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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.

If you want an RSS feed, this link should work: https://www.rpgblog.net/?feed=rss

SFC Game 84 – Laplace no Ma

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.

Image courtesy of Mobygames

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:

  • Hand-to-hand combat
  • 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)
  • Gun
  • 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.

Problem with images

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.

SFC Game 83 – Shiki Eiyuden

Shiki Eiyuden (史記英雄伝)

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.

SRPG Game 70 – Sangokushi Koumeiden

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.

SFC Game list July-September 1995

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.
  • Mystic Ark
  • 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.
  • Emerald Dragon – I already played this on PC Engine.
  • Ultima Savage Empire – This is a port of a western computer game.
  • Super Magic Land WOZZ
  • Brandish 2 – Out in English, plus I’m not sure it’s quite an RPG.
  • Battle Robot Retsuden – SRPG
  • Bounty Sword – SRPG
  • Sailor Moon Another Story – Looking forward to this; I used to be a big fan of the series.
  • Heian Fuunden – SRPG
  • Magic Knight Rayearth – Two shojo manga games in a row.
  • Metal Max Returns – A remake of the Famicom game.
  • Verne World
  • Wizardry VI – Western computer game port.
  • Yamato Takeru
  • Holy Umbrella: Dondera no Mubo – This is another one I am not 100% sure about, it does not look like it is quite an ARPG.
  • Seiken Densetsu 3 – Yay!

Back next week.

PCE Game 46 – Kaze no Densetsu Xanadu II

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.

No cheats, this is just your power level at the end of the game

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.

SFC Game 82 – Granhistoria

Granhistoria (グランヒストリア 〜幻史世界記〜), released 6/30/1995, developed by J-Force, published by Banpresto

We’ve seen developer J-Force at least twice on this blog — for La Wares and Nekketsu Tairiku Burning Heroes. Neither of those were particularly good games (although Nekketsu is at least playable). They were also involved in one of the legendary kusoge of the Playstation, the RPG “Mystery of Satomi”. Probably their biggest success was Dragon Force, the Saturn strategy/SRPG game.

The basic concept of this game is that the main character is some kind of supernatural entity that inhabits a person in the continent of Grand, twenty years before the entire world will be destroyed. You can check the “Historical Record” and see all the things that will happen leading up to the destruction of the world. The goal is to prevent that from happening by changing history.

It’s an interesting premise, although perhaps somewhat limited by the very linear nature of the game. You occasionally are given choices that seem like they would cause a story branch but they really don’t; at most they change who will accompany you for the next dungeon.

There is also a huge amount of lengthy backtracking in the game, with no spells or items that let you warp to towns. As is very typical for this era the random encounter rate is quite high, and the dungeons themselves generally do not have any distinguishing features of interest.

The battle system is also pretty disappointing. There’s a system where enemies can appear in the sky or on sides of you (sort of like the Aretha games) but in the end you’re mashing the attack button until everything dies; it’s the same old Dragon Quest II system that game companies are still relying on. The only different feature is that depending on which god (of two) the character is aligned to, their spells will use either Stones or Spirit Points — but in practice this is just a regular SP system that makes no real difference other than a thin veneer of world building.

The one good design feature is that SP and Stone restoring items are plentiful and cheap, so it is possible to actually make use of the characters’ spells in battle. But since the encounter rate is so high and you can beat most battles just by mashing attack, it’s not really worth it.

Then we have the problem that once again, in June of 1995, you cannot see the stats of items when you’re buying things in shops. Why are game companies still treating this like it’s an optional feature that isn’t necessary?

The game begins with Kurisu getting ready for his wedding ceremony. But some evil bandits associated with the god Ge, lead by Tando, attack and kill Kurisu. The “world record” appears, depicted as a blue orb, and has an accompanying red orb take Kurisu’s body to try to stop the attack that the thieves will do the next day; the first step in stopping the destruction of the world.

You wander around the town for a while, rest, and then it’s time for the wedding ceremony. Unfortunately the bandits attack the ceremony and kill Kurisu again — they wanted to access this Za temple that only opens once every 10 years. He then revives in a nearby forest backwards in time; this is the one part of the story I didn’t understand. It never happens again, although I never got a game over so maybe if you game over there’s some kind of teleporting like this.

Kurisu reaches the bandits (this is before they attack the wedding ceremony) and for some reason they don’t kill him — they let him undergo the Ge initation. The ge “god” is obviously a computer of some kind, and we later learn that the “angels” are robots or mechs of some kind. But the god immediately accepts Kurisu, which surprises the thieves, and they let him join.

Now it’s time to attack a train. It’s a trap, and now Kurisu can choose to stay with the thieves or join the imperial forces that set the trap — this might seem like a big story branch but it’s not; I joined the imperial forces but even if you don’t, you end up joining them soon after.

Kurisu is able to put himself out as a “prophet” because he already knows what will happen via the World Record, so he quickly gets the trust of the imperial forces. But at the same time, there is a mysterious man in black named Cain that has underlings; the World Record does not recognize Cain or his minions.

It’s now 806, 19 years from world destruction. We need to try to save the crown prince from dying. This involves a plot by someone from the family that the current royal family supposedly deposed — but we stop him, and the Za “god” registers the baby in the computer system.

Next up, in 807 a Ge follower causes a bunch of Angels to go berserk, hoping to lower the Za god’s influence in the world, but we stop him. I was not always sure what stopping these things had to do with the end of the world — I think the idea is that the World Record is showing all the things that lead up to the final destruction (perhaps in a butterfly-effect way) and we hope that dealing with the most immediate one will eventually change the history.

Next up we have to help the Asashina king set him his marriage, but in the process the king gets killed an Kurisu is accused of the murder. This causes the entire World Record to get erased. But once Kurisu escapes from prison he becomes king himself, which restores the Record. Kurisu also gets 10,000,000 gold which basically solves the money issues for the rest of the game — you can by 99 of all the best healing items and there is no more challenge in any battles or dungeons.

Kurisu goes and cleans up a few things, then Cain appears again, suggesting that Kurisu put out an order to unseal 4 sealed temples around the world. Regardless of your choice, the game continues on for a while; we have to put down another attempt by the deposed former royal lineage. Eventually Cain shows back up with his minions — they claim to follow the Record of Destruction, and want to return history back to “normal”, by which they mean the destruction of Gran. Cain is able to steal Kurisu’s body from him, leaving the World Record and Kurisu to seek out a new host.

A year passes while Kurisu gets a new body; it’s now 817. However, Cain immediately shows up to steal the World Record from Kurisu when we try to stop a priest from getting assassinated. It turns out that Cain is the servant of a third god, Ma. Without the World Record, Kurisu is on his own and can’t check what’s going on anymore. Also with Cain now in the old body (which is the King), he’s been attacking the other countries, and he has also started unsealing the 4 temples, which will result in the destruction of the world.

Eventually Kurisu manages to reach the Sky Ship and then the Sky Country, where the people who made the Ma god live. They surround Gran with a barrier to protect it; but when the barrier was briefly removed so Kurisu could come down at the beginning, that’s what allowed Cain and his minions to come down as well.

Kurisu needs to have both the Ge and Za power, but he has to go back in time to get the second one; after this happens he tries to go back to the present but things get messed up and he arrives in 825, right before the destruction of the world.

Kurisu learns that the ancestors of the people on this planet came from the stars, although I didn’t see much more information about this or what the different gods are (maybe I didn’t talk to people I should have). In any case, we can stop the world from being destroyed by beating the Ma god itself.

The ending scene lets you choose one of two options — both of which lead to rather bad endings. The first one is that the Za god completely stops, causing all the Za priests to die, and that destabilizes the world. The second one is that the Za god’s Angels continue to spiral out of control, causing wars and chaos through the world. As far as I can tell from googling, there is no good ending.

There’s more to the story than the broad outlines I wrote; more side characters and such. Certainly the story and the setting is the strong point of the game, but it’s wrapped in such a boring system that it’s hard to get really immersed in it.

(SRPG) 1996 wrap-up / 1997 preview

1996 is done! This was the last hurrah for Super Famicom (other than the one rogue FE5), with a lot of strong late-period entries. It was also the first real year for the Saturn and Playstation. Time for Game of the Year selection — this is a very arbitrary process that’s mostly based on subjective opinion, and I often prioritize variety over picking the same series repeatedly, so don’t take it too seriously.

The games this year that got an A ranking for me are these seven: Bahamut Lagoon, Der Langrisser FX, Fire Emblem 4, Energy Breaker, Sakura Taisen, Vandal Hearts, Riglord Saga II.

Langrisser has already been GOTY twice, and FX is a remake so I will exclude that. Sakura Taisen is not really an SRPG so I will exclude that as well. Since Riglord Saga was 1995 GotY I’ll avoid picking the sequel. I think I will actually go with Energy Breaker — although it definitely has flaws and some evidence of rushed development, it’s overall a fun game and is a great display of late Super Famicom graphics, music, and presentation. It’s a good sendoff for the SFC (unless Fire Emblem 5 wins 1999?) All seven of the above games are worth playing, though. Here’s the GotY list (which all have English versions, although that’s a coincidence):

1990: Fire Emblem
1991: Langrisser
1992: Just Breed
1993: Super Robot Taisen 3 
1994: Langrisser II
1995: Riglord Saga
1996: Energy Breaker

Now here’s a list of 1997 games. The system is Playstation unless otherwise specified. A number of these games are for both Saturn and Playstation; my method is that unless I can find a specific reason to play the Saturn version, I will play the Playstation version instead, but I will check for each game before I start it (and let me know if you know anything about the differences for specific games, or if I missed anything).

  1. Sangokushi Koumeiden – the second in Koei’s Eiketsuden series; from what I can see it’s very similar in gameplay to Eiketsuden.
  2. Nage Libre – Rasen no Sokoku – Sequel to the Nage Libre game for SFC. (Like the SFC game, this goes for several hundred dollars on ebay).
  3. Feda 2 – Sequel to Feda.
  4. Seikon no Joka – This is based on a light novel series.
  5. Sparking Feather (PC-FX) – This is the only original PC-FX game I will be playing.
  6. TILK: The Girl from the Blue Sea – I just discovered this recently.
  7. Riot Stars
  8. Atelier Marie – I’ve already played this game so this will just be a review post (I’ll also explain again why I’m including at least the early Atelier games)
  9. Final Fantasy Tactics – Most likely just a review post, but I might do a challenge run if I feel like it.
  10. Angel Blade – This is an early release from Nippon-Ichi; it may be their first SRPG.
  11. Slayers Royal – based on the popular light novel/anime.
  12. Shinseiden Megaseed: Rebirth Chapter – This is a Banpresto game that looks very similar to the Masou Kishin games; there’s a Creation Chapter that might be a sequel but from what I can tell it was only a manga.
  13. Langrisser 4 – Everyone tells me I should play the Playstation version of this. But apparently the L4 PSX version is based on the L5 system, so I should probably play the Saturn version?
  14. Front Mission II – I was somewhat disappointed in FM1 so hopefully this will be an improvement.
  15. Super Robot Taisen F/F Final – Just a review as usual.
  16. Mori Motonari – Third game in the Eiketsuden series. This one is based on Japanese sengoku history instead of Chinese, and the gameplay seems to be redone rather than just a copy of Eiketsuden.
  17. RONDE (Sat) – This is basically the third Majin Tensei game.
  18. Galaxy Fraulein Yuna 3 Final Edition – The first two games in this series were not SRPGs.
  19. Shining Force III Scenario 1 (Sat) – Many say this is the best SF game by far.
  20. Ryuki Densho – This is a port of a computer game. There were two more games in this series but they were not ported to consoles.

Rejected games:

  • BS Fire Emblem: Akaneia Senki – The main reason I’m skipping this is that it’s not fully implemented; this was originally a game done through the Satellite View and the cutscenes are missing.
  • Dark Law: Meaning of Death – This does not seem to fit my criteria, but I will be playing it on the SNES side of the blog.
  • Master of Monsters: Disciples of Gaia – This game and the next three all fall on the “strategy” rather than the “SRPG” side of the line given my criteria.
  • Soldnerschild
  • Power Dolls 2
  • Wakusei Kokitai Little Cats – I’m not sure this is really an SRPG; it looks to me more like a dating-sim like gameplay with some strategic battles. In any case it gets very poor reviews so probably no point playing it.

SRPG Game 69 – Terra Phantastica (Saturn), Part 2

In this post I’ll give some indication of the story and progression of the game although I’m not going to cover everything in detail. My overall thoughts are at the end.

One thing I forgot to mention about the gameplay in the first post is that every stage has a 50 turn limit. This is largely meaningless; I think the longest battle I had was around 17 turns.

First of all, there’s a rather large unbalance in the number of battles per chapter. There are ten chapters in the game and 33-34 battles, but 19 of those battles are in chapters 8 and 10, and two chapters have no battles. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it does make me wonder if this is another place in the game that points to the original plan being much wider in scope than how they actually were able to implement it.

The first five chapters are basically following the Emperor’s orders as he sends Mais forces to various places in the land to assist with military operations. First, we deal with Bofon forces headed by goblins. They tend to be pretty easy because they only have 1 AP, meaning that they cannot move and attack in the same turn — so as long as you keep out of their range you can deal with them easily.

The first chapter also has another one of the 4 generals, Evil Shade:

The bosses often are not all that much more difficult than the other enemies.

The second chapter involves Ridis, who is another one of the Bofon 4 generals. She does something to invade Alexis (the duke)’s dreams, and we have to stop him from reaching a gate where he thinks his mother is waiting.

The third chapter gives you the two best units in the game, the witch girls Coco and Jean:

They fly and can use magic. Magic is very powerful in the game and because they can fly, they can ignore height and pass obstacles. Once you have the two of them, you can beat many of the game’s stages in 2 or 3 turns, often without attacking any other enemies besides the boss. I pretty much did this whenever I could.

However, this third stage battle was the hardest one in the game:

Height has a big effect on combat effectiveness in this game, and most of the enemies are archers. I died a number of times but finally I worked out a method to ignore the units on the right and focus on the left side where the boss was (this is pre-witches so we can’t just go kill him). Once I had enough of the grunt units cleared out I was able to rush the boss and get him.

Chapter 4 involves a rebellion in Huron province.

The leader of the rebellion tells us that the “children of men” stole the King’s crows of flowers, and now he will come back in great anger and usher in a new age of peace — this has already begun as “that person”, who sleeps in Bofon, is awakening. We’ve been hearing from other places things about how people stole the “names” of the gods, using them to create human society, which also weakened the gods since they had lost their names.

Chapter 5 is another place where we respond to the Emperor’s request to fight, and also can find a research area to revive characters (or really create clones of them). Chapter 6 we have to put down another rebellion, this time started by a peasant girl Monica who saw prophetic dreams.

After Monica is beaten, one of her followers tries to kill Dine, but fails — Dine lets her go. Chapter 7 lets you visit the spirit realm if you have any dead units and can bring them back to life (I didn’t have anyone dead at this point so this got skipped).

Up to now there have only been 15 battles — chapter 9 has no battles so chapters 8 and 10 have 19 battles. I’m not sure why there’s this big unbalance.

In chapter 8, three things happen all at once: Mikael assassinates the Emperor and tries to take power, at the same time one of the vassal states (Aroma) has its leader want to take over the Empire, and Bofon is attacking again. You can do these three in any order but it just changes the order of the battles, there’s no effect on the story or stage themselves.

It turns out that Darma, one of the people in the Mais council, has participated in this rebellion supposedly in return for control of Mais. As far as I can tell, this is a fixed event, but it makes me wonder if in the planning stages, the designers intended for this section to be influenced by the state councils and who got mad during them. That would have been quite complicated to implement, though.

I went for Bofon first. One of the 4 generals, Ridis, tells us that her master is pissed off because humans stole the gods’ names to develop their civilization, but we don’t learn anything more than that. As usual, most of the stages can be beaten with the witches.

In Aroma, King Julian wants to use this floating island to take over the world, but we’re able to crash it and kill him. Finally, we have to deal with Mikael back at the capital, continually chasing him out of the capital and through the area until we finally catch up with him. Most of these are 1-2 turn witch stages but one of them is harder, you have to make your way up a few tiers dealing with archers and catapults until you can finally send the witches up. One refinement I made to the strategy is that you should usually move at least one witch directly next to the boss if you can. Typically the boss will first switch formations, then block if you are out of range. Often all this blocking will leave the boss with two-digit HP after all the spells, but if you move next to them they’ll attack instead of blocking, and they can be taken down.

Once everything is taken care of, Alexis becomes the new Emperor, and we prepare to deal with Bofon once and for all.

In Chapter 9, that Monica follower from before stabs Dine and kills her, sending her to a spirit realm of sorts.

There’s no battle here, but Dine learns about all the gods who had their names stolen from them by the humans and who are now reduced to near impotency. Mais was one of the main people who did this. The Goddess still loved humanity, but eventually all her names were stolen too and Mais beheaded her. The head was reborn as Dine when Alexis gave her a name, but the torso still exists as the leader of Bofon, working on pure revenge and hatred. It’s now time to see which Name will be stronger; the one Alexis gave, or the name of the sleeping Head. Dine is able to choose to return to the human world again, and we start the final chapter.

We start off with a messenger from the Bofon telling us that the King of the World will soon awaken, and exact revenge on all humanity for their collective mortal sin, and especially Mais. So we decide to attack Bofon before they can do that. Ridis appears first, and when we beat her up she tells us to go to Jurubal to learn why they hate Mais so much.

This is a weird stage, with a flower that has to move to the center of the map. But all the enemies surround it and take their turns beating it up (it immediately revives if killed). The enemy turns take forever, but eventually you can clear out enough of the enemies that it will make it to the center. Dine then gets the Sword of Mais, and we learn that Mais stole the flower crown of the goddess to make the sword — when the gods have all their names stolen, they turn to stone and enter an endless sleep of nightmares.

Next up is Zaitan, finally back from the beginning scene. He endlessly revives, but we’re able to stop this from happening by placing various people on runes (this game also has a bunch of stuff with “rune words” that can do powerful things).

Next we find a big fish who teaches us the Forgotten Rune Word, which will help save the world. Now we need to head back to Mais, because the Bofon have destroyed it — the four generals are actually creations of the sleeping goddess to replace her stolen head.

Ridis goes down next, and then finally Evil Shade and Dark Child (the other two). These are all 1-2 turn clears. We learn that the nameless god will soon awaken and take names from our world.

Finally we reach the coffin where the final showdown will occur between the two parts of the nameless goddess (Dine and the enemy).

The nameless goddess is a tough opponent; she has extremely high defense and 7 actions a turn. I lost 4 or 5 units but eventually took her down. You actually have to equip the Mais sword on Dine and have her take the final action to win.

I was a little unclear on the ending — the basic idea is that through this fight, the human name was stronger than the name given to her in her nightmares, so the world would not be destroyed. But Dine says something about going through spacetime to grant two names to the goddess and I wasn’t sure what that meant.

In any case, you see what everyone does afterwards, and then after the credits there’s a brief scene telling you what happened to Alexis. This depends on the choices made during the conversation scenes as well as who survived the final battle — I didn’t realize that made a difference so I did not get the best “God Emperor” ending.

Ultimately this game has a lot of strengths — the story is interesting, the graphics have good style, and the system has a lot of depth. But the game never really drew me in the way that other top SRPGs have. And I think that is down to one reason: the pace of the battles is way too slow. When I first started the game I was able to watch NCAA basketball games during the battles which helped, but the tournament ended before I finished the game. In the later stages, even though I was winning in 2 or 3 turns with the witches, it still felt tedious. If you are playing on a console this is compounded by not being able to save in battles, not even a temporary “suspend save” like some games have.

So that’s 1996. Sometime mid-week I will post the wrap-up with game of the year, and a 1997 preview. Next game will be Sangokushi Koumeiden for the PSX.

SRPG Game 69 – Terra Phantastica (Saturn), Part 1

Terra Phantastica (テラ ファンタスティカ), released 12/27/1996, developed by Chime, released by Sega

So this is the final game of 1996 on my list. The game’s presentation reminds me of Tactics Ogre in that it has a more realistic art style and focuses on politics, and the setting seems more European than the typical high-fantasy world. The story is not as dark as TO, though. This first post is mostly going to describe the system since it’s rather complicated, but first I will cover the opening story.

The Duchy of Mais is one of the parts of the larger Seleshion empire, which has the oldest temple in the world. The ruler is Alexis, and he has a son Alexis II. The child Alexis visits the old temple and sees a statue; he’s told this is a statue of the Nameless Goddess. He feels sorry for her and gives her a name, Dine.

Meanwhile, the monster kingdom Bofon to the west invades Seleshion, destroying the Duchy of Vershen and continuing east. The Emperor gathers together the forces of the various lands and attacks, but fails to stop them, and Alexis I is killed. The forces, led by one of the four generals Zaitan, reaches the Mais duchy and even the capital. But a mysterious woman appears and drives off Zaitan. She remembers nothing except her name (Dine), and is immediately installed as General of the Armies to lead the Mais forces.

Each chapter begins with a Council, where the current situation is discussed, and they make various decisions. At certain points you can ask the members their opinions on a question. If the decision doesn’t go their way, they will get upset. This to me is the most opaque part of the game; even looking at a walkthrough it doesn’t seem like it really affects the game that much. I wonder if this was a part of the game that they had planned to play a bigger role but ran out of time to implement it — perhaps the designers had wanted to make this affect branching story paths or something like that. (I did later find a different page that said there were big story branches, but I wonder — most of the time you don’t even get to choose Dine’s response, and the original page I was looking at was basing their walkthrough on an official strategy guide.)

Next, Alexis will come to Diene with a question or problem, and they’ll talk about what’s going on. You’ll get a choice at some point, and this will raise certain attributes for Alexis like Benevolence and Wisdom. This is another aspect of the game that doesn’t really affect much; it apparently has a small effect on the ending and there’s at least one other part of the game where you can recruit a character if Alexis has certain attributes.

Next you outfit everyone for the chapter. You can choose what kind of troops they will use and the item they equip. You can have Claude do it automatically for you, which is usually what I did. Otherwise you have to consider which type of troops work well with each person (there will be a 適 or 不 at the top) and the items. The one thing I did often change is to give one of the ranked officers an item that gives them Moon or Sun vision since they’re the only ones that can search, and you sometimes need one of those types of vision to find an item. Once you leave this screen you cannot change the troop type for each unit until the next chapter, but you can equip different items by using an action in battle.

Now you move to the area map. Some chapters only have one battle, but most have at least 3. You can often choose which path to take towards a goal; sometimes that switches the order of the battles, other times there are two different battles you can fight.

Finally we move to the actual battle map.

On the map, you can only see the troops that are within the field of view of your characters; otherwise they show up as shadows. (The triangle there is a heal spot). The game works on a player turn-enemy turn system. You can choose any order to make your moves, and you don’t have to take a character’s moves all at once.

A character can make as many moves as they have AP. Characters generally have 2-4 AP. Also, if a character does not start within one of the ranked officers’ leadership fields at the beginning of a turn, they have one fewer AP for that turn. The actions you can take are:

  • Move
  • Attack
  • Cast spell (this is only for healing spells and the like), for offensive spells you have to attack
  • Tactic – each unit can switch between several tactical styles. They default to a move style that has fairly low attack/defense but high move. You can switch to two other styles which will emphasize various stats (and usually lower move).
  • Equip
  • Rest – this restores ELAN. ELAN is a stat that goes down as you take actions, and the lower it is, the less effective the unit is in combat.
  • Search – only available to officers, this lets you talk to people in houses or get items, etc.

Once you attack a unit, you get taken to the attack screen.

In the attack screen, each unit has several turns (represented by their CP). Your options are:

  • Attack
  • Charge (does more damage and may critical, but takes more ELAN and shifts your tactic to “movement” style)
  • Spell
  • Tactic (changing tactics in battle sometimes fails and you lose your turn)
  • Defend
  • Retreat (sometimes fails, and you cannot do it if the unit cannot move back a space)

The battle ends when one side loses all their SP (Soldier Points) or when everyone has taken all their actions. As far as I can tell, having lower SP does not lower the attack of the unit — this doesn’t make much logical sense but it’s probably better from a gameplay standpoint. If Dine or Alexis II go to 0 SP, you get a game over. A ranked officer will retreat from the battle. Anyone else will die permanently, although there are several chances during the game to revive fallen members. (The instruction manual seems to indicate that non-ranked officers can survive, but I never saw this)

You want to attack from the back or side, but after the first action the unit will turn towards the attacker. This stays outside of battle, so if you have a pincer attack going you can then attack from behind with someone else.

One of the big issues with the game is that you cannot save in battle. The pace of battle is pretty slow, and this must have been a serious issue playing on an actual console.

In the next post I will cover more of the story and the actual battles. I just finished the game a few hours ago, so I’ll put the second post up on Tuesday or Wednesday, then do the 1996 wrapup and 1997 preview next weekend. (My quick overall view of the game is that it’s a mid-tier game; overall the pace of the battles is too slow and there are too many parts of the game that seem like they never quite got finished. But it’s by no means a bad game and the story is decent.)