The Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS allowed Atlus an opportunity to create a very special sort of series. Etrian Odyssey is a dungeon-crawler that called to mind the old days, when someone would head into a first-person labyrinth and keep track of the map on graphing paper as they would go. Except with these dual-screen systems, someone always had the map on-hand on the lower screen and the action on top. But now, we may be entering the final phase of the Nintendo 3DS’ lifespan and may not see a successor capable of showcasing that same sort of gameplay. With Etrian Odyssey Nexus, it is like we are having a grand reunion. Here is where the series has been. This is what it has been doing lately. Let’s savor these moments, while we wonder how or if it might be adapted for systems that only have one screen.
Etrian Odyssey Nexus begins the adventure as many do. You are a newcomer to Maginia, a city that has invited people from places like Arcania, Armoroad, and Lagaard, to come and explore a series of mysterious labyrinths on the Lemuria Archipelago and contain properties and monsters similar to ones from those locations’ habitats. You’re starting from scratch, as usual. However, this time around, there’s a wide range of classes from all five previous games here. Dungeons call to mind the ones from previous entries, so we’ll see labyrinths with aquatic, forest, rain forest, and runic biomes. Similar monsters will appear. It can feel a lot like a greatest hits event. Those classes you may have loved, from A (Arcanist) to Z (Zodiac), have returned.
The thing is, it is more than just a greatest hits session. Etrian Odyssey Nexus lets people have some of the classes, dungeons, and opponents that were great in past installments, but puts them all in environments that take advantage of how much the series has improved over the years. The original Etrian Odyssey didn’t have any Force system, whereas this has a Force Boost that powers people up and Force Break that lets you use a super powerful skill once per a dungeon run, meaning we’re seeing characters like the Landsknecht, Protector, and Survivalist with these. Forging and Subclassing mechanics were only added in the third installment, but are both here for improving and refining characters and weapons. There’s an actual world map, with nodes that highlight different dungeons and locations to explore, which is a general concept present in later installments, different difficulty levels, the ability to set automapping (to varying degrees), and an option to customize character portraits. People who dropped off along the way can pick up Etrian Odyssey Nexus and immediately be caught up with what the series has to offer, with everything explained in a way that doesn’t involve overzealous handholding.
I would even say Etrian Odyssey Nexus benefits from the Etrian Odyssey Untold updated releases, which offered preset characters and a little more story structure. While there are no presets here, this installment does more to make you feel like the Lemuria Archipelago is full of fellow adventurers who are also exploring the dungeons. You will keep running into people from other guilds or from different regions summoned there. (Even more so, should you share QR codes with other players so you can happen upon their guilds randomly in areas.) Having people along who provide you with extra exposition and maybe some additional materials or healing is to the game’s benefit. It doesn’t take away from the custom stories you might create for your party members in your head, but does increase the immersion by making it feel as though everyone really is all in this together.
Even the Hero, Etrian Odyssey Nexus‘ highlighted new class originating in this installment, might feel like a way to call tribute to past games and cap things off. It is the sort of all-around character that feels like it can’t lose; this is the class we deserved, needed, and wanted. Its use of Afterimages, doubles spawned after using certain skills, gives people an opportunity to have that shadow character automatically have an additional special attack hit opponents, take a hit for a weak ally, or perhaps have the original hero regain TP when one is present. It is like having someone around who can do it all, a person with the possibility to become overpowered when handled properly. It is a solid job that works as a main or subclass and generally helpful to have around. Perhaps like, “You made it this far! You are exploring what are possibly the ultimate dungeons! Here is the ultimate character!”
While it would be tragic if Etrian Odyssey Nexus does end up being the final entry in the series, it feels like this would be the perfect way for it to go out. If things are changed drastically in the future or it doesn’t continue, Nintendo 3DS owners had an ultimate installment that attempted to bring back some of the most relevant classes, dungeons, and elements to a massive entry that does Etrian Odyssey justice.
Etrian Odyssey Nexus will be available on the Nintendo 3DS on February 5, 2019.