Shiren the Wanderer is a classic rogue-like mystery dungeon series that has a long list of games available in Japan, unfortunately not many of them have been localized for the West. The latest game in the series was released for the PS Vita in Japan in 2015. It is actually an expanded version of the DS game that was released in 2010 for Japan. The PS Vita version of Shiren the Wanderer has made its way to the West thanks to the localization efforts of Aksys Games.
I haven’t really played many mysterious dungeons game before aside from Chocobo’s Dungeon. It was a game that featured various creatures from the Final Fantasy universe and the main protagonist was a regular Chocobo. The game was also famous for its CG cutscenes that were shown during some of the key story segments. Needless to say, it was my first introduction to the mystery dungeon genre and despite that, jumping straight into Shiren the Wonderer, I had no difficulty in understanding the gameplay mechanics.
The first thing that we will notice once we start the game is its art style. The game is full of gorgeous 2D sprite work that truly shines on the OLED screen of the PS Vita. Couple that with a gameplay that revolves around exploring and discovering dungeons and you have a game that is perfect fit for a handheld.
The story in Shiren the Wanderer takes a backseat while the gameplay remains the main priority. The player takes control of the main protagonist called ‘Shiren’ who has a talking ferret as a sidekick. While Shiren will remain silent throughout the game, his sidekick, ‘Koppa’ will take part in the conversation with NPCs. The story focuses on the journey of Shiren and Koppa to the Tower of Fortune.
Aside from exploring mystery dungeons, we will be able to visit some villages that offer the player a nice break from the exploration. They act as a checkpoint that allow us to maintain our inventory, get new items and take part in various activities including mini-games that have their own set of rewards and unlocks.
To be honest, it is pretty easy to get lost in the world of Shiren the Wanderer. There is a lot to do once we finish our first dungeon so those who prefer to explore everything will have their hands full with the side content. There is also a lengthy tutorial that goes in detail over almost every aspect of the gameplay. It might take a while but it teaches valuable lessons and tips that can come handy during some of the difficult combat encounters.
What captivated me in the game was the sense of exploration and discovery. If you have played a lot of RPGs, you would hope to see your level progress being carried as you clear the horde of enemies in the dungeons, instead we have to settle down with the loot that we collected in the dungeons or the weapons that we have upgraded. This is actually not as bad as it sounds, since the weapons do get their own upgrade points once used, and there are also items that can upgrade their stats, which in turn makes the player more powerful even if we start at level 1 in a dungeon.
Shiren the Wanderer features a host of additional features that makes it stand out among other games in the genre. For starters, there is a local multiplayer and co-op mode that can add some life into the game once you are done with all the single player content. More importantly, if you die in a dungeon, you can request a player to help ‘rescue’ you in the game, and you can also do the same for others.
Dying is something that you will witness a lot in Shiren the Wanderer. The game can be easy to get into as a starter to rogue-like mystery dungeon genre, but once the main story starts, the difficulty curve can spike if the player is not prepared for their journey in the dungeons. Since you can only carry a limited set of items, you will have to rely on some short cuts in an attempt to carry more items.
In the dungeons, players not only have to worry about their health, but also their hunger, which is represented by a stat called ‘fullness’. This means that aside from keeping the health in check, we also have to keep an eye on the hunger. The hunger can be replenished by various foods while the health is auto regenerated. This might sound like a blessing but some of the tougher dungeons have enemies that can easily make short work of your health.
The combat features regular attacks in addition to magic that can be executed with staves. They all have limited use but can come handy in difficult situations when normal combat isn’t a solution. There are also other NPCs that can join the player on their quest and help in dungeons. Keep in mind that the NPC can infact be killed by the enemies so they are not invincible as it is the case with most games.
Shiren the Wanderer is a must have for fans of rogue-like mystery dungeon genre. The game has a gorgeous art style and an addictive gameplay that makes the player keep returning to the game despite the high difficulty curve.
Shiren The Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and The Dice of Fate was developed by Spike Chunsoft and published in the West by Aksys Games. This review covers the PS Vita version of the game.
Shiren The Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate Review (PSV)
Shiren the Wanderer is one of the finest rogue-like mystery dungeon game in recent years. It features a challenging difficulty but with an addicting gameplay that results in the players spending countless hours in the game trying to get the best loot.