Monthly Archives: November 2022

SRPG Game 80 – Langrisser IV (Saturn)

Langrisser IV (ラングリッサーIV), released 8/1/1997, developed by Masaya

Time to return to one of the main series of SRPGs in this era. This entry in the series abandons the real time system of the previous game (thankfully), although the turns are now speed-based instead of player turn-enemy turn. Langrisser 5 was released only 10 months after this one, and then both games were ported to the Playstation in 1999. My understanding is that Langrisser 5 is essentially a polished version of 4s, and that the Playstation 4 upgrades it to 5’s system. I decided to play the original Saturn version of 4 to better show the progression of the series.

The game takes place 200 years after Langrisser II, in the kingdom of Yeless. Gizlof, a wizard high in the ranks of the Regenberg Federation, attempts to bend the Federation to his will. At the start of the game he needs the Sage Crystal that is in Gotahl Village, and he uses crushing taxes as a pretext to attack the village for rebellion. The main character Randius is the foster son of the village elder. Gizlof kills the father and captures his other foster daughter Rachel and the crystal. Randius and Ricky, the actual son of the elder, escape, and attempt to rescue Rachel.

After they escape they meet up with the daughters of the ineffective king of Caconcis, the southern kingdom. Randius and his group join up with Caconcis to fight against Regenberg, while Gizlof tries to take over Regenberg. He also seems to have some otherworldly backers with their own ideas (if you’ve played the other Langrisser games you already know who the villain here is).

As I said above, the system abandons the real time system of III and goes back to the grid, turn-based system of 1 and 2. The main difference is that units now act based on their “judgment” stat; basically a speed based system. Magic, as in 3, takes time to cast depending on the magic itself. While I think the system works overall, a major issue is that the hired troops and the commander can have different judgment values and act at different times. This can make it difficult to effectively use the troops and keep them within the commander’s leadership range. I believe that this was changed in 5 (and the 4 remake).

The other main difference is that commanders can’t hire as many units as they could in previous games. The number of available units is now a stat value that raises with level ups (and class changes), and possibly depends on the type of units as well. I think they also added some new abilities like the kind you see in Fire Emblem 4, although they’re mostly about equipment.

There are other minor gameplay changes but other than the major ones I mentioned earlier this is a familiar game for someone who has played Langrisser 1 and 2. I didn’t find the game especially challenging in the early parts (certainly not as hard as Langrisser 2). So I won’t do a stage-by-stage treatment.

The first really challenging stage, I thought was 14. Here you have Lanford as reinforcements who goes straight for the main character and can kill him in one hit from full HP. So you really need to finish the stage before he can reach you, but the first time I didn’t have my guys set up correctly. The second time I had everyone go around to the left, and that helped my strength be concentrated enough to defeat the enemies.

Stage 15 is a bit tough too but I think as long as you make a strong attack first and make sure that the main character can survive until Lanford leaves, it’s not too bad.

I’m finding archers much better in this game than in the earlier games.

Finally, as in the previous games, the way the AI will always heal the commander if they are below 7 or 6 HP makes it easy to deal with fleeing enemies or guys with strong attacks.

I just finished chapter 15 and it looks like I’ve fulfilled the conditions to get the C route (the Independent route that seems to be the “true” one). I’ll have more to say about the game next weekend when hopefully I will have finished it.

SFC Game 97 – Maten Densetsu (Finished)

Last time some commenters were saying that this was a ripoff of Shin Megami Tensei. I think this is a little unfair — while it’s clearly strongly inspired by SMT I don’t think it’s just a cheap ripoff. This game does not have the same monster recruiting system, the religious emphasis of SMT, or the “law vs chaos” idea. And the Energy system I described in the last post is an entirely new system.

Having now finished the game I have mixed feelings about it. One issue I had that (as far as I could tell) there is no way to get any information in-game on what all the items and spells do. I was able to figure some of them out just by experimentation but sometimes even using the spells in battle doesn’t make it clear what they are supposed to do. This game has very little information available on it; the Japanese sites are mostly just reviews. The usual richie walkthrough is on GF but this must have been one of his early efforts because he tries to summarize the story and the English is worse than usual (I tried e-mailing richie to thank him for all his work but I got no response; I don’t think he’s been active on GF for 10 years or so, so I imagine he’s moved on.)

My biggest issue with the game was that it became tedious due to how large the dungeons are. As is common with many of the first-person dungeon games from this era, there is very little of interest in the dungeons. In this game at least you do not have to explore every square to know what is there because of the HUD that shows you points of interest. But it still seemed like the dungeons were unnecessarily big. There is a certain tedium to fighting, making MP restore items, healing, walking down long featureless corridors, and fighting again.

The other issue was that there did not seem to be a clear forward movement of a story. Generally the flow of the game is that Chisato teleports you to an area, you beat a boss in a dungeon, the dungeon starts to crumble, and Chisato teleports you to the next area. There are issues in each area but I did not get the feeling that we were moving towards any kind of ultimate goal.

In the last post I had gotten to Hiroshima. Here, there are monster ants in a big anthill. Defeating them gives us another oopart that allows Chisato now to teleport to various places we haven’t been before. You can choose between two places; I went with Kyoto.

In Kyoto we go around to various places and collect body parts of a demon.

Eventually we go to a pyramid that reunites all the parts of the demon, and causes the demon to fight us. This was a tough boss but I figured out something that makes most of the game’s bosses much easier. One system thing I forgot to mention last time is that you have a total defense value that is divided among mental, physical, and energy defense. But you can change way the division goes any time you want. So for most of the bosses you can just see what type of attack they have and then put all your defense points into that type. Most bosses only have one attack type so this will leave them barely able to damage the main characters. (This does not work so well near the end of the game.)

We get another oopart and then proceed to Nagano, where some kind of monster plant has covered everything.

Beating the giant plant monster gives us another oopart and we go to Shikoku. This is a long section with a bunch of dungeons you have to clear; there’s also a strange place where people have transferred their consciousness into stone tablets so they can live forever, but they don’t like the results. I was never clear on where these people were supposed to have come from. In any case, another boss gets us another oopart.

Next up is Kyushu, which has another strange section with some kind of dinosaur humanoids. One of the shamans here tricks us into giving up an oopart so we have to chase him into a dungeon. Beating him and a giant dinosaur yields another oopart.

Next we teleport to where Tokugawa Ieyasu and other sengoku era generals are fighting. Maybe I just didn’t read the dialogue closely enough but as with the dinosaur humanoids I’m not entirely clear on what is happening here. But once we save them all from the monsters we gain access to a castle — another boss, another oopart.

We end up back at the Nazca pictures where Rai initially met the mysterious mask that gave him the ability to form weapons. Using one of the ooparts reveals an underground area. This area is enormous; by far the most tedious part of the game because of how many empty areas there are, but there are 6 important places in there so you have to know where you’ve been. The people here have been studying some kind of ancient rocketship.

After clearing the monsters from several areas we enter the rocketship and use it to go to some kind of final area. Here, Rai meets Ando, the mask from the beginning. Rai gathers power from all sources, including his friends, to make one final killing blow against Ando.

The final battle has an annoying part where each turn you go to his right or left (shown by right and left arrows) to decide where to attack, but it doesn’t seem like it’s doing any good. You have to press up (not indicated) to jump over him and attack his back. I wonder how long I would have spent on this battle figuring that out if I hadn’t seen it in the walkthrough.

After the battle, Rai learns that an ancient race split into two factions — one that wanted to leave their DNA in humanity and watch over them, and the other who wanted to control them as tyrants. Ando was the head of the tyrant group, but with them defeated, the Earth will be free from that influence. I guess Japan goes back to Earth? They didn’t clearly state that, and Japan is certainly going to have a lot of rebuilding to do.

In the end…meh? It’s certainly not the worst game I’ve played but it is too tedious and long, I think.

SFC Game 97 – Maten Densetsu (Part 1)

Maten Densetsu: Senritsu no Ooparts (魔天伝説 戦慄のオーパーツ), released 10/27/1995, by Takara

I’ve chewed through my buffer and am not done with this game yet so this will be a 2 part (hopefully) game. The game seems to have only been a minor release; there’s almost nothing available on it in Japanese. The subtitle means “terror of the ooparts” (an oopart, or Out Of Place Artifact, is a real term in pseudo-history/science referring to things like the Baghdad Battery or other things that supposedly support ancient alien or “lost civilization” theories.

The game begins abruptly — you choose one of five main characters (I don’t know how they are different, I chose Rai), and immediately start in a ruined Tokyo with this strange mask staring at you. Rai manages to somehow manifest a gun out of nowhere and tries to fight the mask. He can’t really do much but then he wakes up with a woman’s voice in his head telling him to come to Shinjuku, and he has the gun.

Rai wakes up in the house of someone named Akihiko. Because Rai was able to manifest this gun, Akihiko thinks he should have an invention that works on satellite data to find living things, automap, and do other things. It turns out that Japan is now floating in the air, and monsters are all over the country. Rai also has gotten a ball that can revive allies.

Everything in the game works off of Energy, which you get either from beating monsters, or finding certain places in dungeons or on the world map that grant you energy. You can do three basic things with the energy:

  • Raise your stats. I’m not clear on what the exact effect of each stat is, but it seems to be Physical Strength, Physical Endurance, Physical sPeed(?), Mental Strength, Mental Energy, IQ, and Defense. The amount it costs to raise each stat is shown at the right.
  • Upgrade your weapon. You need to raise your IMG stat (which goes up from Mental stat points) to at least the level of energy it costs to do the upgrade. There is a limit to how much you can upgrade, and some weapons can’t be upgraded. For the woman companion that you get later, you can learn new “spells” by raising her “psychic circle” level, which runs off the same IMG idea.
  • Make items. Any time you find a consumable item it goes in your item matrix, and then you can use energy to make more of the items. This is your main way to heal and recover (there are very few places in the game where you can rest to restore PSY/MP), and it’s important to find the items like the Coffee (which restore PSY).

On the overworld you move around like this (with the blue triangle representing your position). Pressing Y will show pink diamonds in areas where you can find things. They might be enemy encounters you can’t run from, or places you can go in, abandoned JDF cars you can search for items, people to talk to, and such. There are random encounters as well.

The dungeons are first-person with an automap. By looking at the top right of the view you can see black crosses where there are places of interest, so you do not have to enter every square. I think the dungeons are a bit too large, but maybe they had to do that because they can’t expect you to spend time exploring every square.

The combat system is the same-old same-old. Nothing to say.

I wandered around as Rai for a while, and picked up two monsters to join my team. You can get more of these throughout the game and use the revive orb to “store” the monsters you are not currently using.

Rai encounters a number of survivors hiding from the disaster, including one named Ryuji who is also able to manifest weapons (though he doesn’t join). Rai learns that reaching Shinjuku to find the mysterious woman’s voice will require going through subway tunnels. After finding some bombs in a JDF installation, Rai removes the rubble and then goes through the tunnels to Shinjuku.

In a park there he finds Chisato, the woman whose voice he heard. She joins the party as the “spellcaster” of the group. Chisato claims that Rai is the only one who can gather the 5 powers necessary to fight and defeat the root of this cause, and that by gathering the right energy she can teleport to various places.

We head for an underground area that has Fujin and Raijin monsters in it — defeating them both gives Rai a new weapon, and gives Chisato enough energy to teleport, but only once. We go to Hiroshima.

This is where I currently am, so I will update next week. So far the game is OK; I’ll have to wait until the end to see if it gets more tedious than I enjoy.

SFC Game 96 – Light Fantasy II

Light Fantasy II (ライトファンタジーII), released 10/27/1995, developed by Tonkin House

I’ve been dreading this since I played the original Light Fantasy years ago as one of the first games I did on the blog. The original game was horrendously bad; one of the worst designed games I’ve ever played and a good contender for the single worst RPGs on the system and one of the worst RPGs ever made. It’s virtually unplayable — the only reason it’s not is that you can exploit a glitch to turn random encounters on and off, and there’s a trick you can use with a gambling game to make as much money as you need. Using both of those you can get through the game fairly quickly.

This game improves on the original to the point where it’s playable, but it’s much longer. Basically it went from a short, unplayably bad game, to a long, still very bad game.

The battle system is the same as the first one, with the grid SRPG-style. The annoying movement ranges that the original game had are made somewhat better, and you don’t miss as often as you did in the first game. But the pots the enemies leave still block your movement, and the whole system is still very slow.

The status effects are still a huge problem with the game. There are a bunch of them (even more than the first game) and most do not go away at the end of a battle or sleeping at an inn. So you have to carry around a lot of status heal items or have the status heal spells — the inventory is much larger this time and you can stack items, which helps a bit. But so many enemies have spells that target everyone on the board and cause devastating status effects.

Basically you want to do the same thing as in Light Fantasy 1 — avoid the majority of the game’s encounters (since any random encounter can provide a game over), and only fight at certain points with fairly easy monsters to level up. The balance is all over the place, with one dungeon having enemies that aren’t very hard and give good XP, and the next dungeon having enemies that can give you a game over before you get a turn, but give almost no XP.

I used a no-encounter cheat code for most of the game. I also used a cheat code that makes the fast walking spell permanent (it’s annoying to see a late 1995 game require you to use items or spells to temporarily walk fast). I also used a money cheat to buy things. There’s probably a discussion to be had whether I should simply skip the game rather than use all these cheats to win, but I’m still following the old rules I set down for myself although I’ve rarely wanted to break them as much as I did for this game.

The interface is annoying. As you might expect, you cannot see stats of weapons or armor in shops or in the menu. There’s no way in-game to fight out what a spell does, and they have names like “gongon” and “yura”. At least the spells do not take as much MP as they did in the first game, so you’re freer to use them (and a level up restores all MP and HP).

As in the first game, you can form your party by inviting a lot of random people in towns — dogs, mermaids, demons, people — and you can also invite monsters from battle. As with the first game, this would be a neat feature if the battle system were actually fun.

The game takes place several hundred years after the first one, with another “jiyuu no yuusha” (Hero) who has to power up the Earth Sword to be able to defeat an evil goddess and save the world. What has increased the length so much is the unbelievable amount of backtracking you have to do, and the sheer number of fetch quests. You are constantly being diverted and digressed — you need item X but to get that you need Y, and to get that you need Z, but while getting Z you come across a child who has lost his father so we have to go look for the father and to do that we need item A but to get that B…I’m not even really exaggerating with this description. The majority of the game has no feeling of any kind of forward movement, and the power ups of the Earth Sword are mostly done because we blunder across the spirits in the course of these fetch quests.

If you played this game completely straight with no cheats, I think it would take in the 40-70 hour range, and 20-25 of those hours would be backtracking through places. There is no town warp or dungeon warp spell, and a good number of the towns you need to visit are through dungeons. So any time the game needs you to go to that town you have to go through the whole dungeon again. Sometimes you have to go to the town, and then learn about the fetch quest, walk back through the dungeon to get out, get your item for the fetch quest, then go all the way back through the dungeon to the town again, and out again.

Many of the dungeons are like the above, requiring you to use light spells or torches which only give you a small viewing area. This makes the whole dungeon backtracking part even more annoying.

The story is pretty basic. The hero is the descendant (I think) of the hero from the first game. At the beginning monsters are following him, and three women turn him into a baby and sacrifice themselves to save him. So for the first part you are a baby who can equip armor and weapons; it’s not really explained how you are able to attack.

As the game progresses, Ash (the default name) ages — apparently the baby form is a representation of his weak spirit, and as he gets more heroic he becomes an adult. Early in the game we learn that Lefina, who Ash wants to save, is being held by The Goddess. We need to power up the Earth Sword with all the spirits to be able to enter the towers that will open the way to where the Goddess is. This early plot development is then followed by the 70% of the game or so that is just fetch quest after fetch quest.

My whole party is blinded here

Eventually we gain access to the towers and open the way to the floating castle where The Goddess is. Using the help of a scientist we get shot out of a cannon into the castle and then have to beat a number of bosses. The bosses are quite difficult — there is a magic spell that drains all their MP which helps a lot, and if you’re cheating and have 99 elixirs that’s enough healing power to beat it, but even so I got a couple of game overs when I wasn’t quick enough to heal. I cannot imagine how painful this game would be to play with no help at all.

It turns out that Mink, a girl who lost her memory and has been accompanying you, is actually the Darkness Spirit that the Goddess created. But she turns against the Goddess, gives the dark power to the sword, and releases Lefina, who completes the Earth Sword with the light power. Then you fight the final boss.

On my first try, the boss killed the main character in one hit. The second time after I drained its MP there was some kind of glitch and she did not take any turns for the rest of the fight so I was able to just use spells until she died. She apologizes for being jealous of the hero and tells us to tell everyone in the world that she was sorry. The hero uses the sword to repair all the damage, we go back and heal various people that had been sick for the whole game, and then Kurisu goes off on a new adventure.

After the credits you can to go the Development Village where the game designers are. Unfortunately you can’t fight and kill them.

To sum up, this is a truly awful game — surely one of the worst RPGs ever made. The developers should all be ashamed of putting this game on the market and Tonkin House should be ashamed of having published it, especially in 1995 less than a month before Dragon Quest VI. I resent that I had to play it and write about it. There is no way to communicate through text how painful an experience it is to play this. If I had to choose to play Light Fantasy 1 or 2 again I would definitely do 1 — this game took 25 hours, and that was with following a walkthrough, not spending a lot of time talking to random people in towns, and using all the cheats I described earlier.