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Etrian Odyssey II HD (Switch) Review

by Neal Ronaghan - June 1, 2023, 10:00 am EDT
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An excellent game given a second (third?) life on a platform that is relatively suboptimal for its style.

When Nintendo’s dual-screened handhelds went away following the end of the 3DS, one of the greatest laments for me was the reality that Atlus’ Etrian Odyssey series - a prolific franchise that featured eight games, a spin-off, and two Persona-skinned versions across the DS and 3DS - was potentially dead because the move away from a two-screened system with a touch screen and a stylus meant that the unique and brilliant cartography element of the series was impossible to do right. It was a pleasant surprise when the Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection was revealed, bringing the original three games in the series to Nintendo Switch in HD form. Seemingly, Atlus figured out how to get these to work on a non-DS system. After playing Etrian Odyssey II HD, I’m not quite sure if they got these games to work optimally on a non-DS system. There is an admirable attempt to make the distinctive brand of dungeon crawling work but even if I got used to the quirky elements of map drawing, it never felt as natural as it did on 3DS. The overall quality of Etrian Odyssey II, which initially came out on DS in 2008, makes this still a great game, but it’s held back by its new home.

For starters, Etrian Odyssey II takes you to a fantasy land where the player creates their own guild of adventurers that are tasked with exploring a labyrinth that goes high into the sky. The labyrinth is split into floors, with a set of five floors composing a stratum, and generally capped off by a big boss fight and a change in scenery. You have a lot of freedom in creating your party, pulling from a long list of classes that have interesting twists on regular melee and ranged combat concepts. While the thrust of the game is just progressing through the labyrinth by exploring and battling, you also pick up a variety of missions that encourage you to explore more of the dungeons. That’s where the trademark cartography aspects come about as you crawl through the floors.

How it works is that when you’re exploring a dungeon, the screen is cleft in twain, with one side displaying the first-person world and the other displaying the map in two different forms: a zoomed-out view and a close-up view. When playing portably, you can use the touch screen to draw out the map and make use of icons to note different doors and locations. The bad thing is, well, without a stylus your maps are going to be a mess. You can use a stylus if you have one, but it’s not an ideal solution. To complement the touch controls and account for the fact this game can be played on a TV now, a button control option for map-making is also included. This is what I wound up using more often even if it’s a pat-your-head/rub-your-belly situation. You use the right analog stick to guide your cursor and hold down a shoulder button to draw a line or select an icon. It has a frustrating learning curve, but at a certain point, it nearly became second nature for me. It’s an inelegant solution for a massive problem. A left-handed option is offered, which moves the map to the left side of the screen, but I only recommend that to my fellow lefties if you’re using a stylus.

Beyond the controls, the dungeon crawling is as engrossing as ever. I haven’t played the DS original but I played a lot of the 3DS remake Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold (I’ve occasionally stated it’s my favorite Etrian Odyssey game). There is, naturally, a familiar progression here, but it’s worth noting that nothing from Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold aside from the varied difficulty settings is brought into this version. This is, more or less, the 2008 DS original with HD graphics and a few minor tweaks, including some excellent remastered music from series composer Yuzo Koshiro. While I do appreciate the open-ended approach of naming your own characters from the varied classes, the story mode that is exclusive to the Untold release was rather good, so its absence here is felt.

The combat system holds up even its relative old-school simplicity. It’s from the first-person perspective, so you only see the sprites of your enemies. You select the moves for your party of five and then watch as they are executed. Rinse and repeat until you or your enemies perish. The auto-battle feature is nice for when you’re grinding, and once you start developing your characters and outfitting them with different skills and abilities, you can lay down some awesome traps for defeating foes. You can poison an enemy, and then use an attack that does more damage to a poisoned enemy, for instance. Picking the right team of five can be imperative to your success because the way they support each other is hugely important.

Three different difficulty options that you can switch between almost at will make this an approachable game despite some of its punishing elements. Basic and Expert are both relatively stern challenges. Basic requires you to be thoughtful and strategic in all of your actions even if it isn’t at the same level as Expert. Picnic, the easiest option, is extremely easy. I appreciate that there is a variety, even more so because of the flexibility to swap between them.

I’m thrilled that Etrian Odyssey exists beyond the DS and 3DS, but what we got doesn’t hit the highs of the series. Atlus admirably tried to make it work on Switch, but the controls for drawing your map aren’t as natural as they were on DS and 3DS. Etrian Odyssey II is still a great video game, with a really good progression through each stratum and a lot of depth and synergies between the classes and abilities. My hope is that if Etrian Odyssey survives beyond this dungeon crawl, the next release will be more future-focused than porting over the past.


  • Excellent dungeon-crawling
  • Great Yuzo Koshiro music
  • Killer cartography hook
  • Wide variety of character classes
  • Doesn’t have Untold content
  • Map making is made awkward
  • Touch screen controls require a stylus to be good

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Game Profile

Genre RPG
Developer Atlus

Worldwide Releases

na: Etrian Odyssey II HD
Release Jun 01, 2023
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