Published Mar 16, 2010The Japanese are a historically dedicated people. Think about those South Pacific soldiers who sat tight in their tropical bunkers for years after WWII came to a close. That required a single-minded perseverance that nowadays is exhibited in a preference for a role-playing genre known as "rougelike."
Sussing out that the genre is named after a game called Rouge (which came out way back in 1980) is the only easy part of a rouguelike. This is a pursuit where soul-crushingly difficult gameplay lays waste to all but the hardest of the core.
They're basically dungeon-crawlers, but ones where the dungeon layouts are randomized so that you don't get too bored when you're forced to play the same level over and over again. Because you will die. A lot. And unlike modern games, you will not have save points and you will not keep your loot and experience. Game over. Try again.
This brutal purity is why rougelikes have never moved beyond niche in North America, even with last year's kiddie roguelike Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. But where Pikachu failed, Shiren is wandering in.
Though the original Shiren on the Super Nintendo was one of the first mystery dungeon games, some are already slamming the Wii version because the creators hoped to attract a broader audience, adding easier difficulty levels that allow the keeping of XP and items. But it's still purposefully punishing.
Vaunted Japanese game localizers Atlus, who previously brought us Trauma Centre, Steambot Chronicles and the beloved Shin Megami Tensei series, know their otaku audience well and have maintained Shiren's Japanese flair in the franchise's anglo iteration. The graphics are old-school ― literally, it came out in Japan in 2008 ― the turn-based controls are methodical and the storyline is also basic: Shiren and his talking ferret go off treasure hunting in the mysterious Karakuri mansion.
Whether or not this game is worth playing depends almost entirely on the type of gamer you are, as it unapologetically rewards repetition and punishes impatience. But whether a rougelike virgin or mystery dungeon master, be prepared to die, rinse, repeat. (Atlus)