The Case For An Etrian Odyssey Representative

etrian-odyssey

Smash for Wii U/3DS has paved the way for almost any third-party character to have a realizable chance at entering the battle. Of all the companies currently represented in the Smash universe in one way or another, there has yet to be anything from a game developed by Atlus. While Atlus is primarily known for the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona series, and while I could think of a possible representative from each of those, I’d like to focus on a lesser known series that Atlus develops, one that is intrinsically linked to the Nintendo DS and 3DS. That series is Etrian Odyssey.

Series Background

image01
Where it all began, and where many adventurers ended.

Etrian Odyssey (often abbreviated as EO, or as SQ for its Japanese title) is a series of dungeon crawling games developed by Atlus for the Nintendo DS and 3DS. Players explore a grid-based dungeon in first-person using a custom-made team of up to five units, choosing from a wide variety of classes that often shift between games. Battles are the standard turn-based RPG fights, but the EO series has a lot of unique mechanics. Unlike other dungeon crawlers that usually auto-complete your map as you explore, you’re given nothing but a blank map at the start of any EO game that you have to draw in yourself, using the stylus and the touchscreen (the only exception is the spin-off title Etrian Mystery Dungeon, which auto-completes the map). Later games in the series have included some auto-map features that can be turned on or off, but even then, prudent players will still want to make notes and mark places of interest. Drawing an accurate map is vital for survival in the labyrinths, as in addition to the traps and confusing paths, the EO series is infamous for its use of F.O.Es, which either stand for “Field-On Enemy” in the Japanese version, “Formido Oppugnatura Exsequens” in the English version, or “Fysis Oikein Eidolon” in Persona Q.

image08
Personally, I prefer “Freaking Overpowered Enemy”.

These are enemies which, unlike the regular random encounters, are visible in the dungeon and move about in their own unique manners. However, they’re actually puzzles to be avoided, as your party will almost never be strong enough to defeat one when you first encounter it.

The EO series currently has five games (with the fifth currently only available in Japan), two remakes, a spin-off, and a crossover with Atlus’s own Persona series.

Character Backgrounds

I’ve chosen to do something a little different for this article. While most EO games have generic characters that you create, there are still a few standouts that I think could make for a character in Smash. However, I really couldn’t pick just one among the following, so I’ve decided to give the case for the three of them.

Landsknecht

image05
Just finished basic training!

The Landsknecht is a stable class of the series, appearing in 3 of the 5 main games and in the spin-off title, Etrian Mystery Dungeon. The Landsknecht typically resembles the standard “jack of all trades” archetype, having offensive, defensive, and even a few support skills. They are typically equipped with a sword and shield, but can also wield axes and rapiers. Their skills often focus on team synergy, including skills that increase damage to foes they target first or follow up on their ally’s elemental attacks.

Highlander

image07
Stab first, ask never.

The Highlander is the avatar character in Etrian Odyssey Untold, a remake of the first Etrian Odyssey game. His fighting style involves using spears for all-out damage, often using more HP than TP to activate skills. He also has some offensive support skills to either buff his and his team’s damage or disable enemies. His class makes an appearance as a DLC class in Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold.

Fafnir Knight

image02
I took the phrase ‘Beast Mode’ too literally.

The Fafnir Knight is the avatar character in Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold, a remake of the second Etrian Odyssey game. While he wields swords and katanas and has a few elemental skills to support this, his main focus is on his force mechanic. Every class in EO2U has a force gauge that when fully charged, can be expended to activat e a Force Boost, which usually provides some sort of temporary buff specific to that class. Fafnir’s Force Boost, on the other hand, is Transform, which increases his combat ability significantly and even gives him access to new skills. Even outside of his Transform state, he has skills that allow him to fill his force gauge faster.

Reasons for inclusion

Despite being a third-party series, the EO games really characterize the 3/DS well. While standard gameplay is done with the buttons, the touchscreen is extremely important to making your way through the game. If Nintendo hadn’t created a system with a touchscreen, it is possible that the series wouldn’t have existed at all. EO pays homage to dungeon crawler games in the past such as Wizardry where no map was provided to you and you had to draw your own, which is why the series has only appeared on the 3/DS so far.

image00
I think we took a wrong turn.

As for specific characters, each one has their own reasons for being playable. The Landsknecht is easily the most iconic class in the series, and is often used in promotional media for the games. Having multiple games to draw from and different weapons to equip means that there is quite a bit of potential for a varied moveset. The Highlander’s skills present an opportunity for a new playstyle in Smash, and his spear could separate him from other sword users. He might be the chance to create a Pichu-like archetype that’s not intended for a joke character. Fafnir’s Transform ability also gives him a lot of creative space to work with, and his game is more recent than the other two options I’ve chosen.

Reasons for exclusion

Being a third-party series in a game primarily including Nintendo characters is one of the most obvious hurdles to overcome. Also, the series as a whole is very niche; according to VGChartz, all seven games together (excluding Etrian Mystery Dungeon) haven’t even broken 2 million in sales worldwide, and no game in the series (excluding Persona Q) has reached even half a million in sales (though if I’m not mistaken, these numbers don’t count digital sales).

Designing a fighter from any EO game also has another challenge, easily demonstrated by watching any gameplay:

https://youtu.be/BEMPv8Ro-GQ?t=66

There are practically no combat animations for your party. While that hasn’t stopped Sakurai in the past, it does present a potential issue of formulating a moveset with nothing but short skill descriptions to go on.

Another potential issue stems from the reliance of the series on the touchscreen. The Nintendo Switch, which only has one screen, may end up replacing the 3DS as Nintendo’s portable system. As a result, it may be impossible for Atlus to continue the series in its current form. Even though Tatsumi Kimishima has stated that the 3DS is likely to continue, Atlus has mentioned that EO5 might be the last numbered EO game on the 3DS, the specific phrasing possibly meaning the end of the series or the continuation on another system. As of right now, the future of the series is in question, and Sakurai has said that he considers the future of a series when deciding on new characters. We’ll have to wait and see what Atlus chooses to do with the series.

Each individual character has their own issues preventing their entrance as well. The Landsknecht, being a class instead of a character, would be out-of-place amongst the rest of the cast. Plus, considering how often the community disagrees with the number of sword characters in Smash as it is, adding another without anything in particular to distinguish them might not be in the community’s interests. Also, Link already occupies the “sword and shield” archetype, which limits the Landsknecht’s potential options.

image04
Though it might be fun to hear the next announcer try to pronounce “Landsknecht”.

The Highlander faces the issue of potentially being too bland. Even as an avatar character, he has very little personality, and even less backstory. Most of EOU’s story involves Frederica instead, while the Highlander’s story is pretty much “take this spear and save the world”. Sakurai has stated that characters should display a personality in their games, and I question if the Highlander has what it takes.

image06
Being DLC in EO2U is appreciated, but not helping your case.

While Fafnir has both the advantage of being heavily involved in his story and having unique mechanics to work with, he has the misfortune of coming from the worst selling game in the whole series; according to VGChartz, even EO5 has outsold it, and EO5 doesn’t even have a western release date yet. This significantly hurts his chances of being a recognizable addition to the roster.

 

image03
NO MORE GAMES… have been sold.

Music

What is Smash Bros. without music? Here’re a few tracks you can expect if any of these characters were to make it in.

Yes, these are all regular battle themes. EO goes hard with its music ;P

Thanks for reading! I appreciate it, and I’d also really love to know what you think about the chances each of these characters have at getting into Smash. Leave a comment, or if you’d like, you could find me on Twitter and give me a reason to use the site.

Share this!

2 comments

  1. A EO character is very possible since the series has been on Nintendo for a long time, but not sure if they’ll be chosen over a SMT or a Persona character,

    1. Thanks for reading! You’re definitely right that SMT and Persona are more popular picks, and are far more likely to receive a character than EO is. EO is one of my favorite Atlus series though, so I wanted to give it some attention with an honest analysis. My reasons for exclusion here are longer than my reasons for inclusion, which is pretty telling of what I think their chances are ;_;

      The only advantage I’d say is that EO games are made explicitly for Nintendo handhelds. SMT had its start on Nintendo systems and does still see games on Nintendo systems, and Persona has PQ on the 3DS, but neither particularly rely on Nintendo. It’s not a big advantage, but it’s there.

Leave a comment below!