Science Gone Too Far!

List making is a science. Well, it seems like a science, until you start making the list. After manipulating your lineup multiple times, you quickly realize the list you made when you just started writing things in order off the top of your head was the “right” list. That’s not exactly how the next ten days will unfold here at The Long Shot, but it’s pretty close.

Before I get to number ten for 2007, here are the titles I deemed ineligible simply because I haven’t played them yet, or just not enough to properly evaluate their place in the list. Call of Duty 4, Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, Zack and Wiki, The Witcher, Picross DS, Crysis, Race ’07, World In Conflict, Armageddon Empires and Pac-Man Championship Edition are all things you might see on other “Best of” lists for 2007, but you won’t see them on mine. Any of them might be a game I’d put up with my top ten (The Witcher sure looks great after seeing the opening and fighting like five guys…), but doing a list a month from now doesn’t work with videogames. People have already forgotten a lot of what I’m going to have in my list. There’s another couple games that will be notable omissions, but I’ll save those for the eleventh day.

So without any further rambling, click through for number ten…

Etrian Odyssey

10. Etrian Odyssey – Nintendo DS

Etrian Odyssey is one of the greatest throwback games of this or any year. Growing up, I had a friend with an Apple IIe computer and I couldn’t wait to get a chance to play Wizardry at his house. I loved creating a party and stepping through the dungeon of Werdna. It was a blast to sit there with the graph paper mapping out the labyrinth while building characters that could stand up to anything. Many games have come and gone since then, but I just never ran into another title that had the simplicity of that game while still retaining its depth until this past year when Etrian Odyssey arrived nearly from out of nowhere on Nintendo DS.

Etrian Odyssey Screenshot

The game allows you to put together a party of adventurers to go spelunking in a step-based labyrinth filled with monsters, traps, bosses and plenty of loot. Best of all, while exploring the furthest reaches of the game’s excellent dungeon designs, you get to map it all out on the touch screen of the DS. Virtual graph paper is supplied where you draw in the walls and note the landmarks. It’s all very old school, but exactly the kind of thing that defines truly hardcore gaming. All I need is a smoking jacket and monocle while I play in order to complete the very picture of beardy man games.

It’s not just about clambering down to the bottom of the dungeon though, you get missions to complete and there’s a story behind all the monster whacking. Neither of these features are exciting by themselves, but when grafted onto such simple hack, slash and spell throwing gameplay, it rounds out the features nicely without losing the simplicity that makes the game so appealing. It doesn’t hurt that the game is visually appealing with its anime-styled characters and very cool monster designs. Tougher monsters that wander the halls can be taken on when you’re ready for them, and once defeated do not respawn. These fights are often epic encounters, and you get this awesome feeling of building up to conquer them so that when you take them down it’s done with fist pumping joy.

The sad thing is that the game is already becoming collectible and hard to find. Like so many decidedly hardcore titles the general public didn’t latch on, and Atlus USA knows that’s usually the case with their games so only produced a small amount of chips to go around. You’ll definitely pay the full $30 to $35 even for a used copy and new ones can go for as much as $50. If, like me, you love this type of game and have been searching for something as simply enjoyable as the original Wizardry, and you remember those halcyon days of page upon page of graph paper filled with maps and notes, then Etrian Odyssey is worth buying no matter the price. Get it now before it gets even more collectible and you’re forced to spend twice as much as the original retail, or more.

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