On Saturday, I finished Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl. I have no earthly idea how many of you have a 3DS, or even how many of you game, but I enjoyed it enough that I decided to write up a review of it. Your lucky day!

What is it?

EO:U is an old school dungeon crawler. Assemble your party, go into the dungeon, fight your way down to the MacGuffin of choice, fight your way back. One of my favorite features is the fact that you have to actually draw your own map. None of this auto-mapping crap! Nope, you have to put down walls, doors, passages, and even notes about where things happened or where to find certain items.

There's a decent amount of customization possible. You can (in some modes) choose your team. You can choose the skills they learn. There's a ton of equipment that comes from you selling things to the town shop. You can even get special stones that allow you to do things outside of your class, like cast spells or use certain weapons.

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It's not an intimidating amount of customization, though. I think it would be fairly hard to screw your team up too badly, unless you decided that a team of mages sounded bad ass, or never leveled up your healer's cure spell.

What's different?

This is technically the fifth Etrian Odyssey, but really, it's a refurb of the first one. I played the first one, so why did I pick this up? The third-D? No. I actually suck at keeping track of my games, and had lost my cartridge long ago. I figured, hell, why not get a digital one? I had some credits in my account and space on my 3DS.

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But it's not the same as the first one. The biggest change? They've added a plot mode. You don't get to pick your party, but you do get treated to a plot that isn't strings of "Please bring me seven wolf spleens for this completely random reason."

This made a huge difference.

EO1, I didn't finish. I got far, but eventually something else came out, and it was whisked away into the black hole that eats all of the games that I remove from my DS. EO:U, I couldn't put down. I played it in the morning before work. I played it at lunchtime. I played it while dinner was cooking and in the bathtub. The plot kept me going.

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It's actually a rather well-crafted plot. The characters are entertainingly written, and they all have quirks and backstories that are painted out in a few well-placed scenes rather than belabored flashbacks. The characters grow as you adventure together, but they never really leave behind the cores that make them them.

Strengths

  • You can choose your level of difficulty. I like that there's a level for those of us that want more story and less grind.
  • The cut scenes, while sparse, are beautifully animated. They used the Madhouse studio to create hand-drawn cut scenes.
  • You can still play the classic EO1, skipping the be-a-hero plot.
  • The music is hilarious. You go back and forth between being on the set of Charlie's Angels and a porn movie.
  • That said, the music for the fifth stratum was pretty awesome.
  • While the POV character is male, the plot heavily circulates around a woman character. This woman is both vulnerable and determined, and has flaws along with virtues. She's not the only woman, too. The party tank is a woman, and awesomely characterized.
  • As you go on, the levels themselves have interesting puzzles to solve. The game doesn't just get harder by giving the beasts more hit points.
  • Auto-walk + auto-fight = Auto-grind!

Weaknesses

  • The Grimoire stones are a good idea... but I found myself not using them all that much. I found one or two that did some nice passive stuff, then ignored the rest.
  • There are three tracks for getting quests. If they all line up to where you are, it's awesome. If they get out of sync, you start having to backtrack or jump around.
  • If you play on the harder settings, it can get a bit grindy.
  • You might want to check out the Diversity and Gender section of the review...

Diversity and gender

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I wanted to break this out into its own section, because I feel that EO:U both shines here... and falls flat.

The main character is not really the POV character, but Frederica. Sure, you answer questions and quietly guide you group to one path or another, but it's because you're reacting to Frederica.

Honestly, I thought she was a great character. She was vulnerable but extremely determined, and she had her own quirks and downsides that made her kick-ass without being the Kick-Ass Woman.

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The other woman in the party was hilarious, a tank from Canada. She probably has some of the best lines in the game. Racuna ended up being my favorite by the end.

Oh, and did you notice? They're both fully dressed. They have pretty sensible gear on (I give Frankie's dress a pass, since she's in the back, and probably has all her ammo stored under her skirt).

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However... There's this maid. She's super-subservient, even though she does end up making a few decisions on her own now and then, she spends 90% of the game apologizing for daring to speak. And they kept shoving a romance between Francesca and the POV character into pivotal scenes (because a woman who lost everything is probably in need of some dickings).

Also, for all our heroines are covered, our barmaid is not. Neither is the shopkeeper, who runs around in what can be best described as a tribal stripper outfit.

I was also sad to discover that the manager of the adventurers was a man, and not, as I'd assumed at first, a woman with short hair. Damn you, voice acting.

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As for race? Your choices are: White, white, white, white, and Canadian. Take your pick. I know the previous games weren't big on racial diversity, but I had hoped they'd have at least one non-white playable character.

The only non-white character in the entire game is the shop owner, and she's Ambiguously Brown. She speaks with a Jamaican accent, wears a tribal stripper outfit, but has traditionally white features. Oh, and apparently her grammar is much, much worse in the Japanese version.

sigh

Don't hope for much body diversity, either. You get tall or short, and pretty much everyone's skinny.

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Should you play it?

If you loved the original series, heck yeah. If you liked the original series but could never finish it, double heck yeah!

If you're curious about this sort of game, and that whole 'draw your own map' thing intrigued you, get at least the demo. You should know within an hour whether you want to play the full game.

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Personally, once I get my Pokemons all leveled up, I'll be going back to see if those conversation options really mattered, and to maybe try a level other than 'Picnic.'

Etrian Odyssey Untold is for sale on Nintendo's eShop and at your finest online retailers. There is also a demo available.