Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl may be a remake, but it also exemplifies just how far Atlus' dungeon-crawling role-playing series has come in just six years. The higher production values and the added difficulty setting in last spring's Etrian Odyssey IV made that game a notable entry point for newcomers while also preserving the challenge that fans expect from the series. With Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl, Atlus incorporates these improvements and includes an absorbing story that rises above its clichéd roots.
If you've relied on this series to satisfy that action-focused dungeon-crawling itch, however, you don't have to worry about a pervasive narrative getting in the way. That's because Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl also has a classic mode that is essentially the first game with numerous enhancements. The fonts in the user interface are more readable, moving through labyrinths feels more fluid, and foes are well-animated 3D models.
If the lack of a story was what turned you off of other Etrian Odyssey games, you can now look forward to a wholly engaging narrative. That in itself is an achievement, especially considering this is yet another Japanese role-playing game featuring an amnesiac. However formulaic the story is, at least this girl, who goes by the name of Frederica, didn't pass out after her village burned down, nor was she found lying on a beach. She has instead awakened from cryogenic sleep during one of your dungeon-exploration missions. The juxtaposition of the game's fantastical backdrop and its futuristic technology that sustains Frederica lends intrigue to the tale as your party of adventurers tries to figure out who she is.
This premade party is the other feature that sets the story mode apart from the classic mode. Classic preserves the deep guild-based customization by letting you craft a roster of adventurers who are training under a variety of class-based specialties. As a minor improvement over the original game, classes like ronin and hexer are available immediately.
Whichever mode you decide to go with, there's great comfort in knowing that much of your success in battle relies on your grasp of familiar combat fundamentals. That includes learning how to best arrange party members in the forward and rear positions as well as knowing when to pummel a single enemy with attacks or spread the pain around. There's also the familiar trial and error of figuring out a creature's element affinity and using the right counter spell to cause the most damage. Improving your elemental powers and other skills is the crux of the game's upgrade and customization system. Impressively, The Millenium Girl can accommodate characters whose abilities are upgraded evenly as well as characters who focus on upgrading a single skill until it is mastered. For experienced Etrian Odyssey fans looking for a new twist to character customization, skill-enhancing items called Grimoire Stones let you forgo class upgrade limitations in favor of creating hybrid classes.
There is an obsessive-compulsive sense of satisfaction in mapping paths as if no one in the gameworld has ever visited these areas before.
You have to be at your best at all times because Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is as demanding as any game in the series, consistently challenging even though not one encounter feels overwhelming. The game adeptly rations out its moments of gratification well enough to hold your attention all the way to the end of your playthrough. Helpfully, the New Game Plus serves its purpose by being a slightly easier experience. It especially rewards those who try the story mode first and then transfer that save to classic, which then unlocks two additional classes and various attributes from the first playthrough.
The Millennium Girl is a lengthy game, even if you play in classic mode. This is rooted in how the labyrinths work, since each map and level demands repeat visits. There are locked doors and powerful enemies early on, but both can and should be dealt with after you make significant progress in other areas of the game. Time and again the game invites you to navigate familiar paths, but the vibrant color palette and the pleasing environmental art direction make these dungeon revisits more than tolerable.
Adding to this extended play time is the emphasis on cartography, which has been a mainstay of the series since the first game. Using the stylus on the lower half of the 3DS emphasizes how much Etrian Odyssey has always been designed as a DS/3DS experience. Starting each maze floor as a blank grid conjures memories of mapmaking in classic RPGs like Wizardry. There is an obsessive-compulsive sense of satisfaction in mapping paths as if no one in the gameworld has ever visited these areas before. If you're the type who has to color in every map before heading to the boss fight, this game provides its fair share of alternate routes and dead ends to discover. The UI provides a wealth of markers to denote important areas, hostilities, and places worth reinvestigating. It can be gratifying to know the lay of the land, especially when the map was crafted by your own hand and stylus.
Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl can be considered an enhanced port, but it is certainly not a low-budget one. It's the first game in the series to feature voice acting, and it delivers a range of vocal performances from good to great. If you're a regular consumer of Atlus games, you should recognize a handful of voices from Persona and other Shin Megami Tensei games. For the music, Yuzo Koshiro's curiously retro-sounding compositions from the original game are back. This remake also features a newly synthesized orchestral track, and you can toggle between the two versions in the options menu.
Because it's not a mere port of the original Etrian Odyssey with tacked-on 3D functionality, there is a lot of value in Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl even if you've already put in dozens of hours into the original game. By offering both the classic experience and a new story-driven mode with overlapping content, this RPG is practically a two-in-one package. It's a credit to Atlus that it has managed to produce a remake that is every bit as engrossing as Etrian Odyssey IV, while preserving the positive qualities of the game that started it all.