Monthly Archives: October 2018

SFC Game 30 – Seiken Densetsu 2 Part 2 (Finished)

Two things happen in the later part of Seiken Densetsu 2 — it seems like they’re hurrying things along, and the monsters get much harder. I think the hurrying is just due to development problems, and maybe that’s the origin of the slight enemy unbalance as well. But overall the flaws in the first half of the game are still there in the second half. It’s too bad; this could have been a much better game.

Anyway, last time I was heading back to the Fire Palace to return the seed and level up my magic to 4. For most of the bosses in this game I just levelled up magic and used it — this is a really cheap way to beat all the bosses and maybe I shouldn’t have resorted to it, but it’s fun to spell-lock the bosses and watch them die without being able to move.

After the fire palace we head to the Empire — as usual in RPGs, the Empire is not good. They are trying to restore the Mana Fortress to rule the world, but this would be bad news for everyone else. Fortunately there’s a resistance we can join.

The resistance base is in Northtown, where we learn that Dyluck (the girl’s love interest) is draining people’s energy — obviously he’s under enemy control. Unfortunately by the time we break into the castle it’s too late. He’s gone.

But good news! The Emperor wants a truce. The resistance is a bunch of idiots and actually accepts it, but we all get thrown in jail. Fortunately we escape, and then eventually after a few boss fights we get Flammie, the dragon that can fly us around the world.

Now the game gets hurried along a bit, as the last few seeds are all dealt with in short order, without a whole lot of story. I do remember Gold City from when I played this as a kid, with the great Empire city music.

Eventually we recover all of the seeds but one, which the Empire has already screwed up. They’re also invading an underground palace to try to raise the Mana Fortress. This is where the game’s difficulty shoots up a lot, but buying the best equipment from Gold City helps a lot. After the dungeon there’s even better equipment from Neko.

Afterwards, it’s time for the Pure Land, where we fight a ton of bosses and then finally get the level 8 magic and the power of mana.

Unfortunately the Mana Tree dies (and is the main character’s mom, or something), but fortunately the spirit is still around. Time to take on the Mana Fortress.

Thanatos has killed the Emperor and tried to take over things for himself, but Level 8 Saint Beam takes him out pretty easily, leaving just the Mana Beast left. Killing the Beast will split the world so that Sprite will no longer be able to meet the main character, but that’s a small price to pay.

This is kind of a bullshit fight because it involves sitting through a bunch of un-defendable attacks, and then casting Mana magic on the main character and hitting the dragon, and then repeating. It’s not fun, strategic, or anything else. But maybe that’s a good representation of the whole game.

There’s really no ending sequence to speak of.

I’m not going to say this game is overrated because it gets a lot of criticism, even on the Secret of Mana gamefaqs board. But it could have been a lot better. And I hope Seiken Densetsu 3 is.

Next up is Sword World SFC, but first is the oddball Fire Emblem Gaiden on my other blog.

1990-1991 Wrapup

I’m going to try to do a wrap-up post for each year I cover, although as the years get more stuffed with games I might have to do half-years. We’ll see. Since 1990 had only one game, I decided to do 1990 and 1991 together.

My list had seven games from this period: Fire Emblem, Little Master, Super Robot Taisen, Langrisser, Lady Phantom, Ninja Burai Densetsu, and Super Robot Taisen 2.

The most notable thing about these games is that they all lean heavily towards the strategy side rather than the RPG side. All of them are single-path games with one stage after another, with only Little Master allowing for repeating stages. The RPG elements are limited — only Ninja Burai Densetsu has any gameplay outside of battles (you can walk around in the towns and visit houses and shops). Most of the games allow for one piece or no pieces of equipment.

But three strong franchises started here — Fire Emblem and Super Robot Taisen are still strong franchises 28 years later. Langrisser did not have quite as much success but has still had a respectable string of games.

Also there are bigger things on the horizon. By the end of 1991, two companies are developing games that have a much stronger RPG element to them, and we’ll see those as the next two games on the blog (Fire Emblem Gaiden and Shining Force).

Unfortunately none of the games from this period are strong classics, in my opinion. The ones I enjoyed the most were Langrisser and Fire Emblem, although I did play a 1993 remake of Langrisser. Neither game is a masterpiece, and I think both are worth playing mostly to people who really like retro games or want to see the origin of these franchises. Langrisser is probably the better game.

Finally, this period has been pretty well favored by fan translators as well. Out of the 7 games, one has an official release and 4 have fan translations, leaving only Lady Phantom and Ninja Burai Densetsu. As I understand it, PC Engine CD games often present difficulty to fan translators because the voiced cutscenes rarely have subtitles, making it hard to do any translation of the dialogue.

On to 1992!

SRPG Game 7 – Super Robot Wars 2

The Super Robot Wars posts on this blog are going to be different from the main ones. As I said in my last SRW post, I spent many years playing through about the first 40 games in the series and I don’t really have much desire to do that again. Instead, I’m going to repost what I was posting to the srwg.org message board (and descendants). These posts were almost all lost in various server moves and database crashes, but I have them all on my HD.

As a consequence, these posts will be rougher and less detailed than the normal posts — some of these I wrote over 10 years ago and I don’t have a clear enough memory of the game to do much editing or expansion, although I will add some bracketed [2018:] notes. These were also written for an audience who was familiar with Super Robot Wars.

Anyway, the old stuff starts after the line.


This game is really the beginning of the SRW franchise proper.  Despite a large number of differences from the games most people are used to, the basic gameplay and “feel” of the series is still there, albeit in a very primitive form.

The series used in the game are the core UC Gundams (FG, Z, ZZ, CCA, and F91), Mazinger, Great Mazinger, Grendizer, Getter Robo, and Getter Robo G.  This is also the first appearance of Cybuster and Granzon.  However, from most of these series only the main robots and pilots are controllable player characters.  The vast majority of the enemies, particularly the named ones, come from the Gundams.

Gameplaywise, here are at least some of the differences between SRW 2 and later games:

  • The game does not differentiate between pilot stats and mech stats. The only stats are power, defense, and speed. They level up as the pilot levels up, and there is no upgrading with money.  You cannot switch pilots.
  • The numbers are scaled much lower than the later games; your mechs start with as little as 250 HP and at the max level (50) even most of your super robots don’t break 1000 HP. The weapon strengths are also very low.  Even the battleships have really low HP.
  • Each unit has a maximum of 2 different types of attacks in the NES version (i.e. Cybuster only has Dis Cutter and Cyflash; Gundam F91 only has Beam Rifle and Beam Sword).
  • There are no equippable items. You can buy items from shops on the map, but they either increase permanent stats (just by 1), or they stay around and can be used by anyone at any time (i.e. Repair Kits).
  • There is no such thing as energy, bullets, or morale. Any weapon could be used as many times as you wanted per map (extremely unbalancing in the case of Cybuster!!) [2018: Actually I found Cybuster pretty weak even with the unlimited MAP attack]  Also because of the absence of morale, you can go back to the ship to refuel/repair as often as you want with no penalty.
  • You are forced to counterattack if you are attacked.  It is possible to dodge the enemy’s attack, but you cannot choose a block or dodge option, and you cannot choose the weapon you counter with.
  • The special abilities (such as Newtype and Shield Block) do not exist.
  • The seishin are different, and generally less useful. Hirameki(Flash) costs 50 SP, for instance, and there is a 10 SP seishin that only raises your hit value by 10.
  • Terrain compatibilities of units do not exist (weapons do have them).
  • Repairing does not grant any EXP.

Storywise, the plot is pretty simplistic.  Bian Zoldark forms the Divine Crusaders, and it’s everybody vs. DC.  There’s no indication that any of the anime plots happened (i.e. the One Year War or anything); it seems that the various robots were created to fight the DC.  For the most part, the plot is just a succession of “let’s fight this DC base” or “The DC are attacking here”, with very little character interaction.  On the other hand, things from the anime like the Kamille-Jerid rivalry are vaguely referred to.

Stage 1

Talk about back to the basics — this is the first SRW game to have a plot. It’s interesting to see many of the features (some in embryo) that survive to the later games, while there are many differences.

All the text is in hiragana which makes it somewhat hard to read, but not impossible. The opening “prologue” is interesting because unlike many of the other games, it does not mention the events of the actual series. All we’re told is that Bian Zoldark has formed the Divine Crusaders to control the Earth, and gotten many of the Super Robots under his control. There is no mention of the One Year War, of Dr. Hell, or any of the events of the shows that usually are mentioned — it seems that the game is not interested (as the later games are) in setting the events at a particular time in the chronology of the Universal Century or anything like that. I’m also curious to see what the fearsome power from space that Bian Zoldark fears is — in the Alpha series it’s the Aerogaters but obviously that won’t be the same here.

The setup and story of the first stage are similar in that the story isn’t drawn from any of the series, even though Char appears in the stage (it’s not entirely clear who he’s working for; I guess DC).

Unusually for a SRW game, the first stage contains both real robot enemies (Zakus) and super robot enemies (the robot monsters).

The gameplay is recognizably SRW, although the HP are far lower than in most of the games, and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of difference between the various attacks the characters can make. Also there are far fewer range attacks (for both enemies and allies) than in the later games.

Char escaped; I wonder if I could have killed him if I had gone after him instead of his friends.

In any case, this stage wasn’t particularly hard; I had to load a save once because I moved Texas Mack too far ahead and he got swarmed. The intermission screen has only save and continue, so I guess there are no upgrades in this game (I read in a FAQ that you can buy things from stores in certain stages; a bit reminiscent of Fire Emblem in that regard).

Stage 2

The layout of the maps reminds me of Fire Emblem for some reason. It has a very big “storm the castle” feel to it even though the goal is the usual “kill all enemies”.

Michiru was really hard to save in this map. You can’t control her at all, you can’t heal her, and she always goes for an enemy and attacks. Also in this game you cannot choose evade or defend — if you are attacked, you automatically counter attack. I finally saved her after many reloads, only to find that you can’t actually recruit her (that was added in the Playstation remake of the game. Boo!)

Jerid, Ramba, and Kakricon made an appearance but it seems like the unique enemy appearances are really just for show in this game because the Titans and Zeon don’t exist, so they’re all just working for the Divine Crusaders. Jerid doesn’t have any special dialogue with Kamille or anything like that.

[2018: I have no notes for stages 3-14. I have a vague memory that I initially started doing this on a blog rather than on srwg.org and maybe those stages were on the blog, but if so that blog is long lost.]

Stage 15 – Fierce fight!  Jupitoris

Your forces have to invade the Jupitoris, where Scirocco seems to be plotting against DC on his own.  This does seem to draw from the plot of Zeta Gundam, and you can see the first glimpses of the storywriting that’s standard in the later SRW games.  Basically the strategy of these missions is the same — bunch your guys up so that they can’t surround you, and you just have to weather the storm of everyone coming at you at once.  Then you have to charge the three bosses (Reccoa, Scirocco, Sara).  I lost Cybuster and F-91, but overall it wasn’t too bad.  The indoor missions tend to be a little challenging because you cannot go into the ship to repair.

Stage 16 – Escape!

One interesting thing about this game is that they do employ a wide variety of mission goals.  Here you have to escape the map, avoiding some Last Battalion enemies but fighting the others (the Last Batallion was later reused in OG).  The hardest enemy on the map is Radra, a rare non-Gundam unique, who is immune to distance attacks.  You can also persuade Cecily with Seabook here but she doesn’t join your team, she just stops attacking your guys.

Stage 17 – Solar Ray Operational

The mission goal here is to destroy 4 solar ray panels in 11 turns.  The idea is that you have to fight your way to the solar ray panels against time, but there’s a trick.  Duke Freed has a seishin called Teleport that can send a unit to any spot on the map.  Just load everyone except Grendizer into the Nel Argama, teleport it over to the solar ray panels, and go nuts.  This messes up the enemy AI because enemies will not move or attack until they get attacked or a certain number of turns pass.  I was able to get all the enemies near the solar ray panel including Gremi, and not lose anybody in the process.  (The Solar Ray is from First Gundam)

Stage 18 – Invasion!  Competo

A “defense” mission where you are in the middle and everyone rushes you.  It got kind of hairy at the end but I was able to beat them all only losing Puru.

Stage 19 – Death Fight on the Moon

You get a bunch of new weapons for your robots — VSRB for the F-91, Shine Spark for the Getter, etc.  This is not a very hard mission because there are so few enemies; Haman is kind of tough but you can conserve all your strength for her.  The interesting part of this episode is Puru II.  SRW 2 is unique in that you must allow Puru II to kill Puru in order to later get her on your team.

Stage 20 – Deciding Battle!  The Granada Base

This is a tough stage.  Granzon sticks around until turn 7 and can kill people very easily, and even once he leaves you still have to deal with Haman and the two Geymalks.  I lost 4 people on the stage.  I doubt it is possible to defeat Shuu; he is immune to range-1 attacks which means only Z Gundam, Nu Gundam, Methuss, and Getter Liger can attack him.  Even if you did beat him, it would hardly be worth it.

This is Shuu’s first appearance in SRW.  I don’t know what sort of backstory the creators had in mind for Shuu and Masaki at this stage in the series (nothing about their background appears in SRW 2).  But Shuu’s personality is intact at this point; his polite speech, his vague taunting, etc.  The Granzon only has Black Hole Cannon and Gran Worm Sword at this point.

Here are some screens of Cybuster vs. Granzon, SRW 2 style:

Stage 21 – Stop, time!

This is sort of a dumb stage.  The goal is to escape in 15 turns.  There’s not really much in the way of challenge — there are only 3 enemies who can’t keep up with your units, so it’s just a matter of moving everyone to the end.  Bian does appear in this level at the beginning, here’s what he looks like in SRW 2:

One thing I forgot about Shuu is that he doesn’t have Dark Prison yet as BGM; he just gets the Valsion theme, same as Bian.

Stage 22 – Entering the Atmosphere

This is an odd stage. You have to protect the Ra Kaliam for 20 turns, but all the enemies rush you, so I defeated them all in 6. Also, the AI for the enemies is buggy — if they can’t attack the Ra Kaliam, they won’t do anything except move. So all you have to do is surround the Ra Kaliam, destroy the 4 boss units that can make ranged attacks, and you win.

Time for some suicide runs! The last few battles are “kill the leader” ones so they can (hopefully) all be cheesed.

Stage 23 – Scirocco’s Counterattack

This is Scirocco’s last stage. Teleport the Ra Kaliam with every unit inside, and attack Scirocco — I lost a few units but I won. Although they sort of used the plot point of Scirocco defecting against the evil organization, they didn’t really carry it to the point where you can actually say they were using Zeta Gundam’s storyline. Kamille has no particular relation to Scirocco, and there’s no “insane” sequence.

Stage 24 – Gilgilgan

The Gilgilgan and Mech Gilgilgan showed up in SRW 1; Kouji and Duke indicate that they fought Gilgilgan before, but this cannot be a reference to SRW 1. It may just be that this was part of the DC fight before SRW 1 started. Anyway, Gilgilgan is pretty close to where you start, so I just threw all my guys at Gilgilgan and lost everybody but 2 people. Thankfully money is worthless in this game aside from repairs.

Stage 25 – Last Battalion Again

This stage has tons of difficult enemies and waves of reinforcements, but it falls victim to the Teleport and Suicide strategy again.  Ra Kaliam goes to the NW of the map, then I mostly used distancea attacks (because he’s surrounded by other enemies).

Stage 26 – Final Battle at Dawn

The final stage isn’t too bad.  I don’t understand why Kyara and Lakan were chosen to be enemies in the final battle; it seems like Haman would have been a better choice. 

Next up are Shu and Bian, who start coming at you before you can completely heal up (I just used Love). Here are some Valsion screenshots (the last one is Cross Smasher):

I totally ignored Shu and focused all my attacks on Bian, using several Love seishin to restore HP, and Bian went down fairly easily.

Bian gives his usual speech, and I was a little surprised that he does actually mention Ryune in the original NES version. Maybe they had already come up with some SRW 3 ideas at this time.

Then the concluding scene has a sort of robot encyclopedia with info on each robot. The descriptions of Cybuster and Granzon don’t add anything to the backstory of the characters, unfortunately, but here are some shots:

So that’s it for SRW 2. Overall this is not a very good game. Everything about it is primitive; in particular, the strategic options are so limited that it doesn’t really feel like you have much choice in what you do. Basically it’s just watch all the enemies come towards you en masse, and kill them as fast as you can. Really this is only worth playing for historical value.

[2018: Next up will be Fire Emblem Gaiden.]

SFC Game 30 – Seiken Densetsu 2

Seiken Densetsu 2 (聖剣伝説2)
Released 8/6/1993, published by Square

Final Fantasy Adventure was one of the earliest action RPGs I played, which was for the Game Boy. In Japan it had the additional title Seiken Densetsu (“Legend of the Holy Sword”), and that continued to be used in Japan for future entries, while the US went with other titles. This was Secret of Mana here. I remember playing this when it came out and enjoying it but being annoyed by a lot of the things that still annoy me about the game — I can’t really say it’s overrated because it does get a lot of criticism, but I feel that there’s a lot of nostalgia glasses coloring people’s memory of the game.

The game has a complicated development history. Originally it was planned to be Final Fantasy IV, with what we now know as IV being planned as V. Then this project was spun off on its own and planned to be a collaboration with Akira Toriyama called “Chrono Trigger” that would be a launch title for the Super Famicom CD add-on. When the CD project fell through, the game was redone as a regular SFC game. This forced the development team to scale back their plans a lot — this may account for some of the rough parts of the gameplay, as well as the second part of the game where dungeons seem to be lacking where you would expect them.

One aspect this did help was the music. The company always intended to spend a lot of effort on the music, but the game’s long development time meant that the composer, Kikuta Hiroki, had much more time to work on the music than would normally be the case, and he was able to revise and perfect not only the music but the sound effects as well. This definitely paid off; it’s still one of my favorite video game soundtracks and even decades after I played it I could remember certain themes like the Palace theme, the Gold City theme, and the final theme playing when you fly on Flammie.

It’s just too bad the gameplay is not more enjoyable. It’s not terrible, but here are some of the things that annoyed me at age 13 and still annoy me now:

  • The “ring” interface system is cumbersome and annoying to use
  • It’s too easy to get trapped by monsters because of the long recovery from a hit
  • Magic is way too powerful
  • The weapon levels are ultimately pointless because the charge up attacks are so hard to use — they take way too long to charge and it’s too easy for the enemies to knock you out of them once you try to use them. This is especially true of anything level 3 and up.

Despite those complaints I do think it’s a fun game. I played about half of it this week.

The game starts with Kurisu falling off a log and finding a sword, which talks to him. This makes the village angry and they kick him out, but he follows the knight Jema and begins a worldwide quest to protect the Mana Seeds.

There’s a little freedom of order in the early game but I got the girl first:

I named her Sakura, and then the other character I named Sprite (I was never sure whether Sprite was supposed to be male or female).

The early game, before you get magic, has some tough bosses, especially the tiger boss in the witch’s castle, which I didn’t get a screenshot of. He has this cheap tactic of sitting up on the walls and casting spells and fire breaths, which you have no chance to dodge. If you get unlucky and he just sits up there for a long time you can’t do much — it is possible to hit him with distance weapons.

The variety in the weapons is fun (sword, axe, spear, javelin, whip, bow, boomerang, and fist) since they all have different styles of attacking. I wish the weapon levels were more important — I usually try to get the main guy to have the highest weapon levels in everything even though there’s no real point to it.

Eventually we help out Undine, get magic (for the girl and sprite), and find out the main purpose of our quest — to fuse the mana sword with the eight mana seeds, and stop the Mana Fortress from being resurrected by the evil Empire.

So far I have three of the seeds — the water, earth, and wind palaces. I just recovered the fire seed from the cold area and now I have to return it to the fire palace.

This is kind of a short update but I’m not sure these well-known games need as detailed treatment (and I’m kind of busy this weekend — hopefully next Saturday when I have the game finished I can be a little more detailed), so I’d love to hear all your experiences with the game in the comments.

SRPG Game 6 – Ninja Burai Densetsu

Ninja Burai Densetsu (忍者武雷伝説)
Release Date: 12/5/1991  
System: Mega Drive
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega

I don’t have a great deal to say about this game so I’m going to combine the post and review into one. This is the first game for Mega Drive (Genesis) I’m playing — I never had a Genesis as a kid so I’ve played almost no games for the system. Looking at my list I will be playing 7 or 8 games for the system (including the CD games).

 FACTS

  1. Turn type: Player turn/enemy turn.
  2. Maps: Small to medium. There is terrain that gives minor bonuses, and hampers movement.
  3. Character Customization: None.
  4. Character Development: Standard XP level system.
  5. Party Size: You always get to use all the characters you have; which by the end of the game will be over 10 (although most of them don’t matter)
  6. Equipment: Each character can equip one weapon and one armor.
  7. Game Flow: 10 stages, one after another, no repeating stages or multiple paths.
  8. Saving: Only between levels.
  9. Death: Permanent death. If Burai (the Ninja) dies, game over.

 IMPRESSIONS

The story of the game is basic. The main character is half-Japanese half-English, although this doesn’t seem to have any relevance to the plot. He gets trained as a ninja, and then has to rescue a lord’s daughter Yayoi from the warlord Oda Nobunaga. Nobunaga has been possessed by the demonic energy of a sword that he was trying to gain the power from. Beyond this, the story is mostly “go here and do this” leading up to defeating Nobunaga.

The cutscenes have pretty good graphics

This game is the most difficult one I’ve played so far, but I don’t like the way the difficulty is done. A number of design choices (or accidents?) make it so that you have to manage extremely limited resources to level up and buy equipment for specific characters in order to survive the final stage (and some intermediate stages as well). This requires either a walkthrough, or playing through the game multiple times. The game is quite short, so replaying it wouldn’t necessarily be a huge issue, but it’s not what I like to do in an SRPG. It’s frustrating to me to be unable to continue because I didn’t know that a later stage would require a specific character at a high level. Some people may like this kind of tactical planning and replaying, but to me it’s just poor game design.

There are three main things that create this kind of difficulty. The first is that money and XP are both very limited, and there’s no replaying stages. The second is the time limits to beat stages, especially the 22 turn limit on the final stage which is quite severe (and entering the palace to actually complete the stage takes 3 turns so you really only have 19). The third is that attack and counterattack happen at the same time, so even if you attack a 1 HP enemy, he’s going to get a counterattack as he dies. On top of all this is the permanent death and lack of any in-battle save. I used save states quite a bit to play this.

There’s a walkthrough on GameFAQs but it only tells you what you need for the final stage, and gives you the compatibility for units, which is very important. I agree with the walkthrough (and a Japanese site) that for the final stage you really want the Ninja, both mounted samurai, and both spearmen at level 9 with the best equipment, and the two healers at a decent level (6 is fine). You don’t absolutely need all five characters at max level, but they need to be close (and the Ninja has to be at level 9).

To do this you need to save most of your money for the second to last stage, for training and equipment.

Walking in a town

This is basically what I did on each stage:

Stage 1 – I did not use the archer at all in the game. I bought new weapons for the ninja and spearman.

Stage 2 – I bought armor for the spearman. This is in preparation for stage 4.

Stage 3 – At the beginning of the stage you have to pay all your money for an item, so I trained the spearman up to level 3 or 4 beforehand. He was definitely 4 by the end of the stage. Make sure to use all of the priests’ MP on every stage to level them up.

Stage 4 – This is the second hardest stage in the game, and if you don’t have a strong spearman you’re not going to survive the samurai onslaught. Even with a good spearman it’s not easy because you have to get the unit placement just right.

A  mounted samurai joins the team

Stage 5 – I bought the Ninja the shuriken, which is nice because it lets him attack without getting a counterattack.

Stage 6 – Nothing special, just don’t spend money and try to focus all the XP on the mounted samurai, spearmen, and ninja.

Stage 7 – I bought a spear for the spearman.

Stage 8 – Nothing special.

Stage 9 – This is where I bought the best equipment for the 5 main units (except the Ninja, who gets the best sword after this stage), and trained everyone to level 9. This took most of my money.

Nobunaga

Stage 10 – I think you can be somewhat less than optimum on this stage because I did a pretty poor strategy but still managed to beat it on the last turn. Yayoi doesn’t have to be saved by the Ninja so it’s better to take him to the right and some other units to the left. The annoying part is that you need 3 turns after beating Nobunaga to win.

The end — this looks like a real picture?

So I wasn’t a big fan of this game. It has some good ideas, but I don’t like it when the difficulty comes from restricting your strategic choices to the point where there’s basically one path through the game.

SFC Game 29 – Bazoe! Mahou Sekai Review

I believe this will be the last time I use these categories for the review; they’re too limiting and I don’t always have things to say at each point.

At the beginning I wasn’t sure I would agree that this is one of the worst SNES games, but in the end I do — it belongs in the garbage heap with Light Fantasy, Dual Orb, Fist of the North Star 5, and Cyber Knight.

Story/Characters: This is the strong point of the game — in comparison to other games from this period, the story and characters are much more detailed and developed. There’s also a nice difference from the usual “save the world” story at least in the beginning, when the main character is trying to become a magician. If this story had been combined with even a boring but competent battle system this would have been a great game.
   
World: Nothing much to say here, it’s standard fantasy.
 
Game Flow: Overall this is fine, but there is a steep difficulty spike near the end of the game that makes an already bad game even worse.

 
System: This is where the game becomes a mess. Almost everything they did was bad. The battle system with the different depths is an interesting idea, but in the end just makes things take longer. Enemy status effects are way too harsh, especially sleep which can cause a game over. Weapons and armor barely have any effect. There are 64 spells but most of them are worthless and important spells like “escape from dungeon” and “revive” are missing. This is especially disappointing in a game that is so heavily focused on magic. The 8 schools of magic don’t really mean anything since anyone can learn any spell.

It’s just so frustrating to see a decent story in such a terrible game. It’s not quite as bad as Light Fantasy but it’s close.

Side Quests/Optional Content: Basically none; I suppose you could count the extra scenario after the credits but I think this is really part of the game rather than a side quest.

 
Interface: Fine.

Graphics/Sound: The graphics are still early SNES era, and the music is unmemorable.


Next up is a good game, Seiken Densetsu 2 (Secret of Mana)!

SFC Game 29 – Bazoe! Mahou Sekai Part 3 (Finished)

As I said at the end of the last update, I was ready to give up on this game before I remembered that cheat codes exist. I used two of them — one to make fights give max XP, and another to eliminate random encounters. After a few fights my guys had levels in the high 40s, which is enough to win any combat with ease (although I did reach the 60s by the end of the game).

Last time I left off with the party heading down into the underworld to stop the Beraneed invasion. Upon reaching the underworld, we found a village of people that were all talking about the evil overworlders and how they would soon get their revenge. Meanwhile a cutscene tells us that the seal has finally been broken and that the Beraneed are attacking the overworld in force.

The underworld town

Finally we reach Queen Ines. She tells us her goal — 500 years ago the humans took over the Beraneed lands and forced them underground, so she’s going to use the demon Orhes’ power to come back to the surface and reclaim their rightful lands. Kurisu seems surprised and hesitant about proceeding, but Romel doesn’t think they have a choice.

Upon beating both Ines and Orhes, the entire underworld starts to shake. Ines tells us that we’ve just condemned the entire Beraneed race to extinction. She wants Croizel to escape as the last hope of the Beraneed, but he decides there’s no point to surviving by himself, and attacks the party instead.

After the fight, Kurisu and the party manage to escape, but the entire underworld is destroyed, and this also causes a large amount of damage aboveground as well. I feel like there should still be Beraneed that came aboveground to fight — since Kurisu becomes Emperor in the epilogue maybe she should have tried to make up for her near genocide by allowing the Beraneed to live in her empire, but the storywriters thought differently. Instead, it immediately goes to an epilogue telling you what each character did — Romel becomes head of the knights, and Kurisu becomes Emperor of a small area of the world.

Now if you wait past the credits, there’s an extra scenario.

10 years have passed, and now the shadow magician Beliquad is trying to wipe out the magicians — he’s already killed Lot and Nash, and many others. Kurisu and the other heroes were able to learn that Beliquad is drawing power from Bazoe!, and they set out for the island of the Uru race (the wolfmen). They guard Bazoe! in the castle Pamela, protected by a dimensional maze.

The characters get different portraits:


First we have to go through the dimensional maze, which is quite annoying. You have to go through doors that put you elsewhere in the maze, and twice you have to immediately go back into the door you just came out of. Even with the no encounters code on you have to do a fight every time you go through a door. But eventually we make it through, fight a mini boss, and then get to Pamela.

In Pamela, we see a number of ghostly apparitions that reveal the backstory behind Bazoe!. It was created in the Gazelfan era to generate unlimited power, which was used to make Pamela float and do other things. The Uru wolfmen were created by Bazoe! to guard it, and it also gives everyone their magic power. But the use of Bazoe was messing things up, and eventually caused the great catastrophe that ended the Gazelfan era.

Nash and Ricardo (Kurisu’s father) had decided to use the Gran Install sword to control Bazoe again, but Ricardo decided to destroy it instead and was killed by Nash. All of Nash’s plans were to manipulate Kurisu into bringing out Pamela so he could control Bazoe. But now there’s this magician Beliquad who also wants to control Bazoe, and it turns out he’s actually the priest Lot. He’s the final boss, but with my cheated high-60s levels he was easy.

After beating Lot, Kurisu decides to destroy Bazoe, even though this will take away the world’s magic power and also kill all of the Uru wolfmen. Baisen begs us not to do it because it will destroy his race, but Kurisu decides to go for a second genocide and follows through. Everyone aboveground is confused about the magic disappearing from the world, and the Uru wolfmen disappear. Pamela also starts to crumble, and it seems that Kurisu is not able to make it out in time, but the game ends without making that clear.

So that’s the game. The story has some problems but is much better than most of the stuff from this era. It’s just too bad the gameplay is among the worst I’ve seen so far. Even if the gameplay had been boring but competent this would have been a good game, but every change they made from a cookie-cutter JRPG made it worse.

I’ll follow up with a review later, and then it’s on to Seiken Densetsu 2 (Secret of Mana).

SFC Game 29 – Bazoe! Mahou Sekai Part 2

Sadly, this is a bad game. It’s a shame because the story is quite interesting, especially for its time — it’s in the top tier of the games I’ve played so far storywise. Unfortunately this is paired with a horrifically bad system. I’m having a hard time deciding whether this merits inclusion in the shit list (along with Light Fantasy and such). It probably does, since I’m probably not going to finish the game, but more about that later.

Kurisu is now 17 and a mid-rank mage. Her next journey is to Towin town, where the priest Lot is investigating something. Soldiers following a rich man named Barone are harassing someone, and after fighting them off she learns that Barone is controlling the town. After being set on by assassins at night, Kurisu and friends sneak into the Bell Tower and make their way down to a hidden castle that comes from the time before the Great Disaster. Barone is trying to break a seal that would bring the evil Beraneed race to the surface, but we manage to defeat him and stop his plans.

On the way back, we find a wolfman named Baizen who has escaped a slave ship and wants our help freeing other slaves in the north. Kurisu agrees.

In the northern lands, we quickly defeat the weak slavers in the first town, but then join up with someone else, a Viking-like character named Belial. With his help, we make it through a nearby cave into an old tower from the time of the Gazelfan Empire.

A wyvern is there, who has a message from Kurisu’s father as well as a spell. He tells us people were here looking for a fragment of Bazoe, but if we want to know about this we should go to a desert tower near Zain. Right now, though, everyone returns home, and through Lot’s help we’re able to use the Mirror of Paru to see visions of the future. Kurisu sees herself walking through a cave, a dark-eyed man, and the Beraneed race with a silver thread. She is later promoted to Upper-Rank magician.

Kurisu’s next task is to investigate an ancient ruins in the Farm area. There’s a really annoying boss fight here because you have lots of guys that cast charm and sleep magic, which are almost impossible to defend against. I had to reload five save states to beat the fight.

Upon investigation, it seems like this ruin was once inhabited by Beraneed race — which is odd because these ancient aboveground ruins from the Gazelfan Empire should not have been used by the Beraneed, which are a subterranean race. But we also save an elf girl, and decide to lead her back to the elf village.

As might be expected, the elves don’t like us but are grateful for the return of the elf girl, who turns out to be the princess of the elf kingdom.

Kurisu is now 18, and she decides it’s time to follow up on what the wyvern told her — to go to the tower in the desert. There, she learns that she’s the descendant of the Gazelfan royal family, which disappointed me a little because up to now the story has not been so cookie cutter. The one who imparts this information is the god Farl, who also says that Ines, queen of the Beraneed, is trying to summon the demon Orhes. To stop her, we need to craft a legendary sword from the Fragment of Bazoe, and use that and the God Eye to seal Orhes away.

First, we need to gather the support of the other kingdoms to fight against the coming Beraneed invasion. They’re not generally disposed to work together. Kurisu hopes that she can use the Tiara she got from Farl, proving she’s the descendant of Gazelfan, to convince them. The first destination is Saharl, where the evil minister Gain is working with the Beraneed behind the scenes. He imprisons us, but Milene (the thief from earlier), who turns out to be the princess, rescues us. She says something about the “Kurisu plan” from 10 years ago, but doesn’t explain more.

This brings on another bullshit boss fight, where you have 4 guys who can kill someone in two hits, and use sleep/charm magic. I had to buy instant death magic and even then it took many load states to win the fight. But once they’re down, and Gain killed, the Emperor is willing to lend us support.

At this point Kurisu gets her last spell from her teacher, and becomes a full magician. She also learns that Seras (the town with the magic guild) has a Bazoe Fragment. The head of the school, Nash, is the one who came to Kurisu at the beginning of the game with Ricardo’s last words — he’s been orchestrating some of the stuff to get Kurisu to find out her true nature. Also, the elf princess was actually captured by his men, in order to create a debt to Kurisu which could be repaid by forging the Gran Install sword from the Bazoe Fragment.

The elf king saw through that stupid plan but agrees to forge the sword anyway. Now Kurisu is ready to choose 3 party members (including the elf king!) and descend to the underworld to defeat Orhes.

And unfortunately, I think this is also the end of my play. Starting from when Kurisu becomes a full magician, the random battles take a huge difficulty leap. I got 8 game overs just trying to reach the elf town to get the sword, and another 7 trying to get back to the initial town. Once I got down to the underground area, I wasn’t able to make it out of the first room without a game over. The story is decent and I would like to see how it ends, especially since there’s some sort of extra story after the endgame. But the horrible system and ridiculous encounter rate are too much to deal with.

However, as I write this, I remember that Richie’s FAQ includes a no encounter code and also one for getting lots of XP after a battle. Maybe I can use these to at least see the end — my updated rules say that if a game has a translation patch I can give up if it really sucks, which this game really does.