When I was given the opportunity to play this game I immediately recognized the name Atlus and was excited for a thorough JRPG game experience. What I didn’t realize at the time was that “Mystery Dungeon” meant quite a bit more than just a clever fantasy title.
Spike Chunsoft is a developer whose claim to fame is the Mystery Dungeon type games the most common example in the West would be the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games. These are classified as roguelike games which feature procedural level generation, turn based gameplay, tile based graphics, and permanent death (Thanks Wikipedia). So from this you can gather that off the bat that this game will be a Mystery Dungeon type game heavily influenced by the Etrian Odyssey series.
The game is a unique blend of many RPG and other game types. Resource management occurs where you have to manage your money and upgrade your town, as well as gathering the correct resources from resource spots in the dungeons as well as defeated monsters. The quest system will often have you exploring the dungeons to find specific items and the resource spots are somewhat random, only being able to increase the number of times you can draw and the potential rarity of the item if you have placed points in the correct resource type (Minerology, Herbalogy, Dendrology). This also links to the critical need in this game to manage your items as your inventory and storage space is small.
You will be managing a roster of characters that you either will recruit or create using classes that are familiar to those who have played Etrian Odyssey. This allows you to create a balanced party with a defender, range dps, melee dps, and a healer. You can also create essentially any party you want, but I found that a healer is essential so that you do not die mid dungeon. The leveling up system is fairly simple, and doesn’t branch characters too far out of their intended purpose. The classes provide a nice set of variety although it would have been cool to combine classes.
The dungeon exploration is a unique experience; you have to manage your time, where you are in the dungeon, your items, and all the standard RPG concerns (Health, Magic). This provides a nice strategic aspect to the game. The addition of forts that can help to control the locations of the dungeon is a cool aspect, and then being able to assign defenders adds a lot of unique problems and solutions to deal with. The one thing I noticeable missed here was the Etrian Odyssey staple of being able to draw the maps. With the strategic and map control aspects of the map already in play, it just seemed to be a perfect fit to have this in the game. I was disappointed to see it was ultimately missing.
I ended up playing in the range of 10-15 hours of this game and found that ultimately this game is not for someone who may be looking for the hardcore JRPG experience (I would recommend taking a look at Persona Q if you haven’t tried that). Where this game excels is someone who wants to quickly pick up the game, run a dungeon for a bit and then save and be done. The game does not have an engrossing storyline that makes you want to play but has more than enough to keep you engaged and play it in small chunks. This is perfect for the 3DS as opposed to a full blown Console or PC type game.
My final thoughts, this is a well-made game that is simplistic to enjoy in small pieces, it makes for an excellent travel game or something that will entertain you for short periods of time. Once you know what it is, it is a fun game with some unique strategy elements that will appeal to all gamers.