Shiren the Wanderer Brings Innovation To A Genre

By Shawn Collier on February 7, 2010, 1:44PM EDT

In today's world, almost everyone has a passing knowledge of the various genres of video games, except for one in particular: roguelikes. This genre is known for many things, but accessibility is not one of them. So when Atlus announced Shiren the Wanderer for the Wii at E3 2009, many simply passed by the news and looked on to the myriad of other games present at the convention. Those people, however, should give the game a second look, as Shiren the Wanderer builds on the genre and advances it to a level where even players not accustomed to the genre can enjoy it.

As stated before, Shiren the Wanderer is part of the roguelike genre. These types of games are primarily known for their use of randomly generated dungeon levels, which typically incorporate rooms connected by corridors, which can include treasure or monsters. Instead of attacking in real-time, attacks are done in a turn-based fashion, where each action uses up a set amount of time varying upon the action which was used.

However, those who have a passing knowledge of the genre generally know it for one thing in particular: permadeath (permanent death). Instead of saves functioning like one would expect in any other video game, saves in roguelikes act like suspended saves, which are deleted upon resumption. When a character dies, generally one must either start a new game or have their character's level reset to 1 and lose all items that weren't stowed away in the village for safekeeping, the latter of which is the case in the Shiren the Wanderer series. With these severe repercussions for dying, it's no wonder many gamers would be reluctant to try out a roguelike.

Shiren the Wanderer on the Wii, however, implements a number of measures that aim to open up the genre to those adverse to losing all of their progress just because of a single mistake. The game includes an Easy mode, which allows players to restart from their last save, keeping their inventory and levels intact. This way, if the player makes a mistake, they only have to retrace the steps since their last save, instead of having to re-level and gain back whatever items they may have lost. Of course, for the veterans of the genre, Shiren the Wanderer has a normal mode, which issues the penalties one would expect from the genre. This caters to both newcomers and veterans, since it gives those who might not have the time to start back from square one again, making Shiren the Wanderer much more accessible, while allowing those who know what they are doing to not feel like the game is too easy for them.

Many of the hardcore fans in the roguelike genre might balk at this inclusion, saying that those who play games in the genre should know what to expect and any changes to the core formula is disrespectful to the genre as a whole. However, those critics fail to understand the reality that as the gamers who got into the genre back in the '90s get older, there is less time for one to play video games in general. Those who would want to relish in their memories of the genre by picking up Shiren the Wanderer might not have the time they once had to invest in the game. Having to only backtrack from your last save compared to having to retread through the entire game makes a big difference.

Considering that Famitsu gave the game a 9/9/8/9, the highest score any of the games in the Shiren the Wanderer series have ever obtained, it is clear that the series is doing something right with its latest iteration. Gamers who even have a passing interest in Shiren the Wanderer should give Atlus' upcoming release a chance --- Shiren the Wanderer for the Wii is a refreshing take on the genre which is accessible to hardcore and casual gamers alike.

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