Monthly Archives: February 2019

SRPG Game 14 – Just Breed (Famicom)

Just Breed (ジャストブリード)
Release Date: 12/15/1992
System: Famicom
Developer: Random House
Publisher: Enix

This is the last Famicom game on my list. It came out around the same time as Dragon Quest V and Final Fantasy V, so it didn’t get as much respect as it deserved at the time it came out. Apparently it was in development hell for a long time, but it ends up looking and sounding much better than most Famicom games. It’s one of the largest Famicom games (only Metal Slader Glory and Kirby’s Adventure equal it, among licensed games). It even uses some kanji in the text, which Super Famicom games were not doing at this point.

There is a fan translation so I won’t be as detailed in covering the plot as I have been on some other games that have no translations.

The backstory is basically that there were seven kingdoms associated with seven gemstones, but they were all destroyed at once for an unknown reason. There’s a prophecy that when the seven gemstones are reunited, the followers of righteousness (the “just breed”) can defeat the evil again. At the beginning of the game, the main character (a captain of a guard unit) has his girlfriend captured, who was the Priestess of Sapphire. He takes her tiara and then goes out to find her.

The character and monster designs were done by Takada Yuzo, best known for the manga 3×3 Eyes.

Like Shining Force, this game mixes RPG town exploration with outdoor battles. The graphics are similar to Dragon Quest.

Feris captured

When you leave the first town, the first battle begins. The game doesn’t really have numbered battles, but for convenience I’ll just number the fights I had.

Battle 1

This is an easy stage to begin with. The game works based on squads. You pick the leader (Kurisu in this case) and then can move and attack with all the units under the leader. I have two bowmen and two fighters who can use swords and spears. A nice feature is that XP is shared among the entire squad, so there’s no need to distribute kills.

The battles end when you either clear out all the enemies (getting a victory screen), in which case you can explore the map freely.

Otherwise, the battle ends when someone moves into a town or house. Even if you “complete” a battle, the monsters will respawn if you leave the town or house. There are items and spells that can warp you to locations, though.

After the first battle, Kurisu’s squad gains a magician. Kurisu himself can cast some spells — just heal at the beginning, but that’s a big help.

Battle 2

The frogs on this map can spit to hit us at a distance. This stage also introduces monster lairs (the circle at the bottom left). They generate monsters throughout the battle. If you can get a person next to the lair they can destroy the lair, but no one can go across the river here. Killing all the enemies also ends the battle and stops the generation.

Battle 3

This is the first battle that actually presents a challenge. In addition to the frogs, there are snails that tank, crab-like things that cast spells, and more inaccessible monster lairs. The new magician’s spells help a lot, as does buying a bunch of Herbs for healing.

Battle 4

More new enemies — Skeletons. They also have large HPs. I also got a new cleric who is her own squad, but later she is joined by Rolan and his troops to make my second real squad! This is sort of a two-part battle since first you head to the top right to get Karen (the cleric) and then leave and go down to the bottom right to the next town.

This is a pretty good game so far; we’ll see if it maintains its quality throughout the game.

SFC Game 34 – Aretha wrap-up

Rather than category review posts, I’m going to make “wrap-up” posts like I’m doing on my other blog where I just write whatever I feel like about the game.

I’m also thinking possibly about a three tiered ranking system that’s just based on my subjective experience playing the game. I have resisted numerical rankings or objective systems, but perhaps this can express my general feelings towards each game. It would go like this:

A – These games were truly enjoyable, I had fun playing them just as games, not for the blog.

B – These games were average. I found them boring at times, and it was mostly the fulfillment of completing the game for the blog that carried me through. My overall experience with the game wasn’t terrible, it’s just not a game I would have finished all the way through for fun.

C – These games were painful to finish, to the point where I wanted to give up despite the blog, and had to force myself to play through (sometimes using cheats) just to move on to the next game.

I think the B rank could also be given plus and minus:

B+  These games are almost in the A rank, but have one or two bad gameplay decisions that knock them down. A good example would be Jungle Wars 2, which would have been A if not for the insane random encounter rate (even by early 1990s standards) in the second part of the game.

B-  These games are almost in the C rank, but are saved only by virtue of being easy and short. A good example of this is Villgust.

This is how I would rank the games I have played so far:

[A]  Dragon Quest V, Breath of Fire, Sword World SFC

[B+] Glory of Heracles III, Jungle Wars 2

[B] GD Leen, Benkei Gaiden, Elfaria, Xak, Metal Max 2, Danzarb, Odysselya, Silva Saga II, MADARA 2, Ranma 1/2, Super Chinese World 2, Seiken Densetsu 2

[B-] Maka Maka, Villgust, 3×3 Eyes*, SD Gundam Gaiden 2, Albert Odyssey

[C] Light Fantasy, Hokuto no Ken 5, Cyber Knight, Hero Senki, Song Master, Dual Orb, Bazoe!

*3×3 Eyes is a special case because the game has a ridiculous glitch at the end of the game that makes it nearly impossible to finish without exploiting another glitch or cheating. My rank of B- is assuming you use a cheat or glitch to get around the problem. If you’re playing this on real hardware it’s a C.

Romancing SaGa is hard to place. I was not able to finish the game and because of that I’m tempted to give it a C, but I don’t feel like the game is as bad as the other games I have in that rank.

There have been distressingly few games in the A rank so far, but as I keep saying, I have high hopes as we continue forward.

Now, on to Aretha, which I think gets a solid B rank.

The story is OK. It’s nothing amazing, but for 1993 it has more dialogue and a bit more character development than the average game, despite the short ending. Aretha 2 is a direct sequel, so it will be interesting to see whether it does any better.

The gameplay is also OK. As I said in the first post, I am always appreciative of any combat system where the magic users can actually use their magic. A big problem with games of this era is that MP is so limited, and MP recovery items so hard (or impossible) to get, that magic users tend to be reduced to one role — healing and buffing in boss battles. This game has cheap MP restoration items and high MP. The fighters are less useful but later in the game you get swords that hit multiple enemies at once, which helps.

By far the biggest problem is the baffling decision not to display damage numbers. I’m not sure what the designers were trying to do with this, but it’s incredibly frustrating to not know if your attacks are doing 5 or 500 damage. Are Ariel and Doll’s regular attacks effective? Even after beating the game I have no idea. How much better is Force B than Force A? Who knows. Is Force A doing more damage than Ariel’s damage spell? Anyone’s guess. Fortunately I think the designers realized their mistake, because in Aretha 2 the damage number is displayed.

The use of enemies on different sides is not especially meaningful. Enemies don’t do any more damage from the back or sides, so it’s just about group spells only hitting enemies in front of you.

The dungeons are not especially interesting, and there are a lot of one-path dungeons.

Finally, the item crafting system is poorly implemented. The idea of putting different elemental “souls” into the items and mixing them sounds good, but it’s impossible to predict what you’re going to get, and there’s no relation between the number of souls you put in and the item you get. 3 Fire souls may get you a better weapon than 90 fire souls. It’s also possible to get ridiculously powerful equipment early on in the game.

So overall this is yet another game that’s average for 1993, but doesn’t really rise above the pack in any meaningful way.

Now I am excited for the games that are coming up. Soul & Sword and Romancing SaGa 2 have unusual gameplay, Dokapon IV is a completely different type of game (board game RPG), and Illusion of Gaia is fun. So maybe you’ll see more positivity from me in the coming weeks?

In any case, Just Breed for the Famicom is next on my other blog, an Enix strategy RPG that’s actually quite good.

SFC Game 34 – Aretha Part 2 (Finished)

I’m noticing a common structure for RPG stories of this era — I wonder what was the first game to use it? The game starts with the main character traveling to a bunch of places. Usually the main goal or antagonist is not clear, or the main character at least doesn’t know what it is. After this, there’s a longer middle section where you have to do a group of fetch quests — find the 6 orbs, defeat the 4 spirits, whatever. Then there’s a final section, sometimes with surprise twists or a coda.

Aretha seems to be following this pattern as well. First, Ariel was looking for information on her ring. Now we’re after the Elemental Dragon, which will lead to the next phase of the game. First up, we get captured by a giant, but freed by some sort of beast-man.

The giant does big damage, but spells and some buff items were enough to beat him.

The party now comes to a desert, and we find that we need an Amber Lens held by some ants to see the way to the fairy kingdom, where the Elemental Dragon is. The ants are split into red and blue factions, and we get in between their war.

Fortunately the ants aren’t very smart so after the red ant queen tries to use us to destroy the Blue ant queen, we turn the tables on her and get the amber lens, opening the way to the fairy kingdom. A few more dungeons lead to the treetop village.

Here Ariel meets the little gnome she saved as a child, who gave her the egg that hatched into Fang. He says some unknown person told him to give the egg to her, so it must mean something. This is where we also find the Elemental Dragon, although he is currently in the form of an elf. He is missing four sources of his power, which we have to collect to restore him to full form. 

  • The first is in the rainbow town, a strange place inhabited by Zoppies.

  • The second is in an ice area to the north.
  • The third is out in the sea — Doll rejoins the party, and we get eaten by a Leviathan but that’s where the spirit source turns out to be as well.
  • The last is in the Dwarf fire area, in a fire tower.

 I’m skipping over a fair amount of gameplay there, but once we get all the spirit fragments, it’s time to restore the Elemental Dragon — except that someone named Zyhalt from the Vandal Empire arrives, along with a woman named Layla who looks just like Ariel.

Once we fight off Zyhalt, the Elemental Dragon reveals that Ariel is actually the descendant of the royal family of Aretha, and thus the Aretha Princess (surprise surprise). A curse split her in two, and Layla is her other half (although why is she with Vandal?) Fang stays with the Dragon to grow into his final form while we head out to find the other Aretha rings. This requires heading to Vandal and beating some of the heads of the Empire. This also gives the first taste of these enemies:

These soldiers and their palette swaps show up again and again in the final parts of the game, and they are incredibly annoying. Only magic works against them, and since the game doesn’t show damage numbers it’s hard to know how much the magic is even doing. Doll’s Force seems to be the best way to beat them, but even then it takes forever to win one of these fights and you get almost no XP for them.

Anyway, Ariel begins to free parts of the world under the control of the Vandal empire by beating the leaders, like this one:

Next up, save Queen Anastasia from a castle with a bunch of those knight fights that I mentioned before. Arrgh. The only good thing was that Doll learned Force B which cleared the enemies out a lot more quickly, but still very annoying. Zafan then returns, mind controlling Doll again, and going to a sky castle. Fang reappears in full form though, and now we can fly! The first thing you should do is go to a small island with a forest, where you fight a blue dragon and then get the Trinea item. This fully restores MP and HP. It can’t be used in battle, but as far as I can tell it has unlimited uses outside of battle.

Layla also gives up on Vandal and joins us; she’s a very powerful attacker.

Zafan was actually somewhat challenging — I lost the first time. Doll has good buff spells at this point — defense and attack up spells that work on everyone. Basically what I had to do was use those buffs, heal with Ariel, and then fight with Layla and Fang. Zafan’s attacks hit everyone for a lot of damage, so after that it was heal heal fight fight until the end.

Now Ariel’s grandmother returns, having been captured by Zafan. And all that’s left is to go to the capital of the Empire and take down the Emperor himself. First, Duke Barbatos is waiting, but he goes down easily. Although the castle has a bunch more of those really annoying knight fights.

 Afterwards, Doll completely recovers his memory and remembers defeating the evil Gatansoa (apparently in one of the GB Aretha games). It’s then time to enter a dimensional portal to the Dimension Castle, a one-path dungeon with some good equipment and the final battle. The Emperor goes through the usual JRPG thing where he tries to summon and control Gatansoa but gets taken over and killed instead.

He’s a tricky boss. He can use an ability that causes Fear in everyone (cannot act). He has another move that I think removes buffs, although it’s hard to tell. His other attacks damage everyone. I did the same thing as in the Zafan fight — Fang and Layla fight, Doll and Ariel heal. I had enough MP restoring items to do the fight, and I never got attacked multiple times while everyone was Fear.

Once the Emperor is defeated, you get a text-less ending sequence where Ariel and Layla merge back to a single body. I guess to find out what else happened we have to play Aretha 2 in a couple of years.

I’ll post a wrap-up in a bit — this is not all that great of a game but certainly not the worst I’ve played.

SFC Game 34 – Aretha The Super Famicom

Aretha: The Super Famicom (アレサ)
Released 11/26/93, published by Yanoman

I’m not especially happy to see Yanoman’s name appear again; they were responsible for Song Master, one of the worst games I’ve played on the blog. Aretha, fortunately, is nowhere near as bad as Song Master but still has some strange gameplay decisions.

The Aretha franchise consists of 6 games — three for the Game Boy, and three for the Super Famicom (the third game may not be an RPG, it’s an action game that’s right on the borderline of ARPG but I’ll evaluate that when I get there.) There is some connection between this game and the GB games but not having played them I can’t say how much of a connection there is. From what I’ve read, the GB games had a monster recruiting system. This was removed in the SFC game and replaced with a system where you get “soul” crystals from enemies that can be forged into items.

The game begins with the heroine, Ariel, having a dream about a castle getting attacked. She wakes up, and gets sent on a small errand by her grandmother, to deliver medicine to a nearby village. If you ever forget what to do next, you can choose “talk” from the status menu and the characters will tell you.

The portrait graphics are nice; a rare thing from a SFC RPG up to now.
Ariel greets her grandmother

Ariel sets out

The first fights happen in the forest.

The monster graphics are colorful and detailed. It’s a back AMID battle system — fortunately Ariel has enough MP to actually use spells (and MP restoring items are cheap). You have to use magic to learn new magic. The other quirk is the “left”, “back”, and “right”. Enemies can appear from all sides. You can switch with the L and R buttons. This doesn’t have that much of an effect; from what I can tell, enemies don’t attack better from behind, for instance. The only significant gameplay effect it does have (besides lengthening the combats) is that area affect spells often only affect the group you are facing.

The random encounter rate is medium for a game of this era. The monsters give good XP, though, and levelling is quick. Once you have levelled a few times in an area you can dodge most of the attacks from monsters and flee from most combats, so the encounters don’t bog the game down as much as some other games do (although it still takes a certain amount of patience).

One really bizarre design choice is that there’s no indication of how much damage you do with your attacks or spells. The game is so easy this isn’t a huge deal, but sometimes I just don’t understand what the development teams are thinking.

Ariel levels up

Ariel hears about a kid named Jack who is missing, and delivers the medicine. On the way back, a small gnome runs into her and drops his bag, picking up hers by mistake. Following after him, Ariel finds out that Jack got his hands on a cap that lets him control the gnomes. She gets it back from him and gets a green egg as a reward…that hatches into a dragon.

The game now moves some years in the future, with Ariel and Fang (the dragon) grown up.

Ariel heads to the town again, but an old man wants an escort to a nearby mountain. She agrees even though her grandmother told her never to go to the mountain. There, the man steals her “Aretha Ring”, and shuts her up in a cave.

Ariel and Doll

Ariel rescues a magician named Doll from a crystal (apparently Doll is from the GB games). She(?) is able to help them escape, but when she gets back to the house it’s been destroyed and her grandmother is gone. Ariel heads to the town again to find out what the “Aretha Ring” is. Apparently there was a goddess named Aretha, and an Aretha Kingdom, but it’s now been taken over by the Vandal Empire. Ariel decides to set out for the Aretha Kingdom. To help out finding it, she recruits a guy named Maddock.

Jack also gives her the Monster Book.

Gotta catch ’em all

The group sets out by ship. At a harbor stop, Maddock goes out for some business and Ariel follows him.

Ariel, Fang, and Doll

It turns out he’s talking to an old man who offers the first use of the soul forging system.

Soul forging

Unfortunately it’s a rather underwhelming system. You just pick how much of each soul you want to use, but there’s no indication of what you’ll make or even what the various souls mean (other than their element). You can get really strong stuff for just a few souls — I’m not using a guide and I still managed to immediately get stuff that was double the defense or attack of what I had.

Ariel continues her journey through several places; one of them is a castle town — you can’t enter the castle, but you hear about knights who want to fight the Vandal Empire. One of them ends up dead in the next mountain, wanting you do something (but at the moment not clear what).

After crossing over several mountains and taking ships, we finally arrive at a town in the old Aretha Kingdom. But since it’s been taken over by Vandal, there are a bunch of enemy knights there. We get out quickly and head for a nearby “Aretha Temple” that’s supposed to be haunted. Although the temple is ruined, there is a priest there who tells us about the 4 Aretha Rings that have been stolen. It’s quickly obvious that he’s a bad guy trying to get information out of us, and when we can’t provide it, he sends us to Baron Zareos. Zareos seems to have taken control of Doll, and Fang is nowhere to be found.

He also wants to know where the other rings are and shuts us up in a dungeon. Fortunately a young woman Marie saves us, although not revealing who she is at the moment.

After letting us out, Marie along with two companions leaves, and the old man tries to attack Ariel again, only to be fought off by a swordsman.

This is Kyle, who joins the party. Fang is in a nearby town — a little girl had adopted him and made him promise to stay forever, but she lets Fang rejoin us as we leave. Ariel decides to return to Listhorn where Maddock is, to try to find the rings. They stow away on a ship and get discovered, but a nobleman named Darahyde who is entranced with Ariel’s beauty saves them and joins the party.

The party is heading to Bangi desert where they think the rings might be — this requires a lot of backtracking and new places, but eventually we reach the temple. Indeed, Ariel’s cold ring is there, as well as a Silver Ring that is immediately taken by a woman Layla, who looks a lot like Ariel. A long lost sister?

A localization problem

Now Ariel could go back home, but she decides that she needs to find the other rings to learn the secret of Ariel Kingdom and perhaps find her grandmother. She has no lead, but has a dream that night where a voice tells her to seek the Elemental Dragon on the Holy Mountain. Off on another journey, and this seems like a good place to stop the first post.

On the gameplay side there’s not a whole lot to say — I have been learning new spells with Ariel, and finally got a group effect spell that makes the fights somewhat easier. But as with a lot of these early games, it’s mostly just hold down the attack button on all the fights.

SRPG Game 13 – Macross: Eien no Love Song wrap-up

Macross: Eternal Love Song (マクロス 永遠のラブソング)
Release Date:
PC Engine
Masaya Games
Nihon Computer

  1. Turn type: Player turn/enemy turn.
  2. Maps: Small to medium. Terrain gives bonuses.
  3. Character customization: For some characters, you can choose between two mechs at certain upgrade points, but the choice is permanent.
  4. Character development: Standard XP/level system. At certain levels, the character’s mech upgrades, sometimes with a choice between units.
  5. Party: You always get to use all your units in each map. In addition to a number of named characters, you get a decent number of nameless enemies that can level up and stay with you for the rest of the game.
  6. Equipment: The game has no items or equipment.
  7. Game flow: 29 stages, one after the other. A code can be used to repeat maps if necessary.
  8. Saving: Any time.
  9. Death: Not permanent

I believe this is the only Macross franchise game that will appear on this blog. Macross appears in a number of Super Robot Wars games, but this is the only SRPG for Macross alone. I’m afraid that Macross fans will not find a great deal to like in the story. The story elements are mostly borrowed from the original Macross series and Macross II, and the format of the game makes the characters underdeveloped. 

On the other hand, the story is pretty good for a 1992 RPG. Masaya used the same technique as in Lady Phantom (and that they’ll later repeat in the PCE remake of Langrisser) of using one short voiced cutscene before each stage. This is followed by a description of the situation and stage, and then some pre-battle dialogue. The crucial thing missing is dialogue between the missions, which would have fleshed out the characters more — but once again, few games have that in 1992. The use of the vocal song (Ai Oboeteimasu ka) near the end of the game is a nice touch. 

I wonder why the only characters from the original series to appear in the game are Britai and Exsedol. 

From a gameplay standpoint, they did a good job of integrating the 3 forms of the Valkyries into the game. The idea that the plane fighter form has the lowest evade rate doesn’t really make sense, but I found that all three forms were useful at different times. The level-based upgrades also add some interest and give you some new things to play with as the stages progress. The stages also have a huge number of NPCs, and they become part of the strategic calculations in each stage even if they die quickly. The decision to give you permanent grunt units is interesting as well; even though they are way behind your main characters in ability, they can actually accomplish a fair amount.

My main criticism about the gameplay is the lack of variety. This is to some extent dictated by the franchise, but it gets a little boring to fight the same Zentradi and Meltrandi units for 29 stages. Your player characters are also mostly the same. At least the win conditions and nature of the maps are distinct, so it’s not just “kill all enemies” in every stage.

Of course the visuals and audio are great; this is the period where the PC Engine could run circles around all the other consoles when it came to graphics and sound.

Overall I had fun with this game.

Next up is the last original Famicom game on my list — Just Breed, which has a recent fan translation.

    SRPG Game 13 – Macross: Eien no Love Song (Stages 21-29)

    Stage 21

    The enemies are somewhat strong, but they’re weak enough that area-effect grenades tear them apart.

    Stage 22

    Nothing too tough here. There’s a wall of NPCs in front of you but just advancing slowly and taking out the units squad by squad is easy.

    Stage 23

    You can either beat all enemies or have Quamzin’s ship escape to the right. I just let him escape; it takes a while but then it’s not necessary to beat all the enemies.

    Stage 24

    I finally got Misty’s final unit in this stage, where she can send out two funnels. The funnels don’t do a lot of damage, but they are basically impossible to hit and their low HP attract enemy fire, so they’re incredibly useful. Getting Misty and Kiryuu to level 18 as quickly as possible makes this game much easier.

    Stage 25

    Kiryuu’s funnels came here. This is the first of a few inside maps; the Prometheus can’t move from the initial spot but it’s still not too tough. The funnels have such high move that even if the reinforcements surprise you, they can distract them enough that the ship won’t get taken out.

    Stage 26

    Quamzin’s new mech is the target; with most of the upgraded mechs this wasn’t that hard.

    Stage 27

    This stage is fairly challenging. You have 20 turns to survive, or beat the enemies. I started off by moving down and sending the funnels up. This distracted the enemies enough that I could clean up the bottom of the map and then move up and take out the rest. Brittai shows up but is no help.

    Stage 28

    I believe reinforcements are endless on this stage so all you can do is head to the right and get the Prometheus to the right side of the screen. 

    Stage 29

    For the last stage you only get Kiryuu and Misty, which would be bad if they’re not in their final forms. The funnels can distract the enemies long enough for you to beat Quamzin, which is the real goal. I got confused because after you beat Quamzin, he appears again in a weak grunt unit, and you have to kill that to finish the stage. I didn’t notice this and just headed up to where the supposed boss is, but there’s nothing you can do there. 

    SRPG Game 13 – Macross: Eien no Love Song (Stages 11-20)

    As I said in the last entry, this is probably the only time I will do a full stream playthrough — in the future I will stream one or two sessions and the blog the rest.

    Stage 11

    They keep increasing the number of grunt player units you have. They’re not great, but they can take some hits, draw enemy fire, and often have one or two shots of a decent weapon they can fire off. Using them well can make the stages a bit easier.

    The Meltrandi in this stage are tough, but Misty comes in to help out after a while.

    Stage 12

    One interesting thing about this game is how few of the stages are just your guys vs. an enemy force. Most of the time there are NPC federation units, or a double enemy (Meltrandi and Zentradi, fighting each other and you).

    Stage 13

    This is another stage where we have to prevent the enemies from getting to the town. The enemies are somewhat strong, but overall the mission was OK.

    Stage 14

    This is more fighting against Lyle. It’s a short mission because all you have to do is get Kiryuu to the edge of the map. I killed some of the units but then just bailed out when things looked bad.

    Stage 15

    Now Misty has officially joined the team. She and Kiryuu have the best final upgrade mechs at level 18, but that won’t happen for a while. Incidentally, this game gets much easier when people get to their final upgrades (particularly Misty, Kiryuu, Guy, and Grey). A lot of people have Armored Valkyrie as a final upgrade choice but they’re not very good.

    Stage 16

    Another relatively easy stage, with both Zentradi and Meltrandi.

    Stage 17

    This is it for the Meltrandi, another three way fight with tons of NPC units. Not a hard stage because of everything going on.

    Stage 18

    The traitor Lyle is back to fight us again. Maria has joined, a daughter of Max and Milia. I think she may have been in the previous Macross 2036 game; there’s really no development of her character at all.

    The video also contains a failure of stage 19.

    Stage 19

    This is the hardest stage so far (I’m up to 26 now). The problem is that there are a lot of tough units in the initial set, and then there are reinforcements with tough units as well. Getting Kiryuu or Misty to level 18 before this stage would help a lot. As it is, I stayed near the center of the map and fought the units as they got close. This let things go slowly enough that I was able to use all my PC grunts to absorb hits and do a little damage, and even though I lost some units, I did win in the end.

    Stage 20 

    Lyle has now joined the team. He’s the best unit after Kiryuu and Misty, and also gets a nice upgrade at level 18. Those three can usually be sent into the middle of the units and they’ll be OK.

    9 more stages.

    SRPG Game 13 – Macross: Eien no Love Song (PCE) (Stages 1-10)

    Macross: Eternal Love Song (マクロス 永遠のラブソング)
    Release Date: 12/4/1992
    System: PC Engine
    Developer: Masaya Games
    Publisher: Nihon Computer

    Another game from Masaya. This one is developed by both Masaya and Big West. After Studio Nue did the original Macross, Big West followed it up with Macross II and a few games (including this one), before Nue returned to Macross production with Macross Plus. So this is a non-canonical game.

    I have been streaming the stages for this game, so I’m going to link the videos and then just briefly summarize them — in the future I will probably only stream once for each game, to introduce it, and then just blog post the rest. But let me know what you think I should do.

     (The microphone audio starts off too low, but I fix it within the first 8 minutes or so).

    Stage 1

    After an opening scene that just summarizes the original Macross, we start with two main characters — Kiryuu and Letradi, who are test pilots for new Valkyries. Of course Zentradi attack and we have to take them on.

    The Valkyries can change into three forms, just like in the show.

    • The plane fighters, which have the best movement but crappy stats in everything else (even dodge, which is odd)
    • The Gerwalks, which have medium stats and do not take movement penalty for terrain, and get terrain bonuses
    • The Batroids, which have the best stats, and are affected by terrain for both movement and the stat bonus.

    The game does a pretty good job of making the various forms useful. The fighter is definitely the least useful form, but it’s sometimes necessary when you have to move far. It can’t be relied on at all for combat, though.

    The first stage is easy as long as you go to Batroid form and sit on the base.

    Stage 2

    Kiryuu and Letradi are now part of an actual squad, and they have to go after some Zentradi. They try the Minmay Attack (song) but it doesn’t work.

    This is a tough stage! Our squad is very small, there aren’t many NPCs, and there are a fair number of enemies. I actually thought this was one of the hardest stages of the first 14. Beating the ship will finish the stage. I used the mothership a lot.

    Stage 3

    Qwamzin from the original Macross is back, on the enemy side, although he’s not the commander. They’re trying to use the Minmay Attack to take over the galaxy, and have developed a defense.

    This stage is much easier than the last one. Meltrandi appear and help you out with some of the Zentradi.

    This game takes from Langrisser the idea of changing classes on level up, although in this case it’s changing to different types of units. This makes a huge difference. 

    Stage 4

    One interesting aspect of this game is that you often have a lot of NPCs on the stage, and they aren’t completely useless. They often soften up or even kill some of the units before you get there. Not a hard stage.

    Stage 5

    In this stage there’s a time limit, but it’s extremely generous. I had no trouble beating it in the time given. We also meet the Meltrandi pilot Misty, who is occupying the role of Milia from the original Macross (she’s the one on the cover image).

    Stage 6

    Misty enters the battlefield for the first time here. She’s tough, and I had to restart once because I moved my guys forward too aggressively. I was not able to beat her — I had to rely on NPCs, unfortunately.

    Stage 7

    Vs. Meltrandi. Once again there are a lot of fairly useful NPCs, and we also start getting some grunt units that actually stay with the team and can level up. Misty goes into the human towns to spy, so we know what that means.

    Stage 8

    I actually got a game over in this stage because I took the Prometheus too far forward and got it killed by a bunch of enemies who all attacked it together.

    This stage has a lot of useful NPCs but they can’t all die or it’s game over, so this is somewhat tricky — what makes it doable is that the goal is just to beat the enemy commander’s ship, which can be done before everyone dies even if you hang back at the beginning and let the enemies come to you.

    After this stage I started getting the chooseable upgrades. Usually there’s one unit with a short range weapon and then missiles or grenades (so you have to go back to the ship a lot to resupply) and the other one with a beam weapon that lasts longer.

    Stage 9

    Misty and Kiryu have a date.

    I was afraid this would be a hard mission because you lose if enemies enter the city, but it takes them a long time to get there and I don’t think it’s a big concern.

    Stage 10 

    This is not a hard stage because the NPCs are so effective. I actually restarted once to try to get XP from Misty for my own guys, but I couldn’t do it on the second try either.

    So far the game’s not bad for 1992; it compares favorably with the Super Robot Wars games that were out around this time (at least SRW 2). 

    PCE Game 24 – Ruin: Kami no Isan (Finished)

    The next part of the game is pretty light on story; it’s basically just the king sending you out to various places to find the other God Stones.

    Now that the heroes have the “magic” thread, they can make a sail that will take them to the next continent. However, first Schwartz leaves the party temporarily to escort Jan’s mom back to their hometown, so we’ll be without him for the next boss.

    As usual, the next dungeon has both a stone and a boss.

    Despite the lack of Schwartz he’s not especially difficult. I was able to do a bit of damage with Jan this time rather than just healing.

    On our way to the next ruin, we get attacked by a guy in a dark cloak, the Beast King!

    It’s a story mandated loss, but as is typical, he leaves us alive while attending to something else. Two of his minions stay to beat the rest, but Schwartz reappears to save us.

    The last god stone seems to be in a northern village that is supposedly the first village made by the gods. The town itself is fairly non-descript, but in a nearby dilapidated village, we find the old woman who narrates the opening cutscene.

    She gives us the last stone, and relates the prophecy that a hero will use the 6 stones to call the power of lightning to defeat Ruin. And that the Beast King may be Ruin himself. Finally, she tells us the “pendant” Jan has is actually a key to one of the Sacred Areas, where we might meet the gods themselves.

    The gods turn out to be people, of course. The backstory is never made entirely clear, but the people on the world now are “replicants” made by technologically advances humans. It was after some sort of disaster and made to preserve the human race, but didn’t work exactly as intended, and now the remaining humans (“gods”) are in cold sleep. This guy is Gilmore, who is surprised to hear about Ruin — that project was supposed to have been cancelled. But he believes the prophecies of the Replicants and tries to find a way out of this while we defeat some enemies that broke in.

    Run away and heal as usual, and the boss goes down fast. Meanwhile, Gilmore has enabled a weapon that will shoot the “lightning”, using the energy from the god stones. We just need to point the controller at Ruin and hit the button. He also gives us an “old” ship to get to where Ruin is, and tells Jan about his father. 100 years ago, some of the humans left the shelters for a while, and it’s possible that Jan’s dad is still sleeping there. He offers to find him, but Jan doesn’t seem to care (why not?)

    Next up is the final dungeon.

    The Beast King goes down to the usual heal strategy. We think we’ve won, but then he merges with Ruin to make the real final boss.

    He can’t be hurt until Jan activates the weapon, which weakens him.

    Where Jan is standing is basically a safe space, so just stand there and hold down the attack button until he dies.

    The shelter crumbles as everyone flees, and suddenly the ending is “some years later”. It basically just says what happens to each character.

    Schwartz and Sharol get married, as do Jan and Altena. The humans stay in their cold sleep, apparently forever. Jan and Altena set out in the technological ship to find a new continent. The ending has a vocal song as the credits roll.

    So that’s Ruin. It’s a pretty basic game, and I don’t think the gameplay was well designed, although most of the action RPGs that came out around this time had problems. The story is enjoyable, and that alone may make it worth the play.

    Next up will be Aretha.

    2 Years

    I’m going to schedule the second (and last) Ruin post for a few days from now so that I can do this post instead.

    Two years ago I started this blog. If you view this on desktop you can see from the sidebar that I’m 30% done with the game list (which doesn’t necessarily mean 30% of the time the blog will take). Thanks to everyone who has been reading me, either the whole time or just starting recently.

    A few new readers over at the PC Engine Bible forum commented that judging from my posts, it didn’t seem like I was having much fun. There is some truth to this — I have been disappointed in the quality of the games so far. Before I started the blog, I was thinking about the classic SNES RPGs I had enjoyed as a kid, and all the untranslated Super Famicom RPGs I had heard about that people liked.

    Instead, too many of the games so far have basic, dull RPG systems, too many random encounters, poorly designed magic systems, and boring dungeons. It’s sometimes difficult to find things to write about in the posts because once I’ve described the basic gameplay in one paragraph, that’s pretty much how it goes for the whole game. You can see a real difference in interest and energy level if you look at the Dragon Quest V posts.

    However, that doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying the experience. I do like the accomplishment of finishing the games and advancing in the list. I do expect the library to improve as I go on. There are still quite a few games that I’ve heard good things about but never played. My decision to do the Strategy RPG blog alongside this one was a good idea I think, because the RPGs feel fresher when I return to them.

    Lastly, here are some of the games coming up in the next few months that I’m excited about:

    Illusion of Gaia – I know this was released in English, but I haven’t played it in many years and I loved it as a kid.

    Dokapon kingdom – This is a mix of a board game and RPG; there will be several of these on the blog, but I’m interested to see how it plays.

    Romancing Saga 2 – Will I like this better than RS1? Will I be able to beat it?

    Shin Megami Tensei 2 – I’ve played 1, and the remake of the NES games.

    Forward to year 3!

    PS: Geocities Japanese is shutting down soon. This is the source of a lot of walkthroughs and info for older, more obscure games, so it’s a big loss.