Monthly Archives: February 2021

SFC Game 58 – Live a Live (Part 1)

Live a Live (ライブ・ア・ライブ)
Released 9/2/1994, developed and published by Square
 

  

Square games are always a welcome sight; even if they end up not being all that good, at least they’re memorable experiences and you know they’re going to try something new. In this case, the basis of the game is that you play seven different stories of different types (really just based on different movie/TV cliches): Prehistoric, Kung Fu, Western, Ninja, Modern, Near Future, and Sci-fi. 

But Square didn’t stop at just making seven different normal RPG stories. Each story plays very differently, and in all the scenarios there are things you can do differently each time you play, and often optional content as well. So even though the scenarios are pretty short, there is replayability.

I always wondered how to pronounce the title; according to the katakana, both words in the title rhyme with “five”. The game was developed by a number of notable people in the company, including the music by Yoko Shimamura, known for her work on Street Fighter II, Kingdom Hearts, and other games.

You are free to do the seven scenarios in any order, and you can even replay a scenario when you’re done. You can also back out of a scenario and pick a different one, although you’ll have to start the other scenario over if you want to go back to it. Once you finish all seven scenarios there’s a final conclusion scenario.

 

I started with the prehistoric scenario. The intro tells you that this is a time without speech, and indeed, there is no dialogue at all in the story. (The idea that prehistoric people had no language, or that they used a grunting form of communication is highly suspect and doubted by most linguists.)

 
The main character, Poko, is a member of a cave tribe. A girl sneaks in, and though the old elder doesn’t like it, Poko hides her and feeds her. When some people from a rival tribe decide to kidnap her, Poko is ejected from the tribe for going against the elder, and he goes in search of the girl.

This is a pretty traditional RPG scenario. None of them have any money, so the only way you get new equipment and items is by finding them, or in this scenario, combining multiple items to make a new piece of equipment (which you can do by talking to certain people).

Battles play out on a grid. You move around and attack, and once you’ve used up all the movement/action for your side the enemies can go. It’s an interesting system but I wish it were clearer when the enemies would get to act. You also share your actions with the other people in the party, so that you can ‘pass’ and have one person take all the actions.

Each character has a number of moves that have range and area of effect. None of the moves in the caveman story have any descriptions, which is annoying, but you can find out what they do. There are basic attacks, farts that poison people and affect an area, throwing fruit, and such. Upon levelling up (at 100 XP) you can uncover new techniques. I believe level 16 is the max level. Also, your HP recover to full at the start of each battle.

I found the balance rather poor in this story; I kept hitting parts where enemies were doing enormous damage and I had to go back and grind a bit, and even then run away.

The graphics are a mixed bag — the monster sprites in battle are well done, but out of battle the graphics are at about Metal Max 2 or FF5 level. They’re not as good as FF6 or Romancing Saga 2.

Eventually Poko saves the girl but then has to team up with her and the guy who captured her to find ODO, a spirit of some sort. And that’s the end of the scenario.

Next up I chose the Kung Fu scenario, but I messed it up so I had to back out and try later, I’ll cover it in the next post (and discuss the mistake I made).

So I went on to the bakumatsu (end of Edo period) chapter, where you play a ninja. This is a complicated and long chapter, but what I found the most frustrating about it was how dark the graphics were. I understand that it’s a ninja episode so he’s operating in the shadows, but when the player can’t see the screen well enough to even know where things are it’s a problem, and at least on my laptop I was not able to turn the contrast up enough. It was easier to play at night when I could dim the lights and see better, but I don’t like playing this way. 

This chapter involves Oboromaru sneaking into a compound to kill the leader. The layout of the dungeon is very complex, with a lot of hidden doors and passages to multiple places. The game keeps track of how many people you kill — it’s possible, though difficult, to complete the scenario with 0 kills. If you do this you get a bonus weapon. But it’s much easier just to kill people you come across, which is what I did. (You can press and hold down Y to hide)

Along the way Oboro finds keys, goes through watery passageways, sneaks on the roof, encounters women (who can be killed along with the samurai) meets up with a guy trapped in a cell, and ultimately makes his way to Ode Iou, the boss. Once he’s beaten you get a demon:

 
The key to most difficult fights is positioning. In general, enemies are given powerful attacks that only work along diagonals, or at range, or close-up, etc. So you often have to play the battle a few times to figure out where to stand, and then it’s reasonably easy to win the fight. Fortunately you can save anywhere so if you die you don’t have to go back very far.
It turns out the prisoner was Sakamoto Ryoma, and you can join him to make a better Japan or go back to being a Ninja (this doesn’t really matter).

My next choice was the Western-themed one, which is based on classic Western movies and shows (I think this one is especially indebted to Shane).

This chapter is also much shorter than the others I played. Sundown Kid, the main character, comes into this stereotypical western town after another gunfight with Mad Hat, his rival. It turns out that the town is being terrorized by a gang of toughs known as the Crazy Bunch. Sundown teams up with Mad Hat to take them down, with the help of the townspeople.

You have to rush around and find as many items as you can to give to the townspeople to make traps. There’s not much indication of what the traps will be, but the more traps you can set, the fewer people you’ll fight in the final sequence. You do have a time limit, and that includes giving the townspeople time to set up the traps.

 
I think I only found about half the traps items I needed, even though I searched every house. So the Bunch was still pretty large when I had to fight them.

Even so they weren’t very hard. The boss (Dio) is easy if you stay off the diagonals. Then Sundown Kid has a final showdown with Mad Dog and rides off into the sunset.

So far this is a pretty decent game, although at times annoying. I should have it finished by next weekend unless the final scenario is really long.

SRPG Game 51 – Sangokushi Eiketsuden

Sangokushi Eiketsuden (三國志英傑伝)
Released 12/28/1995, developed and published by Koei
 

 

  

Koei is a company well known for its historical simulation games, a reputation that began with Nobunaga’s Ambition in 1983. In the 80s and 90s pretty much all their games were first developed for computers, and then ported to a variety of home consoles (although they seem to have handled the ports themselves). Nowadays I think most people know them for Dynasty Warriors and spinoffs; when I was a kid the Romance of the Three Kingdoms strategy games were their best known product in the West. (They’re also known for their very expensive games; prices of 13,000-15,000 yen were common for their Super Famicom games).

Koei released five strategy RPGs in the “Eiketsuden” series, three based around the Chinese “Three Kingdoms” period, and two in the Sengoku period of Japan. All of them were made initially for computer, and four of them were ported to consoles (Sangokushi Cao Cao-den was never ported). The first one is the game I’m playing here. It was ported to Super Famicom, Playstation, and Saturn. As far as I can tell, the three versions are almost identical other than minor graphical differences, so I’ll just play the SFC one. 

 

 

The story seems to generally follow the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel, although the main ending does not follow the novel (see below). Apparently there’s also slightly different outcomes depending on your turn count and Liu Bei’s level. I’m not going to go into great detail summarizing the story since it follows Three Kingdoms so closely and there are so many Chinese people and place names that would be a chore to look up.

The main character is Liu Bei, along with the usual companions Zhang Fei and Guan Yu. The opening scene shows the Peach Garden Oath (although with no text) and then the story jumps to the fight against Dong Zhuo. I think the game does a decent job of telling the broad story without being too confusing, but a lot of the detail is lost. And (although I haven’t read Three Kingdoms) I think that without the detail the story just seems like a series of battles. Probably for fans of Three Kingdoms this aspect is a lot more satisfying.

 

One issue I had with the game is that because they have to follow the Three Kingdoms story, there are a large number of characters, and the game is constantly throwing new characters at you that are much better than your current group. So you don’t have that feeling of building up a party of characters throughout the game unless you intentionally avoid using the better characters. Most of the time I barely knew who my party was other than just stats and their unit type.

 

I can’t read some of these names

 

 

There’s another issue with the Three Kingdoms story that Koei always has to deal with. They went with Liu Bei, Zhang Fei, and Guan Yu as the main characters. But in history (and in the original Three Kingdoms novel), Liu Bei ultimately fails in his goal to restore the Han monarchy. Guan Yu is killed by a betrayal, and after losing the Battle of Xiaoting he basically retreated to his castle and died there a year later. Ultimately Sima Yi, who is a main antagonist, is able to win and unite the realm under his son, who founds the Jin Dynasty.

There are a lot of branching paths in the game, although most of them are just minor variations or choosing which of several simultaneous battles you’ll do. The game does have a “historical ending” that you can get by losing several battles in a row and making certain dialogue choices, but the designers certainly want you to go for the ahistorical ending where Liu Bei restores the Han monarchy.

So that’s the story. The gameplay is divided into 4 chapters. Each one has a series of battles, but you can also sometimes travel on the map and visit places in town to buy equipment and talk to people.

 

 

There are a variety of items and equipment you can get, but I found them fairly useless overall. The weapons and armor give only very slight increases to stats — like +2 to a stat that’s at 250. Some of the unique stuff you can find in battles is a bit better. The one exception are the horses, which are good to equip because they increase movement rate. There are also attack and heal items; I barely used these after the initial stages but maybe they can ease your progress if you make better use of them.

The people in the bars and meeting areas give you some hints on how to play the game and use the system, and a bit of information about the world.

 

Each character has a class. The main classes are swordsman, horseman, and archer. Each of these have two upgrades (one at level 20, one at 40). In addition to these classes there are tacticians, foreigners, ninja-type units, and a few others. You can get items to change people into these classes, but they have no upgrades. As I said earlier, the whole class change and upgrading thing is not as satisfying as it should be because of how many overpowered characters they throw at you starting in about the middle game. I spent a long time with my initial archer levelling him up painstakingly to the highest class (catapult), but right before I was able to do it the game gave me two catapult guys that were way above his level.

There are also tactics (basically spells) that all characters have. Liu Bei gets great healing techniques that help out a lot, whereas Zhuge Liang and some of the other powerful tacticians get huge damaging spells that are also very useful by the end of the game. The tactics of most of the other characters are not quite as useful, but they help in a pinch and the healing spells at least gain XP.

 

 

 Of course most of the time is spent in battle. This is typical player-enemy turn style. Terrain gives bonuses, but can also hinder movement (and horsemen cannot go into forest, whereas the side classes can sometimes go into the mountains). There is a weapon triangle system with swordsman->archer->horse->swordsman, but I don’t know how or if the other classes fit into this. Characters also have a zone of control so that in many cases you cannot pass by them (sometimes I was allowed to pass by but I never figured out why — it may be that Lu Bu’s horse gives a special power but I don’t think so).

Usually the goal is to defeat the leader, but there are sometimes other victory conditions instead (like reaching a base, getting Liu Bei next to a unit, running away, etc.) Typically the alternate conditions give you XP, which is a bit Feda-like.

 

In many battles, if you move certain units next to other units, they will fight and you’ll automatically kill the enemy. Sometimes the pre-battle dialogue makes it obvious, other times you just have to get lucky. In a few cases these result in the unit joining your team rather than dying.

 

The indoor maps can be difficult because of how easily units can block areas, and hit you with their archers from behind walls. Unit blocking can also be a problem with bridges on overworld maps. Overall the difficulty of the game is not that high, although the most difficult part is the middle part.

 

 

The final battle is against Cao Cao, who faked his death, but if you can reach him he’s not too bad. He has a spell that does half of everyone’s HP in damage but even standing on the good defensive terrain I was able to beat him in two turns with just half my party there.

 

 

Overall this game is decent. It gets a bit long and tedious, which is a common problem with SRPGs, and I probably would have enjoyed it more if I was a bigger Three Kingdoms fan. We’ll return to this series in 1997 with Koumei (Zhuge Liang)-den for Playstation — from what I can see on a quick view of youtube videos, it’s relatively close to this game, but we’ll see.

Here is a later addition I’m making to this post to cover the Playstation and Saturn versions. As far as I can tell the gameplay, story text, stages, etc. is exactly the same as the original. The graphics look different from the SFC; the maps are done in a different perspective, and instead of sprites during the story sequences there are just pictures of the characters.

The Saturn version and the Playstation version are the same.

Glory of Heracles

Glory of Heracles (闘人魔境伝 ヘラクレスの栄光)
Released 6/12/1987, by Data East, for Famicom

I’m still playing Sangokushi Eiketsuden for my other blog. As I said in the previous post, when I don’t have a post ready for this blog, I’m going to make a short post about some other retro RPG. I’ll play it for a short time (1-2 hours at most). This is not a new chronological project, just a way to make a quick post to fill a gap here.

This post is for Heracles no Eikou (The Glory of Heracles). The third game in this series was one of the early games I played here, and Glory of Heracles IV is a 1994 game that I will get to later. So I thought I would go back and see how the series started.

As far as I can tell, this game is the first RPG imitating the Dragon Quest style. Dragon Quest 1 and 2 had already come out by this point, but it took a while before other companies began to mimic their design. Rather than the generic fantasy world of Dragon Quest, Data East used ancient Greek mythology as the basis for their game.

As is typical for games of this era, the game itself gives no backstory — upon starting the game you’re immediately dropped in Athens. The instruction manual has the story. Hades has captured Venus, and Heracles has come from Olympia to save her. 

 The graphics are pretty underwhelming even for this era — look at how Heracles gets lost in the brown color of the floor. The inside of the buildings is also strange:

Dragon Quest did a much better job with their limited graphics.

It appears that the game involves defeating 12 bosses (reminiscent of the challenges of Hercules from mythology) and then defeating Hades. You cannot save your game; instead you have to visit a person in town to get a password. Many western players do not know that the first two Dragon Quest games in Japan used passwords instead of saves. In the early days of the Famicom, the battery backed memory had not yet been developed. The Famicom Disk System had come out in 1986, which allowed saving games as well as larger games than the cartridges of the time could hold. But Data East stuck with the cartridges.

The password system is strangely implemented. Using it allows you to preserve your levels, equipment, and items. But all the bosses you defeated return, and all the chests in dungeons can be taken again. This seems to mean that you do not actually need to defeat all 12 bosses to win the game. Some of them have items that you need to win, but others just give XP/gold or items that might be useful but not necessary to win. I understand that Data East wanted to keep the passwords shorter (the DQ2 passwords are 41 characters), but it creates a strange playing experience. If you die you return to Athens with half your money but everything else the same. So I suppose nowadays you could just use save states on an emulator instead of passwords, although it would change the way the game played.

I wandered around Athens, getting some clues to various places I could go — everyone agreed that I should go south first and gain levels. I bought some basic equipment and a few pieces of food to restore HP. 

I bought a copper sword, copper shield, and leather clothes, which are shown on the right. Those numbers are not the strength, but the durability — as you fight and get hit, the durability goes down. You have to return to Athens and get Hephaestos to fix them before they get to 0 or they will break and disappear. You can also hire him for 5000 gold and then he’ll be permanently in your inventory and automatically fix things after each battle.

I’m not sure what the stats of equipment is or even if they have stats — apparently the weapons have different compatibility with different types of monsters (which is listed in the manual).

I left the city and headed south. Unlike Dragon Quest, the city and overworld are not on separate maps. I quickly encountered my first enemy.

As in DQ1, each fight is one on one. Running is pretty effective; I’m not sure what talking does. The instruction manual warns you to be careful doing it but doesn’t say what it actually does.

I gained a level wandering around, but ran into an Iron Golem that blocked the way and was impossible to defeat. However, you can simply run from him and pass by, which leads to the second city, Pella. This is actually where I stopped playing — I intended to do a bit more than this, but this game is really bad. It’s slow moving, ugly, and the annoying blacksmith feature means you have to keep running back to Athens.

So this is not a good outing for Data East, and according to the Wikipedia page it was not received well in Japan — it was criticized for its poor game balance, lack of in-game guidance, and difficult puzzles with inadequate clues. There were also ways you could mess up your game, by selling key items or running into certain bugs that would stop you from being able to finish the game.

I should be able to do a Live a Live post next week, but next time I have a free week I’ll do Glory of Heracles II to see how they improved on the original.

1996 Preview

Sangokushi Eiketsuden is going to take me a little while more and I don’t feel like making an intermediate post about it, so I’ll post the 1996 game list since I’m on the final 1995 game.

1996 is a longer list than any year before; from here there are many games each year until non-mobile games as a whole start to decline in the 2010s. The final SFC games (other than Fire Emblem 5) are here, and Saturn and Playstation will become the dominant platforms for several years. Lots of well known games here, though.

Games list:

  • Bahamut Lagoon (SFC) – I’m going to play this with the new English patch that byuu/near just released.
  • Power Dolls FX (PC-FX) – This is close to not being an SRPG but I think it qualifies.
  • Dragon Force (SAT) – I’ve heard that no emulator runs this correctly, although Kronos claims compatibility.
  • Der Langrisser FX (PC-FX) – Going for Independent/Chaos route
  • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of Holy War (SFC)
  • Treasure Hunter G (SFC) – I’m not entirely sure this is an SRPG by my definition but we’ll see when we get here.
  • Energy Breaker (SFC) – The last SFC game until 1999
  • Sakura Taisen (SAT)
  • Langrisser III (SAT)
  • Vandal Hearts (PSX/SAT) – Which platform?
  • Arc the Lad II (PSX)
  • Riglord Saga II (SAT)
  • Harukaze Sentai V-Force (PSX or SAT) – There are going to be a lot of PSX/SAT games in this section and I guess I’ll have to evaluate which one to do on a case-by-case basis I guess. Generally PSX emulation is more reliable than SAT but I think many times SAT has better sound?
  • Funky Fantasy (SAT)
  • Terra Fantastica (SAT)

In addition to those, I’ll be making posts about Masou Kishin and Shin Super Robot Taisen as before, with just overviews and old message board posts.

Skipped games:

  • Super Robot Taisen 4S (PSX) — this is notable as the first Super Robot Taisen game that has voicing, but it’s just a remake of the SFC game.
  • Sangokushi Eiketsuden (SAT/PSX) — As far as I can see, these are basically the same port as the SFC version so there’s no reason to play it separately.
  • Ogre Battle and Tactics Ogre (PSX) – Same as above, this is too similar to the SFC version.
  • Farland Story FX (PC-FX) — This is a remake of FS1 for the Super Famicom. It actually has a lot of upgrades from the SFC Farland Story, with voiced dialogue and various interface improvements, but the game is still basically the same bad, boring, bland game as before.
  • Dragon Knight 4 (SFC) — I’ll be playing the Playstation version of this game in 1997.

Rejected games:

  • Taiko Risshinden — This series is listed by some sites as an SRPG series but it doesn’t fit my definition.
  • Monstania — I’m still not sure if this is an SRPG or just an RPG with grid battles.
  • SD Gundam Generation games — These don’t have any unique characters that stick with you and level up. I will be skipping the SDGGG games unless they’re the SRW-style crossover games like Gather Beat.
  • First Queen IV (PSX) – I initially had this on my list; while I did enjoy FQ1, this really isn’t an SRPG. It’s a rather unique combination of strategy and action, but it doesn’t really fit my definition.

SFC Game 57 – Mother 2 (Finished)

 Four “Sanctuaries” down, four to go. The next destination is Summers, which is a resort area and a large beach.

 The beginning part of this doesn’t make much sense; you have to learn the private phone number to get access to the Stoic Club and then eat magic cake so that you pass out and control goes over to Poo, the fourth character.

Poo is training to be a king. He is a martial arts fighter with some Psi moves. If you equip him with things they lower his stats, with one exception per equipment slot (all of which have “king” in the name). Also I didn’t figure this out until now, but apparently healing items affect different people differently — so much of this item stuff would have been more interesting without the severe inventory limitation.

Once Poo finishes his training, he heads off to find our party, and we head to the next Sanctuary, back at Fourside, where we could see a Sanctuary behind a wall but could not access it. I hated this sewer dungeon; the sewers have these mice that do critical hits for more than everyone’s max HP, which means you have to constantly heal. Plus there are nasty status effects. Fortunately the dungeon is short.

The boss is not very hard. 5 of 8! There’s also a Carrot Key in the area which lets us remove the rabbit statues in Poo’s home to find the sixth Sanctuary. You have to climb ladders and fall down holes to find your way around in here. Apparently there’s a doping trick you can use here to max stats, but I usually try not to do those unless the game really sucks and I want to finish it as easily as possible.

Back to Summers, and it’s now time to go to the pyramid. Poo gets taken away for more training, leaving us down a guy for while. There’s then this weird “Dungeon Man” we enter, and eventually get in the party (this is a strange section). He has a submarine inside him, and we can use that to go to the next area, the Demon Zone.

In this area, walking in the swamp lowers HP. Unfortunately we also have to fight that stupid Burping boss again although he’s easier this time.

He drops the strongest bat in the game, but it’s a trap — it has a guaranteed miss rate of something like 75%. I didn’t notice this until I was much later in the game. The English name is “Casey Bat” which might have clued me in, but the Japanese name is just “Swing with all your might bat”. Maybe I should have noticed how much Kurisu was missing but I think playing so many poorly designed and poorly balanced games has numbed my sense that something might be wrong.

Next up is a cave where the people are too shy to talk, and so we have to go back all the way to the Onett library to help them out with a book — although first we take a detour back to Andonuts’ lab since he’s been captured along with the other scientists. The dungeon under Stonehenge has some pretty annoying monsters, including ones that explode for big damage when killed. But if you kill them last, the end of the battle will stop the HP counter from going down very much. Unfortunately they also heal the other monsters. There’s also enemies here that have a 1 in 128 chance of dropping the only weapon Poo can equip. I didn’t bother farming for it.

When we return to the Shyness cave to help the people overcome their problem, there’s a part where they ask what the player’s name is. Of course my name is the same as the character’s name but I guess it’s spelled in English (and I put in a fake Japanese last name).

Lumine Hall, where the 7th Sanctuary is, is a nasty place. The electrical enemies use very damaging hit-all spells, so it’s imperative to beat them as quickly as possible. The Franklin Badge (way back from early in the game) protects one person but that’s it.

From Lumine Hall we fall into an area where the sprites are tiny.

I felt like I almost got stuck at one point down here because everyone was dead except for Kurisu and I could not make it back to a place to revive without getting attacked (and the teleport spell required too much room). I wish there were a spell that revived people.

This Fire Spring area here is just as annoying as Lumine Hall; this time it’s a bunch of fire enemies casting huge damage attack all spells. The dungeon is not very long but the enemies are so difficult that it took me a number of tries to get through it. But eventually I won my way to the final Sanctuary!

From here the story gets pretty strange and I’m not sure I always fully understood what was going on. Kurisu has to go into his mind or something like that.

After completing this area, Kurisu gets huge powerups from the Sound Stone, in levels and stats. Now it’s time for the final fight against Gyiyg. This involves going back in time for some reason, but to do that everyone’s souls have to be put in robots. But there’s a danger that the souls might not return.

The final area is creepy. I did not notice this until I saw it pointed out on a twitch stream, but this looks like some kind of birthing canal, and the final boss has babies in the background if you look closely, so I guess we went back in time to kill Gyiyg as a baby?

Here’s the final boss, with Pocky joining him. I don’t know why Gyiyg has Kurisu’s face there.

Eventually Paula begins to pray to ask everyone for help, and people from around the world join in the prayer, doing damage to Gyiyg. The final request for prayer goes to the player.

The final boss is not too difficult, although it’s hard to keep Jeff alive.

Once the boss is beaten, Pocky goes off still with evil ambition, and all the souls return to their own time. You can now travel all over the world to talk to everyone; I didn’t do this, I just went home to Onett to finish the game. During the end credits, all the photographs that got taken during the game show in the credits sequence.

I guess it’s continued in Mother 3?

Overall this was a pretty decent game. I like the offbeat setting and the strange monsters. I felt like I could actually use my PSI moves in battle. As I said, the inventory limit really bothered me and I thought sometimes the balance was off (especially considering how hard it is to revive people away from a town). The story also got kind of weird at the end and I’m not sure I fully understood what they were going for. But overall an enjoyable experience.

I likely will not have a post next week because Sangokushi Eiketsuden on my other blog is a somewhat long game. Here’s something I’m thinking of doing — any time I don’t have a game to post about here on Saturday/Sunday, I will make a short post about some other retro game that I’ll just play for one session (1-2 hours). This is not another chronological project or something that will replace Super Famicom game posts, just a way to make this blog not be fallow while I play SRPGs. But we’ll see.

SFC Game 57 – Mother 2 (Part 1), 4th year anniversary

Mother 2: Gyiyg Strikes Back! (MOTHER2 ギーグの逆襲)
Released 8/27/1994, developed by APE and Hal Labratory
 

This is the second game in the Mother series, which began on the Famicom in 1989, continued with this game, and concluded with Mother 3 for the GBA in 2006. The designer has said he has no plans to make any more games. The games do not share plots or characters, just a similar feeling. They are all set in a contemporary-seeming world (though not actually Earth) and star kids with psychic powers fighting against strange monsters and animated objects. There are parts that intentionally parody Dragon Quest, and silly aspects.

Mother 2 is the only game that was licensed in the US (as EarthBound). I remember the hype around it in Nintendo Power and the scratch and sniff inserts that had burp and fart smells. I never played it; by 1995 I had lost interest in console RPGs and was playing computer RPGs like Might and Magic and Ultima.

The first thing you do is gave everyone names. I went with all the default stuff except Kurisu for the main character (later you have to name the player as well, though.)

A meteor lands near Kurisu’s house in Onett, and he decides to go see what’s up. After some wrangling he takes a bat and heads off.

The monsters are visible on the map, which is nice. They tend to head for you. Each monster actually represents a single enemy, but if other enemies are close by when you get into a fight they will join up. You can also get attacked from behind, although it’s relatively easy to avoid this. Another nice feature is that if you level up enough, enemies will run away from you, and if you do fight them you’ll automatically win (although even fleeing enemies might not be automatic wins).

The battle system is standard DQ2. The “PP” are psychic power points used for the psychic abilities. One interesting quirk is that the HP are displayed on a rotating dial, and so when you take damage it takes a few seconds for it to count down. If you end the battle the HP will stop counting down, and if you heal, it heals from the current spot on the dial (and stops it from going down further). So if you are fast you can heal someone who has taken lethal damage.

Anyway, Kurisu goes with some neighborhood bully/friends to the meteorite place.

There he learns from a little bee who has come from 10 years in the future that a chosen boy and three friends will defeat Gyiyg through wisdom, friendship, and courage. But back at the bully’s house his mom kills the bee, who in his dying moments says that you need to find eight places that are “Your Sanctuary” locations. A Sound Stone will record the sounds in each place. The first one is actually in Onett, the Giant Step. So that’s our first goal.

The most important thing in the game is the telephone. When you call your dad, he deposits money in your bank account and lets you save the game. This is basically in lieu of getting money from monsters but it’s nice because when you game over you only lose half of the money you’re carrying. ATMs are conveniently located all over the place. You can also call your mom to get rid of homesickness, and later order pizza or call an item storage place.

I found the inventory limitation annoying, especially since it tends to get filled with key items and items that might be useful in specific situations but are hard to justify keeping because of how few items you can carry. In general I do not like limited inventories, and for me it’s always a negative when managing inventory space is a constant element of the gameplay.

The first goal is the Giant Step in Onett. The beginning part of the game shows a common problem in RPGs of this era; since Kurisu is all by himself you basically just have to level up a bunch to have a chance to beat the early bosses. We have to take down a gang leader in the town, and then the mayor gives Kurisu a key to a cabin that leads to a cave that leads to Giant Step.

 Every “Your Sanctuary” place is guarded by a boss that appears as a star of light. The boss here is a big ant, but once he’s beaten the giant step is beyond the cave. The Stone of Sound records the sound and that’s 1 out of 8!

Now Kurisu has to beat up a bunch of policemen to be allowed to go to the next town — a lot of stuff was censored when this was brought over as Earthbound but somehow in 1995 Nintendo didn’t think this was a big deal. Maybe because it’s framed as them testing you to make sure you’re strong enough to go on.

The next place is Twoson, where we beat up yet another crime-related figure.

In Twoson we meet the scientists Apple Kid and Orange Kid, who make various devices throughout the game. We also learn about Paula, the second character. She’s been captured by some kind of blue hooded figures from Happy Happy Valley, who will use her as a human sacrifice. Apparently the cultists were changed in the English version to look less like the KKK.

The Kids give you an Octopus Erasing device (which was changed to a pencil eraser in the English version).

Paula is trapped in Happy Happy village, but she gives me a Franklin Badge to survive the electrocution of the leader.

Once I managed to beat Mr. Franklin, the cultists all go back to normal, Happy Happy Valley is freed, and Paula joins. She has a lot of attack moves (including the PK Fire from Smash Brothers). She can also use a “pray” technique that I always forgot about but can recover PP and HP when she uses it. Now we can also proceed to the second Sanctuary, the Lilliputian Steps, after beating the mole boss.

Now we need to go to the next town, but the tunnel leading there is inhabited by ghosts. The ghosts are scared away by cars, but how do we get a car? We have to release the Tonzura Brothers from their debt to the night club owner. These guys had their designs changed in Earthbound, possibly to avoid having them look like the Blues Brothers.

The dude from earlier gives us a big wad of bills and runs off to find himself, and so we can use those bills to free the Brothers, and have them take us to Threed (which is Threek in the JP version — the Legends of Localization writer wonders if they change this to avoid 3 K = KKK?)

As we might have guessed from the ghost tunnels, this place is overrun by zombies. And we quickly get captured by them, switching the action to our third character Jeff. He’s at a boarding school of some kind and is the son of Dr. Andonuts (“an” here is the red bean paste, this is a donut hole with the red bean paste in it). Paula has called out to Jeff in his dreams, and he sets out to save us. 

Jeff has no PP so cannot use psychic powers. His ability is to use various items and fix broken things you find — I never really found out how to make good use of him and he was by far my weakest and most useless character.

Jeff’s dad has a UFO that takes him to Threek, and crashes into the place where Kurisu and Paula are trapped, freeing them. Now we have three out of the four party members! After beating a zombie tent and getting “fly honey”, Apple Kid gives us Zombie Paper to lure all the Zombies out, and we can then proceed to Saturn Valley.

The things in the Saturn Valley look strange and have a strange way of talking. Some of them have also been enslaved in the Belch Factory, where we go next. The boss of this part is disgusting and I actually turned the sound off because I really got tired of the burp sound effects while fighting him (I somehow don’t have a picture). But the Fly Honey distracts him and he’s not all that hard. There’s a nice hot spring afterwards to cleanse all the yuck away, and the third Sanctuary is nearby.

The zombies are also gone from Threek so we’ve saved another town. Off to the desert! A traffic jam ensures we have to walk.

 
The desert itself has some archeological digs and such. This part involves switching back and forth between the Desert and the large city of Fourside. There, somehow Pocky (my bully neighbor) has become rich and lives in a huge tower. Also the Tonzura Brothers have been put in debt again — idiots. But we can free them from their debt (again) by clearing the monsters out of a desert mine and receiving a diamond in return.
 
Now it’s time to deal with the rich man Montoli (and Pocky). He’s getting his riches and power from this evil statue on the Moonside of town, a strange alternate dimension with unusual monsters and where it’s Opposite Day.
 

We beat a devil statue inside the dimension, and Fourside is back to normal. The strange collector near Kurisu’s house in Onett had the same statue but I never went back to see if his dialogue changes or if there’s anything you can do there. Anyway, Montoli is grateful that we freed him from the evil statue and lends us his helicopter to go to Summers, the next town….but Pocky steals it instead. So now we need Dr. Andonuts help, and it’s back to Winters again. Jeff is able to fix the UFO he rode to Threek before, and go back to Andonuts. While Andonuts makes a flying machine to get us to Summers, we can investigate the fourth Sanctuary.

That’s about the halfway point of the game so I’ll end here. I’m already finished with the game but I’ll do the second post next week so that I won’t skip too many weeks from playing Sangokushi Eiketsuden on the other blog, which looks like it could be a somewhat long game.

This is the 4th anniversary of this blog; it’s hard to believe I’ve been doing it for this long. Thank you all for reading and commenting!

1994 wrap-up

This is rather late, but someone reminded me in the comments that I never did one for 1994. 

1994 had 11 games:

Fire Emblem 3 (Mystery of the Seals)
Majin Tensei
Hioden Pact with the Monsters
Galaxy Robo
Super Robot Taisen EX
Lodoss War
Shining Force CD
Langrisser 2
Feda: Emblem of Justice
Albert Odyssey 2
Power of the Hired   f

I don’t think there are any major new developments in the systems, although Hioden is a real time strategy RPG which is a rare thing. 

Game of the Year has to go to Langrisser 2 — in general I would like to avoid naming the same franchise to two different GotYs but in this case I feel the only other candidate would be FE3, and Langrisser 2 definitely beats it out. 

Other games worth playing are FE3, Hioden, and Shining Force CD. Majin Tensei is long and slow moving but I had fun with it. Galaxy Robo is interesting with its large maps, although it doesn’t quite reach the level of the other games I listed. Power of the Hired is simplistic and short but not bad. I did not play Feda for the SNES, but the Saturn remake was OK — too long and repetitive but the system had some interesting points.

The other games (Lodoss War, Albert Odyssey 2, and SRW EX) are not recommended.

I’m almost done with 1995 so I won’t bother with a preview of that year.

Games of the year:

  • 1990: Fire Emblem
  • 1991: Langrisser 
  • 1992: Just Breed 
  • 1993: Super Robot Taisen 3 
  • 1994: Langrisser II

(The “game of the year” is not necessarily the best game or the game I liked the most — I intend it to be a combination of quality, how much I enjoyed it, historical significance, and other things like that.)