Monthly Archives: September 2020

SRPG Game 45 – Bounty Sword (Parts 1 and 2)

Bounty Sword (バウンティソード), Super Famicom
Released 9/8/1995, Developed by Head Quarters, released by Pioneer LDC


This was Pioneer LDC’s first game release, a real-time strategy RPG. After the initial release there was a remake for Playstation called Bounty Sword First in 1997. A number of changes were made and some fans did not like them, although generally the game was well received. The “First” title showed their intention to have a trilogy. But the second game, Bounty Sword Double Edge, was a critical and sales failure, and the third game never game out.

I vacillated for a while over whether I should play the PSX remake or not. In the end, the addition of permanent death to the PSX version tipped the scales for me to play the original game. In the SFC version if a character dies in a battle you pay a healing cost and they have to sit out the next battle.

The main character, who you name (Kurisu), is a former knight. He is famed as the Master of Sword, although he’s also has the reputation of having killed his own companions. He is now a burnt-out bounty hunter, doing jobs that pay money. He has this fairy with him who isn’t explained at all in the game; from a game system standpoint she explains how you can see what’s happening all over the battle map, but at least as of map 22 there’s no explanation of who she is except that she chose to stick around Kurisu for some reason.

As of this post I’ve finished through map 26, which is about half the game. Since there is no English walkthrough I’ll try to give some notes (there’s a very good Japanese site).

 
At the start of each map, you see your party (max 5). You can move their starting positions around, set initial orders, and look around the map.

Once the map starts, everyone moves according to their AI. Above you can see the three settings. First, you can set the general AI — “Move Freely”, “Move to selected point”, “Stay there”. These three choices are adequate for many cases, but I wish they had two more. “Follow X” would have been nice to make sure the party stays together, or create groups if necessary. “Stay away from enemies” would be nice for the magic users; they generally do an OK job of this but too often they end up right next to a monster and won’t move away.

 
The next setting is whether you want them to use spells, items, or neither for healing. Each character has 4 items, including healing and attack items. The last one is what percentage of health you want to allow them to get down to before they will use their healing. If they run out of healing and get below that value, the game will ask you if you want to have them keep attacking, or defend. If you defend, and the healer heals them, they’ll start attacking again.

Each character has an AS (attack speed) stat that controls how quickly they can attack. This depends on the class, but the base always seems to be 4 or 5 (I think some classes may go lower or higher). This value can never be raised by levelling, and I haven’t seen any equipment that can raise it, but it can be lowered by wearing heavy armor. The time at the bottom right is just for bonus money at the end. If you run out of time it starts counting up and the box turns red; I’ve never gone above 30 seconds in the red and I don’t know if there’s a point where you get a game over.

You can use magic spells or special moves by pausing the game and selecting the character. Healing spells are automatically used, but attack spells are not. You can retreat from a battle at any time and you’ll retain the XP you got.

After the first battle, Kurisu heads to the town to take jobs, and also gets two companions. During the game, you can get companions at the bar, many of whom are generic units, but you also get story characters as well. The story characters may leave after a while but I haven’t seen the generics leave yet. I don’t think the generics are any worse than the story characters, though. 

Each character has a class, and at certain levels they can promote in camp. Some classes, if you use certain items, can upgrade to different classes. These promotions increase stats, and may open up new spells and abilities.

Here are some notes on selected battles from the first 26 stages. There is some choice so the numbers might not match up completely.

  • 3 – This is the first undead stage. The healers have an instant kill Turn Undead spell which makes it rather easy.
  • 4 – More Undead. This is also the first “free map” where you can revisit it to fight more. Although it’s only three enemies so that doesn’t help much.
  • 5 – The enemy commander gives you the option to 1-on-1 fight him. I tried this and he killed me so I never did any one on one challenges after that.
  • 6 – Second part of the stage, all you have to do is run Kurisu to the right side of the map.
  • 7 – I had a really hard time with this stage. One big problem is that after stage 6, you can’t buy anything until you clear stage 7. So you need to make sure you have extra healing items available if you’re going to retreat from 7. One problem was that it was hard to keep the party together because they would keep wandering away, but when I tried the map again after a little while it went much better. Kurisu’s Sonic Blade technique is useful.
  • 14 (ripaios mountains) – Starting in this stage, you can collect 12 rings, which unlock things later. Usually you have to go back to the map again after you clear it. The Venus Ring is here.
  • 18 (crimson lake) – The Selene Ring is here, but you first have to go to Erinudas River and talk to a guy.
  • 19 (Iberia Cape) – Hermes Ring
  • 20 (West Plains) – Ares Ring
  • 21 (Spania Plain) – You can’t recruit Faust until you get an item in the next part; just don’t answer “no” to his question about whether you want him to join or you can never do it.
  • 23 (Sword Cape) – Apollo Ring. To make the boatman ferry you over to the island, you need a letter from a person in the Padova Area.
  • 26 – The Dark Lord has to be damaged a bit before he will leave the battle and send in the last reinforcements. I couldn’t do this without losing anyone; it took Kurisu’s sonic blade and then a spell to make him run. Most of the enemies in this stage are quite vulnerable to magic.

Overall this is not a bad game. It can be really intense. There’s maybe a bit too much of fighting with the AI to get the units to do what you want them to do. At first I was having a really hard time getting into the game and I even started playing something else for a while, but I think I’ve come to grips with it now. I probably will not be able to beat the game by next weekend but I should get close.

Super Famicom Strategy RPGs

I wanted to remind everyone of my other blog on strategy RPGs and link all the Super Famicom SRPGs I’ve done so far. The Super Robot Wars entries are just a collection of message board posts I made many years ago when I was playing them, so they may not be as interesting.

I still have around 15 more Super Famicom SRPGs to go.

    PCE Game 34 – KO Seiki Sanjushi Revival of Gaia Kanketsuhen

    KO Seiki Sanjushi Revival of Gaia Kanketsuhen (KO世紀ビースト三獣士〜ガイア復活 完結編〜)

    Released 6/17/1994, Pack In Video

    I’ve been in a bit of a slump with my playthroughs lately; the semester has been quite busy and I haven’t had as much time to play. I’m having trouble with Bounty Sword on my other blog and proceeding slowly through Slayers for this one. This will be a fairly short post since I only played this game for a few hours. (I also hate the new Blogger interface)

    This is yet another game based on anime, this time an OVA. There were two games based on it for computers; the name “kanketsuhen” sounds like this might be a compilation remake of the two games but I wasn’t able to find enough information on it to be sure. Most of the anime-based games I’ve played so far have not been all that good; they tend to be unoriginal and dull, cashing in on the name value and putting in only a token effort to distinguish the game from any other RPG. I’ve played bad games based on anime (Fist of the North Star 5, 3×3 Eyes, Villgust), and just dull games (Ranma 1/2). This one is closer to the dull variety, although I suppose it’s not noticeably worse than a lot of the other games that were coming out at the time.

    Here’s Wikipedia’s description of the series’ basis:

    The series is set in the distant future in which the Earth is split in two. The southern hemisphere is placed in another dimension while the inhabitants of the northern hemisphere are able to morph into beast-like humanoids. Eventually the humans of the southern hemisphere, led by Uranus, attack the Beasts.

    The Three Beasts, Wan Derbard (Wan Dabadadatta) of the Tiger Tribe, Bud Mint (Baado Mint) of the Bird Tribe, and Mei Mer (Mei Mah) of the Mermaid Tribe, are taken prisoner along with Mei Mer’s companion Tuttle Millen (Mekka Mannen, also of the Mermaid tribe), but manage to escape thanks to a little girl named Yuuni Charm Password. Together they seek Gaia, which they believe to be a fabulous treasure, but they are pursued by Uranus’s minions : V-Darn the vicious mage-knight, V-Sion the warrior woman, and Akumako, V-Darn’s sadistic imp-like partner.

    This is exactly how the game starts, so they must be following the original story pretty closely. The opening sequence is fairly long, and the voice work is sadly limited — in the time I played I only saw two voiced sections, an opening cutscene narration, and one cutscene after that.

    The battle system is fairly standard, but does have a “beast” option. This lets the characters (at least the three main ones) transform into their beast forms and do a powerful attack, at the cost of HP. They also get some sort of machine to allow them to cast magic with their BP, which I think stands for Battery Points. They can be recharged at stations here and there, although they were not common enough and I often had 0 BP — the instruction booklet might have helped more here, but it took me a while to even figure out how to recover them. 

    The characters escape their prison not only with the help of Yuuni, but with these beast god-type things that come from the home villages of the characters to fight them. So once they escape, the goal of the game comes to recover these beast gods and find out how to use their power to fight back against the humans. They first head to Wan’s home village, where they learn that the beast associated with the village has still not returned. They head out to a nearby mountain where it has been spotted, and you fight lots of random encounters along the way.

    We’re joined by a human who seems to be some kind of prince in disguise; he found us after we escaped from the humans and crash landed with the beast gods. He’s a nice addition because he can equip all the stuff whereas the beast main characters seem only able to equip a weapon and a piece of clothing.

    The team does not find the beast god at the mountain, so they head on to the mermaid town where Mei Ma is from. Everyone has fled the town and gotten trapped in an underground area, and we need gunpowder to blow it up. Once we do that, there are still people trapped that need something more powerful than the gunpowder, and it’s time to find this drill machine that should work.

    This is where I stopped; I couldn’t figure out where the next town was and this was a pretty run of the mill game of the kind I usually pass over quickly on the PCE. It’s not a bad game and I think if you were a fan of the anime it would be fun, but there are better games on the PCE.

    Next up will be another anime-based game, Slayers for the SFC.

    SRPG Game 44 – Galaxy Robo

    Galaxy Robo (ギャラクシーロボ)
    Released 3/11/1994, developed by Imagineer

     

    1.  Turn type: Player/enemy turn
    2. Maps: Large
    3. Character Customization: None
    4. Character Development: Standard XP/level system.
    5. Party Size: A lot, I’m not sure of the exact number.
    6. Equipment: None
    7. Game Flow: 19 stages in order, no repeats or alternate routes
    8. Saving: Any time
    9. Death: Defeated characters are removed from the battle but return afterwards.

    This is a rewind in time; I missed this game on my first pass through 1994 but Manny Rhyde on the SRPG Discord pointed it out to me. It has a fan translation. It’s been described as “Fire Emblem in space” but it’s not as close to Fire Emblem as you might think. 

    The defining feature of the game is the size of the battles; after the first couple, you’re typically about 30 vs. 40-50. The stages will have some named characters that can level up, and then a bunch of other grunt units that are weaker and cannot level.

    The story begins with Fatis, whose childhood friend is captured by an attacking empire. He goes out with an old mech, one of the three ancient mechs that’s more powerful than the other ones they make now. The story as a whole is a pretty typical “defeat the evil Empire” story — it’s nothing special, but it’s fine for 1994.

     

    The characters are fixed to a certain mech, and when they level up they gain stats. They don’t learn any new powers or get any new mechs. There are about 5-6 different types you can have, and each one has one or two attacks. Some can repair, and there are several battleship type units as well.

    This seems to be a rather obscure game even in Japan — the shutdown of Geocities wiped out a lot of old sites, but at least in what survives I was not able to find anything about the game except for a few short reviews. No full playthroughs on Youtube or Nicovideo. I’ll just make a few notes about the stages; I didn’t take careful notes at first but the first few stages are not that bad. I was always unsure about how much to use the grunts, but the enemies are evenly matched enough with your guys that I think it would be quite difficult (and unnecessary) to try to use only your named characters. Could be an interesting challenge.

     

    Stage 7 (or maybe 6) is a defense mission — you have to last for quite a few turns with an army that is much stronger than yours. I lost the first time because there are a few people that can’t die or you get a game over. You never get any units that can just sit and tank; I found that at any point in the game, 1 vs 4 or 5 meant a decent chance of the 1 dying even if it was my strongest guy vs. 5 grunts.

    Stage 8 has a rather annoying issue that’s in a few stage. There’s an enemy, Kyarana, where the final blow can only be done by the main character. Other units can get her down to 1 HP but then further attacks will have no effect. I had sent the main character all the way opposite on the map, and so I had to waste many turns fixing that. There are other stages where named enemy units cannot be defeated during the stage; they can be taken down to 1 HP but you just have to beat all the other units and then they’ll escape. But of course they can stay on the map wailing on your guys.

    On Stage 9 I got a freeze that seemed to be inescapable; no matter how I tried to move people differently, it would always freeze when I attacked a particular enemy. Fortunately restarting the stage (and maybe moving to the BSNES MT emulator) helped and I didn’t have any freezes after that.

    In Stage 10 we go up into space. The space levels are basically the same as the ground levels, with space debris serving as the defense spaces. You also get your team splitting up and not reforming completely until the end of the game.

    “That’s no moon!”

     In Stage 14 you have to defend a base; this mostly just involves going out and attack the enemies, but missiles appear from the left and right. The grunts I left behind were able to beat them although they missed a lot.

    Stage 15 involves you choosing who comes along with one of the characters to go on a secret mission; the way they set it up is confusing; what’s actually happening is that you are choosing who will stay behind to fight on stages 16-17. This wasn’t very clear, though, and I took everyone possible on stage 15. This left 16 and 17 more difficult. I actually lost 16 the first time but you can draw some units into the gas cloud and blow it up, which helps. On 17 you just have to survive for a while and then the rest of the units will reappear.

     

    Stage 18 is very slow because the ground costs a lot of movement points and there are lasers that automatically shoot you on the enemy phase if you stop in their line of fire. But it’s not all that hard.

    Stage 19, the last one, is hard. It’s 4 of your guys vs. 4-5 boss-class enemies, and if any of your guys dies it’s game over. I had to do a lot of saving and resetting here just to wait for the enemies to miss. Maybe I was underlevelled but since you can’t repeat stages it’s not hard for that to happen.

     

    Overall this is a decent game. It’s a bit simplistic and I definitely would not play this without an emulator speedup key since the enemy turns take a long time (I used it for all the unskippable battle sequences).

    SRPG Game 43 – Battle Robot Retsuden

    Battle Robot Retsuden (バトルロボット烈伝)
    Released 9/1/1995,  developed by Winkysoft, published by Banpresto

     


    1.  Turn type: Player/enemy turn
    2. Maps: Small
    3. Character Customization: None
    4. Character Development: Raise levels with items, also upgrade mech stats with items
    5. Party Size: 4 max
    6. Equipment: Some mechs have item slots.
    7. Game Flow: 11 stages (see post for details)
    8. Saving: Outside of battle
    9. Death: Defeated characters are removed from the battle but return afterwards.

    I’m a big fan of the Super Robot Wars series, and I had always heard about Battle Robot Retsuden. It was made by Winkysoft, who was responsible for all the early SRW games, and so I had the feeling that this was a SRW-like game with only real robots. Unfortunately this is not the case.

    It does share with SRW the mixing of various series, so that you have characters from Gundam, Dunbine, Xabungle, and L-Gaim. Xabungle would not appear in a SRW game until 2001’s Alpha Gaiden, so this is quite an early entry for the series. All the other series had appeared before. The basic story is that there’s a world (I think a parallel universe or something like that) where two empires are at war, but the mechs they produce suck. So they use a technology called Duplication to copy mechs and pilots from other worlds. These are called Branch Warriors. The Gelster Empire has used this forbidden technology to invade other lands, and the Nord Empire calls their own Branch Warriors to defend themselves. The Nord Empire just happens to have all the hero mechs, and the Gelster has all the villain mechs. There are a bunch of original characters as well, but they seem to only be in the story sequences and never actually fight.

    The game begins with the Amuro copy in the Nu Gundam. The Nord people use these crystals which they call “apples” to awaken Amuro. You get additional apples from defeating enemies that you can use to raise the characters’ levels, but there’s a limit to how high they can be raised in each chapter.

    You can also get things from the enemies to upgrade the mechs, although the quantity is quite limited in the game. Finally, there are items you can equip to certain mechs (like the L Gaim and Walker Machine) that increase their defense, give them beam barriers, and such.

    Each chapter has a map like the one above (usually there are more places than this). Enemies will appear in the various spots. They will either stay there until you reach them, or move towards you. You can make teams of mechs to send out, although you have to leave at least one back with the ship. The ship can’t be controlled. Once an enemy encounters an away party or the ship, a combat begins.

    The battle areas are based on hex maps. Each unit has a certain number of move actions and a certain number of attack actions per round. The attack actions have very specific ranges so it can sometimes be hard to position your guy in the right place. Some actions cannot be done twice in the round, and you can also spend one point on a shield for that round (for mechs that have it). The battle sequences use large, detailed figures that were certainly a selling point of the game.

    Unfortunately, all of this is ruined by one horrible decision made by the designers: you can only control one person in battle (the squad leader). Everyone else moves off horribly stupid AI. This means that in battles, the majority of your time is spent watching the computer units fight each other. Sometimes you can barely reach the battle before it ends. 

    In a RPG or SRPG, it’s not necessarily a fatal flaw to have some AI-controlled party members. But to be good, the AI control has to be designed into the gameplay. For instance, Ogre Battle does it well enough that I still think it’s a good system. For this game, it feels like a game where you should have control over everyone but they just don’t let you do it.

    In addition, the maps often require you to just sit there and wait for the enemies to come to you, because if you try to go out on your own some units will reach the ship and you’ll get a game over. 

    I made it to chapter 4 (out of 11) but I just couldn’t take it anymore. The story seems interesting, but it’s just not worth struggling through this poorly designed system that you barely have any control over. I’ll close this post with a bunch of random screenshots from the game.

    SRPG Game 42 – Riglord Saga

    Riglord Saga (リグロードサーガ)
    Released 7/21/1995,  developed by Micro Cabin, published by Sega

    1.  Turn type: Player/enemy turn
    2. Maps: Medium, height affects movement, and maybe combat effectiveness?
    3. Character Customization: Only by what skills you focus on (see next)
    4. Character Development: Standard XP/level system, plus a skill leveling system.Using a type of skill gives you XP in that skill area, and when you level it up you can learn new skills of that type.
    5. Party Size: Max 6 on the map, 13 in party
    6. Equipment: Weapon and 4 armor slots.
    7. Game Flow: After an opening section, you are free to roam the map and do the required combats in any order for a while. There is an optional challenge dungeon.
    8. Saving: Outside of battle, sometimes between battles in a series.
    9. Death: Defeated characters are removed from the battle but return afterwards.

    This game is also called “Blazing Heroes” or “Mystaria: Realms of Lore.” I guess they didn’t like the original Japanese name.

      This is the first Saturn SRPG (I played the Feda remake earlier, but that came out in 96). It looks very different from the games I’ve been playing up to now because they use the power of the new system to do 3D style graphics. Unfortunately I don’t think they look very good. I’ve always had a problem with early Playstation and Saturn attempts at this kind of graphics — even in 1997 I thought FF7’s characters looked stupid.

      For me there was never a time when I looked at graphics like these and said “Yeah, that looks cool.”

      This also appears to be one of those games where they ran into severe limitations in text space for the translation, or were just too lazy to expand it. For the technique names in particular, it seems like they were limited to six letters in two groups of three. So “Shuriken” had to become THR STR, “Repeating Kick” became KIK, Sleep is SLP, and Lightning Arrow is LTG SHT. I remember this kind of thing from Paladin’s Quest and Breath of Fire but this is perhaps the worst I’ve seen.

      The game starts out with Prince Kurisu fighting against Gen’yusai, who is taking over his castle. He quickly gets overpowered, and then slaughtered by a story loss fight. Then you get to the first real battle of the game, with one of the bad guys joining us. The only required units for all the battles are Kurisu and Musashi.

      One really nice feature of this game is that at the end of each battle, all characters get an equal amount of XP based on the enemies killed during the battle, with non-participating characters and characters who died during the battle getting half. I greatly prefer this to the common system where XP awards go to individual characters; it gets tiresome to attack your own guys or leave people at 1 HP so that you can level weaker characters.

      The battle system is fast-moving and I never felt the need to use a speedup key, even on the enemy turns.

      After this initial fight we get locked in a cell but can escape with some additional friends joining. There are locked doors with chests behind them in this battle but they can’t be retrieved until later in the game.

      After escaping the castle, we had to go to a mountain with a sage on it who would tell us how to defeat Gen’yusai. I had to do this battle three times; the enemies are difficult and have nasty counterattacks. Fortunately this game lets you retreat from a battle at any point and earn all the XP you got up to then (and the chests). I always appreciate systems like this because it means that you never have to do any true grinding, you can always attempt the next battle and then retreat when you’ve gotten as far as you can.

      The sage tells us that we need 13 warriors to go against Gen’yusai. The next part of the game is nonlinear; there are 5 or 6 places you need to go but they can basically be done in any order. You can travel freely around the map and visit the various towns to buy things. When crossing a border into one of the other provinces you may fight a random encounter, which will be with several randomly chosen members of the party. This can be a bit hairy if they choose a bunch of weak characters. I generally tried to level up everyone until the late stages of the game.

      The next part I did was going after a pirate and then getting shipwrecked on an island. For me this part was the most difficult in the game, and the last hard fight until the final boss. There is some method that the levels of the enemies scale to match yours, but it’s not absolute. I was having so much trouble with a battle in this section that I was afraid I might have to go back to a previous save, but I noticed that as I retried the battle over and over again, the enemy levels were not going up at all. Also I was learning new skills, which is probably more important than the levels. So eventually I won.

      After this I found that the game got significantly easier. I think this is because once you get better techniques and moves, the fact that the enemies match your levels is no longer that important. There was a tower where enemies could only get hurt by magic or certain moves, and I had to skip it for a while, but when I came back it was easy.

      Honestly the next stage that provided any challenge was the final stage, and that’s only because almost every unit on the map can confuse your characters. I thought I was going to have to try from the beginning but I managed to beat it with only the main character left alive.

      Overall this is a decent game. It’s a bit short, and the difficulty is very uneven, but it’s a fun play and the very clean and easy interface makes it much less of a chore than some games. I’m looking forward to trying the sequel in a while.