Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl

When Atlus’s Labyrinth of the World Tree franchise debuted in North American with the series name of Etrian Odyssey on the Nintendo DS, most gamers took note of its challenging old-school-style gameplay, a tradition that its sequels would continue with two sequels on the Nintendo DS and another on its successor the 3DS, which for the first time featured adjustable difficulty in an attempt to appeal to newcomers. Soon afterward came the announcement of an enhanced version of the first game for the Nintendo 3DS entitled Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl, which just might be the ideal way for newcomers to experience the franchise firsthand.

Part of what makes The Millennium Girl appeal to newcomers is that, like the fourth main installment, it features adjustable difficulty settings, the easiest of which is picnic mode, where death in a dungeon gives players the option to revive at the spot where they died and continue through the dungeon. The other difficulty settings deal with death more harshly, taking the players back to the title screen with the potential for plentiful lost progress, but allowing them to save the dungeon map that they created up to the point of demise.

With classic mode, the player has free reign to create a party of up to five playable characters from a variety of classes and have varying degrees of effectiveness on the front or back rows, each able to hold up to three characters, although in story mode, the player acquires five party members whose names and classes are unchangeable. As with other Etrian Odyssey titles, an encounter indicator within the Yggdrasil Labyrinth gradually changes color from blue to red to indicate how close they are to an enemy fight, with an indicative voice clip, on story mode, coming whenever the color turns to red.

When an encounter commences, the player has a variety of commands from which to choose for their characters, including attacking with their equipped weapon, defending to reduce damage, using a TP-consuming ability, using an item, using boost whenever a character’s special gauge is full to empower their chosen command for that round of combat, or attempting to escape, an option that doesn’t always work, although since this particular command is individual to each character, the player has up to five chances for successful escape.

Characters and enemies exchange commands based on agility, and though such a chance isn’t terribly common, there is a slight likelihood that if a character is low on health, the enemy can kill him or her before the healing command that the player inputted during that round takes effect, a flaw common to most traditional turn-based battle systems. Even so, there are adjustable battle speed settings that can really increase the speed of combat, alongside an autobattle mode, to make fights more than bearable.

Winning a battle nets all characters that are still alive experience for occasional level-ups, alongside monster parts the player can sell at Etria’s shop for money and the creation of new weapons, armor, accessories, and consumable items in the store’s inventory. Leveling nets a character a skill point the player can put into one skill forming a character’s skill tree, with specific skill levels often necessary to unlock more powerful abilities.

Another significant feature in combat is Grimoire stones, one of which each character can equip to obtain supplemental abilities, passive or TP-consuming, with players having occasional chances within battle to acquire new ones, and needing to evaluate them at their base mansion. There’s also the possibility that these stones can allow certain classes to equip more than their standard equipment sets, such as healers being able to wield axes. Ultimately, the battle system definitely helps the remake far more than hurts.

Control in Untold is definitely well above average, with a linear structure that always keeps the player moving in the right direction and the ability to create detailed dungeon maps, a feature that actually has more benefits than usual for an Etrian Odyssey title, what with the acquisition of the floor jump feature if a player’s map of a floor is detailed enough, in which case they gain the ability to teleport instantly to a floor’s staircase. The other areas of control largely serve the game well, with easy menus and shopping, although one minor fault when shopping is that when shopping for better gear, the game only shows how a party member’s stats appear after equipping the new gear instead of comparing the stats of their current equipment and prospective equipment side-by-side. Otherwise, the remake interfaces very well with the player.

Whereas classic mode necessitates the player to use their imaginations with regards to the player’s character, story mode mercifully features a stronger central storyline with the fixed characters having some, but not a terribly great amount, especially in the case of the silent protagonist, of development, although there are some decent twists, even if the remake deals with the oft-used characteristic of amnesia in regards to one of the playable characters. The translation is largely spotless in spite of some rare partially-highlit words in dialogue, and while the plot is somewhat run-of-the-mill, it’s by no means bad, and doesn’t largely detriment the experience.

Though remakes like Romancing Saga: Minstrel Song and Wild Arms Alter Code: F have used Suspiciously Similar Songs of their original incarnations’ soundtracks, the themes in The Millennium Girl more or less are higher-quality versions of those heard in the original Etrian Odyssey, not that this is a bad thing, as they sound superb for the most part. Untold is also the first game in the franchise to sport voice acting, and follows other RPGs such as Lunar Knights and Skies of Arcadia in using sporadic voice clips during cutscenes and dungeon navigation instead of full voicework (though the anime scenes contain full acting). The voices are definitely a welcome treat for the most part, with nary a terrible vocal, and in spite of some rare silent parts of the game, the aurals definitely benefit the remake.

The visuals make decent use of the Nintendo 3DS’s three-dimensional graphical capabilities during dungeon navigation, battle, and cutscenes that make use of static anime portraits that appear in different dimensions during said scenes, although the art contains occasional animation such as eyes blinking similar to other titles such as Persona 3. The environs are nice and colorful for the most part, and while the player’s party is invisible in battle a la early Dragon Quest games, enemies contain fluid animation alongside the nice effects from player attacks and skills, and overall, The Millennium Girl’s visual presentation is top-notch.

Finally, the game isn’t terribly lengthy, taking somewhere from twenty to thirty hours to complete, a reduction from the original Etrian Odyssey thanks in particular to the floor jump ability, with a New Game+ allowing players to carry specific things from their original playthrough to their secondary playthroughs.

In conclusion, Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is for the most part a solid remake that hits most of the right notes in regards to nearly all its aspects, such as the agile, fluid battle system and customization; interaction, where well-drawn dungeon maps let players use the timesaving floor jump feature; the story, with a good cast of characters; the remixed soundtrack and voice acting; and the nice visuals. The story does have some minor issues, although those that play games more for the gameplay than the narrative will find Untold a superb jumping board into the Etrian Odyssey franchise.

The Good:
+Solid battle system with adjustable speed.
+Floor jump feature reduces superfluous playing time.
+Great remixed soundtrack and voice acting.
+Decent use of system’s 3D visuals.
+Excellent replay value.

The Bad:
-Story is run-of-the-mill.

The Bottom Line:
A superb remake.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 8/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 20-30+ Hours

Overall: 9/10

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