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Video Game / Shiren the Wanderer

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The flagship RPG series of Chunsoft, the Japanese publisher/developer who is most famous worldwide for Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. Shiren the Wanderer features roguelike gameplay, which is set against a fantasy version of feudal Japan. Most of the games have you control Shiren, a wandering adventurer who wears a distinct kasa hat. Only three games in the series have been released to Western audiences.

The series so far:

  • Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer (1995, SNES) (2006, DS) (2019, iOS/Android) (titled Mystery Dungeon 2 in Japan; Mystery Dungeon 1 was the Super Famicom game based around Torneko from Dragon Quest IV) — Shiren journeys to the Golden City on Table Mountain, where the Golden Condor resides.
  • Shiren the Wanderer 2: Oni Invasion! Shiren Castle! (2000, N64) — Natane Village keeps getting invaded by Onis, and the townfolk beseech Shiren to build them a fortress.
  • Shiren the Wanderer 3: The Sleeping Princess of the Karakuri Mansion (2008, Wii) (2010, PSP) — Shiren and friends seek the Karakuri Mansion. Things get complicated.
  • Shiren the Wanderer 4: The Deity's Eye and the Devil's Navel (2010, DS) (2012, PSP) — An island adventure, complete with monkeys and bananas and tiger people.
  • Shiren the Wanderer 5: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate (2010, DS) — Utilizing the Shiren 4 engine, the game tasks Shiren with climbing a deadly tower in the hopes of changing the fate of a girl who has a terminal illness.
    • Shiren the Wanderer 5+ (2015 (JP) 2016 (US), Vita) (2020, Switch, Steam) (2022, iOS/Android) — An enhanced remake of Shiren 5, and the first game in the series to be released in the U.S. since Shiren 3.

Along with the main installments, there have been a few gaiden games:

  • BS Shiren the Wanderer: Save Surara (1996, Satellaview)
  • Shiren the Wanderer GB: The Monsters of Moonlight Village (1996, GB) (1999, 2002, PC) (2011, Android) — Shiren encounters the Dragon's Maw and a seemingly quaint village. The villagers transform into monsters at night.
  • Shiren the Wanderer GB2: The Magic Castle of the Desert (2000, GBC) (2008, DS) — This time, there's a creepy desert castle and some kind of Sealed Evil in a Can.
  • Shiren the Wanderer Gaiden: The Swordswoman Asuka Arrives! (2002, Dreamcast, PC) — Asuka from Shiren 2 has her own little adventure with Koppa in Tenrin County, where they encounter ninjas and some sort of plant demon. Also, there's a massive postgame. This is the only Shiren game where he isn't the player avatar.

One notable detail about Shiren the Wanderer is that it's the only Mystery Dungeon series that uses original Chunsoft characters, as opposed to characters from Dragon Quest, Pokémon, Final Fantasy, or Etrian Odyssey.

For the first game in the series, only the DS version has been released outside Japan. The Wii version of Shiren 3 and the PS Vita, Switch, and Steam versions of Shiren 5 also had overseas releases.

Masato Kato is the scenario writer for Shiren 3, and he was also involved in Shiren 4.

The games provide examples of:

  • Action Bomb: Spike Bombs and their higher-level forms. If a Spike Bomb's health goes low enough, it explodes. Items adjacent to it are destroyed, and if you're next to it you'll be knocked down to 1 HP, unless you have a Blast Shield equipped. It doesn't even give you experience points if it blows up. In the case of regular Spike Bombs, they stop moving when they're down to 23 HP or less (out of 50), and they go boom at 10 HP or less.
  • Aerith and Bob: In Shiren 3, one of the villagers is named Catherine. Justified because her father was a foreigner. A postgame boss battle against Carl, who resembles Eagle and even fights like him, also reveals that Eagle's name was Johnny.
  • Anti-Grinding: The Winds of Kron will blow you back to the starting town if you take too long to complete a floor, which is effectively the same as manually restarting to get back to the starting town.
  • Awesome, but Temporary: In Shiren 3, Shiren has permanent Juggernaut status during his first journey through Yomotsu Hirasaka (which lets him No-Sell direct attacks), but it disappears after the first of the two boss fights at the end. He's still vulnerable to Status Effects, hunger, and the Winds of Kron, but you'd have to be actively putting him in danger.
  • Baleful Polymorph:
    • If you step on a Riceball Trap or get breathed on by a Rice Boss, you'll turn into a riceball. In this form your equipment has no effect, you can't use items, and if you hit a Rotten Trap before it wears off you die.
    • By throwing meat at an enemy, they will transform into the enemy the meat is named after. In the first game only, this even works on bosses.
    • The Change Staff transforms the target into a random monster on that floor. The Skull Wizard family can do this to you as well, but you can choose to revert at any time.
    • In Shiren 3, a shield with the "Chef" seal can turn almost any attacking enemy into a riceball (except the Rice monsters, which levels them up instead)!
  • Banana Peel: Bananas replace riceballs as food in Shiren 4. When Shiren eats a banana, it gets replaced by a banana peel in your inventory. Guess what you can do with them.
  • Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: Male moon people are Moon Rabbits, and female ones are Playboy Bunnies.
  • Bonus Dungeon:
    • The first game has the Kitchen God Shrine, the Scroll Cave, and Fei's Final Problem. The DS version adds the Ravine of the Dead, the Ceremonial Cave, and an extension to the main dungeon beyond the original 30 floors.
    • The postgame of Shiren 3 has ten of these, including a dungeon with 1,000 floors!
    • Shiren 5 has several bonus dungeons, over half of which aren't even restricted to the postgame. The Switch/Steam port adds three more dungeons on top of that, the most notable of which is a remixed version of the Tower of Fortune.
  • The Cavalry: In Shiren 3, Kaguya and her guardians rescue Shiren's party during the Final Battle.
  • Chainmail Bikini: While Oboro's body is quite covered, her getup does a lot to show off her assets. This also applies to her twin sister, Soboro.
  • The Chessmaster: In Shiren 3, Jofuku.
  • Continuing is Painful:
    • Everything except for the stuff you put into warehouses is lost once you return to the starting town, unless you fully complete the dungeon. Even then, your level, stats, and cash are reset. Keep in mind that this is considered nice for the genre.
    • Shiren 3 has a start-of-file Easy mode that lets you backtrack to a recent save instead of losing everything.
    • Shiren 4 also introduces an insurance system for gear and items.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Pekeji and Oryu debuted in the first game, and reappear in GB2.
    • Shiren 3 has the reappearance of Asuka (from 2) and the Hyottoko Gang (from Asuka Arrives!). Curas (from GB2), Ragoon (from Asuka Arrives!), and the Tainted Insect (from the first game) all fight you at once in the postgame arc.
    • The item descriptions for the "Old Mallet" group of items in Shiren 5 is narrated by Picotan, a character from 2. He spends most of the item description complaining about how nobody knows who he is because he only appeared in that one game.
  • Dual Boss: Shiren 3 has quite the number of these.
  • Dual Wielding: In Shiren 3, Shiren and Sensei can do this. Shiren would usually be better off equipping a shield, but Sensei is unable to do so.
  • Duel Boss: In Shiren 3, Asuka prompts a fight against Shiren at the Tomb of Kaguya, unable to accept waking up Kaguya if it would put the world in danger (with Sensei sitting this one out). Doubles as Dueling Player Characters, since she uses whatever she was still equipped with and even exploits her access to your shared inventory!
  • Earth All Along: The setting of the first games in the series could reasonably be described as a Jidaigeki-styled Constructed World where people worship the Eight Rivanian Beast Gods. Then Sensei in Shiren 3 references The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter and mentions not only Taoism (a word of Chinese origin) and "the land of Japan" but also the Creation Myth of Japanese Mythology.
  • Easy Level Trick: One boss fight in Shiren 3 can be hilariously cheesed, if you know in advance. As a boss, Asuka wields the items equipped to her and uses any item that isn't contained in a Holding Jar (this includes not only Jars that have effects when pushed but also Revival Herbs). You can make the fight an absolute joke if you unequip her gear before starting her fight and then drop every item she can access on the floor during the fight... but she may have the last laugh if you went out of your way to max out her Strength stat.
  • Escort Mission:
    • Every single game in the series seems to have a reward for escorting someone through a Mystery Dungeon, whether it be a storage area, a rare item, or even a Bonus Dungeon.
    • In the first game, one side quest requires you to locate a small girl and get her to the next resting point alive before you can use the warehouse there.
    • At the end of Shiren GB, you have to escort a girl through the entire dungeon back to the starting village.
    • The main story of Shiren 5 involves escorting Jirokichi through the Tower of Fortune so that he can save his childhood friend Oyu. This subsequently turns into escorting him through the Tower of Miracles so that he can undo her death.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": An odd example in Shiren 3: the bamboo harvester, Taketori, is always referred to by the townspeople as Old Man Taketori; whenever you actually meet him, the game itself calls him Bamboo Harvester.
  • Excuse Plot: In the first game, all you need to know is that you have to get through 30 levels of the dungeon. Complete mastery of the game is another matter...
  • Fire-Breathing Diner: Dragon Herbs will let you breathe fire. Also, Dragon meat will allow you to turn into a dragon and breathe fire on command.
  • Flunky Boss: The last floor of the Ceremonial Cave in the DS remake of the first game has the Kigny Chief, who starts out surrounded by Elite Mooks. There's also a Mook Maker in the center of the room for good measure.
  • Friend in the Black Market: Tao, the part-time guide in Shiren 5. Whenever you find yourself in any kind of trouble (strength down, zero food meter, etc.) with her in the party, talk to her and she'll sell you the proper recovery item. Just be prepared to shell out 3x-5x the standard price.
  • Fusion Dance: In Shiren 3, Kotodama + Kodama = Kotodamakodama.
  • Fighting Your Friend: In Shiren 3, Asuka at the Tomb of Kaguya and Sensei at Yomotsu Hirasaka.
  • Guide Dang It!: In the first game, the Scrolls of Sanctuary and Destruction can only be obtained by writing them on Blank Scrolls. Since they can't be found as items, the game gives you alternate methods of unlocking access to them. Sanctuary is simple enough: just free the Golden Condor. You don't know that it unlocks anything even after you've accomplished it, but it's something you're pretty much guaranteed to do eventually. But Destruction? You have to get from Canyon Hamlet to the Golden Condor's room without entering any storehouses, putting anything in a storehouse jar, or talking to any storehouse guys. You get one hint that accomplishing this does anything at all, in the form of an NPC proclaiming his intention to do it himself.
  • Hammerspace: The treasures of the Karakuri Palace's Treasury. Lampshaded by Sensei:
    Sensei: When you've been a Wanderer for as long as I have, you learn some tricks.
  • Have a Nice Death: The game records your stats and what you had equipped at the time of your death, as well as the cause of death. In some games, you can also earn "achievements" for dying in unique or stupid ways.
  • Heroic Mime: Koppa does all the talking in Shiren's stead. One scene in Shiren 3 appears to subvert this, but that's because a dragon god is possessing Shiren and speaking through him. Later on, in the game-loading postgame narration, Koppa tries to get Shiren to talk, fails, and then pretends Shiren is talking and complimenting him.
  • Highly Visible Ninja: However, Oboro makes up for it by transforming into someone you would never expect, like a shopkeeper. Of course, when she's not disguising herself, she is quite visible.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In Shiren 3, Sensei lectures Koppa not to take any treasure from the Karakuri Treasury lest they become corrupted like Jurouta and the Hyottoko Gang. The ending reveals that Sensei and Asuka took a bunch of treasure.
  • Inconsistent Dub: The three games that were released overseas were all handled by different publishers, leading to different names for some items and monsters across the series.
    • The DS version of the first game was handled by Sega.
    • The Wii version of Shiren 3 was handled by Atlus.
    • The Vita version of Shiren 5 was handled by Aksys Games. Spike Chunsoft handled the Switch and Steam versions themselves, so their translation is considered the primary one for the entire series.
  • Infinity +1 Sword:
    • In the first game, there are two swords and a shield that must be upgraded to their maximum possible level before you can upgrade them again to create the better equipment. Only one of the swords is derived from a common weapon, and that one is the Penultimate Weapon. Also, there is a special pot that can combine items together to get a new item that has the properties of all the items put into it. The best possible weapon in the first game is a [gold] [dragon] [crit] [sickle] [homing] [x3] [cyclops] [drain] [meat] [*] [air] [kigny] [unbreakable dig] Kabra Reborn+99. The best possible shield is a [gold] [dragon] [hide] [spiked] [evade] [*] [walrus] [prism] [gaze] [kigny] Stormward+99. It takes some doing to get all that, and there's nothing you can do to prevent it from being turned into a riceball or thrown into an unreachable place while or even after making it.
  • Interquel: The games released after Shiren GB jump around the timeline, and three of them fall under this:
    • The Swordswoman Asuka Arrives! is set one year after 2 (Shiren's first known adventure in the timeline), and seven years before the first game.
    • Shiren 4 is set between GB and GB2.
    • Shiren 5 is set shortly after GB2, and one year before 3 (Shiren's last known adventure in the timeline).
  • It's All Upstairs from Here: In the first game, the final part of the main dungeon is the climb up Table Mountain, since falling down a Pit undoes some of your progress.
  • Kabuki Sounds: They're everywhere! Most notably, it's heard when you or an enemy level up.
  • Killer Rabbit: In Shiren 3, Mobile Mamel ZZ tells Incredibly Lame Puns until you fall asleep, then proceeds to fire nanoparticle cannons at you. It's really a Moon Rabbit in disguise.
  • Kunoichi: Oboro in Shiren 3, as well as her older sister Soboro.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: Several enemies such as the Tanks, the Reapers, the Bandits, and the Dragons follow a green, blue, red color scheme for Level 1, 2, and 3 respectively, though some monsters such as the Rice monsters will mix it up (e.g. green, red, blue). Following this pattern, the DS remake of the first game allows monsters to reach Level 4, which tends to be color-coded purple.
  • Level Drain: The Bitter Herb, the Seed of Misfortune, the Staff of Misfortune, and the Seed of Ill Luck can delevel Shiren, allies, and enemies alike. The last item only appears in the second half of the 99-floor Bonus Dungeon and resets you to your starting values of Level 1 and 15 HP. Ironically, it's actually one of the most sought-after items in the game because it only appears rarely in shops and eating one of them unlocks an entry in the Adventure Log widely considered to be the hardest one to achieve.
  • Loophole Abuse: The above-mentioned Guide Dang It! for unlocking the ability to write Scrolls of Destruction? In the DS remake, you can circumvent it by grabbing your Infinity Plus One equipment from the storehouse, leaving Canyon Hamlet, and then going right back in before starting your no-storehouse run.
  • Monster Arena: The postgame of Shiren 3 has this as the Battle Arena.
  • Mook Promotion: Most monsters you will find have different-level versions. When they level up (either by killing another monster, throwing a Happiness Herb/using a Staff of Happiness at them, or having a Ghost Musha/Dead Soldier possess them), they get promoted to a stronger variant. This might be useful if you're farming for monster meat or exp.
  • Moon Rabbit: Usakichi.
  • Nerf:
    • If removing something from the game entirely counts as a nerf, the pot that duplicates any item put into it and the scroll that enlarges pots were nerfed in the DS remake of the first game, almost certainly because they could be used together (with two Extraction Scrolls and a Melding Jar, which were left untouched) in an infinite loop. Another removed item was the Wizard Shield, which reflected the Skull Mage family's Status Effects attacks. It was instead replaced with the Prism Shield, which converts the attack to 10 HP damage and can only be found in the deepest floors of one of the postgame dungeons beyond the floor required to clear it. In general, the DS remake is mixed. On one hand, the more dangerous enemies were moved to later in the game; on the other hand, the most powerful items became extremely rare outside the postgame dungeons.
    • Bufu's Cleaver in Shiren 3 was nerfed to have a chance of breaking outside of Bufu Cave, which ends in Bonus Feature Failure after you meld it to your Infinity +1 Sword (at least until you discover that the Sturdy seal from the Adamant Pickaxe and Iron Hammer can be used to fix this as well). Several aspects of the game, like the Gitan Mamel and Ultra Gaze's Gitan yields, were nerfed in the PSP version.
  • Nintendo Hard: Especially if you're more used to its grandchild series. Traps are far more numerous and damaging, enemies hit much harder and ramp up quite quickly, you lose all your items if you die, and most damningly, Shiren's level resets to 1 after every major story beat. Overall, you have to be a lot more careful when traversing dungeons in this series compared to the spin-offs in the Mystery Dungeon brand.
  • One-Winged Angel: In Shiren 3, there's the fake Princess Kaguya, Jofuku and his dragon monster form Ikazuchikami, and Izanami Complete.
  • Painting the Medium: Tainted Insect in Shiren 3 makes a note to itself to "fire the insect translator" after being beaten. Koppa also notices when the music in Karakuri Inn changes.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: In the postgame of Shiren 3, the only difference between Master X and Sensei is a "ridiculous mask", as Koppa calls it, calling him drunk. A later event subverts this by making him and the real Sensei appear at the same time, but that's ultimately a Double Subversion: the "Master X" that appeared in that event was someone that Sensei used a Change Staff on.
  • Peninsula of Power Leveling:
    • In Shiren 3, Sanuki Thicket and Ochimizu Pass get longer postgame, and have great items that you can now actually keep. The only downside is that you have to get to the end, but that can be easily circumvented if you befriend the Jizo, find him, and ask him to help you escape. Perhaps the best part is that you can access them as soon as you beat the game.
    • Floors with Dragon Orbs are designed to be these as they can upgrade your items and you can map floors with them. Not surprisingly, there is an entire postgame dungeon filled with Dragon Orbs: Dragon Veins. In other dungeons you had to use Dragon Orbs sparingly because of the Fullness meter and the Winds of Kron; in the Dragon Veins dungeon, you can backtrack to earlier floors. The wisest strategy to use Dragon Orbs is a room with as many exits as you have party members. This was Nerfed in the PSP version so that the Winds of Kron blow sooner when Dragon Orbs are present.
  • Playboy Bunny: In Shiren 3, Ichi-Bunny is the only reason that Sensei decided to help the Moon Rabbits. Apparently she can use "Bunny Wave Fist Motion"...
  • Puzzle Boss: The battle against Jurouta's group at the top of Karakuri Mansion. Shiren must have all of the special tiles pressed, and one of them has to be pressed by a fainted Hyottoko Bandit. Jurouta will revive them with a Kiai Kick if he's close enough to them, however.
  • Rare Candy: Life Herbs, Power Herbs, Expansion Herbs, and Happy Herbs. You could also probably find some way to turn a Happy Staff on yourself, though this would require the assistance of certain monsters (specifically, Air Devils, invisible ghosts that reflect staff magic). Since this is a Roguelike, expect to see the negative versions as well.
  • Refuge in Audacity: If you break a Bottomless Jar in a dungeon shop, you can jump down the Pitfall Traps it creates to steal effortlessly. At no point will any shopkeeper attempt to stop you from doing this, or even yell at you for having done it in the past. The same goes for standing outside the shop and grabbing their merch with a Walrus Jar. The former no longer works as of Shiren 3.
  • Revive Kills Zombie: Certain enemy types take damage from certain recovery items and staves.
  • Roguelike: This series began as one of the earliest console ones on record.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: According to Usakichi, "A real man puts a self-destruct button on their inventions!" Including the Moon Recombobulator...
  • Shoplift and Die: If you steal from the shopkeepers, you'll have super-tough sheriffs and watchdogs on your back until you leave the floor. Even the shopkeepers themselves can kill you in one hit. You're not even safe at max level. And Escape Scrolls won't work while you've stealing stuff. Having Asuka and/or Sensei as allies in Shiren 3 makes this even worse, because you'll be locked out of Full Control (to stop you from simply switching to a different character and immediately taking the stairs) and if any of you die it's considered a Total Party Kill.
  • Simulation Game: Most of Shiren 2 is spent gathering building materials from Shyuuten Mountain, to build a fortress. The fort also gets invaded periodically. Parts built from low-grade materials break easily during invasions.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Shiren and his same-name ancestor in Shiren 3. Oboro and her older sister Soboro also look exactly alike. They even wear the same Chainmail Bikini!
  • Take That!: Koppa makes one to Mobile Suit Gundam: after beating Mobile Mamel ZZ he goes on to state that New Media Are Evil, but the new media in question doesn't even exist in their setting yet, and this is a video game...
  • Talking Animal: Koppa is a talking weasel/ferret.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: It does the same amount of damage as swinging it, at the cost of destroying it forever. Best saved for extreme emergencies where you don't have a Scroll of Need. The Kappa enemies will abuse this if they find a sword on the ground. Some games allow you to meld your weapon with a Throwing Sword, preventing it from breaking when thrown/disarmed.
  • Time Travel: In Shiren 3, Shiren goes back in time and is in his ancestor's body. Koppa is a raccoon, much to his chagrin. Turns out it's not really time travel, but just the memories of the Karakuri Mansion. But in the postgame, Otsutsuki Village's well lets you actually time travel.
  • Too Awesome to Use: Generally averted; trying to save up that Herb of Victory usually ends with you losing it and all your other items anyway. However, there are two items that qualify in the first game. The aforementioned Happiness Herb is usually only given out during a random event that triggers when you try to eat your last riceball, but most players will rarely find an opportune time to trigger that intentionally; leveling up is easy in the earlygame, and one level barely makes a difference in the lategame. The Herb of Invisibility, which grants you just that for 14 turns, is a rare item only found in shops located in the second half of the hardest bonus dungeon in the game, and its effect is only marginally better than the relatively more common Herb of Victory. Plus, outside that dungeon it's outclassed by the more common Air Devil meat which makes you invisible indefinitely for the floor. But this trope is subverted even in both cases, since the Borg Mamel companion requires one of each to level up.
  • Tournament Arc: The postgame of Shiren 3 kicks off with this.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change:
    • Shiren 2: A lot of importers get thrown off by the fortress-building aspect.
    • Shiren 4: There's a day/night system. Weapons become practically useless at night, so you either have to rely on skills/magic or avoid monsters completely. One Famitsu reviewer described this mechanic as a "cat and mouse game".
  • Unidentified Items: The game has Scrolls of Identify (which have a small chance to identify every item in your inventory) as well as Jars of Identify which can identify any item put into them. These become especially valuable in the dungeons that start with nothing automatically identified beyond their general categories.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting:
    • In some games, you can eat monster meat to turn into the monster that the meat comes from, and gain access to their special abilities.
    • Okon and Koharu in Shiren 5 are shapeshifters. The former can turn into an assortment of monsters, while the latter can turn herself into either a weapon or a shield.
  • We Buy Anything: Shopkeepers will take anything you leave in their rooms, but worthless items like Poison Herbs will sell for little cash. Even things that are cursed will still net you some cash.
  • Weasel Mascot: Koppa does most of Shiren's talking for him, and often narrates.
  • Weird Moon: Shiren 3 reveals that the moon is the Rock of Chibiki, a barrier that separates the living and spirit worlds. After the events of the game, it looks like it has a bite taken out of it. The Moon Rabbits are not pleased and have Shiren's group embark on a sidequest to find 99 moon bits.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Master X and Mobile Mamel ZZ, according to Koppa.
  • Wizard Needs Food Badly: If your Fullness meter drops to 0%, you will lose a bit of health every turn.
  • Wolfpack Boss: In Shiren 3, Shiren and Asuka fight the Battle Spirits, a group of six ghosts encountered in the Exterior of the Karakuri Mansion.
  • You All Meet in an Inn: In Shiren 3, it is revealed that in a random coincidence, Curas, Ragoon, and Tainted Insect met in a teahouse in Yomi.