With the 3DS’ lifespan, we’re starting to see less support for the iconic handheld. Developer Atlus is one of the last bastions for the device, releasing Etrian Odyssey Nexus on the 3DS. A love letter to long-time fans, this familiar JRPG is bound to please dungeon crawling veterans with its many references to other mainline games in the series. However, Nexus may be one of the best games to also jump into the series with, as the plethora of options and difficulty options make the title welcoming to newcomers.
Etrian Odyssey Nexus takes place in an unexplored region of the world, near the magical Yggdrasil tree. Making a base on the city-airship Maginia, adventurers work to map this strange new land, finding all sorts of wonders and dangers along the way.
The only Etrian Odyssey titles known for having in-depth plots are the two Untold games, so Nexus keeps it light on the story. Plot beats are little more than thin reasoning to go and explore another labyrinth. To me, this is a good thing–the core of the Etrian Odyssey titles is dungeon crawling and creating your own maps, and too many cutscenes and exposition can get tiring when all you want to do is explore.
And they are largely similar to other first-person dungeon crawlers. You explore various locales, finding treasure and dodging dangerous traps, eventually getting to the bottom and defeating a boss. Dungeon crawlers are not afraid to beat down a party that’s under-leveled or imbalanced, and Nexus is no exception–the Basic (essentially Normal) difficulty ensures that if you go into a new floor of a labyrinth unprepared, you’ll be facing a Game Over quickly.
Thankfully, for those that aren’t dungeon crawling veterans, there’s an easier difficulty for newcomers to cut their teeth on. Additionally, for those that think the Basic mode is too easy, two harder difficulty options await, testing your resolve to the fullest. If a difficulty mode ends up being too easy or heard, though, you can change it anytime, tailoring the experience to your liking.
Nexus also has a bunch of classes to choose and build your ultimate party from. With nineteen different classes picked from various games in the series, you’ll be able to build the party of your dreams. In fact, it can feel a little overwhelming–with so much to choose from, how do you know if your party is properly balanced and able to handle what the labyrinths throw at you?
Etrian Odyssey Nexus offers two solutions to this. First, early on you get an accessory that lets any guild mates at the HQ gain experience, giving you some back-up units should you decide that a class isn’t to your likely. Second, you’ll get the ability to dual-class later in the game. Characters will be able to pick a second class to specialize in, allowing you to shore up weaknesses or bolster strengths as you need. This is great for those that really want to try and make the ultimate party.
However, things are still a bit unbalanced. The new class Hero is clearly almost meant to be used. The Hero’s offense and defense are both top-notch, and has great overall skills, making the class seem like an obvious choice. Also, while there are other classes that can heal, going into battle without a Medic can be suicide. Nexus also doesn’t do a very good job of some of the other classes, either. Newcomers to the series aren’t going to know the use of sealing body parts, or which specialty attacker is preferable. Of course, with some classes in multiple games (like the Medic), a bit of misbalance in terms of what classes are available is to be expected a bit, but when looking at all the frail, but high damage classes to choose from the frustration still creeps in.
It’s important to note that Etrian Odyssey Nexus is very much an Etrian Odyssey game. The dungeon crawling titles have very little that change mechanically from title to title. My first Etrian Odyssey game was Etrian Odyssey 4, which released six years ago. While VI’s world map exploration is absent from Nexus, the general layout of labyrinths, the flow of battle, and even navigating the town are all the same.
For fans of the series, like myself, this is great news. It’s comforting to start up an Etrian Odyssey game and know almost exactly what you’re going to get, with a new wrinkle here or there. Alternatively, this does mean that if you didn’t like Etrian Odyssey before, then Nexus won’t be changing your mind. Etrian Odyssey Nexus is supposed to be a love letter to series fans, and for this final 3DS entry, they’re not looking to convert players that didn’t enjoy past games.
And as one of the Nintendo 3DS’s swan songs, that’s fine. Etrian Odyssey Nexus knows its audience, and gives longtime fans what they want. The game also is welcoming to series and genre newcomers, who want to try out a dungeon crawler but aren’t sure where to start. Given how Etrian Odyssey makes good use of the DS’s and 3DS’s use of dual screens to allow players to create their own maps, it’s fitting that Nexus is a send-off to Nintendo’s handheld.