Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island review for Nintendo Switch

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Medium: Digital/Cart
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island for the Nintendo Switch is the 6th main entry to the series, although the story and characters continue from after the first game (Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer). For new players this game is an excellent starting point as the game explains and demonstrates it’s mechanics in a very comprehensive way unlike the obtuse or absent tutorials of some older titles. For those that are familiar with the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series, this may feel somewhat familiar. The difficulty of Serpentcoil Island is very forgiving in the early floors but presents greater challenges the closer you get to the end. Along with changes to previous mechanics and additional ones that are new to the series experienced players will also have much to discover.

The story of the game begins with Shiren and his companion Koppa traveling to Serpentcoil Island in search of treasure that pirates hid all over it, and rumor of a huge monster with an amazing treasure in its belly. One day Koppa and Shiren saw a vision of this monster, and a girl in its belly begging them for help. Thus, their journey begins as they sail towards Sepentcoil Island.

On Serpentcoil Island players will navigate a 31 floor dungeon with randomized layouts, items, weapons, monsters, and more. Starting at level 1 with no items you will have to navigate this dungeon using only what you find and your wits. Don’t get too attached to what you get though, as death will restart all your progress. You will lose all your items, levels, money, and weapons and be sent back to floor 1. Sounds harsh, but the game sports a rescue mode where you can send a request online for other players to come and rescue you up to 3 times per run of the dungeon, allowing you to continue from where you fell. While waiting for someone to come and save you from your failure you can go on rescue missions as many times as you want to save other players from their own demise or attempt to save yourself. During rescue missions the layouts of the dungeon appear to be static with room layout, items, and enemy spawns appearing in the same spots regardless of how many times you attempt the rescue. This makes it a little more forgiving as even if you fail a rescue, you can go back in with hindsight on your side.

With this game’s amount of detail and strategy every failure is a learning opportunity. The items you find will have a wide range of effects and almost all of them are incredibly useful on your journey. Having only 20 slots of inventory for what you find creates a heavy emphasis on resource management which paired with permadeath makes it so you won’t get too attached to what you find as you’ll likely be cycling through and using the items you collect to get yourself out of sticky situations. If there’s one thing that this game will teach you quickly it’s that consumables are meant to be consumed, use them or lose them!

While 3D visuals aren’t a new addition to Chunsoft’s Mystery Dungeon franchise, this entry marks the first time for Shiren. The use of 3D for environments adds a level of depth and detail that the 2D pixel art just can’t quite convey, however the 3D models for the characters and enemies feel lacking compared to the gorgeous sprite work of the the previous title Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fate and Dice of Fortune. Overall, the visual design of the game feels like a step below what the previous game presented. The music doesn’t particularly stand out but it serves its purpose for the atmosphere of the areas you visit on the island.

Overall this is an excellent sequel to the series and great addition for new players and experienced ones. After an 11 year wait since the previous title it feels good to say that Shiren is back.

Note: Spike Chunsoft provided us with a Shiren the Wanderer: The Mystery Dungeon of Serpentcoil Island Switch code for review purposes.

Score: 8