Let me preface this by saying that dungeon-based gameplay is in no way well-suited to casual or even regular-level gamers. And no, I’m not referring in any way to the Pokemon: Mysterious Dungeon games; those were dungeon-like, but definitely do not represent the true Roguelike essence of the genre. And that essence is difficult, time-consuming, and requires a great deal of commitment from anyone brave enough to try to attempt it. Not to say that it isn’t fun, but I’m just warning you beforehand. Don’t even bother trying to play this game unless you’ve got a thick skin.
That being said, Mysterious Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer is a port of an old-school game for the SNES. The way this game works is by starting you off on a journey. You begin in a town and from there proceed through many randomly selected dungeons of varying difficulty levels. You go through all of these dungeons exploring the terrain, fighting various monsters and bad guys, and talking to people you meet. The battle system is touted as something akin to chess, although I would liken it more to checkers. It is turn-based, but with a twist: everything you do counts as a turn and gives your enemies a chance to strike. Every step you take literally counts as a turn, and while this is definitely an interesting approach to the gameplay, it makes certain tasks impossible. For instance, if you run into an enemy with long range attacks where every step you take counts as a turn, you can’t run away because the monster will hit you every time you take a step, and you’ll probably die.
And dying in this game is extremely harsh. Have you ever been frustrated after dying in a game and having to start over at the beginning of a level? Well, that doesn’t happen in this game. In Mysterious Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer, you start over at the beginning of the entire GAME. You have no items, you are at level one, and trust me you’ll feel just a little rage. Especially if you have put upwards of ten hours into your dungeon-wandering travels (which is entirely possible), the whole start-from-beginning thing is enough to make you put down the game and never come back. It is worth mentioning that there is a “rescue mode,” which allows you to connect to Nintendo Wi-Fi where it will match you with someone who is online and has gone through the same dungeon you have gotten yourself stuck in, and gone back to the beginning of the game (without dying) and has decided to act benevolently instead of pursuing further success in the game. And let me tell you, there’s not many of these people. I waited about an hour for a rescue and no one ever showed up. Although the good news is that if you have a friend you can call up that can rescue you, then you can enter their friend code. But if you are relying on the kindness of others, then you may find yourself rather disappointed.
Other than some of the inherent challenges of the dungeon-style of gameplay, Mysterious Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer is a pretty fun game. Once you develop a strategy for staying alive (my suggestion is to stock up on arrows so you don’t have to waste turns on moving), the game is pretty fun. There’s no real conducive story; you’re just wandering around in search of a mythical being that can grant wishes, bring peace to the world, etc. And if you don’t have a constant fear of death, you’ll probably get a kick out of all of the mini-quests and side missions that you can perform in addition to your wandering. There’s actually quite a lot to this game, if you have the gumption to take it on.
Pretty much everything about this title recalls the familiar feeling of the SNES. The graphics are pretty basic and use sprites for the main characters. Environments and characters all look like they were taken straight from the SNES title, which is great for those who pick up this title for its vintage value. The sound in the game is also very vintage-feeling, and though I’ve ever played the original SNES title, I’m fairly sure that the score is the same.
Controls in this game are pretty straightforward and utilize the d-pad for moving around and the face buttons for attacking and checking inventory. The only thing that was a little weird about the controls was that when you have an arrow equipped you have to use the left shoulder to attack instead of the usual face button. The other shoulder button has a somewhat strange function as well. It gives you the ability to move diagonally. Can’t say I really understand some of these controls, but I suppose once you get used to them, then you’ll be alright.
Overall, I enjoyed Mysterious Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer. Until I died. And then I hated it like nothing else. It’s a very difficult game simply because the prospect of death is such an overpowering force in the game that it literally changes the way you play. I found myself playing extremely defensively and avoiding side quests or chances to level up because I was just so terrified of death and having to start all over. But if you laugh in the face of death and have no qualms about putting several hours into a game just to start again from the very beginning, then you’ll probably get some enjoyment out of this title. If not, then you may want to run away from Shiren the Wanderer.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
Sprites and environments look okay, but it’s definitely not the best graphics on the DS. 3.9 Control
Fairly easy to use, however, using the shoulder buttons for arrows and diagonal movement feels a little weird. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Very cute score is great for nostalgia value…and that is about it. No voiceovers or substantial sound effects. 3.3
It’s really fun to play, but because of the dungeon-based component and steep death consequences you’ve got to be willing to make a commitment. Not for the faint of heart, Shiren the Wanderer is a great game for hardcore RPG fans that have no fear of death.
3.3 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.