Monthly Archives: December 2023

Zelda II – Adventures of Link (Famicom Disk System)

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA 2 リンクの冒険 – released 1/14/1987, developed and released by Nintendo

On my master list of console JRPGs this the 9th game. Out of those nine, only one of them (Dragon Quest) is the prototypical turn-based RPG that most people associate with the genre (particularly in the NES/SNES era). The other ones are adventure-style games (Zelda, Hydlide, Adventures of Valkyrie, Deadly Towers), action games that aren’t really RPGs (Druaga and Dragon Slayer), and one Wizardry-style maze game (Deep Dungeon).

The first Zelda game was one of those adventure-style games that I think many people do not consider an RPG, although I said in my previous post on the game that I’m not sure Japanese players at the time would have thought of it as fundamentally different from Hydlide or Adventures of Valkyrie.

Zelda II was intended by Miyamoto to be a totally different game, and it is — most of the game occurs on 2D side-scrolling maps, with a top-down overworld map. RPG elements are more strongly tied into the game.

The game, like Zelda 1, was originally released for the Famicom Disk System. This was a short-lived Famicom add-on that allowed for larger games, cheaper production, and the ability to save your progress, and also allowed you to use “disk writer” consoles to get new games. Although the FDS sold very well, there were a number of technical problems with the system and piracy was rampant. Within a few years, the technology for producing the cartridges had improved and become cheaper, rendering the FDS obsolete.

As with the first Zelda, this game was released in the US on a cartridge with a battery backed save. There were a number of changes, but most of them were small graphical or audio changes. The only substantial change is to the XP and levelling method.

In both versions, you gain XP from beating certain monsters and finding “P bags”. When you hit a certain amount of XP you can level up one of three areas – Life, Magic, or Attack. Life acts essentially as a defense stat, and Magic lowers the amount of magic points a spell costs.

In the US version that most people are familiar with, the levels cost different amounts of XP — for instance, level 1 attack is 200 XP but level 1 life is only 50. When you gain the necessary XP to level up a stat, you can choose to skip that one and continue saving for a different stat. If you die, you lose a life and go back to the beginning of the screen. If you get a game over, you go back to the beginning area of the game and lose any XP you have, but keep your levels.

In the Japanese version, when you get enough XP to level, you can choose any of the three stats to level up. The levels are also much cheaper than they are in the US version. However, when you game over in the original JP version, all of your levels reset to the lowest level you have — that is, if you had Attack 4, Magic 3, and Life 2 and got a game over, all three levels would be set to 2. This creates a lot more tension around a game over, and also means you want to keep your levels as equal as you can.

I did play (and beat) this game as a kid although I never liked it as much as the first Zelda game. This play was probably the first time I have touched the game since around 1990. I only played through the first palace.

The story involves Link trying to awaken Zelda (a different Zelda from the first game) by returning six crystals to temples and getting the Triforce of Courage. If he loses, Ganon will be reborn.

The overworld map is top down. When you step off the road, enemy icons start roaming around, and if you contact them, you get into a side-scrolling fight.

As in the first game, if you have max health you can shoot out a projectile from your sword.

The first task is to get the Shield spell from a nearby village and then head to the first palace in the desert. I had a strange problem where certain items were not appearing where they were supposed to be (a p bag, a heart container, and a magic container). Someone told me that I should use the third save slot, and when I did that the items were there. I’m not sure if this is an emulation bug or an issue with the dump of the ROM (the latter seems more likely).

I was able to get level 2 in all the abilities (which only takes 200 total XP as opposed to 350 in the US version). The palace is challenging to me, especially the yellow armor knights. Each palace has an item (as in the original Zelda); this one has the candle that lets you see in the dark caves. You have to find keys and explore the area until you get to the boss, who is not that difficult. He’s a horseman and you just repeatedly jump and hit his head until he dies. Restoring the crystal gives you a level up.

From there, it’s a while before the next palace — link needs to find a statue to learn the Jump spell, then go through to a new area of the land and find more items. This is where I stopped.

I don’t think this is a bad game, and I have a feeling that it holds up better than a lot of the action-RPG hybrids from this era, but we’ll see. There are a lot of them in the early slate of games. One thing I’ve really gained an appreciation for in doing this blog is how much certain games really did stand out among imitators and other things released at the time — it’s kind of amazing just how much better the original Zelda is than Hydlide, Valkyrie, and Deadly Towers.

No post next week, back on the 13th (I’m not sure if anyone actually checks on Saturday to see if I posted so this may not be a necessarily announcement…)

What’s next

I have 4 Super Famicom games left, and then I will finally finish that project — I should be able to finish before the 7th anniversary of when I started.

Once I finish that, I will go back to playing strategy RPGs again, moving into 1998. I’m not going to lock myself into any particular long-term thing, but my current intention is to alternate one SRPG with one other game. The other game will be a freer selection than before, but to start off with I’m going to choose games randomly from a large list I assembled.

I believe I’ve linked to that before, but I assembled the list working off of two Japanese sites ( and I didn’t attempt to judge what is an RPG and what isn’t, but just copied any game that was classified on those sites as an RPG.

My current idea is that I will choose games randomly from that list. If the randomizer gives me a game that I can’t play (e.g. Xbox360 game) or don’t want to play (for instance, a strategy RPG or a game I’ve already played) I will instead play the oldest game I haven’t done yet. I am never going to try to do a dedicated chronogaming project of every JRPG, but I do like seeing what the early games are like.

However, I’m also going to leave it open to choosing a game I want to play, or taking a recommendation. I’m also not going to force myself to finish every game; if a game is crappy (or just a cookie cutter RPG) I’ll play it enough that I can write about it but that’s about it.

I have a post scheduled on Dec 30 for Zelda II, and then we’ll be back with the 1997 SFC games on January 13.

Thanks for reading, and happy holidays!

SFC Game 125 – G.O.D. Mezame yo to yobu koe wo kikoe

G.O.D. (G.O.D~目覚めよと呼ぶ声が聴こえ~), released 12/20/1996, developed by Infinity, released by Imagineer

This is the final game of 1996. The strange sounding title seems to be a Japanese translation of the German chorale Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (“Sleepers wake, a voice astounds us” in the usual translation sung nowadays), which was the basis for one of Bach’s best-known cantatas BWV 140.

The game begins with you choosing your name and the title you call your mother by (I picked “okaa-chan”).

Kurisu is riding his bike to Hokkaido by himself for some reason. You can talk to various people in the town and then it’s off through the fields. Eventually Kurisu reaches Tsubane village (I’m not sure if this is a real place), where some bullies challenge him and it’s time to learn the battle system. At the moment all we can do is attack, though.

This game uses the hi-res text system that is found in other games of the period. After beating the bully Kurisu goes to investigate a ghost on Tsubane mountain, where he finds a boss bat that becomes a recurring comic character throughout the game.

After beating the bat, Kurisu comes across a “god stone” inside the cave.

He hears a shaking and then goes out to see alien ships invading the Earth.

The scene then suddenly shifts to 10 years later (2006) where Kurisu is working for an organization called BLESS that is dedicated to fighting the aliens. It seems that Kurisu was an amnesiac but now has recovered his memory (the first part of the game). Kurisu immediately goes back to Tsubane Mountain to find the god stone again, which awakens an unused part of his brain.

Each time you find one of the seven God Stones, you can unlock an additional level of Chakra power. To actually learn the Chakra abilities, you have to get Cosmo Stones from beating the monsters, which will add points to the ability you have selected. You can earn points in a different ability from the one you have equipped to use the powers from. Once you reach Level 4, you can pair two abilities (if they are at least level 4) and then you’ll get to use both of them, plus get an additional passive ability. At level 7, all of the Chakra powers for that command will get a big upgrade.

Personally I found that prior to reaching the level 4 combos, the Chakra commands were not very useful (with the exception of the Hundred Fist attack technique). However some of the L4 commands are quite powerful — particularly the ones that absorb HP/MP from the enemy, recover HP/MP, and let you attack twice.

In addition to the Chakras you also have Psycho powers which are basically spells.

However by this point the biggest issue with the game becomes clear — how slow and sluggish everything is. The key/button response is slow, there is loading time, and battles take a long time just because everything seems to be moving through molasses. Although I thought that overall this game was pretty good, this sluggishness really keeps it from being in the top tier of games. It was remade for Playstation in 1998 and from what I can tell from videos, the PS version runs much more smoothly.

The first 2/3 of the game or so involve travelling around the world, finding the God Stones, and gathering the game’s three companions:

  • Heath (the dude in the above picture), who works at the Neo Kobe bless group and fights with guns. He’s powerful but his defense against spells is so low he often dies, and his speed is low as well. Later on with a x2 attack effect he’s quite good.
  • Mina, a girl with psychic powers who can read people’s feelings and intentions. She is the primary healer although she can cast some damage spells as well. I mostly used the absorb HP/MP ability although later I switched that to the “recover MP” ability.
  • Basil (I guess?), some kind of Tibetan monk who used to be a thief. He has a lot of powerful attack spells; I didn’t find him as useful as Mina but he can offer some support.

The healing spells and items never seem adequate to keep up until the very end of the game. There’s no point to the “Miss You Turbo” item which raises dead with 250 hp, because that’s functionally the same as the “Miss You”‘s effect of 25 hp, based on the damage the enemies do. Too many of the mid to later game bosses seemed to depend a lot on luck of hoping they didn’t spam their powerful abilities.

Along the way, they keep getting opposed by Michael, who tells them to turn back but gives no explanation for why. He just reduces everyone’s HP and MP to 1 and then leaves.

Meanwhile we go through the usual process of getting a ship and then later an airship.

Before Basil joins, we have a 4th party member Ai, who Heath has a romantic night with and then she later becomes pregnant. She stays behind at one point while we do some jobs, but then on the way back the aliens have attacked the place she was staying.

Ai and her unborn child are both killed. There are a few pretty dark story elements like this throughout the game.

The story doesn’t really develop beyond the fetch-quest travel nature until the last third or fourth of the game.

Eventually the party learns that the aliens are actually from Earth; they existed before humans but after everything was destroyed by God in the great flood, they took off into space on Noah’s Ark. But now they are reclaiming the planet that was once theirs. The final destinations are the three lost continents — Lemuria, Muu, and Atlantis, as well as the Lunar City where the aliens currently are (mostly in cold sleep). Atlantis of course comes from Greek sources, where as Lemuria and Muu were 19th century hypothetical lost islands that were theorized to explain certain issues of biological origins before plate tectonics and continental drift were understood.

In Atlantis, Kurisu encounters his mother again, who has been turned into some kind of alien-human hybrid that is giving birth to all the aliens and monsters on the Earth.

Partway through the battle she starts to heal us, and eventually begs us to kill her so that the aliens will stop appearing….and Kurisu complies.

The final showdown is in Muu, where Ra Mu the leader of the aliens is. Following richie’s recommendation in his GF walkthrough I got to level 54 and then took him on — this might have been a bit too much because the boss was pretty easy despite the 7 different faces in three phases.

However, it’s still not over. The final boss is God himself, who wants to absorb all humans back into himself to make the perfect being, and he destroys the Lunar Base with the cold sleep aliens to prove his power. We decide to fight him (I forgot to get a screen shot, but it’s just depicted as light with no body) and eventually defeat him.

But the game is still not over. We get a big parade and a feast, but a little boy is scared of us — if we beat God, does that mean that we are now God? After the credits roll and you get the End screen, it says “Will you continue?” If you pick no, you get this:

You became God. GAME OVER

If you pick yes, the party wakes up uneasy about what the boy said and they go to the south pole to an Earth Shrine. There, they take on manifestations of their sorrow, fear, and anger. You have to use healing spells to win the fights or remove all your equipment. It’s not entirely clear to me what this is supposed to mean; after the fights it shows everyone’s life afterwards and you get an ending but the “are you now God” question doesn’t really seem to be answered or even addressed.

Overall this is a decent game. As I said above, the sluggishness of everything is a huge problem, and I would probably recommend the PS version if you can read Japanese (otherwise you will have to do this one since it has a patch).

We’re done with 1996! All that is left are four 1997 games. The next post on SFC games will be January 13, although I will have at least one other post next Saturday.

PCE Game 49 – Madou Monogatari I

Madou Monogatari I – Kindergarten Graduate of Fire (魔導物語I 炎の卒園児), released 12/13/1996, developed and released by NEC Avenue

Exactly 6 years ago to the day, I posted the first PC Engine game post after making the (perhaps foolish) decision to do those in addition to Super Famicom. 49 games later I am doing the last one — I didn’t finish many of the PC Engine games but it was interesting to see them all.

This was nearly the last game released for the system — two more PC Engine games came out in 1997 and one even in 1999 (a port/remake of the adventure games Dead of the Brain 1 and 2). It is yet another port or remake of the Madou Monogatari trilogy which had first been released for MSX computers in 1990. This covers only the first game, and thus draws from the same source as the Hanamaru Preschoolers SFC game I played recently. However, whereas that was a standard RPG that greatly expanded on the source material, this preserves the original dungeon-maze crawling. On the other hand, from what I can tell, almost everything was redone — it has different maps, (some) different items and spells, and (some) different monsters.

It’s hard to know why this game was re-released and ported so many times. Maybe after Puyo Puyo became popular they wanted to milk the original source material for all it was worth?

The starting story is the same — Arle Nanja is the only student in the magic kindergarten who has the right to try the tower to graduate. She needs to find the three orbs inside the tower.

The game takes place over about 14 dungeon levels. The maps are fairly small (I think 8×8? Somehow I didn’t get a screenshot of the automap).

As in the previous games, there are no numeric stats at all in the game — you have to gauge your HP by Arle’s expression on the right, and her MP by what she says after she casts a spell. XP fills up the pink ribbons there until you level.

In battles you choose a spell to cast. Enemies seem to have spell weaknesses, and there are the usual “dia cute” (to increase power), sleep, heal, and other things like that. Sometimes the monsters will want to speak to Arle instead and she’ll make friends with them. You can choose not to, but since you have to do a certain amount of friendship to win the game I don’t know why you wouldn’t say yes.

There are items in the game as well, but I could never find a way to see what the items did — I had to track down a kouryaku site which was not easy. There doesn’t seem to be a site specifically for the PC Engine game (or else it was lost in the geocities shutdown) but I was able to cobble together enough info to figure out what most of the items did.

On the third floor you slide around and run into the walls; to get past you have to buy a “wall creator” that you use to put up temporary walls you can stop at. Eventually Arle finds a treasure pile guarded by a lady that initially wants to fight…but then just sends her on a fetch quest which nets the first of the three jewels she needs to graduate.

I don’t remember who this is

The second one is at the top of the tower, held by a ninja who wants three scrolls from the 9th floor. Once Arle gets the second one, she is able to go into the basement of the tower.

Here she has to use a “floor creator” to build several paths to a center area where she uses four tablets gained throughout the tower to access the final jewel. However, there is one more challenge before leaving.

Her friends turn into a big zombie and attack! Fortunately she gets help from the spirits of the jewels.

The final boss is somewhat challenging but I was able to use all the full restore items I had gained throughout the tower. Lightning seemed to work the best.

After defeating the zombie, Arle proves her worth (how can they make a 5 year old do this on her own)

And she gains the admiration of her class.

This game is OK. It’s pretty short and shows itself as being basically one-third of a game that was released in 1990. There’s a translation patch so you can try it yourself, but I feel like they didn’t do enough upgrading of the interface to make it as fun as it could have been.

So that is it for the PC Engine CD! It’s such a weird console — a hybrid of essentially an 8-bit era console which limited the graphics, but with this grafted add-on that allowed CD-quality music and lots of voice work. It seems like most developers just took advantage of the fact that CDs are cheaper to manufacture than carts and made almost no effort to actually use the CD tech. Games like Tengai Makyo and Ys were definitely the exception.

I think my top 5 games (in no order) would be Ys I&II, the first Lodoss war, Seiya Monogatari, Princess Minerva, and the first Xanadu.

I’ll be taking a break over the Christmas and New Year holiday but I expect to finish one more game before then.

SFC Game 124 – Dragon Quest III

Dragon Quest III (ドラゴンクエストIII そして伝説へ…), released 12/6/1996, developed by Chunsoft, published by Enix

This is the last of the major studio games released for the Super Famicom; a remake of 1989’s Dragon Quest III for the Famicom. It basically picks up the style of Dragon Quest VI and adds a number of features to the original game — a few new classes, additional weapons and items, a “bag” to store items in, small medals, a board game miniquest, a world map, and a bonus dungeon. The graphics are some of the best looking RPG graphics on the Super Famicom, and the remastered music is great as well.

I have started this game many times. When I was a kid, I used to rent it from the local video store and play it over the weekend. My parents could never find it in stores, so I just kept renting it and playing the first part (and reading the manual with the complete hint guide in it so I could vicariously experience the rest of the game). When I first discovered emulators, this was one of the first games I played along with the Super Famicom remake but I never was able to keep myself engaged in it. I also bought the Game Boy Color version, but also didn’t finish it. In all these playthroughs I never got past the point where you get the ship (I’m not even sure I got it). So it’s nice to be able to come back and finally finish this game that I played for the first time probably 30 years ago.

After the opening cinematic showing your father Ortega hunting the demon lord Baramos, the first thing you have to do is answer a bunch of questions to determine the personality of your main character.

The personality determines your stat growths. You can change personalities throughout the game by using book items, or equipping certain pieces of equipment. After this, Kurisu wakes up on his 16th birthday, ready to go in search of his father Ortega and hopefully beat Baramos himself.

The first task is to create your party. When I played this game before I always went with the “boring” standard party of Soldier, Priest, and Wizard. This time I decided to go with a more unusual party. I went with a priest to make sure I had the healing, and then added a thief and a goof-off. The thief can use some helpful abilities like locating treasures and towns, and the goof-off can immediately switch class to Sage at level 20. The game on the whole is easier than the original because weapons like whips and boomerangs were added, but the game wasn’t really rebalanced to take account of that.

I still remembered exactly what to do on the first island you start out on, which is just an introductory section to help you get used to game. I didn’t find it necessary to do actual grinding except for one point in the game. Other than that I would just venture forth and do what I could, returning when necessary (when Hero learns the warp spell it’s much better).

As I went I made notes of where doors locked with keys were — you get the thief key on the first island so that solves the initial problem quickly, but there are also “magic” and “final” key doors that we’ll have to come back to later.

The second section is where my playthroughs usually stopped before. A lot of stuff in this section is technically optional but if you don’t do it you’ll have to do a bunch of grinding to survive the next area (actually in the remake they made the Shanpane Tower a requirement for later in the game). By going west from the castle you end up in here, you can see that your next major goal is to get to Portoga to get a ship, which will require the Magic Key.

At this point the first board game minigame comes up as well. You do it by using a ticket that you can find various places around the world, then roll a die and move the number of spaces indicated. The real goal is to reach the end of the track (on an exact roll) where you will get some good treasures. But even if you don’t manage that, there are some decent things in the chests on the board itself. I didn’t do much of the board gaming because it takes a long time and the rewards are hard to get since you need exact rolls.

The magic key is in the pyramid — I got here once or twice as a kid and I have a vague memory of a gold claw that you can carry out except that you get attacked every step you take. I didn’t find that this time.

With the magic key, you can reach Portoga, and then you have to do a fetch quest to bring the king pepper (which gets you in a nest of quests but eventually it ends). This is also the first time you can visit Dharma Tower.

At Dharma tower you can change classes of any companion who is at least level 20. They go back to level 1 and lose half their stats but retain any abilities (like magic spells). At this point nobody was at level 20 for me so I moved on.

After getting the ship the next part of the game is nonlinear. The goal is to get six gems which you will then use to revive a dragon so that you can reach Baramos’ castle. You also need to get the Final Key, and there are some other optional events and items you can find as well. Along the way I started doing class changes. As soon as the goof-off reached level 20 I switched her to a Sage. At first I was a bit worried because she came with very low MP due to her 20 goof-off levels, but in the end she gained enough MP to catch up. For the priest, I decided to hold off switching to Sage until he learned the revive spell. Initially I had planned to switch my thief to something else but in the end the thief was quite good on his own and so I kept him as a thief so that I could keep stealing items.

With the six gems, you can activate these flames and hatch the egg to get a dragon. With the dragon you can fly around and get to a few new places, the most notable of which is Baramos castle.

Baramos kicked my butt at the levels above. He can move twice in a round, do strong attacks, and use several damage-all moves. I lacked useful spells like Beoma (complete heal) and Fubaha (barrier that reduces fire/ice damage) and it seemed like it was time to level. Unfortunately Beoma is level 30 and Fubaha is level 34 so that would be a lot of time….

Enter the Hagure Metals (metal babbles), souped up versions of the Metal Slimes that give lots of XP. I cheated a bit here and did a save state every time I encountered one, loading the state until I beat at least one. With this technique it only took an hour or two to level up to 30 for Beoma, at which point I decided to try again despite the lack of Fubaha. In the end it worked out; with the extra levels, buff spells, and Beoma I was able to outlast him. I read that you can use Matohon on him to take away his spellcasting ability but this never worked for me.

Kurisu is hailed as a hero! But just then, a mysterious voice Zoma comes in and declares he is the true evil boss. Mwahaha. We then have to go down into the dark world…which turns out to be Alefgard from DQ1. This would have been a cool twist for people at the time although it’s given away in the hint guide so I already knew about it.

Here you have to repeat in some sense the stuff in DQ1, making a rainbow bridge to Zoma’s castle by using the sun stone and rain staff.

Zoma was much easier than Baramos. You can use the Sphere of Light to reduce his power a lot and then the normal buff/debuff spells work pretty well.

Once Zoma is defeated, access to the upper world is closed off, but then you get the final twist of the game, that your hero is Loto (Erdrick) of DQ1 so this is a prequel to that game. Neat way to wrap up the initial trilogy.

In the SFC version they added a bonus dungeon; I didn’t do it but by defeating the boss there you can revive your father which is a nice addition. The game Boy Color version added a second bonus dungeon but it requires a pretty ridiculous set of criteria to enter (finding lots of monster medals from defeating monsters around the world).

I’m finally glad to finish this game that I played so much as a kid. It’s a pretty good DQ and really shows how even an old game can be done much more competently than a lot of the RPGs coming out in the early 1990s. The story is thin to nonexistent but there’s a lot to explore, side events, a bonus dungeon, minigames, and more. You can also try experimenting with different parties.

Next up we have the final PCE RPG.

Comment setting changes

I disabled the plugin that requires cookies for commenting; it seems like people were getting errors (I think the plugin is incompatible with newer versions of PHP). So if you have been unable to comment in the past, please try again.

I also disabled the setting that requires approval for new comments; it’s supposed to only require approval for each person one time, but it seemed like about half the comments I was approving were from prior posters.

I think both of these are anti-spam settings so I may have to re-enable them or seek other solutions if I start getting spam messages.