Have you ever found yourself presented with a game that does many things right and that you enjoy, but possesses a fatal flaw that makes you fear further progression? It’s something so ingrained in the system that every formidable foe is a blessing and a curse. You know you’ll savor the fight ahead, but that success will mean having that unfortunate element thrown in your face. For many people, Atlus’ Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & the Monster Seal will be that game.
The Vita has recently become known for its punishing, first person dungeon crawlers with turn-based battle systems, thanks to localizations from companies like NIS America and Aksys. Dungeon Travelers 2 is another of those games. Players gather a group of adventurers, all women, go through numerous dungeons for glory and grinding, and eventually do a saving the world sort of thing.
Dungeon Travelers 2 in particular focuses on a man named Fried Einhard. He’s a Libra for the Royal Library and has the unique ability to seal away monsters, again usually women, in books. This comes in exceptionally handy, as monsters are overrunning the land, strange mutant variations displaying human levels of intelligence are appearing near destroyed, forgotten shrines and there might be some sort of dark monster Demon God planning a resurrection. Though Fried is a novice, he’s pretty darn talented, and soon his superior trusts him with running a Library Suppression Team that goes out doing good in the world.
Did I mention that Fried pretty much appears to be the only man in this game?
Well, not literally. Some of the anthropomorphic animals are male. It’s mentioned that Melvy, one of Fried’s companions, has a father, so other men do exist. Since this is an idealized situation though, the player Fried has no competition.
I’m not ready to talk about that yet.
Mainly because if it weren’t for the overwhelming and overbearing fanservice, I would be gushing over Dungeon Travelers 2. Do I wish there were an “auto” function for battles, which would automatically select “attack” for all party members in the event someone wants to revisit an old, lower level area to complete some of the optional library quests? That would have been lovely. Would it have been great if the 11 other characters that weren’t able to be in your party would have earned some experience while you were out adventuring with the other five characters? Absolutely. Would it have been better if the in-battle dialogue that mentioned the attacks being used and damage dealt wasn’t incredibly tiny and flashing by quickly at the top of the screen? Probably. But these are minor issues.
If it weren’t for the overwhelming and overbearing fanservice, I would be gushing over Dungeon Travelers 2.
Dungeon Travelers 2 is a solid adventure game. It offers dungeons that gradually scale in difficulty. Not only do monsters get stronger, but the areas themselves offer more obstacles. Traps start appearing more often and increase in severity as people explore. Eventually, elements like one way doors, holes to lower floors, darkened rooms where the maps don’t work, hidden passages, anti-magic areas that prevent certain skill usages in battle, warp tiles and levers appear. It provides an incentive to continually push yourself further through the game.
Even grinding doesn’t often feel like a chore, given the difficulty of Dungeon Travelers 2‘s brawls. The turn-based battles against normal dungeon mooks aren’t initially difficult, but it’s quite likely they’ll be at a higher level than the party when you first enter an area. Not to mention there’ll be one or two opponents with surprisingly strong attacks. Knowing you can eventually go back to fight X number of monsters or collect the items they drop for rewards at the Library’s Quest Desk make it worth revisiting or grinding in areas. So do Sealbooks, which you can make at the Library after defeating nine of a monster and equip for boosts or sell for cash.
Especially since you get to eventually reclass characters. Characters have between two and three intermediate and three to four advanced classes to choose from after reaching levels 15 and 30. This provides access to better skills, improved movesets and new equipment options. You’re never locked into your choices either, as you can always choose to level reset a character, returning spent skill points and letting someone start fresh.
Even grinding doesn’t often feel like a chore.
Not that this is exactly necessary. You’ll get more than one character belonging to Dungeon Travelers 2‘s fighter, magic user, spieler, maid and scout classes. I found it best to keep the starting five heroines in the classes you think best as you play, then use the ones recruited later to explore additional options. The intermediate and advanced options are quite varied, and there are tons of great skillsets. I’m a big fan of the Doll Master and Dancer intermediate classes and Magical Princess and Valkyrie advanced classes.
These all shine in the boss battles, which are the best and worst parts of Dungeon Travelers 2. Remember the fanservice I was talking about earlier? We’re going to get into it now.
Every time you beat a boss in Dungeon Travelers 2, you get a practically pornographic picture of the prone woman as a reward. Earlier I pointed out that almost all monsters and all party members are female? Well, you fight almost every party member before she joins your group, and every mutant monster is a variation of the standard, scantily-clad girls you’ve battled before. These altercations are the best in the game and push you to devise new strategies to survive, but not everyone will appreciate the images presented afterward.
Here’s the thing. I would have less issue with these pictures if they were only suggestive, but the women look really young or appear in borderline abusive poses in a few cases. There are fanservice games I’ve really enjoyed, like Monster Monpiece, but none of them made me feel uncomfortable in the way Dungeon Travelers 2 did.
Which is tragic, because Dungeon Travelers 2 is a great game otherwise! Aquaplus did a wonderful job providing just the right amount of incentive to keep someone coming back. It’s addictive, so much so that the fanservice feels superfluous. I can understand why it’s there. Sex sells. But it is such a strong product aside from these occasionally objectionable moments that I can’t help but feel the provocative pictures hold it back.
If it weren’t for the mature content, I’d be telling every JRPG fan looking for a challenge to pick up Dungeon Travelers 2 immediately. I still recommend it, but strongly suggest you look up one of the more suggestive screenshots first to determine if you’d be able to overlook those images and enjoy the game anyway.