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Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight (3DS)

This is a remake of Etrian Odyssey 2 (DS) and it follows in the footsteps of the first Untold installment which was a remake of the very first game in the series. The biggest new additions compared to the original are a story mode with a predefined party of five that provides a more fleshed out, but not necessarily better story, plus an additional location with five floors. Personally I prefer the barebones approach of classic mode that focuses on the essentials, leaves it up to your imagination to fill in gaps and lets your own guild be adventurers; basically, the real story is what you play and your own struggles in the Yggdrasil labyrinth. Not that story mode is much different, but it isn't something that I would have ever needed from Etrian Odyssey. What sets EO2 apart from the other games in the series is that you don't go down a labyrinth, instead you go up a huge tree.

While story mode forces a premade set of five character classes on you - which has a good balance, so no worries here - classic mode allows you to choose your party configuration yourself as well as change it during the course of the game. There are more than a dozen of classes available and you'll be fine as long as you strike a balance between offense, defense, healing and specialities. Regardless of which mode you choose, your party will be set in two rows (back row takes less damage and is attacked less often) and engage in turn-based battles with the usual options of attack, defend, skills and items. The speed of the battles can be increased to a level of about five actions per second, so mowing down enemies that you know you can safely defeat is done almost instantly. The game is challenging in general though, unless you pick the lowest of the three difficulties; this can be changed even during the game, at least while you are in town.

Originally the Etrian Odyssey series asked you to draw your own map on the touchscreen as you go through the labyrinth, but by now there are full options for automapping floor tiles and walls, so people who find mapmaking too much of a hassle will only ever need to add icons for points of interest they come across. Worth of note is that all floors of the original Etrian Odyssey 2 were redesigned, so this remake is almost a new game. The grimoire stone system that was introduced in the first Untold got a major overhaul. The purpose of grimoire stones is to allow characters to either use skills that aren't part of their class or to strengthen what they already have. Up to six stones can be equipped for each member eventually, so your party will be quite versatile in the end. The major changes that were made pertain to how you obtain new grimoire stones. In the first Untold it was very random and very luck-based to get good grimoires, but in Untold 2 you can trade stones with NPCs, so even if you've been unlucky and got crappy level 1 stones, you can take 13 of them and trade them in for one level 4 stone. Keep playing the game and you will inevitably work your way up to a great selection of level 10 stones, because the NPCs have all the good stuff on offer.

Go into the labyrinth, kill monsters, sell their materials to the store in town, buy equipment made from the materials, go into the labyrinth again. It's the same thing over and over again, but it's highly addictive because the feeling of growth is tremendous in the Etrian Odyssey series. There are also NPCs that offer a variety of sidequests that provide item and EXP rewards as well as new sections in already explored floors and unique monster encounters, including terrifying bosses. There is always something to do. And once you've beat the game and perhaps also its post-game content, you can start a new game plus where you can toggle on or off plenty of options for things to carry over. It's of course possible to go from story mode to classic mode and vice versa. Best of all: For the first time in the series, there are multiple save files available as long as you have an SD card, so you don't need to overwrite precious save data.

Controls 10 Primarily menu-based, so unsurprisingly nothing
to complain about.
Gameplay   Dungeon crawler with turn-based battles. Draw your own
map on the touchscreen or let the game draw it for you.
Story   Story mode serves typical JRPG characters and tropes.
Classic mode leaves more things to your imagination.
Single-player   Play with a predefined party in story mode or create your
own party in classic mode to conquer the Yggdrasil labyrinth.
Multiplayer   Not
Graphics   Not demanding on the hardware. 3D graphics are above
average, character portraits are nicely drawn.
Sound   A soundtrack that can be listened to for hours. Which is a must,
because you will listen to the same theme for hours.
Value   40-50 hours for the main quest, plus post-game content.
Two game modes with different takes on the story.
Replay Value   More than a dozen of character classes to create your party.
Numerous new game plus options.
Score 9 A remake that is totally worth it, even for owners of the original.
The most refined Etrian Odyssey to date.

Legend11 correctly predicted that GTA IV (360+PS3) would outsell SSBB. I was wrong.

A Biased Review Reloaded / Open Your Eyes / Switch Gamers Club