Nethack on the DS. That’s one way to describe Mystery Dungeon Shiren the Wanderer. If that doesn’t make sense, I have a longer explanation for it after the jump. If you’re a fan of rogue-likes and have a DS, buying Shiren the Wanderer is a no-brainer.
In Shiren the Wanderer, you start of as Shiren on the first floor of the dungeon with no equipment, no money and at level 1. As you progress through the floors, you can find items like weapons, shields, rice balls (you get hungry!), healing stuff, and nice loot. However, if you die, you lose everything you’re carrying and restart on the first floor at level 1 again.
The gameplay is a mix of turn-based RPG and action RPG. Each floor of the dungeon is like a hidden grid. You can’t tell what a dungeon looks like beforehand, but as you explore, more and more rooms become visible. Did I mention that each floor is randomly generated? Shiren’s main attack is melee either with some sort of weapon or his hands. He can only attack enemies on adjacent tiles on the grid. Once Shiren makes a move (moving one grid, or attacking), the enemy makes a move, then it’s Shiren, and so on. So while Shiren and enemies take turns, the player still has to press a button to attack or choose an action (such as reading a Scroll of Confusion).
A lot of people are turned off from Shiren because it’s so easy to die. I just accept that it’s part of the game and try not to get too upset about it. Sure, it’s annoying to have a Katana +10 and lose it once you die, but building up another one is almost just as fun.
My favorite thing about the game is that there so many ways to interact with items and monsters that it even makes deaths fun. One time, I died because I used a doppleganger wand (turns an enemy into Shiren so that other enemies attack the copy-Shiren instead of the real one) in a room full of monsters. All the other monsters ganged up on Shiren’s doppleganger and the one that finally killed it leveled up. “Uh oh,” I thought, I better try to get out of the room. So I used a switching staff (switches your place with the monster you swing it at) to switch places with the monster standing in a hallway so I can get out, only to realize that my new location was right next to two exploding enemies. One of the other monsters killed the first exploding enemy which detonated the one next to me and then, I was a goner.
Even if rogue-likes like Shiren the Wanderer seem harder than your typical RPG, they’re fun to play. The loot makes it rewarding if you’re into exploring dungeons and after the first ten or twenty deaths, you just don’t feel so bad about dying anymore.