Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer

Game review by
Erin Bell, Common Sense Media
Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer Game Poster Image
Old-school dungeon crawler encourages persistence.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

You are a hero who fights monsters.

Violence

Combat against dungeon monsters is turn-based and not graphic, featuring swords, bows, magic, etc.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that players face numerous monsters in the dungeons and wield Medieval-era weapons (swords and bows), but violence is fantasy-based and not graphic. This game features an unusually stiff penalty for death (the loss of all items and levels and returning to the beginning of the game), and requires a certain amount of patience and perseverance to get through.

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What's it about?

Players in the mood for a good old-fashioned dungeon crawl will find it in MYSTERY DUNGEON: SHIREN THE WANDERER -- as well as a healthy dose of old-school challenge. Shiren, along with a talking Weasel and various companions he picks up along the way, goes on a quest to reach the Land of the Golden Condor and must travel through a series of linear, increasingly difficult dungeons, collecting loot and battling monsters along the way. Each set of dungeon levels is interspersed with towns where Shiren can heal, buy items, and upgrade weapons.

Is it any good?

Here's the catch: if Shiren dies along the way, he loses his experience points and items and starts over again at the first town. A warehouse to store items, and an innovative "rescue" system where you can call upon a friend to resurrect Shiren via the Nintendo DS's WiFi capabilities, softens the blow somewhat, but the game nevertheless instills a healthy and decidedly old-school fear of defeat that is becoming more of a rarity in modern games.

Dungeons are randomly generated, meaning replay value is infinite, and certain events will only be triggered if you talk to the same people multiple times -- so it's expected that you'll be starting over frequently. Nevertheless, the downside is that such a severe penalty for defeat discourages experimentation and makes the player all the more inclined to try to rush through each level instead of thoroughly exploring it. Ultimately, however, Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer is an intriguing experience both in spite of and because of its idiosyncratic gameplay conventions.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether they think this format is fair, or if they would prefer to continue from where they left off in the dungeon. Why do most games give the player multiple "lives" even though it's not realistic? Which part of the game do you like best: combat, exploration, or talking to people in the towns?

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