Monthly Archives: February 2017

SFC Game 1 – GDLeen

GDLeen (ガデュリン)

Released on 5/28/1991, published by Seta.

The first RPG for the Super Famicom was Drakkhen, which is a computer game port. My memory of this game is renting it soon after I got a Super Nintendo and being confused and disappointed by it. Fortunately the CRPGAddict already played it (and it fails all three of my criteria).

The first Japanese-made RPG is called GDLeen, which the katakana helpfully tell us is pronounced something like “Gadyureen.” It’s based on a series of novels by Ramon Yuto called “The Self-Navigating Planet GDLeen,” about a constructed planet-ship, which you can see in the back cover of the box. There was an OVA based on the books, as well as a PC-98 game called “The Magic Stone of Digan.” I was able to grab a few pictures of it off a Nicovideo playthrough of the game.

The battles are fairly simple, graphically.

Lilifa is wounded, and even magic may not help her.

Judging from the gameplay I saw and these screenshots, it seems to be fairly heavy on story and dialogue, with some impressive graphics in the cutscenes. The battles look similar to Ultima III.
The Super Famicom game has nothing to do with this, however. It’s in the tradition of the Dragon Quest style of RPGs. You begin the game right in the thick of things, as Ryuu, our main character, is crash-landing onto the planet. Apparently he’s just a regular office worker; this isn’t clear in the game itself but was probably given as background in the instruction manual.
“What!? There’s an unidentified object in the warp-out zone!!”

Fortunately he is able to eject from the craft in an escape pod, but he’s still stranded on this mysterious planet — as he was crashing, he could clearly see this was a constructed ship of some kind.

A level-up screen, but the same as the status screen itself.

Ryuu grabs his laser gun, a space suit, and a space helmet from the escape pod, as well as a few medicines, and starts walking to find out where he is. Immediately you start having random encounters. The battles are Dragon Quest style, with a black background, enemy sprites, and your own characters just represented by stat boxes.

Ryuu’s first fight against 2 Ghouls.

The enemy sprites are fairly well detailed. The battle menu is somewhat complex — we have the normal Fight, Run, Item, and Defend. But there is also “yuugeki,” which is waiting for the enemy to attack and countering, and “talk,” which lets you try to convince the monsters to join your side. I haven’t tried this yet, and from the little information I could glean online, it doesn’t seem like either of these options are that useful. I think you need monster food to do the “talk”, so I’ll try it later when I get some. Other than that you just shoot the monsters with your laser gun.


One aspect I’m not sure about is the defending — often when either you or the opponent attack, it will say “You didn’t let them defend!” but sometimes your HP box turns red and it says “Defend!” for a few seconds. I’ve tried pressing buttons and nothing happens, it just says “Can’t defend!” This is another time I wish I had the instruction manual, although I found Japanese players asking about this online as well.

The most problematic aspect of the battle system, which is the most common complaint I’ve seen about this game, is the critical hit system. Any attack has a chance to do a critical hit, and the criticals can reach absurd levels of damage, to the point where you can be one-shotted by any random encounter. It’s not common, but the random encounter rate is fairly high, so this can be a problem. Fortunately they’ve borrowed from Dragon Quest in sending you back to the previous save point with your XP, and in this case your money, intact. Any dead party members will still be dead, but at least you don’t lose all your progress. Back to the critical hits — I’ve read that you can kill the final boss in one hit if you get lucky and get the 12x damage critical (which also ignores defense).

Anyway, Ryuu walks a bit and finds himself in a semi-abandoned outpost; there are a few people, including one who heals you and another who lets you save, but no shops. We do begin to learn a little bit about the world, though. “Gavana” is the name of a god who reportedly created the world of GDLeen. There is a book of history in the outpost, but it needs an Euradona to read it. Unfortunately to pass the outpost Ryuu must deal with a giant spider. After adventuring around a bit and grabbing a few chests, I encountered the Tarant:

The game’s first boss

At this point in the game you don’t really have any options but to keep attacking until it dies. It has two moves that essentially waste its turn — one that poisons you, which has little effect during the battle (and none if you’re already poisoned), and another that cancels your action, but has no effect if you go before it. So basically you just have to rely on luck; I died once, but on the second try I was able to finish him off and move through the dungeon.

Many enemies can appear in one battle, you can only attack those in the front.

Arriving on the other side of the outpost

After coming out on the other side, Ryuu soon finds himself at a spring, where the scene occurs that’s probably most memorable for the young boys who played this game when it first came out:

From what I’ve read, this is the only “cut-scene” like sequence in the entire game.

This is Fana, a member of the Euradona, who gives you a ring so that you can understand her. She then is able to read your history book: “Gavana is an almighty god, who led everyone and created GDLeen. In ancient times, the gods traveled across the galaxy to various planets with a ship. Gevana also created other ships for the visitors who would come from other stars. Travelers must come to GDLeen. The people will break into good and evil, and the Travelers will become involved. Those who are good will help the Travelers, and those who are evil will oppose the Travelers. Eventually the Travelers will gain the right to meet Gavana.” Fana assumes Ryuu must be a Traveler and decides to follow him. She is a magic user:

Starting equipment: Small katana, light clothing.

I stopped at the next save point, so I’ll end my first post here.


Last modified 10/16/2021

There are already a number of blogs devoted to RPGs, both console and computer. This blog will attempt to fit into a niche that’s not fully covered by any blogs I’ve seen so far — games that were only released in Japan. I’m able to read Japanese so I hope that I can bring attention to some of these more obscure games. I’m going to begin with the Super Famicom simply because I think that was a “golden age” for a certain style of RPG that became less common in the next generation of consoles. If I ever actually finish all the SFC games I might go on to other systems, but for now this seems sufficient.

Therefore this blog will focus on Super Famicom RPGs that fit these three categories:

  1. Were only released in Japan (fan translations don’t count)
  2. Are not ports or remakes 
  3. I have not played before.

Basically if a game fits all three of those criteria I will definitely play it. Otherwise I might skip it; it depends on the situation. There are some games that did see a western release that I never played, but that I’ve always wanted to (e.g. Lufia 2). I definitely don’t want to play bad ports of Western CRPGs, but something like Cyber Knight, which was an enhanced port of a computer original, is fine.

I make one post a week on Saturday or Sunday. If I am playing a strategy RPG on my other blog, I will generally make some kind of other post (like a quick play of some other retro RPG).

Additional notes:

What is an RPG? This isn’t something I’m going to try to define.  I’m going to rely on my 30 years of experience playing console RPGs and just use my own judgment. I’m always willing to hear arguments for why a game I didn’t play is actually an RPG.

My list of games comes from a nicovideo series showing short gameplay clips of all the Super Famicom games in release order. I also consulted a Japanese list in case I missed anything, but that list has a much wider view of an RPG than I do. They include what I would consider adventure or simulation games, and also some action games that have only very tenuous RPG elements. Anything on that list I don’t play, I’ll explain why when I get to it.

How long will I play each game? I don’t have a hard and fast rule for this. In theory I would like to complete all the games, but this is supposed to be for fun, not masochism. If I get to a point where I think I’ve played the game enough to make a final evaluation, and I’m really not enjoying it at all, I will move on.

Another important consideration will be the accessibility of the game in English. I will be more likely to abandon a game if there is a translation patch and/or English walkthroughs. For instance, you will see that I skipped Dragon Ball Z after one post. The game was OK but not great, and I was going to have to restart from the beginning. I chose to move on to the next game because there are multiple translation patches and walkthroughs for the game. 

Ultimately I decided on this rule — if a game had an official release in English, or if I’ve played it before, I can approach it however I want. If a game has a translation patch, I may skip it if it’s especially bad or not fun. If there is no patch, though, I have to play it to the end. As of yet I haven’t had to violate this rule although a few times I’ve come close.

Will I use walkthroughs, or emulator features? Most of the retro game blogs I’ve seen have a no-walkthrough policy. I’m less strict on this. I will not play a game following a walkthrough step-by-step to find all the hidden secrets and best tactics against all the enemies. However, I will use a walkthrough for the following:

  • Instructions for how to play the game
  • Major secrets like “good” endings, bonus dungeons, or hidden characters
  • Lists that give stats for weapons, items, spells, etc.

However, if I am not enjoying a game to the point where I’m having to force myself to play it, I may use walkthroughs more extensively so that I can get through the game and move on to something else. The same applies to save states.

The emulator speed-up feature I’m more willing to use since a lot of older games have needlessly slow combat systems. I’m not a purist when it comes to playing games from this era. (In the early days of the blog I had a “one week rule” where I couldn’t use any emulator features for the first week, but I abandoned this. It depends on how crappy the game is — if the game is garbage I’m willing to use save states and speedup.)

I stopped doing review posts after the first couple of years, but I’ll leave this here to explain the ratings for those posts:

[Finally, this is the rating system I’m going to use — I’m not going to give numerical reviews or grades, just an overall impression. I will also try not to use big spoilers in the review.

Story/Characters: I’m not as big on story as a lot of RPG players are, but it’s still nice to see a decent one, and interesting characters.

World: This is the general feel of the game world. Is it generic fantasy? Does it just seem like random towns and dungeons slapped together for the game?

Game Flow: Does it feel like you’re progressing through the story? Things that would subtract from this category would be large difficulty spikes requiring grinding, or long dungeons/fetch quests that get tedious.

System: What is there to do in the battles besides mash A for “attack”? Can magic users actually do anything? Is there anything outside the battles other than standard town/dungeon exploring (minigames, puzzles, complex NPC interaction, etc.)?

Side Quests/Optional Content: In the SFC era this wasn’t the mainstay of RPGs that it later became, but there are still plenty of RPGs that have some.

Interface: Is it easy to navigate the menus? Equip things, use spells, etc?

Graphics/Sound: Judged by the standard of the SNES, of course.

If you are trying to find out whether a game is worth playing, I recommend reading the first post and the review.]