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    Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island Review – A ‘Wander’ful Time

    A mysterious island with an even more mysterious dungeon...

    The Mystery Dungeon series makes its glorious return, and our Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island review covers it all! Team up with Shiren and his talking ferret companion, Koppa, on Serpentcoil Island in search of answers, experience, and, of course, treasure. If there’s one thing consistent about the random nature of the Mystery Dungeon, it’s the fact that you won’t be getting anywhere if you aren’t adaptable. Expect failure and choose to grow past it! Learn about the different areas, monsters, and items. Expand your knowledge and prepare contingency plans. Rise and rise again! 

    The newest entry in the Shiren the Wanderer series covers the next adventure of Shiren, with the wind taking him to the mysterious Serpentcoil Island. Shiren gets visions of a mysterious maiden and her pleas for help. What’s the deal with her? Not to mention the other strange occurrences that are happening on this island. Can Shiren brave the Mystery Dungeon and bring peace to Serpentcoil Island?

    History Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer

    I’ve been playing the Mystery Dungeon games since the DS. It all started with a copy of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team that I borrowed from my cousin. The game was hard but really charming. I already loved JPRGs passionately by the tender age of 8, so this was just more of what I liked in a new format. This randomly generated game with addictive gameplay and my favorite Pokemon creatures was awesome. I kept playing these games whenever I got the chance. I especially loved Explorers of Sky, with its great story and huge amount of content. I didn’t really play the 3DS entries, as I skipped Gates to Infinity and only played a chunk of Super Mystery Dungeon

    I genuinely didn’t know that there were other Mystery Dungeon games aside from the Pokemon ones. Luckily, I was deep enough into gaming to see things like Etrian Mystery Dungeon get announced. At the time, I thought it was cool that the series was expanding, but I didn’t even know that the series started as a Dragon Quest spinoff back then. So that makes three series that I loved with their own Mystery Dungeon spinoff games. At this point, Mystery Dungeon as a series is closer in execution to the Warriors games, what with all the crossover games. Shiren the Wanderer is the main series within the Mystery Dungeon mega-series. Shiren boasts over 2 million sales (with the most recent game being successful in Japan), so it’s still quite niche compared to the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games (which have sold over 1 million copies each).

    Despite all of that nostalgia, I didn’t know about the Shiren side of the series until a year or so ago… It would be a shame, but I feel that the appeal of Shiren is greater to me now than it would have been as a kid. I adore the fantasy Japan setting and the more hardcore nature that this series offers over the others. With Serpentcoil Island being my first Shiren game, I can proudly say that I am now a fan. I will be playing the others and patiently awaiting more from this series.

    Shiren the Wanderer is interesting as a series, as the Mystery Dungeon games got their start as a Dragon Quest spinoff. Spike Chunsoft (formerly Chunsoft) just rolled with their winning formula and created their own IP to act as the “main” Mystery Dungeon series. There are many Shiren games on many different platforms. The series began on Super Famicom in 1995 as a fusion between JRPGs and Rogue (progenitor and namesake of the Rogue-like genre). The game would later become a series, receiving sequels on the Gameboy, Wii, DS, PS Vita, and Switch (alongside various other ports). Each game utilizes the series’ signature randomly generated dungeons to provide the player with a near-infinite amount of content. Shiren also differed from the other Mystery Dungeon games by featuring more roguelike elements, such as starting from scratch upon defeat. Each entry also mixes it up, offering new twists on mechanics in order to keep a degree of freshness.

    With several games, including crossovers and spinoffs, Mystery Dungeon is a fully-fledged series with fans worldwide. Why, then, is the series more well-known for its Pokemon and Dragon Quest offerings? I feel that it’s due to the main series not having the same brand power as the series it often crosses over with, along with being absent overseas for a long time. Also, Shiren is decidedly more hardcore, with more challenging elements that require focus. I believe that it is a combination of the hardcore nature and lack of brand recognition that Shiren hasn’t found the audience its crossover titles have. With the roguelike genre going through a renaissance with the abundance of indies and larger titles using these elements, Shiren could finally gain a place in the limelight.

    Immaculate Dungeoneering

    Shiren the Wanderer 6 : Monster House

    I’ve been in love with the Mystery Dungeon formula for most of my life. It’s for certain what got me into the roguelike genre, and I think it still offers some of the best gameplay of the entire genre, especially with Shiren being a “purer” roguelike than the other entries. I also want to iterate that the tagline “Rise and rise again” is so perfect for this game. It’s inspiring and instills in the player that perseverance overcomes failure. This is the most important thing to remember, especially with the game balance valuing a high concentration of focus. I think this game achieves that balance of difficulty and the player’s desire to continue. Not to mention, the game loads very quickly. This quick in-and-out approach ensures that the player is shuffled back into the action as soon as possible!

    It’s not too overbearing and strikes a good balance, but I have heard that this Shiren, in particular, is more challenging than ever before. The Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games were definitely challenging for a child. I mean, heck, I had to use an Action Replay to beat it. The thing is, in those games, you never have to start from complete scratch like in Shiren (warehouse notwithstanding). Pokémon also gave you more actions with the moves, allowing players to use the classic Pokémon attacks to gain a type advantage over their foes. Shiren must rely on items, wits, and equipment to survive. Shiren the Wanderer 6 requires a good amount of focus. 1 mistake can cost you everything that you’ve worked so hard to achieve. From what I could find, even other Shirens are a little more forgiving in terms of balancing. The main thing that kept me going was “Rise and rise again”. 

    Well, beyond the difficulty, there’s plenty to talk about gameplay-wise. What makes this game so deep and interesting is how the core elements of an RPG combine with randomness and interactivity. Yes, you level up and get stronger with equipment, but that’s only one way to advance yourself. You also can’t put too much time into the RPG numbers game because that makes you inflexible. Finding items and learning about how they help you is just as important. This is vital in terms of unlocking content due to how different items can boost Shiren, offer alternate ways of progression, debilitate foes, and change the tide of battle. This is very important due to how hard foes can hit and how easily Shiren can be overwhelmed. Tactful movement and creative solutions are king.

    Shiren the Wanderer 6 : Onigiri Man

    Beyond the strategic combat and exploration, there are quieter moments between dungeon areas. You can enjoy story events and gather information that can aid you within the Mystery Dungeon. NPCs can and will assist you. Some even give you items! Usually, they sell them, though… That’s good, however! These quiet moments allow you to rest at Inns to restore yourself and prepare yourself. Shopping, upgrades, and more await between dungeon areas. Sometimes, just a plain gorgeous view is your reward! I do think the sprite art of the older games was very attractive, but the modern 3D art style has its charms (despite being what appears to be a gussied-up 3DS game…).

    Bursting with Content

    Shiren the Wanderer 6 map

    I must say, while I remember loving the plots of the Mystery Dungeon games I’ve played, I do think the story takes more of a backseat in this title. It’s not bad at all; the characters are very endearing, and the events you witness can be quite entertaining. The gameplay just overshadows any plot that there could be in these games, and that’s most certainly by design. However, the rich setting supplements the gameplay. Story events offer charm AND new content as they unlock side paths and extra areas. Events are also tied to your run count and floor progression, creating a satisfying loop of discovery!

    Shiren the Wanderer 6 : Event
    Enjoy some story

    As I previously mentioned, there are side paths and extra areas. Enough to add some variety and new stuff to enjoy. What’s interesting is that most of the game is actually in the post-game. Throughout the game, you progressively unlock more and more content and mechanics. The post-game features are that but twofold. The ‘main story’ is basically a long tutorial. On top of all of that, there are Hidden areas within the dungeons that house unique and rare treasures. If you can determine which floors have these areas, you can use special items to help you obtain them. This can help you complete your run or prepare for future content!

    Shiren the Wanderer 6 : Rescue Self

    If over 100 hours of exploring dungeons and improving Shiren wasn’t enough for you, there’s a bevy of online features that supplement your gameplay experience! You can share dungeon seeds with Parallel Play so that you and other players can try each other’s dungeons. The Rescue feature also has a ton of meat. It allows you to save other players who met unfortunate ends, but it also allows you to save yourself if you fall. With this, you can stave off the reset that death gives you. I also love this feature because you can play the game more and learn information to use in your real runs. Also, you can save up Aid Points from doing rescues. These points can be spent to give yourself temporary buffs to help guarantee a successful rescue. Quite useful if your run was cut short!

    And So, This Journey is Done… For Now!

    Shiren the Wanderer 6 art

    Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island is the best Mystery Dungeon game in terms of mechanical depth and breadth of content. The gameplay requires plenty of focus and rewards you with a high level of interactivity. So many items and enemies have a mind-bogglingly high amount of reactions and applications to progression. Players can look forward to being rewarded for strategic thinking as the game’s finely tuned balance and turn-based nature urge players to improve while ensuring that the skill ceiling isn’t reliant on reaction time. Brains do indeed defeat Brawn! The main game features several side paths and extra areas, not to mention beating the game barely scratches the surface of what awaits to be overcome. Those who don’t like roguelikes or strategic RPGs may not enjoy the randomness, as poor luck and a lack of focus can ruin a run in an instant. While the game isn’t the most graphically advanced and doesn’t have an amazing story, it runs well and plays even better!

    The game is available exclusively on the Nintendo Switch and is available on the eshop and physically from retailers! Take a look at the official site for the game for more information!

    Disclaimer: Spike Chunsoft provided Final Weapon with a game code intended for review purposes.

    SUMMARY

    Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island is the best Mystery Dungeon game. It's absolutely heaping with mechanical depth and a breadth of content. The gameplay requires acute focus and a smart mind in order to progress. Items and enemies have a staggeringly high amount of interactivity that makes exploring even more engaging. Those who don't like roguelikes or strategic RPGs may not enjoy the randomness, as poor luck or focus can ruin a run in a flash. The game's story and characters aren't nearly as deep as the gameplay, but they offer some enjoyable respite from the challenging gameplay.
    Payne Grist
    Payne Grist
    Payne is a huge fan of JRPGs. SQUARE ENIX owns his heart, especially their 'FINAL FANTASY' series. He is currently studying various mediums of art and Japanese.

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    Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island is the best Mystery Dungeon game. It's absolutely heaping with mechanical depth and a breadth of content. The gameplay requires acute focus and a smart mind in order to progress. Items and enemies have a staggeringly high amount of interactivity that makes exploring even more engaging. Those who don't like roguelikes or strategic RPGs may not enjoy the randomness, as poor luck or focus can ruin a run in a flash. The game's story and characters aren't nearly as deep as the gameplay, but they offer some enjoyable respite from the challenging gameplay.Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island Review - A 'Wander'ful Time