Cognition Dissemination: The Future of Etrian Odyssey

If you’re a fan of Atlus and their 3DS releases, you’ve likely noticed how they’ve provided a significant amount of Etrian Odyssey installments for the system. There’s a good reason for that.

The EO games rely on the dual-screened setup of the DS and 3DS far more than other dungeon-crawling RPGs. While it’s similar to those in using the top screen for the main gameplay and the touchscreen for observing the map and detailed stats, the EO games are more hardcore by concurrently requiring players to draw the map as they venture through dungeons and note locations of secrets and artifacts. The DS received three installments, but the 3DS has received twice as many titles thus far. Mainline titles Etrian Odyssey IV and V hit 3DS, and remakes Etrian Odyssey Untold and 2 Untold also hit the system.

The Etrian Mystery Dungeon games also count, the second of which released in Japan a week ago. These games are traditional roguelikes that use the EO franchise’s classes, art style, and music, but don’t inherit the mapping features that made the mainline titles dependent on the dual-screened format.

The problem for EO is shown in Nintendo’s newest platform, Nintendo Switch, a hybrid device with one screen intended to be a replacement for their console and handheld lines. It will be impossible to play a traditional EO title on it, since players can’t explore and draw maps simultaneously. Considering that, it appeared Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth, which released in Japan last August and will arrive in America on October 17th, would be the last mainline game for the system and potentially in the franchise.

Illustration for the 10th Anniversary from character designer Yuji Himukai. [Full image here]
However, that wasn’t an accurate assessment. Series director Shigeo Komori discussed the state of the franchise with Famitsu for its 10th Anniversary, where he confirmed that another title is in development for 3DS. He claimed it will be a “festival-like game,” which implies that it will assemble the best features from previous titles for a new installment. This means it’s probably not Etrian Odyssey 3 Untold, like some fans still want. The series of Untold remakes was halted when Atlus realized adding preset characters with their own dialogue and unique stories didn’t improve the series’ sales, but some fans still want the third game to be redone.

Komori also said this will be another culmination of the series, and the last installment where players will be able to draw the map on the 3DS’ touchscreen. But note how he didn’t say this would be the last installment overall, or the last one with mapping, two common misinterpretations.

It’s surprising to hear a director from Atlus confirm they have a new installment in one of their franchises coming to 3DS in late 2017, a time where the system is in its twilight years; but it shouldn’t be too big a shock. The company recently released several new games for the system, and announced others. Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology and the aforementioned Etrian Mystery Dungeon 2 recently arrived in Japan, while Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux will release later this month. They also announced Persona Q 2 for the system a month ago, which inherits many of the EO franchise’s features like first-person dungeon crawling and mapping. They have as many games due for the system as Nintendo, if not more.

In addition to what this new title could be, there’s also the question of whether it will sell. It’s understandable to see why the team wants to make one more title for 3DS, but it will hurt if its sales are below other installments due to the gaming audience moving on from the platform. The question is whether the sizable amount of dedicated EO fans in Japan have kept their systems around.

From Etrian Odyssey V.

Despite Komori’s claims, there’s a chance this could be the final traditional installment overall, considering how tough it will be to implement its fundamentals on a system with one screen. If that’s the case, that fact should be a heavy part of the advertising campaign, as even those who enjoy the series but might have sold their 3DS will want to repurchase one for this game.

Following this, it’s tough to see where the EO team will go. They could create another game in the series that makes serious changes to the formula to adapt to one screen, or they could work on a new IP. Outside spinoff Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, the EO team hasn’t worked on an original game since the Japan-only Noora and the Time Studio, a title reminiscent of Gust’s alchemy RPG Atelier series which released on DS in 2011. Noora was far from the highest seller, but in fairness, it was a DS game released months after the 3DS launch. The EO team hasn’t been given the chance to establish a new property on a new platform, but they could have their chance if — or when — they move to Switch.

In the meantime, let’s hope Atlus USA is still willing to localize another EO game on 3DS after V arrives here next month, as it will depend on that title’s sales.

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