Monthly Archives: October 2021

SFC Game 72 – Last Bible III

Last Bible III (ラストバイブルIII)
Released 3/4/1995, developed and published by Atlas


This is another game in the long running Megami Tensei franchise. By this point, there were five main Megami Tensei games plus the two Majin Tensei strategy RPGs. The Last Bible series was a spinoff that started on the Game Boy in 1992. The idea was to take the core idea of monster recruiting and combining, but put it into a more kid-friendly fantasy setting that eschewed the usual darker, post-apocalyptic settings of the main games. (The first two games were remade for the Game Boy Color, and the first one was released in English in 1999 as Revelations: Demon Slayer.) The games are also standard top-down RPGs rather than the first-person games of the main series.

This game has an English patch, so you can try it yourself.

1995 actually had three games released in the Bible series — Last Bible III, Another Bible (a strategy RPG which I covered on my other blog), and Last Bible Special, a game gear game that went back to the first-person dungeon style. This was a busy year for the franchise; 1995 is also when SNES remake of the first two games came out, as well as Devil Summoner for the Saturn.

I played the first two LB games quite a while back, but I don’t remember much about them. Of course because this is on Super Nintendo (and released in 1995) the graphics are much better:

The text can be annoying to read at times because they have mixed kanji and hiragana in words — I’ve played enough of these old games that I’m used to reading all hiragana text now, but having a mix of the two really throws off my speed. 

 

The story overall is much more developed than the previous games. It begins with a flashback to a group of “Shadow Walkers” who were heroes of a big war 15 years prior. One of them is Glen, the main character’s father. Another, Alec, is about to die in the snow but reaches a gate to the Makai (demon world). Now 15 years later, the Shadow Walkers are being targeted by the government of Megapolis, who has made a perpetual energy machine but at the same time outlawed the use of Gaia (a kind of magic power) by anyone. At the moment, Kurisu (the main character) is outside their purview, attending a school where he is taught to use his Gaia along with his friends. Soon, the Megapolis soldiers attack the town, and Kurisu is forced to flee. The story takes Kurisu through a fight against Megapolis while at the same time trying to figure out the mystery of the Shadow Walkers.

(The main character gains Gaia techniques from the school at the beginning, but I never found out how to actually use them. I was obviously missing something in the system because for me they always did 0-5 damage but I saw videos where people were using them for 400+ at the end of the game.)

 

The battle system is normal, but as is so often the case in these games, the game is virtually ruined by the unbelievable random encounter rate. This is my 72nd SFC game on this blog so I’ve seen a lot of games with high encounter rates, but this is one of the worst. The saving grace is that once you recruit monsters to your side, you can then talk to the monster type and the battle will end — even with this, though, it’s very tedious to go through the dungeons. And there are several places in the game where you only fight human enemies you can’t talk to — these places really sapped my will to play.

 

This is coupled by a poor balance throughout the game. The game goes from being very difficult to very easy. I reached the final boss around level 34 and got obliterated. I did grinding up to level 43 and tried again, and got obliterated. At this point I was so tired of the game I used a cheat to beat the final boss; I then went looking for guides and videos and found that most people recommended levels in the low to mid-50s (and they actually knew how to use the Gaia techniques of the main character). So I was supposed to grind 20 levels to beat the final boss, which is absurd.

The high random encounter rate coupled with rare/expensive MP restore items means that, as usual, magic is nearly worthless other than heal spells. I also found that in general the magic didn’t work very well.

As this is a Megami Tensei game, you can recruit monsters to your side. I think this is the best implementation yet of monster recruitment. You are still doing the usual “answer questions” system, but you can see both the mood of the monster and the connection level change as you answer, which means you can actually see what your answers are doing and it feels much less random. There’s also the normal monster combining. As with Shin MT2 and If…, I found usually the preset characters were better than the monsters.

This is a pretty harsh review, but I think it’s deserved. I was really disappointed by this game; I was expected another decent entry from Atlas. The world is interesting and the story is pretty good, which is a good basis, but the absurd random encounter rate and the sheer amount of grinding required makes the game a chore to play, and I got to the point where I was no longer caring about the story that much because I just wanted to get the game over with.

Now after I wrote this, I went looking for more information on the main character’s techniques, which I probably should have done during the game. Apparently you can increase the MP cost to do more damage. I wonder if I can go back and beat the final boss without cheating now, although it was mostly that I couldn’t survive his turns where he would attack 6-8 times doing several hundred damage to each person.

Anyway, if any of you have played this game maybe you can tell me how to suck less at it — I don’t think it will change my opinion on the encounter rate but maybe at least the balance won’t be such a problem then.

Next up is Vandal Hearts on my other blog, then we’ll come back here to an odd looking game, Love Quest.

SFC Game 71 – Eternal Filerna (Finished)

Last time I was heading into the Imperial capital, Bow. Bow is kind of odd because it seems like it’s just a big building — maybe we’re supposed to imagine it’s bigger or has more structures, but I’m not sure. In any case, the goal of reaching here was to find the great smith Uto, who had the secret of the Sword of Filerna.

Uto is in the basement, but he doesn’t believe Filerna’s story, until he fights her and sees her sword style. Then he reveals what he has been keeping — the Sword of Filerna can cleanse the sea that the Empire fouled, and will restore the kingdom of Firosela. So that’s now our goal, but the Black Demons have caught up with the party as well and once again we have to escape out of a secret underground passage.

Incidentally, a problem a lot of games and anime have with story consistency is how to have powerful villains that don’t just instantly crush the heroes. Most of the time this is done by making the villains incompetent for no reason, or they use nonsensical things like “Let’s not kill him now, let’s see how he progresses. Mwahaha.” or “There would be no point in killing you, you’re too weak. Mwahaha.” This game definitely leans on the incompetent villains trope. 

Better stories like Lord of the Rings use more coherent reasoning — Sauron doesn’t have the ability to warp anywhere in the world or make meteors strike Frodo. That quest succeeds partly because they play on Sauron’s blind spot (not thinking anyone would try to destroy the Ring), and using a small party that wasn’t based on combat ability. Sauron never quite learns where Frodo is or what he’s doing until the last moment.

So we escape through the basement, and fight yet another Black Demon (#22). The next goal is to head south to where Firosela was. We pass through a town and near a locked windmill shed, eventually reaching an empire military base.

We have to head back to the windmill and get some imperial clothing disguises; it also turns out that Yakos, the man there, was a Firoselan, and is happy to see that Filerna lived. He’s sick and probably won’t live to see the revival of Firosela, but at least he can help us proceed. Unfortunately the soldiers find us out pretty quickly, and we have to fight. Two of the top-tier Black Demons appear here; this was a big chokepoint for me where I had to move up about 6 levels to proceed (until I learned a better Crystal attack). Fortunately there is a heal spot in the barracks.

Afterwards there’s a strange looking baby creature in a bubble that flies away, but no explanation for that now. But now we can pass the military base and finally reach the place where Firosela was. Filerna tries to cleanse the sea with the Filerna sword.

 It makes the castle rise up that we saw in the flashback earlier. The door won’t open unless two Firoselans touch the statues, but if a non-Firoselan touches them they will die. We head back to the windmill to talk to Yakos — the rest of the game contains an annoying amount of backtracking. Yakos is too sick to go help us, but he notices that Lila reminds him of a Firoselan, and a fortune teller seems to confirm that she is Firoselan. It’s dangerous, but they try having Lila open the door, and it works.

Inside, Filerna learns that she needs to revive 6 lighthouses to be able to proceed and make a miracle happen. This part is mostly just wandering around, backtracking, and some fetch quests to make the lighthouses activate. Midway through, we head back to Bow having heard that the High Priest there is the true ruler of the Empire, and if we beat him it will severely cripple the Empire. On the way, we learn that the Resistance Armies have grown by a lot, all of them being inspired by this unknown “Filerna” that they’re hearing about. It turns out that this is all being spurred by Nest, the scenario writer we met at the beginning, who has been publishing an underground newspaper. He joins up to go deal with the high priest.

The high priest is underground in Bow, and we also find a place where they are experimenting on people (this is what they were doing to Fis much earlier). And in fact Fis is here, and fights us, but stops after a few rounds and instead decides to sacrifice himself to destroy the lab. We continue on to beat up the high priest, who actually is very easy to beat.

Once we activate all the lighthouses, the miracle is an ice boat that comes up.

We need to use this to go to the final area, the place where the Black Demons have their command HQ.

The final dungeon is a tower, and the final bosses were another chokepoint so it was time to grind (I was tired of these chokepoints and used a code this time to move up 4 levels).

After beating the last of the black demons, the story takes a strange turn:

 The fetus(?) tells us that it’s already destroyed the Empire for creating the abominations, and that now it’s just looking for a place to be born — the Heart of Hatred has captured the Pot of Life, and so we need to beat the Heart to allow this thing to be born. I don’t know what this has to do with the rest of the story (I checked another blogger who did this game and he also had no idea where this came from, so I didn’t miss anything).

The boss is not especially hard at the levels I was at (I think it’s easier than the final Black Demon fights). Upon being the boss’s two forms, we restore the Pot of Life, the source of all life of the planet. 

Now Filerna goes back to restore Firosela. We’re followed by some last remnant of the Black Demons, but when Filerna uses her sword in the ocean, Firosela is reborn and the thing dies.

Now Firosela is destroyed, and Lila seems to become the queen with Filerna. Is this the first lesbian relationship in an RPG? There’s no dialogue here but Lila is pretty insistent that she’s Filerna’s wife, throughout the whole game. I found a post of someone talking about the original novel and it does seem to imply that Lila is in love with Filerna.

Overall it’s an OK game. Interface annoyances and chokepoints are troublesome, but the skill system is interesting and the story is overall well done for a game of this period.

Next up is Last Bible III.

SRPG Game 61 – Nage Libre: Seijaku no Suishin (Super Famicom)

Nage Libre: Seijaku no Suishin (ナージュリーブル 〜静寂の水深〜)
Released 2/24/1995, developed and published by Varie
 

  

This is a game I missed on my first pass through 1995. It’s a 美少女ゲー, a game where every character is a high school girl in various school dress. There was a 1997 sequel for Playstation as well. The game was way too expensive to buy, so I don’t have in instruction manual. My discussion of the system is entirely based on playing the game plus information from one walkthrough site I found; there may be parts of the system I didn’t get.

The game is 23 stages back to back, with no other content other than short story sequences. The story as a whole is fairly thin — five high school girls get brought into the world of Nage. They spend the first half of the game trying to escape, but then find that Nage is imposing itself on the real world. They go back into Nage to defeat Misty, the person that initially summoned Nage, and then defeat Nage itself. Most of the dialogue is just banter between the girls.

The first thing you do is input birthdays for the 5 girls.

This affects the birthday stone system in the battles, but there are two special things you can do. If you put in the birthdays as 1/23, 4/5, 6/7, 8/9, and 10/11, all cards count as birthday stones, making the game much easier. If you do 10/10, 3/3, 2/14, 7/7, and 12/24 you can see profiles of the girls. If you put everyone as 11/25, when you beat the game you get this unknown bald guy singing Happy Birthday to Me (a designer?)

Everyone can move 6 spaces on the map regardless of the terrain. What the terrain does it affect the speed that your turn gauge fills, and some of the map squares are damage or healing.


 


 

The battle system is interesting. It’s based on a card system, but not deck-building as such. Each encounter is 6 rounds (or until one person dies). At the beginning of each battle there is a random hand of 5 cards. When you use one of the cards, it will get replaced by another random one. Everyone shares the same hand so you do sometimes have to use less-than-optimal cards to clear them out of your hand. Each card has two numbers; a power at the top left and a speed at the bottom right. Who actually goes first is affected also by the character’s speed stat in addition to the speed of the card. There is also a gemstone on each card, and if it matches the character’s birthday gemstone, it automatically has max power (15).

The types of cards are:

  • Attack
  • Defense (raise defense just for that battle)
  • Heal
  • SP (a special super attack)
  • COS – This changes your costume.The Winter costume gives you more def/agl at the cost of str/mt. Gym clothes are +str/agl, -def. Swimsuit is +str/-def (more than Gym). Coat is just +10% def. The costume change just lasts until the end of the stage.
  • CHG – This allows you to pull one of your stock cards. Between battles you can buy up to 5 stock cards for each person. All of them have 9 speed and X (maximum) power. At the beginning of the game you have to be somewhat frugal, but starting around mid-game I always had one heal and four SP cards to draw from.
  • Escape (end the battle, can fail)
  • ????? – random effect, although I swear that defense is the most common outcome — maybe this is just confirmation bias though. 

Every character also has a club, although some people are “regular students” or bosses. The main thing I am not sure about is whether the clubs affect your stats; there’s no information about this in the game or on the site. There is a compatibility like in other games (for instance, the Tennis club is very strong against the Karate club but weak against Japanese Dance). This is potentially interesting but in the end not very useful. You only ever have 5 people and can only switch clubs between stages. Most stages have a large assortment of enemies and so it’s difficult to pick an optimum set of clubs.

 

It’s not really necessary though — the game is quite easy for the most part. There are a few tricky stages and bosses, but if you lose a girl they just come back in the next stage.

 

 

One other thing I’m not sure about is the level advancement. There’s no XP; the girls gain levels at the end of the stage, but I can’t tell whether it has anything to do with what they did during the stage.

There are a lot of interface issues. It’s very hard to see the stats of your girls during the stage, and there’s too much opacity in the system (although some of that might be cleared up by the instruction manual). 

In the end this is not a bad game, but it’s not particularly good either. I’ll be interested to see what the PSX game changes in the system. I read one complaint that there aren’t as many clubs, but that doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me. I did notice that they made some changes that reduce the randomness of the card draw a bit, which is probably good — it can be frustrating at times when you’re drawing nothing but costume change and escape cards.

After you win the game you can play an Extra Stage with all the bosses on one map.

Next up we’ll be back to 1996 for Vagrant Story, a game I have heard about but never played.

SFC Game 70 – Estpolis Denki II (Lufia II)

Estpolis Denki II (エストポリス伝記II)
Released 2/24/1995, published by Taito
 

The first Lufia game was a pretty standard RPG, although not that bad compared to the games made around the same time. The beginning is the part that stands out the most. It’s a time-worn game cliche that some heroes defeated an enemy long ago, and now the descendants of the heroes have to fight the enemy again. But Lufia actually starts with you playing the strong hero party in the final dungeon against the Four Gods — translated as Sinistrals to get around Nintendo of America’s content policies. At the end of the prologue, Maxim and Selena die in the Gods’ floating island while Artea and Guy escape. Then the main game takes place 90 years later with the descendants fighting the Gods again.

Lufia II focuses on Maxim and his party, so (if you played Lufia 1) you already know the ending of the game. Here we start out with Maxim living in a small village, fighting monsters for money. He has a friend/potential girlfriend Tia who runs the item store. A mysterious woman named Iris appears and tells Maxim he is a destined warrior who will defeat a great evil. Tia joins him and the adventure begins. Lufia 1 players know that by the end of the game he will have met Selena, married her, and had a child, so at least this beginning does provide some unknown direction for the story to travel.

There are some other people that join in the story — not only Tia, but also Hidekker the warrior and Lexas the scientist. They’re only around for a bit, though. The story is OK, though nothing groundbreaking beyond the fact that you know the main characters will die at the end (if you played Lufia 1 — I guess it’s a bigger surprise if you didn’t). Some of the dialogue in the ending is a bit garbled in the translation because they were not able to refer to the Sinistrals as “gods”.

The battle system is fairly standard RPG. The only innovation is the IP system. Many of the weapons and armor have IP skills that you can activate with IP points that you earn by getting hit in battle. Sometimes it’s better to equip weaker equipment that has good IP abilities (like the ones that restore MP or give you 3-5 attacks).

 

The interface is clean and easy to use, and the walking speed is fast.

Definitely the most distinctive and memorable aspect of this game is the dungeon design and puzzles. Every dungeon is full of puzzles that involve switches, moving platforms, pillars, warp tiles, and other things. You gain a variety of items (arrow, bomb, hookshot, etc.) that help you solve the puzzles. Many of them are optional and lead to treasure chests, and a counter at the end shows how many you found. You can even try the “hardest puzzle in the world” at one point.

 

The first time I had to consult a walkthrough, it was for a puzzle that had a bunch of routes in a room that all led to warps, but one was a door. The door is shut, and there’s no clues for what to do. I looked at a GameFAQs walkthrough and didn’t see any mention of it. Finally I consulted a Japanese walkthrough and found out this was based on Amidakuji, which I’ve heard of but didn’t know it well enough to recognize the puzzle.

It turns out the puzzle was removed in the English version, but rather than simply making the door open they replaced it with new puzzles having to do with colored blocks — an impressive effort by the localization team. There was one other puzzle replaced in the English version:

The room starts out with the black squares forming an X and you have to change it so the O is black instead. Japanese people have a much stronger association with “X = wrong, O = correct” than we do, and the localizers must have felt that with no hints, this would be impossible to solve. For this one they just removed the puzzle and left an empty room.

 

For the most part I found the puzzles fair and well-designed; even the few times I had to consult a walkthrough I felt that I should have been able to work the solution out on my own. There is a pretty wide variety as well, and they’re always sure to throw in an easy puzzle or two in every dungeon so you don’t always feel like you’re banging your head against the wall.

Also the designers made the excellent decision to eschew random encounters (except on the world map) and replace them with monsters on the map. This reduces a lot of potential frustration.

The game also has “capsule monsters”. You find them at various points in the game and then can feed them various weapons and items to grow them into different forms. You don’t control them in battle. I found this was the weakest part of the system — especially once you get a bunch of them, growing them just involves visiting different shops (or going to Forfeit Island) and buying items to feed them. It’s repetitive and boring; I gave up once I got them to their third forms.

Finally, there is a good amount of optional content in the game. Not just finding all the chests, but there’s also a casino, and the Ancient Dungeon. This is a 99 floor dungeon that works like a Torneko/roguelike game. You can’t bring in most items and you’ll lose most of what you have when you leave, although there are some blue chests in the dungeon that have good items you can take out. You can easily spend more time on this than the entire main quest. There are also Dragon Eggs you can find throughout the world which you can trade in for bonuses.

I missed 42 chests so I could have done a lot more.

But overall this is a great game; it’s one of the best I’ve played so far on the blog and it’s well worth all the hype it gets.

Next up will be a SRPG (Nage Libre) which was released the same day as Lufia II. I’ll be covering it on the other blog.