Review: Shiren the Wanderer (Wii)February 21st, 2010 | Written by Chris Selogy | Topic: Reviews, Wii
The Shiren the Wanderer series has been around for 15 years with quite a few ports of the original Super Famicom version to the Nintendo 64, Game Boy, and DS. The latter release from Sega and Chunsoft gave the series new life so that the developers could work on this latest installment in the roguelike series for the Wii. Atlus has certainly done a better job in bringing over Shiren the Wanderer to our shores in better shape than the Sega’s version of the DS version. Roguelike fans will have a lot to like while those new to the genre should be able to get into this game much more easily than other roguelike releases in the past.
Shiren the Wanderer is a basic story about the legendary Karakuri Mansion, where tons of treasures awaits the first people to find it. Shiren has some sort of link to this mansion that he is unaware of, which the backstory of whatever forces have kept it hidden and why Shiren is so special certainly tells. He is accompanied by his talkative ferret pal Koppa and his Sensei along with an old friend that they meet along the way. The story is very a cliché one where you can easily guess what will happen and notice that it’s just like any OVA (Original Video Animation) for a popular anime series that you may have seen. Of course, roguelikes are more about the gameplay than the story, though Shiren spends quite a bit of time on the story and dialog for it to be a non-issue.
Like most roguelikes, Shiren the Wanderer uses a turn-based system for explorer dungeons. Rather than just slowly taking one step at a time, Shiren moves at a much quicker pace so that you don’t have to spend a lot of time in these dungeons just moving around. For every step you take, the monsters around you also get to move, so you do have to use strategy to make sure you get the first attack any time you encounter a monster. The first few dungeons are easy enough on normal that it really feels like a game that was balanced for anybody to get into no matter which difficulty they chose. One you reach the third dungeon, you’re definitely required to grind through previous ones to gain a few levels in order to survive the later ones. You usually have an AI partner with you whose behavior you can decide, but they freak out way too easily on traps and just require too much attention in later dungeons that are full of said traps.
The major hook of any roguelike is its difficulty and method of punishment for dying, which Shiren is at least flexible on. The Easy difficulty is made for players unfamiliar with roguelikes, as you can keep your items when you die while you don’t keep them on the Normal difficulty. While the penalty of losing your items seems really harsh, it’s more of a slight inconvenience since the weapons and shields you can find aren’t all that great to begin with. Your money and items can be stored in banks and storehouses that are great ways to help you get back on your feet if you die. The main factor in your success in dungeons depends more upon your level and amount of HP rather than the weapons, though judicious use of the escape scrolls when you’re in danger of being killed can save you a lot of time.
Shiren, like some of the better-looking Wii games, has a nice, clean look to its visuals. The feudal Japanese art style is used well here with enough detail in the models so that these definitely look like a step up from the 2D DS visuals. Load times are kept at a minimum so you can get into dungeons, though you will probably spend more time waiting for the autosave to finish than loading. The soundtrack is decent and fits the time period of the game well, but it is kind of a sign of the lack of focus on the audio when you factor in the lack of voice acting.
Shiren the Wanderer is a good roguelike that offers enough of an easy experience early on to let those new to the genre ease into the game. Roguelike fans will also like the depth they will find beyond the basics that will keep them busy throughout the campaign. Its $40 price point is well worth it for the amount of content you’ll find here. Basically, if you’re interested in roguelikes, this is one that you need to check out.