Thank you for visiting; this is a blog that chronicles my playthroughs of various Super Famicom, PC Engine, and general strategy RPGs. Feel free to respond here to introduce yourself, let me know what your favorite SRPG is, whatever.
I generally update on Saturday or Sunday. I play one strategy RPG, then two Super Famicom (or PC Engine) RPGs.
I’ve now finished the links to all the previous posts, so you can use the links at the top to see the full list of played games so far. Also, if you are only interested in certain types of posts, you can filter by categories (see the bottom of the sidebar). The three categories are Strategy RPGs, Super Famicom RPGs, and PC Engine RPGs.
フェーダ2 ホワイト=サージ・ザ・プラトゥーン, released 4/18/1997, developed by Max Entertainment, published by Yanoman
This is of course the sequel to 1995’s FEDA: Emblem of Justice. It continues the story from where the first game left off and features similar gameplay. There was supposed to be a third entry to complete the series but it never came out.
The designers made the strange decision to have a nearly 10 minute live action opening sequence filmed with Western actors. The actors include David Hayter (Solid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid dub), Kim Mai Guest (Mei Ling in MGS), and Deron McBee (Malibu in American Gladiators). The voices are dubbed over by the Japanese VAs for the characters. It’s a surprising use of the budget; it looks pretty cheesy and dumb now but I wonder what people would have thought in 1997.
Other than this, each section closes with a narration by one of the characters, and when you get later in the plot there are PC Engine-style voiced scenes (with just slightly animated still pictures).
Anyway, the game takes place 8 years after the original FEDA. In that game, a thousand year war had closed with the Empire taking control of the entire continent of Balfomoria, but the peninsula of Arcadia rebelled and in the end freed themselves from Imperial rule with the help of deserters Brian Stelbat and Ain McDougal (at least if you get one of the better endings).
Now 8 years later, the Empire has reversed their decision of letting the provinces govern themselves, and the Senate has now introduced a military rule that favors the Grunreim, the most populous race in the Empire. The Dragonnewt race has opposed this, essentially restarting the 1000 year war. At the same time, Arcadia has split into two, with part of it accepting the Senate’s decision and part rejecting it. The main 5 characters are “White Surge”, a group of skilled fighters who have some kind of criminal or questionable past. They’re working in East Arcadia, who wants a closer relationship with the Empire. But they’re not respected by anyone in the military and tend to be used for dangerous or morally questionable missions. The five members are:
Harvey Winston, a human (humans are looked down on in this world)
Tom Woodland, an Alshidean who joined the army despite his sister’s objections. Harvey and Tom are the characters in this game who give you a game over if they die.
Marsha Barnwood, a Shade Elf who specializes in assassinations, but was involved in a number of sex scandals.
Device, another human who is a gun/explosive specialist. But he has a problem with alcohol.
Minerva Lilac, a Forest Elf. She comes from an illustrious family that served as elite royal guards, but she refused an arranged marriage and was expelled from the country.
I found the plot rather hard to follow. I think this is because the game is trying to tell two stories at once — what White Surge is doing in their own missions, and how the war in the entire Empire is going. But White Surge’s missions aren’t necessarily following a clear story path and sometimes what’s happening in the Empire have nothing to do with White Surge. Also most of the Empire parts are done through voiceover dialogue on a map that you can’t pause; I think maybe my Japanese just isn’t quite good enough to keep track of everything that’s happening in this style of storytelling.
The first scenario has you against the Dragonnewt trying to release some ancient seal (although that’s been done by others). Once this is done, White Surge is simply abandoned to their own devices. They get captured by the Dragonnewts but then are able to convince them to let White Surge work for the Dragonnewts, which is what they do for the rest of the game.
The game takes place over 8 “scenarios”, which are sort of like the 12 chapters of the previous game. Unlike the first game they did away with the overworld map and just give you fixed battles in sequence. In a few cases there are alternate battles depending on what happened in the previous one.
The alignment system has returned from the previous game but in a much different form. You now have a certain amount of OPM to spend on bringing characters into battle, changing them in to more powerful forms, or assigning them items. You can spend as much OPM as you want, but if you go into negative you will lose alignment and you’ll be in negative until you can pay back the OPM with future rewards. I believe that your alignment can also be affected by whether you fulfill the mission goals (in some cases you can move on even if you fail to do the mission; you won’t get any OPM though). As in the first game, after each chapter your alignment will change on a law/chaos scale.
However, unlike the previous game, in this game your alignment has no effect. There are no alternate characters, story differences, or any ending difference. It’s purely decorative. I have a feeling this is the result of development time/budget restraints, but it’s a rather strange system in that respect.
Instead of an experience level, each character has a rank starting with E and going up through A to S. When you get 100 exp you go to the next rank. The EXP gains are slow, and by the end of the game I only had two of my characters at S rank and some weren’t even at A. When they rank up they get new abilities and also sometimes can change to different forms (which is a big improvement over the original game, where you never changed at all).
If Tom or Harvey dies in a mission it’s game over. Otherwise the character will suffer a wound; if it’s a light wound they can be in the next battle with a stat penalty, if it’s a heavy wound you’ll have to sit them out until they recover.
The battles themselves are the same as FEDA. They are normal SRPG with the odd turn mechanic where you move one of your characters, then the enemy moves one, etc. But rather than taking turns, it’s proportional to how many are on each side. So if you have 5 guys vs. 10 enemies, you will take one turn, followed by 2 enemies. This is an interesting system but makes it hard to know who is going to move when.
Unskippable battle animations. In 1997.
The game is pretty difficult. The grunt enemies are about equal in strength to your guys. You can’t save in battle and there are several sequence battles with no saves (an unforgivable sin for me that I will always use save states to deal with). Although there is no permadeath, you cannot afford to lose anyone at the beginning (later you can probably afford to lose one person in a battle).
However, there are a few things about the system that can mitigate the difficulty.
First, regular attacks are worthless. They do little damage, and the enemies block them frequently. Play the game with the understanding that you will be doing almost all of your damage through your special attacks. The game becomes significantly easier when your characters gain a few ranks and you have better special attacks.
Second, the enemy AI is predictable. They will always start off by using their special attacks. It doesn’t matter if it’s an area effect and only one person is in the area. Also they typically only have enough MP to use their special once. They also attack the closest person rather than going after Tom/Harvey the way they did in the first game.
Third, you can do “hit and away” and the enemies cannot. The “hit and away’ system just means you can use your full movement every round and make an attack at any point during that movement.
Even with these tips you will still get the usual “killed from full HP game over” situations that you see in permadeath games, but it helps. The hardest parts are in the beginning.
One other harsh aspect of the game is that Poison and Paralysis do not heal naturally. So a paralyzed enemy is out of the battle (which is great when you get paralyze moves yourself), but when the enemies have area effect paralyze moves you need to make sure you can either kill them first or get them to use it on just one character.
Ain eventually reappears from the first game, and I think there are a number of other connections to the first game that I didn’t quite pick up because I had forgotten the specifics of the FEDA 1 plot.
My difficulty following the plot resulted in the game ending very suddenly (for me) at the end of scenario 8; I didn’t even realize I was fighting the final battle until it was done. There is a built-in suddenness in the plot too because once the heroes destroy this ancient weapon that someone was trying to use, the Senate suddenly signs a peace treaty with the Dragonnewt and White Surge is disbanded. I have a feeling some of the loose ends would have been tied up in the third game if it had ever been made — for instance, they never said what was going on with the seal at the beginning of the game, and Brian didn’t appear although he was talked about quite a bit.
I don’t think I’m going to do a stage-by-stage or scenario-by-scenario description. Most of the stages, as in FEDA 1, have goals that aren’t just “kill all enemies”, which is always appreciated. But the general tactics that I outlined above work for most or all of the stages, except for one annoying one where you can’t use MP.
On the whole I’m not sure this game is quite as polished as Feda 1, but I probably found both games about the same in quality — Feda 2 fixes some of the issues in the first game but introduces new problems.
Dunquest (ダンクエスト 魔神封印の伝説), released 7/21/1995, developed and published by Technos Japan
This game is classified as an Action RPG in many places, but to me it feels more like it’s somewhere between a Mysterious Dungeon game and a true RPG. The developer Technos Japan is best known for the Kunio-kun series (i.e. River City Ransom, Crash ‘n’ the Boys) and Double Dragon. They also produced the RPG-adjacent Sugoroku Quest (one of those board games that has RPG elements), but I don’t think they ever produced a full RPG.
The story takes place on Laster Island, part of the Malkes kingdom. There’s a legend that a demon god is sealed there but will return some day, and the current king is gathering heroes in preparation — including Kurisu, our hero. But Kurisu is just sent on various missions in four surrounding dungeons, and there’s uncertainty about whether the demon god will actually revive or whether it’s just a legend. I only played about half the game, but according to the Wikipedia article there are actually some interesting story twists near the end and it doesn’t end with just a simple “of course the demon lord revives” at the end.
The game does not have a traditional levelling system. Instead, each major quest you complete gives you the next rank, up to 17 (“Duke”) at the end of the game. When you gain a rank, you get some stat bonuses too. With the exception of the HP, these can be freely switched between Attack, Magic, and Defend.
In addition to this, the weapons and armor get better as you use them (like Xanadu) up to a defined limit. Finally, you have individual XP with each monster in the game, and the more XP you get vs a monster, the more damage you do and the less damage you will take.
Finding the next major quest is not always an easy task, or sometimes you get a vague instruction like “find out why these earthquakes are happening” but no indication of even which of the four dungeons this is in. I don’t know whether this is because I didn’t find the right people to talk to in town for information, or whether it was the designers’ intent that you would simply go through the dungeons seeing what you could find.
There are four dungeons, each with 35 floors. It feels a bit like a Mysterious Dungeon game except that the layouts are not random. One of my biggest issues with the game is that you always have to start from floor 1 of the dungeon, and you don’t do the dungeons in sequence. One quest will be on floor 7 of the Ice Temple and the next will be on floor 11 of the mines, then back to floor 15 of the Ice Temple. It would be helpful to make maps of the dungeons so that you can quickly get through the lower levels.
Each floor has a red chest which can only be opened with keys you buy in town. There are also brown chests which regenerate and give gold, and random items on the floor (like potions or scrolls that cast spells). Monsters appear out of summoning circles on the floor. The combat system is action RPG style where you hit the button to swing the sword. Some enemies have distance attacks, and you can also use spells yourself from scrolls. The number 28 at the top left in that picture shows how many of the current item you have (which can be used with X).
The system is real time rather than the Mysterious Dungeon turn based style. Often you can attack and then move back a space to dodge the enemy’s attack, and repeat. But you can get trapped in narrow corridors and killed easily, and some teleporting enemies are annoying.
One problem I kept running into was not being able to hurt the monsters at all, despite having the best weapon at 100%. The weapon and armor upgrades are pretty limited and don’t increase your attack/defense all that much. You can of course put more points into attack but sometimes even that wasn’t enough. I still managed to progress by simply avoiding the enemies, but this seems like either a design flaw or something I just didn’t understand about the game. You can use magic to defeat some of these enemies but that supply is limited. If you die, you are returned to the town with half your gold.
The dungeons also have a lot of traps, and every floor has warps that send you to different places in the floor.
One thing that is often praised is the number of things you can check in the town for unique messages, but this is just for flavor.
I played up to rank 10, so a little over half the game. The major quests of course involve doing things in the dungeons — some of them are beating a boss, some are finding an item, and others are talking to people on some floor of the dungeon. There are also additional bosses and other things that aren’t part of the main quests. I think some of these are for subquests, some may just be for completion purposes. There is also some kind of post-game scenario.
Looking around at various blogs and reviews of this game, it seems like opinions are fairly divided. Some consider it a bad game, but some really liked it a lot — I guess it probably just depends on whether this style of game appeals to you. I found the need to repeatedly go through the early parts of every dungeon over and over again annoying, but the game wasn’t terrible. It’s just (to me) not quite an RPG.
Mystic Ark (ミスティックアーク), released 7/14/1995, developed by Produce!, published by ENIX
Produce!, the developer of this game, also worked on Elnard (7th Saga), Brain Lord, and Nekketsu Tairiku Burning Heroes. Although this is not a real sequel to any of those games, there are some reused assets and similarities. Apparently there was a plan to release the game in the US as “7th Saga II” but it never happened. There is a translation patch, though.
The opening shows six characters being attacked by a spinning square and teleported away somewhere. These are the six party members you can have (in addition to the main character). None of them have any backstory or dialogue in the game; perhaps there was some in the instruction manual? This I think is one of the weaknesses of the game; the party members are just statistics and powers, with no role in the story at all. None of them have any lines of dialogue (the main character is also silent).
Everyone seems to have turned into these wooden figurines in a strange temple of some kind. The main character Kurisu is transformed back into a human. At the beginning you can’t pick up any of the figures, and wandering around the church there are various rooms, some of which are open, that have objects in them. You can interact with a lot of objects in this game in this way:
You will have various options — touch, look, shake, and use items, etc. This adds an adventure-game like element to the game. A lot of things right now can’t be affected, but a fireplace will talk, and Kurisu learns that she’s supposed to get 7 Arks in 7 different worlds. She also gets the Crystal, which acts as the enemy radar (like in 7th saga) and also can warp to different places, but not in dungeons. It also turns out that by going to the ship above we can reach the first world — a world of pirate cats.
The basic flow of the whole game is that you enter a world, solve some problem there, and then find one of the seven Arks. Then you’ll be able to use that Ark in some way back in the main church to open the way to another world. Once you get all seven arks you can go to the final dungeon and win the game.
The battle system is more or less standard. Each character has powers they gain with level ups that do various things (special attacks, defense, etc.) and some of them get spells. One nice feature is that you can see the enemy HP. The main character will soon get a power called Figurine that can transform monsters into Figurines. I never found a purpose for these figurines but I think I didn’t explore optional things enough; there is some monster arena and maybe a place you can trade them in but if you just stick to the main quest there’s no point.
There are two sets of feuding pirate cats but they’ve forgotten why they’re fighting. Kurisu sort of plays both sides and eventually with the help of a witch stops them from fighting…although the world does flood, so that’s not great. Eventually Kurisu comes across a temple that holds the Power Ark.
Now Kurisu can pick up the six figurines in the main room of the church. By using the Ark of Power on one of them they will come to life. Simply carrying the other figurines in your inventory will earn them XP; the person you actually have out seems to earn more, but the figurines won’t fall too far behind. The six characters are Miriene (an offensive magic specialist), Lux (a robot with high defense), Resheene (A martial arts fighter, who I’m using in the above screenshot), Tokio (Ninja), Kamiwoo (beast fighter), and Meshia (healer).
The way the party members work is somewhat frustrating, though. Any time you go back to the church, they return to figurines so you’ll have to bring them out again when you go into a world. If they hit 0 hp in battle, they are returned to the church in figurine form, so you have to go all the way back to the church to get them. If the main character hits 0 hp, it’s game over (back to the last inn with 1/2 gold). This is really unacceptable in a game that has instant death spells from the enemies. I had a number of times where I got a game over or a party member death from full HP having taken only one action in combat (or even zero actions in one case). I used save states to a limited extent because of this.
The second world is a strange “fruit world” where people are building their homes in giant fruits. You have to help them find seeds, get water, and defeat the evil foxes and beetles that are trying to attack them. Most bosses at this stage go down to a pretty easy combination of attack and heal — some of them have annoying heal spells themselves, but they’ll run out of MP eventually. One the final fox is defeated, Kurisu recovers the Ark of Light. This Ark can be put into a weapon to give that weapon a thunder element and increase the damage.
Next up is a children’s world, inhabited only by children and one older woman looking after them. Sometimes you will find hearts in the world which you can take back to the church and put into figurines there to restore the people to the world. In addition, the Arks can often be used on objects — for instance, the Ark of Power may let you lift something you wouldn’t be able to, and the Ark of Light might illuminate something. This is more of the adventure-game like gameplay.
The main problem in the children’s world is that the older woman seems to have made some pact with a Chimera to create this world for the children, but the Chimera wants to use her magic power for his own end. Eventually she rejects him but we have to beat him up to free her from its power.
Once this is done, we find the Ark of Wisdom, which can get a third party member. At this point the boss battles become a bit easier because the Power and Speed buff spells stack, so with a party like Kurisu-Meshia-Resheen/Kamiwoo you can have Kurisu heal while Meshia buffs the third person’s power up to max (and speed if necessary). Meshia can also “compassion” to restore her own MP. I used this strategy on most of the remaining bosses.
Next up is the Machine World, which is all black and white.
There are machines all over the place. Going further through the world we see that another area of the world has no sound, and a third area turned everyone old. All of it seems to be the fault of malfunctioning machines, maybe. Eventually with the help of the scientists Edison and Einstein, we make it into the depths of a large industrial complex where slaves are working to make robots. Here Kurisu recovers the Ark of Fire, restoring the world to normal. The Fire Ark is another one that can be put into a weapon.
Next up is the Wind World, although the wind has stopped and there’s a big giant threatening the land. Here the Ark of Wood is in the first room you appear in but the villagers won’t let you take it until you solve their problem. It’s another world that involves machines; eventually you encounter clones, headed up by the Ancient One. He’s strong but goes down to the buff strategy — he says that some “darkness” awoke him earlier than he should have. We’ve heard hints of this darkness elsewhere.
The next world, the Dark World, is a nice change of pace — you only have Kurisu and the focus is mainly on the puzzle solving, although you do have to fight some encounters. Once again this “darkness” seems to be meddling with things.
Finally there is the fairy tale world, with a bunch of characters from well known fairy tales — the ant and the grasshopper, Cinderella, Pinocchio, the Emperor’s New Clothes, the Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding hood, and others. Here the “darkness” comes out explicitly, wanting to turn everything into figurines. We have to beat the big bad wolf, help Cinderella get to the ball, and other things of that nature.
Finally we fight the Darkness, and then get the final Ark, as the Darkness retreats to the final area. There are a few subbosses in the final short dungeon, and then the final boss — the Evil Heart. His goal is to return everything to a state of stillness, with no will or thought.
He’s pretty tough but if you use Mirrors to block his spells and then max Resheene’s power and speed, she can Kick with a decent enough success rate to make it worthwhile.
After defeating him, the voice behind the fireplace and the statue that has been giving us hints all game tells us what happened. The church and all seven worlds were created by this being to test Kurisu, as preparation for her entering the world she is supposed to be in. The “darkness” was supposed to be the final encounter, created from the evil in Kurisu’s heart. But it was too strong and it broke the being into seven parts (the Arks). Now that the darkness has been defeated, Kurisu can head to the new world.
During the credits sequence, all the party members are shown returning to their home worlds. Then Kurisu goes through a door of light. The screen goes dark; at this point there are sound effects that I think are supposed to represent a street with honking horns indicating that Kurisu is in our world, but it was hard to tell if that was the intent.
This game was a little disappointing, although not bad. Before I started the blog I would have expected something like this to be a below average game; in fact I would put it in the top third or maybe even 25% of games I’ve played. But the story is rather thin. The individual worlds are interesting and have some fun characters, but I wish the party members had more presence in the game. Also the final reveal is sort of dumb. The gameplay is overall decent, but the way the game deals with hitting 0 hp is annoying, despite the thematic reason for it. The graphics and music are good though, with some memorable BGM.
Next up will be Dunquest, a sort of action RPG game that’s a bit like the Torneko’s Dungeon series but without the random floors.
Nage Libre: Rasen no Soukoku (NAGE LIBRE 螺旋の相剋), released 2/28/1997, developed by Varie
This is a sequel to the original Nage Libre for Super Famicom. Like its predecessor, it’s quite an obscure game that obviously never sold well. Right now on ebay you can get the original super famicom game for $450 and this game for $250, which is by far the highest price I’ve ever seen for an SRPG on either system. So obviously I did not get the game, so without the instruction booklet my understanding of the system is limited — unlike the SFC game there is almost nothing about the game on the Internet.
The story is not a direct sequel to the first game, but has a similar idea. The Nage statue is stolen from a temple near the town’s high school, causing monsters to come into the world. Five high school girls go through a portal to track it down.
The graphics are strangely worse than the SFC game. As with the SFC game this is supposed to be a fanservice game, but compare the in-battle graphics:
The gameplay is based on the first game but they made a number of changes. The movement is no longer on a grid but an open system; this makes it a little difficult to know when you are in a valid space to move or within range of a character to fight them.
As with the first game you use cards in battle, but some changes were made here as well.
Rather than having several rounds in each combat, there is only one. They also retained only attack cards — escaping and defending are now free actions you can take instead of using a card, and all non-attack cards were removed. Instead, there are three basic kinds of attack cards: physical, magical, and special. Certain characters (and certain club choices) are better at magic than physical attacks. On the whole I found the SFC system a little more robust and strategic; it is true that the PSX version avoids the issue where you get into a combat with crappy cards. But that put some strategic value in the original system because you had to do some planning and could not just use the strongest cards you had available. Here I found myself more often just always picking the strongest attack or magic cards, and there didn’t seem to be much of a reason not to do that. The stock cards are also gone (as is money completely).
The game has a lot of magic spells. Some of them can target the units surrounding the target (who are providing support). Others are debuffs/buffs. But the magic system is a bit opaque without the instructions because sometimes I couldn’t cast certain spells and I didn’t know why. The debuff spells never seemed all that useful.
Unlike the first game this does have a clear EXP gauge although characters only level up after a battle.
The club and costume system are back, but they work a bit differently. There are fewer school clubs to choose from, but they have clearer effects — for instance, the cooking club can heal, and the archery club attacks from a distance. I don’t know if the compatibility chart from the first game came back, but on the whole the club system seems better here.
The costume system lets you pick a complete outfit from four options (you get a huge variety of clothing from chests and enemies). However, I have no idea what the purpose of the costumes is. There is no listed in-game effect for them, and you only see the character models on this screen between battles. If you hit the circle button you’ll get a judgment of the outfit, but I have no idea if this judgment represents an actual in-game effect; I made sure everyone was on what sounded like the best judgment.
The story is pretty basic although maybe slightly better than the first. It turns out that students from the Bairin School, led by Kamizaki Kaoru, want to get the Nage statue — her goal was to drive the main characters out of their area so her dad could build a shopping center there. But it eventually turns out she was being used by a guy named Kurosawa, who steals the statue.
His goal is just the usual “take over the world and cleanse it” idea. The ending is confusing — Nage herself appears and uses the emotions of the main characters to restore all the worlds, but then blows up because one of the characters’ purity is too strong. Then the main characters return to their world and get tickets for a Hawaii vacation.
This game is really not worth playing. The first game was OK and the card system at least provided some interest, but almost everything about this game is worse than the first one, and it just felt tedious and boring to play through. Even if you like fanservice bishoujo games the content this game delivers is pretty poor.
Varie soon got absorbed by another company called Layup and so there are no more Nage Libre games, which is probably a good thing.
Laplace no Ma (ラプラスの魔), released 7/14/1995, published by Vic Tokai
The title of this game means “Laplace’s Demon,” and is a reference to a thought argument against free will in a deterministic universe. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the game, though. The game was initially released for several Japanese computers in 1987. The original game was a first-person blobber dungeon explorer game. The Japanese sites I can find about it say that it was extremely difficult and some people even consider it a kusoge, although when you think about the kind of RPGs that were coming out in 1987, this may not be a surprise.
In 1993 it was ported to PC Engine; it seems to be mostly a direct port although I did see a Japanese site saying that it was easier and that it lost some of the original atmosphere of the game. Finally in 1995, eight years after its initial release, it was ported to the Super Famicom. This version changed from the first-person style to a top-down JRPG style. Since this is a port I only played the first of the three dungeons in the game. There is a translation patch for it if you want to try it out.
The game takes place in 1920s America, in an eastern rural town called Newkam (apparently named after Lovecraft’s Arkham). There’s an old mansion called the Weathertop Mansion that has all kinds of ghost stories associated with it, and the player characters have gathered in town to investigate. You start off by creating your main character.
You choose a sex, name, and job. The jobs are basically the classes:
Investigator (best at fighting)
Journalist (can take pictures of enemies to sell for money, this is the main way to get money in the game)
Scientist (can make various machines to attack with)
Spiritualist (casts spells)
Dilettante (kind of a mix of journalist and spiritualist, but learns magic from books)
The abilities are on the left, which include some standard ones, but others I wasn’t sure of the use for. The right is Skills which can be improved at the library by spending experience. The skills are:
First Aid (helps with using heal items)
Search (I was never sure what this did; a page says that if your search is low you can’t always get items or might break them, but I never saw this happen)
Magic (for the dilettante)
Machine (for the Scientist)
Mental healing (helps with using MP restore items)
Negotiation (helps with gaining information, but I wasn’t sure exactly how this worked)
Spiritualism (for the spiritualist)
Photography for the journalist)
Once you create your person, you go to the bar and find the NPCs you want to join your party. I took a journalist, a dilettante, and a scientist.
They start with equipment so it’s not necessary to buy that; I was never quite sure what the weapons did in the shop since there’s no real explanation (probably that’s in the instruction manual). I stocked up on bullets, and film for the photographer and batteries for the scientist’s machines. I also got some requests to find out what happened to other people who went to the mansion.
Finally I headed into the mansion. From what I can see on web pages, the dungeons in this game are based on those of the original game but are generally larger.
There are random encounters. The battle system is standard although the machines and spells do give you some variety. The arrow under each character advances during the battle and unlocks a special attack once it fills up.
The biggest problem with the battles, and probably the largest flaw in the game, is that they give so little XP that they’re barely worth fighting, especially given how nasty some of the monsters can be. You get so much XP from fulfilling the town requests and other story things that you really can run from every fight and still advance quite a bit, and since there really aren’t important equipment upgrades in town, you can refill your stocks of healing and other items just by taking a bunch of pictures.
The mansion, on the other hand, is well designed. Almost every room has some kind of description and character to it, and you can find a lot of hidden items as well as monsters and story lore in the rooms. There are a lot of puzzles you have to solve to move forward in the game.
The story of this first part of the game is basically that Benedict, the owner of the mansion, became erratic and strange after his mother’s death, and began to dabble in magic. He was hoping to revive his mother but instead got involved in stuff he wasn’t expecting, and the house became overrun with monsters. Eventually we are able to ring a bell in the mansion and stop the monsters in there, but we then have to go through a portal to Laplace Castle to stop the true evil.
This game does not have a good reputation among Japanese players, but it was hard for me to determine why. I thought that maybe players were comparing it unfavorably to the original PC game, but that doesn’t seem to have a great reputation either.
It definitely has a good setting and story, and some of the system innovations are interesting. For me the biggest problem, as I said above, is that there’s almost no purpose in fighting the monsters. Given this, I think I would have enjoyed the game a lot more if there were no random encounters, only fixed ones (perhaps with some places where you could fight a fixed encounter multiple times). Having the exploration constantly interrupted by pointless encounters really hurt the immersion for me.
Some people from outside the US reported they could not see the images on some of the posts — I believe this was caused by Jetpack (a wordpress plugin) putting images on i0.wp.com. I turned off the option that did this.
Can everyone see that image?
It looks like the previous posts should be working now as well — let me know if you can see the images on Shiki Eiyuden and such.
The “shiki” of the title is the Japanese pronunciation of Shǐjì, the first of the Imperial histories of China. The most common English translation is Records of the Grand Historian. It set the tone for the remaining 23 histories that came after it, particularly in its use of 列伝, usually translated “biographies” or “memoirs”. These sections focus on short anecdotes and illustrative scenes that show moral character.
The period that this game is concerned with is the Warring States period (4th-3rd century BCE), which is covered not only by the Shiji but also the Strategies of the Warring States. It is known not only for the stories from these works, but also for being the time when many of the famous philosophers lived, such as Meng Zi. Chinese and Japanese students still have to read parts of the Shiji, and learn the “4 character compounds” that are derived from stories in these works.
The page for the translation patch of this game claims the story is “100% historical” but that’s not really the case. It’s a pastiche of characters (some of whom were dead by the time the story supposedly takes place) with a few famous anecdotes from the period, but the main character is a fictional person and the story is basically fiction.
The main character has a pretty bad life; his parents are dead, his older brother has been conscripted, and his younger sister was sold. He lives in a tiny village with some old women and has no purpose in life. Suddenly a soldier appears in his house with a scroll, and gives it to Kurisu and tells him to run away. Kurisu runs out of the back of his house and gets in a fight with a soldier.
Before I started this blog, I would probably have been surprised to hear that in 1995 games were still using the Dragon Quest II battle system, but now I’ve come to expect it. The only two differences are that you can freely switch in and out party members before each turn, and running still gives you XP (half, I think).
Anyway, that soldier above did 22 damage with his first attack; I thought it might be a plot battle but no, I got sent back to the title screen with a game over. That’s not a promising start for a game. I don’t know if the designers thought you might level up outside of town first, but you can get past this part just by running from the three fixed soldier combats.
Kurisu heads to a nearby hut where the sage Chen lives; I don’t know if this is supposed to be a historical person — the other sages in the game are famous people but this guy may just be a creation of the game. He teaches Kurisu magic and tells him that the scroll he possesses can either end the world or save it, and sends him on an adventure…after playing some puzzle games.
The first puzzle you have to pull or push the lines to match up the colors with the initial state. The second is the game of Nim, and the third is a sliding square puzzle. I’m not a fan of things like this being required to win the game; fortunately the first one you can hold down B on the second controller to automatically win it. These puzzles recur several times throughout the game. The old man also gives Kurisu a stamp book where he can ask people for stamps throughout the game. You can press Y to ask people whether they will stamp your card; I think there are 60 people throughout the game that do it. The only purpose seems to be that you can unlock quizzes, and somehow that lets you go beyond the Great Wall to fight some optional hard bosses — I just ignored this.
Kurisu then heads to Luoyang, where he can meet up with Lu Buwei and Fan Li, both historical figures, although Fan Li should be dead by this point. There is a lot of mixing up of different historical eras here and it’s not entirely consistent with a single time period. Anyway, a nearby cave has 鬼先生, which I guess is “teacher demon” — he gives us more spells and a Demon Crest that you can use later to recruit mercenaries from Luoyang. The demon also tells us to visit all the sages in the various lands, and we get our first companion Lin Xiangru, who is another historical figure.
One of the peculiarities of this game is that what weapons and armor you can equip is determined not just by character but also their strength. The main character is really weak and often can’t equip new things. Overall the game balance in this game is poor; it’s one of those old style games where some encounters are easy, and others can kill you from full HP in a few moves (and game over sends you back to your last save). At least levelling up restores your HP and MP. Also, enemies do not drop gold, so the only money you get is from selling things.
At this point your goal becomes to stop the war between the 7 kingdoms. First we travel around the world, visiting the sages such as Confucius, Mengzi, and Zhuang zi (even though some of them should be dead at this point). Along the way we gain some more historical figure followers (including Jing Ke). Soon you can use the Demon Crest from earlier to recruit mercenaries. The best one to recruit is the level 99 old man; he has no fighting ability but if you put him up front he can run from every battle. Since you get XP from running this is a good way to level and you almost never have to fight a random battle again.
We also find Kurisu’s younger sister, who managed to become the Empress of Qin, giving birth to Sei, who will be the next Emperor. Kurisu’s older brother has become a mountain bandit, and Kurisu has to kill him at some point. There are other small events that are re-enactments of famous stories from this period
After meeting all the sages, we have to find three mirrors to open the way to a powerful sword, the Damascus Sword. By giving this to Sei he is able to unify the country and become Emperor of China. Kurisu decides to become a Sage himself, which requires a long dungeon by himself with no help — after several game overs I put in a no encounter code.
Now that Kurisu is a sage he starts to write down philosophical books, but it turns out that Sei has become evil and is oppressing the populace. So as the final act of the game he has to join with the old companions and defeat Sei.
Sei is pretty tough; some people on gamefaqs said he could be put to sleep but this never worked for me. Maybe I needed to be higher level. Instead of grinding more I just put on an invincibility code and beat him.
Overall this game is not especially good. The gameplay as usual is a boring mess, and the story is all over the place — there are some interesting parts, but it’s hard to know exactly what the designers were going for. There is a translation patch if you want to try it out.
I really need to think about what to do going forward with these Super Famicom games, because I’m getting burned out on games like this one to the point where I’m not sure I’m giving them a fair try. When I find a game bad, I do try to check around on Japanese sites to see what the opinion of Japanese players is; often they also think these games are not very good (this game, for instance).
I’m certainly not going to stop playing the SFC games; I’m too far along and there are still quite a few games I want to play on the list. But perhaps it is finally time to relax my rules more and allow myself to stop playing games like this — they’re not only boring to play, but they’re boring to write about also. I’m just tired of having fun with a strategy RPG, then sighing as I force my way through two more bad/boring SFC games, then back to having fun with a strategy RPG. We’ll see; I’m only going to play the first section of the next game because it’s a port of a computer game, and then Mystic Ark sounds good.
Sangokushi Koumeiden (三國志孔明伝), released 2/14/1997, developed by Koei
This is the second in Koei’s SRPG series, informally called the “Eiketsuden series” after the name of the first game. Like the first game, it initially came out for computers, and was then ported to Playstation and Saturn, and many years later the Game Boy Advance. It once again takes place in the Three Kingdoms period of China, following the story of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel.
As far as the gameplay goes, it’s nearly identical to Eiketsuden, so I’m not going to describe in again — please read my post on that game for details. The one change I did notice is that they rebalanced the statistics so that equipment is generally more useful than it was in the first game.
As the title suggests, the game this time focuses on Zhuge Liang, or Kongming (Koumei in Japanese). At first the story might seem to be treading exactly the same ground as Eiketsuden, but most of Zhuge Liang’s famous exploits happened after Liu Bei’s death, so it’s not exactly the same. But there is the same issue as in Eiketsuden — in that game, they had to rewrite the story so that Liu Bei could become the hero unifying China and restoring the Han monarchy, even though in history he died of illness in the middle of the conflict. The same issue happens here; in history Zhuge Liang died of illness in the middle of one of the campaigns and his goal of restoring the Han dynasty ultimately fails.
The game is divided into five chapters. The first chapter is the weakest part of the game. A very long prologue summarizes the whole story up to the point where Zhuge Liang joins Liu Bei. As I said above, most of Zhuge Liang’s most famous deeds happen after Liu Bei’s death, when Zhuge Liang served Liu Bei’s son. So chapter 1 covers everything that happens up to Liu Bei’s death. It’s done through very long cutscenes in which a lot of key action is happening off-screen; it feels like Xenogears disc 2 and it’s very hard to get invested in this part of the game when you’re playing a 10 minute battle and then sitting through 45-60 minutes of text and summaries.
The in-battle graphics are not as good as Eiketsuden; I don’t like the blocky nature of the terrain graphics. This was clearly done to support zooming out the map, but it’s pretty bad and takes some time to get used to. For comparison:
The “one-on-one” fights from the first game are back, but they use anime scenes for the graphics.
The problem with this is that with a very small number of exceptions (like the scene above), no matter who is attacking who it just shows an anime of generic people saying generic lines (the attackers are more varied than the defenders). It’s odd to see that even people like Cao Cao and Sima Yi don’t have unique sequences. What they should have done instead is have personalized non-anime sequences for the majority of the people and then use anime only for some of the most important characters.
Once the game reaches Chapter 2, it improves considerably. Your team is much more stable than in chapter 1 (and in Eiketsuden) so you feel more like you’re building up a force of people. The story also moves more slowly and feels more in-depth, and the story sequences are nowhere near as long.
Since the focus is on strategy-minded Zhuge Liang, most battles have you pick one of two strategy options before the fight, which can change the goal and the layout of the units. There are also often several ways you can win the map, some of which will give you bonus experience. I always appreciate it when a game offers more variety than just a series of “defeat all enemies” maps.
Chapter two is Zhuge Liang’s Southern campaign, particularly the (probably legendary) seven battles against Meng Huo, where he captured and released him after each battle. It is possible to let him get away as well without capturing him, which changes things later.
Meanwhile Zhuge Liang’s son Zhuge Zhan is growing up, and you can choose how he will be educated. Choosing “freedom” every time is the best because then you can choose what class to make him at the end, including the Tactician class.
Chapter three is the beginning of the Northern Expeditions. This is only the first one, ending with Zhuge Liang’s execution of Ma Su. You can actually choose not to execute him. If you do the execution everyone gains 5 levels, if you don’t it opens up an alternate ending in the next chapter.
Sima Yi is the primary antagonist of the rest of the game.
Chapter four is the rest of the Northern Expeditions. Here they have to change the story; in the novel, Zhuge Liang dies of illness during these campaigns. His son Zhan dies soon after in a doomed defensive battle. Sima Yi himself dies of illness several decades later, before the ending of the Three Kingdoms period, but his grandson becomes the first Emperor Jin of the next Chinese dynasty.
There are a few possible story branches in this chapter leading to “bad” endings. The first is when Sima Yi starts the rumor that Zhuge Liang is going to declare himself Emperor, causing Liu Shan to recall him to the capital — I don’t know if this is historical or in the Three Kingdoms novel; none of the wikipedia pages mention it. In any case, if you did not execute Ma Su in the previous chapter, you can choose to actually start the rebellion following the rumor. This leads to a bad ending but I don’t know the details.
The other thing that can happen is that Zhuge Liang can die of illness. The Japanese site I was looking at does not say how this happens, but an English page I found said that it could happen if you take too many turns and retreat (restart battle) too many times. I don’t know what happens if he dies; presumably the game ends there because the rest of the story depends on him too much for this to be an actual alternate route.
The fifth and final chapter is entirely original. Zhuge Liang makes peace with the kingdom of Wu, which agrees to fight for the restoration of the Han monarchy. Sima Yi usurps power from the Cao family that is ruling Wei, and the final chapter is Zhuge Liang fighting his way to the capital of Wei and defeating Sima Yi.
The final fight is rather long but not especially difficult, it’s just slow because you have to move through the palace. IMO any time a player is spending more than one or two turns just moving characters without any action, that’s a failure of the game design. In any case, Sima Yi is the final boss.
They also find the former Emperor Xian (the last of the Han dynasty) shut up in the castle, so they’re able to restore him to the throne. The ending scene covers the remaining years of Zhuge Liang’s life; he retires after five years and becomes an ascetic.
This is a solid B game, I think — the first chapter is a mess but the rest of it is pretty enjoyable. I think that if you are a fan of the Three Kingdoms you would get a lot more out of it than I did.
This series will be back near the end of 1997 as it switches to Japanese history with Mori Motonari and at least a somewhat new system.
I’m making good progress with Sangokushi Koumeiden so I should have that post up next Saturday. Meanwhile, here’s the list of games I’ll be playing in the next three-month block, the first one that has no PC Engine games. This list was compiled from a variety of sources, some of which are rather generous in labelling something as an RPG. The bold ones are the ones I will actually play.
Shiki Eiyuden – Another game based on Chinese history, but this one is earlier than Three Kingdoms.
Demon of Laplace – This is a port of a computer game; it was also ported to PC Engine but this port is a total remake that changes the game from maze exploration to regular console JRPG style.
Danquest: Legend of the Seal of Demon God – I am not 100% sure that this counts as an RPG; it looks to me like it does but it could be in the Ruin Arm sphere; we’ll see.
Kaze no Densetsu Xanadu II (風の伝説ザナドゥII), released 6/30/1995, developed by Falcom
I only have four PC Engine RPGs left on my list, although because the last one was released so late, I won’t finish up the PCE until I’m almost done with the Super Famicom RPGs as well. All four of the remaining games get fairly good reviews so I may finish them all, although we’ll see.
This is a followup to Legend of Xanadu, which I covered earlier. I would recommend reading that post since this game is very similar to the previous one. However, it is shorter, simpler, and overall much easier.
The graphics are much improved compared to the original; they finally make full use of the PC Engine’s capabilities. The system is the same — you still run into enemies (although now you swing the sword automatically rather than just running into them). The weapons and armor work the same way, where you gain stats for the weapons by attacking and the armor/shield by getting hit. So the first thing to do in any new area is just get beat up by the enemies until your armor/shield have reached a high enough % that you don’t take any more damage, and then continue. There’s basically no challenge.
HP is different; you no longer gain max HP from staying at inns, but only for using Mushrooms or gaining hearts.
The side-scrolling action sequences return from Xanadu I, but with a significant change — only the boss fights are done this way, there are no scrolling stages the way there were in the first game. The bosses are also much easier than the first game because they changed the way the healing items work. In 1, you had two healing items — 1000 hp heal, or full heal. At the beginning of the game the 1000 hp heals are so powerful you can just mash your way through the boss battles, but by the end the full heals are too rare/expensive and the 1000 hp heal barely anything, so it becomes harder. In 2, the basic healing item scales with stages, so that it remains viable up to the final chapter. This means that all of the boss battles can be beaten just by holding down the turbo button for attack. Apparently they added some moves you can do with button combos like a fighting game, and there’s a down stab that I did use in one or two fights, but mostly you can just hold down the turbo button and win.
You can also apparently play 2-player in the boss fights.
The first game involved a huge amount of backtracking, and flags involving talking to various people in the right order — this was annoying but did flesh out the world. The sequel got rid of all of that so that it’s much more streamlined, but you do lose the detail. There are also only 8 chapters instead of 12, and the dungeons are shorter — even the final dungeon, which is longer than the rest, is nothing compared to the massive final dungeon of 1.
Like 1, each chapter ends with a cutscene voiced sequence, which is the only voicing in the game other than the (rather long) prologue. The story continues from the first game and is fairly typical Falcom.
The game takes place 3 years after the first game; in game the magic from Ishtaria (goddess) had disappeared, and the main character Arios overcame the challenge, brought peace to the world, and now is king. But now with the loss of the magic, other continents are available for travel (I don’t remember why they were blocked before, maybe protection of the goddess or something like that). So Arios sends Ryukos from the first game to investigate a new land nearby. But they lose track of him, and so Arios himself goes with Daimos (also from the first game) to investigate.
From here it’s a pretty typical plot — collect 7 gems to prevent the rebirth of a dark god, but we can’t prevent it so then defeat the dark god. It’s competent enough but nothing we haven’t seen before. As I said, there is far less detail and depth than in the first game, particularly with the side characters.
I often have problems in ARPGs finding my way around, and i was even more acute in this game; the corridors all look the same and there are a lot of hidden passageways.
In the end I think I liked the first game better, despite its flaws. The second game has much better graphics, and the streamlined system is certainly easier to play. But at the same time it lacks the overall quality of the first game. (One Japanese site I read said that even though the first game was a console original it felt like a port of a PC game whereas this feels like a console original — I would agree with that.)
When you finish the game you get some bonus modes where you can replay with all your equipment, do a Time Attack on the bosses, watch the visual scenes, replay any of the chapters, and maybe some other things.
So this game isn’t bad — it’s a game to play quickly, enjoy a bit, and forget.
Next week I will be posting the list of games for July through September 1995. I need an extra week of padding for Sangokushi Koumeiden because it’s a rather long game but the gameplay is nearly identical to Eiketsuden and I’m still not going to summarize the entire Three Kingdoms story so I won’t have a whole lot to say about it. I’m also going to be on vacation a few times this summer so it’s possible that I will not be able to keep up the weekly posting all summer, but I’ll do my best.