Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer

Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer
Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer Cover
Platforms DS, Wii Virtual Console
Genre Rogue-like Adventure
MtAMinutes to Action 4
Score 6  Clock score of 6Gameplay: 7
Fun Factor: 8
Gfx/Sound: 5
Story: 4
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Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer is a new Nintendo DS adventure that is actually a port of a 1995 Super Nintendo game released only in Japan. Shiren's gameplay is based off the classic computer games Rogue and NetHack. This means randomly generated stages, turn-based gameplay, and harsh character death penalties. Games today are wussified to the point of being able to save anywhere and three hour long tutorials that wean you into the game, Mystery Dungeon is kind of a breath of fresh air. Even if it is a 13 year-old breath, it mixes up the portable scene a bit.

Not much left to say about Mystery Dungeon, I think the review and screenshots will explain the game pretty well.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select "Create a Travel Journal" and the first hour begins. I leave the character's name as Shiren (pronounced she-ren if you're wondering). A scroll unravels and the story begins... The Divine Bird of Legend, the Golden Condor lives in a golden city. A man named Shiren is looking for this city in memory of his friend.

01 - He has a pet weasel who talks to him. The pair are in Kobami Valley. In the distance we can see a tal, narrow mountain with a waterfall falling from it. Beautiful. The weasel introduces himself, his name is Koppa.

Mystery Dungeon Shiren Forest Battle

02 - Shiren is sleeping now, on the top screen is his dream. Looks like the mountain top and the golden condor are merging together.

03 - Still the opening cutscene as Shiren leaves the hut. Ah, the game is really starting now, the first level is called, "Road to the Hamlet." A tutorial begins. "Use A to defeat monsters and get to the stairs." Just A, huh? Oh, use B to move faster. Well that's easy enough.

04 - Woah, immediately after reading the dialogue I get attacked by a monster! I take him down with some timely presses of the A button. Is Shiren using a sword or what?

05 - The world is laid out like a grid, think walking around in Final Fantasy VI. What the heck? Holding B just kinda teleports Shiren across the screen. It's almost like I'm fast-forwarding the game... I'm going to be very leery of this B button.

06 - I fight another rabbit or something and get some experience for killing it. You regain HP by walking around, which is nice I suppose. This game seems very forced RPG though. Enemies run up and it's almost like a short turn-based battle between you and the baddie.

Mystery Dungeon Shiren Robber Battle

07 - I find a rice ball that I'm supposed to eat to reduce my hunger. Odd.

08 - Sweet, level 2! There's a convenient mini-map on the screen that shows me the areas I've uncovered and the positions of characters and enemies around me. Just killed a rabbit in one hit.

09 - I'm on the next level of the stage, oh, a robber is trying to kill me! He goes down in one hit. By the way, the rabbits are technically called Mamels.

10 - I find 133 Gitans on the ground. Gitans are the game's currency. Next I find and equip a wooden shield.

12 - Shiren just found a cudgel! Nice. And I also reach level 3.

Mystery Dungeon Shiren Pekeji

13 - The game informs me that I may die of hunger if I don't eat rice balls. Ouch. My "fullness rating" is 53/100, guess I'll have a snack. That popped me up to 100/100!

16 - I'm just walking around now, killing bad guys, getting experience, and finding stairways. Nothing really to it all right now, pretty easy.

17 - Oh, I have successfully cleared the adventure. Interesting. Shiren is level 4 and my score is 70643. Next stage is Canyon Hamlet.

19 - I guess this is less of a stage and more of a town where I can talk to people and store items. I store a spare wooden shield in the warehouse.

Mystery Dungeon Shiren Canyon Hamlet

21 - After talking to some villagers in the bar, I learn more about the game's gameplay. If you die in the game, you return to Canyon Hamlet and are reset to level 1! Woah, if you eat monster flesh you turn into that monster! Awesome! Reminds me of Final Fantasy Legend III.

23 - Interesting... every time you make a move, the monsters also move, but if you don't move, they won't move either. Good stuff to know, and pretty much confirms my suspicions of being a turn-based RPG.

26 - Well, Shiren has left the hamlet and is now on the Old Cedar Road. There are more villages every four areas.

27 - I'm in a forest now, and the gameplay seems a little deeper now that I have more information on the game.

28 - I encounter another wanderer in the forest, this guy shows off his +15 Katana and says he kept having it smithied on over and over again at the blacksmith. You think he would have called it something besides his +15 Katana.

Mystery Dungeon Shiren Firepuff

30 - Woah, I just got whomped on by a boss I think! His name was Snaky and he was hitting me for 5-7 damage when I only have 19 total! Well, that's it for that adventure, my Shiren is returned to the hamlet's inn. I'm also back to level 1 and I don't have any items! Ouch.

32 - I go retrieve my wooden shield from the warehouse and equip it. I head right back out to the Old Cedar Road. I'm doing a lot less damage now without my trusty cudgel.

34 - What the... I just tripped over a rock, took damage, and dropped everything I had. Lame.

36 - This game is pretty easy when you don't have bosses beating down on you. Guess I just have to level up a bit before I challenge Snaky again.

38 - I entered an area thinking I was going to fight Snaky again, but turns out I'm at some mountain stream. And this chick is hitting on me! "I can make you feel special. Would you close your eyes for me?" What the... wonder how much this costs?

Mystery Dungeon Shiren Curse Girl

39 - I was blinded! All I can see is Shiren and the mini-map! This sucks.

40 - Phew, I can see again. Good thing there weren't any enemies.

41 - Oh man, speaking of enemies, Snaky just blitzed me! But this time I used a healing item and was able to take him out through attrition.

42 - Lame, Snaky wasn't a boss at all, just a normal enemy. I know this because I just fought another one! And then two at once! Unfair!

Mystery Dungeon Shiren Bandits Mountain

45 - No bad guys for a few minutes, but I'm starting to get hungry so I eat the rice ball I found at the beginning of my journey. It gives me 50 fullness points.

46 - I have reached Bamboo Village. Typical twangy Japanese music is playing.

47 - I enter a shop and there's crap laying all over the floor. One guy in the bar did say something about stealing... What, this ugly kid just said he was my brother. Odd.

49 - I buy a cudgel with my available funds.

Mystery Dungeon Shiren Bamboo Village Shop Steal

50 - I'm back adventuring now, and the first thing that happens is a monster that steals 80% of my money and then runs off before I can kill him. Bastard. Another pickpocket has just stolen the last 20%. I'm sad.

52 - The good news is that I can beat Snaky's in only two hits now.

54 - I'm back in Bamboo Village, must have taken a wrong turn somewhere... Just found the blacksmith though, he can upgrade my weapon for 1000 Gitan. I only have 200 now thanks to those pickpockets.

55 - This village is really badly designed. There are a bunch of buildings and they are really spread apart so you have no idea where you're walking to next. There's just path after path and then a random building.

57 - A scene starts as I enter the bar, it's Pekeji, the brute who says he's my brother. I sympathize with him for a bit and then he wanders off. Weird.

Mystery Dungeon Shiren Pegasus Ridge

59 - Well, enough of that village, I'm now on Pegasus Ridge. Wow, there are fire-breathing Firepuffs up here. They sound fluffy but they look like mini dragons! One of them almost kills me.

60 - There's a lot more enemies on Pegasus Ridge and they're a lot tougher. Nothing is too tough for Shiren though as he hits level 7. But that's it for the first hour of Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer.

Now for some scores out of 10.

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 4

Gameplay: 7
Undoubted the most unique aspect of Mystery Dungeon is its wannabe-hardcore gameplay. All maps are randomly generated, though in the first hour they're all still pretty simplistic. But in this game, if you die, that's it, you're done. You restart at level one and are returned to the original village, losing all items you were carrying. I'm guessing this makes Mystery Dungeon all about slowly powering up your weapons and armor, while carefully making sure you don't lose them. I'm not sure how much I like the sound of that, but in its first hour, it's a pretty typical Zelda-style game with turn-based elements. All these combinations makes this game unique, but definitely not for everyone.

Fun Factor: 8
I actually had a pretty good time playing the first hour of Shiren the Wanderer. Once I realized that this game is turn-based it added some new layers of strategy that made me rethink what I was planning when enemies were around. There are some really annoying parts though like "running" which I'm pretty sure is literally just the game fast-forwarding itself. Worst of all, the areas that are NOT randomly generated are horribly designed. Basically every town is way too sprawled out and just plain obnoxious to navigate. Fighting is much more fun than running errands.

Graphics and Sound: 5
An important part to consider when developing or porting a Nintendo DS game is effective use of both screens. Mystery Dungeon does not use the top screen well at all, it's just an overall map that is useless. I would rather see my current stats or maybe place the mini-map up there instead of overlaying it on the bottom screen. The graphics are also pretty simplistic, I don't know how they compare to the original Super Famicon version but the grid-based gameplay and a relatively confined playing area don't hold this game back as much as you would think.

The sound in Shiren the Wanderer is nothing special. The music is generic Japanese twangs and I honestly can't even remember if there are sound effects when fighting. Nothing stands out.

Story: 4
There isn't much story in Mystery Dungeon beyond the opening cutscene, and there's not much meat there either. We have this wanderer named Shiren who is accompanied by a talking weasel. Shiren says his motivation for wandering and finding the golden city is because of his friend, who has died or something. My favorite aspect of this game's story is that there are also a lot of other wanderers/warriors hanging out in the levels, doing their thing. It reminds me of Final Fantasy X where there are a few other groups of people working parallel to you on the same quest.

Overall: 6
Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer's first hour is just a slightly above average port of an old game and even older gameplay. The game runs with a unique concept that most console only gamers will never have experienced, and I believe most will be frustrated. The first hour though is nothing special. If you want to try something new, then this game seems like a really good portable experience for the patient gamer. If you're impatient or annoyed by strict death rules, then definitely pass on Shiren. By the way, what kind of lame name is Mystery Dungeon anyway? It sounds as lame as Final Fantasy would now if the first game was just coming out.

Mystery Dungeon Shiren The Wanderer Japanese Cover
The Japanese cover for Mystery Dungeon is so much better than the English release.