Here I am to try yet another item in my black list: Etrian Odyssey. My dear friend zebaca hates this series with a passion! I never played any of those titles, but it’s rare for me to like dungeon crawlers. Well, what I know? This was one of such occasions!
You play as a warrior at the service of the Midgar Library, working to protect it’s important documents. This suddenly changes when a princess summons you to participate in a Royal ceremony. Apparently, she knew you from your childhood and became quite fond of you ever since. You depart to the city of Caledonia together with your trustworthy childhood friend and brother-in-arms. However, by getting to the city, there was no sign of the princess. She was actually inside the legendary Yggdrasil Labyrinth, waiting for her new allies to come.After finally reuniting, they leave to the ruins of Ginnunga to start the ritual, where they met a suspicious Paladin and a tiny War Magus. The two join their group and they start the preparations for the ceremony. The princess bestow you with the title of “Knight of Fafnir”, which is given only to those who the princess trust the most. Little did she know that this would give you powers that far surpasses that of a normal human. This can be considered a gift, but it’s also a curse!
Arianna is the princess of Caledonia. Very pure and innocent, she loves and cares for everyone around her, but the protagonist is someone special for her. She feels like she can depend on him for everything. This starts to change upon seeing what the ritual did with her precious friend. Although the details of the ceremony were never revealed to her, she still feels responsible for leaving all this huge responsibility for the protagonist to bear alone. Now she desperately wants to help with everything she can.Flavio is a skilled Archer who grow up together with the protagonist, as both are orphans who were taken in by the Midgar Library. He’s usually cheerful but has a bit of a negative side and can become quite the coward during difficult situations. Nevertheless, he never leaves his friends behind.Bertrand is a lazy and dirty full-fledged Paladin with his own strange agenda. He’s first found exploring the ruins of Ginnunga for unknown reasons and suddenly asks to join the party. He seems quite interested in the Fafnir Knight’s power. Even though he’s usually fooling around, his skills are the real deal. He seems quite proud of his old age and never tries to act younger, to the point he calls himself “oldman”.Chloe is a genius Doctor Magus. She has quite the chaotic personality, always being attracted to wherever there are mysteries, magic and meat. During her childhood, Bertrand was her only friend and the only one who could understand her. Thus, she decided to leave her family to travel together with the old Paladin, creating a special bond between the two, being more than friends but not quite lovers. She also got interested in the Knight of Fafnir and decides to join the party to further study it.
This is a remake of the second Etrian Odyssey, know in Japan as Sekaiju no Meikyuu (labyrinth of the world’s tree). This remake does something that I have a big deal of respect for: They included a story! These games have been just simple Dungeon crawlers. “You assemble a group of customizable characters to explore the Yggdrasil Labyrinth” and there you go! That was it. This has changed ever since they started “retelling the story” with the games that got the subtitle “Untold” (in Japan, there’s a “shin” coming before the name, meaning “new”).You can still play the old and boring campaign with soulless characters, or you can start a new adventure with unique allies, each with their own back-stories! In this new “story mode” there are just a few “customizable” aspect, one of which is your main character. He doesn’t get a default name and you also get to choose his specialty in combat, but other than that, his origin and appearance are always the same.There’s nothing too “new” about the story in Etrian Odyssey Untold 2. It’s a classic tale about friendship with the group joining forces to finally defeat an ancient evil that could only be sealed in the past. Neverthless, this story is well executed with charismatic characters, nice pacing, lots of events and good building up for what there’s to come. Half-way through, there are some pretty intense moments that really caught me off guard and made me flabbergasted!With your party fully assembled, it’s time for you to pick an official name for your guild. My protagonist was supposed to be named “gangrelion” but there was too many letters, so I settled with just “Gan”. Since my Guild is kinda like my Gang, this means it’s Gan’s Gang! Thus, Gangang was born!During this mode, the city and labyrinth are essentially the same, but everything is more flashed out. NPCs in the city have more personality and are way more talkative. You interact more with other characters beside those from your party while exploring the dungeon. Everything feel more significant in the Story Mode, even secondary features get unique events.One example is the restaurant, which you also get to name (mine became “Familia” as a homage to the Inn from Lord of Magna). In this restaurant, you would only buy food that give special boosts, but in the story mode, you’re collecting recipes and ingredients to feed the entire kingdom. Each new dish added to the restaurant’s menu, you get a conversation between your characters as they sample the food, and you even get to know more about them during those events.These choices during dialogs will not change the course of events but at least your allies have an immediate reaction to what you choose to talk. Your choices do not simplify as “being nice or being a total asshole”. It’s more about which of your friends you want to get closer with. It’s not that much of a “Dating Simulation” element, but it works!The side-quests are also pretty interesting. They are not just fetch quests. Most of them have you interacting with unique NPCs. There’s even a missable side-quest where you get to know the shy daughter of the Inn-keeper when you’re asked to keep an eye on her just for one night. This suddenly scales up to a tour around the city in order to find a lost identification for a client. During this quest, you also get to know more about the NPCs from other stores and their relationship with the little inn-keeper in-training.With this done, you become friends with this little girl and you can ask her to tend you in the place of her mother. (which I did, because…who wouldn’t? She is cute while her mother is an old fat lady with a huge nose!)
The battle system uses the old turn-based combat with a 1st person perspective, but the battles are fast and the system is intuitive and creative. Some magics have special conditions to be used, like “this magic only works if the enemy is affected by a negative status”, which makes a perfect combination with your allies who can inflict said negative status.There are even some skills that go much further than the usual. Like the magic to cure a negative condition, which actually “cut and paste” the negative status from an ally into an enemy, being one of the trollest magics in video-game history! Chloe is awesome!During battle, your actions can give birth to a “grimoire” which can be equipped in any character to give special skills. Those are extremely useful, but you need to raise your level in order to equip more than a single one.Each character has a “force bar” that gives some useful bonuses when activated, but the most interesting force ability is by far the protagonist’s. By using it, he transforms into the Knight of Fafnir, temporarily changing the BGM and getting new special attacks. This transformation only lasts for 3 turns, though.The flow of the game has you exploring the Yggdrasil Labyrinth in order to open new paths in the main dungeon: The ruins of Ginnunga, which you need to revisit from time to time. Meanwhile, there’s a bunch of things to do in the city, like the aforementioned cooking and side-quests.Dungeon exploration never gets boring, as there’s always a creative gimmick on each floor. Of course the game is still filled with the infamous F.O.E.s, but in some dungeons, you can easily avoid them by attracting them to traps. You can even weaken a boss by solving some other cool puzzles.Yes! The F.O.E.s are still a nightmare! I recommend any non-hardcore player to set the difficulty to “pic-nic” (the easiest one). Trust me! If you’re not a “pro-dungeon crawler”, you will only get pissed off with the game.The Map system is more of a novelty than anything else. It lets you drawn the Dungeon Map by yourself by using the 3DS stylus to include each little wall and special spots. This gives a nostalgic feeling for those who played RPGs before the internet was popular, when you had to make your own maps with pencil and paper (or for those who play traditional RPGs too). I rather have the map being automatically drawn as a walk around, so I’m glad there’s an option for “auto map”!
The enemies are represented by 3D models that look really good for the 3DS. Unfortunately, your playable characters don’t appear during combat, only making an appearance as a still image in the battle menu. I hope this gets fixed on the next Untold, but for now, it’s good enough.On the other hand, The “Visual-Novel-esque” cut-scenes give a lot of life to your characters by using nicely done illustrations made by the artist Himukai Yuuji. These use vivid colors and have lots of details with creative designs and a good variety of facial expressions that increase the emotional impact on every event. This art-style makes most of the characters look like SDs, but it manages to give the right atmosphere when it needs to. Male characters look manly and strong, monsters look intimidating and the Fafnir transformation looks FREAKING COOL!The scenarios on each dungeon change drastically on each new session. Most are themed after the 4 seasons and they look gorgeous! These are not just still images, the background uses 3D models and there are even some little animations here and there, like the sakura petals falling from the trees (it’s a Japanese game, there must have sakura petals!).Thanks to that attention to details, it hardly becomes boring to look to the same dungeon, even days after exploring the same place.
Different from the first Untold, this one gets a beautiful and exciting vocal song by Itou Kanako called “Reaching out for our feature”. I love this opening! After all, it was one of the things that attracted me to play this game in the first place. The scenes are just perfect! It accurately represents each character and give hints to a lot of events! The song fits with those scenes, being energetic and somewhat romantic.The BGMs are also excellent! They fit the mood with relaxing tracks using flute and piano for the each store in the city and a track for each section of the labyrinth, which have that atmosphere of mystery and beauty to it! There are over 40 tracks, so it’s unlikely for the BGMs to become tiresome, just the battle theme (which usually uses electric guitar) changes at least 3 times, without mentioning the boss themes and F.O.E. themes. I say this is easily at the same level as the soundtrack from Dragon Quest 7 and Legend of Legacy, which are some of the best I’ve listen to on my 3DS!
Sadly, this is one of those games where there are just some voices for each dialog. They just tease you, but it’s SO GOOD! You know those Dating Sims where one of the heroines say “don’t go” everytime you close the game? This always pisses me off! Like: SHUT UP, YOUR BITCH! LET ME SHUT THIS GAME DOWN ALREADY! But this game is different! The voice work is so good that, when the girl who works on the weapon store says “I will find better items, so please! Come again!”. Then, I get all emotinal and say: “YES, MY DEAR! I WILL BE BACK! TAN TAN TAN TA-TAN! Because the few voice-work that we get are superb! During dramatic events, the characters cry, scream, say some romantic lines as well as some badass phrases, and those are just pure awesomeness! Midorikawa Hikaru voices the protagonist, and he’s one of my favorite seiyuus! Fujiwara Keiji keeps doing what he does best on the role of the “old man Bertrand”. Flavio is voiced by the young super genius Namikawa Daisuke. The master of cute voices Iguchi Yuka voicing Chloe. And finally, voicing Arianna: Taneda Risa! Who is…not nearly as famous as the others, BUT STILL! She also does a fantastic job! The only real problem with the voices would be the lack of it!
By being really nitpick about this, I can complain about 3 things: 1- It’s not fully voiced. 2- There’s no graphics for your heroes during battles. 3- There’s a level-design flaw during the final dungeon that can make you stuck forever. Ah! The ending was also kinda of a letdown, but I am willing to forget that if they release a DLC to continue the story!Overall, this game is great! I had an excellent time playing it, and now that it will be soon localized this summer by Atlus, I really recommend it for anyone who has loves RPGs and owns a 3DS! From now on, I will be waiting with anticipation for each new entry in the series…as long as it has a story, that is!