Brave Dungeon (3DS eShop)
Brave Dungeon has recently released for Switch at a higher price, but it came with an additional small game that wasn't included in the 3DS release. Brave Dungeon is a spinoff of The Legend of Dark Witch which I don't know much about, but it's quite irrelevant anyway. What you get with this game is a dungeon crawler that is entirely focused on the essentials: Exploring, turn-based battles with a party of three girls, leveling up and improving your portfolio of accessories, because they are the only equipment you have.
You have a choice between five characters to form your party, each with their own unique attributes. JRPG staples like balance, attack-focused, buffing and healing are all on board. At certain level thresholds you are allowed to rank up a character for a stat boost and a new battle command. You can learn all commands eventually, so the choice is merely the order in which you add them to your arsenal. The battles are quite fast-paced and the EXP gains are reasonable, so progress happens fast. The only penalty for dying is the return to the base which makes all enemies in the dungeon respawn, but you get to keep all your EXP, materials and money. Said cash can only be used to buy better stats for your characters while accessories can be created via forging.
Beating the game will earn you Syega, an in-game currency that can be spent on a new game+ shop where you can unlock perks like double EXP and additional stat bonuses. This is very much copied from Namco's Tales series, so it comes with the same annoying flaw of having to build up more Syega through grinding to get all the stuff you want for your new game+. But just like the Grade currency in Tales, Syega purchases are also permanently unlocked options. Brave Dungeon provides a couple of "super fun mini games" to grind Syega, but neither poker or the endless runner are entertaining for more than five minutes. You are better off doing a boss rush in the fifth dungeon to bolster your wallet; it's less tedious and nets higher rewards.
I found Brave Dungeon surprisingly good for a game in such a low price range (it's only $5/€5) and you can easily put over 20 hours into it to unlock all achievements and features. Of course the downside is that it isn't even remotely close in variety and depth in comparison to a series like Etrian Odyssey - hence why I keep the score low - but for a quick dungeon fix it's the ideal game.
|Controls||10||Nothing to complain about here. Navigation in the
field and in menus is as responsive as you expect it to be.
|Gameplay||Dungeon crawler that defies its genre classification beause
exploration and leveling up happen at a fast pace.
|Story||The short story bits are amusing, but they don't
make a difference to the overall experience.
|Single-player||The difficulty is spread across dungeons, so you find
yourself switching between them instead of doing one by one.
|Graphics||Very simplistic sprites that are charming, but don't
tax the hardware in any manner.
|Sound||Some convincing dungeon and battle themes here.
The sparse voice acting is only in Japanese.
|Value||The first playthrough lasts 5-6 hours, plus another two
to conquer the bonus dungeon.
|Replay Value||A Tales-like perk system speeds up new game+.
Six playable characters allow for different party setups.
|Score||6||Brave Dungeon focuses on the very essence of dungeon
crawling. Not much depth, but a lot of quick fun.