Friday, April 26, 2013

DS Game Review: Shiren

I wanted an RPG that I could play occasionally when I needed a break. Best Denki had Fushigi no Dungeon: Fuurai no Shiren (Mysterious Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer) (Chun Soft, 1995/2006)  for 1,500 yen, with 500 yen off because the game manual was missing. I did a websearch first for product reviews, and it seemed to be a relatively popular game, although there's no real walkthrough for it on the game sites. Since I've been able to play most of the other games without once looking at the manuals, I figured that I wouldn't need one this time. That was a mistake. The game is in Japanese only, and it doesn't have the normal "Load, New, Options" title menu that other games have. Instead, you go straight into the main menu, which gives you someone else's game if you have a used copy. So, I'm struggling to figure out how to get a new game, and then how to play it any level at all.

Shiren is what's called a rogue-like (a term I'd never heard before), meaning that it's similar to an old text-dungeon game named Rogue, and follows a set pattern. Actually, I've played two rogue-likes before - Torneko and Chocobo's Dungeon 2. I was hoping for better game play this time around, but no. The number one thing I hated about Torneko is that so much revolves around luck. If you happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, you die and lose all of your weapons and armor. Every time you enter the dungeon, you start out at level 1. If you make it out of the dungeon alive, you can put a limited number of items in storage for later use, which is nice if you are lucky enough to find a good sword and shield. But, as I say, if you die, that's it - goodbye equipment. And you're always leveling up. You are at dungeon level 1 and you're at level one. There's a limit to how many monsters you'll encounter, and if you try to hang around until a new monster attacks just to be able to level up, you'll starve to death. At least at the beginning, there aren't any stores and nothing to spend money on. The only way to get food is to either stop at the bar for a one-time-per-descent rice ball, or to enter the puzzle dungeon and hope you get rice balls as a prize.

There are two parts of the Shiren game - one is the main storyline, where you are one of many wanderers searching for the legendary Golden Condor bird. You travel through the dungeons to get from one village to the next. So far, I've never been able to get past level 3 of the first dungeon because the monsters suddenly get really strong and kill me off. The second part is the puzzle dungeon. Shiren has a lot of scrolls and magic wands that do things like reveal traps, switch your location with that of a monster, and turn monsters into meat. The puzzle dungeon in the first town consists of 50 different floors, and each one is a puzzle that must be solved with the weapons or scrolls provided. If you win, you get one item for that floor (usually just a rice ball). Entering the puzzle dungeon erases any equipment or money you may be carrying, though. So far, I've solved 25 of the floors, and the most useful thing I've managed to keep out of this is a large rice ball.

I got Shiren because Best Denki didn't have any true RPGs that I want. I'll be frank - I really dislike rogue-likes. Edit - 24 hours ago, I wrote "However, maybe if I keep this as the last game I buy for a while, I'll be less likely to waste my time playing games instead of doing something more productive." However. Just now I was killing a few minutes playing Shiren. I'd gotten a really strong weapon and shield, some nice scrolls and lots of food. I was just starting out on the highest dungeon floor I've been able to reach (6th floor, which shows how much of a pain it is to simply get good stuff by pure luck) when the game locked up. Everything completely frozen - no music, no movement, nothing. All I could do was reset the DS. And "poof" - no more weapons, shields, food or money. All gone, just like that. Only because of how rogue-like games are structured. So, no, I ain't playing this anymore, because I can never know when it's going to freeze and everything I'm carrying gets lost again. Sigh.

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