The Nintendo 3DS may be on its last legs, but recently, Atlus gave the western audience a reason to dust off the old foldable handheld. Etrian Odyssey Nexus launched in North America on Feb. 5, capping off a 12-year-old RPG franchise on the portable. If you’ve never played an Etrian game and you’re a fan of hardcore RPGs, you owe it to yourself to try one out. Between the unique map-drawing mechanic and the addicting class-based combat, the franchise easily deserves to be on the list of best RPGs in recent memory.
So here are 10 reasons why you should try out Etrian Odyssey Nexus.
No. 10: Dust Off Your 3DS
Ever since March 3, 2017, Nintendo hasn’t given players many reasons to bust out the 3DS again. I could not explain why. Nonetheless, playing Etrian Odyssey Nexus will at least give you a reason to start up your handheld for the first time in what might feel like years. The Etrian games to this day have some of the best game mechanics that take advantage of the dual-screen nature of the 3DS, making it a truly unique gaming experience you can’t get anywhere else.
No. 9: Slow but Rewarding Progression
If you’re a fan of games like Dark Souls or Divinity: Original Sin, part of the appeal probably comes from that perfect balance between challenge and your growing capabilities. At some point, everything clicks, and you get better at the game. You understand the mechanics more, and the game rewards you with some difficult encounters to test your might. All of that describes Etrian Odyssey perfectly. The endorphins you get every time you beat a hard boss really can’t be beat.
No. 8: There’s Even a Persona Spin-off Game
Consider that the Etrian Odyssey formula became praised enough that Atlus created a Persona game in the same vein. Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth combines the casts of Persona 3 and 4 as they travel through spooky dungeons. Fans of Persona might want to check out the title on the fan service alone, but you’ll quickly understand the addicting formula behind the Etrian games. If it’s good enough for a Persona spin-off, surely it’s good enough for you to try the source.
No. 7: The Wildest Character Sprites
Nothing beats wild character designs, and Nexus gives you 76 different sprites to choose from. The vibe each sprite emanates runs the gamut, from heroic and stoic to wacky and tacky. For a game that has no pre-made protagonists, it has a lot of character, and these sprites really help bring the different classes to life. Within a few hours, you’ll get attached to your party members, even though they don’t have much backstory to them.
No. 6: Robust Combat System
Etrian Odyssey has always had a deep combat system. One party of five characters always plays completely differently from another. Discovering how your characters synergize with each other only leads to more what-if questions down the line. For example, how would your party differ with a Night Seeker instead of a Ninja? You’ll want to experiment with different party setups constantly, and the game easily supports having multiple parties on hand if you have the time to grind.
No. 5: Killer Soundtrack
Every moment of your adventure will be scored by composer Yuzo Koshiro, famous for the music of the original Sonic the Hedgehog and the early Ys games. From your adventures through lush forests to the treacherous battles with giant beasts, every track perfectly complements the feel of the moment. When you’re done playing, you’ll probably have a song or two get stuck in your head. If you need proof, listen to the trailer here, which features a super-extra, anime-opening-esque banger.
No. 4: The Perfect Starting Point
If you’re worried about being late to a franchise, Nexus actually makes a perfect start to your odyssey. For one, if the difficulty intimidates you, there’s a “Picnic” difficulty mode that eases you in. It also boasts the largest selection of classes compared to any other Etrian game, so all the options are at your fingertips. The stories are all pretty self-contained, and the most you’ll miss is the name of lands from previous titles.
No. 3: Chart a Course!
Here’s the crux of the Etrian franchise: cartography. You draw the map on the bottom screen, one tile at a time. It sounds tedious, but honestly, it makes up half of my love for the series. It perfectly scratches that itch I have for making everything neat and tidy. The map sets up a “you’re the master of your own destiny” mentality, because your success in the dungeons really depends on how well you chart it out. Perhaps the best part of the mapping process is how it probably differs from player to player. Some might use symbols differently from you, others might notate less than you do.
If this intimidates you, there’s an auto-mapping feature that does most of the work for you. But frankly, you’d be losing out on the Etrian experience without doing it yourself.
No. 2: Unlike Any Other RPG on the Market
I’m a big fan of RPGs, but J and non-J alike. Among all the Final Fantasy games and Tales of titles I’ve played, with all my hours in The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age, nothing compares to Etrian Odyssey. I’m not saying Etrian is better than other RPGs, but it offers a set of spices you probably haven’t tried before. It’s one of those things where if you like it, you’ll be a loyalist for life. Even if you don’t fall for it as hard as I did, it’s worth exploring for a few hours to expand your understanding of RPGs.
No. 1: Get in on the ground floor
Do you like feeling superior, lording over your fellow gamers? Do you enjoy saying that you were invested in a series before it was cool? Well, now’s your chance to get into a franchise while it’s still (sort of) on the ground floor.
A big part of Nexus’ marketing is that it’s “the final Etrian installment on the Nintendo 3DS.” I’m not saying we’re guaranteed to get an Etrian game on the Nintendo Switch in the next few years. But Rune Factory 5 — a sequel to a series that has historically been on the DS and 3DS, just like Etrian Odyssey — just got announced for the Switch.
But if Etrian Odyssey VI does get announced for the Switch, you can bet a lot of new eyes will be on the franchise. But you? You’ve already had your eyes on the best dungeon crawler on the 3DS, and frankly, you’re disappointed at how criminally underrated it’s always been.
GameLuster’s Tuesday 10 is a weekly column that highlights memorable, light-hearted facets of video games or the industry at large. The No. 1 is a hill no one should die on, but it’s a hill that should be admired from afar.