In a recent survey Atlus, the developers of Etrian Odyssey, asked their fans which games they would most like to receive a remake, and if you squint your eyes really tightly and look through the crowd of Persona and Shin Megami Tensei games, you’ll find that Etrian Odyssey lodged in at 10th place. Given that it’s one of our favourite handheld game series, we’ve put some thought into it returning, and decide that the following reasons entirely justify its continued existence.
One of our absolute favourite features of the Etrian games is the way in which their complexities grow. The start of each title is a doggedly simple class selection, granted one that has grown as the series progressed, but you’re simply given the choice of some relatively well known class archetypes and asked to make a selection. Build yourself a team that makes some kind of sense, with a tank here and a healer there or such, and you’re good to go. Well, that’s the theory at least, because you can delve a lot deeper before you even commit, should you wish.
Thus the real game is borne out. Perhaps you reach this point after some failed dungeon jaunts, or you’ve done a little research and do it ahead of time, but it’s soon revealed that these simple class choices actually have a tremendous amount of depth to them. You may have chosen a tank class, but would you rather they specialise in damage, and would you like your healer to actually deal massive amounts of poison damage? Thanks to the skill trees and indeed subclasses in later titles, the choice really is yours, and you’re given full control over it all. When you tie this system to some remarkably creative dungeon designs and a constant stream of alluring elite enemies, it’s a recipe for RPG delight. In this regard then, we’re entirely in favour of a remake or a new title. Sure, there have been attempts to capture the formula with titles like Labyrinth of Refrain on home consoles, but they do not capture this magical combination of simple choices belying depth, often simply opting to lean into complexity from the off, which isn’t exactly new player friendly.
One of the biggest arguments against Etrian Odyssey returning is that no current console has a second screen, and that part of the allure of the series was in creating your own map with the DS and 3DS stylus. Whilst we do agree that this will be a sad loss in future games, we should draw your attention to a title like Strange Journey Redux. This managed to encourage exploration whilst entirely drawing the map on your behalf. You could argue that some of the magic is still missing, and we’d surely agree, but it’s not entirely a deal breaker.
Plus, and this is a big plus, the new hardware could make the dungeons and environment look absolutely incredible. Etrian dungeons are well known for running the gamut of biomes, from ancient ruins to forests, poisons swamps to high technology derelicts, and these could all be brought to life by modern home consoles. Spell effects could be improved, characters given life through extensive voice acting and the dungeons themselves could expand in scope. Yes, map drawing was quite literally the unique draw of the series, but true fans know that it’s about so much more than this, and it could be made available to a modern audience.
Improving The Formula
For some reason, being a true RPG fan seems to mean that you cannot allow change to occur, but any MMO fan will tell you that improvements to the base formula aren’t always a bad thing. Ask any fan if they want the return of respec costs and they’ll tell you to take your opinions back to the 2000s where they belong. The same can be true of a title such as Etrian, despite it being rightfully revered for sticking to a rigid formula, and it can do so without losing its identity.
Take Dragon Quest for example. Earlier titles in the series were painfully simple games, mainly as a result of their hardware limitations. Now, being on the DS series of systems isn’t such a hamstring at all, but there’s nothing stopping the Etrian series from moving to the next level in a similar way. Untold titles took a step in this direction, but main and indeed side quests from the remaining titles are painfully basic, and we see huge opportunities to build these stories further. Imagine if you will that tugging at a thread reveals a sprawling addition to the game, with its own specifically designed dungeon to visit, replete with an emotionally driven reason for traversing it. Cues could even be taken from the Divinity series with environmental effects with spells, weather changes, full class combinations or building skill combinations like Persona 3 fusion spells.
At the end of the day, the scope for these games to improve is absolutely huge. They are different, and we don’t want them to become the full on, main meal like a Persona or Final Fantasy, but they could become a gourmet side order akin to a FFT – War of the Lions, or revived like the upcoming Tactics Ogre: Reborn. They deserve to get the attention that their quality warrants, to be seen like the love affair that certain development team members surely have with the series, and making a return on modern consoles is exactly how this can be achieved. The aforementioned tactical-esque games are seeing a revival at the moment, and we’re fed up of seeing the first person dungeon crawler genre overrun by fanservice excuses to play dress up. Give us a real, meaty, difficult and perplexing version. Give us a real Etrian Odyssey, on a platform the whole world can see, and let it shine.
Categories: Etrian Odyssey Nexus