Etrian Odyssey IV is the series' first installment on the 3DS, and its first foray into the realm of 3D. While it plays mostly the same as other games in the series, it does bring a few new things to the table to keep the experience fresh.
Gameplay mainly revolves around turn-based combat through random encounters and exploring, similar to older dungeon crawlers and RPGs. Dungeons are mapped in this game by the player using the 3DS' touch screen, and it would behoove you to make a fairly accurate one or you'll have a hard time surviving, which makes for an interesting mechanic.
Enemies were traditionally displayed with static sprites, but with the move to the 3DS the developers were able to bring them to life with the addition of 3D models. The transition to 3D also allowed for the dungeon environments to become more detailed and lively than their DS counterparts. The overworld also received a major overhaul - expanding on an idea from the third game, Etrian Odyssey IV's overworld gives you a flying ship as a main mode of transportation and getting to dungeons. An upgrade in hardware also meant an upgrade in the music department. The soundtrack is orchestrated now unlike the older games, but it still manages to capture the essence of the series.
Gameplay-wise, skill point allocations and the like were refined even more, making it a bit less worrisome if you made a mistake distributing points. Resting, or resetting your character's skill points, costs a measly 2 levels now, whereas older games made you lose around 10. That may not sound significant at first, but in a game like this, a character 10, or even 5 levels behind the others will be mostly dead weight to the party without grinding back up, and that's something you do not want. While character customization may have gotten a little easier, it does little to detract from the game's overall difficulty. The Etrian Odyssey series is notorious for being a challenging, and often brutal experience. With the introduction of casual mode to help ease newcomers into the series, Etrian Odyssey IV is touted as one of the easier games, but don't let that fool you - enemies and bosses will still steamroll you if you're not prepared.
The story is a little bare bones and nothing to write home about, but like the rest of the series, one of the main draws to this game is its emphasis on role playing. You take on the role of an explorer, who, after forming a guild and gaining a few allies, goes on an adventure to uncover mysteries inside a labyrinth. Aside from giving them a name and a specific class, the characters you create are entirely a blank state, giving you free reign to imagine them and their interactions however you like. Want a snarky swordsman or a lazy medic that's incompetent at his job? Go ahead!
Etrian Odyssey IV is a game that adds various improvements to a formula that's been working well since the series' first installment. It's a definite time sinker once you get deep into it, and while it may not be a game for everyone, if you're a fan of dungeon crawlers or RPGs then this gem may be right up your alley.