Review – Etrian Odyssey HD

People clamor constantly for old games to be re-released on current generation consoles and platforms. One of the biggest complaints that I hear, day in and day out, is that Nintendo should make their old catalog of exclusives readily playable on the Switch. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug, and one only needs to look as far as the Final Fantasy Pixel Collection to see why it’s great to bring back the classics with a fresh yet subtle coat of paint. We can enjoy and appreciate what we had and admire what it still means to us today.

So when Atlus announced the release of the Etrian Odyssey HD collection, I was ecstatic. After all, dungeon crawling has been my bread and butter since the heydays of the old Dungeons & Dragons PC games, and I spent more time in the 3DS Shin Megami Tensei titles than was healthy. So I knew that a great time could be had delving into these much celebrated games, particularly with an HD gloss on the Nintendo Switch. This was, surely, a homerun for Altus out the gate.

Etrian Odyssey HD Guild Name

Hey look, that’s us! I made us a guild!

For those unaware, Etrian Odyssey takes place in the city of Etria, where the seemingly endless Yggdrasil Labyrinth has erupted, enticing and threatening adventurers to plumb the depths. You assemble a guild of warriors, healers, alchemists, and dancers (if you’d like) to venture forth and map out the Labyrinth, helping out the chief and other guilds who wish to know the secrets. There are some truly mysterious forces at work, and you quickly find doors that cannot open the first time, complex monsters and evidence that some unseen force is watching over all of you. Still, with little more than gumption and curiosity, you must venture forth and discover the deep secret at the heart of the Yggdrasil Labyrinth.

One thing that players are going to need to keep in mind is that the first title of Etrian Odyssey is a DS remake, not the 3DS title, and that’s an important differentiation. While the concept is the same – dive into the Labyrinth and slay monsters – a lot of the story driven extras that exist in the 3DS remake (The Millennium Girl) don’t exist, and that might not jive with players as well. I personally loved the 3DS version because it gave me a little more purpose and reason to continue moving forward, whereas the vanilla experience of Etrian Odyssey HD is more blunt and to the point. Go in, slay monsters, try and get back out. Lather, rinse, and repeat until exhausted.

Sloths and Bees

Sloths and bees, natural friends who always attack in groups. yes, that’s a sloth.

Out the gate, players who have never experienced these games will be confused. After all, Atlus advertises these games as JRPGs, but Etrian Odyssey feels as Western a dungeon crawler as you can get. Every monster you encounter feels more like a TSR leftover than anything else: slimes that are more jellies, giant sloths and firebirds, and mutated animals that are right at home with rolling to calculate THAC0. The plot, while intriguing, is incredibly spread out over dungeon dives that can very realistically take up to an hour at a time. You are hampered by your inventory’s limitations, the skills of your team preventing you from doing too much, and the blindness of the map, which is a massive undertaking that will make or break the game for you.

The maps are bare and players need to take time and actually draw out the map as you move forward, lest you leave yourself blind for the future returns (of which there are many). This made a lot of sense on both the DS and 3DS: dual wielding the buttons and a stylus meant making a few moves and jotting them down quickly so you could remember them for later. It was intuitive (as many things on the DS were) and you could easily get into a rhythm in the process.

Answering Questions

To seek the Holy Grail! No? Wrong question?

Here, the map movements are either button bound or touchscreen centric, a rare and important use of the touchscreen for the Nintendo Switch. To be perfectly frank, neither is great. The buttons are more precise, but awkward and clunky, needing to quickly toggle between shoulder buttons and joysticks to emulate a mouse movement on the screen. The touchscreen is a hair better, but you often muddle things and drag around elements instead of tracing them. The number of times I put down a door icon and then went to put walls around it only to fling the door to the other side of the map was a lot.

But you keep doing it, because to forget a fork in the path or a doorway that is otherwise innocuous means totally hamstringing your forward movement. The HD graphics in this remake allow for easier spotting of the breaks in the jungle/caverns/ancient city of mystery, but players can still easily breeze past them when you get on long, uninterrupted runs of walkway (which there are far too many of). Being able to use the Automap feature will secure the walls, but not the mining, harvesting, or even door spots throughout. You can really get a weird sense of satisfaction from mapping out the Labyrinth meticulously, which is good, since several quests are just you being an adventure cartographer and letting other, lazier guilds know how things look below the surface.

Etrian Odyssey HD Make a Wish Quest

You wouldn’t believe how many Make A Wish quests exist. Seriously.

Etrian Odyssey does allow for a lot of customization in terms of your party, including multiple portraits for each class and two additional portraits that come from DLC, which are…fun? I guess? Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want Atlus to break the game with DLC, but people who preordered get two additional, multipurpose shots of Joker from Persona 5 and Ringo of Soul Hackers 2. These are purely cosmetic, so you can just have five Jokers and call it a day, each wearing a different hat. I guess I appreciate DLC that doesn’t totally unbalance the game, but I would have liked it if they got their own unique classes or something to that effect.

It’s important for players on Classic or High difficulty to keep a balanced party, as the skill tree that each class comes with allows for expansion into either personal skill growth (better weapons mastery, unlocking attack spells), environmental skills (spells that lessen encounters, spells that teleport you the hell out), or material collecting (mining, forestry), and all are fairly important. More materials from the world and enemy drops means getting cash and unlocking additional equipment to purchase in town, which is its own grind saga. Good fighting spells means dealing with the aggressive mini bosses that wander around handily. Having a spell that means not trudging up eleven floors when you’re tired and weak means not sending your Nintendo Switch into orbit.

However, if, like me, you foolishly set the game to the “Picnic” difficulty at first, you can throw all those ideas out the window, because Etrian Odyssey HD becomes too damn easy. The Ariadne Thread, an item that immediately teleports you out of the Labyrinth, goes from single use to unlimited. Every enemy is weak as hell, but continues to drop items generously. I know easy means easy, but I just stopped caring about finding out enemy weaknesses or even bringing a healer/healing items on my jaunts. I ran into the Wyvern, a monster you are just supposed to avoid/run from, and I beat it. Twice. I got no experience from the ordeal and the Guild Hall just seemed to think I was lying. See if I ever do extra credit homework again.

Etrian Odyssey HD Wyvern


The Quests system does more to craft a world for Etrian Odyssey beyond your own guild, and it allows players to find more excitement and roleplaying that it otherwise doesn’t present. Being able to find lost items, retrieve hurt friends, or even do research that others fear to attempt gives your party a sense of purpose and personality. It’s also the best way to get cash outside of ten cents a hit on animal pelts. Some quests, like constantly granting dying wishes for kids who are lying about dying, are humorous and a good excuse to grind. Others, like spending five consecutive days on a single dungeon floor, can go burn in hell, because what the crap, Explorer’s Guild? There’s game grinding and then there’s masochism, and I will not participate in the latter without at least one cute outfit.

As an HD remaster, you take the good and the bad that comes from Etrian Odyssey. On the one hand, it’s visibly improved and polished, and I do appreciate that. The character portraits are all sharp and pretty, the monsters have a stronger sense of detail that was lacking on the DS’ small screen, and it’s legitimately easier to see the dungeon and the world around you, meaning that you’re less likely to miss small turns and doors that blend in. Hidden passages still are, well, hidden, but that’s certainly by design and no issues are had there. If you love the original version, this one does have its visual charm enhanced.


Avatars are genuinely cute, though some are very, very…endowed.

The audio, on the other hand, feels only minorly improved, and it feels like less effort was put in here. Sure, the music tracks, which are varied yet repetitive, are more orchestral and sound better than they did on the tinny, handheld speakers of the Nintendo Switch’s great grandfather. The sound effects, however, are incredibly similar, which is retro and fun, but contrast strongly against the music. Additionally, there’s no voicing for the NPCs, which is a shame: I would have loved to have heard a bit of dialect for what an Etrian sounded like, or the Forest Folk who you run into in the second half of the game. I feel like showcasing the audio as part of your HD Remake means it needs to explode in my ears: this just sort of pops.

Overall, the storytelling of Etrian Odyssey HD is decent, and I’m glad that the original storyline and the twists were preserved. As much as The Millennium Girl is more flushed out, some of the big reveals and rather exciting aspects were neutered as a result, and it’s better for players to get fully invested in this High Fantasy style world and then take what the Labyrinth delivers as it comes. It also makes things like discovering the additional classes of Ronin and Hexer more exciting because your bond with the oddball NPCs of Ren and Tlachtga remains intact. It makes up for what can be a meandering experience in raw gameplay otherwise. 

Etrian Odyssey HD Advice

The same advice my father gave be before going to a Bruins game.

Yes, I have many complaints about Etrian Odyssey HD, but I still continued to play it. It’s not an easy game to passively play. You really do need to focus on the map creation, and mislabeling an area can result in hours of backtracking to figure out where you accidentally labeled a wall that’s actually a door. But it’s got a flow to it, and the placement of storyline at bookends means you can get into a playstate and not worry about missing crucial moments of plot. It’s almost like a combat puzzle game, and I genuinely had fun and could enjoy myself, even if I felt like I was missing something. Fans of the original can celebrate this new version, and first time visitors just need to remember: the answer lies at the bottom of the Labyrinth.


Graphics: 9.0

Excellent improvement across the board: wonderful implementation of new and sharper avatars, dungeon outlines, and overall hues and contrast. 

Gameplay: 7.0

Combat complexity scales with difficulty, dungeon crawling can get really repetitive and constant sale of raw materials makes new equipment exciting to find, but boring to achieve.

Sound: 7.0

Music sounds better than the original, but sound effects are similar and nothing is really that evocative or memorable in comparison to many JRPG soundtracks. It’s not bad, it’s just not fantastic.

Fun Factor: 7.0

Excellent for long jags of time, players can and will be surprised by how much you get sucked into the discovery and exploration. Once you put the game down, though, it’s difficult to pick it back up.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Etrian Odyssey HD is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Etrian Odyssey HD was provided by the publisher.