Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is a re-imagining of the very first Etrian Odyssey. The difference this time around is that it comes packed with two modes: Story Mode and Classic Mode. An all-new narrative has been woven, complete with voice-acting, anime cutscenes and pre-set characters for this remake.
If you want a traditional Etrian Odyssey experience in which you create a character by choosing from one of the 11 classes available in the game, the Classic Mode is for you. This all might be very familiar though, because it's basically a remake of the original 2007 version of the game. You'll roll through dungeons, fight monsters, collect treasure and do it all in a first-person perspective.
But if you really want to get the most of what Untold has to offer, then you'll dive into the Story Mode, which puts you in the adventuring boots of a Highlander who has been sent to the town of Etria. You're tasked by an organization called the Radha to explore a labyrinth called Gladsheim in the forests.
While you first have to prove yourself in the starting areas of the labyrinth, it's a small task and you're soon given the right to explore further and accept requests from the townspeople. Going back into the labyrinth a few more times in the story leads you to meet up with the people who will make up your party for the duration of the game.
Upon further exploration of the labyrinth lands you in front of a mysterious girl stuck inside a futuristic tube. This is Frederica Irving, the Gunner. She also happens to be the titular Millennium Girl. As you're attacked by a monster, three other strangers jump in to help you fend off the attacker. There's Raquna the Protector, Simon the Medic and Arthur the Alchemist. Your Highlander will spend the entire game with these people, so you'd better learn to love them fast. Thankfully, they're all pretty interesting characters and provide a sense of depth to the story, which is frankly kind of of boring thanks to cliches like Frederica's amnesia or the mysterious force from the past that threatens to destroy the world. There's nothing unique here.
Still, you'll grow attached to these people the more you adventure with them. You might even find yourself overwhelmed with emotions once one goes down in battle. Alright, that probably won't happen, but chances are you'll feel a hint of sadness. After all, Raquna only wanted to strike out on her own and prove that she's worth more than her rich family's name, so it's a shame to see her fail in a fight, right?
Even the peripheral characters are pretty cool, especially thanks to the voice-acting. Characters like Shilleka from the shop in town provide you with much-needed info and goods, all while speaking in very peculiar cadences and accents. I found myself repeatedly going back to these non-player characters often, just to see if they'd say anything new with their interesting voices.
But the heart of Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is in its dungeon-crawling. I'm a little ashamed to say that this game trucks me hard and punishes me often. But you know what? That's what makes it an amazing role-playing experience. Not only can the difficulty be cripplingly difficult, but it all depends on the choices you make for your party's skills, equipment and position. The dungeons are rough for anyone, but you have to go in with the mindset that it won't be a walk in the proverbial park.
For starters, you have to map out dungeon floors. Failure to do so will get you killed. The easiest way to do this is to take it block by block, carefully drawing out the corridors on the bottom screen of the 3DS and pointing out where stairs, dead ends and gathering spots are located. Luckily for you, really tough monsters (called FOEs) are already pointed out on the map. If you do happen to run into these baddies, be prepared to fight for your life.
It's possible to win these difficult battles, but only by playing a smart game. Do you use your Highlander's skill to take out a whole line of enemies at the cost of his health? Or do you use Raquna's skills to protect your back row of casters from any attacks? Maybe you play it cautiously and have Simon and Frederica prepare some healing spells for the group right before you know a large attack is coming? Making smart decisions on the spots ensures the safety of the group.
But I cannot stress this enough: making it out of the labyrinth alive depends on you mapping out the floors!
For the most part, the gameplay in Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is pretty much rinse-and-repeat. You'll start off in town by gathering information and supplies, pick up a quest or two and then head into the dungeon. Once in the dungeon, you'll map out new floors, collect items, defeat enemies and then head back into Etria to do it all over again. But the addictive nature of this game lies in this cycle, since you'll be able to do things better and with more experience every subsequent dungeon crawl. You'll watch yourself grow as an adventurer who becomes adept at heading into danger and an expert at drawing up grid-based maps.
The only real downside is the difficulty, which might not be for everyone. But for those looking for a challenge, fun characters and an addictive style of play, Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl delivers on all fronts.
This review is based on a retail copy of Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl for the Nintendo 3DS