|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: ChunSoft||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 9, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
December 14, 2009 - Shiren the Wanderer is a franchise that has been around for quite some time. Known as one of the first rougelike dungeon-crawlers, Shiren the Wanderer has gained a loyal fan following around the world. First released in 1995, the classic, hardcore roguelike was re-relased last year for the Nintendo DS. However, for the first time since its debut, Shiren the Wanderer is getting a proper sequel, and this time the follow-up has something that the original never had... a plot!
Anyone who played the original Shiren the Wanderer (either on the SNES or the Nintendo DS) knows that the premise of the game was basically for the main character to find treasure... and that was it. No sweeping story of love, romance, or camaraderie; just a directive, and lots and lots of randomly-generated floors. Fortunately, the new Shiren the Wanderer will have a sweeping plot that incorporates plenty of Japanese lore, and follows Shiren through a 1000 year long adventure filled with twists, turns, and time travel. The decision to create a plot for Shiren the Wanderer is a great new development for the series, as it will certainly ignite some more mainstream interest in the title. It'll also keep frustrated players in the game so the plot can advance.
Another aspect of the new Shiren the Wanderer that will help attract a wide variety of gamers is the modified dungeon-crawling mechanics. The original Shiren was both loved and hated for its insanely harsh failure conditions. Basically, under the old system, if Shiren died in a dungeon, not only did he lose all his armor and items, but he also went back to level 1 and would have to grind though easier dungeons again. Only after several hours could he then attempt the dungeon where the death occurred again.
However, the new Shiren the Wanderer will have scalable difficulty with more forgiving failure consequences. The easy difficulty setting is the most liberal, and will allow failed characters to keep their items, weapons, and skill level back into the dungeon. The normal difficulty level will allow the characters to keep their skill level, but all of the weapons and items they were carrying will disappear. After you beat the game, if you want a challenge, you will be able to unlock hard mode, which features the same harsh fail consequences outlined above as in the original title.
As far as the battle system is concerned, the core mechanics will be identical to previous Shiren titles and stay true to the game's Rouguelike roots. Battles will be generated at random and enemies will move at the same rate as Shiren. However, those wanting a less hardcore experience will be happy to know that even though enemy spawns are random, enemy types and levels are not, so you don't have to worry about meeting a level nine enemy in the second or third dungeon.
As you might expect, Shiren will be able to use sword and magic skills to do battle, and each battle attribute can be leveled up through the use of special items. Dragon orbs can be found around the different dungeons and these special items will power up weapons with enhanced stats. In addition to these skill-enhancing orbs, you will also be able to use special seals that attach magical elements to your weapon. With over 100 different types of seals, it's certain that you will be able to forge plenty of unique weapons that can be used tactically in battle. However, it is not known if these seals are permanent or can be swapped out before boss battles (for tactical advantage purposes).
The dungeon-crawler is best described as a niche genre, but for what it lacks in mass appeal it makes up for in fan following. Although hardcore fans may be dismayed to hear that the format of the game is changing to make it more marketable to a wider audience, I think these concerns are unwarranted. Though you'll have to play the game on a more forgiving level the first time through, the developers have promised that the unlocked hard difficulty, as well as the post-game content will be just as difficult (if not more so) than the original Shiren. And if you are really a glutton for punishment, there will be a 1000 level dungeon included as one of the post-game challenges.
Shiren the Wanderer for the Wii looks like it will be a great combination of old franchise elements, and new ideas. The game certainly won't be for everyone, but if you like dungeon-crawlers, JRPGs, or tactics-based video games, you'll probably want to give this one a look when it releases in February!
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor