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The sequel to the first Shiren game for the Gameboy DS came out in 2001 as a port from the Nintendo 64 version, released as Evil Castle in the Desert (updated for the DS in 2008). In some ways, it's a bit easier than Shiren 1, in that you get food and weapons more easily and never have to worry about starving to death by accident. Most dungeons start supplying "warp out" scrolls about halfway through, allowing you to bolt back to the main town if things get too dangerous. The first dungeon is just an escape game, where you have to outrun all the guards chasing after you. The second dungeon is a bit more traditional, as you gather equipment and money on your way to facing the first story boss. I did lose the first battle, but on my second try, I used a sleep scroll, which let me safely bash on the boss until he collapsed. The third dungeon was different. I got to floor 12, which contains the clown ghosts that consume other monsters and levels them up. The leveled monsters are incredibly dangerous, and I was killed once, and had to panic warp out 3 other times.
(Evil possessed King from the opening cut scene.)
At this point, I discovered the equipment repairer in town, who upgrades weapons and shields between 1 and 3 points each time, for 1500g per shot. Having a handful of warp out scrolls, and then entering the dungeon just long enough to find 1,500 g for the next upgrade makes grinding fairly painless. Some time after this, I learned about the fusion pots, that let you put between 3 and 5 weapons or shields into the pot to apply all pluses and status effects to the first item entered. Additionally, weapons and shields are paired, so if you equip a katana and a steel shield, your hp jumps by 20 points. You can upgrade katanas for a max of +30, and steel shields to a max of +35. Fusion pots aren't that common, but I was able to find 3 or 4 during the 10 hours I spent on the game. I got the katana to +30, and shield to +20. I was looking for one more fusion pot for upgrading the shield quickly, and I decided to push my luck a bit by going to floor 13 this time (the tower boss is on floor 19). I encountered two samurai ghosts. The first ghost consumed the second one, making a level 2 ghost, and that one delivered 95 hit points in one attack. I only had a max of 94 hp at that point. Game Over. Again.
(Shiren, the Wanderer. From the opening cut scene.)
The thing about the Shiren series is that it's a Rogue-like, and in Rogue-likes, when you die, you lose everything you're carrying - weapons, shields, items and money. Meaning, when you're trying to upgrade your best weapon and shield, if you're unlucky and something kills you in the blink of an eye, that best weapon and best shield go "poof". And so does all that time you spent working on them, and you're looking at having to pretty much start over from scratch. Actually, every time you leave the dungeon and return to town, your level drops back to 1, so you're always leveling up again, over and over, anyway, so there's that issue, which is a regular part of Rogue-likes. But, losing 5-10 hours worth of work in maxing the pluses on a weapon and shield really brings home the question of "why am I doing this to myself?"
(Your home base, where you always wake up after dying, returning from a dungeon, or turning the power back on to the game console.)
It's unfortunate that this game is still 2,000 yen ($18 USD) used. I'd broken my self-imposed rule of not buying anything over 1,000 yen, to get myself something of a Christmas present, and now I'm just going to put it back in the box for a while. I mean, the graphics, music, animation, character designs, cut-scenes and still artwork are great. The story is ok (evil being from another dimension possesses a local lord and attempts to resurrect his old body, and you have to stop him), and each of the weapon and shield types all have unique designs. It's a great-looking game. That has sucky game play factors. I guess there's a reason that walkthroughs and cheats are really hard to find in Japanese, and are nonexistent in English... Not recommended unless you love Rogue-likes.
(Entrance to the storehouse, where you can keep extra items when you don't need them for your current dungeon crawl.)
After writing the above comments, I put the game away for a couple of days, then decided to try a trick that had occurred to me one night. If I kept returning to the same floors of the current story dungeon, not going any farther than floor 11, I could amass warp out scrolls, money, fusion pots, and weapons and armor that have pluses and special effects on them. Additionally, the weapons shop sells spears for 15,000g, and those are able to hit two squares at a time (distance plus). So, I churned for the better part of a day, and got the shield to +35, and with counterattack and gold plating (prevents rusting and the loss of pluses). The sword got to +30, with the spear plus, and extra damage to ghosts (not plated though, so it kept losing pluses to damage when I tripped a rust trap). And this time, I tore through the dungeon and wiped out the story boss in about an hour. Having the ability to hit two enemies at a time, or one enemy from 2 squares away made all the difference in the world. And, ummm, this was followed by a second boss fight and that finished the game. So, yeah, short game.
(Example random dungeon with a ninja enemy. Ninjas often leave traps on the ground behind them when they're defeated. Very annoying.)
After a really long ending conversation, the game restarted with another really long conversation. The bits and pieces of the defeated monster reform into an egg that shows up in the village. The egg hatches into a cute bunny-like thing that asks Shiren to accompany it into another bonus dungeon to gather meat. (In the Shiren games, if you have a butcher knife weapon, you can turn defeated monsters into chucks of meat.) The bunny wants something like 10 pieces of meat each from several different monsters, and you have to go all the way down to floor 20 to exit back to town. You only get one rice ball, which is good for getting you through 3 floors. After that, you have to eat some of the meat yourself to keep from starving to death (which turns you into that monster for a couple minutes, during which you can't use the knife). There's very little in the way of healing items, attack scrolls or shields. You need to keep the butcher knife to make meat, so there's no point to collecting swords. I never made it past floor 8 in all the attempts I made at this dungeon. Even if you do get to floor 20, you have to go back through again to gather the required amount of meat, and you always start at level 1, with only the butcher knife and one rice ball. Now, I am fully willing to shelve this game for all time. Yes, I do hate Rogue-likes, and only got this one because there weren't any used RPGs I wanted.