ETRIAN ODYSSEY / Atlus / Nintendo DS
Since Final Fantasy VII ushered in the CD-based, 64-bit era back in 1997, the trend in console RPGs has been that of ever-increasing bloat combined with predictable aesthetics and play-it-safe formulaic gameplay. This, most thinking gamers will agree, is a problem. It represents a slow death for the genre, not an advancement or evolution.
The answer to this problem, however, does not lie in going back to failed pre-1997 RPG formulas. This is what Etrian Odyssey does, and this is why it will likely not appeal to more than a small demographic of hardcore types who like long hours of repetitive level-grinding and a generous dollop of generic Animu flavor (seasoned liberally with dashes of loli) smeared all over their gaming.
Still, that demographic seems to be more than enough to keep a company afloat, as Atlus seems to be targetting nearly everything they release at them. In this outing, the Atlus designers go back to PC dungeon crawls from the late 1980s and early 1990s, excavate their basic skeletal framework, add a pointless and annoying "draw your own map" requirement to toss in the requisite "touch screen functionality", turn the battle engine into something much more closely resembling the Dragon Warrior template, and crank up the difficulty to retarted levels so that you have to spend hours in grindery to have even a glimmer of hope of completing the game. The only real difference between this game and, say, any of the numerous glut of Dungeons and Dragons PC games from about 20 years ago, is that instead of pixelly Boris Vallejo wannabe artwork you have elfin anime crap instead.
Seriously, the main problem I have with this one is that it's a game I've played about 80 times before in my life, and none of those times did I really enjoy it overmuch. What does Etrian add to the formula that I should give a shit about? The only positive thing is that the music is decent, and way more pleasant than anything from the 1980s-early 1990s dungeon crawl scene. Generic manga shit art doesn't do anything for me, especially when the females all look like nine year old girls with D cup breasts. Having to draw out a map as I go, instead of having an auto-map made for me, is not "extra fun", it's extra WORK. And I'm all for challenge in gaming, but when I literally get overwhelmed in the very first battle of the game, and have to re-roll all my stupid characters and watch the introductory crap all over again, I think you may have just unbalanced the difficulty *a tad*. Not to mention that the structure sucks - you end up having to walk all the way back out of the labyrinth to town countless times, there doesn't appear to be a way to equip characters (or even check your equipment) while in town, the game prompts you for a name before it lets you choose a class or see the character portrait, and it uses retarted class names like "Landschknect" in place of intuitive names like "Swordsman". The battle system is also typical boring generic crap that got tiresome back in the 1980s, with nothing innovative to it, yet it's where you spend about 85% of the game time due to the ridiculous difficulty level.
Allo! Need lolitits? I'm ya girl!
* Gameplay Video