|Release: February 26, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Mild Blood, Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes|
Other parts of the game's interface show continued improvement for the series. By its nature, the game involves a lot of information processing and menu browsing. Most things are relatively easy to get to, though it will all be too much for some players. For fans of the genre, though, it's nice to see that character skill trees can now be easily browsed, and the player can get a great deal of information during battles with just a press of a button. There are a few oversights; for example, the player can check how many turns are left in running buffs for the party, but not in running debuffs placed on the enemy. Generally, though, the series has come a long way in terms of its user interface.
With the series moving to 3DS, the graphics have gained some nice upgrades as well. Along with the FOEs becoming real moving creatures instead of orange blobs, all regular monsters are now represented by 3D models during battle. They have lost a bit of the detail found in their hand-drawn predecessors, but they still have plenty of personality. Dungeon graphics are now higher-resolution and retain the highly botanical and riotously colorful themes they've had throughout the series. The game's many menus are attractively designed and are largely easy to look at.
There are still graphical improvements that could be made. It would be nice to see NPC encounters and other dungeon events shown more graphically. In addition, the environmental graphics are a bit pixellated, lending a fuzzy look to the world at large that clashes with the smooth monster designs. The 3D effect is hit or miss—it looks quite nice in the menus and on the battle screen, but is a bit dizzying while exploring the dungeons. Still, Etrian Odyssey IV is ahead of most games in its genre graphically, something it certainly deserves credit for.
Likewise, the musical score in the game is head and shoulders above most dungeon crawlers (and many games in general). This time around, it's fully orchestrated, and the pieces are gorgeous. Atlus has a winner in composer Yuzo Koshiro, and his score makes up for the fact that all other aspects of the game's sound design are completely unremarkable.
Etrian Odyssey IV won't appeal to every gamer, but the series has come a long way since its first entry. With an interesting world, the sense of adventure imparted by hot air balloon exploration, the interesting strategic choices surrounding the FOEs, and the fun of literally charting a course through the dungeons, there's a lot to recommend about this game.
Gamers who tried the series earlier and found it too tedious or difficult might want to give it another try with this game. Casual Mode is a godsend for anybody who wants to have a good time exploring the labyrinths without having to grind too much, and the game's many strong points have elevated Etrian Odyssey to the best dungeon crawling series around. Fans of the dungeon crawling genre will love it, and newbies who are intrigued by the concept will find no better introduction to this kind of game than Etrian Odyssey IV in Casual Mode.
Date: February 28, 2013