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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.

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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!

SRPG Game 91 – Shining Force III Scenario 2 (Part 3)

Still not quite done, but this post will go to the end of chapter 5.

Chapter 4 starts with a “save the NPC” mission — what’s nice about SF3 is that you can control the NPCs so you don’t feel like you are having to fight against stupid AI. Another weird thing is that there is a thief among the refugees, and if you want all the bonus items you have to intentionally get the thief killed by moving him into the enemies. I lost one villager but decided not to retry. Mainly I just moved the villagers towards my troops and used the monk to hold off one of the enemies.

The next stage is pretty annoying. There are these lightning towers that can damage both you and the enemy, but where they shoot is hard to tell and predict, so I just took damage as I moved forward. There’s also a ruins with an optional robot character you can get, but it’s frustrating as well.

You have to use Zero to reach two switches (which don’t even look like switches on the map) that open doors for the rest to go through. If you don’t have Zero ready, or do the switches in the wrong order, you may run out of time to reach the thieves and the robot character.

The next stage has King Dominate’s “Rainbloods” fighting against the enemies; you can mostly ignore them but you do have to be careful because the enemies will still attack you if they can. You also have to freeze an area of water to cross over, but the person that actually does the freezing can’t cross before it melts so you lose that character.

This next stage sucks. You have to use ship cannons to attack the cannons of the other ship; the rest of your guys can’t do anything except fight a couple of bird enemies that will visit, and just sit and get hit. What was especially dumb about the stage was that after the first person I had in front of the cannon died, the NPC Donhote moved into that spot to attack an enemy. He would not move at all after that, or use the cannon, so I lost the use of that cannon for the rest of the battle which made it impossible to destroy all the enemy cannons.

Fortunately you do not have to destroy them all to move on to the next stage, it’s just some bonus XP. Chapter 4 ends with a battle on the ship itself — some of the grunt enemies on the stage are quite difficult but the boss himself isn’t too bad and a lot of the enemies won’t move even if you are in their range.

Next you have to break out your guys from prison using only 3 characters. First off it’s hard to find the secret door to get to the prison — you have to remember a scene from the beginning of chapter 1, and given how complicated the town map is for this I had to use a video walkthrough to find it, and even then it was difficult (see my Grandia posts for my hopelessness navigating 3D maps).

Once in the prison, you have to steal a key from the enemy, then one by one open up the jail cells. The freed people have to first go to a table to get their stuff. There are reinforcements that come out of two doors; they are fairly limited, but I still found it easier not to free everyone, just to free enough people to go towards the boss. (There’s a bug you can exploit in this stage also; if you use Return in this battle any items you used will be back in the inventory. You can use this to get lots of stat ups or tons of money)

The next stage has multiple maps; first you have to kill all the outside enemies then go into the big mansion and beat the enemies there. Once again the enemy AI is a bit weird and they won’t always go for you when they can, and King Dominate is there with some soldiers to draw some of the enemy attacks.

Now for the next 4 or 5 stages, you have King Dominate with you, and if he dies it’s game over. For the most part this isn’t too problematic since he tends to move slowly and not jump into dumb places. What it does is slow down the game a lot — the game is already slower than it should be with the unskippable animations but having all these NPCs makes it crawl more.

This next stage starts the appearance of these tank-like shooters (you also get one on your team).

The last chapter 5 stage is in a cave against some bosses — this is probably the most dangerous stage for King Dominate but as long as you don’t rush all your guys forward immediately it’s not too hard to protect him.

David is completely useless at this point; I can’t even level him up enough to make him useful so he’s benched. Hevda dies in one hit to everything but she can still cast some useful spells so she’s fine.

I’m partway through chapter 6 so I should almost certainly be done with this game by next weekend; it’s taking me much longer than I wanted it to.

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

The rest of chapter 2 is not too bad. Chapter 3 takes place mostly in this wooded area that has a very annoying map to traverse, especially when you retreat and have to make your way back to the battle.

New people join here. First up is David, who is not very good (apparently you should wait to promote him until level 14 and he gets a bit better). We’re going after his lover Hevda; this is apparently a reference to David and Hevda, an Israeli singing duo from the 1970s who were quite popular in Japan.

The next battle is probably the toughest of the game so far. Hevda is controlled by the enemy and if you want her to join your team you can’t kill her, so you have to leave her to use Freeze on your guys. There are also a bunch of spellcasting units clustered at the end that can lay waste to your force. The boss moved ahead to cast a spell on Medion, and thanks to that I was able to sacrifice the majority of my force to keep Medion alive long enough to kill the boss (ignoring the other enemies) to end the battle.

Hevda is not very good either (at least for now), her HP and defense are so low that she often dies to one hit of anything, which makes it hard to keep her alive long enough to actually do anything useful.

This NPC “Don Hote” (I guess a reference to Don Quixote) accompanies us for a while as we head down to the shores to cross at low tide. The final chapter boss is a big kraken. Julian joins here as well, and can come with items you left him with in chapter 1.

For the most part I’ve thought SF3’s graphics are decent given the other examples of this kind of polygon graphics of the period, but that Kraken monster is pathetic — it’s at RONDE levels of garbage.

It has the most HP yet and Zero has to use an orb on him to remove a barrier. Only one character can move close enough to do a range 1 attack, but with a combination of spells and ranged attacks he wasn’t too tough (he had some AoE attacks that could have been quite damaging but he tended to aim single hit attacks at Medion instead).

So this is only about half the game; I’m hoping to finish the game by next weekend but we’ll see.

Grandia (end)

I played a bit more Grandia but I think I am going to abandon it; if I were more than 1/3 through it I might tough it out to the end, but I just don’t like dealing with the 3D maps. In addition to that I find the battle system often feels sluggish, having to wait for all these spell and move animations to finish before you can keep playing.

So it’s back to Shining Force, then I rolled more random games. The first one I had already played so that will be the next old game (Seiken Psycho Calibur), the second one was a game called Jade Cocoon for the PS1, which I guess did come out in English.

SRPG Game 91 – Shining Force III Scenario 2 (Part 1)

Shining Force III Scenario 2 (シャイニング・フォースIII), released 4/29/1998, developed by Camelot, published by Sega

This is part two of Shining Force III; in system, graphics, etc it’s exactly the same as Scenario 1. The story here is focusing on Prince Medion and takes place at the same time as Scenario 1. In both that game and this one I found the plot a little hard to follow because of the parallel stories.

The game starts out very similarly to the first scenario; I thought the first few chapters were mildly challenging, at least in Shining Force terms. As usual the game is generally low difficulty because you can always retreat and try again, and even if your main character is killed and you get a game over, you keep all the XP you earned.

We start with the usual Shining Force group — the main prince character, a centaur lance user, a mage, and a cleric.

You can carry over your save file from Scenario 1; it will keep some flags that change what characters you can get, as well as making it so that some of the treasures are no longer available (because Symbios’ party already took them in part 1).

After the first 2 scenarios there’s (I guess optional?) centaur archer and fighter; it took me a while to find them because they are in a basement that looks like the HQ. I was also supposed to be able to get an additional character in the next town from doing something in scenario 1 but I guess I didn’t do it — I have a vague memory now that I was not able to save one of the characters because it was too difficult.

Battle 3 has the first ruins map; these are the same as in Scenario 1. You have to first acquire the map to the ruins and then once you enter it, a thief will appear. Some of the chests in the ruins can be opened, others you have to let the thief take the treasure first, then attack the thief to get it for yourself. If you use Return to escape the battle or get a game over, you don’t get a second chance (I’m not sure what happens if you use Return before you even open the ruins).

The next few stages are pretty easy; Battle 5 has Valiant as a boss but he didn’t really put up that much of a fight for me despite his spells.

Next up is this annoying port town where you have to maneuver around boxes and in and out of houses to go anywhere. The battle itself has a cannon shooting at you; it doesn’t hurt you but it knocks out parts of the walkways so that you have to go back and head a different way. It takes a while but only a few enemies are there at a time so it’s not so bad. You can save Stella (which isn’t hard since she won’t come towards you to attack) and I guess that will affect things in Scenario 3.

Since they took the ship we needed, now we have to go through this hidden cave. Hazuki the ninja joins up here.

That’s as far as I got this week. I’m going back to Grandia this coming week, and hopefully with Easter and the NCAA basketball tournament (nearly) over I’ll have more time to play.

Grandia (PS1) – Part 1

Grandia (グランディア), developed by Entertainment Software Publishing, released 12/18/1997 for Saturn and 10/26/1999 for Playstation

This is a Playstation-era RPG that I’ve always heard good things about. It started out on the Saturn, and from what I understand the development team had also mostly worked on the Lunar series prior to this. From what I can tell, the Playstation port is essentially the same thing as the Saturn version; there were a few graphical changes and some bugs were fixed but there was no extra content or major upgrades.

The initial backstory involves godlike spirits called the Light Winged Ones using the power of the Spirit Stone to give blessings to people, but when the humans decided they wanted to become Winged Ones themselves, that darkened the spirit stone and broke it into seven pieces. Adventurers have sought out the ancient technology of the “Angelou” civilization that the Winged Ones used, but thwarted by a giant wall called the “End of the World” they’ve basically failed.

Our main character is Justin, a 15 year old who has a mom who was a former pirate but now runs a restaurant, and a deceased father who was an adventurer. His dad gave him a stone that he believed to be one of the seven Spirit Stones although most people now think that the spirit stones and Angelou are just legends. The beginning of the game involves Justin and his 8-year old friend Sue doing kid stuff with town bullies and such.

My biggest problem with this game by far is the 3D maps. I find them extremely difficult to navigate, and I am constantly getting lost, wandering in circles, and being unable to see where I can go. This game really needed an inset minimap — you can press select in town to zoom out like this:

But personally I do not find that sufficient to navigate the areas, and the dungeons don’t have that (they have designated spots where you can zoom the camera out). I’ve always had issues with 3D games; I was never able to get into Super Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time because I could not deal with the 3D environment.

Because of this it took me a long time just to clear this initial section where you are running around town trying to find things. In any case, once this is all done Justin wants to go to the nearby Sult Ruins to find out things about Angelou, and the museum curator gives him an intro letter to let him do so.

First we have to go through the Marna Road, and this introduces the battle system. Enemies are encountered on the map (symbol encounter) and you can get a surprise attack or be surprised. I believe that once you beat an enemy symbol it only reappears if you leave the map entirely, but I could be wrong about this.

The battles themselves are done in a kind of combination real-time and turn-based system. The bar at the bottom right shows the enemies and your characters, and they move right on the bar at a speed determined by their Action stat. When they reach COM you can give them a command, and then once they reach the end of the bar they will take the action. Being attacked can stop your bar movement temporarily or even return you more to the left (known as IP Damage). You can run into problems of stunlocking and being stunlocked, but I have only had this happen a few times so far.

The speed of Command->Action depends on the move, and the more you use moves the faster they will go off. A character who gets attacked when they are between COM and ACT will have their action cancelled and they’ll suffer IP damage. If they get hit when they are at the right of the bar but haven’t done their action yet they will be Countered for additional damage, but they will still get to do their action.

The basic actions you can take are Combo (two attacks; if you kill an enemy you will do an attack on another one), Critical (slower attack but can cancel enemy moves), Magic/Skill, Run, Item, Defend (either defense+ or evade+), and Look (see enemy stats and what they are doing).

Each character has weapon levels, and they gain XP from the levels by doing attacks or moves in battle. Levelling up the weapon levels gives you stat bonuses (i.e. a sword level gives +1 str and +2 speed), and if you reach certain levels you will unlock new moves.

For magic, you have to find a Mana Egg which you then take to a shop and use to give one type of elemental magic to a character (Fire, Wind, Earth, Water). There are three levels of magic spells each with their own spell point pool, and there are combinations of elementals as well.

So there is a lot going on in the fights. Overall I think it works fairly well; it feels fast paced and gives you more to do than just mash one button.

This is from a later scene

In the ruins we are introduced to three army women adversaries (Mio, Nana, and Saki); they’re also at the ruins searching for something on the orders of Mullen. They are part of the Garlyle Army, and they’re searching for some final piece to advance their nefarious plans.

When we reach the bottom, Justin’s spirit stone activates — it turns out that his dad did indeed give him a real spirit stone, and a mysterious woman named Liete appears, telling Justin to find Alent which is on the New Continent. So after escaping from the Garlyle women and Mullen, Justin decides to go to the New Continent. There’s a fetch event here where we have to clear out a mine of monsters to get a passport from an old adventurer, and then Justin tries to leave in the morning on his own, without telling anyone. But his mom realized what he was going to do and left a letter, and Sue sneaks on to the ship.

Also on the ship is Feena, an adventurer who is considered the best adventurer in new Parm. When the ship they are on encounters a “ghost ship”, Feena allows Justin and Sue to tag along to solve the mystery of that, which turns out to be just a big kraken:

Feena’s fire spells are deadly against the monster, and it goes down pretty quickly despite the tentacles. Now Feena sees that Justin and Sue have some real adventurer qualities, and tells them to visit her at her house.

In New Parm, Justin tries to join the adventurer’s guild with an introduction letter from his mom, but it turns out the head of the guild is the son of the old leader, and this guy is a complete tool who refuses to pay any attention to Justin. They go visit Feena, but then the new leader guy kidnaps Feena and tries to marry her by force. Of course we go save her.

We manage to save Feena, although she’s pretty worried about pissing off the adventurer guild because you can’t do adventures without their permission. But Justin helps her see the silliness of that idea and she tells the leader to screw off. She joins up with Justin to search for more information about the Angelou and try to bypass the World’s End, even though she’s skeptical that any of this is real.

First goal is the Dom Ruins, where Justin hopes he can learn more about the Angelou the same way he did at Sult Ruins.

Dom Ruins is a big place where you have to keep going back and forth between sides of it…I still find the maps hard to navigate.

The ruins boss was another enemy I didn’t find too hard, powerful spells and moves took it down pretty quickly.

After this, we do indeed get more information from Liete — it seems that Arent is on the other side of the huge wall so Justin is going to have to try to get past there. On the way out we find a child who is hurt on the ground; we try to help but it, but it needs some special herb to heal so this is another side fetch-quest. Once the herb is recovered, the child recovers but can’t speak to us because we don’t understand the language. Just then, then the Garlyle military shows up again. Apparently they’re the ones who hurt the child; they are chasing the “demi-human”(? I guess? I don’t know how the english translation deals with 亜人) for some reason. We’re all captured and set to be executed.

However, Mullen’s underling Leen appears to free us, or at least set things up so we can escape. On the way out, we have to fight each of the three military women.

They are all really fast and can often act multiple times for each action of yours. Saki was the easiest, I think. Nana is a little harder because she uses these yoyo attacks that hit a large area and are able to do IP damage so that it’s hard to get turns, but even so I was able to beat her fine. I think Mio is the hardest because you can get stunlocked if she decides to keep spamming her balloon move (that puts people to sleep) and the stungun move. But if you can start cancelling her attacks and get a bit lucky it’s not so bad.

We escape on a train, and the child (Rem) gives us some tree nuts that let us communicate with him. Unfortunately, the military is on the move.

But Justin manages to uncouple the train and disable the brakes so that the military people are sent forward while they can escape. Justin and the rest head for Rem’s village, hoping for some information.

This is as far as I got; it seems like this is only about a quarter of the way into the game. I think overall it’s fun but the 3D maps are really annoying. I believe that I will play Shining Force III this coming week and then return to Grandia the week after that.