This is TRUE role-playing.

User Rating: 9 | Sekaiju no Meikyuu DS
GAMEPLAY: 9
GRAPHICS: 8
SOUND: 8
VALUE: 10
TILT: 9

ROUGH SCORE: 8.8
FINAL SCORE: 9.0

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The Good:
- Character selection/customization
- Easy-to-use map making system (except for B19F)
- Remarkable exploration aspect
- Variety of floor mechanics
- Diverse collection of quests (if only WoW's were this varied)

The Bad:
- Somewhat limited replayability
- Only one gamesave
- Could have used additional map icons
- Poor gear shopping/replacement interface
- LOTS of backtracking
- The Muskoids in the fifth stratum

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I love forests, always have and always will. It comes from both my past as a Boy Scout and the fact that no matter where I have lived, there has been a deep, lush forest in my backyard. I have been exploring forests my whole life.
When I first saw this game last June (my brother got it soon after its release), I was intrigued, but not enough to go out and get a copy of my own. Only when I heard that a second EO was confirmed for release (next week) did I feel compelled to pick this one up. Here are my thoughts.

GAMEPLAY
Etrian Odyssey is completely, and intentionally, old-school. I never played any of those "old-school" games from which EO was inspired, but I was willing to give it a shot, given that the game is an RPG with customizable characters and tons of uncharted territory to explore. There is a story, but the game doesn't "play itself", as most modern JRPGs tend to do. In fact, the story doesn't really pick up until the tailend of the adventure. It gives you something to go on in the beginning and that's it. But this is okay, because while the game's main story is taking a back seat, the exploration becomes the story. You get to create your own characters (name them, choose their class, choose their physical appearance) and train them in the skills of their job class. It's entirely up to you. You will spend the entire game wandering around the floors of the forest, drawing out your map as you go, encountering new enemies, discovering new items, finding shortcuts, evading FOEs, accepting quests, etc. The idea that you never know what's coming is exactly what keeps you playing. You hope that your characters are prepared for what lies beyond. You hope that you have what it takes to go that little bit further before heading back to town to rest up. It truly is an adventure - the game does not hold your hand.
Now, a few last thoughts on the gameplay: There is backtracking, lots of it. There are also random encounters, though the game's explanation for them is actually kinda cool. Both of these aspects only began to get annoying for me in the fifth stratum, since both are par for the course given the scenario. If you could teleport everywhere, that'd just be awkward.

GRAPHICS
For what this game strives to achieve, the graphics are wonderful. The scenery draws you into the labyrinth. The battles are fine - that's where the old-school kicks in the most. No flashy stuff here.

SOUND
The music in this game is great. Again, here's an element of the game that helps to draw you into the world you're exploring. It's very masterfully done, even if it doesn't sound like an orchestra.

VALUE
The main game may only contain 25 floors, but every floor is huge. It takes time to map everything out, too. Then, there's also the long list of sidequests you can undertake. On top of all that, there is a postgame stratum and optional bosses to take on as well. My heading does not lie: it probably took me over 100 hours to complete just the main game. I don't know my exact game time since the game never visibly shows you your time played. But I'm pretty sure it's up there.
So there's no question that there's plenty of content that will take plenty of time to complete. You definitely get your money's worth. Unfortunately, since there is only one gamesave, replayability is limited. Sure, you could start up a brand new party and run through the whole labyrinth again (maybe even erasing your maps to redo them, too!), but without the quests (which are one-time affairs), little tidbits of story, and final boss (he's a one timer, too), it's just not the same as restarting completely. This is a real shame, I feel, since it stinks to have to erase all that previous progress.

TILT
This game is unique, to say the least. There is nothing else like it out for the DS. Well, except for the sequel which comes out in three days. At this current point in time, I would suggest to those of you interested in this title to just go ahead to the sequel. The two games are related by premise, not story, and you would not be at any disadvantage.
In general though, if you're a dungeon crawling enthusiast or would like to try something like this out, EO is the way to go. It doesn't disappoint and provides one heck of an adventure.

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