Originally released in 2010 on Nintendo DS and later following on PS Vita, Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate has now wandered its way onto PC and Nintendo Switch.
A classic dungeon-crawling RPG, Shiren the Wanderer throws you into the role of the titular Shiren. Upon visiting a village, he finds a girl, Oyu, on her death bed. Her partner, Jirokichi, wants to set out to find Reeva, the God of Destiny, in the hope that he can change Oyu’s fate. But in order to do that, he’ll need to reach the Tower of Fortune. And before he can get there, he’ll need each of the three Dice of Fate.
Shiren decides to help Jirokichi on his journey, and so in order to save Oyu you’ll make your way through increasingly difficult dungeons. You’ll battle all manner of beasts, but you’ll have a range of weapons, abilities and items to help you on your way. It’s easier said than done, however, especially considering Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate‘s Rogue-like nature. Die, and it’s back to the beginning you go.
Death after you’ve progressed through several of the game’s dungeons can be a hard pill to swallow, but it won’t stop you jumping back it. Sure, starting again from scratch, particularly if you’ve lost all your items and money, can be frustrating. But Shiren the Wanderer‘s simple but effective gameplay loop will suck you back in, and before you know it you’ll be even more powerful than you were before.
The savviest of players will think ahead, banking items and cash for future runs. You see, once you’ve completed a dungeon, you’ll go back to Nekomaneki Village, which acts as your hub world. Every successful dungeon completion wipes your level progress back to one, but you’ll keep hold of any money you’ve earned and the items in your inventory. You can bank your money and store any items which keeps them safe if you die. It also means they’re ready and waiting for you when you start your next adventure.
Each of Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate‘s dungeons are sprawling, spread over multiple floors. You can rush to the next floor if you want, but it pays to explore. There’s a noticeable difficulty spike each time you progress in a dungeon, so it’s sensible to kill as many enemies as you can in order to level up. You also never know what useful items are waiting for you within a dungeon.
Enemies only move when you move, so strategy is key. Once an enemy has made their attack, you don’t need to rush in all-guns-blazing; you have time to plan out your attack (or try to escape, if you can). Typically, you’ll attack with a weapon, but your inventory will be filled with throwable items and magical scrolls that can be used to your advantage, too. Scrolls have various effects; you can use them to damage all enemies in a room, inflict them all with fear, or put them all to sleep, amongst other things. As you progress further into the game you’ll also unlock intrinsic abilities, allowing you to damage enemies with magic. Separate from your items, these abilities will stay with you even after you die. Phew.
Thankfully, you don’t always have to tackle Shiren the Wanderer‘s dungeons alone. You can hire guides to assist you, other villagers may help you out for doing them a favour and, eventually, you’ll team up with Jirokichi. It takes some of the heat off you, having allies to attack enemies for you, but you can never rely solely on them. You’re still responsible for yourself, which can be a tall task – especially in later dungeons.
Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate does have something of a ‘get out of jail free’ card for its Rogue-like difficulty, however. If you die, you can send out a rescue request, in the hope that another player will come to your aid. Sadly, this isn’t something I’ve been able to try out pre-release, so my deaths have always meant the end. It’s a nifty idea, though, but ultimately its usefulness will depend on the game’s userbase.
Outside of the main dungeons of Shiren the Wanderer, there are some fun and useful bonus dungeons to complete. The best of these has to be Explosion Rocks. Found within the Dungeon Center of Nekomaneki, it’s essentially Minesweeper. It’s a fun challenge, tasking you to break rocks and avoid mines. There are useful rewards to be picked up, so it’s a good place to start if you’ve died and have nothing in the bank to collect before starting out on your true journey again.
Despite its age and its retro style that may not be to everyone’s taste, Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate has a charm that’s hard to deny. Its simple gameplay loop is endlessly rewarding, luring players back again and again, even after multiple deaths. The constant promise of loot helps, as does the speed in which Shiren levels up. Success is always just around the corner; you just need to survive long enough to get there.