Monthly Archives: February 2022

SRPG Game 66 – Funky Fantasy (Saturn)

Funky Fantasy (ファンキーファンタジー), released 12/13/1996, developed by Yoshimoto Kogyo

It’s hard to know what to expect with a game called Funky Fantasy, and when you see the character designs it doesn’t inspire confidence:

The game was developed by Yoshimoto Kogyo,a large media conglomerate that manages mostly comedians and comedy groups, although they’ve been branching out in recent years. All of the characters in this game have faces of comedians or entertainers that were managed by the company at the time — I have no idea how popular or well-known the people were at the time (or still are).

The story is basically a string of parodies, cliches, and gags — the princess Bunny Muno (above) has lost her kingdom and has to gain allies and fight to get it back; that’s pretty much the whole story — even the few twists or developments are just parodies. The game is also pretty short, with only 16 stages. The parodies draw from a wide range of sources, and there are probably a lot I missed. I noticed Gundam, Sailor Moon, Evangelion, Dragon Quest, Ninja Hattori, and even Sakura Taisen and Langrisser:

So we have a game produced by a comedy entertainment company, using weird character designs and a plot mostly centered on gags and parodies. Surely this must be a terrible game? Well….no. I can’t say that it’s particularly good, but the designers didn’t just copy other SRPGs. There are a lot of new gameplay elements and innovative features. I wonder if the non-traditional background of this game gave it both potential and ultimate disappointment — the fact that this wasn’t a major game development studio allowed them to avoid simply making a clone of other SRPGs, but they didn’t have enough experienced staff to actually implement their ideas in a balanced and satisfying manner. This is just a guess, though.

The rocking horse thing there is the White Base parody, your main ship. Bunny controls it and is a summoner. The way you get your people on the board is to combine them with monster types and send them out.

Each character has a class (with a promotion at level 10). The combination of the character and the monster will produce different skills — for instance if you combine a Ninja with a Centaur Lord, the unit will have the Steal skill from the Ninja class, as well as a ranged attack from the Centaur Lord. The stats of the unit will be a combination of the character and the monster.

If a unit is defeated in battle, they can be re-summoned as long as they have life points remaining (the candle on the picture above). However, summoning costs MP, and the higher level the monster, the more MP it costs. You gain MP every turn, 2 MP for each of the magic circle pentagrams you control on the board. You gain control of a circle by moving any unit onto it, and it will then remain under your control until an enemy unit goes on it.

The enemy often has a summoner as well, and so they’ll be trying to capture the magic circles as well. If there are named units on the enemy side they will also have life points — often the goal of a map is to either reduce someone’s life points to 0, or kill their summoner and then kill them. However, the enemy summoners can bring out an unlimited number of grunt units; they still cost MP but don’t have life candles. This is one area I thought they made a mistake on in the game; too often it’s impossible to actually reach the summoner because they can just keep pumping out endless numbers of units, and it’s difficult to actually advance and make progress in the stage.

When you make an attack, the units to the left and right of the attacker, and left and right of the defender, all participate (up to 6 units total). Confusingly it’s not 3 vs 3 but can be 5 vs. 1 or 4 vs 2 as well, despite what the picture might look like above. Characters on the attacking side can participate in the attack even if they have already used their turn to do something else (like shooting, casting a spell, whatever).

I think that if this were the entire game, it would be quite difficult due to the unbalanced nature of the enemy ability to do unlimited summons. However, there is one more aspect to the game — the card system.

Before each battle, you form a deck of 60 cards from your total stock of cards. These cards include ones that increase your attack for the battle, increase defense, do damage to enemy units, increase movement speed, steal cards, and others. Using the cards during the stage does not permanently use them up; they’ll still be in your stock when you make your deck for the next stage. The enemy also has a deck of cards. Each turn the side will draw 2 cards from their deck.

You can use as many cards as you want on a turn or before a battle. Often when you have your first encounter with the enemy, they’ll unload all their attack cards on you, making it basically impossible to win unless you have an “absolute defense” card.

Between stages you can buy cards for your stock, as well as weapons and armor for your characters. Eventually I sunk most or all of my money into damage dealing cards, which I think are the best way to get through the later stages.

I found this game quite difficult in the beginning until I learned some of the peculiarities of how the system worked. Stage 5 is a big wall because there’s this Kraken that you can barely hurt; you need to figure out cards and magic by this point.

Even afterwards, the game remained fairly challenging until the last 5 stages or so when I could make a deck that was 2/3 damage dealing and “draw more cards” cards. I would then rely primarily on those cards to hurt the bosses, along with fire spells and ranged attacks. I don’t think I did any regular attacks after stage 10. For units, I thought the most useful were the Ninja (who can steal enemy cards) and the spellcasters. The best monster was the Centaur Lord because of its 5 range attack.

There were some elements of the system that I never fully understood. Sometimes I could not use my spells or abilities and I wasn’t entirely sure why.

So in the end I can’t really say this is a good game, but at least it tried something new. I would have liked to see a followup that refined the system, but there was never a sequel and I don’t think Yoshimoto Kogyo made any more strategy games.

SFC Game 79 – La Wares

La Wares (真・聖刻), released 4/21/1995, developed by J Force

This game is part of a franchise that originally began with a tabletop RPG “Wares Blade” released in the 1980s. The game is based more closely on a novel called Wares 1092. The term “wares” is assigned to the characters 聖刻 which mean something like “holy time” and has a number of different meanings in the franchise.

This game is one of the legendary kusoge of the SFC and it definitely lives up to that reputation; it’s one of the worst games I’ve played on the blog so far, in the gutter with games like Fist of the North Star 5, Light Fantasy, and The Last Battle. It actually has a translation patch, but it’s not worth playing.

One issue is the number of typos in the text. If you can read Japanese you can see how in the screenshot above, 青ざめた has been written 育ざめた (then you have 青だてる). The character 救 is substituted for 教 in every instance. The main character’s name changes spelling throughout the game. There are is annoying kana-kanji majiri that to me is harder to read than all hiragana (things like きょうあく犯 and 再とう合).

But the issues go far beyond the text. The interface is a mess. When you choose “equip” you can’t even see what’s a weapon/armor or a regular item. There’s no way to see the stats of an equip item, or what items do. You can’t see a character’s current XP. The stat menu is under “system” for some reason.

The story is an incoherent mess. They adapted it from the novel, but they left out a bunch of the scenes, so that characters enter and leave for no reason, there are key terms undefined in the game, and the overall story is very short. The only reason this game takes any amount of time is because you have to grind to beat it, which I’ll get to later.

So the story is bad, but that’s not a deal breaker. The interface is annoying but a lot of those problems can be overcome as well — is the game system any good? No, it sucks too. There are two types of combat in the game. The normal combat as shown in the shot above is just the basic “hold down the attack button” that we’ve seen many times. There are only 2 enemies, and they only use regular attacks. As you level up (you recover HP fully when you level) the enemies get stronger, but they’re not very hard. So why did I say this requires grinding earlier?

You also have mech combats. These are all 1-on-1. You have three choices — punch, kick (which is lower accuracy but higher damage), and defend (which is pointless in a 1-on-1 battle). So there is no opportunity for any kind of strategy, and whether you win these fights comes down to luck on the kicking, and whether your level is high enough. The red meter there is your HP and the blue is your “water”; both can only be recovered in towns.

When you travel on the overworld, you just pick a location and then automatically go there, encountering mech combats on the way. The random encounter rate is unpredictable, and if you get unlucky you can’t survive all of them and just have to try again from your last save.

I actually played over half the game in just a couple of hours, but I reached a boss that I was going to have a do a ton of grinding on, and one review of the game said that over half their time in the game was just grinding. So I decided to put my little used rule to effect that if a game has a translation patch, I can give up if it’s really bad.

The shop menu

The story is basically that thousands of years ago there was a civilization that came up with powerful mechs that could only be used by the chosen ones. It seems like the main character will be able to become one of those chosen ones; he begins the game as part of a bandit group but his father dies and he goes out to seek the mechs. The other main characters is a princess who escapes the confines of her life and begins adventuring.

In the end, there’s really no reason to play this game, but there is a translation patch if you really want to try it for some reason.

SFC Game 78 – Rejoice! Beyond Aretha Kingdom

Rejoice: Beyond Aretha Kingdom (リジョイス 〜アレサ王国の彼方〜), released 4/21/1995, developed by Yanoman

Yanoman is back with the sixth (and last) Aretha game. This one takes place in the same timeline as the Game Boy games, and involves the Dark King Howard from the first two GB titles (as well as Doll or Dorl or however you want to romanize it). I got the feeling that there were other parts of the game that were references to the GB Aretha games but not having played them I’m not completely sure. The game takes a different approach from the previous five in being an action RPG rather than a regular RPG.

The game starts with the dark king Howard trying to capture Milrose, who he calls a princess. When she runs away he sends Ice Cube after her (complete with Ice Ice Baby lyrics — the whole game’s soundtrack has a hip hop theme).

This is an unwinnable battle but it lets you play around with the battle system a bit before the real game begins.

Now we switch to our “protagonists”, the Rejoice! group, who are a bunch of thieves and swindlers. I’ve seen thief main characters in RPGs before but they usually try to make them sympathetic. Here they insult each other, rob a statue from a tomb, and then go back to town and rob a man’s house by setting it on fire to distract him, steal a cart from a sleeping old woman, cheat a shopkeeper with fake money, and try to rob another shop at knifepoint. The townspeople treat them like they’re just incorrigible youth that you roll your eyes at, but this seems over the top.

Unfortunately the Black Ship Thieves show up and steal all their hard earned stuff, but they manage to hold on to the statue to deliver it to Ben Marxist. This whole part of the game was rather unclear to me — Ben claims that he doesn’t care about the statue, he just wanted it out of the cave. Then he gives the Force Book to the group. Kyu, one of the members, wants it for himself and kills Base, one of the other group members. He runs away, leaving the book behind. Treno, who is our main character, somehow is able to use the book to gain magic power but leaves it there, then a tsunami wipes out the village and Treno washes up on a beach.

Now he’s found by Aretha series regular Dorl, who is in all six games. Treno wants to find Mikey (the fourth member of the group); they find Mikey’s knife on the ground. This leads to a cutscene showing Mikey captured, with a prisoner in the next cell saying that they were looking for a hero to beat Howard.

Now Doll and Treno reach the first area of the game, the Mushroom Forest. This game supports two players, so someone can control Dorl (you can also switch people by pressing start to pause the game, then L or R).

Each character has a weapon, armor, shield, and up to two items. The “life” at the top right is shared between characters; if you die you will be revived and lose a life — these can be recovered with the Risarisa item.

The weapons you can equip vary quite a bit in range and attack style, so it’s not just a matter of equipping whatever the strongest one is. You also may have to switch, although the inability to switch in a boss battle is annoying because it means that if you see a different one might be better you have to reload or quit.

The most annoying feature is the armor and shield, because they can break by taking damage. I don’t know what the purpose of this system was, but it meant that most of the time I had no armor or shield.

I often found it hard to find my way around, but I often have that experience in action RPGs; I’m not sure why. Treno levels very quickly. I was level 6 by the time I reached the first boss, the Poison Mushroom, and level 11 after the fight. You recover HP on level up so you can sometimes kill the bosses’ things they shoot out and gain a bunch of levels during the boss fights that way.

Some people complain that you can’t see your HP while you are fighting. I actually didn’t find this to be that bad, because when you get hit, you flash a color based on your remaining HP; that was always enough for me to tell when I was in danger. The enemies have the same colors (this is a long standing feature of the series; in Aretha SFC 1 you couldn’t even see how much damage you were dealing).

After that we read Akim Town, where they collapse from the poison of the forest. Akim nurses them back to health, and then wants Treno to try to fight against Howard — if he could defeat the Poison Mushroom he may be able to beat the dark king as well. Of course Treno’s not interested.

The next part is annoying; it’s a common feature of RPGs that I sometimes call “inscrutable flags” — you have to talk to the right people in the right order, some of them more than once, to get the game to advance. But there’s no logic or way to find out what steps you have to do, so you just have to wander around the town talking to everyone over and over again and returning to Akim’s house until the game finally decides to advance. This is repeated several times throughout the game, in most of the towns. You can do a party chat which sometimes helps, but usually not.

Eventually Treno decides to try to go after Howard on the hope that he will find Mikey along the way. So they enter this magic door that just happens to be in the town which takes them to the Trick Castle, supposedly connected to Howard’s castle. The game has no sense of a world map or locations; it’s more like a sequence of stages than anything else.

There are two bosses in this castle. First up, a knight. If you switch to Dorl you can use some long range magic that might make it easier but it’s hard to tell where to hit the boss and I lost several lives.

After this we find Mikey, as well as the neighboring prisoner who turns out to be Milrose. So we fight Ice Cube again, but can actually win this time (I was at level 30 at this point).

Now we fall into a big pit to the Cave Town, where ants and grasshoppers are working together (although the grasshoppers are looked down on) against the antlions. This town and dungeon is by far the worst place in the game for the “invisible flags” I mentioned before — you have to constantly wander around randomly until a party member says something, then places you couldn’t go before suddenly open for no reason.

You have to solve this puzzle to advance, but even when you solve it the way forward doesn’t immediately open, you have to wander around and come back. I had to watch a video playthrough of this on youtube and the Japanese player was as frustrated with it as I was; half his time was just walking back and forth trying to figure out what to do, and even when he was able to advance he would just say something like “screw you, rejoice”.

Anyway, the boss of this section is a big bug, but I had moved up so many levels that he was no challenge.

Now to get out of here we have to cross the lava with the help of some rescued turtles from earlier. This leads to the Kaskal Sea, where we can breathe underwater for some reason. There’s a sunken ship whose captain will take us to Howard’s castle if we can get them out of the ocean.

This is a confusing section yet again. The dialogue makes it seem like you need to bring back parts from the sunken pirate ship to Captain Rock to repair the ship. Actually all you have to do is see the pirate ship, then go back to Rock and talk, then return to the pirate ship and fight ghosts. This is another place where the Japanese player was frustrated.

This lizard boss posed no challenge at all. I was at level 66 by this point.

Now we’re in Giant Forest, which has fairies, and also the nearby Neve Town. After another “invisible flag” hell, I found my way to the Tsuda Cave. Along the way we learn that Kyu (the guy from the beginning) has become a Dark Priest and Howard’s right hand man, and Milrose gets captured.

The cave soon leads to Howard Castle.

When we reach Howard, he tries to kill Treno but Kyu protects him and dies. He then flies on a dragon to Karakuri Castle and we have to fight the left-behind Balloon Dragon.

With the long range weapon it’s not too bad, just hit the belly button until he dies. Now onto Karakuri Castle.

At this point I had what I guess is the best weapon, this thing that creates a bunch of sparkles around you. It slows down the game a lot, though, and one time froze the game. In this castle we find Kurisu (another one!) who is a friend of Dorl; this part must be a reference to previous games. It turns out they are looking for Mahara Kingdom, but that’s Treno’s home that was destroyed in the tsunami. (Ben Marxist never appears in the game again so I don’t know what all that was about).

The Bamboo Dragon is kind of challenging until you learn how to avoid all of its moves and reliably hit the head. I was at level 79.

Final dungeon is Howard’s Tower.

I had a really hard time with Howard at first. There’s this bullshit first part of the fight where you just take a whole bunch of damage with no way to block it. I eventually did some level grinding and at level 89 he was easy.

At the end, they return to the ruins of Mahar Kingdom but it’s not clear what everyone is going to do — the Dorl/Kurisu plot is unresolved and I don’t know what Treno and Mikey will do either.

The designers were clearly proud of their music because the credits at the end have a whole track list including tempi.

In the end this game is playable and good in some ways, but has plenty of annoying parts as well. It’s also really short. This is the end of the Aretha series, and I don’t know how many more games Yanoman made — they’ve been a big presence so far in the blog but will this be their last hurrah?

SRPG Game 65 – Harukaze Sentai V-Force (PSX)

Here’s another Playstation game, this one trying to use the power of the console to do something that couldn’t have been done on older systems.

The back of the package for this game and the instruction manual make it clear what the goal of the designers was — to make a game that felt like playing an OVA (original video animation). The game has over an hour of anime sequences stretching over three CDs. However, maybe this goal was prophetic as to the ultimate quality of the game itself. Anyone who has watched anime OVAs from the 80s and 90s knows that they were often rushed and incomplete, being made primarily to support manga that told the full story behind it, or perhaps to springboard to some other project. An hour of anime is impressive for a game, but when it’s the primary vehicle of the storytelling, it’s not enough.

Designer VING does not seem to have done all that many video games; at least I can’t find any information about them beyond this game.

The manual gives the backstory: 2000 years ago there was a thriving culture on Jupiter. The Cor Del group started out as an environmental protection agency, but later developed weapons to protect the planet. The nobility feared its power, and there was a civil war. After a long war, the Empress Freya sent her young child Lavis to Earth, but the capsule malfunctioned and landed on the Moon instead. In the end, the nobility won the war with a powerful weapon, and Cor Del retreated to outer space.

2000 years later (in 2008 — so this huge war on Jupiter was in 8 AD?), the descendants of Cor Del, calling themselves the Baskil Empire, have returned suddenly to attack the solar system. The main characters are part of the force that fights them (despite the title, “Harukaze Sentai V-Force” doesn’t appear in the game at all).

The anime sequences are well done; they clearly put a lot of effort into them and I would say they are as good as the anime that was coming out in the period (granted, the resolution the PSX can produce is lower). The main characters are three sisters of the Aoi family — Kagetsu, Natsuki, and Mizuki, as well as Natsuki’s childhood friend Yukina. Their father runs a weapon development company that helps make the attack planes they use.

The first stage is just Natsuki against 3 enemies by herself, followed by some reinforcements and then other units show up. On every stage you have mostly nameless grunt units, plus the main girls. Only the main named characters can gain XP and levels.

On each turn you can move and attack (in either order). Some units (especially ships) can do 2 or even 3 attacks in a turn, although still just one move. You can’t take back your move, which is quite annoying. There are also “option” parts you can use to do things like repair, or raise evade/hit.

When you attack, there is a little anime sequence showing the attack.

This was an interesting decision and probably limited the number of different units they could have. I turned the anime off. Another weak point of the gameplay is that the attacked unit can’t dodge or counter, just sit there and take the hit.

If any of the main 4 girls dies, you get a game over. This becomes a big problem because the units you have are quite weak, and can be defeated in 2-3 hits for the most part. Hit rates are high for the enemies. So you find yourself needing to inch forward slowly, using the unnamed characters as shields — or you can just use save states. This is what I did; I’m not a big fan of having to restart an entire stage because I made one wrong move, particularly in a game that isn’t all that great to begin with.

On stage 2 we have to help another squad destroy a mothership. This stage allows you to choose your weapons and Option before you start. I always made sure I took a Repair Kit as one of the options. For weapons, you do need to think about the choices; the weapons are good against either ground, sky, or “large ship” and have different hit rates, damages, and bullet amounts. The motherships on your side can resupply and repair you with a command on their turn.

I finished this stage fairly quickly and wondered if I should have spent more time beating all the enemies to level — in the end I don’t think it’s necessary. The game’s only challenge comes from the “main character dead = game over” system, and a few levels isn’t going to help that much.

Now let’s appeal to our young male audience some more:

The first four stages don’t have much in the way of plot progression, it’s just fending off various attacks by the enemies. There are a lot of named characters on the enemy side but most of them get very little development. You can check a database of characters from the main menu to see more information about them.

On stage 5 we head into space, and learn that Natsuki has dreams of a mysterious boy; there seems to be some connection between them due to their shared Jupiter descent. Stage 6 and 7 are fighting off the enemies around the moon, and then we finally head to Jupiter. Even though the Aoi girls are still inexperienced, the losses to the Earth side have been so heavy that they don’t really have anyone else.

On stage 7 you get left without the ships so you have to do the stage with no repair. Also, Yukina feels called to Jupiter

Jupiter has some ruins that they investigate, and one of the enemies (Gaichi) is investigating on the enemy side. Gaichi realizes that all the people who were sent to the Solar System are just disposable pawns.

They find some kind of plate which seems to resonate with Natsuki, but then they have to leave. Stage 9 is very long; you have to move Natsuki and Yukina in their bikes through a stage while defending them with other units. The two main people move really slowly. In Stage 10 you have to lure a mothership onto a base to blow it up and destroy the ship. Then in Stage 11, Natsuki has a vision from the Jupiter plate and a mysterious mech comes out.

It’s piloted by the boy that Natsuki saw in her dreams, and he tells Natsuki that Yukina is actually Empress Freya’s daughter, who was found in cold sleep and raised as Yukina. Gaichi decides that if that’s the case, she needs to protect Yukina, and switches sides.

Stage 12 has you destroying some large supply centers. The centers have 3 attacks each and can gang up on a person and kill them, so it takes some caution. The characters are in upgraded ships by this point so I no longer felt like things were quite as precarious as early in the game.

In Stage 13 we have to move one of the girls in a bike with no weapons to a place on the map where she can drop a bomb, and then escape. It’s a long, slow stage but not especially hard.

In stage 14 the enemy Emperor shows up. Something starts to go wrong with the Jupiter mech and Ikos (the pilot) loses control over it.

In the final stage we end up having to shoot down the mech, killing Ikos. Then the Emperor appears — Gaichi is actually his daughter. We have to destroy the Emperor’s ship, then the Emperor’s mech that appears (I was able to do this in 1 turn so I’m not sure how hard it is).

In the ending scene, the Earth people destroy a warp gate so that the enemies can’t bring more forces as easily. But it’s revealed that the Emperor was simply a clone of General Zai, who is eager to use the data provided by the Emperor’s attack to come back in greater force and conquer the Solar System. Obviously this is the setup for some kind of sequel which was never done; there were rumors that one was being developed for the Dreamcast but it didn’t happen.

Ultimately I can appreciate what they were trying to do with this product, but it’s just hard to make this kind of thing work. I don’t know of any game for any system that makes extensive use of anime scenes the way this does — probably because it costs a lot of money to do that, and then you have less to spend on the other parts of the game. 15 stages is way too short; the story has potential but no depth, and could have easily been a 30-40 (or even more) stage game. Too many of the characters are undeveloped other than their profile entries. The gameplay lacks depth the same as the story.

I agree with one closing comment I saw on a review of this game — shouldn’t this have just been an anime?

Five years!

It’s been five years since I made my introduction post on the Super Famicom blog. I’m about 60% finished with the Super Famicom library, but it will be another few years until I play the last game on that list. Thanks to everyone who has read and commented over the years.

Tomorrow or Sunday I will post Harukaze Sentai V-Force, a (barely) strategy RPG that tries to use lots of anime sequences to tell the story, but leaves them with no much room to make a game.

Then will come Rejoice: The Reaches of Aretha Kingdom, an action RPG, and then La Wares, a regular RPG that is known as a kusoge.