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roguelike games - games that challenge the player to survive and explore a dungeon that's randomly created at the start of each game - have a well-establish history on the home computer: rogue, mordor and angband, nethack. on the videogame console, which doesn't have the computer's 40+ key keyboard, the roguelike is a much rarer thing.

chunsoft's fushigi no dungeon series is the highlight of console roguelike gaming. most titles in the series these days have licenses attached, like final fantasy, druaga, or dragon quest, but back in the day the games followed the travels of a wandering adventurer named shiren.

in fushigi no dungeon 2: furai no shiren for the super famicom, shiren is on a quest from a late friend to find a mythical city at the top of an unsurmountable mountain. the journey will take him through the wilderness, through hazardous and ever-changing caverns and remote villages.

this is one of the ways in which shiren sets itself apart from other roguelikes. though death sends you back to the beginning, your relationships with characters you've met along the way persist. friends will stay friends, companions will always be ready to recruit. roguelike games work through learning-by-dying, and shiren understands that and is in fact built around it.

the other way the game sets itself apart from rogue and hack is gorgeousness. shiren travels through sunken woods and rickety planks over streams, and every bit of it looks lush and beautiful. the music is just as evocative, even if it's just the quiet hiss of a river.

the game was recently fan-translated to english by aeon genesis, and it's too rich an experience to pass up. i wrote the translation onto a game doctor sf7 to play on real hardware, and it runs fine - save for a bug that causes the game to hang sometimes when passing from floor to floor. since the game saves between floors, however, no progress is lost.

this video shows the translation being played on real hardware. i demonstrate the route between summit town and crooked boulder valley, floors 8 to 15. those floors are randomly generated each game, but the video may spoil some of the monsters and items you might possibly find. note that the audio de-syncs pretty quickly.

the video hopefully demonstrates what i think is the most valuable tip i can give to a shiren player: in this game, like in nethack, the solution usually lies in your inventory, not your sword hand. learning what tools there are, and when and how to use them, is the key to reaching table mountain.


   3/30/2006