Monthly Archives: November 2021

Welcome! (Sticky post)

Thank you for visiting; this is a blog that chronicles my playthroughs of various Super Famicom, PC Engine, and general strategy RPGs. Feel free to respond here to introduce yourself, let me know what your favorite SRPG is, whatever.

I generally update on Saturday or Sunday. I play one strategy RPG, then two Super Famicom (or PC Engine) RPGs.

I’ve now finished the links to all the previous posts, so you can use the links at the top to see the full list of played games so far. Also, if you are only interested in certain types of posts, you can filter by categories (see the bottom of the sidebar). The three categories are Strategy RPGs, Super Famicom RPGs, and PC Engine RPGs.

SFC Game 74 – Nekketsu Tairiku Burning Heroes

Nekketsu Tairiku Burning Heroes (熱血大陸バーニングヒーローズ). Released 3/17/1995, published by Enix

In this game, the player can choose from 8 different heroes — at first only 4 are there, but when you beat one scenario, another hero will be unlocked that’s from the first hero’s story. This seems to recall games like Live a Live, or perhaps Dragon Quest IV/Monster Maker 3 with the separate heroes. But Burning Heroes does things a bit differently.

I chose Lila first, who is a “treasure hunter”. Her scenario begins with her idol Fuga sending her on a quest to find the three Jabol orbs. She doesn’t really know why Fuga wants it, but assumes it’s just some kind of collector’s item.

The first thing we can do is explore the town and find some information, as well as get party members. The NPC party members have no role in the story at all; they just fill out the party for combat purposes (there is one place at the end where they each say a line but they’re not specific to the character). Then we leave the town and get into the first battle.

The biggest problem with the game is the battle system, I think. You cannot control the NPC characters at all — there isn’t even an AI setting. What this means is that magic users are worthless because they will immediately use their strongest magic and run out of MP within a few battles, leaving them as weaker fighters. So you want a full party of fighters, plus Lizer who only has heal spells — the heal AI is a bit better, and he won’t use the spells unless someone is hurt. At the same time, it’s sometimes frustrating that he won’t heal you when it’s necessary.

I really don’t understand this choice by the designers. It’s not the first time I’ve wondered about baffling choices made by companies or designers — I’d love to see an interview or anything where they explain their thought process behind this system.

What you can do is change the formation of your characters in battle. You start with just one formation, but earn more from leveling as well as finding books in dungeons — you will end up with 25 or so formations. Unfortunately, there are no explanations for what the formations do. Some of them are identified by letters: H increases hit rate, D is defense, M is magic defense, and A is balance (I think?) If you pick an M formation it will greatly reduce magic damage but also your characters will do very little damage.

There is also a system where if certain characters are on certain positions in the battlefield, they will do a “rush attack” that does more damage — but there’s no way to tell what positions those are, and according to one Japanese site I saw they even change positions as they level.

As the main character gets hurt, their “nekketsu” meter goes up, and when it hits 100% you can do a Nekketsu move that does damage to all the enemies.

For Lila’s scenario, the first thing we do is recover the Jabol orbs. One thing you find in various places in each scenario are Jump Shoes; by holding down Y you can jump across gaps. The more Jump Shoes you have, the longer gap you can traverse, so you sometimes have to find additional Shoes to be able to progress.

After finding the three orbs, she takes them back to Fuga and it turns out that Fuga has been controlled by some sort of power. Zades appears and uses the orbs to revive the Demon Jakou. Now Lila has to pursue Jakou to stop his goal of taking over the world.

Most of part 2 is chasing Zades. Lila eventually catches up with him at a ruin. Zades explains that he wants revenge on humans for destroying the Earthlings many centuries ago, and that he’s going to use the power of Jakou and a sky ship to do it. Lila destroys Zades, but Jakou has already headed up to the sky lands, and Lila follows.

The sky area has three dungeons. Lila defeats Jakou in the second dungeon, who then decides to crash Cosmion (the sky tower) into Earth, killing everyone. Lila goes through Cosmion and kills the remaining Earthling called Death Wise.

Once Death Wise is defeated, Cosmion goes into the sea instead for some reason, and Lila survives with Fuga — although there’s really no ending sequence beyond that.

After beating Lila’s scenario I decided to try Ryu’s scenario. Ryu’s father is the warrior Adam, who we heard about in Lila’s scenario. Adam went out and left Ryu alone.

As I played this, I realized two things: first, all the dungeons are repeated from Lila’s scenario, although they’re in a different order. Second: the plot is a repeat of the Lila plot, with the same final boss and final dungeon, just with a different motivation for the main character and some other different plot details. So Ryu’s story is not a different part of the story that’s complementary to Lila’s, it’s the same story retold with a different main character.

I then was going to try Shen’s story, which was unlocked by beating Lila. However, checking a walkthrough, it seemed that Shen’s story also had the same dungeons and the same final boss. Looking further through the walkthrough, it was clear that some of the people had some different dungeons, but that the final chapter was the same for all 8 heroes, with one different dungeon but the same final dungeons and boss. Furthermore, nothing happens if you complete all 8 scenarios — there’s no final scenario or anything, the game’s just over at that point.

So I’m not sure I see much point in playing the other six scenarios, especially since the battle system isn’t all that great. I don’t think it would take an especially long time (probably all 8 scenarios together would be in the 20-30 hour range). Can anyone else who’s played this offer an opinion? For now I’m going to move on to Arc the Lad II but if anyone can offer a compelling reason to play the other 6 scenarios I can do that before moving on to Esparks

SFC Game 73 – Love Quest

Love Quest (ラブクエスト)
Released 3/17/1995, published by Intermedia

This is a stupid game — that is, a “bakage” to use the Japanese word. It falls into the same category as Maka Maka in that it relies heavily on humor based on parody, gag manga tropes, poop jokes, puns, and occasional racist humor. It was originally developed for the Famicom and apparently completed in 1994, but then the release was cancelled and it was ported to the Super Famicom.

The game begins with the weak-willed “mothercon” (Jocasta complex) main character at his wedding with his fiance Yuka. But then suddenly Yuka disappears, and the main character goes on a quest to find her.

The game takes place entirely in various areas of Tokyo. There really is no coherent plot; it’s mostly just a string of parodies and jokes as I mentioned above, as the main character travels through various regions of Tokyo. I’ve never liked gag manga-style humor, and I didn’t really think most of the game was that amusing. Along the way you’re joined by two main helper women. The first is Haruka, who works as a cashier in a store.

 The second is Reiko, a “fleeter” (someone who does temporary jobs).

 
There are other women with these full size pictures as well, although they don’t join the party.
Some of the plot elements include defeating rogue cabs that have come to life, catching a panty thief, appearing on a TV station, and tricking a Crane Game machine into digging a tunnel.

In the end, you finally discover Yuka on a ship in Yokohama harbor. It turns out she ran away so that you could go out an earn experience and money, which makes you a more attractive husband. The main character is so upset by this that he rejects her and marries either Haruka or Reiko instead (depending on choices you made earlier). He throws away all his XP and gold, and the final scene is the new couple’s life where they have no money and he can’t get a job because he has no experience.

The game itself is a pretty normal RPG. It has a lot of usual bad features of old RPGs — slow walking with no dash button, no way to see the stats of equipment, no explanations of what the techniques (spells) do, etc. Rather than fighting monsters, you encounter women, and the “attack” command is replaced by “flirt” (kudoku, which can also just mean “persuade” — I don’t know if the game is using that as a kind of double meaning or whether the “persuade” meaning has become obsolete.)

Once you get party members, they don’t participate in the battle, but you can ask them to heal you or to “protect” (I never fully understood what this did). The main character’s techniques are color coded based on their effect, but it still would have been nice to have some explanation of them.

Some of the “foreigners” you meet are depicted in pretty stereotypical/racist manner, like the black person in the illustration above. Also at one point you visit the Indian embassy where they’re all walking around eating curry, and later they are contentedly eating a huge pile of poop, having mistaken it for curry. 

On the whole, I’m not sure this game is really worth playing. Maybe if you really like Japanese-style humor it might work for you, and at least I can say that the setting is original and it’s not the same old “defeat the demon lord” sword and sorcery game. There are a lot of townspeople to talk to. The enemies are colorful and detailed, and the graphics on the whole are fairly good, especially when you consider that this was ported from a Famicom game.

After yet another frustrating week with Blogger (having a lot of difficulty uploading the pictures, which has been broken ever since they switched to the new layout), I have decided almost for certain that I am going to transition to a WordPress site, where I will most likely combine my two blogs into one (using the more flexible layout to make it easy for people to find the various posts). It may be a while before I actually do this, and I will continue to post links on the Blogger site for a good while after I switch, but in the end I think it will be better. And if I continue to do posts after I finish the SFC project, that will be even more convenient.

Also, I may not have a post next weekend due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but we’ll see.

SRPG Game 62 – Vandal Hearts (chs 4-6)

Chapter 4

We’re fighting the Empire now! The first battle here has a ton of strong enemies, but the goal is just to escape the town. Apparently you can kill all the enemies, but I just grabbed some treasure with a few guys who then died, and everyone else escaped.

 The second battle seems easy at first, but there are so many long-range archer units that they can easily gang up on someone, and it’s difficult to judge where they can move and who they can hit. Once you’ve cleared out some of the archers it gets much easier (and the mages can be killed by your own archers).

 

Third battle is tricky because you start surrounded, but when I moved everyone towards one side I was able to escape with only one loss.

Fourth battle you just need to move forward while the train cars crumble behind you, but it’s not bad.

The last battle you have to destroy all the death devices in 8 turns. I managed to do it on the last turn, but I was not able to get all the hidden treasures. 

There’s also a trial map to be done in this stage; these are getting longer and more annoying. Here you have to do a lot of crate pushing to be able to reach the chest with the prism, and make sure you don’t block yourself off by moving them wrong.

Chapter 5

This chapter on the whole seemed a lot easier than the previous ones; maybe my characters were just a lot better.

The trial map, though, is a nightmare. It took me over 90 minutes to do; you just have to walk up this long spiral mountain and avoid archers by hugging the wall. It’s not challenging, it just takes a really long time. Thank god for emulator speedup.

The fifth battle has some reinforcements. At this point my mage had Salamander which hits a huge range and makes things generally easier.

Finally you have to protect Leena (who has a strange time travel backstory); once again not too difficult.

Chapter 6 

First task in chapter 6 is to do the last trial, which I thought was pretty easy.

Upon completing the last trial, you can change Ash into the Vandalier class; he gets super powerful equipment and can cast all the spells in the game, including Plasma Wave which hits every enemy on the board. This basically breaks the rest of the game but I’m not sure the final stages would have been that challenging even without plasma wave.

The chapter only has 4 stages. The first one is probably the hardest one, since Kain gains the ability to use Plasma Wave himself. If you let him stay near the cure circle he’ll keep regaining MP, but as long as you move towards him he’ll move away from that and then quickly run out of MP — with one or two Soul Water (heal all HP of all allies) it’s not tough to deal with.

I tore through the next two stages with no problem, leaving the final fight.

The final boss is not very hard (he’s easier than Kain), even though he has two forms. For some reason the second form only has 165 HP — was this a programming mistake?

I made sure to beat him with my Sky God — everyone always bashes that class but I really didn’t think they were that bad.

Afterwards the ending scene shows what happens to all the characters, and if you got Vandalier you get a special ending screen.

Overall this was a pretty good game. The story was above average – some cliches and I wish they had developed the villains a bit more. The ending was also a bit of a cheat (how did Ash get back?); I don’t know if VH2 or the third game are plot related at all.

I had some interface problems with the game — for instance, you can’t see a list of all your units and their HP, which is a pretty basic thing that is often useful and every SRPG should have. 

The map design is good, with different goals, gimmicks on the maps, some maps that aren’t just “defeat all enemies”, and other variety.

Vandal Hearts 2 came out in 1999 so it will be a while until I get there. Next up it’s back to Arc the Lad II, and I was able to dig out my save files from the first game so hopefully the carryover will work.

Deep Dungeon

 I’m on the last chapter of Vandal Hearts so I should be back here next week. Until then, a short post continuing my “old RPGs” sequence — this time the Famicom Disk System game Deep Dungeon.

This is the first of four first-person dungeon crawler games for the Famicom (the first two for the disk system). It’s the first attempt to transfer the Wizardry-style gameplay to a console. It is considerably simpler than its inspiration; you control only one character who is just a fighter — you can buy items and use them to cast spells by spending HP, but other than that it’s just attack.

The story is pretty simple — a princess has been captured and you have to go into the underground dungeon (just like Wizardry) to find her. There are 8 floors about the same size as Wizardry ones. The game is also quite similar to the first Wizardry in that the main activity of the game is making maps of the dungeon. There is very little to find in the dungeon — for instance, the first floor has a couple of places where you can find gold, and one message. There are some places with guaranteed encounters and adventurers, but other than that the maze is empty. This is something that I found fun when I was a kid and hadn’t played many of these games, but now I feel like there has to be stuff to find in the dungeons or it’s not fun just to wander around.

One other clear indication of Wizardry’s influence is that you have to press a button to kick a door down rather than just walking through it.

Saving requires you to switch sides of the disk, which takes a long time (of course in a modern emulator you can just use a save state).

I wandered around the first floor for a while. The encounter rate is very low, but the main character has a hard time surviving. There’s also a certain sluggishness to the whole game, which is not that surprising from this era.

There is a translation patch (and a full set of maps on GameFAQs) so this can be played, but it’s hard to imagine many people finding it fun. I think I would have enjoyed it in 1986 when it came out, because these kinds of RPGs were still fairly new. But I can’t see playing it now except for some kind of masochist completion.

The series takes steps forward in successive entries, by adding multiple dungeons, more characters. The second game came out about 6 months after this one, suggesting that like Dragon Quest I this was more of a trial run and the next game is a more polished entry. If I keep doing these early games now and then we’ll see Deep Dungeon 2 before too long.

SRPG Game 62 – Vandal Hearts (chs 1-3)

Vandal Hearts (ヴァンダルハーツ〜失われた古代文明〜)
Released 10/25/1996, by Konami
 

 

This seems to be Konami’s first SRPG. It makes use of the Playstation hardware capabilities to have a rotating 3D isometric map. This is not the first 3D game I’ve played, but it’s much more competent and worthwhile than Sengoku Cyber. Vandal Hearts allows for full rotation of the camera and angle change. Other than that, everything in this game we’ve seen before. 

There are narrated sequences between chapters, otherwise there is no voicing. This is something that always interests me about the Playstation, although there are fully (or mostly) voiced acted games as well (we’ll be seeing one example very soon).

I seem to have abandoned my data matrix because I stopped doing wrap-up posts. But I think it’s a good way to overview the system so I will resurrect it.

  1. Turn type: Player/enemy phase
  2. Maps: The maps have terrain bonuses, as well as height. There are chests, hidden items, and switches as well as poison bogs and occasional other things.
  3. Character Customization: Characters can promote at level 10 and 20. Some classes have the option to take one of two paths at level 10.
  4. Character Development: Standard XP/level system.
  5. Party Size: I don’t know what the max size is, but you always use all your guys.
  6. Equipment: One weapon, one armor, one shield, and then 2 carry items.
  7. Game Flow: 6 chapters with 5-7 battles each, all done in order. No random encounters. There are also some optional “trial” maps you can unlock throughout the game.
  8. Saving: On the world map, and one in-battle save.
  9. Death: Main character = game over, other characters will come back after the battle (you have a small money penalty)

Here’s the backstory for the game from Wikipedia:

Thousands of years ago, the holy man known to history as Toroah the Messiah traveled far and wide across the continent of Sostegaria, spreading his teachings throughout the land. After his death, his descendants and heirs assumed absolute political power over the region, forming the basis of the Holy Ashah Dynasty and ruling through a combination of religious doctrine and military power for millennia. The kings and queens of the Holy Ashah Dynasty, however, did not always rule wisely or justly, and, as time passed, the citizenry began to resent the power of their leaders.

Fifteen years ago, this growing discontent found its ultimate expression in the person of Arris the Sage, who united the desperate and resentful anti-royal factions throughout Sostegaria and shaped them into a powerful guerrilla army. Under the cunning leadership of Arris, this Liberation Army managed to outwit and outmaneuver the Royal Army, and finally smashed through to the palace of the Ashah Dynasty itself, and burnt it to the ground.

With the monarchy dissolved, the rebels establish a ruling council founded on the principles of democracy and popular sovereignty. From the ashes of the Holy Ashah Empire emerges the Republic of Ishtaria. The leaders of the revolution naturally assumed leadership positions within the new republic: all, that is, except for Arris himself, who suddenly disappeared and has not been seen of, nor heard of, ever since.

Today, the fledgling republic is in increasingly dire straits: the autocratic Minister of Defense, Hel Spites, and his elite anti-terrorism squad, the Crimson Guard, are using ever-increasing force to stamp out the last vestiges of resistance to Ishtarian rule, while they allow outlaws to roam the countryside and pirates to sail the seas.

The characters are generally much older than usual (Ash is 25 and I think the youngest party member is 17). Overall the story is decent so far.

(Sorry the screenshots suck for this post except the title one; I changed the duckstation settings after this to take better ones.)

 Chapter 1

The story for this chapter basically shows Hel Spites beginning to take control over the republic while Ash and his friends serve it through a guards regiment (while opposing the Crimson Guard, though not to the point of attacking them).

The first battles are pretty easy although I had to restart the first one until I learned the system basics. You can only counterattack, and units get support bonuses if their allies are surrounding the character. This means that if enemies gang up on one unit, that unit will tend to get severely hurt or die. This game has the “main character dies = game over” system; I really don’t like this in any games. It’s not as bad here as I’ve seen it, but it still tends to create this fear of actually using the main character.

But basically, the general tactic is to keep back and stay together unless you have to go forward. The system has unit compatibility; there’s a triangle between the fighters but then the Armors are good against all of them, and magic is good against armor.

 

There are hidden treasures on many of the maps. They are marked by things like craters, cracks, or strange patterns in the ground.

The second battle introduces the first switch, which you “search” to activate.

Battle 4 has a burning bridge so you do have to move forward.

Battle 5 is just one enemy plus a bunch of arms; the arms paralyze but if you just move towards the main enemy it’s not too bad.

Finally Battle 6 is a ship battle. The enemies cluster on the gangplanks and can be finished off with bows and spells.

 

At this point I had some people hitting level 10. These are the paths I took everyone on:

  • Ash – Hero (he has no choice)
  • Jose – Hawk Knight/Sky Lord
  • Reen, Amon, Genius – Sniper/Ace Gunner
  • Keith, Rado – Armor/Heavy Armor
  • Dolmen – Knight/Sword Master
  • Elena – Wizard/Spellmaster
  • Horcus – Bishop/Messiah
  • Samdera, Saria – Monk/Godhand

I did this without reading about the pluses and minuses of various classes. I probably should have made Samdera a second Wizard since their damage spells are quite good. It seems like most people recommend Genius being the Hawk Knight; you need one to get Ash’s hidden class. Personally I have found the Hawk Knight pretty useful so far in contrast to what everyone says. (BTW all the names are different in the translation. It looks like Keith->Clint, Jose->Diego, Elena->Eleni, Horcus->Huxley, Dolmen->Dolan, Rado->Grog, Saria->Sara, Samdera->Zohar, Genius->Darius, Reen-Kira.)

Near the end of the chapter we begin getting the Trial Keys. Each one can be taken to the promotion area and then there’s an optional trial map. In each map you have to beat all the enemies but also get a chest before you do that, which has a prism in it. If you get all the prisms, you unlock Ash’s secret class.

The trial maps all have some sort of gimmicky setup; in this case you just have to climb this huge mountain. I thought I would lose but I managed to win with 2 guys left alive and no MP.

Chapter 2

Here we go to an island and find the intrigue surrounding a certain gemstone. The first battle you have to destroy statues without destroying all the enemies (who are villagers changed into monsters). This is only a challenge because you can’t choose not to counterattack. This rubs me the wrong way; a battle that bases its strategy on a fundamentally flawed system element that makes no logical sense in the story. It does have strategy because you have to make sure you are placing your units in the right place. I ended up killing all the villagers but one.

The fourth battle in the chapter is annoying; you have to use these elevators that raise and lower to get everyone across a wall, and since the goal is “reach the castle door with everyone” even when you beat the enemies you still have to spend a bunch of time moving everyone.

The sixth battle is vs. a bunch of guard dogs, who have to be beaten within 7 turns and like to run away. Not very hard, but a strange battle.

There’s also another Trial in this chapter which is vs. all archers. It’s not especially hard but archers tend to be able to gang up on a character and it can be hard to judge placement because of the archers’ movement and then attack range.

Chapter 3

The plot takes a strange turn here as most of the characters get sent to another dimension where 3 years pass in a few days — I think this is to allow them to show the change in the world after the takeover by Hel Spites.

In the second battle you have to prevent towers from being destroyed by the enemies; I only had one left at the end but that’s enough.

The next few stages aren’t too bad, then there’s an interesting one where the enemies will start running away when you show yourself, so you have to wait until they reach a good spot and then pick them off before they can run.

Then we switch to a different party of people who are in jail, with some interesting enemies — they can’t be hurt except from behind, and from behind they die in one hit. So it’s all about maneuvering them into the right spot and then killing them. 

The trial for the chapter is easy; just one enemy and a bunch of chests, and you have to find the one with the prism.

So that’s half the game down (I’m on chapter 5 so hopefully I will finish up this weekend). Not bad but it does show its age in a few interface issues.

Surging Aura

 For this week’s off-week post I’m looking at Surging Aura for the Mega Drive, which came out the same day as the next two SFC games on my list. I was already planning in my mind a post that would contrast the Mega CD with the Playstation that just came out as well as the PC Engine CD — but then I realized that Surging Aura is not a Mega CD game, it’s just a regular Mega Drive cartridge game. It looks like of the 4 Mega Drive RPGs that came out in 1995, only one of them was a CD game. This is in sharp contrast to the PC Engine, where the final non-CD RPG came out in 1992. The Mega Drive was a more technologically advanced system than the PCE, but it’s still surprising to see that many games released this late in the system.

As you can see from the title screen, the character designs are by Inomata Mutsumi. She is best known for her work on the Tales series over 20 years; this is an early video game she worked on (I believe she had done some anime work before this as well). This game has a feature I wish SFC RPGs had — inset graphics and face graphics.

Maybe there was a feeling that it’s better for all the action to take place in one style of view, but I like these graphical insets, especially for games when you can barely tell even what the characters look like without the instructions.

The story starts out pretty cliche — the main character, Muu, is waking up to go through a ceremony to confirm him as crown prince. But as the ceremony starts, monsters attack and seemingly kill everyone, including Muu himself. But a “time rabbit” comes out and restores Muu’s life, leaving him in an unknown place. But since he’s a silent protagonist we don’t know who he is or where.

Immediately in the town he wakes up in, bandits attack the magic shop and steal away a girl, and Muu finds himself assisting a local guardsman who is in love with her to free her.

The combat system is interesting; it’s a realtime system where you choose an action while a glass sphere fills up. When it fills, the action happens (but magic takes additional time beyond that). Then they will just keep doing that action until you change it. Muu starts off weak; he seems to be the only magic user (at least judging from the status screen, which has no space for any other characters to have MP).

The interface is rather frustrating to use, particularly the spellcasting. There are 6 types of spells you can get and there is some complexity in that, but to choose a spell in battle you have to use this confusing wheel and a number counter; I never found it convenient to use (I notice that richie, in his walkthrough, says that the system is bad — I’ve never seen him criticize a game in the ~40 or 50 walkthroughs of his I’ve looked at up to now).

So this is a pretty short post as these off-week ones usually are. This isn’t a terrible game and it seems generally competitive with the quality of games that were coming out for the SFC. I’m surprised that it wasn’t released on CD.