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Etrian Odyssey II This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


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“Prepare to die.” While the diverse set of enemies in “Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard” won’t tell you this, you may as well prepare anyway, because the best description for this immensely satisfying dungeon crawler is “hard.”

To put it bluntly: Atlus’s latest hit is not meant for everyone. You don’t have to be a member of the “masochistic elitist” target audience (that is, gamers who deliberately choose the hardest difficulty) to enjoy this hardcore RPG (role-playing game), but you’re ­going to be throwing your DS at the wall in frustration unless you know what you’re getting into. This is not a free-flowing modern masterpiece like the “Tales” series or “Final Fantasy,” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

The focus of the game is as follows: you are part of a group waiting to explore the mysterious Yggdrasil Labyrinth, sit­uated in the town of High Lagaard. Fame and glory await those who reach the top, and you’ll do just that, traversing the forest’s depths with a party of five. This group is made up of customizable characters that you select from 11 diverse classes at the start of the game (with one “secret” class later on). For example, if you want an archer, you can choose a Survivalist and then decide which of the four appearances you like best. It’s a refreshingly simple approach to what modern games have made unnecessarily complex.

If you’re the kind who hates the stereotypical naive protagonist, then this is a definite plus – especially if you have a good imagination and can make up your own story. This game doesn’t focus on the characters’ backgrounds, but what it lacks in plot, it makes up for in sheer uniqueness.

Unlike most RPGs, you’re given almost complete control. The second-person narrative will describe what you do in the game, like watching a squirrel in a tree or noting a trail of blood, but ultimately, you make the decisions. Will you follow that trail of blood, or stray from it? Will you reach out to touch the squirrel, or do you believe appearances can be deceiving? It’s nice to be able to do what you want. After all, who hasn’t found rescuing the fair princess just a bit annoying?

However, freedom isn’t all “Etrian Odyssey II” has going for it. The pleasant presentation utilizes Nintendo DS graphic capabilities to the highest level, going for bright colors and ­detailed scenery. When viewed from the smooth first-person point of view, it almost feels like you’re in the labyrinth. This, coupled with the game’s realistic sound effects (even the sound of your footsteps changes from the cracking of twigs and shuffling of leaves to the crunch of snow under your boots), makes everything flow together. The music is fairly typical of RPGs.

There are some things that the casual gamer will not enjoy, however. For example, the skill point system is somewhat ­unusual, since most modern games simply throw you the skills once you have reached a certain level. But I find that the point system in “Etrian Odyssey II” allows me to ­customize my team exactly as
I want.

The first-person point of view can be a little hard to get used to, but you gradually learn how to operate it. What is most distressing, however, is the harsh beginning – it teaches you early on that this game will never go easy on you. Some people might actually need to start over to “do things right.”

Despite some of its flaws, which can all be easily overlooked once you’ve played the game long enough, “Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard” is still a solid game. It’s difficult, but you feel so happy when you finally get past the part you’ve been stuck on for days.

I suggest you try it. Just stay calm and relaxed – yes, even if you die – and be wary of the dragons.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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