Monthly Archives: October 2020

SFC Game 52 – Samsara Naga 2 (Part 1)

Sam̊sāra Nāga 2 (サンサーラ・ナーガ2)
Released 7/15/1994, Published by Victor Entertainment

This is the sequel to a Famicom game from 1990. It looks like a Famicom game in many ways — the graphics are definitely the low point of the game. It’s party the ugly character designs of Oshii Mamoru, but also just the generally low quality of the graphics.

The story background is that the main character was found as a baby abandoned in the Dragon Guild Ryuen, with a small egg. The egg never grew or hatched, and people made fun of her, except for Amrita, who was her only friend. But one day Amrita suddenly burned down Ryuen, taking her egg and running away. Her goal is to reach the top of the 8 worlds that constitute the universe. At the same time, the main character’s egg grows and hatches, producing a White Dragon, something seen only once in 100 years. Since Amrita destroyed all the other dragons and eggs, it’s up to Kurisu to take her White Dragon and chase after Amrita.

The main character does not level. Instead, each time you advance to the next world (out of 8) you get 200 more HP and some other stat upgrades. There is a lot of equipment, but it wears out and breaks after a while. This is incredibly annoying, and I don’t understand what they thought it added to the game. It just means that you’re constantly having to juggle equipment, buy extras of everything, check after battles to see if anything broke, etc. It also means that if you find a cool new piece of equipment in a dungeon, or receive one from the noodle shop stamp collection, it’s not all that exciting because you know it’s just going to break in a little while.
The game is standard DQ2-style. The dragons have “Mantras” which are spells, but the main character has nothing but attack.

When you finish a battle, you get the choice of eating the monsters (which recovers some HP/MP for your dragon and gives them a little XP bonus), or taking the corpses. The corpses can be sold at any Haratama Noodle Shop for money. There are 64 shops in the game and each one gives you a stamp; every 8 stamps you get a prize (which will soon break, so what’s the point?)
The first goal is to get a helmet, since every dragon rider needs one as the symbol of their position (the helmets may be unbreakable). Since Amrita burned down the equipment there’s none there, so the main quest of the first world is to get this helmet of a previous legendary dragonrider Al Sinha. This involves solving some minor problems typical of RPGs — a town being controlled by a selfish power hungry guy, etc.

In the Naga cemetery you learn more of the backstory of the dragons. All the different dragons in the world are descended from one egg, and the goal of all the dragons is to produce the Final Dragon, who has already been born. Al Sinha’s spirit gives the main character his helmet and repeats the command to go find Amrita.
So now we move on to the second world. When you move on, you can’t return to the previous world (and at the end of the second world we learn that the previous worlds cease to exist once you move on).
My dragon (Ramoth, named after the Pern series) is pregnant with twins! I have to buy two charms at the end of the first world, which will determine the colors of the dragons. I decided on Blue + Red, which seemed like a good combo (the other choice is Green, which is a priest type character, but Ramoth can already cast healing spells).
 
There’s a convenient cave in the second world for her to give birth, but she’s worried about the egg thieves that everyone is talking about. So first we have to deal with that. This involves mostly a large investigation quest with two feuding companies, Taj and Mahal.
 

Once this is dealt with, Ramoth is ready to give birth, so we head to the hospital. This is by far the most annoying part of the game. We learn that Amrita was here and her black dragon wasn’t born by an egg but tore her way out of her mother’s womb; the nurses who saw the bloody scene are scarred and never want to deliver another dragon.

The babies are born safe, but now we have to feed them. You need a huge number of monster corpses for this — at least 200, maybe as many as 300 or more. I was warned by a walkthrough to save up corpses but I didn’t save enough. Also you lose Ramoth for this section so you have to fight enemies with the main character alone, while her equipment breaks over and over again.

Finally we get enough corpses for the food, and now you have to register the babies, which involves what I guess is supposed to be a parody of bureaucracy, running around talking to different people in a huge office and getting forms. The parody is just as fun as the real thing.

Then as you progress a bit, your dragons get an illness. You have to go back to the hospital again and wait a long time for the doctor to fix them. I don’t get what the point of this whole sequence is.

I was also really upset to find out as you can see in the above screenshot, that I had accidentally gotten a green dragon instead of blue. Green + Red is the worst combo for beating the game. I moved on to the third world and found myself in a tough situation.
At this point I can barely win a single random battle, I can’t get to a Haratama to sell things for money, and I don’t like my dragons. I think I have to start over with the Blue + Red combination and make sure I’m a little more ready for the third world. My rules say I have to beat this game because it has no patch or translation, but I don’t think I can face starting it over right away. I’m going to at least play Tactics Ogre for my other blog. After that if I still don’t feel like playing this game I will just move it back a few games on the list so that I can come back to it in 4-6 months when hopefully I can come back to it fresh.

SRPG Game 46 – Heian Fuunden

 

Heian Fuunden (平安風雲伝)
Released 9/29/1995, developed by KSS

 


  1. Turn type: Speed based turns, although I believe everyone gets one turn before another person gets two.
  2. Maps: Medium
  3. Character Customization: None
  4. Character Development: Standard XP/level system.
  5. Party Size: 8, although you have multiple groups each with 8 people.
  6. Equipment: One weapon, one armor.
  7. Game Flow: See below
  8. Saving: Before each battle
  9. Death: Permanent

The Heian period is not a common setting for manga or video games — in general things were much more focused on the genteel life of the court rather than adventures or battles. But there are stories and legends that can be drawn on. This game is set in 1000, around the time of the Tale of Genji and other courtly romance fiction, and while the story uses some of the court figures, it’s more about what was going on outside of the capital (you can’t enter the palace at any point).

The back story is that Emperor Kazan in 984 had twins with Fujiwara no Shishi, who died in childbirth. One of the twins died, and the other was banished to Kumano to become our main character (in actual history, Shishi died in her 8th month of pregnancy). 16 years later, the Yamawaro rebel against the Heian goverment — this game depicts the Yamawaro as an ethnic minority (later portrayed as demons in legends). Fujiwara no Michinaga, who was the real power in the capital at this time, calls on the Onmyoji Abe no Seimei to help protect the capital, and his disciple Douma attempts to revive the soul of Taira no Masakado, who rebelled against the capital 60 years ago.

 

All of these people are historical figures (except the main character, Kagura). There are other historical figures in the game — the warrior Minamoto no Raiko and the poet Semimaru, for instance. Although most of the enemies and people you get on your team are fictional. It is impressive how many historical figures they were able to include, though.

The development of the story itself is not that surprising; Kagura ends up having to fight both the Yamawaro and Douma and his followers trying to revive Masakado. There are a few twists here and there but overall the story is not exceptionally detailed.

 

The game basically divides into two parts. The first half you’re dealing with the lands to the west of Kyoto, the second half they’re on the right. The game has a map system where you see all the enemies on the map — the fixed encounters are squares, and from some of those locations, additional enemies will come out (as circles) and start marching towards the capital. If any enemy reaches the capital, you lose. I was initially worried about this mechanic because it seems like you could save yourself into a position where you would have to start over, but it’s not a big deal. The game does give you multiple teams, but even this was hardly necessary. The enemies move so slowly that except for one battle I never used anyone but my main team. It may also be the case that if you defeat the square enemy than the circles were coming from, the circles that are already out freeze in place (I’m not sure of this).

 

So basically the game involves visiting all the square enemies and defeating them; eventually new square enemies will pop up, until you finish the game. There are two parts (near the end of the game) where you have to go to certain places to fight battles that don’t have a square; they’re indicated by the dialogue so it’s not very hard to figure out. There are also random encounters with bandits if you’re not on a road.

Once you get into a battle, it’s typically your party vs 8 enemies (there may have been some early battles that didn’t have the full 8); your party can go up to 8 people. The turn order is determined by speed, and you can see the order by exiting from the current unit’s turn. The battle system is fairly standard, with units able to move, attack, use items, or special abilities. There are a few additions that I didn’t make much use of — you can summon a shikigami which I consistently forgot about, and some things having to do with units next to each other supporting or doing stat increases (I didn’t know about this until I beat the game). 

Your units have a number of different classes. Some of them are restricted to a small number of units — the Shikigami User is only your main character, and the Ise Priestess is only Uzuki.Other classes like Warrior and Omyoji have more. Within the classes different people will have different arrangements of abilities. One disappointment is that nobody ever learns new skills, other than the main character being able to summon more types of shikigami. It may seem odd that I never used this ability but Kagura is so powerful that even though I completely forgot about this she was very useful. Levelling up raises their stats, and gives them more uses of each technique.

My main party was as follows:

  • Kagura, main character. She has an attack all spell that’s very powerful, as well as line attack and single attack spells, and her regular attack is good too.
  • Semimaru, Biwa player. She has an attack all spell that also makes the enemies unable to use spells, which is useful for dealing with the many healers.
  • Touta, a “spirit user”. He has early spells that can attack in all directions, and a line attack.
  • Raiko and two other warriors I forget the names of — front line attackers.
  • Jinku the monk, another front line fighter.
  • Suzume the shrine maiden, a starting character who has an infinity range heal and a “heal all” spell, plus attack spells
  • Uzuki the Ise Shrine maiden, who replaced one fighter once I got her. She has a heal + buff all spell, plus attack spells.

The balance on the whole seems off. Some characters have incredibly powerful attacks and others can’t do much. There are a large number of characters though, including many optional ones. I also found the balance of the individual battles was off as well. The enemies often have heal-all and attack-all spells, plus they summon these shikigami that are ridiculously powerful in the early game. So I often found myself having to do rushes with Kagura and Semimaru’s attack all spells just to get the healers and leader down before they would overwhelm me — the permanent death system makes this even more necessary. All battles end when the leader is destroyed. The game is not especially difficult as a whole, but I did often feel very constrained in my strategy choices by this lack of balance.

When you hit someone, it moves them a square, usually back but sometimes in one direction or the other. There’s also some kind of zone of control system where you can’t pass by enemies. So there is more to the fighting than just moving forward and attacking; you often have to take advantage of pushing enemies aside to reach the boss.

Between battles HP fully recovers, and you can rest in houses to recover technique and spell uses. This doesn’t take any time (as far as the enemies moving on the map) so you can do it pretty freely, with the exception of the final three battle sequence which have to be done in one go. 

There is no money in the game. Instead you get items and equipment from fights — the equipment is not a major part of the game. You can trade it with merchants for healing items, but I hardly used these either. 

Overall this is a decent game. The battles are quick and even if you lose you can just try again immediately since you save before each battle. The story involves a lot of historical stuff and mythology, although it could have been a little deeper. One tip — to get the “true ending” you have to have Semimaru and Uzuki (the Ise Priestess) in the final battle and they both have to survive. I believe that you automatically get Semimaru. Uzuki is optional but not very difficult to find.

SFC Game 51 – Slayers

Slayers (スレイヤーズ)
Released 6/24/1994, Banpresto
 

 

I’ve played quite a few games based on anime/light novels for this blog. In general, they’ve been cheap cash grabs with none of the charm or interest of the original series. Slayers is a popular light novel series that was made into an anime; I remember watching all three seasons in college. The Slayers video game is different from some of the others in that the original writers of Slayers was involved in the project and it fits in with the series better than games like Ranma or Fist of the North Star.

Often the difficulty the creators have is how to transfer the original context to an RPG. For instance, Fist of the North Star involves people who can kill others with a touch, and who can only be matched by one of the few people who also have skill in these martial arts techniques? How did the Fist RPGs deal with this? By completely ignoring it and having Kenshiro and the others fight grunts with nunchuks or regular punches.

Slayers has a similar problem — in the original series, Lina Inverse is supposed to be one of the most powerful magicians in the world, able to use devastating magic attacks that can destroy towns. So this game begins with Lina having lost her memory, as well as all but a few of her magic spells. This allows for the growth that you expect in an RPG without violating the storyline of the original. It may seem like a cheap way out, but it is involved in the story more than you might expect at first.

There are a large number of characters from the series in the game, including a number from the novels that I was not familiar with. Other than Lina you can’t choose who you want to have until very late in the game. Each character has the same basic RPG choices but with a special move. Sylphiel can use her magic on everyone, and Lemmy does an all attack, to use two examples. Most of the time the characters do what you tell them to do, but certain characters (particularly Naga and Amelia) will do their own thing from time to time.

The graphics are good in some parts, like the character portraits in the status screen:

The battle graphics are relatively good too.

There are also occasional cutscene style graphics.

 But the map sprites are really disappointing; they could have done a lot better with these.

The equipment system is pretty disappointing as well. There’s no money from battles, only from chests, The equipment upgrades are fairly limited (and as usual you can’t see the stats of items until you buy them.)  On the whole, the RPG elements are not as robust as they could be. The battles tend to be quite simple; you regain your MP whenever you level up so you can use spells a lot (which I always appreciate). The bosses are typically highly resistant to magic so you basically have to buff and heal for them. Resurrection, which heals 9999 HP and brings characters back to life costs only 10 MP so you rarely have to worry about a game over except in a few fights. By the end your party is three level 99 characters plus Lina, which makes the final battles quite easy.

 

The story gains some interest later in the game when you learn more about why Lina’s memory is missing; it’s nothing amazing but it’s entertaining enough. Then once you beat the main game you get a short post-game storyline where you can choose any party, giving you a chance you use your favorite characters in the end part.

This game has a translation patch. It’s definitely worth playing if you are a fan of the Slayers anime (or light novels); as an RPG it’s somewhat lacking but it’s a smooth playthrough and doesn’t have anything that will frustrate you.

Next up is Sansara Naga 2.

SRPG Game 45 – Bounty Sword (end)

I finally finished the game; this took a long time. I found a similar pattern to other games I’ve played — things that were initially minor irritations became major problems with the game. While overall I think this is a decent game for the time, there are three big issues with it.

The first is the pathfinding. I felt like I was constantly fighting with the AI to get the units to move to sensible places. Especially any map with a river bridge or narrow steps was a nightmare because the characters would often have a tough time finding it. Even if they did, if there’s anyone on the bridge blocking their way, they immediately turn around and try to find a different way across. 

 

The second is the AI options available. They really need a “stay away from the enemies” option. Way too often the healers and magicians move right next to the enemies for no good reason. A “stay together” option would have been nice too.

The third problem is one that I also encountered in Hiouden, the only other RTS game I’ve played so far. Some of the later enemies can only be beaten by spamming moves, and it’s hard to open the menu when you have spells and moves going off all over the board, each of which pauses the game and takes you to that unit. A lot of the later battles involve using moves and then hammering A to get the status screen up again so you can use the move again before the enemy heals itself or uses some nasty move.

 

Coming into the third section of the game I was stopped for a while against one of the Machine Gods (one of 12). I did barely any damage to it and it healed itself. Eventually I watched a youtube video and follow their strategy — I leveled up Mika the Ninja until she became a Ninja Master and could use Bunshin-giri, which is a powerful technique that I used on many bosses after this.

 

The story basically disappeared in the third section. Kurisu becomes the leader of the resistance group against the Empire for no clear reason, and every map is just clearing out more Empire forces. Eventually there’s a bit more but it doesn’t rise above RPG cliches, which was unfortunate given the promising beginning.

I wrote some about the “12 rings” you could find in the game — I was under the impression these were optional items, but they are required to finish the game. Most of them are not hard to find; you just revisit areas after you finish them and they’ll be there.

 

My final team was Faust the magician (pretty overpowered), Mika the Ninja Master, Kurisu, Roger the Dragon Knight, and Milandra the Bishop. Usually the battles involve keeping the team together, although trying to get the mage and priest away from the enemies. Kurisu, Roger, and Faust have good crowd control moves while Mika is useful for taking out bosses.

There was one stage I could not beat — it had a wizard who cannot be hurt, but uses these incredibly powerful spells. I guess you have to beat everyone else to win the stage, but it’s not a required stage so I just skipped it.

I think this game could have been a lot better. Unfortunately Double Edge is not well regarded, so it may not be much better than this.

I think this means 3 hours and 25 minutes total for the battles, although that doesn’t count the pausing.