Saturday, August 6, 2022

Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight

A Knight to Remember

When I played the original Etrian Odyssey, the series known in its native Japan as Sekaiju no MeiQ (“MeiQ” a stylized form of “meikyuu”, Japanese for “labyrinth”, the full translation being “Labyrinth of the World Tree”), on the Nintendo DS, I didn’t have any expectations other than a chance to experience an old-school Japanese RPG. While it did have its flaws, I enjoyed it enough to the point where I played its sequels, not to mention remakes of the first two games on the 3DS, Etrian Odyssey Untold and Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight, the rereleases giving players the option of an experience akin to the originals or one with fleshed-out characters.

The second Etrian Odyssey’s remake focuses on the eponymous Fafnir Knight whom the player names, dispatched from the Midgard Library to High Lagaard to help the Duke of Caledonia’s daughter, Arianna, in her quest to complete a ritual in ancient ruins known as Ginnungagap, whilst exploring a labyrinth along with four deuteragonists. The game generally weaves its narrative well, with the five main characters, including the Fafnir Knight, getting good development, with supplemental cutscenes triggered occasionally when sleeping at the inn, and some interesting substories, one involving a hedgehog who appears in the various Stratums of the labyrinth. There are some derivative elements such as a girl who needs to perform a ritual, but otherwise, the plot helps far more than hurts.

The translation is legible and doesn’t mar the narrative, but while there aren’t any noticeable spelling or grammar errors, and the Norse-mythological naming is a nice touch, there are many questionable choices regarding dialogue, particularly that accompanied by voices. During cutscenes, for one, the deuteragonists get a lot of voice clips, and while many aren’t bad, there are some odd ones such as Arianna’s frequent “My!”, and for a few of the optional quests, the localization team mistranslated some of the goals. Battles get the worst dialogue, with most sounding horribly unnatural and occasionally mismatched, although there are a few vocal indicators of enemy weaknesses and hidden elements during dungeon navigation. Regardless, Atlus has certainly done better in the localization department.

Luckily, the game mechanics largely compensate for whatever translational shortcomings the second Etrian Odyssey Untold game has. Whilst navigating the multilayered labyrinth, a circular indicator gradually turns from blue to red depending upon how close the player is to encountering enemies, with battles naturally triggered afterward. The player’s party, organizable into three front-row and two back-row characters or vice versa, faces off against a number of enemies in similar organizations, each character having a number of means by which they can face off against their foes, including attacking with their equipped weapon, using a TP-consuming ability, defending to reduce damage, using an item, changing their current position, or attempting to escape.

After the player has inputted their characters’ commands, they and the enemy exchange blows in a turn order dependent upon agility, akin to classic Japanese turn-based RPGs. Despite this structure, turn order isn’t actually terribly critical to victory or defeat, with one of the playable characters, Chloe the War Magus, having healing spells that activate once for an individual, line, or all characters at the start of a turn, and again at the end of a round, which really spares frustration. The elimination of all adversaries nets all surviving characters experience for occasional level-ups and most of the time materials that the player can sell at the local shop both for money and to unlock new equipment and consumables for purchase.

Leveling also nets the Fafnir Knight and his party points they can invest into the respective skill trees of their current classes, with the investment of a certain number of points in lower-level skills necessary to unlock advanced active and passive abilities. Should the player yearn to experiment with different classes, they can have characters drop five experience levels in exchange for the ability to invest refunded points into the new class’s skill tree. Luckily, the game is perfectly beatable even without experimenting in different classes, and starting a new game gives players various difficulty selections that dictate how the remake handles death, thus accommodating gamers of divergent skill levels.

Another aspect is the ability of characters, when they fill respective gauges, to go into “Force Mode” with enhanced capability and the chance to execute powerful “Break” skills that necessitate the player stay at the town inn to become usable again. Enemies further drop food byproducts that players can use as cooking ingredients at the local restaurant, giving the party bonuses in the labyrinth until they return to town. In battle, furthermore, characters simply acting may spawn Grimoire Stones they can equip at the restaurant for bonuses to whatever skill tree abilities they’ve unlocked, and a few monsters may be “shining” and give experience bonuses when killed, provided they don’t run away during an encounter.

FOEs from other entries of the Etrian franchise return, visible in each floor of the labyrinth, attempting to charge the player’s party whenever noticed. Typically, fighting them isn’t a good recommendation (although they are certainly beatable, at least on the Picnic difficulty), and there’s usually a pattern to avoiding them. However, later on in the game, there’s very little room for error when it comes to evading FOEs, which is probably the biggest issue with the game mechanics, which otherwise work incredibly well, given especially the adjustable speed of combat that can make even daunting battles against enemies such as bosses go by quickly.

The intricate mapping system from other games in the series returns, with a choice in customization options of whether to map walls and tiles automatically, although players would still need to fill out things such as doors, secret passages (with voiced characters luckily indicating these when they’re adjacent), and other details. The menus themselves are generally straightforward, along with other features such as a suspend save outside combat, skippable text, clear direction for the central storyline, the ability to sell multiple items at once (very helpful regarding the materials players gain from battles), and so on. However, Atlus has been really bad about making in-game playtime viewable only after saving, and players can’t see how armaments they wish to sell affect character stats before actually selling them, but otherwise, the second Etrian Odyssey Untold interfaces well with users.

Yuzo Koshiro, as in the game’s originally incarnation, composed and remixes the soundtrack, which is as before one of the highlights, given its diverse style ranging from the peaceful labyrinth stratum themes that at times resemble easy-listening music to the energetic battle tracks, players able to choose between orchestrated and digitized versions of the sundry melodies. However, while the voicework is, as mentioned, sometimes helpful in finding labyrinth shortcuts and time to time reminds players of enemy weaknesses in battle, the frequent abridged voice clips during story scenes, along with the voicework in battle that often sounds asinine and unnatural, it can often grate on players.

The visual style serves the remake well, with superb character designs that are most noticeable during cutscenes, the portraits showing different emotions and having nice effects such as blinking eyes. The labyrinth environments are nice and colorful as well, with good lighting and darkness effects depending upon the in-game time of the day, and the FOEs appear without combat just as they do within instead of as the purple orbs in the original versions of the first two and the third mainline Etrian Odysseys. However, battles are still in first-person, but the enemies, some of which but not all are reskins, contain nice animations, with the effects of the player’s party nice as well. Generally, a great-looking game.

Finally, the main quest of the second remake is fairly short, this reviewer able to complete it in around twenty hours or so, albeit with plentiful lasting appeal in the form of the sundry sidequests (though quite a few may necessitate use of a guide, especially completing the in-game compendia), a New Game+, and both the Story and Classical Modes of gameplay.

In summation, Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold is, for the most part, what a videogame remake should be, given the intricate fine-tuning of the agile game mechanics, the engrossing mapping system, tight control, endearing narrative, excellent soundtrack with a choice between classic and modern styles, and pretty graphics. Granted, it does have a few hiccups regarding its derivative narrative, the unrefined translation that’s at its worst in combat, and a few irritating voice performances, but those that can look past these will be in for a great old-school-style roleplaying game experience, and one of the crown jewels of the Etrian franchise that has since concluded on the 3DS with Nexus.

The Good:
+Quick, tight battle mechanics.
+Intricate mapping system.
+Well-developed storyline.
+Superb soundtrack.
+Good visual style.
+Plentiful lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Story somewhat derivative.
-Localization feels unrefined.
-Some annoying voices.

The Bottom Line:
A great remake like its predecessor.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Mechanics: 9.5/10
Controls: 9.5/10
Story: 8.5/10
Localization: 8.0/10
Music/Sound: 9.0/10
Graphics: 9.0/10
Lasting Appeal: 9.5/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: Less than 24 Hours

Overall: 9.0/10

No comments:

Post a Comment