Monthly Archives: August 2022

SRPG Game 76 – Riot Stars (PSX)

Riot Stars (ライアット・スターズ), released 5/2/1997, released by Hector (or Hect?)

This game seems to have been inspired by Ogre Battle, although it’s not just an imitation (it’s interesting that there haven’t been any other OB-like games since OB). The title is a mystery; I don’t know what kind of game to expect seeing it, but it takes place in a typical medieval fantasy world (with an ancient culture that produced robots).

As in Ogre Battle, you create squads. Each squad can have up to 5 members and 3 types of units. There are various types of human classes, and a number of monster classes. They can be class changed if they fulfill the right conditions.

What is different about the growth system is that it’s all done through “jewels”, which are the currency you use to buy thing but also level up. This means that you have a lot of control over your party’s development. But since you just play the 35 or so battles in order with no opportunity to free battle or repeat, the amount of money and XP you can get in the game is limited. There is a huge difference in effectiveness of classes — if you know the system well you could create 4 or 5 squads in the first few battles that could stomp all over the rest of the game. Or, you can waste a lot of jewels on squads that are always going to be a struggle to use and will ultimately not be able to handle some of the later game enemies. If you used no help at all, it would be possible to end up in the latter third of the game with a team of totally unusable characters, no jewels, and no choice but to restart from the beginning. The nature of the game makes it hard to experiment.

Making the squad formation even more of a challenge is that the game has permadeath. As long as one unit from the squad remains alive at the end of the battle you can pay 50 jewels per unit to heal after the battle. But if the squad is wiped out, they are gone forever. You can visit a building in the capital (when you have access to the capital) that will give you some jewels as a consolation prize. But I don’t think the jewels you get from there are enough to rebuild a whole squad; you can do some cheap tricks with that spirit shop to farm jewels (I don’t know the details but I think you can just buy the cheapest units and intentionally get them killed?)

As usual, I’m not a fan of permadeath. This game is not as unforgiving as Fire Emblem, but you will still encounter enemies that can wipe out weak squads from full HP in a single battle, and you still have to deal with the situation of accidentally moving a unit one space too far and then having them wiped out. So I did use save states, as I usually do with permadeath games.

The turn system is based on the squad’s “wait” value. A counter counts down everyone’s wait from the full value to 0, then that squad gets to act, and their counter gets put back up to the maximum. I’m not entirely sure how the wait value is calculated; having 1 unit in the squad vs. 5 units doesn’t make much of a difference so I think it’s calculated from the average of everyone’s wait — wait is affected by Agility but I don’t know if there are other factors involved. 40 is the lowest wait; I don’t know if there’s a theoretical maximum but the highest you will generally see is upper 70s or lower 80s. So there is no concept of a player or enemy turn; each unit just acts when their wait hits 0.

Each unit’s movement type is also controlled by who is in the squad (whether they fly, etc). Finally, the range of attack is also different — if you have people who have range 2 or 3 attacks they can attack from afar. Attacking from behind produces a situation like the picture above where you get first strike and can attack their back ranks.

The battles happen in real time. Characters move forward and attack for a while, then the battle will end after a time. “Losing” the battle doesn’t have any effect other than just the HP/guys that were lost during it. During the battle you cannot directly control the characters, but you can use special attacks from the leader and activate a party attack.

As you attack you build up gems (the green things in the picture above). When you fill up the bar and it starts flashing, you can use a party attack, or you can choose not to and then you will get a jewel at the end of the battle. These jewels can be used to activate the special attacks (you also get a jewel for doing a 15 hit combo).

Clearing a battle gives you jewels, and sometimes there is a bonus goal — usually beating the map in a certain amount of time, but it could also be saving NPCs or not allowing towns to be captured (the towns are like FE where you get items). In the first few chapters almost every battle has a bonus goal, but starting with chapter 3 almost none of them do; I wonder whether that’s just a rushed release issue, although it seems like at least they could put in time limits.

Between battles you can sometimes move around to different towns to buy equipment, recruit new people, or talk to the villagers for hints. As I mentioned before, for the most part this is simply fighting each battle in sequence, but there are a few places where there are optional battles or the battles will go differently depending on what you did previously.

The game is divided into 5 chapters. At the beginning, the main character is assigned to the 9th unit of the Carlain Kingdom army. Carlain is being invaded by the Empire. The 9th unit is a place where they stick people for their careers to die; nobody trusts them to do anything right and they constantly get stuck with drudge jobs and blamed for things that go wrong.

The first chapter is basically them just getting sent on random tasks; they make friends with some fairies and hobbits (once again the Tolkien estate can’t read Japanese), rescue the Princess of Carlain but get blamed for kidnapping her, and other things like that. In the second chapter we start to encounter the robots — there are 4 ancient robots that are being unearthed from the ancient civilization, and both the Empire and Carlain are building their own robots in imitation. (These robots are very powerful in general but take huge damage from spells)

In the third chapter the 9th squad starts getting blamed for more and more stuff and eventually has to flee the continent as we’re facing the death penalty for supposed treason. This was the last difficult chapter for me; the image above was an especially annoying battle because there’s a hidden cannon that comes out. The cannon can destroy most units in one attack phase. I had to load state a huge number of times to pass this without anyone getting destroyed; in retrospect I should have just let one of my more useless units die.

This was also the point where I looked up some info on stronger units; the dragons and upgraded fairies above are quite powerful and once you have a couple of squads of them plus a hidden character robot and some magic using squads, the game is not very challenging. The dragons’ “windstorm” attack (pictured above) drives back the attackers so that sometimes they will all die without even getting an attack.

Another way to beat strong units is to mash the circle button as soon as the battle starts to use Super attacks over and over again.

In Chapter 4 we end up exiled on an island with the prince and princess of Carlain; it turns out that one of the higher up ministers has usurped the government and is hoping to use the ancient robots to take over the world. First we have to beat the Dark Elves on this land (the main 2 are difficult but with the new magic user that joins, her Holy Blast will take them out in one hit — as far as I saw this holy blast attack will destroy any enemy in the game in one use).

Finally we head back to Carlain, and take back the country. The minister heads to a floating island of ancient technology but we stop him (the final boss is just a robot that dies to one use of holy blast or any magic, really). He tries to crash the island into Carlain but we redirect it into the ocean instead.

Overall this is an OK game. The story is a bit weak and the game balance could have been a lot better — it’s too bad there’s no Riot Stars 2 where they could have fixed some of the issues.

In the next couple of weeks I’m going to have limited time to play games, so I may need to make some “cheat” posts on Final Fantasy Tactics and Atelier Marie before I get back to making the next SFC game post of Seiken Densetsu 3.

SFC Game 92 – Hi no Ouji Yamato Takeru

Hi no Ouji Yamato Takeru (火の皇子 ヤマトタケル), released 9/29/1995, developed by MIT and Aim, published by Toho

Sigh. You would think that by the end of 1995 designers had figured out how to make at least a decent game, but stuff like this keeps appearing. The title would suggest it’s patterned after the famous figure from early Japanese myth-history, Yamato Takeru. It does seem to take place in early Japan (sort of) and some of the events of the story are based on the Yamato Takeru myth, but it’s basically an original story.

The graphics are underwhelming, and the interface is overall bad. The shop interface is strangely modern, allowing you to buy multiple things at once, buy an item and sell your current equipped one at the same time, and you can see the stats of equipment and who can use it. But you walk slow, the menus are annoying to navigate, and you can’t see what any spell or ability does without looking at the instruction manual.

The battles are old DQ style, right down to the “Takeru did 6 damage” message rather than numbers appearing — you will definitely want a speedup button for this. There’s some system based on the movement of the sun through different zodiac signs but it’s hard to tell what effect it has except in a few parts of the game where you the sun has to be in a certain position for an event to occur.

You can get 12 different “juuma” to join your party that you can summon. I never understand why designers go through effort to make systems like these, and then make them virtually unusable by stupid decisions that should be caught during playtesting. You have to summon them using consumable items — you get plenty of them so that’s not an issue, but they don’t stick around for very long before they go back to the mirror and have to rest a while. Also any levels you gained while they were out go away (except for the HP). So each juuma quickly becomes unusable; the only purpose to the system is a few places in the game where you have to summon one to make an event happen.

The story is OK. As in the myth, Takeru is a prince, and is banished to Izumo Province to subdue the “Kumaso Braves”. However, in the myth it was because the Emperor feared his power. Here it’s because the goddess Tsukuyomi has been supplanting the traditional goddess of Yamato (Amaterasu). When Takeru’s brother tries to kill the Tsukuyomi priestess, Takeru intervenes and cuts off his brother’s arm, and thus is banished.

The rest of the game is mostly fighting against the Tsukuyomi takeover, but there are bizzare elements like someone from Greece coming with robots. Then halfway through the game one of the party members who Takeru has fallen in love with dies, and a huge part of the second half of the game is getting to the land of Yomi to recover her, with the help of Susanoo’o. This ends up with you fighting Satan(!?), then going to the moon and then defeating Tsukuyomi and restoring her to normal.

The game balance is a mess. The boss above, Yamata Orochi, is a huge difficulty spike that requires a bunch of grinding, but in the latter half of the game most of the bosses have as much HP as the grunt monsters in the dungeons (up until the final boss). I guess at least we can say the enemies sometimes have some nice graphics.

The ending is dumb too; after restoring Tsukiyomi and bringing Takeru’s girlfriend back to life, they head back across the rainbow bridge, have a short conversation, and then just line up on the bridge and face the player.

There’s no credits, “The end” or anything, the music just loops until you turn the game off.

I’m sorry if this post seemed more annoyed than usual, but I would expect this kind of game in 1992, not 1995. Fortunately Seiken Densetsu 3 is next.

A few notes on comments

Hello, happy weekend. First, I appreciate everyone who comments. I love reading the comments, and even if you comment on something from 4 years ago I will see it.

There are two issues I’ve had with comments, though. First, I have the setting on where I need to manually approve your comment if it’s your first time posting. For some reason, this doesn’t always work and I sometimes have to manually approve comments even if they’re not first-time posters.

Second, I have Akismet’s free spam filter on. Sometimes legitimate comments end up there, and it’s happening consistently with two commenters who have been around since the very early days of my blog (cccmar and Kicksville). I don’t know why this is happening and since this is just the free version of Akismet I can’t tweak the settings. However, I do manually check the spam filter every couple of days and so if your comment ends up in there I will manually approve it.

I just wanted to post this in case people are seeing their comments disappear or getting notifications that they need approval.

SFC Game 91 – Verne World

Verne World (ヴェルヌワールド), released 9/25/1995, published by Banpresto

The premise behind Verne World is certainly original. In 2028, to celebrate Jules Verne’s 200th birthday, a large theme park is built. It is manned almost entirely by robots, who will take visitors through several of Verne’s stories, acting out the parts of the heroes, villains, and side characters. The main character’s family is one of a number of people who are given a sneak peek at the park before it opens. But soon after they arrive, there are several earthquakes, and the main character and his little brother get separated from the family. Everyone then seems to have vanished, except for the robots, who are beginning to act under their own power and attack. The setting draws from eight of Verne’s books (I’ll give their common English names):

  • Dick Sand, a Captain at Fifteen
  • Five Weeks in a Balloon
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • Carpathian Castle
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • Facing the Flag
  • Around the Moon

I read Around the World in 80 Days when I was a kid, and I’ve heard of Journey and 20,000 Leagues; the other books I haven’t even heard of. The cover art shows all the characters in a rather unusual style:

The picture shows the 8 party members you can get during the game. From the top left they are Nicolai (a Russian who fights with his fists), Chris (an American nurse who fights with a basketball), David (an Englishman who fights with a rugby ball), Ai (your girlfriend who fights with a baseball), main character (who fights with a sword), Somu (an Indian who uses technology), Emma (a wheelchair-bound woman), Kei (main character’s younger brother), and then Shaolin (Chinese girl) at the very top . Unfortunately I named the main character kurisu as usual so I ended up with two people named Chris in the party (the default name is YOU).

The battle system has two kinds of special attacks. The first kind use something called GP (Guts Points) which is just the usual EP/MP. The second kind are called TW attacks (I never did figure out what that stands for) and use Energy. Energy serves as the currency in the shops, as well as the energy for these TW attacks. You equip them like items, and then “charge” up EP in the status menu. Some TW moves can only be used by certain characters.

With the exception of the very beginning, GP restoring items are so cheap and easily available that you will rarely use regular attacks. However, they miss quite frequently, and against bosses they can be a liability so TW attacks (which do not miss) are better. Most bosses have some kind of elemental weakness that you can exploit if you find it, but I found the most generally useful TW’s to be the various Chainsaws. There were some bosses they did not work on, but for the most part just spamming Chainsaw attacks with healing items was enough.

Sometimes you are also in vehicles, which have the same basic system but no TW attacks and the healing is done through Repair Kits.

First Kurisu and Kei try to contact Kurisu’s girlfriend Ai, but the connection is cut off. At the same time, they hear that someone named Emma is stuck in a ferris wheel and try to save her because at least then they’ll have another human.

Why is King Kong in the game? Anyway, he’s holding Emma, but once we beat him up he gives her back. Emma is in a wheelchair but knows a lot about computers so is a big help in figuring out where everyone is. Anyway I will try to hit the highlights of the story rather than covering everything (as I usually do unless the story is really good).

The basic way the plot moves is that we are trying to open up various areas that have been blocked by either flooding, broken doors, etc. Through a combination of Emma’s computer skills and going to places in person, we manage to continue on into the park. Usually the characters in the books (like Phineas Fogg) are helpful; they are somehow not affected by whatever has caused the majority of the robots to go berserk and fight us.

The game does not have you go literally through the plots of the books, but often you have to make your way through areas from the books that are full of danger — if the park were working correctly you would have “defeat the villains” through some scripted sequence and not be in any real danger, but here you actually have to fight your way through. Fortunately the theme park shops are still running normally so you can buy weapons, armor, and food along the way.

Eventually we learn that all this is happening because of Verne, the central robot that is supposed to be manning the whole thing. But a separate entity called Dark Verne has split off from Verne, and decided that humanity needs to be destroyed. The rest of the park humans (like kurisu’s parents) are in cold sleep for some reason; it was never made clear that I can remember why Dark Verne didn’t just kill them.

We also encounter someone named Gilarman, who has apparently come in from the outside and tries to take control of the situation by ordering us around. We sort of follow his instructions, but not always — eventually it turns out that Gilarman is behind the creation of Dark Verne; he did this to become superhuman and eventually take over the world (mwahaha). But he has lost control of the program, and after he continually tries to betray us and get back control of the island, Dark Verne eventually kills him by blowing up a helicopter he’s in.

Our ultimate goal is to take the Reset Disc to be able to restore the park to “factory settings”, so to speak, eliminating Dark Verne and all of Gilarman’s interference. This eventually requires fighting Dark Verne himself:

He heals himself once, but with chainsaws he was pretty easy. Then the final boss, which is computer-world Dark Verne:

This is a rather unusual final boss. He also heals himself and is a bit more tanky than regular Dark Verne, but at max level (64, which is very easy to attain) he goes down fairly easily.

After this everyone is restored from cold sleep with no memory of what happens, and the park is back to normal.

This isn’t a bad game, but it’s not one of the greats either. I will give it a lot of credit for the unique setting, and I think if you like Jules Verne and know more about the books than I do you may enjoy it more. I will also credit them for including a bunch of different characters from different countries and skin tones and not being super stereotypical about them (the African American Chris does play basketball which is a bit cliche but she’s also a social worker nurse.)

The battle system has enough variety that you cannot just hold down a turbo button in battles. The interface, for the most part, is very clean. Definitely a respectable mid-late SFC game.

SRPG Game 75 – TILK: The Girl from the Blue Sea Part 2 (PSX)

(This is the second post on this game.)

Chapter 3 – The Oannes, the People at the Bottom of the Sea

Billy tries to go out by himself to rescue Silky, but everyone obviously knows he’s going to do it and they all show up to help (even Jake). Meanwhile Gratz, the head pirate, is showing Silky the dresses he bought for his estranged daughter — he hopes that one day when he meets his wife and daughter again he can give the dresses as a present (Silky points out that she’ll be too big for them…I guess it’s the thought that counts).

Billy and the gang show up on the ship, and fight the pirates. After they win, Gratz threatens them with a gun, but a mysterious figure with a skull mask (Captain Skull) shows up and knocks the gun away, then they have to fight the pirates again.

After this fight, the pirates are about to retreat again, but Kars has had enough — he pulls out his own gun and shoots Billy, knocking him off the ship. Silky dives in after her. The skull mask guy seems to recognize Kars, and tries to intercept him, but Kars retreats. Robots come on to the ship, and the pirates and kids team up to fight them.

A few days pass, and everyone assumes Billy is dead. They’re all moping around in the treehouse, but Jake comes and insults them for being so weak — they realize he’s right and go to the beach to search for Billy. On the beach they fight some random monsters again, and then Silky shows up, giving them Billy back, who is alive.

Meanwhile we see a flashback. It turns out that Silky is one of the Oannes, the descendants of Bell (who appeared as a ghost in chapter 2). Her mother is the great priest of the tribe. By bringing Billy to the underwater area she has broken the rules of the tribe, which says that they cannot show themselves openly until the time is right. She must be banished, and her voice taken away.

Later Billy thanks Silky, but she can’t speak.

Then Silky is captured.

It’s Elrich, the little kid from the empire, who wants Silky as the key to open Eden. He leaves, leaving behind robots that Jake and Billy have to fight, along with the pirates who now want to help.

Elrich’s underlings, meanwhile, have analyzed the Emerald Tablets (I think Kars got them in the previous chapter; he turns out to have been one of Elrich’s underlings). They’re in a submarine, heading for Eden. Kars it trying to get Silky to talk so they can learn the secret of Tupshimaty, but of course she can’t talk. It also looks like Elrich’s main motivation is to get back at adults who treat him like a child — he’s the son of one of the higher-ups in the Empire.

Fortunately the pirates’ ship happens to have a submarine function as well — they haven’t used it before….fortunately it works. The pirates fire torpedoes at the Empire ship but the ship manages to get away, and reaches the island where Tupshimaty is being held. The kids and pirates catch up, and fight their way through Imperial forces and robots down into a building.

Eventually they meet up with Elrich, Kars, and Silky at a door. After beating up the Imperial troops, Kars shoots Captain Skull’s mask off and it turns out its Billy’s dad. He was once an Imperial soldier but deserted. In any case the victory of the kids is short lived because Elrich reveals his trump card — a huge robot called King Poseidon.

Elrich threatens to kill everyone if Silky doesn’t use the tablets to release Tupshimaty. She finally relents.

The power of Tupshimaty goes into King Poseidon, and Elrich is overjoyed — now he can use the robot to make sure no one ever looks down on him or insults him for being a kid again. However, his joy is short lived. King Poseidon starts to go haywire, and begins to destroy the temple. Kars is killed by falling rocks, and Elrich has to face death for the first time. This shocks him to the point where he realizes this isn’t a game, and he escapes with the pirates and kids back to the ships. Meanwhile King Poseidon continues to rampage, pulling down the temple.

Final Chapter – Goodbye to Our Island

Everyone makes it back to Tilk safely (except for Kars of course), but it turns out that King Poseidon was not destroyed. It reappears from the water and heads for Tilk. Elrich tries to run away, but Captain Gratz stops him and forces him to take responsibility for what he’s done and help us deal with King Poseidon. Unfortunately it has no weaknesses, but the group comes up with a plan — set off the volcano and cause a tsunami that will destroy the robot. Unfortunately this will destroy the island as well, so they have to evacuate everyone.

Billy and the other kids head back to their secret base to recover their box of treasures — the final battle is a bit of an anticlimax but I guess dealing with robots at the base has some meaning.

After that, it turns out that the Empire submarine they sent to cause the volcanic eruption was destroyed by King Poseidon. Billy heads down to the cape and finds Silky where he first met her.

Silky decides since Tupshimaty is the fault of the Oannes people, she’ll have to solve the issue as well. She breaks her tribe’s rules once again by talking.

Using the power called the Magnus Stone, she’s able to cause the eruption, but this means she will have to go back to her people to deal with the punishment for breaking the rules again.

Everyone escapes Tilk before the tsunami arrives. But since everything is destroyed, they are going to have to go their separate ways for a while will things are rebuilt. The pirates decide to go find Captain Gratz’s wife and daughter, and Elrich heads back to the Empire to face a court-martial for his deeds.

The kids meet one last time and divide their treasures on the shore. Now the game asks you to pick your favorite treasure (these are bonus “memory” items you get after certain battles).

I chose a picture that Fon took of the group.

The scene switches then to Billy showing the object to someone who seems to be his son. We’re many years later when Billy has moved back to Tilk, married, and had a kid.

Billy’s wife yells at them to come for dinner and stop wasting time. But as they go, Billy’s son hears a song from the sea (whether it’s Silky or another member of the tribe isn’t clear).

So that’s Tilk. Great story, characters, and setting, lousy gameplay.

SRPG Game 75 – TILK: The Girl from the Blue Sea (PSX)

Tilk: The Girl From the Blue Sea (TILK 青い海から来た少女), released 4/25/1997, developed by TGL

This is another obscure game, one that I did not notice in my original list but I picked it up later. It was released for both the PSX and Saturn — the Saturn version has full voice acting (I think). I didn’t find this out until after I had played about half of the Playstation version. However, the voice work sounded a bit amateurish and I had never heard of any of the seiyuu, and the ability to speed up the battles was pretty important so I’m fine with the Playstation version.

It’s also an unusual experience for me. Usually I value gameplay above everything else, and I always say that a good story can’t save bad gameplay. I was proven wrong here though — based on my criteria this gets an A rating because I was playing it for fun right up to the ending scene. But objectively speaking the battle system is not good, and the interface has a lot of problems too. Thus the A- rating. So what I am going to do with this post is first describe the system, and then spend the rest of this post (and maybe another one) telling the story.

First off, I really like the graphics.

The sprites and the backgrounds have a great feel to them that accentuate the story. But let’s get to the battles.

The game proceeds in sequence from one battle to the next. You can only save in battles, and the only time you can do status screens is before a battle, where you can equip up to 3 accessories, and if you have more than 8 people, choose which 8 you want to send out. Once in battle, it’s typical player turn-enemy turn, you can choose the order.

Everyone has pretty low movement rates. You can attack (everyone has a range-1 attack and a range-2 attack), but the hit rates tend to be lower than I would like. There is a weapon-triangle like system with each character having a certain affinity. Special moves are 100%, but neither the instruction booklet nor the game itself tell you what most of them do. You can use items freely without taking turns, but the only way to get items is the treasure boxes in the stage, so you have to be careful. There is also a “wait” that changes your stance to raise or lower stats, and a “field action”. This is supposed to let you do things like roll barrels but it’s rarely useful, and often involves some obscure item that they don’t tell you what it does.

Movement is annoying because you can’t move through your own guys, so it’s easy to get stuck.

Unskippable battle animations.

Since the treasure boxes are the only way to get items you want to get as many of them as possible, but it’s not practical to get every single one on every map — it is a big waste of time in the game though to keep one enemy alive and take 15 turns tracking down all the boxes. Healing items are particularly valuable because you don’t get many good techniques that heal.

The goal is usually beat all enemies, but some maps are “beat boss” or “reach a certain point on the map”.

So unfortunately the battle system pretty much stinks. Once you get used to its quirks it becomes a bit less annoying, but it’s never a whole lot of fun, and you definitely want an emulator with speedup.

So let’s get to the story and setting with the Prologue chapter “Boys of Tilk Island”. The text and pictures won’t capture the detail and charm of the game, but at least it’s something.

The game takes place on the island of Tilk. This is an island to the far south with rich farmland and blue seas. The main character Billy Drake is the son of a fisherman. At the beginning of the game he has overslept again, and races to the treehouse to meet his four friends. They are Fon Tokun (a nerdy scientist type), Meril Fount (the lone girl), Pack Myson (the son of a shipbuidler) and Grus Ganto (a big strongman).

At first the kids waste time by going down to the ocean to beat up Sand Jellyfish and visit the local farm to see baby animals, but eventually they decide to visit a nearby mountain. Unfortunately this is the domain of another kid named Jake and his band of unruly ruffians (Sharks).

From left to right it’s Rui, Jake, Phillip, and Eric (the big one). Grus actually used to be a part of this band until Billy beat him in a fight and then Grus joined Billy. In any case, Jake doesn’t like the Billy group invading his territory. They knock the Sharks around a bit but then go home because it’s late.

The next day Billy and his friends are wasting time on the beach, looking for a rumored pirate ship that has supposedly been visiting the area. The adults tell them to go deal with some crabs that have been bothering the fishermen. After that, Billy hears some mysterious singing that nobody else does. Going to a certain place on the beach he meets a girl named Silky.

They talk for a bit but then when Billy’s friends show up Silky disappears.

Meanwhile Jake wants to get Grus to rejoin his group, and when Grus refuses again, the Sharks attack him. (This is the hardest battle in the game; if you did not save a healing item you can go left from the start and there is a Bread in a box. That should be enough to win the battle.)

After this, the whole group decides to take on Jake’s band, and when Billy’s group defeats the Sharks, Jake gets depressed and decides that he is once again alone as he always is. Later, it turns out that Rui never came home, so Billy and his friends go look for her. They find her in the Sharks’ base (an abandoned mine), but she’s being attacked by some kind of robot.

With the help of Eric they take down the robot and rescue Rui. Later when the adults show up, Billy’s father seems to recognize the robot but says nothing.

Chapter 1 – The Legend of the Hidden Treasure

The group decides that for today’s adventure, they will visit a nearby island to explore an abandoned house. But how will they get to the island? They meet Silky on the beach who reminds them that when the tide is down (like today) they can simply walk over there. Silky trails along as they explore the house — and happen upon the pirates!

They spy on Captain Gratz and his underlings Henry and Oyster. They’re looking at a map showing the location of six emerald tablets. This makes Silky alarmed, and she insists that they have to steal the map. The other kids are hesitant, but Silky charges in and manages to rip half of the map away. The kids fight grunt pirates on their way out of the house.

The kids escape through the forest and back to the mainland. Silky explains a legend: in olden times the gods and humans lived together, but the gods became birds and fish, and now some of them live in an underwater palace Dilm, where something called Tupshimaty exists, that can grant wishes. They need to keep enough of the emerald tablets from the pirates that they won’t get access.

Chapter 2 – To the Island of Adventure

The next day, Billy and his group set out to visit the islands marked on the map (I don’t remember how they get a boat; I forgot to write that down). Jake and Rui come along, but Jake decides this is none of his business and leaves. Meanwhile, the pirates are pissed off. They want the half of the map back. A fourth member named Kars offers to kill the kids, but Gratz turns him down — that goes against his pirate code.

The island segments can be done in any order. In the first one I did, we cut the tablet out of a tree — after everyone else leaves, Silky appears to talk to the tree, and apologizes before healing it. The second one involves beating up armor sharks — the kids feel bad afterwards because the sharks were just protecting their area.

At the next islands, the robots from first chapter are back. A young girl named Bell initially attacks the kids thinking they’re with them.

But once the kids drive off the robots, she relents. She was just protecting her “god”, and gives up the emerald tablet. She then disappears, leaving only a skeleton behind…

Meanwhile, a little kid named Elrich, who a commander from an Empire, is heading to the island for an as-of-yet unknown reason.

The final emerald tablet on the kids’ map is at the top of a mountain, but the pirates manage to find them and chase them up the mountain. Of course the kids manage to beat the pirates up as usual and get the tablet.

Now the pirates have kidnapped Phillip, a weak, traitorous member of the Sharks (Jack’s gang). With very little prompting he gives up the location of Billy’s secret base, and the pirates go there to get the tablets…of course they lose to the kids, yet again.

Now there is an interlude — Pack’s grandfather, who was once a famous adventurer, is sick. Pack wants to go to the mountain to find a Veronica Flowers — many years ago his grandfather brought some seeds back and planted them, and he thinks that if he can show one of the flowers to his grandfather he’ll feel better. Unfortunately they don’t grow well in this warm climate.

At first they only find one, and Pack can’t bring himself to uproot the only flower remaining from his grandfather’s seeds. But then they find that a whole bunch of them grew elsewhere, and he brings one back.

However, on the way back they meed Fredrick (the grandfather) who seems to have totally recovered. The other kids head back to town, and Pack talks to his grandfather. Fredrick says he’s about to go on a long journey with his friends — Pack wants to go too, and Fredrick says that he’ll come back for Pack eventually, when Pack is ready to go. He also tells Pack not to come to the harbor tomorrow, because it’s bad luck to see off a sailor while crying. Pack heads back home. The next day, the grandfather is found dead in his bed, and the funeral occurs, although Pack does not attend.

Next the pirates fake a circus to try to trap the kids…it doesn’t really work, though, because Billy and his gang have no idea what a circus is. Eventually they just have to strongarm the kids into the tent and attack them. As usual the kids beat them up, but in the resulting chaos, Silky is captured. Later a letter comes for the kids saying that if they want Silky back, they have to give up the Emerald Tablets they have.

I’m going to stop there so this post doesn’t get too long — I’ll post the other two chapters soon, maybe tomorrow, or Monday at the latest. It’s really a shame that the gameplay was so bad or this would be an all-time classic, I think.

SFC Game 90 – Metal Max Returns

Metal Max Returns (メタルマックスリターンズ), released 9/29/1995, developed by Data East

This is a remake of the long-running Metal Max series. Metal Max 2 was an early game I played for this blog, and in that post I mentioned that the newest game would be coming out that year — that was Metal Max Xeno (2018). Since then there has been an enhanced version of Xeno as well as a new game, Metal Dogs, that came out last year.

The remake completely redid the graphics, and they look better than Metal Max 2. The rest of the system and gameplay is essentially the same as Metal Max 2, which I don’t believe was all that different from the original Famicom game. From what I can see, the non-graphical changes to the game are mostly minor balance adjustments and things of that nature — with one exception, which I’ll mention later.

As with Metal Max 2, this is a non-linear, open-world-ish game. We’ve seen a number of these on the blog, and they’ve all used various methods to accomplish the non-linear gameplay. What Metal Max Returns does is essentially to separate the world into four or five regions. You have to accomplish something to get to the next region, and then there is a final boss. But the number of things you actually are required to do to win the game is very small, and most of the content is not required. However, you will not be able to beat the final boss (or the Big Cannons at the end of the second area) if you try to only do strictly what is required. So the rest of the content in the game is just there to give you interesting things to do while you build up your tanks and strength. The main change in Returns is that original had (I think) five bosses that blocked your way to new areas, where as Returns has only two (including the final boss series).

Just as in MM2, MMR has sixteen wanted monsters that you can beat to get XP and money. All of them are optional. There are also eight tanks you can acquire. I managed to get all the tanks and fifteen of the sixteen wanted monsters (two of them are very rare encounters). Some of them randomly appear in certain areas of the world map or in dungeons, others are found as specific encounters. You can run away from them in general so if you encounter them when you don’t want to fight them you can get away.

The game does not really have a story. The main character is the son of a mechanic, who kicks him out of the house when he decides to become a Hunter. Beyond that, there’s no real overall story development until the final boss. You can end the game at any time by returning to your dad and saying you want to quit being a Hunter. You have to confirm it four times and the last time he says “Are you serious? I’m going to save over your file now.” If you do that after you have beaten the final boss, you see the credits and ending sequence.

The tank system is the same as MM2. You have various types of weapons you can put on (if you have the right attachments on your tank), special weapons, and items. Everything has a weight, and the tank can only support a certain amount of weight determined by the chassis. Any leftover weight allowance will be “armor tiles”, which are essentially the tank’s HP. Once a tank’s armor tiles run out, further attacks will start destroying parts of the tank until it can no longer move. Parts can also be destroyed by certain attacks. This game also has the bird shit and mushrooms that take up space and have to get cleaned. You can tow one tank if it’s inoperable.

There is no game over; if you die your dad pulls you back to the first town and Dr. Minch (who was also in MM2) revives you. However, your companions are not there and I never figured out how to get them back, so I always reset when I got a game over.

Getting out of the first area just requires finding the first tank in the nearby cave. You can also clear the first wanted group here, the Salmonella Gang.

Getting out of the second area requires defeating two Mega Cannons. It would be basically impossible to go straight there and do it, but there are quite a few different places you can go in the second area first. My general method on gaining access to a new area was first to explore the whole land area to get it in my map, and to visit all the towns to see what kind of wanted monsters I could learn about and what new equipment I could buy. In the second area the main places are the factories at the shore, and some wanted monsters that can be picked up here.

Eventually after buying armor piercing shells, recruiting the second character (a mechanic) and getting a Buggy for him, and upgrading everyone, I was ready for the big cannons…more or less.

I had to use my full complement of armor piercing shells and most of my other resources. You have to beat two but can do them one at a time, which helps. After this, we open the third area.

Here you can pick up the third character, a soldier. Some players seem to have had a lot of difficulty activating the event that lets you recruit her but for me it just happened without issue. But it was a long time before I could get a third tank to give her one. This is also where you can now upgrade tanks by modifying their chassis to give them more weight allowance, and other such things.

From here to the end, the only required boss is the final sequence of boss battles at the end of the game. So by selective running from fights and such, you could now go all the way to the final area — getting out of the 3rd area is just talking to some people and going through a dungeon, and getting to the final area involves talking to some people in a tower. I did not go this quickly, though. A third tank is available by beating Mad Muscle but I found him very difficult and was not able to do it until I came back much later.

At this point I’m not sure I want to give a detailed recounting of everything I did; there’s no real story and I basically followed the outline I said above. Explore a whole region, buy new things, then start going in the dungeons in the area to see what I can find. Beat any wanted monsters I am able to, and go back to previous areas to sop up the wanted monsters I skipped.

Getting to one of the area involves toppling a tower to cover the water.

Anyway, eventually I had all 8 tanks and had beaten 14 of the 16 wanted monsters. The 15th one I was going to deal with, Bad Valdez, was quite challenging. However, raising your level helps quite a bit. I think I was at level 27 or so when I finally took him down.

The final dungeon is the Global Relief Center. At various points in the game you can hear some rumors about Noah, the computer system here. It turns out that Noah was created by scientists to fix the environmental problems in the world, and decided that the best way to fix them was to wipe out humanity. So Noah was the cause of the world apocalypse, and is also responsible for all the robots and such that are afflicting the world.

Noah has several forms, but I found him much easier than the final bosses of Metal Max 2. He hits just as hard but has fairly low HP.

Afterwards, I returned to my dad and told him I was ready to be a mechanic.

Then the credits roll and we get our stats and the level each wanted monster was beaten at. Afterwards it seems that Kurisu gets bored being a mechanic and goes off to be a Hunter again.

In the end I liked this game a lot more than Metal Max 2. I found the less restrictive nature of MMR was more fun. I still wish there were more complexity to the non-tank battle system since you have to use it so much. Has anyone played any more recent Metal Max series games?