Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate Review

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Game Title: Shiren the Wanderer The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate
Developer: Chunsoft, Aksys Games (Publisher)
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download Size: 399 MB
NA Availability: Retail | Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download

Rogue likes on the Vita. I can say there are a few. If there were any closest to the Rogue-like RPG sense that typical JRPG fans can get into, Sorcery Saga would be it. I played a bit of that game. It was cute and adorable. It also had that turn-based movement that makes Rogue-likes be a turn-based RPG while feeling like an Action RPG. Going into dungeons, enemies moving with you, resetting your level when you leave. The whole nine yards.

I can’t say I mastered Sorcery Saga, or even finished it. But, there is another RPG like this that just happened to release recently for the PS Vita. Ever hear of the Shiren the Wandere series? If you haven’t, you don’t lose points for me. After all, out of the 4 previous games of the series, the West only got to see the first and third games. Numbers 2 and 4 stayed in Japan, as did the original version of 5 for the DS.

Bringing more to the West, Aksys Games has brought over the PS Vita remake of Shiren 5. So, here is my review of Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate!

Story

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The plot of the Shiren series is a lot like the Ys series. There are a lot of games with a lot of different adventures, but you don’t need knowledge of previous adventures to play the new ones. This is what I’d bet to be the reason that they removed the 5 for the localized game title. Because every time a number is in there, people start worrying about needing to play prior games.

The story revolves around a traveler, Shiren, and his pet talking ferret that reminds he heavily of Chamo from the Negima series. They are on a journey to the Tower of Fortune to challenge the deity that lives there, deciding the fates of everyone in the world. In the process, they meet up with and gain a lot of allies that have their own reasons for visiting the Tower of Fortune to change destiny, each with their own backstory.

As a I said, and that summary shows it, I felt a pretty big Ys vibe all throughout the game. If you like those games, this game’s plot will fit right in for you.

Gameplay

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Shiren the Wanderer is a rogue-like game with RPG elements thrown into the mix. Every dungeon you’ll be traversing will be in true rogue-like fashion with resetting levels and inventory, different floors to explore, and a leveling system to help characters grow not only in stats but abilities as well. Think of it like Sorcery Saga, except not mission-based.

You’ll be progressing through the game by exploring an over world map. Unlike Sorcery Saga, there is no menu-based exploration. You freely roam the over world and come to towns and dungeons on your own. The only twist is that dungeons between towns are all randomized, so the forest path you go through the first time will have a completely different layout if you backtrack and go through it again while still maintaining that “over world” feel.

Your main quest will be to tackle the Tower of Fortune, which is divided into several dungeons. The idea is to tackle them from easiest to hardest, although you can try to tackle them in any order you want. It just isn’t a good idea to jump into the third tower dungeon with a character barely around Level 5-10. I’ve tried and it doesn’t end well. As you climb the tower, though, you’ll also uncover more story and be able to recruit more allies, so it’s not solely on gameplay alone.

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Now, let’s get to dungeon-crawling 101. Each dungeon is laid out like a grid and everything moves together. You move, enemies move. You attack, enemies attack. Every action is mirrored by everything in the dungeon, and the includes dashing. Dash for 5 squares and it’s no different from walking 5 squares. You never actually go faster than the enemies do. Players of Sorcery Saga will know what I’m talking about, but I’d imagine at least a few of you didn’t, especially after seeing SS’s Limited Edition that came with a baby bib.

Now, levels and item acquisition. When you start your game, or you die and have to go back to the dungeon later, you start from scratch. No items. Level 1. Everything you need you find laying around dungeons. Weapons, shields, recovery items, and food. You find a sword, you can equip and use it. You find herbs, you can use them when your health is low and you don’t have room to run from enemies for it to naturally regenerate. You can also find merchants to buy items from, but that is strictly random, so don’t count on it happening when you need it to.

Then, we get to our last 2 major parts of gameplay: Companions and Dying. You have many companions that go with you from optional events, but you also have companions that must go with you from the storyline. If you’re running through a dungeon and get cornered by a horde of enemies you can’t work around before dying, you’ll go back to the nearest town. Story companions, however, do not go back to the nearest town. Whatever floor you left them on, they will remain there until you get back.

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Then, dying. When you die in a dungeon, you get the option to request aid or just respawn back at the town. Requesting Aid is a multiplayer feature, enabling you to have other people playing the game help you through the Co-Op features built into the local multiplayer. This will let you continue the dungeon where you died, instead of starting over and having to do everything from town again.

In theory, this is a great feature. However, how many of you have a lot of Vita friends around? Probably not very many with handheld friends around in general. More often than not, you’re going to just cancel the request for aid and respawn back at the town. This is a pretty big setback, so always be careful when navigating dungeons. The Right Stick camera controls are there for a reason. This isn’t a casual game. It can and will put you in very tough spots early on.

How does it all come together? For the most part, it comes together in a pretty solid way. Everything flows much nicer and with much faster pacing than games like Sorcery Saga did. The only thing I did not like was the dash feature. While normal movement flows nice and smooth, the dash feels more like a mad sprint. It moves far too quickly and often will stop itself in mid-dash, even through there’s nothing obstructing your way. It feels a little clunky compared to the nice flow of the other gameplay features.

As far as time is concerned, it’s hard to tell as I never got the chance to see a timer while I played the game. With several dungeons and the inevitable time you’ll be spending re-doing some of the key dungeons from dying, it’s gonna keep you busy for a nice, long while.

Controls

First of all, the game is fully compatible with the PlayStation TV, which is a nice thing that Aksys always makes sure the games they localize can do. Nothing to fear about early-release problems like they had with Zero Escape 3. My review copy worked on the PSTV from the first day I had it from them.

By default, you can only move with the D-Pad with the Right Analog Stick used for the camera. With a quick trip into the options menu, however, you can enable the Left Stick for movement as well. The two triggers are used for easy equipping from the menu or buying several of the same item from a shop or vendor.

Then we have the face buttons. X is used for attacking or using items and Square is used for changing what direction you’re facing. Triangle is used for pulling up the menu, and Circle is used for dashing. Of course, not a word of these are explained to you. Not a single bit. You start the game and you’re on your own. A classic case of a game throwing you under the bus, not something a difficult game should do to a player.

Presentation

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Shiren the Wanderer is a 2D game and has a bit of enhancement done since the original DS release that never came west. If you look really, really closely, you’ll notice some jagged parts on the character models, but this requires you to hold the screen much too close to your face. I don’t notice these unless the screen is about 3-4 inches from my eyes or closer, and if you’re holding a handheld that close, that’s not very healthy. It’s easy to forgive.

The rest I have no complaints about. The game is optimized pretty nicely. No lag, load times are nice a slow, and the music very much fits the 2D style that the game portrays.

Summary

Shiren the Wanderer: The Fortune Tower and the Dice of Fate is a mouthful to try to say all at once. This game does have a clunky dash feature and no control explanation, but is a rogue-like RPG that fans of the genre and even ARPG series Ys, can enjoy.

8/10

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