Monthly Archives: November 2023

SFC Game 123 – Monstania

Monstania (モンスタニア), released 9/27/1996, developed by Bits Laboratory, published by Pack-In Video

My heart sunk a bit when I saw Pack-In Video pop up as I started the game, but actually I had a lot of fun with Monstania. The genre is hard to pin down — many places consider it an SRPG but to me it’s almost more like a puzzle or adventure game. From what I can tell, the level ups and the equipment upgrades are pre-determined after each battle and there is no opportunity for grinding, buying equipment, finding anything optional, etc. That disqualifies it from being an SRPG for me, and it’s almost not really much of an RPG either.

It’s also extremely short; I finished the game in around 3h 30m. But that also makes it a good play in an era where we’re not paying full price for a cart.

The main character is Fron (or whatever you name him), a 16 year old boy born on the island of Monstania. His obsession is finding fairies, who were supposed to exist on the island in the past but no longer do. He is present in most of the battles, and will be accompanied by at most one of the other characters. You can never choose which character will be in the battle (there are a couple of branching paths though).

The battles are on an isometric grid. You can take a turn with one of your characters, then the enemies will get a turn (some enemies only get 1 turn for every 2 of yours, some get 2 turns for every 1 of yours). Each action you take depletes your AP, although moving doesn’t. You can recover AP by either skipping a turn, or by taking an action with your other character. You can either join the two characters together and have them move around together, or separate them. Either way the enemies will be acting when one (not both) of your characters take actions.

Characters can attack, but also use a wide variety of special abilities that they get from levelling up. There are also some abilities that everyone can use (self-heal, defend, item). I believe there are about 8 characters in the game although a number of them only appear for one or two maps. Tia and Chitta are the only two characters that you will be repeatedly using. They can help out a lot with their ranged attacks and Chitta has some good AoE powers.

A common strategy in the maps is just to move forward slowly and deal with the monsters as they come to you, then heal up and recover AP before continuing. This works on many (though not all) of the levels. It helps if you have someone like Tia who can shoot a bow to get the monsters across the map.

Not all of the maps are battles. There are puzzles like the one above where you have to clean up all the dirty areas without moving over the same square twice. Another one involves avoiding a rolling boulder. Other ones you have to pick up objects and place them in the proper area, and so on.

The story is not especially deep or involved; they encounter Chitta (who is in that picture), a mysterious child who is being pursued by soldiers. In the course of protecting Chitta they stumble upon a plot that could threaten the safety of the entire Monstania island.

The game is not especially hard, although I did have to restart some missions a few times. The final boss is a challenge but I hadn’t used any of my items so by just repeatedly using the restore items I was able to win fairly easily. Many of the bosses are rather poorly designed because if you just run away from them they will start wandering aimlessly which gives you time to recover your AP and HP before re-engaging with the boss.

I had a lot of fun with the game and it’s definitely worth playing (It has a translation patch) since it’s so short. However, I would like to see how the game would have played if they had expanded it into a true RPG/SRPG that wasn’t just fixed level ups and equipment gains; where you could choose your party more freely and that maybe was a bit longer and more involved. I think the system is interesting and shouldn’t depend on such a rigid style of gameplay, but I guess neither Bits nor Pack-In Video ever tried this style of game again.

SFC Game 122 – Wizardry Gaiden IV

Wizardry Gaiden IV: Throb of the Demon’s Heart (ウィザードリィ・外伝IV~胎魔の鼓動~), released 9/20/1996, developed and published by ASCII

Wizardry is of course one of the ancestors of CRPGs, with 8 main games centered around so-called “blobber” dungeon exploring. At the time this game was released, the first seven main Wizardry titles were available in Japan both on computers and in a variety of console ports. In addition, three “gaiden” games had been released exclusively in Japan for the Game Boy. These followed faithfully in the pattern of the early Wizardry games. CRPGAddict played half of the first one, and his post is interesting for his view of this game coming from a fan of the western computer games (and someone who is decidedly not a fan of JRPGs). CRPGAddict also has a guest post covering the Japanese wizardry games in more detail.

Back in the day I finished the original Wizardry and I have played 5 and 6, though I never finished either of them. Gaiden IV is basically in the style of the first five games, although it borrows some of the races and classes (and magic types) from 6 with a few new things.

When you start you are immediately dropped into the town with no explanation; as you may be able to see this game uses a Japanese flavor rather than the usual medieval European fantasy of the Wizardry games. The game manual gives the backstory — basically there are three legendary objects that the new king hopes to use, to gain the power to put down a rebellion and bring peace to the kingdom. We are an adventuring party sent out to get the three objects.

You can use pre-generated characters but I took all their gear and sold it for money and deleted them, and made my own party. All of the classes from the original Wizardry are there — the Priest, Thief, Fighter, and Mage for basic classes, and the Lord (fighter + priest), Bishop (mage + priest), Samurai, and Ninja for prestige classes. They also added psionic and alchemy spells and new hybrid classes to take advantage of them. The races are the W6 races (so the classic ones plus Rawulf, Mook, Faerie, etc).

As in the classic games you roll a random value for points to add to your base stats. Normally you get 10 or less, but rarely you will get above that (up to 30 max). In the original games it was beneficial to spend a long time rerolling so that you could start with better stats and also be able to access the prestige/hybrid classes early. It’s not necessary to do that in this game because if you get 10 or fewer points, you start at level 4. This not only gives you 3 levels of stat boosts but also lets you start with more HP, which is a big help surviving at the beginning.

My party (which I named after Tale of Genji characters) was two fighters, two priests, a ranger (who can do Thief stuff), and a mage. My intention was to class up later to a Lord, Valkyrie, and Monk, and I wasn’t sure what to do with the extra priest and mage. (In the end, I ended up leaving the priest as is, and turning the Mage into a Valkyrie after she learned her last level of spells.) Everyone starts with a basic set of equipment but I bought some additional things with my money.

The interface is a big problem, I think. It’s based on the computer games, which are marginally better because you can use the keyboard to directly select items and people. Even there it can be frustrating, but when you have to use a controller to select everything, it’s really annoying to have individual gold, for instance. Also the fact that every item you find in the dungeon needs to be identified is troublesome because you either need to transfer all the items to a bishop, or pay quite a bit of money to have it done in town. Then a big failing of the game is that there is no way to see what the stats of equipment is; I found a list of weapons/armor by googling but it was still frustrating to figure out if the new equipment I had gotten was any good.

The healing is also done via the classic method where you either pay a bunch of money to rest in the inn, or use priest spells, going in and out of the dungeon until everyone is at full.

This was a different party I tried to use at the beginning

Each of the three objects you need is in one of three dungeons. I’m not sure why they set it up the way they did — once you recover one of the objects, the other two dungeons have almost all their NPCs and puzzles removed, but you still have to go through them to get the objects. I think maybe the reason they did this is that the monsters are of similar difficulty in each dungeon, so perhaps they didn’t want you to have to spend a lot of time with easy monsters once you had cleared one place? Even so you have to explore the other dungeons so I’m not sure what the point was. The fourth choice there is a “training dungeon” where you can go just to fight things; there’s also an opaque sidequest involving that dungeon that can unlock the strongest monster in the game.

At this point you just make excursions into the dungeon. As in classic Wizardry games, the majority of the dungeon is empty and so you’re mostly just mapping things out looking for the few events you need to do to progress. Your resources are quite limited and you have no “warp back to town” spell so you need to be quite careful in your excursions — this provided most of the tension and I suppose enjoyment of classic Wizardry.

This game is easier in two ways than the original. First, there is an automap, although you can only see the 3×3 square around you unless you cast the Dumapic spell. The second is that unless you play it on “mania mode”, you can reset your game during a fight and you will start before the fight. In classic Wizardry, you never “save” your game; if your party dies, their corpses remain in the dungeon and you have to get another party to go in and find them. You also are not guaranteed to be able to raise dead characters and can lose them permanently. I think a lot of players (myself included) made disk backups to lessen the sting — it was too time consuming to do the backups constantly, but it was better than losing your whole party.

The battle system is classic Wizardry, although weapons have a range — I’m not sure when (if) this was added to the core Wizardry games. Your characters in 4-6 position can only attack if they have weapons with long enough range to reach the enemies. Otherwise they just have to defend or cast spells. Same is true for the enemies, of course.

In the first tower, you basically find a number of keys and other objects that open up doors and let you explore the entire tower. One part you have to get a dude to drop you into a pit so you can explore the lower levels.

There are multiple solutions to each dungeon — you can kill the NPCs to get their items, or you can take “peaceful” solutions, some of which require items from the other dungeons. As far as I can tell there is no gameplay benefit to the peaceful solutions and you actually lose XP for doing them.

Once you get the three items, the lord goes to defeat the rebels, but then an unnamed lord suddenly awakes a different evil and you have a new dungeon to explore.

The first 4 levels of this dungeon are copies of the Wizardry 1 (proving grounds) dungeons, but after that, the B5-7 dungeons have a complicated puzzle where you have to press buttons to get statues onto the bottom floor. I used a walkthrough to solve this.

Beyond this, you get the last dungeon level, which is an embryo-like place (the “taima” of the title is really “demon embryo” rather than “heart”). This is where I stopped playing — you have to beat 7 or 8 very difficult encounters to reach the final boss. I got ten game overs on the first encounter, did some grinding, and decided it was going to take way too long to finish it. There is a translation patch so anyone can try it themselves.

As I understand, after you beat the boss there are two additional post-game dungeons, in addition to the superboss in the training dungeon, so there’s quite a bit of content in the game. I think that if you like the classic Wizardry format and don’t mind the interface issues, you will enjoy this game a lot.

As a final note, the Wizardry wiki has the title misspelled as 大麻の鼓動 “Throb of the marijuana”.

Final game list (SFC)

I started playing Akazukin cha-cha, but I don’t think it really qualifies as an RPG. It’s more of an adventure game with a small number (around 7) of fixed RPG-style battles. There are no levels, instead you just gain stats at pre-determined points in the story. Apparently it’s considered a good game for fans of the manga or anime series, but I will leave it to others to cover the game.

So what this means is that we have come to the final list of games, the remaining 9 games I have to play. I will be taking a break around Christmas time, so I think I should probably finish this up around March or April of next year, although it depends on how long all the games are. Here’s the full list of games, with the bold ones being games I will actually play.

  • Wizardry Gaiden IV: Throb of the Demon’s Heart
  • Monstania – It was not clear to me whether this is an SRPG or not, so we’ll find out now.
  • Marvelous: Another Treasure Island – This is an adventure game, not an RPG.
  • Dragon Quest III – I could skip this as a remake but I believe I will play it.
  • Madou Monogatari I (PCE) – The final PCE game! This was released very late in the system’s life, and also came out for the Sega CD pretty late also.
  • G.O.D.: Listen to the voice telling you to awaken
  • Dragon Knight 4 – I played the Playstation version of this.
  • BUSHI Seiryuden: Two Heroes
  • Milandra
  • Gunman’s Proof – This is a zelda-style game that does not qualify as an ARPG for me.
  • Dark Law: Meaning of Death
  • Solid Runner – The last game I will play!
  • Mini shiku Let’s & Go!! POWER WGP2 – This is a racing game for the most part; it has some parts where you can talk to people and buy things but this is not enough to make it an RPG.
  • Wizardry I-II-III: Legacy of Llygamyn – Since this is a remake of Western games I will skip it.
  • Fire Emblem Trachia 776 – I will actually play this, but it will be once I reach 1999 in the strategy RPG playthrough, not now.

SFC Game 121 – Daikaiju Monogatari II (Finished)

At this point we have all the party members (the first four were my endgame party):

  • Kurisu, the hero of the fire shell and main character — you have to use him. He can cast fire spells and do sword techniques.
  • Shamuru, a catwoman thief. She can steal things which is nice, but can also use some helpful spells, particularly Powered (attack up). She is also important for one point where you can do some nice levelling.
  • Kupikupi, who has the best healing spells. By the end of the game he can cast a full party heal spell and a full party “restore conditions” spell for fairly cheap, and can contribute some attack spells as well if necessary.
  • Millie, the robot (who used to be your dog). Strong attacks, and also nice all-attack abilities that involve various elements.
  • Pot, who was also in the first game. Has a number of summon spells that you gain from various events — unfortunately a few of the best ones are only available with the real-time clock system (I had the same problem that I did in Tengai Makyo Zero where the clock never synced or advanced when I wasn’t playing).
  • Baboo, who uses boomerangs. I didn’t use him much.
  • Baltes, the warrior. I also didn’t use him much.
  • Poyon, who learns spells from enemies like Blue Magic. I barely used him.
  • Ruimella, who has decent healing and support spells. I used her some but I generally found Kupikupi to be more useful.
  • Gabro, who joins fairly late and as such I didn’t use him much. He seems like he could be useful with some elemental powers.

Next up is “kimoi” town, where the townpeople’s souls are being extracted by Jarama (who of course is being controlled by the evil Dark people). To clear this part we have to bring a certain kind of water to a holy spring, and the god then allows us to enter the realm of the dead as spirits so that we can clear out the monsters.

Beyond the mountain there is a creepy bone dungeon.

And finally we defeat the Phantom Queen (one of Dark’s underlings), and recover the 5th aura stone along with freeing Jarama. She can stop random encounters but only once, for a short time, recharged when you stay at an inn. So pretty much useless.

The final aura stone is in a mechanical fish in the sea.

This is an annoying dungeon because the visibility is very poor, and of course you are facing encounters every 4 steps. But in the end we recover the sixth aura stone, although then Dark tries to kill us in the sea monster. We rush to an escape capsule, but are now stranded in the sea.

Fortunately our small dragon comes to save us, and with the six aura stones he is able to power up into a full size dragon that can be flown around the world. At this point, you can go to the snowy islands at the top of the map where you encounter two sets of enemies that give huge amounts of XP and gold. In a fairly short time I was able to get as much money as I needed for the rest of the game, level up to the high 30s, and steal “Angel Medals” which offer a huge increase to attack and defense. This allowed me to keep the “no encounter” code on for the rest of the game and still manage to beat all the bosses. (However, this area is only available at this short window)

Now we have to fly up to the castle in the sky, where the heroes display their usual stupidity and give the aura stones to the queen, who turns out to be a clone made by Dr. Doan (Dark’s servant).

Now we rush to the temple in the sky land to stop Dark from using the aura stones, but of course we’re too late — once we arrive Dark destroys us with one hit and then activates the aura stones to capture power for himself.

Dark activates the stones, making the sky land crash to the ground and doing huge damage to the land. Many towns are displaced or destroyed. In this section of the game you are basically trying to recover your team members, find the 4 shells (which were lost during the crash), and also free the Dragon so that we can fly up to Dark’s lair.

Once this is done, it’s time for the final dungeon. You have to use two parties here, switching back and forth with the Y button to open up new areas until both of your parties arrive at the top. Then your B party stays back to fight Beauty (the last of Dark’s underlings) while the A party with Kurisu goes for Dark.

Beauty is the hardest fight in the game — she uses a move almost every turn that has a chance of confusing everyone, and then your party members kill each other. Even using the cure-all spell of Kupikupi it’s hard to avoid this. Fortunately if you lose with your B party, the A party takes her on instead. Even so I had to try 6 times before I could get enough luck to defeat her.

Dark’s three forms, by contrast, are a cakewalk. Kupikupi can just Sun Shower every turn to fully restore HP, Robot can exploit elemental weaknesses, Kurisu attacks, and Shamuru supports.

Afterwards, Kurisu has to go back to Earth (leaving Millie behind since she’s a robot now), and everyone else goes back to their lives.

Overall this game is OK. The random encounter rate is a serious problem — if someone could develop a code that halves the encounter rate that would improve this game immensely. The storyline is acceptable but relies on a lot of cliches (particularly the “haha, the heroes are too weak to deserve to fight me! Here is my underling to fight” and “there’s no way the heroes survived that, they must be dead.”)

We’re down to 10 games (9 sfc and 1 PC-engine)!