Monthly Archives: March 2023

SFC Game 102 – Tengai Makyo Zero (Finished)

I did finish the game this week. After the Fire Bear Nation, you essentially go through the other five nations sequentially with a similar pattern — go to the nation, learn what is happening to it, and then make your way to the boss and defeat it.

The most annoying thing about all this is the very high random encounter rate. These aren’t encounters you can just hold down attack to beat — it’s appreciated that you should be using elemental attacks and such, but when there are so many of them it becomes quite tedious.

Peacock Nation

Blood is raining from the sky here, making everyone get sick. But to get to the tower with the boss we need a flying machine. This guy named Akamaru tries to trick you into giving him the key to the machine, but it turns out he’s the villain of this land. Fortunately Subaru, your second companion, shows up to help you out.

Some of her skills involve this egg/animal raising minigame, but it can’t be done if the clock is not working so I didn’t get any of those skills.

Once we get the ship we go to the bloodshed tower and finish off Akamaru.

Crane Nation

This land has suffered a severe drought that has turned everything into desert. You walk slowly through the desert but can hire a Sand Rat Cart to help out.

The boss here is Sara, the third of Ninigi’s underlings. We also get our third companion, Tenjin, who was one of the fire clan 600 years ago. He was in love with one of the Hell people Mizuki, but was cursed to have Mizuki inside him. He and Mizuki can switch who is in the real world but they can never meet.

Once Sara is beaten, the next person Juri absorbs Sara inside herself and then goes to the next world.

Turtle Nation

Juri has caused everything to be overgrown with forest. She’s a weird person who leads you through the world, putting up a lot of games, quizzes, signposts, and such.

Eventually though, she’s forced to fight — you fight her twice, once in the main form and then she combines with Sara and you have to fight her again.

Canine Nation

Here, some scientist has taken over and everyone has turned greedy, going after gold.

The first task is to deal with his big cat giant robot…this involves mining some gold ourselves and doing some other tasks to revive an ancient robot.

After a minigame we can get into the main castle, and beat the boss.

There’s a minigame in this nation that gives you a 1 in 3 chance to double your money, so you can save a few times and easily have several million gold which is enough to buy anything in the game.

Dragon Nation

We now have freed five of the six divine gods, the final one is the dragon in dragon nation. In a break from the past nations, we actually revive the Dragon as the first task. But this is also the land where the Gates of Hell is, so we’ll have to deal with that too.

The Dragon tells us that to beat Ninigi we’ll need Agni’s sword, which was what originally sealed him. It’s beyond the gates of Hell, and using the six stones of the divine gods we can open Ninigi’s barrier long enough to recover the Agni Sword. Higan has to do this on his own, but after going through a few tricks and traps he recovers it.

Now we go take on Ninigi in the Dragon Castle, but despite the Agni sword he wipes the floor with us and breaks the sword. So what do we do now? The Dragon tells us our only option is to go to Takamagahara in the heavens and ask Agni directly to help us. We need to use Ark’s Mirror to activate the divine ark that will take us to the heavens.

In Tamagahara, Agni is pissed off that we came to the heavens and brought conflict with us — she never liked the fact that the Fire Clan and the six nation gods rebelled against the heavens. She’ll help us if we show our strength by dealing with some of Ninigi’s monsters that have come to the heavens.

This just involves going around the heavens and beating three bosses in various towns. Higan’s “Dragon Strike” attack is helpful. The random enemies get much harder at this point.

Back at Agni’s place, one of Ninigi’s minions, the Atramentous Alabaster, is trying to break in, but we drive him off.

    Higan has to go through another solo dungeon to get the Fire of Agni in his sword, and then Agni also gives the other two their ultimate weapons. Now it’s time to take on Ninigi.

    I thought this was a tough fight. Higan needs a lot of health to use his Dragon Strike, and my basic strategy was to have Subaru and Tenjin mostly healing and buffing (Tenjin gets a skill at level 50 that lets him use any spell), but I kept getting Higan’s turn right after Ninigi’s — some speed manipulation helped here.

    But the game still is not over, we have to go to the Dragon Palace and fight Ninigi one more time.

    This was an easier battle, I thought, but the same strategy.

    Once Ninigi is beaten and sealed, Higan can choose to become the new king. I chose to become king, which seemed like a good idea.

    In the end this isn’t a bad game, but it’s really hampered by two things — the ridiculous random encounter rate, and the inability to do any of the clock-based events on an emulator (which is not the fault of the original game). There are a lot of other minigames and random stuff that I didn’t cover in the post. It of course suffers with comparison to the PC Engine games with the lack of speech and CD-quality music, but it’s a decent late-SFC period game.

    SFC Game 102 – Tengai Makyo Zero (Part 1)

    Tengai Makyo Zero (天外魔境ZERO), released 12/22/1995, published by Hudson

    This is the fourth RPG in the Tengai Makyo series. The first three games were for the PC Engine, and I covered them all earlier, although I didn’t finish any of them. (See the posts on Tengai Makyo, Tengai Makyo II, and Tengai Makyo Kabuki-Den.) One of the big draws for the PC Engine games were the voice, CD-quality music, and cutscenes, which can’t really be carried over to the Super Famicom. Instead, they added a real-time clock chip that keeps track of the date and time, allowing for special events based on either the time of day or even the season of the year. The game is also one of the largest games on the SFC, using a special compression chip to allow for 72 megabits of data.

    Unfortunately the clock chip creates a problem for emulation that I’m not sure can be fixed. The game of course had no way of knowing what the actual time and date was since the Super Famicom had no internal clock. Instead you set the clock/date on your first play and the chip will continue to update it even when the game is off (apparently this drained the save battery faster than other games). But in an emulator the clock can’t advance while the emulator is closed, so unless you’re willing to leave the game running when you’re not playing it, you’ll finish the game before 2 or at most 3 days have passed. I googled to see if anyone had a solution for this; the fact that I couldn’t even find many complaints about it make me wonder if there is a way people got around this. (EDIT: I think this is simply my own ignorance of how to get the clock working — other people have reported that it worked for them.)

    I decided to go against my usual practice and play the English patch. Byuu/near, who developed the bsnes emulator that I’ve been using for this whole process, counted this as one of their favorite games. I don’t know exactly what involvement byuu had in this patch — it may just be that they were able to create an emulator that would actually run the game, but they may have also contributed some hacking to the patch as well. In any case, it’s interesting to play in English once in a while.

    As you can see above, this once again takes place in Jipang, but in a time many centuries before the other TM games. Here the Eternal Flame has chosen a new king for the Fire Bear Nation, which turns out to be the younger brother. The older brother is so upset that he unseals the Hell Door to seek power from Ninigi who is trapped there. It’s interesting that Ninigi is the villain since in Japanese history, Ninigi is the god who becomes the great-grandfather of the first Emperor (Jimmu) and thus the ancestor of the Imperial line.

    In any case, this causes the demons to come forth from Hell, and one of the underlings of Ninigi goes to each of the six countries and causes problems there. The main character Higan is a 12-year old person from Fire Shadow Village. His grandfather was a hero who fought against evil, and now he’s trying to prove himself as well.

    Higan is trying to beat the “Coal Hermit” at the bottom of a nearby mine, but he’s been defeated a few times.

    The battle system is pretty standard. “Scrolls” are the spells you get from hermits, just like in the other games. This time you don’t equip scrolls to specific people, but there are certain spells that can only be used by certain characters. The “skills” are also acquired by various events; these are specific to each character. Some are free to use, others cost tech points or HP. The game lets you set 4 “plans” that autobattle with specific commands for each person. (The two other people in the above screenshot are Higan’s friends who don’t stick around for long).

    Once Higan beats the Coal Hermit and gets the Blaze Cutter skill, he heads back to the village and finds that the first of Ninigi’s underlings, Zettai Reido (“Absolute Zero”) has frozen the town and kills his grandfather. But since the Eternal Flame has now chosen Higan as the Hero of Fire, he’s able to fight off Zettai Reido, who retreats to his castle.

    The basic gameplay is to visit each of the 6 areas and solve the problems that Ninigi’s underlings are causing there. Then there’s a final area (I assume) where you beat Ninigi? We’ll see.

    In the Fire Bear Kingdom you have to free the Fire Bear god, who has been frozen by Zettai Reido. This involves first having Hisui forge your rusty sword back into the Fire Bear Sword, and then going to the Ice Castle.

    He’s pretty easy; you can just cast Singe over and over again and have Hisui heal. After this, Hisui puts the rest of her life force into the next fairy that will be born (named Subaru), but she won’t join you yet. Now with things unfrozen you can move on to the next land.

    One major sidequest I haven’t been doing at all is the Tea House events. I think these are based on the Yoshiwara (red light) district in Edo, which was commonly depicted in literature. Basically you can talk to different women in the tea houses and try to get in their good graces by bringing them gifts and other things. They’ll repay you with various things — good items, or love scenes where you get your HP/MP restored, they can write you love letters, and such.

    This is an interesting sidequest but the main character is 12! Why would they include this event with such a young main character? In any case a lot of the events depend on the clock also, so unless I can figure out how to get the clock to match the real world clock I wouldn’t be able to do a significant chunk of these events anyway.

    I’ll end here; this is basically as far as I had gotten because it took me so long to finish Mouri Motonari. It seems like a pretty short game so I’ll probably have the finishing post up next week.

    SRPG Game 82 – Mouri Motonari (Final)

    Stage 26

    Thanks to the action of our ninjas we’re able to uncover a plot by the remaining major warlords to attack Mouri all at once. Meanwhile Motoharu (one of Motonari’s sons) is seriously injured by another ninja; this seems to be an invention of the game since the historical Motoharu retired after participating in one of Hideyoshi’s campaigns and then died of cancer.

    The initial way I did this map turned out to be a mistake; the reinforcements at the top come out and then head for your base. The problem is that the island at the bottom center and the place with the main boss at the right have endless reinforcements until you kill the boss associated with the place. The island isn’t a big problem because the boss heads towards you. So what I eventually did is take part of my force down there with Terumoto, beat the enemies in the castle, and then moved Terumoto forward to force the reinforcements to come out. Then I dispatched the other half of my force and had them go north. I was able to kill all the enemies on the right just with my partial force.

    Stage 27

    This is a two battle stage. First, Sekigahara.

    This is not an especially difficult stage. Some reinforcements at the NW but this is a stage where steady progress is enough to win (I used some of the slower units to deal with the reinforcements.)

    The final stage, on the other hand, is annoying. Tokugawa Ieyasu is in the castle at the NE. You only have to beat him to win, but there are four places with endless reinforcements. I split my party in two and sent one N and one E. It took a long time but eventually I took out the 4 places and was left just with the upper part. But that part was very long too;

    Eventually you come near the castle, which also has endless reinforcements. My goal was just to brute force forward enough to let Terumoto use the hissatsu move (x4 damage); this wasn’t enough to kill Ieyasu but I had one of the flute players give Terumoto another turn, which was enough.

    The ending is pretty short. Tokugawa escapes but is killed by people hunting the remnants. Terumoto becomes the Shogun, and the game ends with him heading out again to beat some of the remnants of those who oppose him (this may be based on the Shimabara Rebellion, or some other conflict).

    This is a hard game for me to give a rating to. It was very long (duckstation says I spent 65 hours on it; that’s including resets and reloads, so I think this game was still shorter than FE4 which I finished with a 65 hour in-game timer.)

    On the whole I enjoyed it, but the game is quite slow moving and feels long. You spend a lot of time moving your forces to get within range of the enemies. The stuff you do between battles can take a long time (easily an hour or more). I’m conflicted whether to give this an A or B rating — I feel like it’s between the two but I don’t have that option.

    This series will make one more appearance with Oda Nobunaga-den, which I believe is based on the system from this game.

    SRPG Game 82 – Mouri Motonari Part 2 (PS)

    I should have kept better notes for the earlier stages but for the last part of the game I have stage writeups. This will take one more post later in the week.

    This part of the game is a mix of historical and ahistorical content; the historical content goes up to stage 24.

    Stage 21

    This is the first stage without Motonari, although Terumoto inherits all his equipment. The stage begins with a few enemies to the right and a wide open space on top; of course reinforcements will come in there. There are two groups, one to the left and one to the right, plus sea units. I sent my main force right to deal with the initial enemies, and then had them go up while the backup units sat near the main castle to deal with the sea guys and some of the left units, although I was able to wipe out the right units and bring my main force to the left side of the map before they seriously threatened the castle.

    Stage 22

    This is based on a historical sea battle that took place as part of the Ishiyama Hongan-ji war. In the game you have to protect 3 supply units that are getting food to Honganji. They start out in the sea but will end up on land. There are a ton of sea units but the Wave ability is so powerful that I was able to kill them all with 4 pirates, losing only one. I sent one ninja SW for the villages, two bandits into the mountains for the mines, and everyone else just went forward. There’s one set of reinforcements near the end but they can be easily dealt with.

    Stage 23

    So far we’re still following history, this is the Siege of Kozuki Castle. Hideyoshi starts with some guys at the NE and they will have endless reinforcements until you take him out so that’s the first target (although I didn’t realize this so had to split my team). After that there’s an annoying middle section with cannons and gun units, but once they’re all dealt with it’s smooth sailing after that.

    The tactician units have a very useful heal all units tech; it costs 90 points but that’s enough for two uses even without heal TP items.

    Stage 24

    The beginning of this stage has the last of the historical content. Oda Nobunaga is killed by Akechi Mitsuhide in the Honnoji Incident, and Hideyoshi makes peace (more of a partial surrender) with the Mouri clan so he can go after Mitsuhide. Terumoto accepts the terms. In history the Mouri clan then became one of Hideyoshi’s most loyal supporters and even joined in the failed invasion of Korea. After Hideyoshi’s death, Terumoto opposed Tokugawa Ieyasu and after Ieyasu’s victory, Terumoto surrendered to him and was reduced to the Choshu Domain, where the Mouri clan remained for the rest of the Edo period. Like other domain heads, the Mouri clan leader became a “duke” in the post-Meiji system. The current head of the clan is Mori Motohide, who works for Hitachi Metals (which became Proteria earlier this year).

    In this game, Terumoto decides to take advantage of the confusion surrounding Nobunaga’s death to attack Hideyoshi from behind as he’s leaving to deal with Mitsuhide. Hideyoshi flees for Himeji Castle — I don’t think it’s possible to stop him from reaching the castle and you have to deal with reinforcements along the way. The second group started going for the home base; I sent out some trash units to guard it but they didn’t end up reaching it soon enough before Hideyoshi was killed. So much for his dream.

    Stage 25

    Next up Terumoto decides that the best thing to do is to enter Kyoto (being allowed to enter Kyoto as a warlord means you have the direct support of the Shogun and thus the Emperor); he gets the support of Shogun Yoshiaki. On the way he meets Akechi Mitsuhide, and this is the first of two fights in this chapter.

    There’s not much to it — two sets of reinforcements appear but they are strangely light (I assumed endless reinforcements would come out of the forts but they didn’t — given how few units are in the reinforcement castles I wonder if this is a bug). Akechi’s castle has a lot of cannon units which are dangerous, but you get 80 turns to beat the stage so it’s easy just to approach slowly and use healing from the tacticians and supply carts.

    The second part of the stage has Terumoto going after Mitsuhide after establishing himself in the capital. This stage only has some water reinforcements, but after getting across the water with the help of pirates, the rest of the stage is much easier than the last few. Now Mitsuhide is dead (in history he was killed in a different place by an attack of Hideyoshi’s).

    Three more stages, hopefully I can have the last post up by Tuesday.

    Qualities of good and bad SRPGs

    I’m still working my way through Mouri Motonari; the next post after this will be the conclusion of that game, although it may not come out next weekend (perhaps a few days after that).

    I was thinking of doing a filler post of some other game, but I didn’t want to take away any time from MM. Instead, I thought of writing this reflection post — I’ve now played 82 strategy RPGs for this blog, which is far more than I had ever played before I started writing it. I’m getting a better picture of the kind of SRPGs I like, at least when it comes to these older titles. So here are some qualities that seem to make a game enjoyable, or not enjoyable, for me. I’m trying to pick categories here that don’t apply to just a single game.

    Character Differentiation and Growth

    I like when the characters have significant differences between them (or at least characters of different classes). A bad example is Farland Story, where everyone just attacks either 1 or 2 range (even the mages), and the cleric heals 1 range. You can use different weapons but it just makes the numbers go up, and they don’t learn any skills or powers as they level. The game doesn’t necessarily have to be a full-on FFT job system but I like to have a party that feels different on stage 20 than on stage 2.

    Map size

    A big map is not a problem — FE4 was a good game and it had maps that were quite large. What I don’t like is when the maps are needlessly large, and you have to spend a significant amount of your time on the map just moving your characters forward until they get close enough to fight the enemies. If there is some strategic value in this that’s fine (although I’m not sure I can think of an example), but in many of these cases there isn’t. It’s even more annoying when overall movement rates are slow, or when different characters have such different movement rates that you have to deliberately move the faster ones more slowly so they don’t get too far ahead.

    Map construction

    Memorable maps that are constructed with some thought are a good thing. Generic enemies on generic maps (e.g. Shining Force II) are not good. I like to have a situation where you can remember stage 11 because it’s the one where you have to deal with the initial onslaught of horsemen, then defeat General McAdams in the fort before you can move on to the narrow mountain pass with the archers, etc.

    Level difference between combatants

    I don’t like it when characters cannot fight well if they are below the defender in levels. This just forces grinding or focusing your party on a few people. This was a big problem with Tactics Ogre and Arc the Lad. Although strangely, Summon Night 3 and 4 have this but they are two of my favorite SRPGs

    Opaque systems

    For some reason it took designers a long time to figure out that it was OK to give the player a lot of information about how the system works. You can show how much damage the attackers will do, specify exactly what having elemental compatibility will do, and such. Few games I’ve played so far have had this, unfortunately.

    Any thing you all dislike or like in SRPGs?