Review: Shiren the Wanderer (Wii)

shirenwii_boxart.jpg I loved Shiren the Wanderer when it came out for the DS back in 2008, but never realized that it is actually part of an older franchise. Apparently the original landed with a whimper back in the 1990’s, and in the interim the rogue-like dungeon crawler has come back into favor – particularly on the Nintendo DS. At the same time, many folks tend to think of the DS game as ‘brutal’, and so with this sequel Atlus attempted to meld the formula of the DS game with some more friendly and approachable elements to bring in an even wider audience. So how did they do?

Shiren the Wanderer makes a wonderful first impression in terms of the introduction and cutscenes, and the overall visuals feel like a nicely scaled version of the DS game. Colors pop on the screen, and everything has a nice cohesive presentation. The in-game graphics are naturally not as impressive as the rendered cutscenes, but it all looks very nice.

While the graphics are very nice, the audio is not. There is no voice-acting at all, which is not completely unexpected but would have been a nice addition. There are limited environmental sounds and battle sound effects, and the soundtrack is repetitious to the point of annoyance. Unlike the DS, it is not a natural thing to simply mute the volume of a game – but the fact that I eventually ran the game silent speaks volumes.

The Wii version of Shiren the Wanderer has more of a story than the DS game, looking into Shiren’s past, his family, his development as a Wanderer and his relationships. As you would expect in a dungeon crawler, the story is fairly thin, acting as a sort of hanger to frame the larger adventure. In fact, when you look at the overall game experience, the main story is the smallest part of the game. There are loads of extra optional dungeon areas to explore, including a massive 1000 level dungeon!

The core of the game is the exploration and combat, and in that regard the Wii version of Shiren does a great job of bringing the DS game experience to the large screen. Everything that happens in Shiren is turn-based. As you move around a dungeon you use turns – and so do all of the enemies. As you approach enemies, they also prepare for battle – and using items takes turns as well. Combat itself is fairly simple – you attack, use items, and so on.

One major difference in the Wii version is that you can have companions accompany you into dungeons, and you can also control their every step. This allows for tremendous tactical options, but also requires loads of micro-management. Fortunately you can easily switch between automated and manual control of your companions.

If there is a common theme amongst rogue-likes it is DIFFICULTY. These things are punishingly difficult with unforgiving death penalties. DS games like Shiren and Izuna would at a minimum strip you of belongings and penalize your experience if you fell in battle, and potentially send you all the way back to the beginning. Part of the Wii version attempting to gain a new audience is making the ‘hard mode’ an unlockable, and making the game in general much easier and the death penalty more lenient as well.

The Easy mode allows you to die without any penalty, while normal mode strips you of items and equipment. Once you are able to unlock hard mode you are back to the DS version setting where you lose EVERYTHING if you die.

While I appreciate the additional ‘easy’ settings, I don’t understand why they would make the hard mode something you have to earn. What I ended up doing was playing a while on normal, then switching to easy just to finish up, then restarting on hard mode for a more robust challenge as I took on the optional content. Not exactly how I wanted to play, but it worked – and more importantly, the variety of available challenges will work much better for most gamers than the hardcore DS version.

Shiren the Wanderer on the Wii makes some changes to the game hardcore rogue-like fans are likely to dislike, but in general the decisions made serve well to help broaden the audience for the game as it transitions to the Wii. My kids liked the *idea* of the DS game, but dying every ten steps got old pretty quickly. So they greatly prefer the Wii version, as it allows them to tailor the challenge and still have a blast. I still prefer the DS version, which remains one of my favorite games for the handheld, but definitely find this version much easier to recommend for a broad range of gamers.

BuyIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Classic rogue-like
+ Get to work with companions
+ Budget pricing
+ Greater accessibility

Cons:
– Hard mode is locked
– Repetitive music

Game Info:
Platform: Wii
Publisher: Atlus USA
Developer: Chunsoft
Release Date: 2/9/2010
Genre: RPG
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!