The Mystery Dungeon games are much more common than you would expect. With titles such as the Chocobo Dungeon games and a little known property known as Pokemon investing in the series chances are you’ve come across the diluted form of Mystery Dungeon. Shiren is back, full force Mystery Dungeon and ready to take your lives!. Is it good? Is it bad? Its a Mystery Dungeon! Read on.
Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate is the fifth in the Shiren storyline discounting any remakes or spin offs. This stars the silent wanderer Shiren and his mouthy sidekick Koppa the ferret. They stumble across and get involved in a tale where a girl is dying and the only way to stop it is challenge a god with the power to change someones fate.
There are several plots to get involved with and plenty of residents in the villages and towers who do a great deal in adding to the narrative. While it is an interesting premise, it isn’t the most in depth and certainly feels a little more of an excuse as to why you’re dungeon crawling than a full blown narrative experience.
Visually Shiren the Wanderer is a mixed bag again. Originally releasing as a DS game then ported to Vita and finally hitting Switch you can’t help but be impressed with the sprite work in this one, it looks phenomenal like a SNES game fused with blast processing, the characters, the animation and the scenary in villages and outside of the dungeons are just outstanding.
Inside the dungeons while still not bad looking by any stretch, you start to see the same visuals over and over again. As is the nature of Mystery Dungeon, the dungeons are randomly generated and follow a basic theme which makes all the dungeons feel really samey at times. I understand there is only SO much they can do with the visuals in the dungeons but this is where you’ll be spending the bulk of the gameplay so get used to seeing the same visuals over and over and over.
On the audio side of things you have some fantastic original music made for Shiren 5 or you can toggle songs from previous Shiren titles giving you a little variation and a nice thank you to fans of the previous Shiren titles. Whatever you choose there are some genuinely atmospheric songs on offer and help ease that repetition when it sets in.
So what is Mystery Dungeon and Shiren and why is it so highly loved? Well to start it’s the current buzzword of gaming, Roguelike!. The basic premise is as such, you have a randomly generated dungeon of X amount of floors, you start at level 1 and level up as you defeat the monsters of the dungeon, leave or die and it’s back to level 1 with only the items you have equipped.
You’ll die a fair few times as you try to dominate the dungeons, finding better equipment to give you the best items and pray the gods of luck are on your side this run!. Everything aside from the theme is randomly generated, the enemies, the items, the weapons, the traps and the NPCs you can meet be them Merchants or hireable party members.
The main charm aside from the pure dungeon crawling is the tricks you can employ to get results, throwing items, using tardis like pots or even spells to swap places with enemies or give you an item you really need at that moment just add to the random chaotic nature of Mystery Dungeon.
Fortunately if you are new to Mystery Dungeon there is a fantastic 1 hour plus optional tutorial you can take, it is worth going through even for fans as it provides you with a load of items which make the first few dungeons very manageable.
The movement and combat in Shiren is turn based and on a grid system, this allows you the time to think about your next move. Enemies will only move after you and being grid based it is all about your position to score a victory here.
Shiren the Wanderer is a tough game, at times the gods of luck will deem it so that you are bombarded with the wrong items, crap weapons and traps galore, on the flip side they can also be very kind, its the random nature of the beast and with the various items and their effects it can be a case of being sneaky and embracing the bad with the good.
There are alot of different systems at work in Shiren which would form a fairly healthy list if I wrote each one down, they are perfectly balanced and really make Shiren feel like a special kind of Roguelike. I’m sure anyone who has played the Chocobo, Pokemon or even Etrian Odyssey offshoots of Mystery will contest to the precarious mix of chaos, entertainment and repetition.
Since this game has been ported to the Nintendo Switch, the developers were kind enough to throw in a handful of additional dungeons, these are fantastic additional challenges with quirks such as “complete in x amount of turns”.
Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate is a fantastic, old school, tough ‘ol time, you’ll be riding high for a while then the game will happily knock you back into place. Slight multiplayer in the Rescue service where you can save other wanderers who have been felled in the dungeon your in and online leaderboards will add even more playtime to this title, if you can handle a high level death count and bouts of unfair b.s that is!. In a post Hades landscape, Shiren the Wanderer offers a classic and quality time for those who are willing to brave it.
A tough little cookie but soaked in charm and that “one more go” attitude!
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