cheap, maybe I will also try out the DS game first.

I definitely recommend trying the Wii game first: it's worlds friendlier than the DS game. I think the DS game is better overall, but you have to enjoy roguelikes much more to enjoy that game than this one. Just my two cents.

Quote from: greybrick

Did you find it in a retail store? Nobody around where I live seems to stock it.

Try Best Buy. My store had two copies (of which I now have one).

Mop it upMarch 06, 2010

The only reason I have interest in this game is because there was one (or two) versions on the Nintendo 64 released only in Japan. That isn't a very good reason to buy a game.

I don't think I'd like this game, it sounds difficult and I hate replaying large sections. There is something I'm wondering about though:

Quote:

On more than a few occasions while playing on easy, I died at the boss fight at the end of a dungeon that had 8 to 12 floors, meaning that after scouring for loot and grinding in the dungeon for an hour or so, I lost all of my progress.

All of your progress? I thought that if you're playing on Easy then you got to keep the items you found and experience you gained; is this not helpful when you go back to try again? Also, will the dungeon be a new random dungeon when you go back to try it again?

noname2200March 06, 2010

Quote from: Mop

Quote:

On more than a few occasions while playing on easy, I died at the boss fight at the end of a dungeon that had 8 to 12 floors, meaning that after scouring for loot and grinding in the dungeon for an hour or so, I lost all of my progress.

All of your progress? I thought that if you're playing on Easy then you got to keep the items you found and experience you gained; is this not helpful when you go back to try again? Also, will the dungeon be a new random dungeon when you go back to try it again?

I believe you keep all your items but lose any experience you gained in that dungeon: in other words, if you entered at Level 20 and gained two levels before death, you remain at Level 20.

Of course, I don't know for sure, because I haven't died yet.  :P: It's actually remarkably easy...for a roguelike. You just have to know when to use your staves in particular.

And yes, every dungeon gets a new layout every time you re-enter. This is true whether you die, beat it, or use an Escape Scroll.*


*Escape Scrolls let you exit the dungeon immediately with no penalty: items and experience are kept as-is. They're an uncommon, but incredibly handy, item.

Quote from: Mop

All of your progress? I thought that if you're playing on Easy then you got to keep the items you found and experience you gained; is this not helpful when you go back to try again? Also, will the dungeon be a new random dungeon when you go back to try it again?

Correct, I meant "all of my progress since my last save."  Sorry.

Share + Bookmark





Fushigi no Dungeon - Furai no Shiren 3: Karakuri Yashiki no Nemuri Hime Box Art

Genre RPG
Developer Chunsoft

Worldwide Releases

na: Shiren the Wanderer
Release Feb 09, 2010
PublisherAtlus
RatingTeen
jpn: Fushigi no Dungeon - Furai no Shiren 3: Karakuri Yashiki no Nemuri Hime
Release Jun 05, 2008
PublisherSega
Rating12+

Related Content

Got a news tip? Send it in!
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement