[Note: Due to the fanservice-heavy nature of this game, some of the images included in this article may be considered NSFW.]
Inviting to the Eye
Fanservice. A term used in media, especially in the anime and manga fandom, that refers to material that exists solely to pander to fans of a specific kind of work or genre. This kind of material typically isn’t integral to story or gameplay, but only exists to please the fans. While fanservice can take many forms, one of the most popular (and usually referred to when the term is used) is sexual content.
You may be busy reading through the story of a game when an upskirt image of one of the female characters pops up. Perhaps watching a cutscene and a shot lingers just a bit too long on a character’s breasts. Typical examples of fanservice in gaming. While it doesn’t always go as far as actual nudity, it usually leaves little to the imagination. Also of note, outside of a minority, most fanservice is aimed toward men.
I don’t want to dive too deep into this, as I’m not here to debate the merits of this kind of content or sexuality in games in general. However, I feel using this as an opener is appropriate for the game being reviewed, as this game falls into the probably non-official genre of fanservice-focused games. The kind of game where the actual gameplay can appear to be second in priority to the characters themselves, and their prominently-displayed barely-clothed breasts.
Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & The Monster Seal was developed by Aquaplus for the Playstation Vita. It will be released in North America by Atlus on August 18th, 2015. The game is a first-person dungeon crawler, although the gameplay isn’t the primary reason to play this title for some gamers…
A Story Oft Told
Some time ago, the world was ravaged by the Demon God and his army of monsters. To combat this reign of terror, humans developed a magic known as sealing, which would seal away monsters within spellbooks. A class of mages, known as Libras, were given the task of sealing away the Demon God’s armies, and eventually, the Demon God himself.
Cut to some time later. While some monsters still exist, they are seen as little threat. A group known as the Royal Library manages current and up-and-coming Libras, along with warriors whom the Libras command. Our main character is Fried, a man with a great interest in monsters. He is fresh out of the academy, where he studied to be a Libra so he could interact more with monsters. Lucky for him, monster numbers seem to be growing and becoming more hostile, so he is sent by the Royal Library to investigate and whittle down the monster population. Joining him are two friends and former classmates: the fighter Alisia, and the magic user Melvy.
All of the above is set up in the first fifteen-or-so minutes of the game. While the main plot occasionally rears its head between dungeons later in the game, most of the story takes a back seat to wacky slice-of-life hijinks between the members of Fried’s team. His team, of course, entirely consists of women, which drives the story of Dungeon Travelers 2 down the generic-anime-harem track. If you are an anime or manga fan at all, you know exactly what this entails: every female character falls for Fried, lots of flirting, rare-to-no actual admissions of love, and Fried being denser than a lead brick toward the women surrounding him.
To boil it down, the main plot is a straight-up excuse plot, and the character interactions are generic and predictable.
To Kill a Monster
At its core, Dungeon Travelers 2 is, as its name suggests, a hardcore dungeon-crawling RPG. Most of the game is spent exploring dungeons in a first-person perspective and fighting enemies in a turn-based RPG style. Much of the gameplay explanation from our Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold review applies here. Dungeon-crawlers are a genre that usually stays consistent between games, even from different companies.
Party customization is the main mechanic that Dungeon Travelers 2 uses to differentiate itself from the pack. When it comes to customization, this game hits a happy median between a “blank slate” style and pre-focused characters. Unlike the Etrian Odyssey series, where your party is…well…a blank slate for you set up as you like, DT2 offers up specific characters with pre-set characterizations and starting specialties. On the other end, unlike many entries of the Final Fantasy series, where characters are hard-line one-function combatants, the characters of DT2 offer enough customization to make them your own.
As the game progresses, you eventually gain access to an impressive sixteen characters. Each starts out with their own niche, but as they progress and level, they have the ability to learn specific subclasses. As they progress further, they can subclass again. Each class offers its own set of skills, which must be learned with points earned with each level gained. In the end, each character learns the abilities of three classes (two of which you get to choose), and you can select and power-up every skill at your discretion. This allows you to morph your pre-set starting party into the exact playstyle you want.
Once it comes to actual battles, though, DT2 is best described as a grind-fest. Character level is the name of the game, and it can make or break battles, even in random encounters against trash monsters. Bosses pretty much act as level walls, as there’s little you can do against them unless you match or surpass their level. A well-made party may be able to get past a few below level, but more than likely, underleveled parties will be torn apart and sent back to the dungeon to grind.
As the game progresses, it becomes more and more systematic. Enter dungeon, explore and find boss room, grind, return to town, sell and buy items, grind, repeat until you can beat the boss, watch girls fawn over Fried, repeat. The customization is fun, but putting it to actual use becomes a boring chore.
The View is Lovely!
Alright, this part will be fun. I want to walk you through my impressions the first time I loaded up the game, which was while I was on an airplane.
- The backstory is done with scrolling text, presented as book excerpts. I laughed at “The Demon God and his army of monsters” and how generic it sounded. The whole backstory came across as generic.
- Enter story as Fried. The Chief of the Royal Library (a very busty woman, and probably the only one that appears to be older than a teenager) sends me to the first dungeon. The sprite artwork looks surprisingly good, although the number of sprites to show emotion seems limited.
- Enter the dungeon. Scrolling is pretty smooth, and the environment looks good, if a bit repetitive.
- Meet Alisia and Melvy in the game’s first art shot. Introduced to them with panty shots.
- Realize this isn’t the most appropriate game to play on a small airplane. Shut it off.
I will say, the art style presented in this game is pretty good. The characters are detailed, and their sprites, despite the limited number, characterize them well. The fanservice shots are drawn well. However, this experience definitely showed what was to come in the rest of the game.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a fanservice game. Pure and simple. Whether you like it or hate it is up to you, and I’m not here to judge a game for what it advertised itself to be. You just have to be prepared for the contents. Things to know include:
- Aside from Fried, every main character in this game is female.
- Every female character will be shown in shots with varying degrees of fanservice.
- Enemies consist solely of females (and sentient fruit for some reason…)
- Bosses are all female.
- When you defeat a boss, your “reward” is a fanservice image of them.
- These images tend to have a high degree of fanservice.
To wrap up this section: the amount of sexual imagery is high, but the art style is done well. The in-dungeon graphics are smooth and easy to look at, and each dungeon is varied, although graphics within each dungeon can become repetitive.
Nothing New to be Heard…
DT2 is a case of a game where I can’t even remember the music. The only track that stands out in my mind is the title screen, which is a generic poppy rock anthem. Everything else just kind of melted into the background and became forgettable. I pulled up a few tracks online to relisten to, and even then, none of them stood out.
This game has a large amount of voice acting. For the market this game is targeting, you will probably be excited to know that the voices are all in Japanese; there is no English dub for DT2. As I do not speak Japanese, it is hard to judge the quality of the acting. However, I can relate it back, once again, to the generic anime harem genre, as the feeling of the performances evoke memories of these kind of shows for me.
Overall, Dungeon Travelers 2 comes across as a low-effort game that attempts to redeem itself with extreme levels of fanservice. Fans of the dungeon-crawling genre may enjoy digging into the character customization system, but the grind-heavy level-focused gameplay takes away from the customization level. Why spend time building your party the way you want it, to the best you can, if everything just comes down to character level?
Everything presented here comes across to me as generic. The plotline, the music, the voice acting, and even the gameplay are nothing new or interesting. However, this is the kind of game that will definitely hit niche popularity and gather its own cult, one that will defend it to the death. These people know who they are, and I would like to say, don’t let my words detract you. In the end, every game comes down to personal preference. If you are not one of these fans, though, and are on the fence about this title…I would steer you away from it.
~ Final Score: 3/10 ~
Review copy provided by Atlus for Vita. Screenshots taken by reviewer.