Excerpt: Dungeon-crawling and map-making is back with Atlus' stateside release of Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard for the Nintendo DS. RPGamers might find a lot of the gameplay familiar from the original title, but luckily it seems that anything that has been changed has been changed for the better. But first a little backstory for those unfamiliar with the games.
Excerpt: On the Northern Continent lies the Grand Duchy of Lagaard, where a crisis is brewing. The specifics of this crisis are rather chilling when compared to the texts of the past, which tell tales of the entire continent sinking, save for a solitary floating castle. That castle has been lost to antiquity, but it may hold the secret to overcome the ill shadow that has been cast over the land.
Conclusion: The story of EO2 concerns a long-lost floating castle, high above the forests of Lagaard. Trekking up through the canopy, your specific band of warriors venture into the tree-top mazes above the village, seeking treasures and avoiding giant monsters. Each dungeon features giant, nearly unbeatable mini-bosses, called FOEs, which reward you with no experience points (and more often than not just slaughter your party).
Excerpt: Without question, Etrian Odyssey is the most polarizing role playing game I've played on the Nintendo DS. On one hand, it is apple pie simple: a pen-and-paper type romp through a 30 floor dungeon with only minimal skills and weapons; on the other, it is easily the most difficult RPG I've played in the post 16-bit era and will likely turn off anyone who started playing RPGs after the release of Final Fantasy VII.
Excerpt: A little over a year ago, Atlus released Etrian Odyssey, a dungeon crawler that received little mainstream acclaim or fanfare. In the time since then, the unapologetically difficult level grinder has become a cult favorite to role playing fans, especially ones dedicated to the genre since the pen and paper days.
Conclusion: Though it's hard to tell initially, Heroes of Lagaard features more than just a new coat of pain slapped over the first Etrian Odyssey adventure. It looks and feels only slightly newer, and it's still very much the classic dungeon crawl of the original, but the minor improvements make it a much better game. It's simultaneously sadistic and marvelous.
Excerpt: I'll be perfectly frank with you—I did not expect to like this game. Grinding for experience, going broke buying equipment that only increases a character's strength by two points, drawing a map by hand through floor after floor of twisting labyrinth, and being crushed by random encounters in the first round of battle are not things that I generally look for in my RPGs.