Monthly Archives: November 2020

SFC Game 52 – Samsara Naga 2 (Finished)

I started the game over and made it to world 3 with the Blue and Red dragons this time. The “feed” part was still annoying — I saved every single monster I fought up to that scene and I still ended up having to grind another 100-150 monster corpses. I get the idea of feeding your baby dragons, but did they have to make it that much?

World 3 is a lava world. As usual Amrita screwed things up by stealing their Sisilla Drops that they use to freeze the lava, so we have to get those first. Afterwards we actually catch a glimpse of Amrita at an inn, but before we wake up she leaves, leaving behind a note telling us not to follow her. Heading on we come to the Dragon Guild for this world, which (surprise) has been destroyed by Amrita, who was trying to find out something about the dragons. Most of this world is taken up by a large dungeon (Asura’s dungeon) that is done in parts. The minotaur dungeon is especially good because you fight one at a time, they’re easy, and they give big XP.

World 4 is a water world, and it’s been totally flooded. The water areas have annoying catfish monsters that poison you, and you can’t run from them. Eventually we have to get diving equipment to go under the sea to various temples. Finally here we meet Amrita for the first time.

She reminds us that it’s pointless to try to take her in since the previous worlds no longer exist. She’s not going to fight us, but if we want to find out what would make her betray the guild we should keep following her up the worlds. Later we meet Pannaga, a god of some kind. Amrita came to him to find out why dragons were born in the first place, but he has no idea. This seems to be something she was searching for at the Guilds as well.

World 5 is a wind world. The baby dragons finally grow some wings, and with a flight helmet our main character is able to fly on the dragons as long as they leave from a helipad or dragon catapult.

Another sleeping Dragon, a god like creature, says that Amrita asked her the same questions about dragons. She’s also been among some of the Wind Dragon Riders turning them against the Guild.

World 6 has a colosseum and you have to exchange your Rupees for Megarupees, so try to save some selling items and monster corpses.

You have to win 8 battles to proceed (though not all at once). Some walkthroughs claim you have to be alone to do this, but this isn’t actually the case. You do have to be alone to register, but once you’ve done that you can recover your dragons and fight. I only found this out because the final fight is nearly impossible alone because of the Sleep status all the enemies inflict.

Next we find that Dragon Knights and Dragonriders are in conflict on this world and are constantly fighting each other. After being accepted by the Dragon Knights, Kurisu becomes a girl in the King’s harem, but after escaping, the two sides attack each other leaving every place open for looting (tons of treasure chests!)

World 7 is interesting. All it is is a long tower with eight Haratama restaurants. Six of them represent the previous worlds, and you learn how each one was destroyed after you left it. After that, going back to them you see a replay of Amrita visiting them, and learn more about her. Apparently the Guild tried to destroy her black dragon, which is why she fought back against them. The Guild has been framing her for all the bad stuff that happened on each world. But she herself believes there might be something wrong with her dragon, but how could a dragon master kill her own dragon?

World 8 is the last one. It’s a sequence of areas that are mostly various kinds of mazes. 

Amrita is at the end. She was impossible when I fought her at first, looking at a walkthrough I found that you should be at least level 55 by this point, I was at 41. With the tedious battle system of this game there was no way I was going to grind that many levels, so I used a code — unfortunately the only code I could find was a level 99 one, so the last two fights were very easy.

Amrita’s worst fears have come to pass — her black dragon will become the Chaos Dragon, who is responsible for the destruction of the worlds so far and will eventually destroy everything. After fighting you to make sure you’re strong enough, she asks you to kill the Chaos Dragon for her.

The Chaos Dragon is the “Final Dragon” that all dragons were leading towards, and the goal was to bring Kurisu’s White Dragon together with the Chaos Dragon. Indeed, the white dragon (Ruth) has to sacrifice herself to destroy the Chaos Dragon in the end.

 After the fight, you’re suddenly back in the first town, but now the main character is named Ruth. Amrita is there. Canth and Ramoth (my baby dragons) have been reincarnated as people, and Al Sinha (who helped us throughout the game) is a cow. Once again, Ruth had been found clutching an egg — the egg hatches, and the white dragon Kurisu is born. Roll credits.

I think the idea is that by beating the Chaos Dragon, the world is now reborn in a more stable form, without the Chaos Dragon? It doesn’t really explain what happened.

The story and world are pretty interesting in this game, although I would have liked them to flesh out the ending a bit more. The graphics are ugly, as I said before.

But the big problem, as usual, is the battle system. The battles are just so slow and plodding, the grunt monsters so strong, and the random encounter rate so high, that the game becomes a chore to play. I ran from most of the fights in the last few worlds and used a code to strengthen my guys; I would have never finished this game on a real console.

Also the equipment breaking system is incredibly annoying and totally unnecessary; I don’t know what the designers thought it added to the game.

No more Samsara Naga games were made, but in 2001, the first two games were remade for Game Boy Advance. The graphics are a lot better and the interface looks better too, but I don’t know if any of the fundamental problems of the battle system were addressed.

SRPG Game 47 – Tactics Ogre (wrapup)

 

  1. Turn type: Turns based on WT (see first post)
  2. Maps: Medium
  3. Character Customization: Characters can change class freely (if they meet the stat requirements)
  4. Character Development: Standard XP/level system.
  5. Party Size: 10 in one battle.
  6. Equipment: Four equipment slots (including items)
  7. Game Flow: Sequential battles, with random battles and training available. Chapters 2 and 3 have multiple routes.
  8. Saving: On the world map
  9. Death: Permanent

 

As I said in the first post, this game is innovative in many ways. The storyline is strong — in its complexity and depth it’s far beyond any other SRPG that has come before it. I don’t know if this game in particular inspired other designers, but going forward there are a number of other games that incorporate the kind of complicated political situations and warring empires that we see in TO.

This also is the first game to really incorporate 3D maps, with height playing a significant role in the game. The game also offers a lot of replayability, with two Chapter 2s and three Chapter 3s. You can also recruit a wide variety of monsters and special characters, meaning you can play the game through with totally different parties.

That being said, I think there are some significant flaws in the game. The first one is how unbalanced the different classes are, and the flawed implementation of the armor system. The second is that being just a few levels below the enemy makes it very hard to fight them — they can often do enormous damage to you and do very little in return. This means you have to spend a lot of time in training equalizing levels, and if you fall too far behind the story bosses you may even have to grind up.

As I’ve mentioned in the Fire Emblem posts, I also do not like permanent death. I think maybe it’s not as bad in this game as others because you can persuade enemies to your team, but it’s annoying when enemies gang up on someone and kill them in just a few hits.

Ultimately I think this game is worth playing, although I would recommend either the Playstation version or just use save states on the Super Famicom version to simulate how things would be in the PSX version (where you can save in the middle of a map).

The designers would go on to implement many of the same kind of ideas in Final Fantasy Tactics, which has some of the flaws and good points of this game.

SRPG Game 47 – Tactics Ogre (Part 2)

I have now finished TO so I will try to cover the rest of the game in this post.

I took the Law route, which means I will be doing chapter 2L and 3L. The Neutral chapter 3 is only available from the Chaos route, and then the routes converge in chapter 4. The Law route involves sticking with the Walstan side despite their slaughter of the innocent people in Baramus.

The old LUCT site has a translation of the entire story if you want to see it in detail.

The first few battles of this chapter aren’t bad as we head towards Ashton, but the Ashton battle is rough. This is the only time in the game I had to grind levels beyond just equalizing everyone’s level. The enemy leader, Aloser, is an archer and is quite strong. She could kill a number of my guys from full HP with 100% chance from the front, and even if she couldn’t, the other enemies could pick them off. I found that in general, being more than 2 levels below the enemy leader made it quite difficult.

Kurisu is a berserker there, which was a mistake — I forgot that his alignment would not qualify him for Terror Knight. By chapter 4 I had changed him to a Ninja and then a Swordmaster. He was never one of the stars of the team, but with a spear he managed to do OK. He also was my main caster of Petrobreath. It took me a long time to realize how good this spell is, but if you can cast it over an area you can take multiple enemies out of the battle completely with one spell. This helps also with collecting the stat cards and healing in multi-part battles.

The next tricky battle is against Wynoa; she has a fire orb and uses it first round to do big damage to a lot of people. So it’s time for the Cure Leafs.

After Duke Ronway’s feint attempt fails, Leonard decides to have Kurisu assassinate Ronway and assume command of the Walstans. He agrees, and we head off to Amorika, but face Vice and Aloser again on the way. This is another tough fight because they both have bows and can team up on guys.

Then it’s on to Amorika, where we fight a big battle inside.

The main challenge of pretty much the rest of the game is just preventing guys from getting ganged up on and killed. I had to try a bunch of different approaches to this until I was finally able to take out the knight.

Then we have a one-on-one with Leonard; his actual plan was to have Kurisu kill Ronway, then he would kill Kurisu to unify the Walstans after killing Ronway’s assassin. It’s Vice and Kurisu vs. Leonard.

Vice does most of the damage here, but I think I gave Kurisu a bow also so that he could keep out of Leonard’s way. With Leonard dead, Kurisu gains control of the Walstan army. The next battle is annoying.

The terrain and weather really benefit the enemies a lot, particularly the dragons. It’s a slog to beat them all. I then picked up Jenounes at the next castle, who turned out to be an excellent person all the way to the end. He got a Firedrake sword which made him very effective against dragons.

The rest of the chapter was fairly smooth, especially once I got Vice and the other new units who were quite good. This was essentially my party for the rest of the game, except that I replaced the cleric with Kachua once I got her:

I had some trouble with this fight near the end of chapter 3:

The enemies don’t move until you cross the river at the base, and as usual they can team up on someone and kill them pretty easily. So you have to play it cautiously (and if you realize how broken Petrobreath is it’s probably easier than it was for me).

The most bullshit fight in this chapter, and possibly the game, is the 1-on-1 vs Oz near the end of 3L. I don’t like it when games spring this kind of battle on you, particularly as the second battle in a sequence where you can’t save. Oz can kill Kurisu in two hits which makes it very hard to survive here — in the end I had to do a lot of class changes and different combinations until I beat him (I don’t remember the exact setup).

Chapter 4! Kachua is now a queen and we just have the Lodis people and Branta left. From here to the end, the majority of battles were overall the same — the basic tactics involved just waiting for the enemies to come, going mostly for the leader, and equalizing levels between battles. By the end of the game I had developed by team enough that I could do more than just beat the leader.

The Barbas fight was tough until I could get him to move into the right spot where I could gang up on him. The next fight against Lancelot was quite difficult. I honestly can’t see playing this on a real console where you can’t save at all during or between battles. Lancelot did an enormous amount of damage to my guys and it was just a chess game to make sure that he and the Warp Knights could not kill anyone.

Branta at the end is not too bad because he’s a Bishop, so his defense is quite low. As long as you can avoid the Terror Knights killing anyone, just getting a few units into his range should finish him off (although those Angel Knights he summons are annoying).

The last section is Sky Garden, which is a sequence of as many as 18(!!!) battles without any saving, followed by a sequence of 4 battles without saving. Before this I went to Hell Gate just to get Fudo on level 6.

I ran into trouble when the Dragon with a Wind Orb showed up. I had to do a lot of maneuvering before I could survive that battle; in the end I had to take a death of my Wizard, but he had the Death Ring so he became a Lich. I gave Fudo to Jenounes since he had high DEX and good defense.

The final battle is rough. Dolgare has ridiculous defense and comes with a lot of scary dudes. Fudo is really the key here since it ignores defense — two hits from Jenounes was enough to kill him along with one bowshot. Canopus died in the final battle, which was sad since he had been one of my most important characters for the whole game.

Overall I have mixed feelings about this game but I will sum them up in another post.

Update

I just finished Tactics Ogre, and restarted Samsara Naga 2. I’m going to use a cheat code to get the necessary monster corpses to pass that stupid baby feeding part, but hopefully I can quickly get back to World 3 with the correct dragon combination, and can make an update next weekend.

SRPG Game 47 – Tactics Ogre (Part 1)

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (タクティクスオウガ) 
Released 10/6/1995, Developed and published by Quest
 

“Turbo File” was a Japan-only accessory for the SFC that allowed you to store save games externally

 

This is the second game in the Ogre Battle franchise, representing Chapter 7 in a theoretical eight chapter story (although the plot has basically no connection to the original game which was Chapter 5). Like the first game and the franchise name as a whole, the title is taken from a Queen song. The game is very different from its predecessor — while it kept the general character classes and the “Chaos Frame” (reputation) idea, the game is a 3/4 view strategy RPG rather than a real time strategy game. Both the story and gameplay are clearly heavy influences on the later Final Fantasy Tactics.

The plot is a huge advance in storytelling for SRPGs; I can see this clearly from having played pretty much everything that came before. Probably the most developed plots before this were Der Langrisser and Super Robot Taisen 4, but neither game really comes close to the complexity of TO’s storyline and characterization. Apparently the designer Matsuno was inspired by the breakup of Yugoslavia and the resulting ethnic conflicts and atrocities. I’m old enough to remember the NATO bombings during Bill Clinton’s presidency. In the TO story, the land of Valeria was united under King Dorgalua, but he died with no clear heir and the kingdom broke up into the former ethnic groups — the Bakram, Galgastan, and Walstan. The main character (Kurisu, the default name is Denim) is Walstan, and at the beginning of the game the Walstani are the weakest of the groups, having been the subject of ethnic cleansing by the Galgastan theocracy, and having these two powerful states around them. Kurisu, his sister, and his friend Vise are members of a resistance force trying to free the Walstani.

Having the main character be in a resistance army is not a new thing; I’ve played several games before that have this. What sets this story apart is the moral ambiguity of all the sides; drawing from real conflicts, Matsuno avoided the usual trope of making the resistance army the band of heroes of the light vs. the dark, evil empires. I’ll put the more spoilery stuff lower in the post if you want to avoid it.

Incidentally, this is the first game I played in Japanese where I actually tried to look everything up and understand it. I played it in 2002 or 2003, although I think I stopped playing in the middle of chapter 2. 

You start with an opening section that’s like Der Langrisser and some other games, where you answer questions to determine the starting stats of your main character. Unfortunately the questions are incomprehensible and give you no indication whatsoever of what kind of character you’re creating or what’s going on. 

The game begins with a few missions that are basically tutorials, where you have a battle mostly with guests and we free Duke Ronway of Walstani. We then become his “young heroes” who will fight to ave the Walstani people. I’m not going to go into great detail on the plot since you can play this in English.

The game is graphically impressive, and apparently the game was delayed as much of a year largely because of how much effort they put into the graphics and especially the sprite animations. Matsuno eschewed the typical anime style of characters and went with a more realistic look.

Of course the victory screen is where the title of my blog comes from — as I said the intro, the phrase perfectly captures what to me is the essence of a SRPG, when you struggle and think your way through a stage to finally beat it and get the Congratulations message.

After that first set of battles, we’re on our own. Kachua (Kurisu’s sister) and Vice are NPCs who you can’t control, and then you have a set of soldiers and valkyries. Just like in Ogre Battle, they need to be levelled up before they can switch to other classes.

The battle system is based on WT — rather than a turn-based system, characters act based on their WT, which is lowered by agility and not having too much equipped. Other games before this have had speed-based turn systems, but this may be the first game where characters act entirely based on their WT and there is no concept of a “turn” where everyone acts. Characters who choose not to move or not to act will act more quickly, and it is possible for one character to take more actions than another. I can’t say for certain that this has not been done before because some games were a little ambiguous, but it could be.

The problem with the system is that they didn’t quite get the balance right. Equipping armor lowers your WT. Everyone can equip any armor, but certain classes benefit more from it because the defense increase is related to a P. RES stat that is based on your class. The problem is that the way they implemented the system means that armor is rarely a good choice for anyone, because the speed, hit, and dodge penalties you get are not worth the defense increase from the armor.

 

The game also has height and facing — Front Mission had height and I think maybe Lady Phantom had facing, but neither system was common at the time this game came out. The other unusual system is that everyone starts a battle with 0 MP and the magic points recover as the time passes. This means that you cannot run healers out of MP or anything like that. Magics are equipped, and the AoE of the magic increases based on your caster’s MEN stat.

Each character also has an element, which affects their stats based on the type of ground they stand on, and also their compatibility with enemies.

Denim can recruit enemies by Persuading them; this is more useful for getting their equipment than actually recruiting them for your team, although it’s the best way to get monsters on your team. The problem is that characters have a Loyalty stat that’s pretty low for enemy persuades, and they might leave your team if things get too bad.

The game has permanent death of units. I have said in my Fire Emblem reviews that I do not like this system. Especially in this game where differences in levels make such a huge difference, it often becomes necessary to train between battles just to keep your levels equal, and sometimes you even have to level up more. The grunts in a mission are all set at the highest level guy you have, but the leaders have fixed levels. There are several battles that pit you against archers that can do enormous damage with 100% chance to hit even from the front, making it hard to survive the battle without doing some outside levelling.

The PSX version allowed in battle saves so I have been using some save states, but even so you can’t just keep reloading until they miss (that would be tedious anyway).

This is my party near the end of chapter 1. The Chapter 1 ending has a big choice — Duke Rowen’s plan is to massacre a town of Walstan to try to raise support for fighting against enemies. Denim gets to choose whether to participate in the massacre or go against Rowen. Regardless of which you pick, Denim does not actually do the massacre himself, Vice becomes your enemy, and Denim gets a bad reputation. I went for the massacre route because the “don’t do it” seems like the obvious choice that a lot of people will take. This puts me on the Law route.

Those are some pretty intense scenes for something that your main character approves of!

I’m currently near the end of chapter 2. My party is basically the same as above. Kurisu is a barbarian, but bows are still much better than anything else. The Archers are the overpowered class of this game (I’m using two). I just lost a fight and will need to equalize everyone’s levels and try again. But I don’t want to get in a cycle of “rush the leader and win the battle, train to equalize levels, repeat” because that’s just not a satisfying way to play a SRPG. But leaving the leaders alive often mean opening yourself up to a unit dying with little notice.