Monthly Archives: January 2019

PCE Game 24 – Ruin: Kami no Isan

Ruin: Kami no Isan (ルイン 神の遺産)
Released 11/19/1993, published by Victor Entertainment


Back to the PC Engine for another action RPG. On the whole I’ve been disappointed by the other action RPGs I’ve played — I’m sure that I just have too much nostalgia for Ys and overlook its flaws as well. This game is also rather disappointing, although I would put it ahead of the other action RPGs I’ve played (Xak and Auleria).

I recorded a 45 minute video since there was no gameplay video on youtube. It’s on Twitch; I had problems copying it to youtube. I also apologize for the poor voice quality — I’ve ordered a better microphone that should improve future videos.

The game opens with an old woman narrating the backstory. Since I was recording I forgot to take screenshots, but you can view them here (or in the video). The basic idea is that the age of gods ended when there was a huge war and gods destroyed the world, leaving behind only the gods of life and death, who cried. The final tear created the humans, monsters, and the god of destruction Ruin. Judging from the pictures, it looks like this is going to turn out to be a mythologized version of a nuclear war or something like that.

Our main characters are Jan and Altena. Jan is good with a sword but bad at magic, and Altena has been studying in a monastery as the daughter of the great high priest Zemo.

Jan and Altena find a map in the attic of their house that shows an X which Altena hopes is some treasure, and they set out to find it.

The battle system is not that great. All of the monsters in the game other than the bosses have the same attack method — touching you to do damage. As far as I have seen (I’m about 75% done) there are no enemies with projectile weapons, swords to slash, or anything like that. You can only control Jan, who basically just has the sword attack. Fortunately the PC Engine has a turbo setting on the basic controller, which helps a lot. Later Jan will get magic but it quickly runs out and is needed for boss fights. The other characters are NPCs which help out a lot (too much, but we’ll get to that later). If Jan dies it’s game over, if Altena dies she’ll pop back up once the battle ends.

Now to be fair, I don’t think anyone would credit Ys I&II with a great battle system, and so compared to the other games that are out in the era, this is OK. One big annoyance is the night and day system. As far as I can tell it has no effect on the game other than making the screen so dark you can barely see anything.

The X turns out to be not a treasure, but a marking of a “sacred area”. Apparently these “sacred areas” are left by the gods, and it’s only by the “breath of the gods” coming from these areas that humans can live. Altena gets bored and starts to head back — but then we hear that monsters have attacked. We head for the castle, where Altena’s father is.
 


Someone should add up all the dead parents in RPGs. Anyway, Zemo (Altena’s father) is dying, and he thinks that the Time of Prophecy is here, and that the King of Beasts (Monsters) will soon be revived. We heard about Schwartz, the Hero of Prophecy, who is in the area, so maybe he’ll help. Zemo tells us to save Demisant (our hometown) and to find Princess Sharol, who has been kidnapped by the monsters.

So we head back to Demisant and find that monsters have destroyed the town, but that everyone (including Jan’s mom) has managed to escape. We also meet Schwartz, who doesn’t think he’s the Prophecy Hero (gee, I wonder who is). Apparently the Hero is supposed to be descended from a god and a human, and Schwartz’s parents were both humans. Convenient that we only know about Jan’s mom right now.

Dusk, it gets darker

Schwartz joins us and we head off to find Jan’s mom. Schwartz is level 24 and quite strong. This brings up another problem with this game — you eventually have 4 people, and generally fight at most two monsters. The battles are often over before Jan can even reach the enemies. This would be bad enough except that Jan only gains experience for killing an enemy himself. I’ve found that this makes grinding extremely difficult to the point where I basically only gain levels from boss fights (where everyone gains XP). Monsters give so little XP and it’s so hard to kill them before the NPCs get them that grinding is basically not a solution unless you really want to waste a lot of time. I guess this can be seen as a good thing too, though.

In the next town we find that Jan’s mom has continued on, but we now have the chance to save Princess Sharol. An old man named Garickson joins instead of Schwartz, and Schwartz gives a God Stone that he has to Jan. Supposedly the six God Stones go to the Prophecy Hero, but Schwartz has a feeling that Jan will make better use of it than he will.


The first boss is the Evil General Loki, one of six underlings of the Beast King. All I did was run away and the NPCs killed him. I tried to participate but Jan died almost instantly. Anyway, we manage to save Sharol, who now becomes a party member (Altena starts getting jealous of her attention to Jan).

We return to Demisant which has been rebuilt, and then the next mission is to escort Sharol to the eastern continent so she can talk to the king there. After a short fetch quest to convince a captain to give us a boat, we head across the sea.

We meet the king of East Gurnica, and immediately set out to defeat the next Evil General, Gazel. The dungeons are generally fairly short. You usually have to go through a few overworld areas, then the dungeon area with a couple of chests and the boss.


I died instantly on this boss the first few times I tried, but then did manage to move up one level by grinding and beat him on the second try just by attacking from behind while the NPCs occupied his front. After beating Gazel we receive the next god stone, which lets Jan heal or revive companions. The way the magic works is that you can press the II button to shoot out a missile, or you can hold the button down to do more advanced magic (like the healing). This healing is very important for boss fights.

Now that we’ve beaten Gazel, the king recognizes our ability and gives Jan the third god stone. Better still, Jan finds his mom in town!


Schwartz immediately falls in love with her. Mom also tells Jan that his dad was a mysterious person and may have been a god. Apparently gods can’t use magic, so that might be why Jan can’t — but the fact that he can use it with the God Stones supports the idea. Also basic RPG logic that the main character is always the Hero.

Now we need to head to East Gurnica to find more bosses and stones, but the ship is not able to cross a place of storms — what we need is the legendary thread that can make a sail able to withstand the storm. We head to a village that supposedly preserved knowledge of this legendary thread, and end up visiting a Sacred Area. Of course, these Sacred Areas turn out to be some kind of bunker or installation left by the “gods”.


There are computers and other technology in there, but no people or gods…there is a boss waiting for us, though!

This is Bash, who shoots dudes out of four openings, who rush you and then explode into shots that do damage. I tried this a bunch of times and died within 10 seconds. I tried to level but I just couldn’t beat enemies before the NPCs got to them, or at least not fast enough to make grinding a reasonable solution.

At this point I almost gave up on the game but I found a Nicovideo playthrough of the game where the guy just stood in the corner and used the heal magic while the three NPCs beat up the boss. I tried this and it worked, but this is really not a good balance for the game. At least in games like Ys you have to learn the boss patterns to try to beat them, but I’m not sure it’s even possible with this game.

That’s where I’ll stop this post — it’s a little over halfway through the game. The next part is just beating the other Generals and getting the other stones before we get to the final story sections, but I’ll cover that next time.

SRPG Game 12 – Vixen 357 (Stages 9-14)

Scene 9

On this stage we get a new member, Reiko Machida, as well as a ship that can carry another mech — I didn’t find this all that useful. On the whole, the missions are getting trickier simply because the grunts are so strong. I was able to beat this and the next scene without any deaths or game overs, but it’s a little annoying having to go through the mission at a snail’s pace, killing 1 or at most 2 grunts a turn.

Scene 10

Main thing on this stage is getting Kiel, one of the enemy units, who is a good pilot and comes with a good mech. 

Scene 11

This is another slow stage with pillboxes that shoot at your guys — the dialogue indicates it will be tough but they don’t do that much damage. It was another very slow stage as I took out one at a time, but after a while the boss sends the rest of the units at you, and then I just retreated and fought them out of the pillbox range.

Scene 12

The “fairy trick” is becoming more and more useful. This is done with Harry, Nina, and Chay. Basically you have one of them out in the Fairy, use the Marb Clamp to do damage, then return to the ship, and send one of the other pilots out to repeat it. This does a lot of damage to many units, but since the Fairy is weak it takes some time.

I notice that here and there the walkthrough author recommends levelling up by intentionally equipping weak weapons. I didn’t do this, but I probably should have.

Scene 13

This is a difficult, long stage.

There’s a wall of shield defended units, and then two bases at the back that spit out one unit a turn. Since the grunts are so strong I failed the first time actually trying to fight them all. The better strategy is an all out attack, moving forward as quickly as possible and destroying the bases as fast as you can.

Scene 14

This is where my playthrough ended. I notice that the youtube guy who was uploading videos of this game didn’t finish this stage, and the walkthrough author said it was the hardest stage he had ever played in an SRPG. After an easy initial group, the boss comes in with reinforcements and gets your guys in a pincer attack. The grunts are even stronger than the ones in the past stages, and the boss is very strong and heals himself too. I failed a number of times and then tried following the exact strategy in the GameFAQs walkthrough and still couldn’t do it.

This may be because my guys were underlevelled, and I might have been able to beat it if I used codes to increase the levels or started over and levelled more. But I’m only going to do that on games that are really fun, and this one is not (to me). Also there’s a translation patch so anyone reading this can try the game for themselves. It has promise, but for me it was too slow and hard in a way that wasn’t fun.

Next up is a Macross game, from the abandoned Macross II continuity.

SRPG Game 12 – Vixen 357 (Stages 1-8)

Vixen 357 (ヴィクセン357)
Release Date: 10/23/1992
System: Mega Drive
Developer: Masaya Games
Publisher: Nihon Computer

This is a mecha game by Masaya, the same company that did the Langrisser series. This is not much like Langrisser, though. It’s the sequel to a 1990 PC Engine game called Hisou Kihei X-SERD (see a review and information here). I had rejected X-SERD as being an SRPG but that review mentions that the mechs can gain experience so it might actually qualify. In any case, this one definitely does

The opening sequence shows the various pilots with some animation and their names.

The instruction manual gives the backstory (also given before stage 1). In 2384, there was a war against an alien invasion, beaten back by the help of the new robot units called X-SERD. Earth took a lot of damage, and in order to deal with any future invasions, lots of time and money was poured into new weapons. But this also increased people’s greed and ambition as well. In 2396, a new country called Merismahap developed VECTOR units, and created a battle squad composed only of these new units to test them (called Slash). The goal is to have the robots operate on their own, but for now pilots are necessary.

Murasawa Takuya, along with other pilots, is part of Slash and practicing at a test base. One day away from the base, they receive word that it’s being attacked by an unknown squadron of Vectors. They return to the base to protect it, and that’s where the game starts.

I’m conflicted on whether to say a lot about the story or not. Since Vixen 357 has a translation patch, you can experience the story for yourself — on the other hand, some people might just be reading the entries without ever intending to play the game, and then could find story information useful.

Stage 1

The game starts out easy; you have three allies and then a bunch of NPCs attacking the enemies.

The “10” may remind you of Langrisser but it just represents the percentage of total HP the unit has left. The A and M show that the unit can still Attack or Move (or S for Special ability). I like that they displayed all that information in a clear, non-intrusive way.

Each unit has a melee and ranged attack. The dots next to the pilot show their ability in Hit and Evade for melee and shooting. Levelling the pilots up doesn’t seem to do a whole lot; it adds a few points to their stats but takes quite a while to even gain one extra circle. Takuya is good at both melee and shooting, although the starting configuration for his mech has a much better melee weapon. Melee fights allow for counterattacks, ranged weapons do not.

Each battle has a short fighting sequence which can be turned off via options, but (as with Lady Phantom) they don’t display any information about the result of the battle. If you are playing on an actual console it’s probably worth doing in some of the later missions with lots of enemies, but on an emulator I found it better just to hold down the speedup button so I could better see what was happening.

The NPCs soak up enough hits that this first stage is fairly easy; the game does have permadeath so you have to be careful, but you can save at any time.

Stage 2

In Stage 2 we get the ship, Dread. Now units can return to the ship to heal, and also to switch mechs, or to switch weapons on a mech (although you have to wait until the next turn to leave again). Having this flexibility is nice, particularly with some of the more specialized units (like the one that’s good in water).

Standing on the castle areas gives you +50% terrain bonus which is nice.

Stage 3

Lots of water on this stage, which is bad (-20% terrain).


The Dread has the special ability to heal itself, but it can only be used 5 times. Other pilots can use their special abilities as long as they have MP and then refill their MP in the ship, but once the Dread runs out of healing it’s out until the next stage. There is no way to heal other than the ship or these special abilities, so you have to be careful about how much you let the ship get damaged.

Stage 4

Another big water stage, but this time at least the game gives you one mech that’s good in water. There are also a lot of NPC units that help. This game is probably the most generous SRPG I’ve played in terms of NPCs that are actually somewhat effective.


The game still is not very difficult.

Stage 5

This stage has a lot of enemies, but I didn’t find it that difficult — the ship barely took any damage, and the counter attacks devastated the enemies. As the game progresses, more heroes and mechs join, and new weapon choices become available.

Stage 6

There’s a trick to this stage because one of the new “allies” turns traitor along with some of his units. If you went forward too quickly you get pincered and can take a lot of hits, but as long as everyone is on the right of you the new units don’t present that much of a concern.


This stage also introduces two annoying special abilities that will be around for the remainder of the game: Vacuum Wall, which gives every unit in range a shield that blocks several attacks. The second (which may actually show up next time) is Marb Clamp, which damages all units in range (and gets through the Vacuum Wall shield).

Stage 7

Here we get our own special mechs — two girls piloting the Fairy and Panacea, which have the special abilities I described in the last stage. They are NPCs under attack, but they actually head for your ship and dock to heal, which is nice given the common AI in these SRPGs.

The team


Stage 8

I found this stage fairly difficult. Several enemies have the special abilities — fortunately they can’t recover their MP so it is a viable strategy to just send one or two units in to waste their abilities. There is apparently a 100 turn limit on every stage but that’s hard to reach even if you take your time.

SRPG Game 11 – Shining Force Gaiden

(This post will not be quite as detailed as some of the others; I played the game over vacation and wasn’t as careful about taking notes as usual.)

A mere six months after the release of Shining Force, Sega put out another Shining Force game, this one for their handheld the Game Gear. The Game Gear was one of several systems that tried to challenge the Game Boy, but really couldn’t. I never had one, but I remember a few friends who did — although it had the advantage of being in color, it ate up batteries much faster than the GB (and used more of them), and didn’t have as good a game library. There are only 4 SRPGs for it on my list.

The graphics are serviceable, and not bad for the era it came out.

The interface is basically the same as Shining Force, but has some improvements — for instance, you can actually see your character stats during battle.

However, I didn’t play the game on the Game Gear. In 1994, Sega remade both Gaiden and Gaiden II as Shining Force CD, and added a short third scenario as well as a bonus “Museum” battle where you fight all the old bosses. So I’ll be playing Gaiden 1 and 2 on the remake.

The Sega CD, like the PC Engine CD, was attempting to compete with Nintendo’s products by offering the CD technology to improve the games. However, it had a persistent problem that the underlying hardware was not as good as the Super Famicom. So you had much better music and voiced dialogue, but worse graphics, and a generally poorer library (although PC Engine was much better in that regard). I don’t know how much SFCD upgraded the gameplay and interface from Gaiden, but it seems fairly similar.

The game opens with a sequence narrated by Mitsuishi Kotono (Sailor Moon and others). The only voiced dialogue in the game are these opening and ending sequences. Like the PCE, the images are static pictures or pictures with minor animation.

For some reason they have English subtitles

The game takes place 20 years after the original Shining Force. Anri, who is now Queen, is put to sleep by a trick of the ruler Woldol of the kingdom of Surplice. The heroes, who are almost all children or disciples/friends of the heroes from Shining Force 1, have to go find a way to restore Anri and defeat Woldol.

Anri

The gameplay is almost identical to Shining Force. I only noticed two changes. The big one is that the game has no town exploration; instead, between battles, Larg (from the original SF) offers services that the towns offered before. The second is that the level ups seem more consistent than the original, and the promotion problem I talked about in the SF1 review is gone.

Your party is smaller than SF, but the characters are basically the same. 

The game is also a lot easier than SF, which was already not that hard, which is partly why I don’t have that much to write about it. Since CD did come out in English, you can play to see the story for yourself — it’s basically a retread of SF1. I’m going to hold off a complete review until I finish the entire SFCD.

Sorry for the short post but I don’t want to get hung up on this game — I’m already more than halfway through Vixen 357 and I have more to say about that game.

SFC Game 33 – Super Chinese World 2

Super Chinese World 2 (スーパーチャイニーズワールド2 宇宙一武闘大会)
Released 10/29/1993, published by Culture Brain


This is yet another game in the prolific series “Super Chinese”, a series of mostly blends of action and RPGs, with a few pure action or fighting games. Zenic Reverie covered a few of the earlier entries that had been localized: Little Ninja Brothers, Ninja Boy 2, and Super Ninja Boy. The previous games seem to have had a mix between platform stages, random action-based battles, and command-style RPG fights for the boss battles. SCW2 dropped the command-style fights and retained only the action and platformer sections.

I’m not all that good at action games. I’ve managed to complete most of the early Mega Man games, but fighting games are a particular weakness of mine. When Street Fighter 2 came out I was never able to get Ryu to do the Hadoken, and I’ve never really improved that much. So this game is not my preference. I often felt like the characters weren’t doing what I wanted them to do, but that could be my own lack of skill or emulator issues, or game design.

The game begins at a “space peace conference”, but then the Galaxy Warriors (who I gather are standard antagonists in this series) arrive. They kidnap the rulers, including the ruler of Chinaland where our main characters Jack and Ryu hail from. Shubabarn, a leader of the GWs, demands that we enter a martial arts tournament to get him back, but to even reach the tournament we’ll have to find a bunch of star fragments.

Jack and Ryu set out, but crashland on the first planet.

A nearby town has the first shops and a convenience store, which gives you a password. Yes, in 1993 we’re using passwords to save. Fortunately emulators have save states to get around that annoyance. Also the first battles.

A battle shows you the enemies, and then gives you the chance to run or fight. I’m not a big fan of the way the fights develop. They start with 2 or 3 enemies. When you beat one, another comes in. The fight simply ends after a while, based on a combination of time and how many enemies you beat. I would prefer simply beating the enemies there to end the fight. There are boxes that give you items (I never figured out what the S icons did), especially good is the hammer that kills enemies in one hit. There are various moves you can do, and L can use items (like a sword), whereas R does techniques (healing, escape, fire rain, etc).

You soon gain the ability to transform into “Hyper Chinese” form by holding down L until the K-meter at the top left fills. This gives a bit more power and some new moves, including special moves that I never really learned how to use (I should have had an instruction manual for this game).

The other aspect of the game, which comes up quickly, are the platform sections.

This was definitely my least favorite part of the game. I felt like the control was clunky compared to designed action games like Rockman or Mario. A lot of them have scrolling screens where if it catches up with you you die (and lose half HP). Enemies often knock you way back into pits. And such. I used a lot of save states to pass these parts.

The game goes in a standard way — you arrive at a town, have to solve some problem there, and then get either a way to progress to the next place, or a star fragment. There are five galaxies with several planets each, which might make it seem like quite a long game. But after the first two galaxies, the remaining three have no world maps on any of the planets. Maybe they ran out of development time, but in the end the game is pretty short.

About 3/4 of the way through the game you get very powerful swords that pretty much slaughter the rest of the bosses with little trouble — I was happy to see this given my difficulty with the action aspect of the game.

Eventually we reach the tournament, which is a bunch of bosses one after the other. Jack and Ryu win, of course, and then beat Shubaban. But it turns out that Ginga Maola, the head of the Galaxy Warriors, abandons Shubaban and begins to use a big weapon that will destroy all planets in the galaxy. After fighting some old bosses again (including a mind-controlled Shubaban), we reach Ginga Maola.

He has several forms, but the powerful swords plus some healing techniques make it not so bad. The only tough one is the first form, which you have to beat with counterattacks. I never got the hold of guarding vs. moving backwards (both of which are left/right D-pad), but I managed to do it just by mashing the buttons until it worked.

Jack and Ryu save the universe and their king, and live happily ever after…at least until Super Chinese World 3.

Regular updates with a bit more substance will be back next week. I’m skipping Aktarion, localized as Secret of the Seven Stars, and Ys IV, which I played a couple of years ago (and isn’t all that good). Next up is a PCE action RPG called Ruin: Kami no Isan.