Nothing is more frustrating, as a reviewer, than playing a game that everyone believes could be greatly improved with just a few small tweaks. The gameplay itself is solid, the level design inspired, and the story, art direction and soundtrack all hit the mark alongside the game’s integral mechanics. But, we’ve all been there – when all of us have been there. the “little” problems with a game add up to drag it down. Undernauts: Yomi’s Labyrinth is a great example of this, delivering a great DRPG that I can easily recommend to fans of the genre, but a myriad of issues – such as a lack of quality of life features and frustrating rhythm brakes – barely stop me. to extend this recommendation to all those new to the genre as well. At least, not without a warning light.
Let’s start with what the game gets. From the start of the game, it’s obvious that Undernauts has a striking aesthetic. Experience Inc. has released several games using the same general visual design under the Spirit Hunter brand in recent years, but this hand-drawn watercolor art style was first used in Stranger of Sword City. I could go on and on about her beauty; how the portraits of the band members radiate character, or how enemy designs navigate between cute and unsettling, depending on the context you find yourself in. When playing Dungeon Crawler, it’s imperative that the enemies you face are memorable – and Undernauts passes this test with flying colors. I never thought that a cross between a beetle and a frog could make a compelling monster design; nor did I have the deviation to imagine a skeleton where all the bones were replaced by the hard shell of a demented insect. It’s clear that Experience’s, uh, experience with horror games has resulted in the making of monsters that set the tone for the Undernauts.
Music has also been a strong point for the company in the past – Stranger of Sword City’s vocaloid-infused soundtrack was rather unique as RPGs progressed, and although Undernauts didn’t have that particular quirk. to her music, she always blends well with the Retro-Neo Tokyo artistic style vibe. âNamennayo! Is a flashback from J-Pop and every time he appeared on the radio at camp I couldn’t help but feel bloated. It’s harder to point to other specific songs, mainly because it’s rather difficult to find downloads for the soundtrack online, and Experience has yet to release the soundtrack itself. Still, it sets the tone more than well, even if there is only ambient noise, that would be better.
Aesthetics are great, but a DRPG is only as good as its group building, combat, and dungeon design. This is where it becomes easier to recommend Undernauts to players new to the genre. While some of Experience’s older works featured sharp peaks in difficulty and required obsessive party composition planning, Undernauts offers a much more forgiving experience. There is no permanent death. Almost everything about your character stats can be changed at will; Character class, skill points, and bonus stats are all free and can be reset at no cost to players, whenever they choose. There’s still a decent amount of customization available for players, but unlike Stranger of Sword City, you won’t be required to level a unit’s level so that it can inherit skills from one class to another. . It strikes a pretty decent balance, and while I miss the complexity of other games in the genre somewhat – between bonus points, gear, and skill point allocation, you still have to actively consider which party you want to create. . It’s just that this time around, you’re never outright punished for making the wrong decisions in the beginning; you always have the option of going back to the drawing board without the need for hours of grinding.
Combat is probably where Undernaut shines the most, all thanks to the “Boost” system. At the start of each battle, players have access to three “Boosts” that they can activate: Overload, which reduces skill MP cost to 0 while increasing their effectiveness. Duracharge, which halves the damage taken by the party for the turn, while restoring some of the health at the end of the turn. Finally, Neurocharge; which allows everyone in your party to move ahead of all enemies in combat, with the added benefit of increasing the number of rewards at the end of an encounter, if you can complete the battle on the same turn as you activate it. Each of these 3 boosts must be recharged before they can be reused, but you can only start replenishing them whenever a turn passes where no boost is active. Adding another wrinkle to things, there’s a model that Boost will replenish itself first – so there’s a juggling aspect to it all, planning multiple laps in advance so you can maximize your efficiency. strategy.
In practice, this is a lot of fun and makes the combat very dynamic – while at the same time, it’s a very easy mechanic to understand in a short time. Combined with the streamlined party building, this makes Undernauts a very “comfortable” DRPG to play and explore. It manages to strike a good balance between feeling super easy to pick up and playing while still retaining just enough complexity to keep everything engaging. If you’ve played any of Experience’s other works, you’ll definitely notice how simplified things have been, but it’s not like the fat has been reduced to such a degree that it has an impact. on what makes their DRPGs engaging in the first place. If anything, based on the merits of combat alone, it would be very easy to recommend Undernauts to someone looking to get into the genre.
Dungeon designs continue this trend of maintaining enough complexity to stay engaging, yet really feel like they have the best level design the company has come up with to date. Taking what appears to be a page of Nippon-Ichi Software’s approach with Labyrinth of Refrain, players have the option of modifying specific parts of the dungeon using special “flowers” that can be crafted at the base. These can range from doors that go through walls, ladders to go up or down floors, a healing point that will deactivate damaged tiles on any floor they are placed on, and more. Even though the dungeons themselves are mostly linear, adding these flowers helps make progression a lot more open than it usually is. Beyond that, by having specific dungeons themed around specific uses of flowers, each location ends up feeling a lot more unique in the long run. Increasing this is the side activity of researching Cup Noodles in each of the dungeons, which you can return to Camp for a charming world-build.
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Unfortunately, later dungeons show how the system can have disastrous effects on the pace as well. Later in the story, dungeons will ask for more and more flowers to progress – which means spending more time returning to base, breaking down materials for FP (Flower Points, naturally), and then returning to l place to leave you behind. It wouldn’t be so bad if players could easily return to where they left off with ease – the problem is that your access to Portal Flowers which allows you to teleport from your base to a given location is limited throughout. history, and that means there will inevitably be times when you have to do the commute manually. Submarine dungeons are interconnected, to an extent – and it’s legitimately cool when you can find a portal flower to move from dungeon to dungeon – but when you sell fewer flowers than you need to progress, it can quickly become obsolete.
Likewise, while there are sorting options for equipment and items from specific enemy encounters, comparing and contrasting equipment to determine which is stronger is a futile affair, unless at least one of the items in question is currently equipped by a party member. Even so, the sorting options that exist in the game are woefully inadequate in determining which items you want to keep and which ones you want to break down into currency or FP. While managing your groups’ stats is easy and efficient, managing their equipment is a whole different story. The same goes for the rest of your inventory, including flowers.
Just making sure you have enough good flowers to progress through a dungeon is one thing, the variety of flowers you have in your possession can get a little out of hand by the time you reach the end of the story. It wouldn’t be a problem if the game would prompt you to use a flower whenever you hit a wall or pit, or display the Flower menu whenever you were above or below a point for place a ladder. There is only one type of flower that you would, or even could, use in these situations. Instead, the game requires you to manually open the Flower menu and manually select the necessary Flower for each situation. It’s pretty harmless at first, but even upon entering one of the game’s treasure dungeons, where you’re tasked with slowly making your way through dozens of walls? It becomes frustrating that every time you have to stop and manually select a gate flower or a ladder flower. There had to be a better way to handle this.
Maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion. It might be a bit finicky – it sure doesn’t erase everything the game does so well. I would always recommend Undernauts to anyone who is already familiar with the genre, and I would probably do the same for anyone looking to get started with DRPGs as a whole. In the end, it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the game at all; it’s just incredibly frustrating that issues that seem like they should be fairly easy to fix are holding back what would otherwise be the perfect game to introduce gamers to my favorite genre of RPG. This deserves even more than my recommendation, I just hope Experience can polish up those few remaining rough spots down the line.