Monthly Archives: April 2023

PCE Game 48 – Seiya Monogatari (Part 1)

Seiya Monogatari: AnEarth Fantasy Stories (聖夜物語), released 12/22/1995, developed by Mediaworks, published by Hudson

This is my second to last PC Engine game. It was released late in the system’s lifecycle, and was intended to be the first game in a trilogy. Although this game was re-released for the Sega Saturn, no more games were ever made. I had heard this game had a good reputation, and having completed the game I think the reputation is well deserved — I would put it in the top 5 games I’ve played for the SFC/PCE side of this blog.

The title means “Holy Night Story” — I’ve seen it translated as “Christmas Eve Story”; while it’s true that the word 聖夜 does mean “Christmas Eve”, this story has no explicitly Christian content, it’s more evocative of certain Christian ideas. The re-release dropped the “seiya monogatari” part.

The opening scene has no text, which is a shame because the characters are only introduced in the instruction manual (I later found the explanation on a blog) — I think everything in the manual is covered at some point in the story but it’s easier if you have the information off the bat.

This is Lena — in order to protect the savior Lazarus’ soul, it was transported into her womb and she gave birth to the main character. I accidentally named him Talis instead of Kurisu. The opening also shows Adis, the reincarnation of the magician Kyurientis, as well as Pope Velmessa, a child who is at the head of the Altnash Church and the new Holy Ishmelia Empire. He has declared himself to be the reincarnation of Lazarus.

As we move to the start of the game, a woman drops the child at a church. Three different people or groups walk back. By hitting the button to cry, you can get the attention of any of the groups, or if you don’t press anything, Sister Maria from the church will take the baby in. This determines what character type the main character will be, and also affects the story to a certain extent — the beginning is different for each path and whichever class you are, the corresponding PC will not join you. I went with the old man, which makes Talis a magician.

The graphics are a lot better than most other PC Engine games even from this late era. As you can see in the image above, this game doesn’t work off experience levels. Rather, what you do in battle gives you EXP in a number of different areas, and that will eventually raise stats. I wasn’t entirely sure what all the experience areas did, and I wish the interface would tell you when one of the stats levels up.

The first part of the game covers Talis at 5, 10, and 15 years old. Gregory, the old man, is a magician of some kind. He has a secret lab where Talis finds an object of some sort that makes a light come out; Lena’s voice appears and tells us we are the only hope of the world, to stop the Beast of Destruction. These objects serve as the save points throughout the game.

When Talis is 15, people from the Altnash Church show up and take over the building, preventing us from entering.

Adis shows up, wanting to take away (or possibly kill) Talis. Gregory recognizes her as the reincarnation of his teacher, and traps her in his secret lab by turning himself to stone so that Adis can’t get the unlock word out of him. She says she’ll be able to do it eventually, but this gives Talis time to escape.

Gregory leaves Talis with a magic scroll to use the Thunder spell, and some Holix. Spells in the game require you to have acquired the scroll for the spell, and then have the necessary Holix to cast them. There are 14 different Holix varieties. You can acquire the one-use Holix from various places, but you can also find Eternal Holix which allow you to use that Holix permanently. The only screenshot I have of the screen is from the end of the game:

I assume there is one permanent holix for each type; I know I missed one from doing an event in the wrong order, but the other 2 I never found. A lot of them are pretty well hidden and I would not have found a few of them if I hadn’t gotten some information from a blog.

Gregory also leaves behind the broken Vayu Sword which was left with Talis as a baby (I think this is how he gets it in this version of the story), and tells Talis to go to the capital Rostal where he can learn more about magic. So we exit to the world map.

Here you just choose a place to go, but you can only go to places that you know about (even if they are spelled out on the map, you can’t always go there right away). At first the only place you can go is Jupito. There Talis runs into an old woman swordsman, Olga. She’ll be our warrior PC for the game (an interesting choice). But for now she’s in a hurry to go to the Urikuri village in Ulantaya forest — they’re being attacked by bees.

I follower her there myself, and we get the first combat, saving one of the Urikuri from some Macbees. What is interesting about this game is that the encounters are neither random or even symbol encounters, but pre-set fights. It feels like playing a table-top RPG where the game master has decided on specific encounters for you to fight. There are a few encounters that will respawn but for the most part you can only do the pre-set fights, so there’s no grinding.

The battle is on a speed-based turn system. In addition to item and defense, Talis can “concentrate”, increasing the power of the next spell. He can cast spells, or use his staff to attack. The staff is a long-distance attack, which is nice when we get other companions because then Talis doesn’t have to expose himself as much to the enemies. The system has a sort of distance/range element, but moving up to attack the enemy doesn’t take any extra time or turns.

I didn’t know that the staff was a distance attack so I used two Lightning spells to take down the bees.

The forest has Holix scattered around it, though.

The fights do not give money. All the money you get in the game is from selling gems you find, or selling extra equipment. This makes money a pretty limited resource but I thought it worked well — I never felt like the money was so restricted that it was unfair or annoying, but I did feel like I had to consider every purchase. Near the end of the game a way did open up to make extra money, and I think there is one earlier in the game that I didn’t make use of.

Never mind, I do have an early picture

The grateful Urikuri shows us to his village, where Talis is asked to defeat the Macbees that have taken residence in an old tree.

Olga also joins up. She is able to do some kind of jumping attack which I think works better against flying units, and also an attack that can do damage to multiple enemies as long as they’re clustered up.

The battles in this initial part are not especially difficult; many of the enemies can’t hurt Olga. They can poison which is annoying because I had to leave the forest to rest, but I found out later that you can get poison healing herbs from the forest as well. The boss is a mother bee or some kind of mutant insect. Once the Urikuri are saved, Olga decides to accompany Talis — she seems to have some grudge against the Altnash Church as well.

Our next stop is in Marah, where we hope to get a ship to take us to the capital. Unfortunately the ships won’t come to port because of trouble in the town — there are bugs that have taken over the sewers (lots of bugs in this game). Also in the sewers we get our next companion, Vestril the priest.

In addition to magic, he can “preach” which will lower the attack of a human or other enemy that can understand speech, and will damage or outright kill an undead enemy. (One odd thing about the battles is that people flash red when they are near death, but they start flashing red as soon as the attack animation starts, before they get hit). I never got the point of the “thrust” attack (his second choice); any time I tried to use it the enemy blocked the attack.

Because there are fewer encounters, a lot of the dungeons involve puzzles — flipping switches and such. There is also an obelisk in the dungeon that tells us to return with Search magic to find a legendary sword.

The boss of the sewers is a weird bug woman, but with Vestril’s healing it’s not too bad. He also brings with him a few extra spells and a lot of Holix, and also the main character can use some of the new spells. But the spells are divided into different types, and the spellcasting characters have levels associated with each type. So Vestril is a lot better at healing than Talis is.

Now having cleared the bugs, ships can return to the area, but the only one we’re able to get a ride on is a pirate ship. Vestril decides to join us to recover a statue that he thinks the pirates have, and so we’re off to their island lair.

This is where I will stop — I think I will take 2 more posts to cover this. As a last note, the music in this game is quite good. Here’s a link to a playlist, and one of the songs I think is particularly good:

Good use of counterpoint, which is not so common in video game BGM.

Expect part 2 in the middle of the week some time.

SFC Game 104 – Super Chinese World 3

Super Chinese World 3 (スーパーチャイニーズワールド3 超次元大作戦), released 12/22/1995, developed by Culture Brain

The last SFC game of 1995 is also the last of Culture Brain’s “Super Chinese” RPGs — there are a couple of games after this with the Super Chinese title but they are remakes or not RPGs. Unfortunately the series ends with basically a whimper; this is clearly a rushed product that was shoveled out the door with relatively little effort. The game is only 12 megabits instead of 16 like the last game.

The cornerstone of the series had been its mix of Action RPG and turn-based RPG styles. For World 2, they completely removed the turn based aspect and made it only ARPG. For 3, they have two options — you can play either the ARPG mode or the Turn Based mode. The two modes have slightly different story developments so I think the intent was that you would play both modes, although from what I can tell there’s no bonus if you finish both.

I initially tried the ARPG mode but I’m just no good at this kind of combat; I found people saying the ARPG mode was braindead easy and you could just mash buttons, but I got so many game overs in the early parts that I went back to the turn based.

The saving is still done with passwords rather than battery backed memory.

The story setup is essentially the same as before. Gingaramao is back again, trying to revive Dimetron to take over the worlds. Jack and Ryu, the kung fu brothers, initially don’t know anything about this. The storyline basically involves just trying to get to “Beautiful World” to stop Gingaramao, but there’s only one other world between the start one and that (Dino World). It’s a pretty short game; one route takes about 6 hours or so to beat. It does provide a sort of conclusion to the Super Chinese story if you care about that at all.

There are a lot of evidences of the laziness — buying weapons and armor buys them for all members of your team, for instance. In battle each character has their own HP but out of battle they all share the main character.

The ARPG system is the same as Super Chinese World 2, and it’s just as annoying — you fight random enemies until the game decides the fight is over. There are various moves you can do but they require Street Fighter-like combinations. Also as in SCW2, they have platforming stages.

The turn based system usually has Jack and Ryu, but you can use a spell to switch between Linlin (a new character) and Shubabarn, who was an enemy in the last game but promises he’s not going to join the enemies again. You have a basic attack, and then hissatsu and jitsu (roughly techs and spells). Each one can be used a certain number of times until you rest at an inn. Bosses for some reason are 1-on-1.

Levelling is fast and there are few challenges in the game (on the turn based side at least). The final boss is the one exception; he gets 5 attacks per turn and you have to be at a decent level just to survive his attacks. I found that I had levelled up so quickly just from playing the game that I was strong enough to beat him, but this was the only boss that provided any true difficulty.

Honestly I don’t really want to write any more about this — it’s a boring game, but at least it was short. There’s a translation patch so you can try it out for yourself.

Next up is the last 1995 game, the PC Engine game Seiya Monogatari: Anearth Fantasy Stories, which I’m about 2/3 done with. It’s a genuinely good game — probably in the top 5 I’ve played for the SFC/PCE games. So we’ll have at least part 1 of that post next week.

SRPG Game 83 – Ronde (Saturn)

Ronde (RONDE ~輪舞曲~), released 10/30/1997, developed by Atlas

This is essentially the third Majin Tensei game, although Atlus chose not to label it as such, instead giving it a new title (although the series is mentioned in the instructions). I knew that it had a bad reputation, and unfortunately it’s well deserved. The first problem anyone will noticed is the graphics. The beautiful art of the demons from the first two games on the Super Famicom has been replaced with this:

The characters and battle maps look like this:

Early Saturn and PS1 attempts at 3D are rough in general, but this is among the worst I’ve seen. I don’t generally need excellent graphics for the game to be good, but these are even worse than you would expect.

The second big problem is the speed of the game; you can choose to disable animations but even so the enemy turns take a long time.

The third problem is that if any human character dies (including NPC) you get a game over. This is really the aspect of the game that made me decide to stop playing it; the majority of your team is humans, and it’s way too easy for the enemies to kill your guys.

Sakurako talks to Charlie Watts, the Englishman

Finally, the interface is a pain to use in a number of ways. The worst issue is that you cannot trade items between characters outside of battle. You can only do it in battle, taking a full turn for each single item. And you can’t see who can equip what in battle, so equipment is a headache.

The reason the game is 2 discs is that all the story sequences are done like above, with the characters poorly animated for no real purpose.

The story seems decent. The first part starts with Molech coming to life from an ancient statue and capturing Asuka (main character)’s younger brother, Satoshi. His friends Sakurako and Keita are there too, and they start fighting the demons, which as usual have overrun Tokyo. This seems to be due to data research being done by a scientists called Thompson.

The system is fairly standard as far as the battles go. It’s player phase-enemy phase. There are healing spots on the map that you have to capture and turn blue (like Funky Fantasy); I wasn’t entirely clear on what the purpose of taking them over was other than to heal HP, but maybe it has some other effect.

What is different is the monster recruitment. Instead of a talk feature, sometimes when you defeat monsters you’ll be given the conversation with them. Depending on what you pick they might join, or give you items, or such. But this is rather limiting, especially in the number of chances you have to get anyone on your team. It also means that if you start combining monsters you could run out.

The monsters you recruit can be used in several ways. You can turn them into items/equipment. You can “contract” with them to use spells; this is the way that some of the characters can get magic. If you have them for a while and get their trust level up enough, you can make them units that can be dispatched on the battlefield. This is an interesting aspect to the system but the interface isn’t great.

In the second stage we head to Yoyogi Park where we hear demons have attacked too; the hope is that they’ll tell us where Satoshi is. Charlie, who is descended from Druids, shows up and teaches us about being “conductors” (which gives the ability to use the demons).

In the third stage we meet Azael, who demands that we return Lilim — obviously we have no idea what he’s talking about, but it seems like the demons aren’t all on one side; they fight each other to help their reincarnations some how. Once we beat Azael up he joins the team. There’s also a lab here; it’s empty but clearly it has something to do with the demons and there is a transmission coming in.

In Shinjuku, motorcyle gangs have taken over and are threatening our next party member Reika. Fortunately she doesn’t move, and neither do many of the enemies until you get near them.

I apparently didn’t take any screenshots after this. In Stage 5 we find out where the computer transmissions are coming from, and using that computer we go inside to another world, where we beat up demons. Willy and Maria from the American armed forces are there as well, as is a mysterious guy named Sawamoto who gives us a disc that Thompson was using in the hopes we can use it to figure out what’s going on. Afterwards it seems that the mass media has painted our characters as the villains that have brought demons to Japan.

The story is not bad, but the game is just too much of a pain to play to experience the whole thing. It’s too bad because Majin Tensei was a good series and as far as I know this was the last one.

SFC Game 103 – Record of Lodoss War (Finished)

We’re continuing chapter 4, which is Parn’s adventure. I recognize plot elements from the PC Engine Lodoss game and the story seems to cover the first 8 episodes of the anime, although some of the details are different.

In order to find the priest who will heal the village, we have to go to an ice cavern where he has gone.

The best way to deal with the dungeons is to use Slayn’s Vision spell, take a screenshot, and then open that screenshot up alongside your emulation window. The map doesn’t show where you are, but as long as you know where you came in the dungeon is should be useful. The world map, by contrast, is completely useless because it’s hard to relate anything on the map to what’s in the actual game and there is no indication of where you are.

The most efficient way to fight the battles is to identify the leader and then without doing too much damage to him, try to knock him into the pit for the x2 EXP (you can’t kill him though, or it doesn’t count). This is easier to do once you get spells that can freeze the enemy — casting Quick on Parn helps as well to get more turns. It’s not always possible, though.

In the dungeon, the dwarf Ghim joins, and we find Neese, the healer who helps with the village. Now we hear about a plot to assassinate the king, and join up with Woodchuck the thief so that we can sneak through the sewers and get into the castle. After this, we get sent out to save the king’s daughter, get captured, escape, and finally have our full party of six (with Deedlit joining).

Now the king wants us to be messengers to two nearby castles to see if they will join us in opposing Beld. This is probably the most frustrating part because of how useless the world map is, and also there are no teleport spells (there’s one that takes you out of a dungeon, but not town to town). After this, the war starts.

After the war, we have the final event — Neese had told us that it will be possible to kill Karla if we can get the circlet from her just as she’s dying, before she has the chance to move into another body. If we do this successfully, the body she has now (Layla) could be freed, but this is a dangerous thing that might not work. Of course, first we have to get to Karla through some long dungeons.

This is the same dungeon from chapter 1 but there are no chests anymore. Coming out on the other side, we can finally reach Karla’s tower and the final dungeon.

Something went wrong for me in this dungeon. If you look closely at the map, there are two possible ways to go. One way is “rely on magic” and the other is “rely on sword”. You are supposed to choose one of the directions and then get two keys, which will unlock the bottom door. I could not get the second key, though — the treasure chest just opened and closed without giving me the item. I saw someone complaining about this on GameFAQs as well with no answer. I tried watching a video and also beating the room boss without using any magic, but none of that worked. In the end I just used a cheat code to give myself the key, but I really don’t know what I was doing wrong. All of the chests once you pass the double locked door wouldn’t open either.

The final fight is against Karla. She’s quite difficult; her companion golems block your way to her and barely take any damage. She can be silenced and frozen (by Deed’s Ice Pole spell). I did have to do a bit of grinding but I think the key is just to get lucky enough with your freeze/silence spells that she can’t cast too many damaging spells. I buffed with Slayn, healed with Eto, and attacked with Parn and Woodchuck (Ghim could never reach her).

Woodchuck then steals the circlet, but he then runs away and it seems like he is possessed by Karla. I’m not sure why they stopped the story here — I don’t know enough about the Lodoss franchise to know what story this is covering. From what I can tell from Wikipedia, Woodchuck doesn’t appear again in the anime after episode 8, so there’s no continuation to this story at least in that medium.

In any case, this is not a bad game. It has some quirks and annoyances that you do have to get used to, but the battle system is reasonably fun, the characters are clearly differentiated and have a lot of spells that are actually worth using. It does have a translation patch so it’s worth a try. There is also an optional boss against an ancient red dragon, which I didn’t attempt.

SFC Game 103 – Record of Lodoss War (Part 1)

Record of Lodoss War (ロードス島戦記), released 12/22/1995, developed by Hummingbird Soft

This is yet another game based on Lodoss War; the Wikipedia article has background information on the series. But in short it started out as records of a D&D campaign and developed into a multimedia franchise. This is the fourth Lodoss War game I’ve played on this blog.

The game is divided into four chapters. The fourth chapter has the familiar Lodoss characters (Deedlit, Parn, etc) and seems to cover a story similar to the anime series and the first novels. The first three chapters are essentially prologues that cover some backstory of characters that appear in the final chapter — despite their prologue status they make up about 40% of the game.

The opening scene shows the Six Heroes battling the Demon King 30 years prior to the main storyline. They defeat him, but one hero dies and a mysterious helmeted woman helps them out.

Chapter 1 follows the mysterious woman, who turns out to be Karla, a 500 year old sorceress dedicated to preserving a neutral balance between factions of the world. She has a circlet with her consciousness in it, and if she is ever killed, her consciousness inhabits a nearby person.

She starts out with no memory but quickly gets back some memories and also levels up and gains spells as she possesses other people. The basic plot of her story is to hunt down one of the remaining minions of the Demon Lord who escaped the final battle.

The battles take place on a small grid. Each battle has a leader, and if you finish off the leader the rest of the enemies will flee (and you’ll get XP as if you beat them). You uncover the leader usually by hitting them, and then a crown will appear on their head. Also, if you can knock the leader into the pit at the back, you’ll see CHECK MATE and get double the XP for winning the fight. You can also flee by going off the bottom of the map. The system is OK but as usual the random encounter rate is pretty high. You also get a lot of XP for battles and level very quickly.

This is what the dungeons are like. At first I couldn’t figure out how the movement worked and I kept turning backwards and going ways I didn’t want to go — eventually I figured out that you are supposed to press diagonally to move, something I haven’t seen in any of these isometric view games before.

Chapter 2 is about Beld, who has a cursed sword and armor. His LP deplete every few steps and he can’t recover at Inns, but he regains all LP when the leader of a battle is beaten.

At first he’s trying to find someone to break the curse on his sword, but after that fails he decides to unify Marmo Island, by gaining the trust of the various factions on the island.

Chapter 3 concerns Fahn, another one of the Six Heroes. He uncovers a plot in Valis to take over the kingdom, but uncovers it and becomes the King of Valis himself. One of his underlings is Parn’s father.

After those prologues we reach Chapter 4. Beld has unified Mormo Island and is now attacking the mainland, with the help of Karla (who I guess feels this is necessary for neutrality). Fahn, now the King of Valis, is trying to oppose him. Parn is our main character here, the son of one of Fahn’s knights who was branded a traitor.

Goblins attack a girl in the woods. Parn fights them off with the help of Etoh (priest), but then the townspeople are mad that they’ve provoked the goblins who will now attack the town. This does happen at night, but they fight off the goblins with the help of Slayn the magician.

The trio go to a nearby cave to eliminate the goblins before they can attack anymore, but there are only a handful of goblins there. Heading back to the town they find that the goblins have attacked while they’re gone and hurt a lot of people, but the trio fights them off. Since Etoh’s healing power is not enough to heal everyone, the party decides to go find Neese, one of the Six Heroes, who should be able to help. They also learn about Karla and Beld’s attack on the mainland — Parn decides that after they help the villagers he’ll head to the capital to meet King Fahn.

That’s where I’ll stop here, hopefully I’ll have the game finished next weekend.