"...the blatant and complete lack of effort put forth by UFO Interactive in the localization is an insult to potential buyers."
It uses. drop Give to..Ah, forgive me! I was playing Elminage Original. The above-mentioned phrases are examples of actual menu options in the game, and a general indication of the level of care that publisher UFO Interactive has put into the game. Fans of Wizardry and Etrian Odyssey that have powered through every single other similar game available may find something to like here; but be warned that buying it will send a message that you are willing to tolerate being hawked an inexcusably inferior product.
The story, insofar as there is one, is that you are a band of adventurers that must find some important rings to stop some bad ladies from doing bad stuff. It's standard fare, badly translated, and not at all the focus of the game. The real meat is to be found in creating a huge and diverse set of characters to help you plumb the depths of the game's many different first-person dungeons. You'll take on some genre-standard "please go find this item/kill this monster" side missions, but your impetus for doing so is entirely material. Every single character's dialogue is lazily translated, and whatever sort of engaging tales they might tell you are butchered into oblivion as a result.
There's a nice selection of classes, each with their own unique special abilities. There are also several races from which you can choose, though at least one of them is mistranslated and thus a bit confusing. Once you finish creating your ragtag band, you'll be dumped into the game's first town. These are set up in much the same way as in the Etrian Odyssey series, with shops, inns, and plot-related areas accessible by menus.
The actual dungeon-crawling is standard genre fare. You explore caves, forests, and temples full of twists, turns, traps, and foul beasts as you gain experience, learn new skills, and find ever more powerful loot in your hunt for the vaunted magical rings. Combat works in good old turn-based fashion, with friends and foes laid out in rows, switching off as they whack away at each other until one side is dead. There's a good bit of strategy involved, however, and each new dungeon level is usually full of incredibly powerful monsters that can wipe your party in short order. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on what kind of player you are), there's a significant amount of grinding required, and as such you'll spend a lot of time walking back and forth near an area entrance, fighting battles until you have to run back to town for a pick-me-up.
The game's not much of a looker, either. The monster designs are nice, and the background art for the town areas is pleasant as well. The dungeons, on the other hand, are comprised of endlessly repetitive backgrounds whose initial novelty wears off after less than five minutes. None of this translates into an inherently bad experience, of course, but the drab presentation isn't going to win any points for inspiration. On the plus side, the music is pretty catchy and sets the mood for the various dank, desolate, and deadly places you'll be hoofing it around in.
But none of these should be a factor when you're thinking of buying Elminage Original. If you're considering it, you already know what to expect from a gameplay perspective. But this is a game that UFO Interactive should be embarrassed to have their name attached to. QA was clearly not a concern, as there are frequent grammatical errors and even segments of fully un-translated Japanese. The general level of competence in the localization is mechanically comprehensible, but reads awkwardly. There are numerous cases of flat-out mistranslation as well. Simply put, it's unacceptably bad and clearly rushed out the door to make a quick buck.
This game should be a great deal for fifteen clams. The combat is enjoyable, there's a wealth of character choices to be made, and your playtime can easily exceed fifty hours on the critical path. On the other hand, every single aspect is completely standard, and coupled with the malefic localization, whether to buy or not becomes a more complicated question.
Before purchasing Elminage Original, you must ask yourself, "Have I exhausted every single other first-person dungeon crawling option available to me on the PSP?" If your answer is no, you may want to think twice about picking up this game. Yes, it has a pretty solid turn-based combat engine, and yes, you'll get a ton of hours out of it, but the blatant and complete lack of effort put forth by UFO Interactive in the localization is an insult to potential buyers. The only way to send a message that laziness of this degree will not stand is simply to not buy the game. With companies like XSEED offering higher quality localizations at the exact same price point, there is absolutely no excuse for the abominable work done here by UFO.