Title (JP): Sekaiju no Meikyuu X (世界樹の迷宮X)
Title (NA): Etrian Odyssey Nexus
Publisher: Atlus (JP), Atlus USA (NA)
Release date: 2 Aug 2018 (JP), 5 Feb 2019 (NA)
This review was written based on the Japanese release of the game, and may not reflect changes made to versions released in other regions.
The sixth title in the Sekaiju no Meikyuu (localised as Etrian Odyssey in the west) main series, eighth if counting the 3DS remakes of the first two games, Sekaiju no Meikyuu X does not introduce many new things. This is, however, a good thing, as the series’ long-loved and time-proven formula bids its current format farewell with this release. X has been confirmed to be the last 3DS Sekaiju no Meikyuu game, and is a fitting send-off for the current incarnation of the series.
As a swan song for the dual-screen map-drawing format of the series, there are few major changes to the game’s fundamental system; The biggest is the addition of a world map, which is a mostly cosmetic addition. The game otherwise remains completely familiar- A traditional 3D first-person dungeon RPG with satisfyingly deep character customization, challenging battle system, interesting dungeon gimmicks, and of course, map drawing. What makes it special, however, is how it gathers elements from all of the games in the series, which ranges from system-level such as with the return of the Force system and the ability to customize colours on character portraits, battle system elements such as 18 of the 19 available starting character classes being drawn from all five previous games in the series, story-level with returning NPC characters, or the majority of the dungeons being taken from previous games. The result is an amalgamation of the good parts of the entire series, and also a nostalgia bomb for the people who have been fans of the series since the first game was released on the Nintendo DS over a decade ago.
The game sees the player as a passenger on the airship-city called the Maginia, which has arrived on the fabled island of Lemuria, where a treasure which will bring prosperity to an entire country is said to sleep. As an adventurer under the princess Persephone, the player’s guild searches this unknown island for the treasure, at times helping or being helped by fellow adventurers, and at times competing with a rival country that has also come looking for the treasure. As always, the player’s characters are completely silent aside from in-battle yells and grunts (which can be turned off if so desired), but X has an increased number of in-dungeon scripted mini-events which describe individual characters doing things, which does help convey that the characters are actually there. The story is as usual barebones, but nonetheless manages to have several great moments.
The sheer number of dungeons in X is noteworthy: There are over a dozen main dungeons, all but one of which are at least three floors long, as well as several mini dungeons. Eight of the main dungeons are from the first four games, but the ones that are not are typically longer than the other dungeons, with fun new gimmicks. Some of the mini dungeons also allow for new twists on old gimmicks- For example, the one based on 2’s Petal Bridge features a particularly tough version of that dungeon’s signature floating platform puzzle, the solving of which is delightfully satisfying.
Character customisation is increased even more from 5: Like in 5, the player can use any portrait from any class for any character, change the hair and eye colours and voices, and later, choose a custom class name. In addition to this, however, is a massive increase in the number of starting classes available, to 19, and the return of the subclass system, which means that characters can basically have two classes.
The starting character classes available in the game are:
Returning from 1/2:
- Bushido (Ronin)
- Paladin (Protector)
- Ranger (Survivalist)
Returning from 2:
- Doctor Magus (War Magus)
Returning from 3:
- Shinobi (Ninja)
- Prince/princess (Sovereign)
Returning from 4:
- Swordsman (Landsknecht)
Returning from Shin (Untold) 1:
Returning from 5:
- Reaper (Harbinger)
- Cestus (Pugilist)
Most of the classes are rebalanced to fit in with each other in X, but generally play similar to how they were before. The new Hero class, which is seen on the game’s cover art as the face of the title, is on the other hand designed to be slightly more powerful than other classes, while still balanced so that using multiple of them has no real effect, due to its main gimmick using up party slots, meaning that a full party will only have one slot open for the Hero to use. This unique “after image” gimmick is extremely satisfying to use, and has interesting potential for synergy with other classes using the subclass system, and simply thinking of ways to abuse it can be great fun.
While the game is quite challenging compared to most contemporary RPGs, the difficulty level ultimately feels slightly lower than previous instalments in the series; This is due to the wide array of options available to the player, stemming from the number of classes available, the subclass system, the force system, and the option to respec- It is now far easier to come up with crazy combinations that deal ridiculous amounts of damage. That being said, a single back attack or FOE encounter can still result in an instant game over, and bosses still require at least some modicum of thought when fought.
The soundtrack is fantastic, featuring new tunes for the new dungeons and returning tunes for old ones. Especially worthy of note are the tracks from the third game: While the first two received remakes on the 3DS, and the fourth and fifth were made for the 3DS to begin with, the third game never received a 3DS release, meaning that its soundtrack likewise never got 3DS versions. The X version of the boss theme, Senran: Ken wo Kakage Hokori wo Mune ni is exceptionally fantastic, greatly exceeding the version used in Mysterious Dungeon, and is quite possibly one of the best tracks in the entire series.
This is not to say that the game is not without its fair share of flaws, mostly coming from its nature of reusing things from previous games in the series. 18 returning classes being available, for example, translates to all but these 18 classes being not available, which can be a disappointment for long-time fans of the series who want to replicate specific parties. The selection of classes also seems oddly skewed- There are many offensive frontline classes, but only one pure tank (the Paladin/Protector) and only one offensive magic (Zodiac) class.
The selection of returning dungeons is also odd- Three of the eight are the first stratum of previous games, all of which are very similar, and four have gimmicks which, though different in aesthetic, boil down to there being one-way or forced movement tiles (it does not help that the new dungeons have a similar gimmick as well, though they do have other gimmicks tossed in to change it up). Thankfully, the later dungeons do also have other twists to this, but it still does start to feel repetitive at times.
The lack of representation for the fifth game is also quite disappointing- It does get two character classes, and its enemies and music tracks are used in the game, but is otherwise left out entirely. While there are only 19 starting character classes usable in the game, however, there is DLC that makes all character portraits from the previous games available for use, which when combined with the option to rename classes is better than nothing for the roleplaying purposes of players who would wish to recreate character from previous titles (unfortunately, the option to change hair and eye colours is only available for the non-DLC classes, and the DLC portraits from 5). In the case of the Japanese release this DLC will be priced at 100 yen per set, divided into five sets, from 2 September 2018, but will be available for free until then.
Ultimately, Sekaiju no Meikyuu X is a fantastic send-off for the series, and is an absolute must-have for fans.
The Good: All of the good parts of the series, compressed into a single game.
The Bad: An unbalanced selection of elements from previous games, slightly repetitive dungeons, and the two dungeons from 3 are a painful reminder that we never got a 3DS remake of it. Additionally, a lot of the fun relies on the player being familiar with previous games, so while the streamlining and amenities make it more accessible to new players gameplay-wise, they might feel alienated nonetheless; Players new to the series might find 5 to be a more viable option.
Conclusion: Etrian Odyssey Nexus makes no attempt to hide how it is made for fans of the series, and offers a spectacular array of elements and gimmicks guaranteed to satisfy long-time adventurers of the world-tree labyrinths.