Repost: Shiren the Wanderer Review

Shiren the Wanderer was a surprisingly deep RPG experience.

From the beginning of the game until about a quarter of the way into the title, it felt like an easy RPG with an interesting story, but the quick turn from dominating through the dungeons to having to carefully tread through areas was an abrupt switch and at the same time, created a strategically involving experience.

For those willing to experience Shiren the Wanderer, it is recommended playing the the classic controller rather than the remote and nunchuk, it feels a lot more nature for the title.

For any Nintendo Wii owner, it is an experience that should not be passed up.

Plot

Shiren the Wanderer begins with Shiren, his Sensei, and Koppa, who looks like a talking ferret, arriving in town to find out about the Karakuri Mansion. In this initial setup, players are introduced to the personalities of the trio and after spending some quality time in town, get a sense of the world of Shiren the Wanderer‘s feudal Japan.

The focus on the Karakuri Mansion is the main plot of the game, but the title does well on expanding the story beyond this center point by the introduction of a lot of key plot points that are mentioned but not realized until later in the title.

It was nice to experience an RPG that wasn’t about an amnesiac and had a past history that they remembered. A bonus was that even through the title is mainly read through text boxes, the personalities of all the characters was easily inferred through the conversations.

The Look

The only disappointing issue with Shiren the Wanderer is that it is not optimized for high definition. The visual design of the title is impressive with all the main characters of the title moving with a high level of detail. Monster design is creative while pulling from Japanese mythology and even the dungeons which are designed after specific characters each have their own theme.

High definition would have only benefited the title because even with 480p, the title is still pixelated. Areas and characters almost look perfect with their “anime” influenced appearance. The title plays with the 3/4 top-down perspective when moving through areas and takes a two dimension plus 8-bit look on the world map. The 8-bit is the character of Shiren that signifies the party moving throughout the world map.

Shiren the Wanderer‘s best trait in the visuals is that it looks distinct enough to separate itself from other “anime” related visuals.

The Sound

While voice acting would have been a nice treat, Shiren the Wanderer does support itself well with the audio of the title. There is a lot of environmental noise in the towns and in dungeons, audio cues actually help with approaching monsters. Combat noises are distinct and each monster has their own attack noises, which are fun to listen to.

The soundtrack isn’t very strong during the dungeon crawling, but does appear during cutscenes and boss battles, creating a lot of tension during the more difficult battles.

Function

Shiren the Wanderer is an turn-based RPG, but doesn’t look like it on the surface. During exploration, characters move freely, but when combat begins, players have to option of only one character or controlling everyone in the party. The difficulty with controlling the party is that the combat is based on a grid system that isn’t clearly apparent, but plays into very tense battles when distance is a factor.

Earning experience is important, especially in the early dungeons because when the game makes its switch from easy to hard, the jump is staggering. Enemies are able to kill the party members in one or two hits and then themselves can level up, becoming more difficult to defeat. Other abilities of enemies is to rust weapons which renders them basically useless to use, though scrolls can be used to protect weapons and upgrade stats.

The item system is streamlined, which is nice and also creates tense moments when players have to decide on what to take into the dungeons. Besides healing items, weapons and special items take space and it is possible to quickly hit the maximum number of items.

Decisions

Shiren the Wanderer looks simple on the surface and in the beginning. But as soon as it flicks the difficulty switch, the title becomes a RPG that even professionals have to take care when playing. The story is linear, but emjoyable with the subplots and the characters of the title make an interesting cast.

Some players might be discouraged by the difficulty, but the two modes available should sway any concerns. The turn based combat isn’t as popular as it was before, but with Shiren the Wanderer, it causes the game to elevate itself from its RPG brethren.

The Nintendo Wii might cater to the casual gamer, but Shiren the Wanderer is for the RPG veteran, not in difficulty, but in experience.

Review copy provided for review purposes

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