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Thank you for visiting; this is a blog that chronicles my playthroughs of various games. Feel free to respond here to introduce yourself, let me know what your favorite SRPG is, whatever.

I have two finished projects here: a playthrough of (most of) the Super Famicom RPGs, and a quick review of (most of) the PC Engine RPGs. You can see the list of games from the links on the top bar.

Currently I am playing strategy RPGs in chronological order, and at the same time playing other games — sometimes old RPGs, other times any game I feel like playing.

I generally update on Saturday or Sunday.

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.

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SRPG 93 – Langrisser V Part 2 (PSX)

I was out of town for a few days and I hit a tough stage so I’m not done with L5 yet; should be done by next weekend. I’m not saying much about the storyline because it’s all over the place — the parts don’t really fit together that well and it’s constantly jumping from one thing to another and introducing new elements out of nowhere.

19 – I believe this is the first stage with undead. Clarett’s monks didn’t work as well as I had hoped, but they still did OK. It’s not that hard to protect the villagers, and the boss will run out of bodies to summon eventually.

20 – This is another “protect the NPCs while they leave the map” stage. You can destroy bridges to try to stop the enemies but I don’t know how much of a difference that makes. I think protecting all of the NPCs is really difficult but you can let one or two die and it’s OK.

21 – Nothing tricky about this stage.

22 – I had a really hard time with this stage, to the point where I considered using level select to level up. The DeathLord that starts in the middle of the stage seemed unkillable by even my most powerful units. What eventually did work was to use Decline on him and then have every character that could, use damage magic on the DeathLord. Even after that the stage isn’t a cakewalk (there are a lot of units, with reinforcements, and annoying magic/arrow units that are difficult to reach) but it was manageable.

23 – This is the end of Gilmore. You have to beat this big robot thing first, but he’s very slow and his attack doesn’t do that much damage even though it works on a large range. I believe I used decline/magic to beat him as well. You have to be careful of Gilmore’s ballistas that can sometimes target a weaker commander (like Mariandell) and take her out, but as long as you can get within attack range and not die they go down pretty easily.

24 – This is the “find Langrisser” stage (wasn’t there one of these in a previous game?) There are a bunch of chests, and once the Langrisser is found you have to leave the stage with it. I think I could have beaten all the enemies but I basically got Clarett down to near the bottom of the stage, got all the treasures and beat Omega, and then left (I think only two groups of enemies were still there).

25 – This stage just takes too long — you have 20 turns but it’s plenty of time. What takes forever is moving up the mountain, especially since there are so few enemies. You also have to sit through Landius and Langford wasting their turns.

26 – As long as you know what is going to happen in this stage it’s quite easy; just have someone near the statues to deal with the (very slow) reinforcements. If some units were left at the bottom that helps in stopping Alvis from reaching the stairs (he’s pretty slow).

27 – Even though all the enemies rush you at the beginning here, I didn’t find it very difficult. Pikemen deal easily with the horses, including the boss.

28 – The goal is to beat Ferakia before she reaches the crystal, but she’s so slow it’s not very hard to do (she also got stuck behind some of the other enemies).

29 – This is another long “wait until the NPCs leave the stage” map. Omega becomes a lot stronger starting here and he can take out almost any unit from a distance. I used Langford’s horse units to take him down. I did not try to defeat Rainforce and the other reinforcement, I just escaped.

30 – You start with just Mariandell and Sigma, but I found they could hold their own against the enemies. Langford dealt with Omega again, and I had enough pikemen to deal with the horses.

Only 6 stages left. I believe that all my characters are at 4th class (Clarett might still be 3rd).

SRPG 93 – Langrisser V Part 1 (PSX)

Langrisser V: End of Legend (ラングリッサーV 〜The End of Legend〜), released 6/18/1998), developed by Career Soft, published by Masaya

This is the last “real” Langrisser game, in a sense. Perhaps the subtitle of the game suggests this was already planned, but after this game, Career Soft went on to develop the Growlanser series. There were a few more games with the Langrisser name but none of them seem to be well regarded (I’m not sure the DC one is even a strategy RPG).

The system of L5 is essentially the same as IV, with some refinements. The biggest change is that troops now take turns with their commander, rather than having their own place in the turn order — this is a welcome change that is a big improvement. 4 and 5 were first released on Saturn, and then ported to the Playstation. Whereas 4 was remade to match 5’s system, 5 was more or less a straight port so I decided to play the Playstation version instead.

In some ways L5 is scaled back: like 1, 2, and 3, there are no branching paths. Also there are only six commanders in the game for you to have in your party.

The storyline begins near the end of Langrisser IV. The main characters at the start (Lambda and Sigma) are magically-modified/developed humans, made in Gizarof’s lab (the main villain of L4). The beginning questions that establish your character are done by Lambda asking about the character. After my messup with L4’s class paths I’m mostly answering whatever I feel like in the questions and going for the Hero class which you can get regardless of your answers.

Stage 1 – This is everyone’s favorite “run away” Langrisser starting stage. Their lab is attacked, and Lambda and Sigma escape, while another one of Gizarof’s projects (Omega) is defeated by the enemies.

Stage 2 – This is also a “run” stage although I did manage to beat the grunt enemies first. Serena and Wiler (from L4) show up as well.

Stage 3 – Finally I have some pikemen from Alfred, so I sent him upwards while everyone else went around.

Stage 4 – In Stage 4 you are pursuing Wilar up to the top of the map; it seems at first like you might have to hurry but Wilar moves quite slowly until you attack him the first time so you can take your time.

Stage 5 – Brenda arrives here in the middle. Even though horsemen are a bit hard to use in this game because of their size (and the slow speed of the commanders), they’re quite helpful at least in the early stages. She is the key to doing this mission.

Stage 6 – Alfred seems like he is in big trouble trapped in the fort, but when you get near him he can open the gate and escape, at which point you can clear the enemies easily.

Stage 7 – This stage starts everyone off in gas that lowers your HP, but despite that (and having no heal spells yet) I didn’t find that it hurt them enough that it affected their fighting. This is around the stage where Langrisser IV ends; up to now, Lambda and Sigma were doing a mission for him but now with Gizarof gone they decide to go after the Langrisser for their own purposes but soon go to the continent from the original Langrisser games for a totally different purpose.

Stage 8 – This stage has Emily (from L4) as enemy reinforcements. I tried to fight her but even my pikemen couldn’t hurt her so I just fled south on the bridge after beating all the other enemies (which is the victory condition).

Stage 9 – This is a classic “save the villagers” stage. Our fourth party member Clarett appears here although doesn’t join yet. You get bonus love points for all the girls if you can save all the villagers; I lost one villager which still gets you a few points.

Also how stupid is Jessica? The enemy takes some people hostage so she gives them both Langrisser and Alhazard, and then just heads back to the continent!

Stage 10 – This is an annoying stage because of having to save both Jessica and Clarett as NPCs. At some point don’t SRPG designers figure out that “save the NPC with dumb AI” isn’t good game design?

Stage 11 – Pretty slow stage, I had the villagers take the top way around. We’re trying to help Clarett take back her kingdom, and also the past life of Sigma and Lambda are involved.

Stage 12 – I split my force into two here. The goal is to get the tax revenue stealers before they escape the stage. I was a bit worried that I hadn’t done things right but fortunately the tax stealers need to reach the top right before they flee.

Stage 13 – We’re freeing some “liberals” from the prison, but then the enemies decide to open the cells and kill them instead. I told the prisoners to stay put and nobody even got into the castle to harm them.

Stage 14 – We use an ancient flying machine to get the drop on the enemy forces. This is a sky stage with all flying units but it’s not too bad.

Stage 15 – In this stage, you’re supposed to retreat when the reinforcements come, that’s what I did but I had Alfred near the edge to deal with the horsemen — I think I might have been able to defeat all the enemies but I decided to leave.

Stage 16 – One of your characters has to be at the top right but I don’t understand the purpose of the person, they just have to waste their turns. We’re supposed to protect a hostage from the enemies but the enemy AI was messed up; they attacked me instead of heading for the prisoner.

Stage 17 – Nothing much here, just took people forward and fought.

Stage 18 – This is the halfway point of the game, where Clarett takes back the kingdom from the usurper and pledges to start a democracy. Now the idea is that we are going to travel back to where we started the game (we’ve been seeing how things are going there — Lanford from L4 is having to deal with a rebellion). But things will intervene to stop us.

Overall this is a decent game so far. I would prefer the L1-2 grid style and the game can be slow moving at times. The characters are good and the story is entertaining as well. Lambda turns out to be a princess and Sigma is the resurrection of a knight who was killed by Clarett, although he hasn’t recovered his memory yet so there’s still some ambiguity there.

Ys VI: Ark of Naphishtim (PS2)

Ys: Ark of Naphishtim (イース -ナピシュテムの匣), released 3/10/2005, developed by Konami, published by Konami Shanghai

I’ve had Ys VI for quite a while (I either bought it right before I left Japan in 2005, or more likely I bought it in 2013 on another trip). I was waiting to play it until I had finished the other Ys games before it, which I’ve finally done, so I can play this game I’ve had sitting around for ages. Because I played it on an actual PS2 I wasn’t able to take screenshots, so I’ll have to try to borrow some screenshots from the internet to do this post.

The Ys series started out with the hugely popular Ys I&II — not just the successful computer originals but the highly regarded PC Engine port. After that, though, the original team disbanded. Ys III’s side scrolling gameplay was not as well liked, and the ports weren’t great. Ys IV had the weird double release, with a (rather bad) Super Famicom game and a better PC Engine game — although by this time, the “run into enemies” style was pretty out of date. Ys V finally added more action elements, but that game had a number of problems as well.

It was 8 years before Ys VI came out, and I wonder whether at the time people thought the Ys series was just dead. In 2003, Ys VI finally appeared, as well as PS2 ports of the first three games. The PS2 port of Ys VI (with the number dropped) was released a few years later in 2005 — as usual the port was not handled by Falcom.

One big change between Ys 3 and 6 is that the mess of competing computers (PC-98, MSX, etc) had been swept aside and replaced with Microsoft Windows, which probably allowed for easier development. DirectX 9 was out by this point. Obviously the graphics are far better than anything the series had seen before, and the technological advancements also allowed for a more fast-paced, action oriented game.

Adol can do a basic attack, but you can hit the button several times to chain attacks together. You also have a jump-spin attack, a downstab attack, and a few more things that I never really used much because they were too hard for me to execute reliably. (The worst one in this respect was the dash jump, which you need to do in order to access certain treasure chests but I never managed to do it right)

Courtesy of Gamespot, obviously

As usual, Adol can do magic-like attacks as well. The way it’s implemented in this game is that you get three different swords, one of each element. By earning Elemen you can upgrade the swords, and as you do so, you gain the ability to use the sword’s associated power. Once you use it, it takes some time to recharge, depending on the level of the sword (I think it also helps it recharge if you beat monsters with it).

The bosses are huge and colorful. This game shares Ys V’s ability to equip an item and carry up to 9 of them, so you can have a lot of healing during a fight. I actually found that this alone did not break the difficulty of the combats — you can do extra levelling and sword crafting to make most bosses much easier (including the final bosses) though.

The game is relatively short, a feature it shares with the previous games. For extras, you have a Time Attack mode (vs all the bosses), a bonus dungeon, some optional bosses and item collection within the game, and harder difficulty levels.

The storyline is the usual Ys fare, where Adol comes to a new place and solves the problem there. For some reason when Konami did the PS2 port they replaced the anime opening with a CG one (contrary to what I’ve seen elsewhere, this was not something done for the English release.) All the lines are voice acted, but the quality varies.

The story brings back a few characters from previous games, particularly Dogi and Terra (from Ys V). But all the returning characters play side parts. The main storyline involves Adol’s ship being attacked by Romun Empire forces, which causes him to shipwreck on Canaan Island, a place that is cut off from the main lands by strong vortexes. He is saved by two daughters of the chieftain of the Eleshia people. He distrusts humans, but Adol slowly wins his trust and then goes out to try to find the magic mirror they have lost. Of course this will eventually lead to stopping a world-destroying evil. The plot is nothing special, but it’s enough to support the action without being so detailed and long that you just want to fight things.

On the whole this is a far better game than Ys 3, the Super Famicom 4, and Ys 5. I still have a strong nostalgic affinity for Ys I&II though. All of the Ys 6 releases are available in English. Unless you really care about voice acting it seems like the PC version (on steam) is the best way to play it.

I will be out of town next weekend, but I will try to schedule a post on Langrisser V.

Mirai Shinwa Jarvas (Famicom)

Mirai Shinwa Jarvas (未来神話ジャーヴァス), released 6/30/1987, developed and published by Taito

This game has two distinctions — it’s the first 2 megabit Famicom game, and it’s the first Famicom RPG to have a battery backup save system. Unfortunately the designers used these features to make one of the worst games of the system.

The backstory in the manual has little to do with the game. In the far future, humanity has sent out various spaceships. One of them, the Jarvas, returns home after a long journey to find Earth completely changed — all the civilization and technology is gone, and warlords are controlling the Earth that has been overrun with monsters. The main character (one of the Jarvas members) will search the Earth to find out what has happened. However, if you turn to the next page in the manual the “goal” of the game is given as “Defeat the 7 warlords and become king of the unified Earth.” There are no further story developments and the ending scene is basically just a generic “you became king, you win” screen.

As is typical of games of this period, when you start, you get dumped out on a world map with no introduction or indication of what you are supposed to do. The areas in this game are very large, and just getting your bearings and figuring out the basics of the game would take quite a while. It’s an action RPG so you get monsters on the map (like the one at the top right).

You move very slowly, and the attack has almost no reach. It’s rather difficult to learn how to fight the monsters without taking damage yourself. The only way to restore HP is to buy medicine in the towns, so until you can find the first town (which is not especially close to where you start) it’s a rough time. You also can’t level up until you find the town. Here’s a map of the first area to show you how large it is (courtesy of Starfighters76 on GameFAQs, a prolific map creator whose maps I have used several times before):

Credit to Starfighters76 on Gamefaqs.

The majority of the map is empty, with just monsters that appear. Letter A in the middle has an “old belt” item if you search the stump (a villager gives a vague clue about this); apparently you need this item for later. #1 is the town, which should be your first destination.

This is the only picture I could get showing how short the weapon reach is

Until you find the town, you can’t make any progress in the game. The town has six buildings. Three of them are shops (weapon, item, armor). One is a quest house which gives you two possible quests — this is the only way to make money in the game since the enemies drop no money. It’s also a trap because if you pick the second quest, you’re screwed since you have to go to another area to complete the quest and you can’t do that without 100 gold to buy a pass (you start with 80). So you should pick the first quest, the pot.

At the guild you can change class (to Fencer, Fighter, Mage). Fencer seems to be the best choice. You also level up here if you have enough XP; just pick any option and you will level when you leave. The guild also allows you to fight duels, which you need to raise your fame.

Raising your fame is necessary to recruit mercenaries, which you need to do in order to pass the barriers to the castles (#4 in the map above) — the goal of the game is to conquer the castles in each of the seven areas.

The duels are on a 2D map but seem to be bugged because regardless of your stats or armor, if you touch the opponent you instantly die. The only way to really win the duels are to intentionally get hit by the projectiles and hit the opponent while you have the post-hit invincibility, or use your own projectile weapons. There is also a glitch you can exploit — when you select the duel option in the guild, if you then mash B quickly enough, you can exit the guild and it will count as winning the duel.

The 6th building is a boat that takes you to the upper right island where the pot (for the quest) is. You don’t get a choice whether to take the boat or not if you enter the building, and it’s a one way trip (you have to take another boat to a different area of the map).

So basically the first thing you have to do is build money and XP by repeatedly taking the pot quest (200 gold a try), until you move up a few levels and can afford some better equipment and medicine (the equipment does not change your stats on the status screen but it does help).

You then need 5 Fame, which you get by “winning” 5 duels. At this point it’s time to recruit the 500 mercenaries you need to get into the castle.

The mercenaries are the brown guys you see wandering around that give you no XP. You need to walk over them and choose “recruit”. Each one is 25 guys so you need 20 of them. They’re quite annoying to find because they appear randomly, you walk slowly, and if they go off the edge of the screen they disappear.

Once you get the 500 people you can go through the castle gates — the mercenaries are not actually in the game, they just act as a key for the door.

The castle was impossible; I died about 10 times before deciding I had seen enough of the game. Judging from the walkthrough I was using, what you want to do is go to another area and get a projectile weapon, which makes things much easier. But to do this you have to go through an area with monsters way above your level, and just avoid them. I guess if you weren’t using a guide you would just keep levelling and buying equipment?

I think this is the worst game I have seen so far in this journey through the early console RPGs. It has all the worst aspects of these early games, and even with a guide is very slow and difficult to play. As you can see the graphics are bad, and there are only 3 BGM tracks in the entire game (including the title screen music).

The kusoge wiki entry for this game did point out that the game does provide some innovations and game elements that sound interesting — class changing, recruiting soldiers, battery backup save, job quests, and a big open world. They’re just implemented so poorly and with so many bugs and so few hints, that the game is punishing to play. Even at the time it was reviewed poorly.

SRPG Game 92 – Tokyo Majin Gakuen: Kenpucho (PS1) – Story

I had initially planned on two posts, one covering disc 1 and the other disc 2. However, I think the story is too long for me to cover it in detail, and I’m not sure there’s much purpose to a short description of each chapter. Instead I will just talk generally about the story in this post.

As I said before, the game takes place among these high schoolers (this is Maria, their English teacher and homeroom teacher — her full name is Maria Alucard. Aren’t people wise to this trick by now?). All five of the core characters discover that they can call on a certain “power”, and they sometimes have memories of past lives (or maybe their ancestors) in the Edo and early Meiji periods.

The other characters that join also have the same power, which manifested at the same time in a previous year.

Uramitsu, one of the characters who can join

The story as a whole is episodic in nature. The episodes often play off of common superstition or urban legends, such as groups of crows attacking people, or water demons. The enemies even include Lovecraft’s Cthulhu demons (explicitly so, not just ones that resemble them) and Neo-nazis. There’s also a lot of mythology and historical occultism, as well as feng shui and other Chinese mystic practices. It seems sort of like they just threw everything into the pot.

On the first disc, it becomes clear that all of the incidents are centering around a group called the Kidoshu, headed by a mysterious figure that is also a high school student gifted with the “power”. Many of the enemies in this section are normal people who have been gifted with (or forced to take) a demonic power that even turns them into Japanese-style ogres.

The final episode of the first disc involves the fight against Kozunu, who is the leader of the Kidoshu.

However, it’s probably not a huge surprise that this is not the real final enemy (since you have another disc to go). Kozunu was being manipulated by someone else.

Disc 2 begins with some interval stories — a class trip where we fight against yakuza trying to shut down a traditional village, and then a shrine festival where we fight the lingering spirit of the disc 1 boss.

The final wrapup of the storyline involves the attempt to release a sealed dragon (sealed by the ancestor of the main character, and protected by other ancestors or past lives of the other characters).

The final fight is pretty tough — you have to defeat these balls, but the dragon (who can’t be attacked) can hit you with a huge area attack.

In addition to this broad storyline, there is a lot of high-school stuff and little side stories to amplify the bare outline. One thing I did not manage to get was the date “Christmas event” in chapter 20; it involves a lot of flags and specific things that I didn’t know about. However, it sounds like on the extra disc (which I’ll get to in 1999) you can see the events even if you didn’t fulfill the conditions.

I’m actually not quite done with the game because once you finish, there are several Gaiden chapters that fill in some gaps of what went on in the game.

Overall I am going to give this an A because it did hold my interest to the end. The battle system has some flaws but is overall interesting. I think my biggest complain with the battle system is that you often don’t get much time or leeway to fight; instead you end up having to finish the battles in 2-3 rounds because the enemies can do so much damage that you can’t afford to let them survive for very long.

I would recommend this game if you like visual novels. I think that if you are not so much a VN fan, the battles alone may not keep your interest.

As I said above, there’s an extra fan disc in 1999, and the series continues in 2002 with a second game set in the Meiji period with the ancestors (or former lives) of the main characters. There was supposed to be a third game that would have taken place in between the two, but for whatever reason development was cancelled.

Next I am going to play Ys VI — I was looking back over some old posts and I mentioned in my Ys V review that I bought the game for PS2 about 20 years ago but never played it. Now seems like a good time. I will then try the next Famicom game (Mirai Senshi Jarvas, which is supposedly a kusoge so I probably won’t play it for too long). The next SRPG is Langrisser V.

SRPG Game 92 – Tokyo Majin Gakuen: Kenpucho (PS1) – System

Tokyo Majin Gakuen: Kenpucho (東京魔人學園剣風帖), released 6/18/1998, developed by Shout Design Works, published by ASMIK ACE

This game is part of the “Tokyo Majin Gakuen Kiden” franchise, which includes two Playstation games and then a bunch of remakes, fan discs, and adaptations. There was intended to be a third game for the DS announced in 2008, but for whatever reason it never came out.

Kenpucho was especially popular, generating drama CDs, anime, novelizations, manga, as well as a fan disc add-on.

I’m going to do three posts on this game. This post will be an overview of the system. The next post (on Wed.) will be disc 1, and the last post (next weekend) will be disc 2.

The game is essentially a combination of a visual novel and a strategy RPG. You spend most of your time in the visual novel part, but the SRPG part is decently implemented and is not just a lazy add-on.

The main way that the VN aspect is done is through the emotional responses, which you can see above. By pressing the directional keys (for negative responses) and the buttons (for positive responses) you can choose how your main character responds. For instance, in the above picture you are meeting Kyouichi for the first time, and he says “we’re in the same class, so let’s be friends.” On the left side, you can get angry at him, be sad, respond coldly, or react with uncertainty. On the right side, you can react happily, you can react with love, with friendship, or you can simply agree without any particular emotion.

What these responses actually do, though, is a bit hard to tell. There are no branching story paths, extra stages, different combats, or anything like that. As far as I can tell you will be in this core friend group even if you are constantly angry or cold to them, and the instruction manual doesn’t indicate that the friendship levels do anything in combat. It will change the immediate response they make (and perhaps the people around them). In some cases you will get some items by making certain choices, and outside of the core 5 people, there are a large number of extra characters that join if you are friendly to them.

From what I can tell, “friendly” is basically the default response and if you responded that way in every case, you would end up with the majority of the extra characters and scenes. So I think this response matrix is more for just trying to define your avatar in the game for your own purposes, rather than as a true strong gameplay element. If you are a complete asshole to everyone you might just have the main 5 characters and it would be interesting to see if the game could be completed that way without grinding (I think it probably could).

I think the art is pretty good and they went with a more VN-style of art than anime. The dialogue is not voiced, although the characters do have small voice clips (like greetings), and in-battle voices for their attacks.

The game is made up of 23 chapters across two discs. Each chapter has one or two battles in it. After the third chapter you can also go into the “old school building”, which is essentially a grinding dungeon — you do 5 levels at a time, and once you clear a set of 5 levels you can start from there next time. Or you can repeat the first levels, because if you stay in the dungeon without leaving, you get bonus XP for your next 5 floors.

At the end of each chapter, you can choose activities for each of your characters except the main character, which will change their stats.

The choices are club activity, study, rest, have fun, and talk. The last one just lets you talk to the person and change their friendship level. The other four have effects that differ per character, but in general Study is going to raise spirit (for magic attack/defense), rest will raise HP, have fun will raise movement points, and the club activity differs for each person.

Of course movement points are a big thing you want but as you can see in the picture above, “have fun” always lowers stats as well (though different stats for each character). This makes a big difference per character — I found that some characters I could do “have fun” almost every time without a huge drawback, whereas other characters seemed to give up a lot to do it. You can choose activities for all your people, even ones who didn’t participate in the combats for that chapter. (One thing I don’t like is that once you’ve chosen an activity you can’t change it).

The battles take place on a 3/4 grid view that you can’t rotate, although there is a button that will show you where everyone is if they are hidden behind an obstacle (fortunately this is rare).

You always begin with your core 5 characters, unless there is a story reason why some of them are not there. Some battles will have additional characters that are dictated by the story, and then you can fill that out with the extra characters — usually to a maximum of 10 but sometimes it’s lower.

The core characters will be there at the start, and the extra characters come in at round 2. You’ll be able to place them where you want, which can help a lot.

The game then goes in a player turn-enemy turn system. You can do your characters’ actions in any order and even take part of a character’s turn and then switch to another person. Each person has action points. Walking takes a certain number of points based on the terrain, and it costs points to change facing as well. Each attack or ability costs a certain number of points as well. There are no limitations on how many times you can use an ability each battle (i.e. no MP or TP), it’s just up to whether you have the action points left over to do it.

Each character has a “field of view” that affects their attacks — in this case Daigo can use his moves on people to the front or sides of him, but not back. Right of that is a 3×3 grid that shows where the character’s weak points are (red is weak, blue is strong). If you look at the list of attacks to the right, you can see what part of the grid they attack, which you want to line up with their weak points. Each move also has a strength, an action point cost, and a range (although the range is just where you activate the move, it’s not about the area of effect).

All of this makes it rather complicated to tell which attacks will be effective (there’s also an elemental system), mercifully the designers show you the damage that will be done with the attack so that you don’t actually have to think it all out on your own. Many of the moves also have knockback effects; if you knock a character into another character, they will both take some damage.

Death is not permanent, although if your main character dies you get a game over (ugh). Anyone else that dies it just lowers their friendship value — as I said before it’s hard to know exactly what effect this has. The only place you want to make sure you don’t do this is when you have guest characters in the battle that might join your party later. I already missed out on one character because he died in the battle where he was a (controllable) guest.

I’ll end this post with some info on the four core characters (aside from the main character). They’re all 3rd year high school students so they’re 17 or 18.

Misato Aoi is on the student council; she has healing and buffing moves in battle for the most part. She seems to be the basic default love interest for the main character.

Sakurai Komaki is a more tomboyish person who uses a bow in battle.

Daigo is a martial arts fighter; he’s also very serious and restrained.

Horaiji Koichi is on the kendo club and is constantly flirting and has a very free personality.

The basic story involves these people discovering that they have supernatural abilities and getting drawn up into various supernatural events. I’ll go into the plot more and introduce some more of the characters in the next post.

Deep Dungeon 2 (FDS)

Deep Dungeon 2 (勇士の紋章 ディープダンジョンII), released 5/29/1987, developed by Hummingbird Soft

This is the second of the four Deep Dungeon first-person RPGs. Since this one came out only five months after the first one, it’s not a big surprise that it is nearly identical to the first game, just with new maps. You still control just one hero; there are eight dungeon levels but divided between a tower and a dungeon.

After spending your initial gold, it’s time to enter the first floor. (You can transfer your character from the first game and start at level 2)

One difference this time is that time passes even if you do anything, so you can get attacked if you are trying to map. The random encounter rate is high, but if your own level is high enough, enemies will no longer appear on certain maps. Compared to the first game, you can find a lot more gold in your travels (which restores when you leave the dungeon).

The random encounters are fairly easy. This game has a much easier starting curve than the first one, and you don’t miss as much. However, you need to be careful of the fixed encounters which are quite strong.

As with DD1, there is very little that you actually need to do to win the game; most of your time is just mapping the mostly empty floors, finding gold and raising your level.

I don’t have much more to say about this game — it’s essentially the same game as Deep Dungeon 1, but it runs a little smoother and has a few changes. There will be more significant upgrades in the next Deep Dungeon game which took a year to develop.

Seiken Psycho Calibur (FDS)

Seiken Psycho Calibur (聖剣サイコカリバー 魔獣の森伝説), released 5/19/1987, developed and published by Imagineer

This is the third game in Imagineer’s “Wave Jack” series. The first game (Ginga Densetsu) was a hybrid shooter/adventure game (like The Guardian Legend), and the second game (Kieta Princess) was an action game/mystery game hybrid. The unifying element of the games is that they came with booklets and audio cassettes that expanded on the background of the game and gave some clues to puzzles in the game. They also featured theme songs by a popular idol group at the time. The third (and last) Wave Jack game was Seiken Psycho Calibur, and it’s not hard to see what game they were influenced by:

I think people are sometimes too quick to use the term “ripoff” — Zelda itself borrowed elements from Hydlide and Tower of Druaga, although of course it develops its own feel and system well beyond what those games had. SPC is more obviously based on Zelda, although it’s nowhere near as good of a game. I think it does enough things differently from Zelda that it’s not just a pure ripoff, but the accusation is probably justified.

The story is pretty basic, although perhaps the material included with the game expanded on it more — the story in game is just the usual “main character is the descendant of a legendary hero who beat the demon 300 years ago” setup.

Rather than the large map of Zelda, this game is separated into 9 areas, each with a boss. You start in an area where there are a number of houses with clues, some shops, and two training areas. You get 100 coins to start, and 200 total food (the red oval), which decreases as time passes. If it hits 0 you start losing HP. You also have two meters, P (which is hit points) and F (which is strength).

The starting area is interesting because you can never come back to it, so you are basically choosing a starting set of things with your 100 money. Some of the items will be available from other shops later, but the Clothes (which raise defense) are only available here. I went with the clothes, which are 80 coins — this means you can’t pay 50 coins to train your power or force, but it seemed reasonable. Once you’ve visited all these areas and chosen your starting stuff, it’s off to the first level.

You wander around the levels, which are relatively small. Unlike Zelda there’s not much to find in each one — the first level has only three things of importance. There’s a shop that sells the Boomerang (essentially the same as Zelda except it actually does damage), 100 food, and Trent Fruit (bombs). There’s also a boss that drops a key, and then you can use the key to free the first of two fairies (which will go in one of the four boxes there below the Force and Power meters.

Beating the regular enemies will give you food and money, and occasionally things that will increase your hit points although I’m not 100% sure how that works. The Boomerang is a good weapon but 100 coins is a lot (nobody dropped more than 1 for me); you can return to old areas other than the starting area, so you wouldn’t have to buy it now.

The first boss shoots out fireballs but is not too difficult. Beating him gives you the key.

The fairy can be brought out to block 3 projectiles, and then it will disappear for a while to cool down. The other blocks are a second fairy, sword techniques (which you learn as your Force meter goes up), and the secondary items. The fairies and sword techniques are at least something different from Zelda.

The second area has no shops or items, just this spider boss which drops a key; you need the key to go into an underground part of the level where you will find another boss. None of this is necessary to go to the next stage, but you need to raise your Force to learn the sword techniques, some of which are necessary to pass areas or fight bosses — you wouldn’t necessarily have to do it in the order given, but you would have to do them all eventually.

This is where I stopped. It’s a pretty bad game, especially under the shadow of Zelda. The control feels stiff, and there are annoyances like not being able to use your sword when you first enter a level.

Apparently the purpose of the included cassette tape is to give you clues to getting through the Lost Woods (another Zelda influence) on the final map; you have to go in a way that forms the theme song which you can hear on the tape.

I’m not sure why Imagineer didn’t make any more Wave Jack games, but I have a feeling it just wasn’t worth it to include all these extras in the game — from what I can see the price (4900 yen) was on the expensive side but not an unusual price for a Famicom game. So they were probably not making as much money as they could have and I doubt the extras were a big draw for the game (especially since all three games got lukewarm or negative reviews even at the time).

I also played Deep Dungeon 2, so I will do a post about that midweek and then next Saturday I will post about Tokyo Majin Gakuen.

SRPG Game 91 – Shining Force III Scenario 2 (Final)

If you didn’t see my last post, there was a problem with a cache plugin that made the previous couple of weeks unviewable to anyone not logged into the admin account (i.e. everyone but me, which made me not see the problem), so you may need to go back further to catch up.

In the first battle we’re still protecting King Dominate. He takes a somewhat unpredictable path and most of the enemies don’t move until you get near them; even so I never found that Dominate himself was in much danger. This is similar to the battle in scenario 1 with the Queen Worm.

Next up is this stage where you have to navigate these platforms that rise and sink every few turns. It slows down the battle a lot. The only plus is that Dominate won’t really move beyond the first area, and so the only enemy that will go after him is one harpy thing that can be easily dealt with by his entourage.

After this we reach the last town and can finally use the blacksmith to make some nice weapons. I didn’t have much money at this point but that soon changes.

The next stage is rough. You have a bunch of initial enemies to deal with that are made somewhat annoying by having to go down a narrow stairway. But the big problem is the boss. These enemies will not move until you’re in their range, and then they all come at you and cast damaging spells. Resist would help but Hera wasn’t high enough level to use it — honestly I’m not entirely sure how I did it in the end; I kept getting screwed but then one time I guess my positioning was just lucky and most of my characters survived long enough to use Aura and take out the spellcasters. Once it’s down to just Deathhelen it’s not very hard.

After this stage, the ancient ruins open up which are pretty much the same as in the first game although I didn’t find it quite as easy to level. I got my main party up to the 13-15 range, which also earned enough money to get a bunch of blacksmith weapons. There are only two more stages left after this.

This second to last stage is annoying. You are forced to split your team into your main squad, and then your leftover characters who will be headed by David. Your main force holds off endless reinforcements on a different map while David’s squad deals with enemies inside the tank, ending with a 330 hp boss than regenerates 20 hp a round. Your normal David squad will only be a few characters, so what you have to do is either level them up to a ridiculous point, or use a character called Puppets that you get from the town bar, who can capture monsters in the bonus dungeon.

Personally I consider this bad game design. I don’t mind the team split, but they should let you split the team however you want, rather than forcing you to use this tiny squad that you have to supplement by grinding the bonus dungeon. In general I’m not a big fan of games that let you freely choose your characters for 95% of the game but then have one stage where it’s suddenly “surprise, you have to use the characters you didn’t level at all!”

In any case, once I went back to the bonus dungeon and recruited a Queen Worm, two Hydras, a skeleton knight, and a Wyvern, the stage wasn’t too bad.

The final stage is considerably easier than this, as long as you don’t send Medion out ahead to get killed. You first have to fight Symbios’ side characters from the first game, who for me were all very weak and could mostly be taken out in a hit (although I did get Medion killed from full HP by a lucky critical move, which is why I am glad to use save states on successive battles where you can’t save). Once that team is gone, you just have the two final bosses with two weak grunts — Yasha can cast level 3 spark but Aura was able to deal with that pretty easily.

So that’s SF3 part 2. To be honest I did not enjoy it as much as scenario 1. I thought that a fair number of the creative battles they tried (like the ship cannon one, or the split party one I mentioned above) were not well designed, and especially since you still can’t skip battle animations the turns seem to go pretty slowly.

We’ll finish up Shining Force III later in 1998 with scenario 3.

Tech issue fixed

For some reason the last three posts did not show up unless I was logged into the admin account — I only noticed this today. It seems to have been caused by an issue with a cache plugin for wordpress. So you should be able to see the last few weeks of posts now.

Too bad it’s just my slow crawl through Shining Force III but I’m on the last stage so we’ll be moving on soon!