I mentioned earlier today on my Twitter account (shameless plug, but give it a follow, eh?) that Shiren the Wanderer had me cursing like a sailor. It’s not because the game is bad, but because it can get a bit difficult. And losing all your loot and stuff because you forgot about the rogue-like nature of the game can make you chuck your Vita in an orbit to rival SpaceX’s Dragon.
The game is actually very, very far from bad. It’s excellent.
After what seems like ages, we have an RPG where the story doesn’t involve amnesia. In and of itself, that is cause for enjoyment. The story, though, while simple at first, has some layering to it that belies its one-dimensional initial impressions.
You’re Shiren (or whatever you choose to name yourself. I stuck with Shiren), a wanderer who comes upon a village where a girl is in dire need of help. She is dying, and only her friend is willing to defy fate and try and change her destiny.
You’ll join this friend (and others) in traversing the treacherous dungeons of the Towers of Past, Preset and Future to obtain the dice that will grant you entrance to the Tower of Fortune, where you might, just might, be able to change the course of history.
Another highlight of the game are the graphics. Oh my word, would you look at that? I can’t remember the last time I set sights on such beautiful pixel art. Obviously this is going forward a bit from the 8-bit era, more into 16-bit and SNES realms, but by golly, it looks so, so pretty.
It’s a bit of a letdown then, that the menus and text windows are a bit… mbeh. Although they are completely within “1990s-era-RPG” regulation, they are nowhere as inspired as what you see while playing the game.
The gameplay has classic RPG elements to it: you level up, you gather loot, you have other players join your party, etc. However, it has a couple of aces up its sleeve, too.
The first one is that it’s a rogue-like, so dying will set you back quite a ways. Although there’s a couple of mechanics whereby you can be revived (including Ad Hoc), the wait for that to happen can be… long. So you best wise up and avoid death if at all possible, son. Much like real life, then.
Another realistic element is that your inventory has a limit. I like this, as carrying 500kg of broken swords and shields have always seem a bit… odd to me.
Dungeons work on a sort of grid system, and each time you move, the enemies move, too (these are called, rather smartly, “turns”). Planning your turns so that you don’t die is a large part of the fun you’ll have with Shiren, as there are a few ways to strategically avoid buying the proverbial farm.
There are magic attacks, and melee attacks… status attacks, upgradable items, the lot. And being frank, the big chunk of the game, actually going through the dungeons and playing the game, feels a lot like… fun. Which may be because it is.
Voice-acting is non-existent and the music is surprisingly elevator-y for the most part. I was actually surprised that the quality of the graphics presentation was not matched by the sound department.
All in all, though, this entry into the Shiren series is a fantastic example of the fact that beauty and substance don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
From gorgeous worlds to enthralling gameplay, you’ll wander to the Tower of Fortune with a smile on your face, grinning like a fool. Right up until the moment where you forget to watch your life bar and you die and lose all your upgraded loot.
Which is the precise moment I became a medieval sailor.
- Title: Shiren The Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate
- Publisher: Aksys Games
- Developer: Spike Chunsoft
- Format: PSN Download / Physical