Dungeon Travelers 2

"There's more to this adventure than a blasé premise and 'trying too hard to be titillating' artwork."

I'll admit, my first thought upon taking on Dungeon Travelers 2 for review was "welp, time to take one for the team." I have no particular interest in the type of artwork the game has built much of its reputation in the media on, and had assumed that there would be more emphasis on the visuals than the mechanicals. I'm a big dungeon crawler fan, though, so I held out hope that maybe, just maybe, there would be solid design underneath the ambiguously-aged cute anime girls put into nonsense scenarios so we could see their butts through skintight clothes while monsters dripped ooze on them.

And go figure, it turns out there's actually a fun video game here, and quite a lot of one.

The particulars of the adventure aren't especially interesting, but suffice it to say you play a lone penis-equipped fellow (called Fried) as he leads a steadily-growing cadre of ladies through a multitude of dungeons to fight what ends up being an ancient evil something-or-other. Yet, despite the trope-heavy setup, I found myself enjoying the dialogue and characterizations rather a lot. Particular conditions in dungeons and battles will trigger Tales-like skits, which are surprisingly charming and likeable. These and other conversations between your obviously oblivious hero and his gaggle of women who don't get why it's not appropriate to jam their boobs in his face can be rather charming and funny, thanks to the game's self-aware style. It isn't trying to pretend it's something that it isn't, which made me appreciate it more than had it tried to obfuscate its nature. Consequently, that also means that if you aren't into what it is, you should steer clear.

Dungeon Travelers 2 employs a large number of detailed and colorful still pieces of artwork, and while none of them are especially unique in the sphere of 'anime-styled art,' they're certainly meticulously made. The vaunted sexy shots are largely goofy and make up a relatively small portion of the game, but that ends up making them feel all the more random and out-of-place when they do happen (which, most often, is after defeating a boss or when you finish a dungeon and go back home to chat with the locals). The age of the characters depicted varies, and only you will be able to decide where things fall on your personal skeeve-o-meter, so if you're considering a purchase, I'd advise checking out a few stills before taking the dive.

To say a few words about the rest of the presentation: there's also a solid variety in the dungeons you'll visit, and the many enemies you'll encounter are compromised almost entirely of cute girls wearing costumes, cuddly animals, or pieces of killer fruit (not a joke). Battles have the usual set of first-person dungeon crawling slashes and booms, and much of the soundtrack is excellent, as well. There are multiple dungeon battle themes, all catchy, which helps to stave off monotony as you spend hours smiting the adorable and fruity forces of evil. There are also welcome options to speed things along as you grind your way to higher and higher levels of power.

And that grind to power is a fun, lengthy one. There's a robust class and skill system at play, affording a massive degree of customization over each of your heroines, along with a randomized loot system that makes hunting down rarities in the depths of enemy-infested warrens a downright good time. Combat is snappy on its own, and there's a nice punchiness to the great number of powers and skills your team can eventually be outfitted with. The branching class system also brings meaningful choice at particular level milestones, and each class for each girl has its own unique set of battle artwork. Many dungeons have hidden paths that can only be tracked down if you're especially meticulous in your crawling and return later in the game, which kept them from feeling like discrete, wholly unconnected levels.

In truth, I find this a hard game to nail down. I have no personal taste for the pandering artwork or the sort of "brigade of airheads fight evil" tradition of anime and games that Dungeon Travelers 2 hails from — in fact, I find it rather repugnant. And yet, I'm still writing a conclusion telling you to give it a chance. There's more to this adventure than a blasé premise and "trying too hard to be titillating" artwork. This is a very smartly-designed and addictive dungeon crawler with goofy, earnest, well-localized writing and a large cast of enemy fruit. If you're looking for a lengthy RPG on Vita, you could do much worse.

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