|System: PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Hudson Soft||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Hudson Soft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 12, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Branden Barrett
People really don't give the TurboGrafx-16 enough credit. In a time where the NES was dominating gaming, the underrated console was producing some of the best action and shoot-em up titles of all time; Dracula X: Rondo of Blood anyone? Another one of these classics was Dungeon Explorer, a dungeon crawler in the same vein as Gauntlet. The title featured everything you could ask for in an action-RPG and is a game that has aged quite well over the years, hence its recent release on the Wii Virtual Console.
Realizing this, Hudson Soft took it upon themselves to revive a game that was almost two decades old. And while there have been successful delayed sequels in the past, Dungeon Explorer: Warriors of Ancient Arts is not one of them. Did something get lost in translation? Have people's taste in what action games should be changed over the last twenty years? Whatever the case, it is quite obvious that the game needed a couple more years of polishing before its release. Astute as it is, one can't change the hands of time.
With a name like Dungeon Explorer, you can probably surmise that the story will be just as generic. The game does feature multiple races at the character selection screen, but in the end, all pathways eventually follow the same major plot. Basically, the sorcerer of the kingdom, Deldren, implores the king to find some mighty warriors who will be able to seal up some monster infested dungeons. With a storyline this original, one can't help but feel excited, right? Well, if the sarcasm fooled you, then I believe you've already made your decision on picking up the game, but Hudson had quite a long time to release a sequel to a two decade old game. I'm pretty sure they could've come up with something with a little less of an "eighties" Saturday morning cartoon feel. Nevertheless, once you get beyond the introduction, you will have a chance to fashion your very own dungeon crawler. Excited yet?
If there is one thing to give Dungeon Explorer: Warriors of Ancient Arts credit for, it would be the customization options for your avatar. Most dungeon crawlers will give you a list of pre-made characters with virtually no difference between them other than appearance (see Gauntlet). Thankfully though, your options are divided between three unique races: the Izark, Ist, and Olff. The Izark bear a resemblance to your average human, with sizes ranging from five to six feet in height. The Ist can be correlated to elves, with pointy ears, sharp eyes, and thin frames comprising their appearance. And lastly, what would any adventure game be without a lizard-type race? The Olff can be closely compared to a hybrid between a goblin and orc, though their look is a little less menacing than the types seen in Warhammer or World of Warcraft. With your race selected, you will then have the option to choose one of six classes, ranging from a healer type (Bishop) to those that prefer the heat of battle (Monk, Fighter, Hunter). And while each class has its own advantages, they generally play the same way, due in part to the lackluster fighting system.
Well to be honest, the combat in Dungeon Explorer: Warriors of Ancient Arts is more uninspired than lackluster. Each class has a few special attacks, but you will be using those same techniques over and over again, to the point that they will not feel so "special" anymore. Ranged attacks are also frustrating because it is impossible to lock onto enemies, thus you will sometimes miss your target if you are off by just the slightest angle. Ugh, it seems that so many role-playing games these days go the mediocre route down generic lane. Whether it be the hack and slash combat style with little to no variety whatsoever or the unimaginative monster spawns found in these dark and dingy labyrinths, it would be nice to see a little flare here and there to liven things up. Square or Game Arts should really just introduce a class called "RPG 101" for these less experienced developers. Sadly, the combat system in Dungeon Explorer isn't the only problem the title suffers with. The A.I., especially for your teammates, is among the poorest I've seen in a role playing game. Now, I know computer controlled allies are probably difficult to program, but all one needs to do is look at Kingdom Hearts to see how it is done right.