Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi
The Promise Of Riches Is Never Guaranteed With Survival
The developers behind Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi, Experience Inc, may not ring the bells of many. They are, however, veterans in a rather niche genre of RPGs known as the Dungeon RPG. Fans of Nintendo RPGs will become familiar with the name Etrain Odyssey, Megami Tensei, and the Persona Q series as examples. Experience Inc's games are extraordinarily niched, however. It's not because of its dedicated fanbase but because their games are usually region locked. One of the company's first releases outside of Japan was Stranger of Sword City, recently released on the Switch in the States.
With only the diehard fans of Dungeon RPGs knowing the name Experience Inc, Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi is an achievement. It's a great sign of a new era of localized games that otherwise would be locked behind Japan's borders. The premise of Undernauts takes place in a 1970s Tokyo akin to the US Gold Rush. An artifact known as Yomi sprouts out of nowhere, promising riches to those who dive into its depths and survive. When a digging team is found slaughtered and outside communication cut off, the last survivors must find their way out.
The Depths Of Yomi Is As Deep As Its Customization
Following its introduction, Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi allows you to create a character. Everything about the character, from their name, biography, background, job class, and avatar image can be changed. There are around 100 different variations of customizations the player can choose from if its variants are considered. Several cameo avatars including those from Stranger of Sword City can be selected as cameos. Everything from delinquents to elementary school children and killer rabbit dolls can be chosen. Later on, when the player creates their own team, they can use these same options to create a unique party.
This ensures that no two teams are the same, giving the player a six-character roster size (protagonist included). In this instance, I made my protagonist a cleric because the player should never leave home without one! However, it sucked when my cleric couldn't attack as I was placed in the back lines. Players can form their parties in certain guards, from "vanguard" to "rear guard." Enemies, by default, can only attack those in the vanguard and vice versa. Units who benefit from attacking from the rear, like archers and sorcerers, are best kept there. My cleric, unfortunately, had a massive mace and no enemies to bash on the head with. I liked this vantage point I had, however, providing heals and buffs to my elementary schoolkid warrior and ninjas.
Tread Carefully Or Suffer The Consequences
As with most Dungeon RPGs, the game is played from a first-person perspective. Occasionally, goals are given to the protagonist, serving as "checkpoints." Not only does this prevent the player from getting overwhelmed, but it also continues the pace of the story. Early in-game, the party will approach an ill young girl as the only survivor of a blood-stained room. The player can bring the girl to the first floor, which will also heal all allies who are low on health.
Generally speaking, characters with low HP and MP can recover to full health when they return to the surface. Those who are in "critical condition," or are knocked out, will have to be healed at the cost of AG. Players will have to be mindful of picking fights as random encounters co-exist with scripted fights. Players can decide to fight stronger enemies to win treasure chests, but even that comes at a cost. Most treasure chests are boobie trapped with debuffs when tampered with. Depending on the total party's MP, the player can disarm the chest without triggering the effects.
Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi Is Simple Fun Played In Bursts
It's impossible to determine the level of trivial matters like graphics and fidelity in a game such as this. This is an indie Dungeon JRPG at its core, meaning that almost everything is 2D. The art style themselves are very descriptive, with each enemy being distinct from the other. A rat, vampire, and eldritch abomination are but several enemy types introduced. The special effects also look clean, with the environments being as dark and brooding as a dungeon can allow. Playing Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi reminded me of a game that I had the pleasure of reviewing last year.
In 2020, Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ was released as a half Dungeon RPG half visual novel. Similar sentiments I felt playing that game a year ago I felt playing Undernauts. Both games had impressive art styles, 2D artwork, and 3D environments. In both games, the music set the atmosphere as much as the setting did. Games like Undead Darlings, Undernauts, and Etrian Odyssey are all titles I can compare to eating spinach. It may be rough to ingest as opposed to eating cake, but a well-seasoned bowl of spinach is delicious. Ultimately, Undernauts proves that dungeon RPGs can be just as nutritious as a can of greens as well! Probably not the best analogy, but, you get the gist. I hope.
Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi is available on the PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.