Author Topic: Etrian Odyssey (Switch) Review  (Read 257 times)

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Offline Shaymin

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Etrian Odyssey (Switch) Review
« on: May 31, 2023, 08:00:00 PM »

The misadventures of Fight and Heal are back, but we’ve forgotten how to write.

My main experience with the Etrian Odyssey series of dungeon-crawling RPGs involved Japanese students summoning demons while making maps, mostly due to the chibi art style making certain classes in the 3DS era cross the Atlus line twice–specifically, the Dancer class from Etrian Odyssey IV. Still, I did have memories of a torrid holiday trip spent with the original Etrian Odyssey back on the DS, and given the opportunity to review one of the Switch trio, I felt it best to go back to basics. It’s still a solid dungeon crawler, but despite my best efforts I could not get the map making to work right until I busted out the stylus that I thought I could retire after playing The World Ends With You: Final Remix.

The original inspiration for the Etrian series is Wizardry, though I’m pretty sure the one on NES had more of a plot. You roll up to a labyrinth and have to explore as much of it as possible. That’s it. This is done by creating a guild of adventurers and assigning them one of nine classes based on classic RPG archetypes: the Landsknecht is a standard warrior type whose name I will never not have to copy and paste, Alchemists are the offensive magic users, and the Medic is exactly what the name implies. After creating a party of up to five, you are sent down to complete various quests assigned either by the local explorer’s guild or picked up in the nearby pub. The “Untold” remake on 3DS did give the option for a fixed party composition and story, but this was not retained for the Switch version. Between the Pixel Remasters and Etrian Odyssey, it’s been a bad year for Switch RPG remakes/remasters including content from other versions of the games.

The floors of the labyrinth are laid out in a grid format, perfect for the series’s trademark map design. Originally designed for use on the bottom screen of a DS or 3DS, most of the mapping is done automatically, but points of interest have to be applied manually. As an example, it might be necessary to show a door that can’t be opened because it requires an item by applying a closed door to a square, or a chest that has been claimed by an open chest. The default view has the maze or battle scene taking up a majority of the screen, but pressing X calls up the map for tagging. In handheld mode, adding to the map is easily done through the touchscreen, but I could not for the life of me tell you how to do the map making with buttons or in docked mode consistently. I fluked into one or two instances early on of being able to tag something, but 95% of the manual mapping I did was via a stylus. This might have been accurate for my time with the original, but I did expect a smoother experience in all of the Switch’s use cases.

Combat in Etrian Odyssey is based loosely on a “time” system; each square moved (or turn taken in a battle) advances the clock by two minutes. 30 steps or turns is an hour. When not in combat, there is an icon on the main screen that changes color, starting at blue and going through green and yellow to red: at a certain shade of red, an enemy encounter starts. So the encounters are pseudo-random, and you do have some warning. Once in combat, it’s a basic turn-based affair with each party member’s command entered and then the attacks playing out roughly based on the speed or “agility” of the combatants. It’s a very basic system, and I found that just activating automatic battle got me through 95% of encounters. The infamous minibosses known as an “F.O.E” - which supposedly stands for “Formido Oppugnatura Exsequens” but I’m pretty sure there’s a more profane name that’s just as valid - are visible enemies who walk a specific path and are intended to be maneuvered around most of the time. Though perhaps due to a quest early on which involved spending five in-game days (3600 steps) on one floor with nothing else better to do but grind, I was able to take them on quite quickly. Upon reaching experience milestones, skill points are earned which can unlock higher growths or class-specific abilities. It’s worth researching skills before attempting to unlock them; although the skills do get better if more points are put into them, some of the skills are basically designed to waste points. (I didn’t do this, and found out I was essentially wasting points by trying to make the “Provoke” skill my Protector-class character unlocked more useful than level 1.)

In addition to testing your management abilities in battle, Etrian Odyssey also tests your skills at inventory management. The inventory is fixed at 60 slots, and this covers recovery items, treasure in the map that isn’t money, and enemy drops. On extended hunts, this will add up quickly, especially since it’s necessary to bring enemy drops back to the base in order to unlock new shop items and equipment. Of course, over-grinding or relying on a Medic-class character can free up inventory slots since you can store or sell things, but it comes down to the question of do you want to use one of the five team slots for the expedition on Heal or just rely on potential on-map recovery.

The graphics in general were brought into HD quite well, even if I don’t take to the character design style that makes all the party members look like cosplaying eight-year-old children. The enemies have a lot of variety, and even the labyrinth itself has enough vibrancy in its environments that it doesn’t get old. The soundtrack is just as good as I remember the original Etrian Odyssey’s, with a special shout-out to the new F.O.E theme.

They once had the Etrian Odyssey artist do official, paid art of Lucina for Fire Emblem Heroes. It's the only one of that type I've turned off.

With the focus on game preservation that we’ve seen in recent years, I never imagined that the Etrian Odyssey series would be preserved anywhere close to its original form. The fact that they thought it worth bringing to Switch is amazing, and though it didn’t come over entirely clean, it’s still worth bringing back Fight, Heal, and the rest of the crew for one more dungeon dive.

Donald Theriault - News Editor, Nintendo World Report / 2016 Nintendo World Champion
Tutorial box out.