The level of enjoyment one gets from playing an old classic often comes down to timing, typically from an increased sense of nostalgia that comes from a mixture of time apart and from a reminder of said game that is formed from a similarity to a recently released title. It’s been a few years since Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate released on the PlayStation Vita and even longer since the original Nintendo DS release in Japan. Add in the fact the Nintendo Switch is a terrific platform to relive old classics and one would assume that Shiren should find a new audience on another handheld device. Unfortunately the timing of its release couldn’t be worse. With the runaway success of Hades still fresh on the minds of Switch owners, the classic mystery dungeon crawling of Shiren comes off feeling much more older than it actually is.
In stark contrast to the fast pace and smooth controls of modern roguelikes, Shiren represents the other end of the spectrum with a slow and methodical approach to dungeon crawling. On a quest to change the fate of a sick child in a nearby village, the silent protagonist with their trusty sidekick enters the Tower of Fortune on a turn-based adventure. Exploring the floors of multiple towers, Shiren must find the resources necessary to defend from enemies and also keep health and hunger in check. Inventory management is a prime mechanic that must be mastered in order to progress through the towers. Enemies only move when Shiren does, meaning each turn of movement must be considered in order to stay alive. This style of gameplay can feel glacial after playing something more modern and is more suited to those who prefer games with a slower pace.
Shiren certainly stands out as one of the best examples of a traditional mystery dungeon but follows the formula so closely that it fails to appeal to fans outside of the genre. That’s not to say that those who aren’t the most hardcore of mystery dungeon fans won’t find enjoyment, but Shiren certainly won’t change the mind of anyone who already has an opinion on these types of games. New bonus dungeons have been included to provide an incentive for previous owners of the PS Vita version to upgrade on Switch. A dungeon without weapon drops provides a new kind of challenge, as does another that provides incentives to defeating enemies in one attack, but otherwise the biggest advantage of the Switch version is the larger screen and more comfortable play experience.
The experience of playing on the Nintendo Switch is enough for existing fans of Shiren the Wanderer to upgrade, but it might be awhile before a new audience develops an appetite for the slow paced gameplay of a mystery dungeon. In a lot of ways, the release timing of Shiren feels similar to that of SMT: Strange Journey on the Nintendo 3DS. Strange Journey is an incredible title in its own right, but trying to sell the classic gameplay to someone coming out of Persona 5 is a tough proposition. There will come a time when Switch owners begin to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into the creation of Shiren, but as for the release timing, the dice of fate did not roll in Spike Chunsoft’s favour.
- One of the best examples of a mystery dungeon title
- Inventory management is well balanced
- Feels much better playing on the Switch
- Gameplay feels dated
- Extra content may not be enough for some to double dip