Roguelikes are a new fad in gaming but they've been around longer than you'd think. Shiren the Wanderer returns for some old-school dungeon crawling so sharpen your blade and get ready for one epic adventure.
The Mystery Dungeon series has seen many western releases over the years. Chocobo's Dungeon 2 is the first one that I played back in 1999. The unique implementation of turn-based movement as your enemies take a step whenever you do and punishing deaths where you basically lose everything captured my imagination and made me an instant fan. Years later, I got the Dragon Quest spin-off Torneko: The Last Hope which I loved as a fan of both series. Recently, I found out that the Mystery Dungeon series was originally created by the developers of Dragon Quest and that makes a lot of sense. Not only was the first Mystery Dungeon game a Torneko title for Super Famicom, both series are unapologetically old-school and share many defining features. Anyway, whether it's the handful of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games or spin-offs of The Tower of Druaga and Etrian Odyssey, we've seen a lot of these games arrive on our shores.
So, where does Shiren the Wanderer come in? He starred in the second Mystery Dungeon title ever released and it's the only subseries to not be a spin-off of another established franchise. We only ever got to play the first Shiren game in the form of a remake for DS and the third for Wii. Recently, an enhanced version of the fifth title (The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate) is finally available here. Now that you know the complex history of this awesome series, let's see how "Shiren the Wanderer 5 Plus" holds up.
The first thing that fans will delight in upon starting The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate is that it hasn't changed the classic formula much. In other words, everything should be familiar to anyone who has already played a Mystery Dungeon game. There's an expansive hub where you can store items, enhance equipment, challenge mini-games, and even recruit the odd party member. Exploring the dungeons is extremely satisfying with many enemies that range from goofy to sinister, a wide variety of items to discover, and many traps waiting to literally trip you up. As you progress, you'll come across a diverse cast of characters such as desperate folks who want to borrow money, mysteriously familiar-looking individuals, and a tanuki named Poo. There is so much to discover (even passwords which grant you items) that you'll love every second you spend uncovering the secrets of Shiren's world.
Shiren the Wanderer's visuals are as captivating as ever with vibrantly detailed characters and environments, clever enemy designs, and gorgeous 2D animation. The music is absolutely wonderful as well with catchy tunes that sound like they're lifted straight from Dragon Quest. The audio is so well implemented that the lack of voice acting isn't even an issue. Everything about The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate will bring you back to a time when you didn't need things such as 3D graphics to be immersed in an experience.
Although the main campaign can be completed within about a dozen hours (with some luck), there is an unbelievable amount of post-game content that could take you hundreds of hours to master. If you ever find yourself unable to progress, there are loads of tutorials that not only do a great job of explaining the basics, they also give you valuable advanced strategies that'll turn even the toughest rogues into unstoppable dungeon-crawling machines. With so much content and variety, playing this is a constantly rewarding treat; that is, if you're up for one challenging old-school adventure that'll often put your patience to the test.
That's right, Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate is one incredibly challenging game. With no ability to lower the difficulty, newcomers to the series probably won't have the patience to work through more than a few dungeons. Therefore, ensure that you're ready for one tough adventure before picking this up. Not only can the difficulty be painful, you eventually have to work through multiple dungeons in a row in order to advance. Seeing as you lose everything and are returned back to town upon dying, having to replay the same dungeons over and over again gets very repetitive. Finally, you only have a limited amount of space in your inventory so having to constantly drop items and arrange to make space is as annoying as ever. Picking up a bunch of crummy items accidentally then dropping them and making sure not to step on them again is just plain tedious.
Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate is a shining example of how great the Mystery Dungeon series can be. Fans will love every second of its rewarding world while newcomers will be stumped by its undeniably old-school level of challenge.
- + Phenomenal classic Mystery Dungeon gameplay that's more enjoyable than ever
- + Gorgeous visuals and catchy music
- + Loads of content to master
- - The high degree of challenge with no difficulty option only appeals to hardcore fans
- - Traversing consecutive dungeons is a pain
- - Limited inventory is as annoying as ever