The original Etrian Odyssey was released on the Nintendo DS in 2007. Considering it is playable on all Nintendo DS and 3DS systems, it seems a bit unusual that it was chosen to be remade, and yet here we are. Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl for the 3DS builds upon the original with a new story mode, updated graphics and many of the “convenience” features of Etrian Odyssey IV. The end result is a first person dungeon crawling JRPG that is a bit more welcoming to newcomers than the other more hardcore games of the genre, but which also has options for those players seeking a challenge.
New Game or Old Game
When starting a new game in Etrian Odyssey Untold for the first time, the player is given a choice between two very important options: Classic mode or Story mode. Considering there is only one save file, it’s really a tough choice, though after completing the game it is possible to start a new game on the other mode while importing nearly everything from the previous game.
Classic mode plays a lot like the original Etrian Odyssey and the other games in the series. The player can create new characters while choosing from 9 classes and can then take up to 5 characters to explore the labyrinth. Any additional created characters will wait in town and can be swapped in and out of the party freely.
In Story mode the entire party is made up of predesigned characters, and there is no way to create new characters from scratch. The player is stuck with these 5 characters throughout the whole game, and cannot change their class until the characters reach level 30. I managed to complete Story mode without changing classes at all, though I did so on the Standard difficulty setting.
There are three difficulty settings that can be changed at any time: Picnic makes combat much easier and allows the player to continue if wiped out; Standard is the recommended setting for most players that are familiar with RPGs and allows only one continue per trip to the dungeon before the game ends and it’s back to the title screen; and Expert is the choice for hardcore gamers and diehard fans of the series, featuring the most difficult enemy encounters and an instant boot back to the title screen if the party is wiped out.
As a newcomer to the series but a lifetime fan of RPGs, I found the Standard difficulty to be perfectly manageable. I was wiped out a few times along the way, but the one continue was great for preventing frustration. It was usually easy enough to escape the dungeon before hitting the real game over screen if I was playing smart—meaning if I remembered to bring along an Ariadne Thread to instantly get warped back to town. I was fortunate to only lose progress due to a real game over once in the entire time I spent with the main storyline.
A Good Enough Story
The five characters of Story mode are developed in a traditional JRPG manner through animated cutscenes and dialogue boxes. There is even a bit of spoken dialogue, though the game is by no means fully voiced. Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl tells the story of a player-named hero who receives a request to investigate an “abnormality” in the city of Etria that is causing earthquakes. While exploring the Yggdrasil Labyrinth he discovers a connection to some mysterious ruins. There he meets three researchers—Raquna, Arthur and Simon—and a mysterious girl with amnesia—Frederica—who join him on his quest to find the source of the quakes.
It’s a passable storyline with a few emotional moments, but I did not find the characters interesting enough or the overall plot engaging enough to develop any real attachment. It is a very typical JRPG storyline, so many of the plot twists are predictable (especially towards the end of the game), and there is always that sense of having done this all before while playing through the game. That goes not only for the storyline, but for the battle engine as well.
Calm Bats is Tim
The genre’s most tried and true battle engine is back in Etrian Odyssey Untold. Turn-based is the name of the game, and for better or worse, it is what it always was and always will be: enter your characters’ commands and watch what happens.
Whether or not you are sick and tired of this type of battle engine will be a major factor in how much you can enjoy the game. If JRPGs are your bread and butter, you might have a lot of fun leveling up your characters, learning the skills that are unique to each class, arranging your party into the front and back rows, acquiring tons of gear to make them stronger and fighting through hordes of progressively more difficult enemies. But if you aren’t a fan of the genre or if you’ve played one JRPG too many, there is little in Etrian Odyssey Untold that will kindle your interest.
One thing that makes this battle engine a bit different from other games is that certain abilities can bind specific parts of the monsters’ bodies, such as the arms or legs, making them unable to use certain abilities. For example, an enemy that has a powerful headbutt attack won’t be able to use it if their head is bound. Of course, the same thing can happen to your own characters, preventing them from using skills. Your characters can also occasionally activate a “boost” so that their next action is more powerful, and there are also elemental and weapon types which enemies can be weak or resistant to, providing a bit of extra depth to certain encounters.
There is also a feature that allows characters to use weapons and abilities that are normally unavailable to their class and/or abilities that are used by monsters. Randomly during combat (but more frequently against difficult enemies) a Grimoire Chance will occur for a specific character. If it does, there is a possibility that the character will create a Grimoire Stone after combat is over. The stone can be equipped while in town and will contain abilities that the character was capable of using or abilities belonging to the monster the character attacked during the turn with the Grimoire Chance. It also may allow a character to equip a normally unusable weapon type.
Not only that, but three Grimoire Stones can be combined through a synthesis system. The first stone selected determines the number of skill slots on the resulting stone. Then, abilities can be selected from both the first and second stones to fill the skill slots. The third stone will not provide any skills, but instead determines which weapon type can be used by characters equipped with the new stone created by the combination.
If this all sounds very in depth and interesting, well, it is and it isn’t. I got very little use out of the Grimoire Stones on my Standard difficulty Story mode playthrough. The default classes and the abilities they can unlock without the use of these stones is more than enough to get through the game. But more importantly, the system itself is cumbersome and frustrating. First of all there is no way to see what abilities are in a stone until the stone is returned to town, but until then, the stones occupy valuable inventory space. Second, the synthesis system is explained once, but if you don’t absorb all of the information given the first time around, it can quickly become confusing. Third, the majority of the stones only have one or two skill slots, so there really isn’t a lot of room to work with. I imagine that playing on Classic mode or on the Expert difficulty would force the player to explore the depth of this system, but for me, it was largely unnecessary.
A Forest with 30 Floors?
So I spent less time fussing with Grimoire Stones and more time focused on exploring the labyrinth, one floor after another. The Yggdrasil Labyrinth is divided into 6 stratums. Each stratum is set to a different theme and is 5 floors each, with each floor being a maze unto itself. To help avoid getting lost, the player can draw a map using the stylus or enable a convenient auto-mapping system that will draw the walls and floors for each tile the player steps on. There are a variety of icons that can be placed on the map, such as staircases, arrows to represent one-way doors or sparkles for a tile that might provide healing. There is also a special red triangle that can be placed in the corner of a tile over other icons which the player can attach a few words of text to. This is handy when finding side quest objectives before actually beginning the side quest or for taking note of important locations worth revisiting later.
I’m at odds with the mapping system. On one hand, it may be an important factor in how addicting exploring the labyrinth can be. I often found myself forsaking my bedtime while obsessively trying to finish drawing a floor. On the other hand, I’m not sure if doing that was more fun or tedious. I might have been happier with a “line of sight” auto-mapper that could fill in whole rooms or hallways at a time, leaving only the secret doors for the player to discover. The compromise provided is better than nothing, and it certainly beats drawing maps on graph paper like I did in the 80s. Still, I’m not sure if manual mapping makes this game better or worse.
Fortunately, almost every floor in the game provides something new to discover. For example, the second floor introduces FOEs. Unlike most enemies that are encountered randomly while walking around, FOEs are tougher monsters that actually appear on the map. FOEs are governed by certain rules of movement. Some of them patrol in a specific pattern, some do not move at all, but charge if you remain in their line of sight for too long, and others will chase after you if you are spotted. Whether or not the time is right to actually fight these monsters is a decision left to the player. Sometimes it’s best to avoid all of the FOEs on a floor, and other times, it’s easier to just defeat one than to try to avoid it. In many cases FOEs will drastically overpower the player when first encountered, providing a real enough threat to encourage careful play. It’s also quite rewarding to go back and finally defeat these monsters later in the game.
Deeper in the labyrinth of Etrian Odyssey Untold are all sorts of other obstacles. There are pitfalls, moving floors, damage tiles, locked doors and dozens of different FOEs to keep things interesting. There are also a ton of side quests that provide plenty of reason to go back to previously visited floors and to discover all of their secrets. To make this easier, the player can instantly move to any staircase belonging to an area of a floor that has already been cleared. While genre purists might consider this sacrilege, I was more than happy to skip through all of the redundant backtracking that is so prevalent in other games of this genre.
There are also occasional events that occur throughout the game. The player may stumble upon some berries and will have to decide who will eat them. It’s really a matter of luck whether or not they heal or hurt that character. Most of these events will trigger a battle, cause some damage, or heal the character(s) involved. Then there are all of the hidden treasure chests and secret rooms. A diligent and thorough player will be well rewarded for their efforts. All and all, the Yggdrasil Labyrinth is well crafted and is worth exploring fully.
While exploring, it’s easy to appreciate the efforts made to improve the visual quality of the game. Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl looks great across the board. The character art is enjoyable, the menus are clean and the animated cutscenes get the job done. The Labyrinth itself also looks great, though I would have appreciated a bit more variety in the tiles which repeat themselves a bit too frequently (but this is not unusual for the genre). The 3D models used for the monsters during combat are well animated, and though the player’s characters are not seen, the special effects produced by their abilities are fun to watch nonetheless.
The music also fits the atmosphere of the game perfectly, and though the soundtrack isn’t particularly memorable, each track suits the scene it is played to. Having grown up on 8 and 16-bit soundtracks I am glad that they included an option to switch between the arranged soundtrack and synth. The voice acting is pretty good too. It is used sparingly in cutscenes, but surprisingly frequently during general gameplay. For example, one of the characters always warns that monsters are close before a random encounter, and someone usually speaks up if there is a secret nearby.
Honestly, my biggest gripe with the game is that there is only one save slot. I would have preferred to spend some time with Classic mode, but I didn’t want to give up my Story mode progress in order to do so. After finishing the game, the 6th stratum is unlocked and includes a more difficult version of the boss of the game, so there is plenty of reason to keep playing instead of starting over. Starting a new game allows you to keep your old party members, Grimoires, money, maps and pretty much everything else… the one thing you don’t get to keep is your end-game save file, and it’s frustrating. In this day and age of 64 GB micro SD cards there is really no excuse for this.
But putting that aside, Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is a good first person dungeon crawling JRPG. It doesn’t have the strongest storyline or the greatest characters, but it does have a massive and varied dungeon to explore, and plenty of replay value for fans of the genre thanks to the multiple difficulty settings, 9 character classes and two game modes. Assuming you’re not completely done with turn-based combat, random encounters or first person dungeon crawling, you should enjoy playing this game. Fans of the series should play it too, including those that have played the original game this is based off of since the dungeon is completely new. I’d even suggest it for players new to the genre as there are a ton of options to ease the learning curve.
Give Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl a try and you may find yourself quite addicted and drawing maps until the sun comes up.
Ari completed Story mode in 43 hours and completed more than half of the game’s side quests. He received a copy of the game from Atlus for review purposes.
+ Accessibility features reduce tedium associated with genre
+ Massive labyrinth to explore with a large variety of content
+ Great visual and aural presentation
-Only 1 save slot
-Predictable Storyline with a ho-hum cast
-Old battle engine is old
Available on: 3DS
Version Reviewed: 3DS