Trying to decide between which version of Dungeon Explorer: Warriors Of Ancient Arts to get, the Nintendo DS or PSP version, may be a little more difficult than originally thought. Turns out they're completely different games, with separate story lines. The DS version has goblin gibberish, a demon god, and some pretty fun, but ultimately repetitive gameplay. But it won't take a firmware update to play (zing!)
Dungeon Explorer bears little resemblance to the TurboGrafx-16 game it's based on. Instead it seems to have drawn inspiration from other classic role playing games like Gauntlet and Diablo. Players do exactly what they ought to in a game called Dungeon Explorer: traverse dozens of caves, temples, and, of course, dungeons.
For the most part, Dungeon Explorer is a pretty solid hack-and-slash. The single player has a moderately interesting story and the various spells and abilities (referred to as Arts) are fun to use. The battle system is pretty basic, but works well and keeps the pace of fighting pretty high. The simple joy of running through rooms and killing everything that comes in arm's reach is what made the original Dungeon Explorer so fun, and even though the game controls differently, it still has that same basic principle.
As the single player quest progresses, however, Dungeon Explorer starts to become redundant. Enemy generators litter the dungeons, and oftentimes players need to destroy all of them to progress. It becomes tedious to go through every room destroying a circle that spews worthless little blobs, just to open a door. The farther into the game, the more enemies fill each room, but more enemies don't make the game more difficult. Most of them just stand around, waiting to be pummeled to death. The few that charge the player immediately turn tail when they get hit, giving the player plenty of time to set up another attack.
And while the battle mechanics are fun, the level progression and character customization are limited. They don't detract from the game, but they certainly don't add anything to it. While the original Dungeon Explorer offered multiple warriors to choose from, the DS version basically has three.
The enemies are also pretty limited. While there are a number of interesting, and bizarre creatures (like giant flesh cubes) there are also a myriad of uninspired ones. Amorphous slime balls riddle the playing field, in all different colors. Wolves that don't look like wolves at all also come in multiple hues. The game becomes a color swapping episode repeat for multiple hours.
The payoff for hammering through the single player quest comes in the ability to survive in the multiplayer dungeon. Getting a team of two or three together offers a pretty cool hack-and-slash experience reminiscent of Gauntlet. The problems found in the single player game are less apparent, and even when they are there, the addition of other players makes it go much smoother. The only problem is that there is just one dungeon with five levels. Multiple dungeons, or better yet, a dungeon creator, would have made this game's long term playability skyrocket.
The game even works well over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, once it gets going. The game set up takes a little while, but it offers a solid jump-in-and-play experience. Of course it could use some more people playing, since the longest part is just waiting for someone else to join the party. The WFC mode requires three players in the party to even start and will force the players to wait for multiple minutes before finally just starting the game with two.