Published on June 6th, 2023 | by Branden Zavaleta
ETRIAN ODYSSEY ORIGINS COLLECTION REVIEW (Nintendo Switch)
Summary: Classics buffed to a nice shine, but lacking the depth or changes for a full-priced, modern release
Fun For Fans
About: Explore the rich beginnings of this RPG franchise with remasters of three timeless adventures that inspire players to go on a journey of discovery, mapping deep dungeons, and building customised parties for exploring and engaging in tactical combat. Play as the leader of a guild of adventurers, searching for rare treasures and secrets within the depths of a vast, sprawling labyrinth. Traverse and draw a map of the environment while encountering enemies large and small in turn-based combat, then return to town to rest, sell materials for better equipment, and manage your party, selecting from a collection of heroes to build the right team for the job.
Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection Review
The Etrian Odyssey trilogy were dungeon RPGs that let you draw your own map on the Nintendo DS’s touchscreen. They were charming DS games, and have now made the jump to the modern age with HD graphics and some remastering. Here, the DS’s dual screens have been squeezed onto the Nintendo Switch’s single one, but at least the touch screen still allows for drawing the maps by hand.
The Etrian Odyssey games have always had very little interest in story. The wilderness is filled with monsters, riches, and a little mystery. You and your party have heard the call of adventure, and delve deep into a dungeon to make your fortune. That’s about it. It’s a basic story, so rather than distract you with it, you’re given the setting and you can do the roleplaying yourself. Each game begins in a forest labyrinth, but beneath are unique and quirky locations– A castle in the sky, a sunken civilisation. The true fun is designing and naming your party members– your friends or favourite characters finally get to test their mettle– and enjoying the pure dungeon experience: exploring, looting, levelling up, camping, boss-battling, and thrilling escapes.
But one other thing is that these games are never easy– you’ll never clear a single floor in one outing– and instead you make gradual progress exploring. You kill a handful of monsters, sell their teeth or tails in town, buy new gear, and maybe make it further into the labyrinth– and all the while mapping as you go. The mapping is the big mechanic here, with a whole page of icons, and most of the buttons designated for it. Mapping in docked mode is fiddly and almost painful, but in handheld it’s better than the originals (though a stylus would be nice).
Handheld mode is the best way to play these, as the 2D monster graphics and the dungeon’s light 3D graphics are still only as complex as the DS could handle– even the boss battles are a still image of a monster bobbing up and down with occasional slashing graphics. It’s a shame that this trilogy wasn’t released for mobile, as they’re perfect time killers (No doubt Atlus dodged mobile to charge full price from die hard fans).
And if you’re not a diehard fan, be warned that the three games are all very similar. The big difference between the games is not the location, but only the classes that your party members can take. These classes are all charming and unique, and each game has unique encounters, choices and locations, but try one before you buy them all. And they all include heavy grinding. Delving too deep or fighting bosses too soon will wipe you out, regardless of skill or strategy, and wipe outs roll back your progress. The loop of diving, looting, returning, and upgrading your gear is the majority of the game– it is truly some classic dungeoneering, but it’s not for everyone.
But even if the games were better suited to the DS’s portability and limited hardware, the remastering work that Atlus has done is wholly welcome. The added menu options are nice, the soundtrack is lovely, and more character portraits are always good (though the customisation is still painfully limited). But what’s even better is that the Fans can play these games again without resorting to tracking down game cards on eBay and the like. If you’ve been waiting to try the Etrian Odyssey series, these aren’t the most advanced offerings, but they’re solid and the easiest to access.
If you’re a fan who’s been waiting to get the Etrian Odyssey games on a modern console, it’s worth grabbing one– the one with your favourite classes, or simply the third one for its added sea exploration. But unless you’re well-acquainted with the grinding and mapping, or have just forgotten how stagnant the gameplay can be, you’ll likely be disappointed by how sparse the excitement is.