It’s the end of an era, that’s for sure. Atlus’ Etrian Odyssey series has graced Nintendo’s dual-screened handhelds now for almost 12 years, and in that time, the beloved series has found its way into the hearts of JRPG fans worldwide. One of the reasons for its widespread popularity is its splendid map-making feature, that makes use of the bottom screen of a DS or 3DS system. As players explore myriad dungeons, forests, caves, and more, fighting monsters and looting chests, they also have to partake in cartography and draw out — square by square — the area they are exploring.
Sure, the game has some modes for auto-mapping, but that takes most of the fun out of it. Adding notes to each room, like the location of traps and treasure chests — and alternate, hidden paths –falls on the player. And since you will most likely be returning to these areas over and over, the more detailed the map you make, the easier it is to navigate on your second or third visit. So now that Atlus has dropped Etrian Odyssey Nexus, the last game on the legendary Nintendo handheld, this wonderful series could very well be coming to an end as we know it. At least it’s going out on a high note.
Etrian Odyssey Nexus picks up after the events of Etrian Odyssey V, but, as with the previous games in the series, you don’t need to have played the previous games to enjoy the new one. Nexus serves as a “greatest hits” of all the previous games by bringing together characters from each of the different kingdoms and municipalities to converge on the new land, the floating island of Maginia. The ruling princess hopes to uncover the secrets of the world through the exploration of the Yggdrasil Tree and the rest of Lemuria. In reality, that’s all the story you need to know, and the rest of the Etrian Odyssey Nexus tale will be revealed by the player as they play. It’s one of the hallmarks of the series, and once again, it is executed to near perfection here.
There are a staggering 19 character classes to choose from for your lead character, and at some point in the story, the option for subclasses opens up, allowing you to choose from the remaining 18 classes to find what works best for you. Players connect in a town in Maginia to buy gear and items, sell monster parts, and to collect new missions from the over 100 quests. After, they go off to explore and fill-in maps. There is something oddly addictive about exploring these locales.
The game is presented in first person, and the stereoscopic 3D works incredibly well to create depth of field in each room. Enemies are invisible on the map and battles are random. To offset this, monsters are represented by footsteps on your screen and as the footsteps change in color, the player knows they are closer to conflict. Combat is turn-based and very satisfying for old school JRPG fans. Etrian Odyssey Nexus brings back F.O.E. — or Field-On Enemies. These monsters appear on-screen (not random) and can be seen on the map in rooms you’ve already discovered. Also, these fiends are tough. Players would be best served to avoid them, as combat will spell certain doom in the early parts of the game. This forces creative thinking to find alternate paths around F.O.E.-filled rooms, and truly emphasizes the importance of your cartography, if you need a quick egress down a secret path if an F.O.E. suddenly appears and spots you.
Force Boost returns in Etrian Odyssey Nexus, which is a meter that fills up during battle, and allows the player to activate a buff or debuff for three turns once full. Doing this regularly also helps earn the group a Break, which are powerful attacks that are tied to each class. Force Boost and Breaks can sometimes be the difference between surviving an encounter and being a skeleton that other adventurers will eventually find one day.
In addition to the beautiful graphics and unique gameplay perspectives, Etrian Odyssey Nexus features a wonderful soundtrack by composer Yuzo Koshiro, a veteran of the series. The melodies that play while exploring draw the player into that world, and makes exploration that much more fun and relaxing, with the occasional thrill when an F.O.E. appears.
As with other games in the Etrian Odyssey series, players are given so many opportunities for customization, not just in their main characters, but in their parties, guild choice, and so on. Etrian Odyssey Nexus works well as a game that you can pick up, run a few dungeons, put down, and can come back days, weeks, or months later and play again without worry that you’ve forgotten specific story beats or what your next task is. This is one of the unique advantages Etrian Odyssey games have over others in the genre, and I still, to this day, pop in Etrian Odyssey IV and V while I’m on an airplane, just to do some exploration while traveling. All that changes with Etrian Odyssey Nexus — it’s a perfect collection of everything that makes the series great, and it’s all that I will need going forward.
Etrian Odyssey Nexus is the perfect end to the Etrian Odyssey series on the DS line of systems, as it gathers together all of the key components that make the series great. It gives new players the perfect starting point, and veteran players the perfect culmination of a decade-plus-long franchise. There truly is something for everyone here, and each player can — and will — have a different experience with the game and its wonderfully realized world. That’s truly what makes it great.
For the last few weeks, I’ve tried to figure out how this game can continue without a dual screen interface, and really, this is it folks. This series was intrinsically tied to Nintendo’s handheld, and if this is, in fact, the end of the series on the Nintendo 3DS, this game and franchise goes with it. Don’t miss your chance to play one of the best RPGs that the 3DS had to offer. One last time, gather your team, select your class, and explore, explore, explore. You won’t be sorry.
This review is based on the Nintendo 3DS version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Atlus.
Etrian Odyssey Nexus is the last Nintendo 3DS in the legendary dungeon crawling series, and the franchise goes out with a bang, by bringing old and new characters along for one epic, final journey.