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.