At the start of the game Shiren has a companion. Make that a powerful, dual sword carrying elite swordsman. Shiren meets Sensei, his sake loving master, in the capital before setting foot in the first dungeon. The dungeons, if you never played a roguelike before, are sort of like a giant strategy RPG map. You act by moving one space, playing with items or attacking. Then the monsters on the floor take a turn. Players go back and forth until someone dies or Shiren finds a staircase to the next floor.
Sensei gives Shiren an advantage. Instead of one move you have two, three when fighting since Sensei strikes twice. The computer controls him by default and does so with a fair amount of “intelligence”. Sensei automatically throws rocks or shoots arrows at monsters far away and uses scrolls when necessary. Maybe too liberally for a packrat like me, but if you never played a game like Shiren the Wanderer before Sensei’s default setting is probably a lifesaver. Veterans will probably opt for to manually control Shiren’s partners, which you can select in the AI menu.
Speaking of “life saving”, Shiren has revive herbs, items that resurrect Shiren if he dies in a dungeon. Don’t have one of those? Don’t worry too much. You retain your experience and most of your progress. Shiren the Wanderer has a world map with paths leading to dungeons. Beat one dungeon and you can move to the next or walk all the way back to town without revisiting the same mountain pass you just beat. Just guide Shiren on the map and skip past all of the old areas. Since walking to town is painless it’s easy to store and (more importantly) protect your precious loot. Oh, you can avoid equipment loss too if you play in easy mode. What makes Shiren the Wanderer even more friendly is you can grind your way to victory. Levels stay with you even after you die and you can replay dungeons you beat at your own pace.
Atlus has been touting accessibility as a key point and they’re right. Shiren the Wanderer won’t drive you mad with frustration. The game feels “fair” since you can always replay dungeons to farm equipment and power Shiren up.
Because of this change, Chunsoft made Shiren the Wanderer’s boss battles grander. In the first major fight, Shiren and Sensei battle a giant centipede gripping swords in each of its arms. This boss is so big it takes up multiple squares. And you can use this to your advantage. Since the centipede is large, it’s easy to get both characters in striking range. After taking a few hits, the centipede burrows underground. You can see where it moves by watching its shadow. Now might be a good time to heal with all of those recovery herbs you stocked up. Repeat until the centipede crashes into the ground and you win!
One guardian down. Three to go. One of them is giant, floating catfish.