Monthly Archives: August 2021

SFC Game 68 – Haou Taikei Ryu Knight

Hao Taikei Ryu Knight: Lord of Paladin (覇王大系リューナイト)
12/22/1994, released by Bandai


Ryu Knight is an anime series that started in early 1994 and was still running when this game came out. It’s a mech anime that’s based on fantasy role playing games, with “class changes” and class-ups, and clear RPG-style character classes for the main characters. I encountered the series in Super Robot Taisen NEO for the Wii but I don’t remember a whole lot about it. The story of the game does not directly follow either the anime or OVA.

It begins with Adeu, a knight, receiving the Ryu mech from a mysterious sage who tells him to seek the Earth Blade and win a great tournament to become the Lord of Paladin. I’m not sure how the TV series works, but Adeu seems to already know the other characters (Paffy the mage, Izumi the priest, Sarutobi the ninja).

The game is an action RPG with some open world-style content. There are 12 areas you can go at the beginning, each one with an anime-style episode name. You can visit most of them right off the start, although you won’t necessarily be able to do anything there — sometimes to make events happen in one area you have to do something in another area. This can be confusing and it can be hard to know what to do to progress unless you’re taking careful notes.

Some of the areas, quests, or dungeons are optional, but I’m not exactly sure what is required to win the game. There’s a clear final event and there’s at least one event you have to do before that, but one walkthrough I looked at said you needed to do “all events” before the final one will open — I don’t completely know what they mean by that, because there was one area I never found out how to get into and I didn’t do everything.

I started off with the first area. One thing you notice immediately in the first town is how expensive the weapons and armor are — the store is selling 10,000 gold equipment. You start with 1000 gold and get very little gold in the early areas. Enemies do not drop gold, you only get it from chests and finishing missions. This brings on immediate worry that you need to scrape together every coin, never stay at an inn or buy unnecessary stuff, etc.

But, this is a mistaken idea. The equipment the stores are selling are special weapons and armor that you never need to get. The main way you upgrade your equipment is by “fixing” your armor or “tempering” your weapon. This doesn’t seem to do anything when you first do it, but when you reach level 11, 21, 31, etc. you “class change”. At this point you can do the tempering/fixing and after 2-3 tries (at 100 gold each) it will upgrade to a stronger form (I think the GameFAQs faq author who never finished the game did not know this; I hope it was in the instruction manual). So you really don’t have to save money as much as you might think; I never ended up buying the special weapons and had over 100,000 gold at the end of the game.

You can also buy items. Some of them are the usual cure items, but others are equippable things that give effects like periodic heal, walk on air, jump off platforms, etc.

I started out in the first place they put you. It’s a western style town.

The sheriff wants me to deal with some bandits. When I left the town, I was almost immediately confronted with one of the 3D sections. These are action scenes where you have to try to kill the other mech. I lost 4 or 5 times and then looked for a web page to tell me how to play. It turns out you should charge up an attack, which does take a bit of HP off but it’s easier to hit and does more damage. With that I defeated him and got an emblem on my status screen. I’m not sure what the purpose of these are; I think you can get 6 of them during the game for defeating various people but they have no clear effect.

Now that he’s gone, I can experience the 2D action system.

It’s a pretty basic ARPG; you have an attack and jump button. There are some special attacks you can do but I never used any of them (either I couldn’t get them to activate or they seemed worse than the basic attack). When you defeat enemies, you get some XP and they give off a bunch of crystals that give more XP. An annoyance is that you can’t see your current HP without going to the status screen.

As you can see in the above screenshot, you can also summon Ryu. This allows you to beat the enemies fairly easily. However, Ryu is large and often gets stuck in areas, and you get much less XP fighting as Ryu. So I tried to do it as little as possible.

Afterwards I headed up to the NE of this area where some more thieves attacked me, bringing up another 3D fight. This guy is pretty easy because he stops for a while and you can bash him with the charge attacks. Another emblem, and some rewards from the townsfolk.

The second area has just a few sidequests that are pretty easy and make you good money, including beating up some thieves and delivering a letter. Katse the merchant joins, but I don’t see the point of her since she doesn’t fight and leaves later.

The third area is just an elf village and nothing of interest, so I moved on to the fourth. In this area the Dwarves have lost their voice from a dragon. I had to go back to the first area to find a magician to release the dragon, and then beat it (with Ryu) to restore the dwarves.

The fifth area has Freedel and a secret magic guild; I have to find out who is hunting them and defeat them. Doing so has Izumi the priest join. I was never able to figure out how to get him (or Paffy) to use their spells. There’s something in the menu that looks like you are able to select spells and it shows the MP cost, but no matter what buttons I pressed nothing would happen, and so all my party members just followed me for the whole game.

Place 6 and 7 have nothing right now.  I was never able to enter Place 8; there’s apparently some frog town there but when I try to go to it, nothing happens.

Place 9 has the very rich Mithril Town, but the goblins have stolen their Mithril Ring. This quest has the first 3D battle in a while, and I earn another emblem for defeating the Goblin mech.

Place 10 is Paffy’s kingdom, and she is missing. There’s not much of a clue to where she is, but we’ll try to find her. It turns out she’s back in place 7, in a village with a bunch of big ape things (who don’t attack, Paffy just joins up when I find her — I must have actually done this before the mithril town as you can see above).

Sarutobi joins in place 11, giving me the full party. He’s the best person to control because he has shurikens, and when they get upgraded they can go in multiple directions or home in on the enemy.


At this point there were still some things I hadn’t done, but I headed back to Paffy’s kingdom to start the final series of events. Paffy gets kidnapped by Galden, one of the villains from the series (I guess?). They’re looking for the gem she has on the end of her staff, although they don’t know that’s what they’re looking for (they just think she knows where it is). Galden is in Freedell Castle, and there’s another 3D battle.

Now we return Paffy and the king opens up the way to the tournament area (why is it so hard to reach?) I misunderstood the dialogue and ended up in an optional castle where I could never find a warp tile that you can see in there but not reach. But the XP is really good here so I managed to get up to level 58 (well beyond the final armor/weapon upgrade). Finally I figured out the warp you’re supposed to use is actually back in Pafresia castle. This sends you to the clouds, where you need an item to walk around.

 

This whale thing takes us to the teleporter up to the tournament area, which is in a featureless room with no spectators (does this make more sense in the anime?)

 

There are 5 3D fights in a row here. I think because I had levelled up so much in that castle, I was overpowered and they were all pretty easy. Then Ryu becomes the Lord of Paladin and has to fight the final boss, a dragon that threatens the whole world. He was easy too.

 

The closing sequence has the longest list of “special thanks to” I’ve ever seen in a game credits — I don’t know who all these people are but there are at least 100 names on the list, so many that they have to divide it into sections based on spelling.

Then you get a results sheet that shows the emblems you got, the damage received and dealt out, and which special moves you used in the 3D battles.

Overall this game was OK but seemed half-baked in a lot of places. It does allow for a large amount of freedom, although that does come with the downside that sometimes it can be hard to tell what you’re supposed to do, and the flags that enable you to do events or quests are sometimes obscure. The story is a little confusing and seems to assume that you already know the basics of the anime (which is common in these IP games). 

Next up is Fangs of Alnam, a notoriously bug-ridden PC Engine game.

SFC Game 67 – Daikaiju Monogatari (Part 2, finished)

So at the end of the last post we had beaten Fat Badger but now the alien Gyab Far has appeared to take his place as the villain. With the help of Dr. Deep and the Great Gnome, we learn that Gyab Far really wants the Aura Ball (the real one, not the fake one that was holding the robot). To get the Aura Ball we have a nested fetch quest — get the Combo Shell from the Aura Dragon in the Valley of Eternity, which we can get by finding the four Shell Dragons in the world. But to get there we need a submarine, which unfortunately has been stolen.

Also the robot is able to get a vision of what’s happening on Gyab Far’s ship, which is pretty gruesome:

 

First up I recovered my companions and reequipped them, and went back to the Seaman village to find the stolen submarine. It was just stolen by some random pirates that are easy to beat.

Now with the Submarine we can go anywhere in the water, including Guardian Island in the SW (there are some other places you can go now as well — there are a lot of hidden items and optional content in the game but the high random encounter rate often discouraged me from getting it.)

Underneath the Guardian Island, the Red Dragon marks the four locations of the elemental dragons on our map. They’re near the four corners of the map, and each one requires doing some kind of dungeon and then beating the dragon.

Once you beat a dragon, you can then summon it for 60 MP, which is quite helpful in beating the other dragons (anyone can summon them). The last one is Red Dragon, but when I returned to him, monsters have killed everyone in the island. I beat Red Dragon and then he tells me about the Valley of Eternity, which is below the earth. It also turns out that this woman Kushura who has been appearing here and there in the game is actually Gyab Far’s daughter, Gujo, who was tailing us to find out about the Valley. She manages to capture Kurisu, so the next part of the game has to be done without him.

I replaced him with Mag, who is the only other character with the town warp spell. The goal is to save Kurisu from the Bio Base where Gujo is keeping him to run experiments on him and perhaps sap his life force for food for Gyab Far and his minions.

By recovering a bug from the northern cold area and bringing it back, it will eat all the nasty plants blocking the Bio Base.

The Bio Base is a grisly place; as you go through it you find trapped humans, many of whom beg you to kill them because they’re being tortured and kept for food.

Gujo herself comes out, and has to be beaten without magic.

She’s confused by why we care so much about Kurisu, but after she runs away we can rescue him and get rid of Mag. The bug also grows into a moth that can fly around and carry us — allowing us to return back to Shell Island where the game started.

Here we have to fight the Great Shell Dragon, but with all the four summons (and Linda’s heal all full spell) he doesn’t put up much of a fight. He joins as well (only Kurisu can use him) and we go down into the earth as Gyab Far’s forces attack the town.

This area has a series of puzzles you have to solve to move on, which is a nice break from the usual dungeons (unfortunately there are still random encounters, and the enemies here are quite annoying — they have all kinds of weird, nasty attacks and you have to heal a lot. Fortunately there are heal fountains.)

Now we are in the Lost Continent. We have to find passwords from the two villages here to enter the Valley. The best thing is one of the villages sells Magic Cubes (restore all MP) for very cheap; buying 99 of these lets you continuously restore Kurisu’s MP to cast Grand Shell Dragon over and over again, which was my main tactic for the remaining fights.

Once we get the passwords and open the Valley, Aura Dragon appears and challenges us.

He’s strong, but with the 99 magic cubes it’s not too hard to beat him. Now we have the real Aura Ball! Dr Deep upgrades the sub to go down to the deepest areas, and we can finally visit Gyab Far’s lair.

As is usual for final dungeons, this one is fairly long and has multiple sub bosses in it.

Gujo takes her final stand, but then regrets her actions and discovers the power of love! Only to have Gyab Far kill her. Gyab Far himself is a huge bug, so I guess all the “sucking out the life force of humans” makes sense.

He has two forms. I used the same strategy — Grand Shell Dragon with Kurisu, Zardon attacks (with Powered), Bub mostly restores Kurisu’s MP, and Linda defends until she needs to do a heal all. 

The world (universe?) is saved and everyone returns to their lives. Everyone wants Kurisu to stay but the fire shell transports him away (back to his home I guess).

Overall this is pretty good. The random encounter rate did get to be a problem for me, and I avoided a lot of the hidden items and some optional areas because I didn’t want to deal with it. But the story is decent and everything plays smoothly. We’ll be back for the second entry near the end of the blog. Next up is the ARPG Ryu Knight (which I actually just finished before I wrote this post).

SRPG Game 58 – Sakura Taisen

Sakura Taisen (サクラ大戦), Saturn
Released 9/27/1996, developed and published by Sega

This game is not an SRPG; it’s really a visual novel with tactical battles. The tactical battles aren’t just fluff — while the system is not as developed as some of the SRPGs I’ve played up to now, it’s not as bare bones as something like Farland Story. Where this game fails in my criteria is that the characters cannot be developed in any way; you can get them some stat bonuses for each chapter but the bonuses go away at the end of the chapter. However, I’m going to play the game anyway. I’ve always been interested in the series and several friends of mine are big fans of it, so this seems like a good time to play it. 

I could have played the PS2 remake but I decided to go for the original instead. My general view of remakes is that especially with a series like Sakura Taisen, I want to see how the series develops. The PS2 remake was released after Sakura Taisen 4 and probably incorporates a lot of the developments in the series that were made in the three sequels.

The setting is the Taisho period, but a cyberpunk version of it with a lot of steam engine technology (that gets pretty ridiculous at some points). The setting is inspired by various stage drama, particularly the all-female Takarazuka Revue and kabuki. The main characters are actors in a troupe that seems a lot like Takarazuka. The presentation is similar to an anime, with a fair amount of FMV videos, and each chapter ending with a “next episode preview” narrated by one of the characters. 

The character designs are by Kosuke Fujishima, at the time a major manga-ka known for Ah! My Goddess. He had designed the characters for Tales of Phantasia the same year, but in this format they could directly translate his character designs to the game itself rather than just having them appear in the instruction manual. 

The story involves Ogami Ichiro, who is assigned to be the captain of the Imperial Attack Squad, which moonlights as the Imperial Stage Revue (pronounced the same way) — this has elements of magical girl anime in it, and I wonder if the popularity of Sailor Moon (which was running its final season when this game came out) had an influence. Tomozawa Michie, who played Sailor Mars, does the voice for one of the game’s characters.

The majority of the game is reading text (and listening to the voice acting for some of it), so it will not appeal to everyone. The general flow of the chapters is you have long sections of dialogue, with some choices. The LIPS system requires you to choose your choices in a limited time, or you can wait for the time to run out and then your character will stay silent. By choosing various options you affect the girls’ trust in you, which raises their stats for the battles. You can also have some free exploration points where you can go to various rooms and talk to the girls, although it’s a bit annoying that you can’t see who is where (so sometimes you waste all your free time going to places where nobody is). The trust values reset at the beginning of each chapter (and can never go below 0), but there’s also a hidden “love” stat that accumulates throughout the game and affects the later chapters.

Eventually there will be a battle (some chapters have just one, some have more than one). The battles are basic tactical combat style. Each character can take two actions a turn, although you can’t use two attack or two defense actions. In addition to move, you have basic attack and special attack, and then defend, heal, and build power. To use the special attacks you need a full power gauge, which goes up when you get damaged or when you use the build power command. Finally, Ogami has a “cover” skill which will negate all the damage to a girl from one attack (can be done 8 times per battle). Each girl has their own type of attack:

  • Sakura is just a 1 range basic attack.
  • Maria has a longer range gun attack (but only in straight lines)
  • Sumire has a 2-range halberd (which can attack two enemies at once)
  • Koran has a range attack that isn’t limited to straight lines and affects a 1-radius area
  • Kanna is just a 1 range basic attack
  • Iris attacks all the enemies in a 2 radius range from her mech.

There are also some supporting characters like Ayame and Yoneda the commanders.

 

The battles on the whole are not very difficult, but they require enough skill and thought that they don’t feel like they were just slapped into the game. The lack of real advancement or learning new skills is a bit of a letdown but overall I thought this was a decent battle system for the game.

This game has a patch, and the patch actually subtitles the FMVs — I guess they’re stored on the disc in a format that makes this possible. So check it out!

Now a brief chapter runthrough:

Chapter 1

Ogami joins the squad and learns about the secret mechs! They run off psychic power, so all the people are in the squad because they have the power necessary to operate the units.

 

The enemy is Tenkai, who wants to use magical power to restore the Tokugawa Shogunate and send all the foreign stuff away. He has four underlings, and you fight one of them (Satan) here. This is an introductory battle so it’s even easier than most of the already easy battles. The standard tactic against the bosses is to attack normally until their power gauge is almost full and then unleash all your special moves.

I did not use a walkthrough, so I just picked whatever options in the dialogue sections seemed good to me throughout the game. A few times I restarted from my last save when it was pretty obvious I had picked bad choices, but I feel like the game would not be impossible even if you picked all the worst choices in every dialogue.

Chapter 2

Koran joins here. The battle introduces missile shooters that can target your guys from far away, so you have to be careful to avoid them.

 Chapter 3

And now we get Kanna. This is vs Setsuna, one of Tenkai’s other followers. The next few episodes follow a typical anime trope where each chapter focuses on the backstory of one (or two) of the girls. In this case it’s Maria, who was a fighter in the Russian Revolution (so this must take place in the later part of the Taisho period, early 1920s?).

You have two paths to reach the end — I took the longer path because it looked safer, but I was probably too much of a scaredy-cat. Losing one person lowers your relationship with them so it’s good to keep everyone alive, but there’s no other drawback.

One other thing you start encountering is minigames — each girl has one. You can play all of them when you beat the game, otherwise they’re only available in certain short periods. Koran plays Hanafuda with you, and Maria makes you remember instructions to make a stew, and so on.

Chapter 4

This episode focuses on Iris, whose psychic power goes haywire at a scary movie. She then starts to believe that no one in the group cares about her. (She also destroyed the whole movie theater and some things around it; that must cost a lot of repair money…)

The fight is against Rasetsu, who has an annoying power to teleport people around, which makes it rough to fight him. But you can take him down with the same basic tactics.

Chapter 5

This chapter focuses on Kanna and Sumire, who are the classic “don’t get along but also seem like friends” characters. You have to investigate a haunted mansion — I found this part rather annoying because you have to keep investigating empty rooms over and over again with no indication of where you should go next, and I think the “repetition for comic effect” would have worked better as an 8 minute segment of an anime episode rather than something that can take an hour to work through.

The battle is against Miroku, another one of Tenkai’s underlings. It’s a long stage because you have to climb a cliff area with a lot of those missile launchers. Miroku herself is just another basic boss strategy.

Chapter 6

This one is Sakura-themed. Everyone is preparing for a party, but Sakura doesn’t return from buying snacks. She and Ogami get trapped underground and we see Sakura’s psychic power go into overdrive to save them both. Meanwhile, Tenkai has finished setting up the magic areas that will let him attack Tokyo in full force.

The fight is against Miroku again. This is an indoor map where you have to open doors (although apparently you can defeat Miroku through the wall without going into her room; I didn’t realize this).

Chapter 7

This is the last stage of Disc 1, so obviously not the end of the game — once again this is patterned on a pretty common anime trope where the first major enemy is not the true final power. The goal here is to beat Tenkai. The stage has several battles, and you have to beat Tenkai twice. I didn’t find that the exact same tactic worked on Tenkai as the other bosses, but with judicious use of Ogami’s block skill you can make Tenkai’s super attacks much less scary.

Chapter 8

Several months pass, and it’s New Year’s. The main enemy is now Satan, who was the underling of Tenkai but now takes center stage with his own underlings. The plot also goes off into bizarre areas — I have to say I didn’t like this part as well as the first one. I liked the “restore the Edo Bakufu” of the first part; it seemed to fit in really well with the overall theme. But here it turns out that Satan is literal Satan (the Devil), and the Archangel Michael appears as well.

First, there’s a date with the girl that you have the highest love rating with. For me it was Sakura. I wonder if that’s just the natural result if you don’t specifically try for one of the other girls.

There are three battles in this chapter (the last three chapters are all longer than the first ones). In the first one you mostly get your butt kicked until the ship comes in and saves you — this is an excuse to destroy all your mechs so that you can get more powerful ones. Unfortunately that makes no real gameplay difference, but it fits with the usual powerups in mech and magical girl anime.

The second fight is against Inoshishi, one of the followers of Satan.

Chapter 9

Satan is trying to revive the Seima Castle in Tokyo Bay. This stage also has several battles. In the first one you are trying to prevent the enemies from entering the base, while also having to destroy some machines that are making additional enemies. Despite the difficult sounding goals, I didn’t find it too hard.


The second fight is against Cho, another underling.

Chapter 10 

Final stage, as we attack the Seima Castle. There’s a new battleship — the technology gets kind of ridiculous here but I guess it’s part of the anime/cyberpunk theme. All the bosses revive, and the first section is devoted to killing off the entire party (I have a feeling this was directly inspired by the end of Sailor Moon’s first season). However, Archangel Michael revives them all so it’s fine.

The final boss is annoying because he pushes you back with his attacks, which force you to move back up. I was afraid that I would have a lot of trouble but I managed to beat it only losing one person (although if he had another 25% HP or so I would have been in deep doo-doo.)

Everything’s back to normal! I guess Tokyo rebuilds? After they sunk so much money into the new mechs and ships? Maybe the theatre can make their own money.

So overall I think this is a good introduction to the series. The game succeeds at what it’s trying to do — combine a visual novel/dating sim with tactical combat. It won’t appeal to people who are primarily looking for tactical combat because so much of the game is just reading text. I would also recommend playing this in one of the remakes (for the Dreamcast or PS2) because they incorporate some QoL improvements that were in later titles. 

The story was more interesting to me in the first disc — I liked the Edo Bakufu-related plot and the character focus. The second part seemed out of left field and the Judeo-Christian stuff didn’t fit as well with the theme.

Sorry this post took so long to come out. Next I’ll be going back to 1991 for Crystal Warriors, and then move on to Langrisser 3. Sakura Taisen 2 came out in early 1998 so it will be ~25 games until I play that.

Also, I mentioned this on my other blog, but Blogger is getting worse and worse. I can no longer edit the sidebar except as a mass of unformatted HTML, so I’m cutting out the “recent and upcoming” parts. I have added all the remaining 1996 games, as well as Crystal Warrior and Hybrid Front, to the “list of finished games” area so you can see what’s coming. Part of me wants to find a different home for this than Blogger but I’m too lazy.

SFC Game 67 – Daikaiju Monogatari (Part 1)

Daikaiju Monogatari (大貝獣物語)
Released 12/22/1994, published by Hudson


This is a followup to the 1988 Famicom game Kaiju Monogatari. The title is probably meant to play on 怪獣 (e.g. Godzilla, Mothra), but the first kanji is replaced with the kanji for “shell”. It looks like it is set up as a direct sequel, with a new “fire shell” hero but some of the same supporting characters, and the same villain Fat Badger. (The Wikipedia article claims this is not a direct sequel, so it may just be that the names and setting are reused). There’s a sequel (Daikaiju Monogatari II) which will be one of the last games I play for this blog.

There is a fan patch for the game, unfortunately it’s marred by an excessive freedom — there are numerous references to pop culture, as well as multiple right-wing rants against the Affordable Care Act, taxes, regulations, Socialism, etc. It’s a shame because (so far) this is one of the better games I’ve played on the system and it deserves a better translation than the one we got.

The game begins with something coming down from space, causing tsunami sweeping the world as well as other natural disasters (comets, etc.). It also appears that Fat Badger will return.

So a wise man calls forth the Fire Shell Hero, who you name (Kurisu). Despite being summoned out of nowhere he decides to take on the task. The man sent out some other people too but they get separated. Kurisu takes a ship but is immediately wrecked at Chikri Village, which is then attacked by robot soldiers. Kurisu hides while the town is destroyed (great start for the hero!)

Afterwards, Kurisu sets out. The villagers remaining have some basic stuff to sell you, and then we begin. One complaint about this game is the high encounter rate — it’s nowhere near as bad as Last Battle, Monster Maker 3, and some of the other games I’ve played. I’m conditioned to accept mediocre as great, I guess?

 

The battle system is basic but works fine. One nice feature is that you can set up four strategies where you pick a command for each character and then they will execute it. So I made a “fight” strategy that picks fight for everyone, which speeds things up — along with the emulator speedup it makes the encounter rate not so bad.

The battle graphics look nice too. Unfortunately I got poisoned in the first battle and didn’t have enough money for an antidote so I had to reset — levelling is quick in the beginning. I headed down to Sandside.

In Sandside we learn that the Aura Ball, which we need, is in possession of Doglar. Also here you can form a party with various characters. I took Zardon (basically a fighter), Linda (priest), and Babu (can use boomerangs which hit all people, and some buff magic). Linda has the incredibly useful Angel Song ability, which costs no MP and uses sleep on all enemies plus kills undead. I’m over halfway through the game as I type this and I’m still using it constantly (I have a 3 fight + angel song strategy set up).

The interface on the whole is OK. There’s no item limit, you can see the stats of equipment and who will benefit when you buy it, and there is a “best” option in equip. The only wrinkle to me is that you can’t see who can equip an item from the item menu, and you can’t L and R to switch characters in the equip screen. But compared to the horrid interfaces in a lot of these games this is a minor complaint.

I also rescued a thief from a well. In addition to the party members you can get “helpers” that perform various tasks — let you climb areas with a rope, view the surrounding area, increase the encounter rate (haha), and other things.

We set out for an underground passage to other parts of the continent (the asteroids and tsunami have destroyed a lot of the bridges). Coming to Bridgetown, we learn that Doglar definitely has the Aura Ball, and continue on to the waterfall cave. An herbalist joins up and has a special potion; very suspicious but I drank it. We came across Piggy, who can get rid of boulders, but then the herbalist turns out to be a follower of Doglar and attacks. We start poisoned, but he’s not too hard.

Doglar himself is in the next dungeon; we overhear him talking to a mysterious woman. But she’s not actually there so we fight Doglar.

He’s got a pretty nasty all attack, but with speed/defense buffs and some healing I took him down. Now I have the Aura Ball, and freed all the girls that Doglar captured. Continuing on, I came to Lamir, which is one of the outlying towns of Dorado City where we can probably find Fat Badger. But all the bridges are broken and there’s no way to get there. Lamir itself was totally destroyed by asteroids. You can free a slave here for 5000 pearls (I didn’t have the money then but I came back later. She just leaves on her own; I don’t know if this does anything later).

The next actual destination is the Seaman Temple.

A huge fish comes in and captures the chieftan, but once we beat the fish, we receive the Water Shell (we started with the Fire Shell so that’s 2 of the 4; these are somehow connected to defeating Fat Badger but it’s not clear yet how.)

My notes aren’t clear here so I don’t know why this opens up a new area — I know you have to find a crystal in the next mountain area and get a blacksmith to forge a sword to free people from the cocoons that the robot attackers put them in. Anyway, once you do this, one of the people freed is Milmy. She’s one of four sisters that is the daughter of the Great Gnome and a human. We need to seek out the Great Gnome to find out more about Dorado City.

In the next area, we come across a tree full of mask-wearing people. The tree is sick, and the medicine needed to cure it is in Sandler city to the south. There, Zenim (a former underling of Doglar) has made himself rich off the backs of the people. He offers us a nice place to stay but of course it’s another trap. I was not clear on how we escape this, but the screen goes black and we find ourselves in the poor area of town. From here it’s time to put an end to Zenim. Apparently he has a magic book and armor that protects him. His mansion dungeon is fairly long, and the key item comes from a little kid who gives us a water pistol. For some reason this nullifies Zenim’s armor.

Zenim begs for his life after being defeated, but when I spared it he just attacked again. This time he dies for good. We get the medicine for the tree (healing it doesn’t seem to have any immediate effect on the story). Perhaps more importantly, Zenim had the shell ship that Kurisu sailed out on in the beginning. With that, we can sail around the shallow areas of the world map.

I jumped to the next continent, where one of the other Four Sisters in Mosswood makes me some protective equipment to cross the snowy mountains to where Great Gnome lives.

Oh right, you can also found your own town and build stuff in it, and name it.

Great Gnome’s house is across the mountains, but unfortunately he’s sick. The person that can heal him is Fairy — I had apparently missed her all the way back in the second dungeon, where I took a right instead of a left and missed the chest she was in. She also gives the hero use of special abilities. But with her help, Great Gnome has the potential of being healed, but we have to get a remedy from a bird village. There, five stone heads send me on a quest to get 5 items (just basic items you can buy at shops).

Once Great Gnome is back up, he gives us an item to melt a snowdrift that will let us pass through a dungeon to Dorad City. On the way, the Aura Ball breaks, releasing a robot that immediately bonds to Kurisu. Also along the way, Korikot, another one of the sisters, heads back to Great Gnome’s house. There, Great Gnome tells us we can combine the 4 shells into a Combine Shell that will help us defeat Fat Badger. He gives me a map that shows where the other shells are. One can be gotten just by getting Genji, the fisherman, to dive into a lake and grab it. The other involves a dungeon.

This is a prison island, where one of the prisoners found the Earth Shell and used it to gain power. But he’s pretty easy to beat up.

Now with the 4 shells, Great Gnome creates the Combine Shell. We also learn that the Love Sword will be necessary to defeat Fat Badger, but fortunately it’s in Dorad City, where we can finally reach now. Dorad City has encounters in it, and just an inn for services.

This is another relatively long dungeon. It’s filled with creepy statues and pink goo. We need the Love Sword to remove a barrier before the throne, and finally Fat Badger appears.

You can’t hurt him until you use the Combine Shell. He’s pretty easy, actually, although you do have to fight him twice. I think in general the high random encounter rate and relatively quick advancement make the bosses pretty easy.

So that’s the end of the game!

No, of course not. Now a UFO comes down and Gyag Far declares himself the ruler of the universe. He tried to revive Fat Badger and will now show us just a bit of his power.

He fires a huge beam at Shellland which destroys continents and sinks much of the world underwater. How will we defeat Gyag Far!?!? Join us next time.

So this is actually a good game! The story is surprisingly dark (at least in what happens; all the characters are pretty cutesy) and it’s easy to play. I’m looking forward to the second half(?) of the game to see how it concludes. School is starting again so I may have a bit less time to play than I did during the summer, but I’ll keep the weekly updates going.

PCE Game 40 – Record of Lodoss War 2

Record of Lodoss War 2 (ロードス島戦記2)
Released 12/16/1994, published by Hudson
 

  

This is the second of the two Lodoss War PC Engine games; you can look back at the post I made on the first one for general information about the series. Like the first game, this is based on one of the computer games, which itself is based on the second group of Lodoss stories. The main character of these is Spark, with a new party of his own (although some of the characters from the original stories appear as well).
 

 

What I appreciated about the original game is that it seemed to capture the tabletop RPG origins of the franchise better than a normal RPG. There are not many random encounters, and you don’t win them just by mashing buttons. Most of the XP you get comes from finishing quests rather than killing monsters, and you don’t level up that many times during the game. It had a different feel from the typical RPGs of the time, and to me it was similar to the Sword World SFC games (especially the first one) in this respect.

Unfortunately the second game walks most of this back. Random encounters are now more along the lines of a regular RPG, most of your XP comes from them, and you’ll end up auto-battling the majority of the encounters. Level ups are also much more frequent, and you can now grind levels and money in a way you really couldn’t in the first game.

 

After the opening movie, the game begins with Spark, who is a knight in training. King Kashue (who I believe is from the original party) and Slayn are in the palace, and charge Spark with the mission of figuring out what’s going on with the Flame Tribe, who seem to be plotting a rebellion. Evidently Spark should be the head of the Flame Tribe but I’m not entirely sure what the backstory is there. Specifically we’re supposed to head to Hilt and Hebun towns.

The towns are “select a building” type

 Spark is on his own at first. While looking around for the towns I hit level 5 and bought most of the good equipment; there are other towns that have better equipment to the left. Hilt was easy to find; there some ruffians attacked but with all my equipment and levels it was fine. Hebun is on the right near the desert; here we’re attacked by Flame Tribe nomads (easy fight as well).

Spark heads back to Kashue to report. For now, Kashue is interested in settling new areas, particularly the dangerous Fire Dragon Hunting Zone — Spark is supposed to deliver a secret message to Raiden port town to enlist the help of the people there. Spark also gets his first companions, Garack the fighter and Ald Nova the magician. They’re a bit lower leveled and have bad equipment so I got them some better stuff and then went to Raiden.

 

The mayor of Raiden seems to be having trouble with bad dreams; it turns out he’s being affected by a succubus. This was still the age where nipples are acceptable in games/manga.

booba

Anyway, after the Succubus goes down, the mayor pledges to give whatever money Kashue needs, and we also get a new party member, the thief (scout) Lyna. At this point we can go to the guild and take on submissions. I did all three — recovering a child from a cult, clearing out thieves from the town, and delivering weapons to a nearby town. This gets some additional XP (the rewards from the quests themselves are quite low but you fight monsters along the way, and there are some good weapon and armor upgrades).

 

Now back to Kashue, where Dark Elves are attacking. After they’re beaten, it seems that the expansion into the Fire Valley has begun, but the new threat of the Dark Elves means it’s time for Spark to head south to Valis.

This is where I stopped. For me, this game is a downgrade from the first one — it’s by no means a bad RPG (it’s in the top class of the PCE games) but I miss the more tabletop RPG feel of the first one.

I’m playing Sakura Taisen for my other blog but I’m on the last stage so I will most likely have a Daikaiju Monogatari post up next Saturday. If you want to see what games are coming up, you should look at the completed games list, where I put in all the games I’ll be playing up to the end of 1994.

SFC Game 66 – The Last Battle

The Last Battle (ザラストバトル)
Released 12/2/1994, published by Teichiku 
 

  

Commenter Carlos warned me about this game a little while back, and he was right. This is by now a familiar story — a game with some good ideas, which are torpedoed by bad design. The three most common bad design features are all present here: cumbersome interface, ridiculous random encounter rate, and bad game balance. Sometimes the game remains playable and average, but in this case I think The Last Battle is one of the worst games I’ve played so far.

Many Japanese sites seem to regard this as a スルメゲー, literally “squid game”, named because squid gets better the more you chew it (supposedly). These kind of games are garbage at first, but once you get used to the system and figure things out, it gets more interesting. I personally never found that to be the case, but usually the Japanese players agree with my labels of kusoge. In this case it seems like there are some people who like the game, so maybe you should give it a try?

Anyway, on to the game. It was developed by three studios working together, and some of the designers worked on games like Metal Max, Jungle Wars, and Shin Momotaro Densetsu, so you wouldn’t expect it to be bad. But the development was delayed several times, and maybe all the different cooks never worked well together. It was released by Teichiku, which is a music/record company and only ventured into video games a couple of times.

 

The game begins by asking your name, and then introducing the main character Kult. One bizarre decision in this game is that his name is クルト (Kult) and the evil empire is グルド (Guld) — I thought maybe they were going for something there, but as far as I can tell there’s no reason for them to have such similar names.

So why did we put in our name? It turns out that at 16 years old, people undergo a coming of age test, and then receive their true name in secret. They need that true name in order to use magic. So the beginning of the game has Kult doing this test, which involves recovering an item from a nearby cave. First Kult can buy and equip some things. The walking speed is very slow, and the interface for everything is quite cumbersome. To equip something you have to do A->item->equip->Kult->dagger->Kult, and the opening of each menu is fairly slow. This is a huge problem with the game and really unacceptable for late 1994.

On the way to the cave, you’ll meet the first encounters, and find that this is another auto-battle game. At least in this one you can issue commands (through a typically slow interface) and there are some AI settings. But I continue to not particularly like the way these systems work. You can never get the people to do what you want to do, and they move into danger and do stupid things (trying to command them all in every battle would be a nightmare).

You will also discover that the random encounter rate is ridiculous. Even among the SFC games I’ve played, which generally have high encounter rates, this one stands out. 

I also died in my third battle in the cave, so I also discovered very early on that the game balance is not good. This game required more grinding than any other game I’ve played up to now, and that’s with the fact that you already fight a ton of battles just going through the dungeons. I think emulator speedup is a must for this game. You can hold down the Y button to make the battles go a bit faster as well.

I leveled up a bit and then went into the cave. With a few levels and Kult’s cure spell, the dungeon isn’t so bad. One odd thing about this game is that enemies don’t drop money. Instead, you get “jewel bags” every so often from the enemies that you can sell. This is annoying because the inventory space is limited — not as severely as some games, but there’s no item stacking and you need a free inventory space to be able to equip things, so it can get frustrating.

When you get back to the village, Guld has attacked. This is the first appearance of a common gameplay element — you have to avoid (or fight if you want) the soldiers on the map and make your way to a boss. Once you beat the boss, the you win against Guld and the area is freed.

After this, the mayor sends Kult up to Silveil Castle to deliver a letter saying they were attacked. There, Kult meets captain Yuri as well as the elf Mei. Mei joins the party and there’s another war event as Guld attacks the castle; some birdmen have managed to breach the walls. The dialogue indicates that you will fight the birdmen while the other soldiers will take care of the other enemies, but in fact the bird enemies are endless and you have to make your way to the boss like normal (who is not a birdman). After that, we have to escape the castle and leave Yuri to an uncertain fate.

Mei is an annoying companion because it’s so hard to keep her away from the enemies. Even if she casts a spell against the enemies she runs into the middle of them. So she dies a lot.

From here we head to Febenels’ house, a mage who helped out at the beginning. He decides that we should become full fledged magic users, which requires undergoing a trial in a nearby tower. It has a bunch of puzzles to complete; this is the only dungeon in the game that has any construction other than rooms and chests.

Once this is complete, we get access to the magic crafting system. This is one of the original aspects of the game. There are 4 different types of mana (earth, fire, water, air) and by combining them you get new spells. For instance, Water + Earth gives you a lightning spell. By varying the amount of each type of mana you put in (1-100), you change the area of effect, damage, and MP cost of the spell. There are also three special items in the game that allow you to make special spells like Escape and Teleport.

Although this system is interesting, the main problem with it is how long it takes to build up the mana needed to create good spells. You only ever get a tiny amount from a battle (1-2 of a couple of types) and so building up a good stock of spells is a hassle.

After the tower we get our other two companions — Bolg, a “yak” (sort of a bipedal dog race), and Regina, who is actually the daughter of the king of Guld, but she thinks her father has been tricked or controlled. These are the four companions for the rest of the game.

I made a paralyze spell, which is one of the most useful spells in the game because of how long it lasts. Other useful spells are heal (which you can remake periodically stronger — if you do 100 water mana as the second ingredient it will heal all), Protection, lightning, and earthquake.

The rest of the game is basically just taking over a series of castles and towns from the Guld empire. Next up is Belkstat, but we need the Yak’s help to do a battering ram to knock down the gate. So there’s one war event at the Yak town and then another at Belkstat. The Belkstat one is quite challenging; I followed a Japanese walkthrough’s advice and got Bolg a max effect Earthquake, which immediately kills the grunts in the boss battle. You still need to do some level grinding even after that, but I beat it eventually.

In Hanstad we get knocked out and taken to a prison island, and find out that Yuri is still alive. So we manage to rescue him and a number of other prisoners, and then escape, but there is a war event on the ship as you leave.

Back in Hanstad we get a ship. Now you can go around the world and there are actually a lot of side things you can do; by using the paralyze spell you can defeat enemies that are somewhat above your level and get a lot of powerful equipment. Some of the possible things you can get are the strongest armor in the game, and Mei’s best weapon. Now we can retake Silvel castle, and then head to Wood in the desert to continue the fight against Guld.

One of the places you can go is this raft town

From Wood we continue to Belgderen, which is the hardest and most annoying place in the game. There’s another huge leap in enemy strength, you have random encounters in a long confusing dungeon, and a tough boss. This was the point where, more than anywhere in my whole blog, I regretted my rule that I have to finish games that don’t have patches. And so I broke down and used cheat codes — an unlimited money code, unlimited mana, and no encounters. Even with all of that, and the 10 or so levels I had gained before using the codes, it was still challenging.

Next up is Guld castle itself, but we can’t get in without the Dragon’s Tear. This comes from going to a dragon cave with two specific items. Kult also learns that he’s actually a prince who was abandoned at birth because of a prophecy that he would destroy the kingdom.

After defeating King Guld’s strongest warriors, we learn that he’s actually being controlled by Ice Queen Iskar, who pulls us into an underground world for the final war event.

Finally, we reach Iskar.

 

And the world is saved.

Phew. As I said at the beginning, this game does have some decent ideas. The auto-battle system is actually not as bad as some of the other games — I felt like I had more control over it. But any good ideas they had are completely ruined by the slow pace, the ridiculous random encounter rate, and the game balance. If you want to play this game legitimately you will need to do a lot of grinding. More grinding than in any other game I’ve played up to this point. That’s just not my cup of tea.

As a side note, Blogger has been getting worse and worse since I stared blogging here with successive updates. I’m no longer able to deal with the sidebar information except as a mess of unformatted HTML code, so I’m removing the “recent and upcoming” section (which isn’t visible on mobile anyway). If anyone really misses that I can try to find a way to add it back. If my blog weren’t already established here I don’t think I would start a new blog with Blogger.