"The Millennium Girl offers a fantastic opportunity for new players to dip their toes into Etrian Odyssey, as it provides the familiar sorts of characters we have grown to love in JRPGs while keeping intact the extremely strong foundations of the original game."
Whether you are a rugged, scarred expert adventurer with a glassy-eyed stare or a plump noble with a penchant for soft pillows and Turkish delight, Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl has something for you. A complete remake of the original Etrian Odyssey that captured our hearts and spirits all those summers ago is now available in glorious 3D, not unlike its closest sibling, Etrian Odyssey IV. There is something special about The Millennium Girl, however, that sets it apart from other remakes of its kind, and that is the addition of an all-new Story Mode.
Putting it plainly, Etrian Odyssey Untold offers two separate modes. The one you might be most familiar with is the Classic Mode. In this mode, you are one of many new adventurers coming to Etria to make a name for themselves. By forming a guild and recruiting members, you tackle the mysterious Yggdrasil Labyrinth and slowly uncover its secrets, all the while questing and slaying FOEs to your heart's content. The new Story Mode, however, places you in the travel-worn boots of a young member of the Highlander clan, specifically requested by the Etrian government to explore the newly-found ruins of Gladsheim in secret, as they suspect some of the continent's recent earthquakes are originating from its depths. It doesn't take the Highlander long to find himself embroiled in the secrecies surrounding the titular Millennium Girl, Frederica, and a rag-tag group of researchers from the Midgard Library, Simon, Arthur and Raquna.
Calling the Story Mode "all-new" might have been a bit misleading on my part, as in fact, the new Story Mode is not an entirely new tale; it is more like putting flesh on the bones of a story already laid out in the original Etrian Odyssey. The events of the Yggdrasil Labyrinth play out similarly to those of the Classic Mode, but since the characters in your party have actual personalities this time around, they react and offer their opinions on the matter at hand. Finding strange objects in the Labyrinth, for instance, can lead to amusing skits that an otherwise silent crew would not offer. The only truly new events happen in Gladsheim, a separate dungeon from Yggdrasil that must be explored in tandem with Yggdrasil in order to eke out bits of plot. If I had to describe the plot of Etrian Odyssey Untold, it would be that of someone with a vivid imagination playing the Classic Mode and filling in the gaps by giving motivation to his characters for their actions. It isn't bad — in fact, it can be somewhat charming, but I can't say I wasn't a little disappointed that the plot wasn't more original.
If you don't find that too much of a letdown, then I have good news, because Etrian Odyssey Untold is so much better in every other area. It may come as no surprise to some that gameplay and exploration still take priority, and this can only be a good thing as it adds immeasurable amounts of replayability. For the uninitiated among us, the Etrian Odyssey games are a series of traditional first-person dungeon crawlers that have the much-loved gimmick of allowing you to draw your own map on the bottom screen of the DS. It's incredibly addictive and a standout element of the genre. If you haven't played the series yet, this is a perfect place to start, as it irons out the rough edges that the original game had and adds a wealth of new tools to help you explore the mysterious Yggdrasil Labyrinth. Among these new tools are Grimoire Stones and Guildkeepers.
Equippable Grimoire Stones are crystals that capture the abilities of friend and foe alike and allow the user to perform these feats as if they were of that class. It's an interesting system that is much appreciated in the Story Mode where re-classing your characters in not possible, but still not as dynamic as having sub-classes. Guildkeepers, on the other hand, are an addition that makes a far more visible impact on your exploration. These Guildkeepers are characters that you come across in your journey that offer their services to you for a fee. This can range a special tea that heals you after every turn of battle, to summoning fiery spirits that will harm your foes. These effects last an entire day and will no doubt significantly reduce the amount of time you have to spend returning to Etria in order to heal up your party. Alongside more expected changes, such as the rebalancing of classes and enemies, The Millennium Girl offers an invaluable asset in the form of Floor Jump. This mechanic allows you to instantly warp to any staircase in the labyrinth, provided you have mapped the floor out adequately. I find this addition only a blessing, as it cuts out the artificial difficulty of having to slay countless trash mobs in order to get back to where you left off.
Of course, with these benefits comes the loss of difficulty. I played the game on the Standard difficulty, and I found it a fair bit easier than the original game. The other two difficulties include Picnic mode, which drastically reduces the game's difficulty further and is suited for those timid players who want to take their first steps in the dungeon-crawling genre and enjoy the story. The second mode is Expert, and this should offer the sting of defeat Etrian Odyssey masochists have grown to love.
Audiophiles among us can rejoice as well, as Etrian Odyssey Untold not only has the original soundtrack, but also boasts new entirely orchestrated versions of every song. Playing the Story Mode will automatically play the new orchestrated versions, while the Classic Mode, in a nice touch that is true to its name, plays those nostalgic tracks from the original DS title. The music in The Millennium Girl is a treat, and I found myself wanting to delve into deeper stratums not so much for the possibility on new treasure, but more for the chance to hear that floor's unique BGM and battle music.
As I said before, The Millennium Girl offers a fantastic opportunity for new players to dip their toes into Etrian Odyssey, as it provides the familiar sorts of characters we have grown to love in JRPGs while keeping intact the extremely strong foundations of the original game. Those of you who loved the first Etrian Odyssey will need no convincing, as the updates made in addition to new graphics à la Etrian Odyssey IV are more than enough reason to come back and challenge Yggdrasil once again. I know when I'm done writing this, I'll be forming a whole new party and setting the difficulty on Expert. Wish me luck, future adventurers.