Time and time again, I am surprised by the PSP. As soon as the well seems to be dry and there are no more new games for the system, I am met with newly localized games all the way from Japan. Most of the PSP games that have been coming in are JRPGs (Japanese role-play games), in particular dungeon crawlers such as Elminage Original.Now at first I’ve never heard of Elminage Original, but as I played the game, I was thinking to myself, “Why does it remind me of Wizardry?” I did some research and found out that the developers, STARFISH, did work on a few of the Wizardry titles in Japan. So can a niche game on a “dying” system prove that they can still hang in an age of HD?
Classic Dungeon Crawl Gameplay - Hardcore fans of old school dungeon crawlers such as Dungeon Master and Wizardry will feel right at home with Elminage Original. From picking pre-made party members from the local tavern and registering your own characters to resurrecting dead party members at temples, as well as using Inns for blacksmithing and alchemy. And that’s just in town. Once in the dungeons, the combat becomes a classic turn based between the hideous monsters that lurk in the dark.
D&D Styled Character Creation - In most dungeon crawlers, players can either fill their party with pre-generated characters or choose to create their own. Character creation in Elminage Original is somewhat like a simpler version of the D&D character creator: Pick a sex, then pick one of nine races, each with their own racial bonus. Races range from the traditional humans and elves to more exotic creatures such as Devilish, Werebeasts and Hotlets. Afterwards, you select one of three orders: good, neutral or evil. Picking any one of these will alter base points and will decide what class players can pick. For example, picking good means that player can’t play as thieves. The amount of customization in the character sheet is pretty impressive for a dungeon crawler.
Straight Forward - Elminage Original is pretty straight forward. The game dumps you in the middle of a town and from there it’s up to you to figure things out. For veteran dungeon crawlers this is great. They can get to plan their crawl without losing any time. For novices and beginners however, this can be a problem, which I’ll get into later.
A MESSY DUNGEON
No Tutorial/Help - While I did say that EO was pretty much straight forward, this can be a bit of a problem for newcomers to the genre. I’m not saying that the game needs to hold the player’s hand, but EO could use a simple tutorial. A great example of an effective tutorial is the one from Dark Souls. It delivered hints as to how things work in the form of shiny glyphs on the floor that players clicked. If they know how the game works then they didn’t click them but if they are new to the game they clicked it. Elminage Original is not only void of that, but any tutorial at all.
Yo Dawg, I Heard you Like Menus, So I Put Menus in Your Menus - A common thing that I notice with some dungeon crawlers is that they’re menu heavy, and EO is no exception. While this might not bother some people, take into consideration that the game doesn’t really explain what the menus do, as I mentioned earlier. For example, doing alchemy is a common thing to do in RPGs right? Take X add Y and you get Z. In EO, however, only alchemist can synthase items, but the game doesn’t tell you that from the beginning. Once you do have an alchemist in the party, you have to go to the inn, click use alchemist room, then click who is to pay for items, then who is to do the alchemy, then pick the items…..see where I’m getting at? And all to get a revival potion that you can simply buy from the store. The menus need to be a bit more streamlined, this way it can help newbie and vet alike.
For such a niche game on a system that is “supposedly” dead, Elminage Original proved two things: dungeon crawlers are still around and PSP games are not going to go away anytime soon. EO provides a great throwback to dungeon crawlers of old and will have veteran crawlers busy for hours. Unfortunately, for those who are new to these games may have some trouble getting to the game due to how the game is designed. Don’t let that discourage you from trying this game though. As for the hardcore crawlers, a new dungeon adventure awaits.
*This review was based on the PSP version of the game with a review copy provided by the publisher.*