Monthly Archives: March 2022

PCE Game 45 – Nekketsu Legend Baseballer

Nekketsu Legend Baseballer (熱血レジェンド ベースボーラー), released 6/16/1995, developed by Pack In Video

I really did not know what to expect with this title — it turns out this is a horrendously bad RPG; if it weren’t so obscure I think it would be a legendary kusoge. The opening narration is ridiculous. The game takes place on Planet Yakyuu (baseball), which was abandoned by most human colonists because of the harsh living conditions. But baseball players developed it and lived there. Then the evil Dark Baseballer spirit attacked, but 9 holy baseball players defeated it. This narration is done in apparent seriousness; I don’t think this was intended to be a gag or parody.

The main character is the son of one of the 9 holy baseball legends. As you can see the graphics are terrible even for PC Engine, and the voice acting is laughably bad. It’s rare to see really incompetent voice acting from a Japanese game but this may be the worst I’ve seen.

The guy at the bottom has joined the Dark Baseballer forces and killed the other 8 legends. The father tries to use Holy Ball Excalibur but the other guy returns it with Dark Hit Deathbringer and kills the dad. Now the dad passes on the holy symbol to his son, who has to go out and defeat the Dark Baseballer forces.

Here’s the excellent town graphics.

The battle system is a mess — when you get into a battle it goes into some kind of baseball game, but it’s basically just a skin over a regular “hold down the attack button” system.

Basically you throw a pitch, and it’s either a strike (enemy takes damage), a ball (both take damage), or a hit (you take damage). It’s very slow, apparently the fights can take 20-30 minutes in the later part of the game even though you just hold down the turbo button to win.

You assign your members to the 9 positions but it doesn’t seem to have any real effect because in the end you’re just holding the attack button down.

If you can understand Japanese this is a great video on the game. The guy who did this has a channel where he plays bad games (kusoge) and he said this was in the top 5 worst he had ever played. He also faulted the terrible voice acting (which is even worse than what I saw, later in the game), stupid story, and slow battle system — apparently it’s even worse on an actual PC Engine because the loading times are very long. He also said the system is really unbalanced and he never saw the enemies get a hit. He usually streams the games as he does it but he stopped streaming it after the first two because it was so slow and boring, and he said he watched 4 movies to pass the time during the battles (he put something on top of the controller button).

There’s also the usual problem of not being able to see what anything does in the shops or item menu. There’s also a bug where if you choose what you want to buy and then cancel out, you get the item anyway without paying money.

Obviously I did not finish this game, or even play it much — it’s hard to see how this trainwreck of a game was released in 1995 but I guess there are kusoge in every period.

SRPG Game 68 – Shin Super Robot Taisen (Playstation)

Shin Super Robot Taisen (新スーパーロボット大戦), released 12/27/1996, developed by Banpresto

This is another Super Robot Taisen game, and as usual I’m reposting the message board posts I made many years ago when I played the game. For this one I was playing on an actual console and at the time I did not have any equipment to take screenshots, so this was all text. I’ll grab a few pictures off the Internet to show what the game looks like.

I offer my usual caveat that these posts may not be of interest to people who don’t know SRW or have played the game. OK, now on to my 2008 comments:

Banpresto was still feeling for direction, and Shin SRW, the first original game for the Playstation, represents a dead end for the series in a number of ways. Even so, there are some elements of the game that survived into future installments.

The game followed LoE in using full-size sprites instead of SD. The game featured fully voiced combat quotes for all characters (4S had voices only for the heroes). The original characters are not the Masou Kishin, but a new set of heroes and enemies. It seems that this was intended to be the start of a new storyline, but in the end this was the only game, and it was up to Alpha to steal the SRX characters from this game and extend their story.

Series-wise, this is an interesting game in that the only UC Gundam series are CCA and V. This is the first time CCA’s plot is represented in the game, and CCA-era Char makes his first appearance. The Getter Robo team is done using the manga “shin getter robo” character designs; including a version of Benkei made specially for this game by Ishikawa Ken (the original manga artist). It’s not until Crossbone Gundam’s appearance in Alpha 2 that a manga is used as a source material again (aside from small cameo mech design appearances).

For new series, on the real-robot side, Layzner and Gundam W debut, although Gundam W is something of a cameo since the series was still in progress. On the Super Robot side, Voltes V, Gaiking, and Trider G7 make their first appearances — Voltes V shows up somewhat often after this, but Gaiking and especially Trider G7 are rare.

Systemwise, the game follows 4 in most ways. There are still buried treasures, the seishin are still old SNES-style, EN and Limit are capped at 255, etc. The story path is the most linear since 2 — there are two major story branches, and there’s one instance where you can get one of three stages depending on what happens, but other than that, it’s completely linear. There’s a secret stage at the end if you complete both routes on the memory card.

Here we go.

Stage 1 – Mysterious Invaders

The game opens with an impressive FMV of the Balmar ships destroying a colony. After this you get some talk with a shadowed Char and some other people, then Voltes V makes its debut.

THE BATTLE SCENES LOAD SO SLOWLY…WAAA. I’m glad I had some papers to grade while doing this.

Stage 2 – Trider G7 appears!

THE BATTLE S..ok, I won’t mention that every time.

How do I combine Voltes V? Even if I do it in the intermission menu I have to sortie the 5 units separately and I don’t see a combine command anywhere even if I arrange them in a V pattern.

Stage 3 – Photon Power Lab

The first 3 stages are all pretty easy; just fights vs. Voltes enemies (and a few Mazinger), mostly those weak disc things. The game is now freed from the confines of the Divine Crusaders setup, so they can have the super robot enemies acting alone. No Reals yet, but looks like V Gundam appears in the next stage.

Stage 4 – League Militaire

THESE BATTLE SCENES LOAD SO SL…sorry. But they’re even slower than F/FF.

Some real robots finally show up, but they’re in the water. Another fairly simple stage; I doubt you can beat the boss here.

Stage 5 – Ryuusei Date

First appearance of Ryuusei and the R-1. In this storyline, the SRX project is done by Dr. Hamaguchi (of Voltes V). Ryuusei and the R-1 both start out essentially in the same design they’ve had ever since, and Ryuusei’s personality as a mech otaku is already there.

Stage 6 – Point Kasaleria

The attack animations are a little more varied — the game now uses some inset graphics to show weapons, and they use different models of the sprite to suggest movement (i.e. if they are going to fire a gun, the arm actually extends). There’s still no true animation (and won’t be until Alpha).

This is more V Gundam; you finally get the V Gundam itself, although it’s not particularly impressive.

Ryuusei hasn’t joined the team; I wonder if you have to take the Earth Route to get him. I notice that Stage 29 on the space route is an SRX stage so it must come in at some point.

Stage 7 – Chronicle Strikes Back

More V Gundam. The major route choice comes here; the way it’s done is kind of interesting. The League Militaire is under attack, and Voltes V and Mazinger decide to stay to help, while the Daiku Maryuu decides that since it’s in the military, it can’t get involved, and goes back to Japan.

Stage 8 – Vesper and the Aliens

As others have pointed out, it looks like the Balmar group includes all the super robot enemies rather than them acting independently.

Stage 9 – The Warriors’ Shine

I only have 3 units right now (Voltes V, V Gundam, and Mazinger) so the game is a little odd, but the maps go “quickly”. They’re much shorter than the early F missions, although the animations load a lot more slowly.

This is a “protect” mission; I actually got game over once because the little truck only has 800 HP. I finally was able to combine Voltes; maybe you have to wait until some point in the story. It does look like they all have to be together rather than in a V shape.

The next stage has you protecting two 800-HP trucks; I’ve already gotten two game overs on it since one laser blast from the enemy blows up the ship and I still only have Voltes, Mazinger, and V Gundam.

Stage 10 – Heart

Protect two trucks, with the same three units. Kind of an annoying stage since one attack can take the truck out (and of course they don’t dodge or block).

Stage 11 – The Gaddol Team

Yet another stage with protecting the two trucks, with the same three units. At least I finally figured out how to combine Voltes V; I think you may have to get to a certain stage before you can do it.

The story is still basically following V Gundam; the aliens have apparently made some deal with Vespa since the mysterious commander “Gozzo” (who we know from @ and OG of course) told them to stop attacking Vespa.

The next stage is protecting those damn trucks again.

Stage 12 – Vivid! The Shurak Team

Arrrgh, another annoying “protect the trucks” stage. I don’t like these stages because they depend entirely on you positioning your units in exact places to block the enemies (since one hit kills a truck). The entire Shurak team joins in this mission, so now I have more than 3 units. However, I’m not sure 3 units + 8 gun-ez (or whatever the number is) is all that much more interesting. I also don’t like how the Gun-EZs are better than the Victory Gundam.

Stage 13 – Starting a Journey

All you have to do on this stage is move all your guys in the plane. You don’t have to kill (or even engage) a single enemy.

Stage 14 – Voltes Can’t Combine

Another odd stage; just move all the Shurak team near the Voltes parts and the stage ends. Voltes leaves after this.

Stage 15 – Gibraltar Area

Dancougar! Dancougar stays around, right? If so I’m going to start dumping money into it. After this stage, the Gun-EZs get upgrades — they were already better than the V Gundam, now they’re even more better.

Stage 16 – Lienhorse Jr. Takes Off

This stage introduces the Layzner characters. It’s a little hard to tell this early, but it looks like there is no “Grados”, instead the Layzner characters are all just part of the Balmar empire (with Gresco being a top ranking person). Later there may be more info on this, but in general the earlier games blended the series together a lot better than the later ones.

However, it doesn’t look like you actually get any of the Layzner people on your team in the Space route. Guess I’ll have to wait until SRW 64.

The dialogue in this stage is the first appearance of the name “Balmar”. Also, Aya joins. Even though they still have T-Link moves, there’s been no real explanation of this, or the SRX project, or any backstory at all for the SRX characters.

Stage 17 – Mysterious Enemy Warship

First appearance of the Helmoze, and of Gozzo (although there’s no indication which one it is, or even if the idea of the clones had been developed yet — I guess I’ll find out later). You have to be careful since it has a devastating MAP attack, but it moves very slowly and you can easily avoid it. The stage ends when the Lienhorse leaves the map.

Stage 18 – Becoming a Blue Shooting Star

Char and Amuro appear here. Char is the head of “Neo Zeon” but there’s no indication of what the original Zeon was. The instruction manual mentions some colony that declared itself a dukedom, setting the stage for numerous wars, but no names or specifics are mentioned. Zechs is with him as well, but once again, it’s not yet clear what the backstory of the Gundam Wing characters is — Char has saved Zechs from a colony explosion, and from what I saw on the Earth route in MN’s walkthrough, Hero is trying to stop Char.

This is the first stage that has fairly tough enemies. The best thing to do is move everyone to the left to be near the Londo Bell forces when they arrive.

Gyunei gets a pilot cut in for his funnels. I had thought that Compact 2 was the first game with pilot cut-ins, but I was wrong.

Stage 19 – Big Cannon

Now that I have the Ra Kalium I can smoke the enemies with super MAP attacks. Apparently also if you upgrade certain weapons they turn into MAP attacks; Dancougar can get one so I’ll have to remember that when I have a little more money (you have to upgrade it to level 8).

The Gun-EZs are cool because you can use them as suicide grunts; they only cost 300 to repair so there’s really very little harm in losing one (or three).

Stage 20 – Moon Surface Operation

Fight against Ashura. Nothing really special happens here.

Stage 21 – Moon Guardian

All you have to do here is defend the ships until two of them leave the screen; it’s a lot like the truck missions but the ships are a lot easier to protect.

Stage 22 – Confusion of Zanscare

There are only 6 enemies on this stage — there might be reinforcements but I beat all six on the first round so the mission ended. You get Nu Gundam after this stage, and Rai joins. Aya also gets the R3 powered. It looks like Aya plays Beltorchika’s role for pissing off Chein.

Stage 23 – Amuro and Char

Quess shows up here; the events are a really abbreviated version of some CCA stuff. The fight is just against grunts, though.

One thing I forgot to point out is that the SRX team has old-MK syndrome in that all of the SRX team pilots get Time To Come as their music. Strangely, Psychic Energy is in the game but it’s a stage BGM rather than Aya’s theme.

Stage 24 – True Intention

This is another really short stage — it starts out with you vs. Gyunei, Zechs, Quess, and Char. They all run away in a few turns when the reinforcements (3 units) show up. I only defeated Zechs; I think you would need some serious upgrades to Nu Gundam, R-2, and R-3 to defeat them all, although it should be theoretically possible.)

Stage 25 – Battleship Motrad

This is another short stage; all the enemies leave and get replaced by a very small number of reinforcements. I killed them all in 1 turn, or maybe more would have showed up?

Stage 26 – A New Power

There are a lot of enemies with a lot of reinforcements; I found out that the battle ends after 12 turns or so no matter what so I didn’t have to kill as many enemies as I did.

Ryuusei and Shin Getter joins after this stage. Shin Getter uses the Shin Getter manga designs for the Getter team, which is always interesting to see.

Stage 27 – Mystery of Side 5

This is an easy stage because you can sit on Angel Halo (+30% DF/evade and healing) and just let the enemies come to you.

However, this stage has some of the most ridiculous mechs in Gundam history — when I was watching V Gundam I couldn’t stop laughing at the silly tire mechs (the Einerad), and the Dodgore is pretty silly too.

Stage 28 – Space Grave

Heero appears as a guest here (you can control him). You have to shoot down Zechs with him to get him later. The Wing Gundam kind of sucks, though — the Buster Rifle only has 2 uses, and every other attack is range-1.

Stage 29 – Decoy Operation

I can see this stage being hard if Amuro doesn’t have double move. The stage ends when one person from the main group (who you can’t control) reaches the base. Reinforcements pop up right next to them. They exhibit the usual NPC behavior of only counterattacking with their strongest weapon no matter what the circumstance. But with double-move Amuro this is pretty easy.

Stage 30 – The SRX is Operational!

This is SRX’s first appearance; there’s no real explanation for it except “Hey, guess what! We can combine!” There seems to be (as of yet, at least) no deeper explanation behind the SRX like there was in the Alpha timeline. Unfortunately you can only use it for three turns before it has to separate.

I really, really hate these indoor maps of the early games, where you have to travel through passageways encountering reinforcements along the way. They always take 25+ turns to complete and are very tedious. (More recent games have had “indoor” maps but they are not as annoying.)

Stage 31 – Angel Halo

This is a massive fight with most of the Victory Gundam enemies and a lot of reinforcements. I’m afraid these final stages are going to get more and more tedious as the game throws larger and larger groups of enemies at me. Unfortunately the next mission is another indoor mission.

Stage 32 – Angels Rising to Heaven

This is an annoying stage, although I guess I at least give them some credit for trying something new. You have to move 4 Shurak team members to the right places to set the bombs. Luckily they don’t screw you over with reinforcements, and there are energy tanks to recover you. Zechs appears and you can kill him with Heero to get Heero on your team in two stages.

I had a hard time figuring out what to do once the enemies were dead. The walkthroughs I could find weren’t very clear on this point — you have to have a specific set of 4 Shurak team members (the ones that autodeploy) and they have to be at specific spots. When you get one into the right spot she will say a line and then be unable to move; that’s how you know it’s right.

Char shows up here, finally, but the Sazabi is fairly easy to take down with Shin Shine Spark or the like.

Stage 33 – The Sound of Bells Resounding in the Battlefield

This is supposed to be the climactic Victory Gundam battle with all the V enemies coming out and beating you up. In fact, if you beat the mission by the third player phase, most of the enemies in the stage will never appear (this is still the old SRW style where the mission ends when all enemies are dead even if some reinforcements have not appeared). This messes up the story, though, because Katejina is apparently supposed to die in this stage but she never appears.

MN’s descriptions of these last few stages have some hilarious lines; he must have been getting annoyed with the game: [2002 Kurisu: Michael Neidengard, who did a bunch of walkthroughs and story summaries for SRW games.]

This is odd because Fala can be wiped out like a crack-smoking bitch writing
on the whiteboard in a single hit. Call it poor game design. Anyways.

As your dudes point out, Usso has Shakti to keep him warm at
night, so no need to worry about psycho hosebeasts from years past.

Stage 34 – Char’s Counterattack

This is kind of a tough stage, but only slightly so. You just have to make sure you’ve got the firepower to deal with a whole bunch of double-move enemies right at the beginning and you’re fine. Char himself is a weakling.

Despite this stage being called “Char’s Counterattack” it has nothing to do with CCA; it’s just a fight against Char and his goons. In general Char doesn’t seem to really have the personality or motivation he does in the shows; he just sort of sits around and mopes and gets mad at Amuro.

Somehow I didn’t get Wing Gundam; I must have done something wrong. Wing Gundam sucks, though, so that’s OK.

More MN:

And all of this taking me 1.5 turns – so much for the legendar(il)y
#sexually_impotent Red Comet and his assorted analwives.

Stage 35 – Deciding Battle! Helmoze

This is the final battle. Gottso appears in the Zfield (or Zphroude or however it’s spelled). You have to hurt it a little, then Gresco comes out in a ship, then beat him, then Gottso reappears and you have to take him down. I ignored most of the enemies and just used Shin Getter + resupply seishin, plus some sacrifice guys, to win the game. The Helmoze is not actually a unit; if you move your guys in the wrong place the MAP weapon instantly fires and you die automatically.

The ending scene is pretty short, Char apparently goes with the Balmar and warns that they’ll send more forces eventually.

So that’s the end of Shin. It’s a bad game; I don’t recommend playing it at all. It is sort of interesting to see the first appearance of Balmar and SRX, but they’re pretty thin. Balmar is just a generic invading enemy force; there’s no hint of any particular affinity with Earth or with the SRX project or anything like that. SRX likewise has no deeper significance other than yet another super robot. There’s really very little good I can say about this entry.

If you could skip battle scenes I might actually put it in the left group of “acceptable” SRWs but instead I will put it at the head of the “unacceptable” group. Judging from what I’ve played and read about the rest of the games, I don’t think any other entries in the series will go in the unacceptable group. [2022 Kurisu: Compact 1 did go in the unacceptable group.]

SRPG Game 67 – Dragon Knight 4 (Playstation)

Dragon Knight 4 (ドラゴンナイト4), originally released for PC in 1994, then ported to Super Famicom in 1996, and Playstation/PC-FX in 1997, developed by Elf

Elf was a pioneering company in the field of eroge (this term, a shortening of “erotic game”, is the normal term used in Japanese rather than “hentai”, which is only used in English). In 1992 they released Dokyusei (classmates), the first dating sim eroge and one of the first dating sims of any kind. Dragon Knight, which they made in 1989, was an attempt at making an RPG eroge — although there were 4 games in the Dragon Knight series, few other companies seem to have copied this style. I’m not all that knowledgeable about the eroge landscape, but I have a feeling that fans preferred games like visual novels and dating sims which seemed to integrate the erotic content more closely to the game, rather than RPGs which just had random sex scenes.

All four Dragon Knight games were released in censored versions for consoles — the first three for the PC Engine, and Dragon Knight 4 for three separate platforms. I covered the first and second games, and CRPG Addict did posts on the third game, released in English as Knights of Xentar. The first two games were first-person dungeon crawlers, the third was a more standard RPG, and the 4 is an SRPG.

The three console versions were all modified versions of the original game. The Super Famicom version redid the story, added additional characters, and used a normal XP/level model instead of the more peculiar levelling system of the original. The PSX version is basically an upgraded port of the SFC version but made much more difficult, and with voicing in the scenes. The PC-FX version is essentially a direct port of the PC version without the sex scenes, although there is less censorship than either of the other two ports. There is also a lot more voicing in the PC-FX version.

After a lot of thought I decided to play the Playstation version.

The opening story is in the demon world, where one of the 4 generals of the demons, Lushifon, is in love with Mano, the daughter of Minax, the demon king. When Mano’s sister reveals the affair to Minax, Minax imprisons Lushifon in the space between worlds. But many thousands of years later he called Lushifon back and tells him that if he can accomplish a certain task, he will let him take Mano as his bride. Lushifon has to go back in time to kill Yamato Takeru (the hero of the first 3 Dragon Knight games).

Lushifon decides there’s no point killing Takeru if another hero just takes his place, so instead he starts to take over the world, and also use a black mist that turns everyone to stone. As usual for RPG villains, for no clear reason he sends all his minions out to do the work instead of doing it himself.

One of the kings sends Takeru and Bahn (a Dragon Knight descendant and a friend of Takeru’s from the previous games) a letter asking for help. Takeru decides instead to send his 15 year old son Kakeru, and Bahn sends is son Seil. (Yes, this means that in the PC version some of the sex scenes involve a 15 year old boy with adult women.)

Kakeru and Seil head out to meet the king, but along the way they encounter the black mist coming from the left, and the forces of Lushifon coming from the right. All the soldiers of the town lose their will to fight, a mysterious older knight comes in to rally everyone. When Kakeru asks his name he says “etoo…” (“umm…” in Japanese) so his name becomes Eto. He convinces the soldiers to follow the lead of Kakeru and Seil since they’re the children of the famous Takeru and Bahn.

The story doesn’t really develop that much from there — there are a lot of new characters introduced, like Kakeru’s childhood friend Natasha, and various other women. There’s a lot of dialogue in the towns between missions developing their characters, but no real plot developments until near the end.

The battles are essentially Farland Story with a bit of Langrisser. In the tradition of the worst SRPGs, each character can move and attack at a certain range. There are no skills, spells, or powers, no equipment, no class upgrades, or anything like that. Each character does have a class, but the class just determines movement range and attack range. There are only two exceptions: one class can heal (although there is only one optional character that you get late in the game who can do this), and one class can destroy obstacles on the map.

The Langrisser aspect is that each character starts with 9 troops, which essentially act as the HP. The fewer troops you have, the less damage you can do as well.

Each stage also has a turn limit between 15 and 23 turns (because the black mist is coming). I found the turn limits were not that bad; they’re not so strict that you have to move everyone forward at max speed.

However, the game is pretty boring. It’s also very difficult, but not for good reasons. The game has no in-battle save and permadeath; also if any of the 5 key characters get killed, it’s game over. The enemies have high stats in general and 2-3 attacks by any unit are usually enough to kill someone from full HP. The classes are also not well balanced, with some units being nearly useless. I used a lot of save states and I doubt I would have made it past a few stages if I hadn’t done that.

This is as “spicy” as things get in this version of the game

Between the stages, you have a town you can walk around in. You can talk to everyone and develop their character, and there’s usually a heart place where Kakeru can have a date with someone to increase the love rank — I think this just affects the ending. You can also find stat up seeds by searching boxes and such. Finally, you can recruit new characters; typically you just get a choice of one, and some of them you have to talk to people or do events to get them to be recruitable. There are a lot of mysterious conversations with Eto and other girls (and in the PC version you can spy on him having sex). Eventually you’ll be allowed out into the field and it’s on to the next map.

The big twist happens when you reach Lushifon’s base after about 15 stages. When you reach there, Lushifon mocks you as usual for a villain, and then turns all your party members to stone and kills them all, leaving just Kakeru alive. For some reason Lushifon then imprisons Kakeru in a dungeon. Many years later, Marlene (the elf woman in the picture above), who is obviously Mano’s sister Ino, comes to Kakeru and gives him a device to go back in time. If he can get to Lushifon again with a magic item he’ll be able to cancel Lushifon’s power. Marlene then sends him back in time, and it turns out that Eto is Kakeru as an adult. So now we get to see the game again from Eto’s standpoint. This is somewhat interesting and I would be curious to see how things develop — but you literally have to play the same 15 battles over again, with no changes (and everyone’s levels reset also). There is then one final battle at the end.

So I’m going to stop at this point; I don’t like the game enough to play through the exact same thing again. This overall is a pretty poor game, mostly because the system is so plodding and basic. The story is at least somewhat interesting but it’s not worth the gameplay.

This was the final Dragon Knight game, and I’m not sure if the ero-RPG trend was picked up by other companies. There was something called Dragon Knight 5 – Rising X; I believe this was a mobage that was only active for a few months in 2020. I don’t know if Elf had anything to do with this.

We’re almost at the end of 1996! Midweek I will do a Shin Super Robot Taisen post, and the only remaining game is Terra Phantastica for Saturn.

SRPG Collection

As I’ve been going through the SRPG list, I’ve been trying to collect as many games as I can (cart in box so I get the instruction manual), while also not spending too much money. The basic way I do things is that when I finish a game, I buy the game that’s 4 places down on the list, as long as it’s less than $30 (I originally did this because pre-covid you could get things shipped from Japan for $2-3 if you used slow sea-mail shipping). Any game that’s above $30, or a game that I already have a different version of, gets put on a separate list. Each month I buy one game from that separate list. I’m not sure what I will do if I run out of sub-$30 games to buy.

Here’s my current collection in a convenient IKEA bookshelf:

And here’s my collection rate (* means I’ve played all the games for that system):

  • Famicom* 3/4
  • Game Boy 0/4
  • Game Gear* 0/5
  • Mega Drive 8/9
  • PC-Engine* 4/4
  • PC-FX 0/3
  • Super Famicom 19/32
  • Saturn 12/13
  • Playstation 11/14

PC Engine is the only one I have all the games for. All of the consoles except for Saturn (so far) have at least one game that’s over $80 (in some cases $150-200) so it will be a long time, if ever, before I complete those consoles.

SFC Game 80 – Elfaria II: Quest for the Meld

Elfaria II (エルファリアII ザ・クエスト・オブ・ザ・メルド), released 6/9/1995, published by Hudson

Elfaria was one of the early games I played on this blog. It was an innovative game, using an autobattle system with some elements of a strategy game, and an interesting “meld” system that allowed you to customize your characters. My final review was somewhat negative — the storyline was interesting and I do commend them for trying something new, but in the end I found the game rather tedious and repetitive, and the lack of control over the battle system became more frustrating as I played the game more.

2 years later, the same development team released Elfaria II. The story is a sequel to the first one, taking place 100 years later, but involving many of the same ideas (including time travel). The gameplay is more like a traditional RPG; they kept the auto battle system but you have more control over the characters this time.

The “meld” system is also back from last time although it works in a different (and IMO not as interesting) way. You have two ways to do it. The first is “Charge”, which uses up an item to increase either the stats of a weapon or unlock its abilities. This is the only way you can do anything but attack, by equipping a weapon or unlocking abilities. You can also charge with certain items to increase the max level of a weapon, up to a certain point.

Meld combines a weapon and an item to make a new weapon. The resulting weapon depends on the element of both items, as well as their relative strength.

There are several major problems with the system, though. The first is the severe inventory limit of 30 items, 2-4 of which will be taken up by key items. You get up to 3 items for winning a battle, and there are a lot of reasons to want to keep items around. You will be constantly managing inventory and throwing a lot of things away, which is really boring. I don’t remember ever playing an RPG and thinking it was fun to manage inventory, and especially in a game like this where they give you so many things you can do with the items it’s really unforgivable. Not only do you want to keep around HP/MP restoring items and meld/charge items, but also various elemental defense items and weapons. But you basically can’t keep anything.

The second problem is that like Elfaria 1, you have very limited resources. MP, in particular, is so limited that you can often only fight a few battles before running out. You can’t use items in battle, and as mentioned before you basically can’t keep a stock of MP/HP restores because of the inventory limit.

You can tell the developers were aware of this because even small dungeons often have 2 or 3 restore and save points in them. But even with all these restore points the game is still hard to survive, and the end result is that the game involves an enormous amount of grinding, probably the most of any game I’ve played on this blog. The Japanese reviews I read of this game all mentioned this. Even the grinding is often difficult because your characters that were in the back row didn’t gain any fight levels, so they’ll be weak when you have to switch them to the front for elemental reasons.

It’s a shame because I think the system could have been better with just a few changes — a much bigger inventory, allowing characters to gain 1/2 XP for the row they’re not in, and giving characters a lot more MP to use their skills.

The story begins 100 years after the first game. The 16 heroes from that game are legendary now, and the world is controlled by a church that has banned melding and charging following the teachings of Pine, who apparently taught that they would ruin the world’s Ra energy. Pine later went to the Twisted Forest to stop its expansion — he never returned, but the Twisted Forest stopped expanding so apparently he saved the world.

The leader of the church is Gedora. Gedora is adamant in his belief that Melding and Charging are evil, and he has a vast army of inquisitors that imprison or kill any they find doing it. Leina is apparently the prophet of Pine. She prophecies that a hero has been reborn somewhere, but Gedora tells her to shut up — she’s only supposed to transmit the teachings of Pine, not prophecy.

Our main character is Kiba, who is the son of a researcher Beta. Years ago, Beta took Kiba to the Elven Forest apparently to atone for something he had done, but now he’s been gone for a while. He has a companion Shango, a strange monster that can’t talk. They’re hunters, looking for monsters to kill. An elf named Keel shows up, saying that he is going to make Elfaria just for elves, and that he knows where Kiba’s father is. Another elf named Leefa shows up as well and joins Kiba along with her companion, a little Grif (the small bubble things from the first game). These are your four party members for the whole game. Leefa wants to stop Keel from his ambitions — Keel tried to resurrect and combine himself with an elf named Elzard, but he was rejected.

Now the gameplay finally starts as we head south to help out a resistance movement against Gedora. It turns out meanwhile that Leena and another priest Ramon are working against Gedora.

Each area on the map shows the element of the monsters in it — you want to do the formation that is best against that element so you get an advantage in battle, and also if possible equip defensive rings that help protect against it.

I already mentioned all the issues with the system above, so I’ll just continue with the story highlights. In the Wind Hill we meet Dr. Hermes who recommends that we find someone to teach us melding in order to oppose Gedora — Ramon the priest doesn’t like this idea but Kiba agrees. Back at Zaza town (the starting town), melders are being put to death. Another enemy Dr Daros is there overseeing it, and Kiba learns that his father sold his research to Gedora which is why he felt he had to atone. Apparently his work sunk an entire town into the water.

Dr Daros is turning people into monsters; it seems that Gedora is having him research that in order to control all of Elfaria. But Keel is opposing him, and Kiba learns that his father is apparently helping Keel. Luke, our little green blobby guy, has a gem that keeps us in touch with Eruru — she’s a mysterious figure that was also inspiring Pine in the first game, and apparently we are just continuing Pine’s work that is not yet finished.

One of the things we do throughout the game is find colored gems, which are then put into these temple altars to get the elemental symbols. This clears the evil monsters from the area. It usually also involves beating one of Gedora’s elemental priests (in this case, the wind one).

I’ll try to hit the highlights of the story from here on out since giving it in detail would be too tedious of a post — the story actually is not that bad and it’s a shame it’s not coupled with a better game. What we have at this point are several factions: Keel is working with Beta (Kiba’s father) against Gedora. Ramon and Leena are together against Gedora as well. Gedora himself is trying to make a powerful Dark Monster with the help of Dr. Daros, although he also seems to distrust Daros. The player characters are mostly working with the resistance while also looking for Kiba’s father.

Eventually we reach a research lab. Shango mysteriously transforms into a different monster that can actually talk — in a later town it’s revealed that he was originally human but was turned into a monster by the experiments. We find Kiba’s father but Daros has turned him into a monster; he dies, but tells us to go learn Melding. This is done from the Merudon in the Twisted Forest, but after we learn the Melding, Gedora’s troops show up and massacre all the Merudon.

Leena eventually leaves Ramon’s side and joins us, because her prophetic voice has told her to follow us. Meanwhile Gedora has imprisoned Daros for betraying him — Gedora wonders why Elzard’s spirit seems to be spurring the heroes on to fight him. Elzard turned himself into a monster to defeat all the humans, so why would he be against Gedora for using monsters? Daros thinks there’s more to it than that.

To get the Water Symbol we need the blue gem, but it was lost in the sinking of Hambu town (due to Kiba’s father), so we have to go back in time. Time travel was in the first game as well. We succeed, but Leena is lost in the travel and ends up in Elzard’s time, where he falls in love with her. Meanwhile Dr. Daros turns Gedora into the strongest dark monster — Gedora then tries to kill Daros but Keel saves him. Keel wants to be changed into the strongest Light Monster. Ramon tries to stop it; he kills Daros but not before Daros turns Keel into the monster.

We manage to find and defeat Gedora. Ramon tries to take his place as high priest, but Keel shows up — he needs to change Ramon into a light monster so that he can combine with the monster and become the strongest Light Monster, resurrecting Elzard. In the past, Leena has become Elzard’s empress.

At this point I hit a very difficult boss fight. I consulted Richie’s walkthrough on GameFAQs. He rarely recommends specific levels unless it’s absolutely necessary — he was recommending level 38, and I was at level 26. That was enough for me, so I looked up cheat codes. I try to use the least invasive cheat code possible, but the only one I could find was setting Kiba’s stats to 9999 and 255, so that’s what I did (including current HP, which means he can’t die). Grinding up to level 38 would have taken a really long time.

Elzard is in the original town, but when we defeat him, a shadow Elzard appears and destroys the world. We are sent back in time to when Elzard first became a monster. But Eruru says we can’t just kill Elzard here because that will mess with the timeline and completely ruin everything. Instead, we have to go to Elfis Castle and find the Ra Water. It also turns out that this mysterious force impelling us on the quest is Pine himself, who is using the last of his power to guide us to where he is. (My notes here aren’t good so I don’t remember why the Ra Water is necessary)

Elzard has gone to the Crystal Forest, and we follow him there. Pine dies, but gives us the World Egg to resurrect the world after Elzard destroys it. Even though we manage to defeat Elzard (the final boss), the world is still being destroyed — but even Elzard says he wants the world to be reborn, since he loved a human (Leena).

The party puts their hopes into restoring the world via the World Egg. The final scene shows a festival in Zaza (the starting town). All the characters are there, including the villains, with slightly modified names, and everything seems to be much more peaceful and stable.

So that’s Elfaria II. It’s similar to Elfaria I in that the story is much better than the gameplay, but in E2’s case the gameplay is a total disaster. E1 is a much better game, and I would not recommend this game unless you really don’t mind grinding levels.

PCE Game 44 – Gulliver Boy

Imagination Science World Gulliver Boy (空想科学世界ガリバーボーイ), released 5/26/1995, developed by Hudson

This is a game based on an anime that ran during 1995. As the title and the picture above indicate, it takes place in an alternate post-Renaissance Europe, where magic and technology coexist. There were three games based on the IP — this one (which was remade for Saturn in 1996), a puzzle game on the Game Boy, and an action RPG on the Super Famicom which I will get to eventually (I have it as game 117 on my list).

The development team that worked on the PC Engine game contained some people that worked on Tengai Makyo, and it shows in the presentation of the game. The most impressive thing about the game is the inclusion of a large number of FMV anime sequences, something that I’m not sure occurs in any other PCE game. This follows a pattern that you can see in games like Star Ocean and Super Robot Taisen J, where late in the release cycle of a console developers figure out how to wring every last drop of capability from the system.

What is impressive is not only that the FMV sequences exist, but how many of them there are and how long each one is. I just played Harukaze Sentai V Force, which relied on many anime sequences as well, but then the rest of the game suffered due to the time and money spent on it. Gulliver Boy was able to avoid this trap because the anime and game were planned at the same time, and even though the game takes place in the second half of the anime story, the animators were able to reuse many of the anime sequences for the show, so they could share the development budget.

Now because the scenes are on the PC Engine, they don’t look great. The resolution is small and there is a lot of dithering to get the graphics to work out, but despite that they are perfectly watchable and do add to the experience.

In addition to the anime scenes, a lot of dialogue is voiced. On the whole, it’s one of the most impressive RPGs on the system from a visual and presentation standpoint.

Like Tengai Makyo, the gameplay itself is kind of disappointing. It’s a typical RPG style of this era, although simplified in some ways. There’s only one equipment slot for each character, and it isn’t really a weapon or armor but depends on who they are (like Edison gets springs). Each character also has a special ability that uses MP (magic for Gulliver, science for Edison — thematically different, but not in gameplay). For some reason there is no visible XP, but you do level up after beating enough monsters.

The game starts with Gulliver, who is the son of a rich trading company president. He saves his friend Edison, a science geek, from some tough guys but in the process Edison’s new invention destroys the bell tower in Venice. As punishment, Gulliver gets sent to a magic school, where he’s bored out of his mind.

One of the teachers tells him to undergo the Trials Cave in order to unlock his “magic mind” and graduate from the school.

The battle system is sort of an FF4 type real-time system. Since there’s no XP I didn’t even realize you could level by fighting monsters, so I ran into big trouble in the trial cave until I watched a video and saw that you can indeed level by fighting. So I did that for a bit and made it through the cave (since it’s just Gulliver, there’s no possible strategy, just holding down fight).

Gulliver graduates and heads back to Venice, where his father gives him a ship and sets him out to trade. He picks up Edison, of course, and a new companion Feebee, a sort of sprite or fairy.

She acts randomly in battle to do various things. You can also give her items but it was never clear to me what that did.

Gulliver goes around visiting some of the towns on the Mediterranean, but when he returns to Venice, Spanish soldiers have taken over the town, led by Doga who wants to become a king. The actual king is weak and powerless, but Gulliver’s father tries to fight Doga.

Doga kills Gulliver’s father, but then we manage to take him down and chase him off. At the same time, a mysterious man is trying to capture a girl named Misty that Gulliver met earlier. Gulliver tries to save her but the man (Gekko) kicks the crap out of him.

Gulliver decides he needs to chase after Gekko, but the way out of the Mediterranean is blocked by Spanish mines. Enter the butler of Gulliver’s house, who was actually a pirate, and he helps Gulliver meet another pirate named Vulcan. After doing a little quest for Vulcan, he removes the mines for us and we are out into the wide sea.

He takes us to an underground cave where Misty and Gekko are. Even though Gekko kicks our ass again, a mysterious ninja girl comes in and drives him off, allowing us to save Misty.

Unfortunately back in Venice, the whole city is underwater. Gulliver finds the Chinese wolfman dude who he got the fairy from.

The guy tells him that something big is going to happen, but Gulliver can stand up to it, and he gives Gulliver a glove with a gem on it that will increase his power.

This is where I stopped, which seems to be about 20% of the game. As I said above, the system is boilerplate and not very interesting, but the animation, voice, and story all seem quite good, so this is probably worth a play if the pedestrian gameplay doesn’t bother you.