Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & the Monster Seal is the first Aquaplus & Sting delivered dungeon RPG to get localized for the West. Originally for the PSP, it was developed by Sting (the company behind Atlus PSP titles like Riviera, Yggdra Union and Gungnir), while published in Japan by Aquaplus (of Aquapazza, Tears to Tiara, and Utawarerumono fame).
It starts with Fried, the protagonist who’s also the newest Libra working for the Library. Being an honor student who graduated from the Royal Military’s Academy, he decided to become a Libra, a class only few can become, due to his fascination for monsters and history. Right after the story begins, Irena, your chief, pairs Fried with his Academy friends Melvy, an apprentice magician, and Alisia, apprentice Knight, in order to suppress an outbreak of monsters and find out what’s behind it.
Not long after they go to investigate this dungeon being swarmed with monsters, they discover a mutant. This mutant is an enemy not yet listed in his Libra compendium of monsters, and a shrine, which becomes the thread that’ll tie the story throughout your journey in order to defeat the Demon God. It’s your standard RPG story; you’ll find yourselves witness to the greatest evil of all time, and it’s up to you and your friends to triumph over that evil and restore peace to the kingdom.
About the characters; aside from the protagonist, which you do not control directly during battles, they’ll all be girls. That’s right, this is a game developed for a certain fan-base (though not limited to that fan-base). During the story you’ll recruit new characters for your party, with each one of them having a different class, personality, and background story. Melvy and Alisia are your Academy friends, but you’ll also have the most unlikely characters joining your party for their own reasons.
Classes are divided into basic, intermediate and advanced. Here, we have the same kind of jobs you’ll find in other RPGs – like Witch, Paladin, and Fighter – while also having a few unheard of ones; like Maid, Etoile and Puppetmaster. Each of them have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s up to you to find a balance of different classes that works for you and for the dungeon you’re treading.\
Some of you might be familiar with the term “DRPG”, or dungeon (crawler) role-playing game. It’s a genre where you’ll go through dungeons and dungeons, all laid out on maps as you go through them, facing enemies and following halls, activating traps and warps along the way. Dungeon Travelers 2 is a DRPG like Demon Gaze and Operation Abyss, and the exploration and battles all take place in first-person view.
The enemies you find during your journey are all quite unique, but like the characters that join your party all the enemies are female. And beast-riding females… or fruit. I understand why the enemies are all female, but couldn’t find a connection as to why you’ll also face fruits as enemies. Between oranges, cherries and bananas, you stop looking for a reason why and realize you just have to enjoy the wackiness of the game.
Friends and enemies, allies and monsters; I’d have to say that they’re all beautifully designed and drawn – their portraits shine on the Vita’s screen. The dungeons are also quite different from one another, ranging from colorful forests and dark chambers. Before going to the next point, I feel like I need to warn people regarding the way this game deals with fanservice.
During the game, you’ll find very risqué imagery of both your allies and the monsters you’ll find. Every time you defeat a mutant, the game will show the monster in a compromising pose… wearing little to cover their body. The same will also happen to the girls that join your party a few times when you go back to your base. It’s undeniable fanservice, depicting some young-looking characters. This can turn off a few players completely, so beware that it’s in this game and it’s not afraid to pop these images during certain points of the game.
Moving along, the game is divided between the dungeons and the library; the base of operation of sorts for the party. There you’ll be able to access the storage, the shop, a seal control room (where you’ll create new books using enemies sealed at the end of every battle), a quest desk that you unlock as you play the game, and even a secret classroom where Maid-sensei (yes, Maid-sensei) will teach you lessons of the game – also being completely insane and even going off-topic more often than not. There’s some amusing dialogue in this bit, even if you’re not interested in the game’s dynamics.
The soundtrack is great for the genre, with different tracks for each dungeon. It is notable though that the game is fully-voiced in Japanese, with no option for dual-audio or English dub. It’s a compromise that I could accept, as the game is really entirely voiced, even the Maid-sensei’s lessons. The voice-over is also quite competent, which will make Japanese language fans quite happy.
The game has no difficulty options. Most of the time that is barely important, as RPGs are usually balanced for keeping players on their toes while gradually increasing the difficulty throughout the game. Dungeon Travelers 2 however, is hard. It’s not an obtuse game, with several complex dynamics that the player won’t be able to understand without a lengthy tutorial – it’s just plain hard. This is not a game for players that like to rush through dungeons, escape from battles, and neglect saving their progress.
Give thanks for small blessings – you’re able to save anytime, anywhere, just by accessing the menu with the square button. You also have a soft reset command inside the game, which can be accessed by pressing the left trigger, right trigger and start buttons together. Once you get used to the fact that going through a door might trigger an inescapable battle with those rare and strong enemies that you’re quite not ready for, you’ll get used to saving often and planning your party ahead of time.
The game is quite lengthy. It can take players up to fifty hours just to get through the main story, let alone the post-game content – which is locked behind grind doors that can take over one hundred hours in order for the player to complete everything. Luckily (for those interested), you can get the platinum trophy just by beating the main story and grinding the amount of enemies killed. There are no otherwise missable trophies whatsoever.
Beneath the fanservice, there is a truly compelling and engrossing dungeon RPG that rivals Demon Gaze and Operation Abyss for the title of best game of the genre for the Vita. It’s hard, but never unfair; it’s fun, keeping the gameplay and dynamics always fresh. While I don’t recommend it for newcomers, I’d definitely suggest it for people looking for a fair challenge.