Monthly Archives: October 2023

SFC Game 121 – Daikaiju Monogatari II (Part 1)

Daikaiju Monogatari II (大貝獣物語II), released 8/2/1996, developed by Birthday, released by Hudson

This is the sequel to the 1994 original — there are some of the same characters although I believe this is not a plot sequel, it’s just a new story with some of the same elements. As in the first game, the Fire Shell has to be used to summon someone from Earth to help fight off enemies.

The gameplay is mostly the same as in the first one as well. We still have the punishingly high random encounter rate, the “helpers”, the basic magic system, equipment, etc. This game added a clock-based feature like Tengai Mayko Zero, although it has very little effect on the game (and apparently drained the battery quite a bit). You no longer recover MP/HP on level up, which makes the game a bit more fraught in the dungeons. I made occasional use of a no encounter code, mostly when there were puzzles in the dungeons (I find it very annoying to try to do dungeon puzzles when a random encounter is breaking your concentration every few steps).

This time our big bad is “Dark”, who is trying to take over Shell Land.

Kurisu and his dog Millie are transported from Earth, but something goes wrong during the process and Kurisu ends up alone, and is immediately attacked. Fortunately Princess Rumiella from the nearby castle finds him and brings him back.

We are also introduced to Baltes who has a crush on Rumiella, and Baboo (who was in the first game, but as I said I don’t believe this is a plot sequel — I think it’s just reusing the same assets). The basic structure of the first 2/3 or so of the game is that Dark (the big baddie) is sending out his underlings to find the six Aura Stones, while we travel around and fight the underlings, recovering the stones.

The battle system (and even the graphics) are basically the same as the first game. You can still set up “strategies” to have people use certain moves automatically, although this game doesn’t have that extremely helpful move that puts the enemies to sleep with no MP cost. And since you no longer recover MP on level up, that means that more often than in the first game I was just doing attack with everyone.

The first location is north of the king’s castle, where Megaloking is using captured humans to dig up the aura stone.

This operation is a success; beating Megaloking and freeing all the villagers, and getting the aura stone. Unfortunately Dark, though his evil spying ways, has recognized that Baltes is in love with the princess, and decides to use nefarious tricks to turn Baltes to their side.

Baltes thinks that the hero kurisu has taken the princess from him and that they were making fun of him, which allows the next of Dark’s generals, Mushking, to use spells on him and turn him to evil. To reach Mushking we first have to recruit an ally who can cut the trees in our way (he can also remove boulders from other places to reveal hidden treasures).

Once Mushking is defeated, we find the second stone, although Baltes decides to go out on his own to train so he can overcome the weakness of his heart that allowed him to betray the party.

Next up is a strange sequence involving Jodan, a clown that captures people and turns them into pigs. He also likes to collect unusual animals, including a few people that should be in our party! Poyon, Kupikupi, and the main character’s dog (who I named Millie) are ale here. The game switches to Poyon and Kupikupi, who free the dog, beat Jodan, but only the dog escapes.

The dog and Kurisu are reunited then, and Millie tries to lead us to the others. This is an annoying desert section — this is an example of a dungeon where I turned on the no-encounters code because finding my way around in the place was annoying. There are sandstorms that carry you around, but the places are invisible and it’s hard to figure out how to get through it. This leads us back to Jodan’s circus again, where we finally free the others (plus a thief named Shamuru, who is another party member).

Next up we can find the third aura stone in the Antlion lair, another annoying dungeon that I used no encounters for.

Here we find the evil scientist Dorn, who has revived Megaloking to fight again. Fortunately Megaloking is a chivalrous dude who gives us the aura stone when we beat him!

Now the Sand Scorpion, a big machine controlled by Dorn, heads for the nearby city to explode. We try to stop it, but in the end Millie (the dog) pushes Kurisu off the Scorpion and sacrifices her own life to stop it.

Some kids bring Millie back to a scientist who is developing a robot (Dr. Spanner). Spanner tries to do what he can, but the next day he tells the kids that he couldn’t save the dog and buried him nearby. Now the robot activates (we’ll learn soon that the dog was put into the robot, so now Millie is the robot).

The next section is done with the robot alone. She’s easy to use because if you buy 99 bomb items she can use a powerful attack on all enemies to kill them in one attack. The job here is to go to the crystal castle, where Dorn is using Gabro, one of his underlings who is still basically a baby. The robot Sonia is taking care of him.

Gabro is kidnapping children to play with. Sonia isn’t quite sure that’s a good idea, and she eventually grows close to the robot (Millie) because they’re both automata. Eventually Dorn comes in and kills Sonia, which upsets Gabro. In this section you have to switch back and forth between Gabro and Millie in order to progress in the dungeon, until we eventually catch Dorn (who escapes). But we have the 4th aura stone.

After this whole sequence the game switches back to Kurisu, and you can immediately go back and get Millie robot in your party. Two more aura stones! That’s where I will stop for now; hopefully I will have the game done by next weekend.

SFC Game 120 – Lennus II

Lennus II: Apostles of the Seals (レナスII 封印の使徒), released 7/26/1996, published by Asmik Systems

This is the sequel to Lennus, which came out in late 1992 and was released in the US as “Paladin’s Quest” (a name that has nothing to do with the game itself). The sequel was apparently plagued by development delays and was intended to take 2 years rather than 4 to develop. The end product is one of the longer SFC RPGs; it does seem like they allowed this game to take the time it needed to take rather than artificially cutting off development like they seem to have done with some of the previous games.

I have not played the original Lennus, but I understand that this is a direct plot sequel, and a number of the characters from the first game re-appear, as does the word Lennus. The game system is also essentially a modified version of the first one.

The game begins with Pharus appearing and being hailed as the savior of the world — this temple has been built to await his coming, and he is now supposed to bring about the Grand Unification. Pharus has no idea what this is and none of the priests seem to know either, but we need to get 4 gems from this underground land of Undel and then put them back in these slots in the temple. The entire game runs on these fetch quest setups — 4 gems, then 8 seals, then the 8 seals again, the the final boss. There’s not a whole lot of plot development other than at the points between these quests.

Like the first game, you have 3 hireable characters in addition to Pharus. There are 8 different categories of spells, and each character has a different combination. For the main character, you start out being able to choose just one, but as you gain more elementals from temples around the world, you can equip more until you hit a maximum of 4. You can switch the elementals at specific places in town, and also using an item.

Each character has a level for each element from 1 to 8 that goes up by beating monsters — the monsters release elements when they die which can add XP to a person’s element level. Moving up the levels doesn’t seem to result in new spells, it just strengthens what you have.

As in the first game, you use HP rather than MP to use spells. But since the spells don’t cost that much, outside of the very beginning of the game you almost never have to pay any attention to how much the spells cost.

There are no healing spells; all healing is done through “bottles” that hold 9 uses each. How much the bottle heals is based on the type of bottle. You can refill them in town — for some reason there are refilling shops that charge 50 gold per bottle, but using an inn fills all bottles for free so I don’t know why you would ever use the refill shop.

The interface is kind of interesting; all the commands are entered through the directional pad. If it weren’t for needing to hold down a button to run fast (ugh) you could play the whole game with one hand.

Also like the first game you can attack with any piece of equipment you have on, although I never found this to be useful.

As Pharus collects the 4 gems, a shadowy figure keeps appearing with a distorted voice; it seems like he’s telling Pharus that he should not get the gems and that the unification will be bad, but he can’t communicate clearly enough (and there’s no way to advance the plot without doing it).

Once the gems are collected and restored to the temple, the four continents of Undel begin to merge — this is catastrophic and the priests beg Pharus to stop it, but there’s nothing he can do. He is carried away in a pillar of light to Eltz, another part of the world. Here, an underling of Granada tells him that he only did one part of the Grand Unification, and that Granada will carry the rest out. Everyone on Undel will die as a result, but that’s basically Pharus fault, isn’t it? Mwahaha

The enemy curses Pharus to turn everyone into stone, but Petro (who was the face talking to us in Undel) directs us to a nearby Purification Shrine that can remove this problem. The next part of the game takes place mostly in the large city of Niguren, with several different sections, a downtown, and outer areas. Basically you first have to reach Petro’s Castle.

Petro tells us that Granada revived Pharus specifically to initiate the first part of the Unification, since normal people would not have been able to do it. Grand Unification means the destruction of all life in the world, but it can still be stopped if Pharus can get seven seals.

This fairly lengthy section of the game involves getting the 7 seals from in and around Niguren. Each seal has its own small story but they don’t really contribute to the overall narrative in any way. I switched out most of the starting companions here for new ones (although you can use a “scent of alcohol” item to re-recruit them if you need to). There are people in Niguren with max level elements, as well as the Gubo’s Fist spell which is very useful if you can raise the caster’s heaven element. Max level heaven element users can do huge damage to all enemies.

Once Pharus gets the 7 seals, Petro tells him there’s an eighth seal, which is back in Undel. Returning there, Pharus finds that most of the inhabitants have died but that the survivors have moved to one city. The high priest of the Pharus temple is getting drunk in a bar, wishing he had killed you as soon as you were born. From there, Pharus descends into a fire cave to get the eighth seal.

Unfortunately as a consequence, the rest of Undel sinks into the lava, killing all the inhabitants (Pharus really did a lot of bad stuff to the poor Undel people!) But undeterred, Pharus continues on to fight 4 of Granada’s underlings together.

Unfortunately they have captured Petro, and as usual for dumb RPG heroes Pharus trades all 8 seals for Petro’s life….and the enemies don’t even free him, they just take the seals. Fortunately Petro has left us a message to seek out Media (from Lennus 1) in a floating fortress, who can help us out. Media tells us that we are descendants of gods who created the word, some of whom wanted to watch over the humans, others (like Granada) who want to destroy the world. Unification will put all the lands into one and make a new sun. We need to go to find someone else who can help us in the sea.

Finally you get a world map, although it’s missable if you’re not careful.

The purpose of this part is to gain access to the gravity tower and eventually go to Lennus, the continent from the original game. The underlings of Granada have set up shop here and we can recover the seals. This part of the game has a lot of locations and random NPCs from the first game; of course I wasn’t able to appreciate most of that connection.

Once we recover all the seals, it’s finally time to confront Granada. Unfortunately in the meantime, Lennus has merged with Eltz — Unification has almost occurred. Back in Petro Castle we can take a transport to reach the Throne of the Gods, where Granada awaits.

We have to beat Granada twice. The first time, Petro and Medea help out, and heal the party before the second fight. Unfortunately Granada escapes on a spaceship, but with Petro and Medea’s help we can follow (it is also revealed here that Petro is Chezni, the hero from the first game).

At the end, Granada tells Pharus that they are essentially the representatives of the two opinions of the gods, and that how things end up depends on who dies in this fight — if Pharus dies, his energy will be released, completing Unification. If Granada dies, Unification will be stopped. Time for the final battle.

After the fight, you can talk to a bunch of companions and NPCs, and then Pharus joins Chezni and Medea to travel back to Raiga, where they originated. They want to bring the hope to Raiga itself so that whatever caused all this trouble on Lennus and Eltz can be healed at the source.

Overall this is a decent game. The plot could be structured a little better and there is some grinding you have to do sometimes, but it’s generally a fun game. And would definitely be worth a play for anyone who did Paladin’s Quest, to see the connections between the games.

SFC Game 119 – Star Ocean

Star Ocean (スターオーシャン), released 7/19/1996, developed by Tri-Ace, released by Enix

This game was developed by people from Wolf Team who had left to form their own unit after being dissatisfied with the development process of Tales of Phantasia. The game pushes the SFC to its absolute limits, boasting a 48 megabit cart with a special compression chip that allowed for more graphics storage. It also used a method to quickly swap in voice clips to allow for a large amount (for a SFC game) of voice in the battles. It’s definitely a great looking game, and the music (by Motoi Sakuraba) is good as well.

On the other hand, there is a lot of evidence that the development of the game was rushed — the Roak section seems to represent just the first part of the story they were trying to tell but consists of about 70% of the game. There are places where it seems like things had to be quickly cut out or shortened last minute, dummied out places in the game, and such.

The emulation process of the game is also a narrative in itself. DeJap did a fan translation of the game in the early 2000s, but the S-DD1 compression chip at the time could not be emulated. So the hackers who worked on the translation, together with the zsnes team, simply used a process to feed the compressed files through the chip and then save them as a “graphics pack”. You had to download this pack and use zsnes (or later snes9x) which had been specifically hacked to load the graphics from the pack.

One of byuu/near’s big goals for bsnes was to eliminate these kinds of hacks. The first step was “high level emulation”, where tests were used to figure out what the S-DD1 chip was doing, and code that into bsnes. Therefore you no longer needed the graphics pack to play. Later, byuu used the services of an anonymous engineer to use some process to extract the S-DD1 chip’s inner workings, and now you can get the sdd1.cpp file which is simply the code that is on the chip.

To insert a personal anecdote here, byuu and I happened to be living in the same city when they were working on this, and I had a super famicom unit that I wasn’t using anymore. We met up for lunch and I gave him the sfc — I know they used it for the extraction of one of the chips but I don’t think it was the S-DD1. I think I’m one of only a few people in the sfc/emulation area who actually met them in real life.

I remember trying the game out at the time but I never played it much. I think the random encounter rate was too annoying, and I also could never find a control pad that worked well enough to make me want to play it. I did play the PSP version later but also never finished that. Now I finally have finished Star Ocean. (On the other hand, I was totally obsessed with Star Ocean 3 to the point where I probably put in 300 or so hours in the original and the director’s cut combined.)

The game begins with a fully voiced (in English!) opening sequences where a federation ship sees a planet get destroyed. The game then moves to the planet Roak, which seems to be a low-tech planet. This sets up what seems to be the standard for all Star Ocean games — although the game involves spaceships and future technology, the majority of the game takes place on a pre-modern civilization planet.

We are introduced to some of the main characters — Ratie, Milly, and Dorn. They are part of the defense force of Kratus town. After defending the town from some thieves, Milly’s dad sends a letter telling them that the town of Coule is suffering from some kind of epidemic disease.

The battle system is real time like Phantasia, but here it’s on a battlefield rather than just a linear screen. Also in contrast to Phantasia your other members can actually fight rather than hiding behind Cless all the time. To attack you just pick a target with A, then hit A to use a physical attack or L/R to use abilities assigned to those buttons (either short or long). I found that most of the time physical attacks were perfectly fine.

For the most part the difficulty level is low; you can stun enemies pretty easily and the encounter rate is high enough you should be levelled enough to beat most enemies. The exception are monsters that can turn your characters to stone; I found these were always potential game overs and that I had to immediately run away to have even a chance of not getting a game over.

The first problem in this opening sequence is one that reoccurs throughout the game — there’s too much backtracking, and there’s no town warp item or spell. Also the complexity of the graphics make traversing the dungeons more annoying than it should be.

Eventually all the people of Coule are turned to stone, including Milly’s dad. Dorn is also infected Milly and Ratie try to get some herbs to help but instead they run into Ronix and Iria who have beamed down from a ship.

They’re here investigating a bioweapon that has apparently been developed from the blood of people on Ratok, this planet. There is a very long story sequence where we learn that the Federation is at war with Lezonia, and Lezonia is making the bioweapon. But Lezonia is being forced into this by some shadowy third power. The characters go to the Time Gate (I think this is borrowed from the Star Trek episode “City on the Edge of Forever”) and go back to Ratok 300 years in the past. This is where the majority of the game takes place, although as I said earlier I suspect that this is due to development limitations rather than the original intent of the story.

The basic idea of the Ratok section is to get four items from the four kings of the world, then enter the “demon world” to take on Asmodeus. Although something went wrong in my playthrough because Asmodeus was never actually introduced, the characters just suddenly said our goal was to beat him — I think I missed an event, perhaps one that wasn’t supposed to be optional.

You can recruit a number of characters, some of whom are mutually exclusive. There are also “private actions” in towns — your characters will split up, and then you can activate sub events by finding them in town. I didn’t really do any of these.

When you level up, you get skill points that you can spend on a large number of abilities. Some of these affect your combat, others let you identify items or do item crafting. I didn’t do much item crafting because the things necessary are only available in specific towns (and once again you can’t town warp). I understand that if you know what you are doing you can make really powerful items and weapons. But as I said before, I didn’t find this necessary.

Eventually it is revealed that the Roak people are actually from the legendary continent of Mu on Earth, who were somehow taken to Roak when a meteroite hit the Earth. They eventually find Asmodeus, who still extracts the blood sample from the Roak people (since we can’t change history), but at least we are able to take some things from the lab to make an antidote. Milly and Rati return to present Roak and use a vaccine to cure all the people who have been turned to stone, and Ronix and Ilia go back to their ship.

This is where the story and pacing go off the rails. I have a feeling the rest of the story was supposed to be a more significant part of the game, but as it is it’s just crammed into the last 15% or so. For no clear reason, a ship from Fargett (the mysterious 3rd power) appears and demands a surrender, but Ronix is allowed to use the time gate to bring back the Ratie, Milly, and the 300 year past characters and go beat the Fargett ship. It turns out that they are also descendants of Mu.

I didn’t think the final boss was very hard. It was easy to keep him stunlocked and my attacks did a lot of damage. Now after this, everyone goes back to their homes.

So overall this is an impressive technological display of what the Super Famicom can do. And I wouldn’t say it’s a bad game. But the development problems really show, and the annoying amount of backtracking coupled with the high encounter rate can be tedious (although you can use an ability called Scout to reduce the rate).

I believe that Tri Ace immediately started working on Star Ocean 2 and my understanding is that game is a bit more polished than this one. I’d like to play it some day.

SFC Game 118 – Traverse Starlight & Prairie

Traverse: Starlight & Prairie (トラバース スターライト&プレーリー), released 6/28/1996, developed by Pandora Box, released by Banpresto

This game is a spiritual sequel to Soul & Sword, which I played (much) earlier on the blog. Both games share the same general idea — virtually the entire game is open world and optional, and rather than having an “ending” you can stop the game at any time. In S&S you did this by leaving the island, and in this game you do it by marrying someone. There is no real storyline although both games have a sort of “best” ending that you can get by completing most or all of the events in the game. The idea is that each playthrough creates its own story, so I will tell the story of Kurisu, with some gameplay notes in brackets.

Kurisu’s mother died in childbirth and his dad then fell into drunkenness. When kurisu is 14, his dad sends him to get liquor from the bar. Sonia, a childhood friend who works there, is reluctant to give more alcohol to drunken dad, but she’ll do it if kurisu can bring her some flowers from a nearby mountain.

The character creation as done by a goddess asking you questions

Kurisu fights his way up the mountain and finds the flower, but it starts talking and complains when he tries to pluck it. Feeling bad for the flower, Kurisu goes back without getting it, but Sonia gives him the liquor anyway.

Later in the night, a man breaks into the house, wanting to steal the “Holy Sword” that Kurisu has always had with him — he claims that he’s a prince of a defeated kingdom and that the sword belongs to him. Kurisu tries to fight him off but loses badly, but the guy isn’t able to get the sword away.

Kurisu wakes up in a cave — the guy (Bullmore) tried to bring Kurisu with him but fell into this cave. Kurisu is able to climb up the vines but Bullmore is too heavy, so Kurisu goes up to get help — eventually he pulls up Bullmore by a stronger vine.

Once he saves Bullmore, he decides that there’s no reason why he should stay in his village anymore, and decides to go on an adventure with Bullmore. Sonia tags along. [This is the end of the required stuff before the real game starts]

Kurisu reaches the main continent, and looks at a map showing all of the towns in the continent.

He decides to travel around the world to the towns, seeing what kind of adventures he can find there. [The game has a real-time system as you travel; apparently it ends in 10 years regardless. Once you find a town you can then choose to ‘teleport’ there (really just omit the actual walking, it still takes days)]

Kurisu travelled the world. He found one dying girl whose favorite toy musician set had come to life and gone on a journey, but she wanted to see them one more time. We agreed to try to find them. Kurisu also found a girl whose father made “fakes” of paintings to hang in other museums, but somehow a major painting had been replaced with the fake. So we had to sneak into the place and switch them back.

Other than that, the world seemed at peace — Kurisu did not encounter a single monster on his travels. Most of the towns he visited seemed to have no problems, and the villagers had little to tell them. Even going to the three parts on his map labeled “quest” did not good — the places were either closed or locked.

After travelling for nearly a year, Kurisu decided that the entire world had not much more to offer than his starting island — he had more adventure getting the flowers from the nearby mountain than he had in the 35 or so towns he had visited since then. And travelling all that way with Sonia, he decided that everything he needed for life was in his hometown. He proposed to Sonia, who accepted.

Bullmore wasn’t happy that we never helped him revive his kingdom, and went off on his own. And Kurisu lived happily ever after.

So that was my experience playing the game. It was boring as all hell — I am not exaggerating in that description above. I played the game for several days and found almost nothing to do. I barely know how the battle system works; the characters have skills but I never used them because I didn’t have a single fight after the first island.

I checked Japanese reviews and they all said the same thing — this game is impossible to play without a walkthrough because it’s so difficult to find any quests, and the quests themselves are often inscrutable without help. I couldn’t find a Japanese walkthrough but there is one on GameFAQs.

Not only are the quests hard to find, but there is a hidden “karma” value that cannot be seen, which affects quests you can get. If you want the true ending by completing all quests, you have to make sure your karma is at certain values (high or low) when you do certain things. Some quests won’t activate, others will activate but if you don’t have the right karma value you won’t be able to finish the quest in the right way to count for the true ending.

I could have followed the walkthrough, I suppose, and done all the stuff. But it seems silly to me that you should need that help just to find anything to do. Since I technically finished the game, I’m fine in putting this one aside and moving on to Star Ocean.