I hate Etrian Mystery Dungeon.
Wait, no, that sounds bad. Let me try that again.
I hate everything about Etrian Mystery Dungon.
Let’s break that one down.
I Hate Rogue-Likes
This one is a biggie, and I realize I might be in the minority here. Actually, scratch that, considering the rogue-like genre languished for a solid twenty years of gaming history, I might actually be in the majority in not liking “rogue-like features”. Granted, rogues seem to have made a comeback in recent years (as rogues are wont to do), or maybe that’s just the latest trend in bullet points, like “over 80 hours of gameplay”, “contains RPG features”, or “a giant, open world”.
If you’re unfamiliar with the rogue-like genre, it goes something like this: you are an adventurer, and you’re going to explore some dungeons. The dungeons are usually randomly generated, and, rather than reconnoitering a carefully planned dungeon like one might find in a Zelda or Final Fantasy, you’re stuck with a completely different, completely random experience every time. This haphazardness pairs poorly with the other big draw of the rogue-like: death matters. While death is generally only an inconvenience in practically every videogame available, death in a rogue-like can often be devastating. For today’s game, death in a dungeon means losing all of your items (discovered treasures and purchased items) and cash. And, while hobos might seem like the ideal dungeon explorers, it turns out that money even makes spelunking go ‘round. In short, death has a greater sting in a rouge-like, and a randomly generated dungeon with a randomly generated super rock monster is going to lead to a lot of headaches.
And I loathe this kind of punishment. I’ve mentioned this before, but I play videogames to escape from real life. No, I suppose that terminology is a little off. It’s not so much that I want to flee from reality, I just want a reality with a few more… amenities. I’m a hoarder. I’m a hoarder by nature, and I despise how every facet of biology does not deal well with this desire. I would like nothing more than to visit an Golden Corral, devour seventeen pounds of hush puppies, and then not have to worry about eating for the rest of the month. But noooooo, the human body can’t deal with that for some stupid reason, and I have to eat every five hours like a caveman. Back in the day, we didn’t even have refrigerators, and we had to eat food when it was immediately available, or starve to death. Who has time for that? Not me. All of human history has been about making life more convenient, and preventing time lost. Rogue-likes… not so much.
I play videogames to experience magical fantasy worlds where I can keep a megalixer in my inventory until ten years after I’m dead, and my descendants finally decide to use it on that one super boss (lousy ungrateful children). I don’t play videogames to lose all my precious possessions to some stupid ape dork that managed to keep scoring criticals while I missed thirty times in a row.
Though while I’m on the topic of pathological hording…
I Hate Inventory Management
I want everything at all times. I currently live in a world where, at the press of a button, I can have a delicious bread bowl filled with alfredo sauce and pineapple delivered to my door slightly ahead of my seventeen Amazon orders for books that were first published two hundred years ago. And while I’m doing that, I can download every Mega Man game ever made, assuming I haven’t already downloaded every Mega Man game ever made. The only thing that might wind up being an issue is that I may have already downloaded a hundred games I’m never going to play, so I filled up my hard drive. But no big! I can just buy a bigger hard drive, and we’re back in business! No need to clean out the fridge when you’ve got a bigger one on layaway. All the everything! All for me! MINE!
Etrian Mystery Dungeon has a limited inventory. You can initially stow only thirty items, but that number can be increased by a paltry ten or so at a time. How is that helpful at all? Have you ever explored a dungeon before? Been down to the Marsh Cave? I usually carry 99 antidotes, and only two monsters actually use poison attacks! But ooooh no, that’s not allowed in EMD. Despite the fact that you could encounter anything down there, you’re stuck with your meager inventory bag, and if you decided to go for a revive-on-the-last-floor item (in anticipation of a deadly boss) instead of a simple potion (to recover from a surprisingly difficult creature on a higher floor), you may be screwed before you even breach the dungeon’s maw.
I realize that some people enjoy inventory management, but those people are the same kind of twisted freaks that are capable of packing a suitcase while avoiding what is best described as a “clothesplosion”. I was a Boy Scout, I like to be prepared for everything, and when I have to choose between holding on to a delicious box lunch or grabbing some fresh treasure, my mind completely shuts down. I wake up a day later, my 3DS’s battery has been drained, and I’m not wearing pants anymore for some reason. Don’t put me in that situation, EMD! I’m running low on pants!
I Hate Grids
Videogames are a lie. I know that. Mario can’t really fly, he’s always going to hit the top of the scroll, and that’s as high as that raccoon-man goes. Link doesn’t really have the ability to explore an entire world, there’s always going to be an edge he can’t surpass. And even in JRPGs where you obtain an airship or flying dragon or magical balloon or whatever, the looping world is a complete hoax, and you’re actually traversing a planet that, were it actually scale, would be no larger than a watermelon. But the good games, the Marios, Zeldas, and Final Fantasies, trick the player’s stupid ape brain into thinking there is a vast, magical world out there. The first time you hit the world map in Final Fantasy 7, everything feels so massive! … It’s a complete lie, but that feeling of exploring an entire world is there.
Grids are the opposite of that. EMD divides every dungeon into a chessboard, and the seams of the universe show immediately. What could be vast, unexplored labyrinths quickly become “levels”, and… that’s it. You’re playing a videogame with little videogame people. You’re killing time. You’re not exploring, you’re moving pieces on a game board. May as well be playing Chutes and Ladders, you time wasting child.
Yes, the grid system does make exploration more straightforward, but I hate it all the same.
I Hate Anime
Okay, that’s a lie. The record will show that I have a very high tolerance for anime bullshit. But that’s probably because I like anime when I know I’m getting anime. If I cue up Attack on Titan or K-ON, I pretty much know what kind of experience I’m going to get (though I admit, I would watch the mash-up Attack on K-ON). It’s kind of like… Hm… I don’t eat doughnuts every day, and doughnuts are delicious, but if I were eating doughnuts, I wouldn’t want a big piece of steak sticking out of my bear claw. These are not two tastes that go great together.
And you know what else doesn’t go great together? Sexual dimorphism.
I am perfectly okay with a game where you play as 12 year old girls. I am also okay with a game where you play as dungeon dudes. However, I am not okay with Etrian Mystery Dungeon, wherein all the boys are ready and willing dungeon dudes, and all the girls are underdressed, prepubescent gigantic eyeball delivery homunculi. It is… off-putting. And yes, I can see those giant eyeballs on the cover, I knew what I was in for, but seeing a male medic that is all cool and ready for healing times next to a female medic that decided a dungeon would be an appropriate place for adorable striped socks… it’s… not good. I hate it.
I hate Etrian Mystery Dungeon. It’s entirely possible the game gets more fun, interesting, and playable as time goes on, but after playing for a few hours, I dropped the wretched thing. I don’t like EMD’s core components. This game simply isn’t for me. It looks like there’s more than meets the eye to this adventure… but I’ll never see it.
And I hate that.
FGC #308 Etrian Mystery Dungeon
- System: Nintendo 3DS. I have to say that the dual screen map thing will be missed whenever the 3DS finally retires.
- Number of players: One person controls a four-people party. No, you can’t make them all fight each other for your amusement. I hate
- Say something nice: The localization is pretty choice. This could easily be another “straight outta Japan” release that offers the most cursory of translations, but the people in the EMD world seem welcoming (and human) enough.
- Goggle Bob’s proposed franchise mash-up alternative: Etrian Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
- Favorite Class: Sovereign is just weird enough to be my favorite. Why would you take your royalty into a dungeon? To bark orders and keep morale up, obviously. Usually I prefer something with a little more battling oomph, but I have a hard time taking any of the physical classes seriously in a game with these ridiculous anime faces.
- Did you know? The Wanderer class is based on the hero of the rogue-like genre, Shiren the Wanderer. This is also the only class in the game where the female version doesn’t set off alarm bells. Okay, maybe the Protector sneaks in there, too.
- Would I play again: This isn’t a bad game, it’s just a bad game for Goggle Bob. I can’t stand so much of this game, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. I simply won’t enjoy it. Ever.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Excitebike for the NES! Vrooooooooooooooom! Please look forward to it!
Eye of the beholder, dude. Many of the things you hate about Etrian Mystery Dungeon are things I like about rogue-likes.
Lose most or all your progress on death? Keeps the game challenging and makes for a more arcade-like RPG experience. Limited inventory? Promotes ACTUALLY USING your items to survive instead of hoarding it like a pack rat, ‘cuz one wrong move could cost you everything and there’s no guarantee you can get that sword to the nearest warehouse to stay in smithing limbo until you take it out and some asshole sends it flying off into space. Grid-based combat? Well, it’s more about the chess game than the immersion, and a good rogue-like will make good use of the board pieces (traps, monsters, items, NPCs) the player can interact with.
Totally agree on EMD (and Etrian Odyssey in general) being stupid in the character designs department, though. I’d like to have some more female options that take the dungeoneering thing seriously, and less that look like they’re going to a kindergarten brothel. =/
*digs up FGC grave*
I’ve been playing Etrian Mystery Dungeon for about a week now, and just as I thought this hole was made for me. Some thoughts and counterpoints…
I know you said you don’t like inventory management, but in comparison to other Mystery Dungeon games I’ve played I honestly feel like I have too much room for shit. Like, you have a separate bag with infinite space for the crafting goods that would go in the same bag as your usual items in a proper Etrian Odyssey, and I haven’t even reached the item cap in my normal item bag.
Of course, I also tend to use items as I need them instead of hoarding everything, because I’ve played a number of roguelikes and I know I can easily lose all my wares forever. Losing one sleep or confusion scroll is better than losing them and everything else onhand. And aside from a few things I know I may absolutely need (i.e. Ariadne threads, sealing sigils, the ever handy Yggdrasil leaves) I sell off stuff after a dungeon, too. Got to fund those town upgrades somehow, and I know that next dungeon will throw another pile of goodies my way.
Equipment, though…I haven’t had a loss yet (Thanks Yggdrasil leaves!), but I definitely get how dying would be a major kick in the ass. I can just store my nest egg at Kasumi’s Inn, but I’ve got a lot of my members suited up with some pretty nice gear, and given how much more work goes into suiting up your party I’m sure a loss will be much more devastating here than in, say, Shiren the Wanderer. And the really nice stuff costs a lot more than your average Etrian Odyssey, too.
Last but not least, personally I’d also count the Gunner and Runemaster among the female designs that don’t set off alarm bells. They’re younger than their male counterparts but they’re not “Kindergarten Hexer” or “You’re Going To Fucking Jail If You Choose Her Dancer” young, and their outfits are mostly similar to their male counterparts.