7 years ago I decided to play all the RPGs for the Super Famicom that had not been released in English. I now have completed this, more or less. There are some games I skipped that perhaps I shouldn’t have, some games I didn’t finish, and a few that I “finished” on a technicality. But I feel like I fulfilled what I set out to do.
If you’ve read many of my posts this may not be a big surprise, but the games on the whole were much worse than I thought they would be. I wasn’t expecting to find a ton of games that could match up to the stuff Square was releasing, but I thought more companies would at least copy them. It’s amazing that Final Fantasy VI, if I had played it, would have been game 48 out of 129. And yet FF6 is miles ahead of almost every game that was released after it.
It was surprising to find companies releasing games well into 1995 that were offering almost no innovation over the system that Dragon Quest II had in 1987. Even when they do add a bit of stuff, it’s often poorly implemented. The interfaces are also not great.
So it’s unfortunate that overall I enjoyed the games less than I thought I would. The saving grace was that for a lot of them I could listen to podcasts or watch some football game (in the fall and winter) while I played them. There was a point at which I was wondering whether I just didn’t like retro games at all, but when I did the SRPG games I enjoyed those much more than the SFC RPGs, even the ones that weren’t so great.
Here are my top 13 favorite games I played on the blog (not counting the SRPGs):
Monster Maker 3 (this is kind of a stealth pick but having played all the games I think this game is better than I gave it credit for at the time. It has some pretty bad design choices but there is a lot to like about the game too.)
In closing, thank you to everyone who read my posts over the years, and especially to those who commented. Also thanks to my Acer Spin 3 for running all the games, and the DS4 wireless controller for handling most of the input. In the 7 years since I started the blog I moved three times and worked at 4 different places, but this was sort of a standard thing that I kept up…hopefully I can continue going forward for at least another few years.
Solid Runner (ソリッドランナー）, released 3/28/1997, developed by Sting, published by ASCII
It was a strange experience starting up this game — it’s been sitting on my list for years as the final game I would play (at least once I started the SRPG project so that FE5 was no longer the last game). I didn’t know anything about it and have never heard anyone say anything about the game. But it’s probably a good final game in that it embodies a lot of the frustration that has arisen for me throughout the project. The game has a nice setting and the story has interesting aspects, but it’s hampered by a high random encounter rate and an interface that isn’t always friendly.
Of course as is true for most late-era SFC games, the graphics are good. The main character is Shuu Askin, who lives in Solid City. The game is taking place in 21XX in the real world; I think Solid City is supposed to be in Japan although the entire game is in the city so it’s not completely clear. Shuu uses a “runner” (basically a mech) to carry out various jobs for money. He’s engaged to Airin, the daughter of Tao who is the head of “Dark Dragon”, the town’s Chinese mafia. Recently they are having trouble with Babaria, a gang that has come in from Europe, who is selling drugs in the town.
The first part of the game is just taking some random jobs — a number of them involve “bio monsters” who are some kind of human-monster hybrid; this may be caused by the drugs or some other thing.
Shuu has a computer where he takes requests. You can also pay a small amount of money for rumors and information, but I was never clear on exactly what the purpose of that was. Maybe it unlocks some of the requests? (I think a few of them are optional). Once you have a request you have to go out to the town.
You can visit any place you know about (or at least is relevant) in the 10 sectors. At some point you will proceed to a dungeon area.
The random encounter rate is high. Every battle is 1 vs 1, which is pretty unusual for an RPG at this stage. You can use one of 4 weapons, which are generally two shoulder-mounted missile type things (which can reload at the cost of a turn), and then your right and left hand (which can be freely assigned but I usually had one melee and one shooting weapon). If you do a shooting weapon you can also hold left or right to strafe.
Both you and the enemy act at the same time. Depending on the moves chosen, one side might get an advantage — for instance, a strafe shot has the advantage over a melee attack. As far as I know there is no way to tell what the enemy is going to do except that enemies seem to have patterns that you can memorize (maybe even including bosses).
You can also “boost” which will increase your power for that round but runs the risk of breaking the weapon.
When you level up, you get stat bonuses and then you can go back to your base and pay the mechanic to raise the mech’s HP (and recover it to full). This is the only way to recover your mech’s HP aside from using items. Money is only gotten from completing requests (I think there are only 10 or so that actually give money) or selling drop items. Later on you can fight in a tournament that gives some extra money, but money is quite tight in general.
Buying things from the shop is frustrating because (in 1997!) the interface is still not very good in terms of showing you what kinds of items you are buying or how good they are compared to your current equipment.
The story is quite dark. Shuu used to be a soldier, but he quit after an incident he was involved in where civilians were killed by his troop. After a few missions, Babaria attacks Tao’s house, killing both him and Airin (Shuu’s fiancee). After that, Shuu’s goal is simply to take down Babaria.
Many of the requests are also quite dark stories, often ending with the deaths of people you were trying to save.
Around a third of the way through the game I lost one of my weapons to a boost, and I equipped an item I had found in a dungeon. This turned out to be very lucky because it was a melee weapon that inflicts the lightning bolt status on the enemy, which lowers their hit rate. This weapon made 90% of the remaining battles in the game trivial, including many of the bosses. The only enemies that presented any kind of challenge were ones that were immune to the status effect, and often I just ran from those fights.
I think the writer of the gamefaqs walkthrough was not aware of this because he recommends a ridiculous amount of grinding levels (especially near the end); I beat the game something like 30 levels below his recommendation.
The dungeons tend to be large and involve a lot of “throw switch to open door” or “find the keycard”. There were times when I turned on a no-encounter cheat because of how frustrating it was to figure out where to go when you are encountering monsters every few steps.
The storyline grows to involve Babaria’s research into bio creatures, and the attempts of some of the creatures to form their own way aside from humans. Babaria’s leader is I believe supposed to be a descendant of either Hitler or one of the high ranking Nazis.
Overall the story is not bad, and it’s unfortunate that it wasn’t paired with a somewhat better system — this is far from the worst I’ve played but there were so many ways that it could have been improved.
The end of the game at least is relatively happy, with Shuu finding a new love and continuing his work in Solid City.
So that is it — with game 128 I have (more or less) completed the project I set out to do when I started seven years ago nearly to the day (my first post was Feb 3, 2017 but I don’t know if that was the exact day I started playing GD Leen). It is very nice to have this off my plate.
I will do “final thoughts” post on the Super Famicom Games sometime in the middle of this week, and then starting next Saturday we’ll be back to 1998 SRPGs.
DARK LAW 〜Meaning of Death〜, released 3/28/1997, released by ASCII
ASCII is responsible for a lot of the late Super Famicom RPGs. This one fits in to a kind of “spiritual trilogy” with Dark Lord (for Famicom) and Wizap! When I played Wizap! I found it difficult to play, with a rather inscrutable system and annoying gameplay. I have the same feeling about Dark Law. It’s interesting that even the positive reviews of the game (both in English and Japanese) spend most of the review trashing the game but then say that “despite this I enjoyed it” or “you will feel accomplished if you beat it.”
The story involves two gods that are normally in balance, but the evil god has gained too much power, and now in the land of Rayfoll, monsters have appeared. You begin by creating between 1 and 4 characters (just names, genders, and assigning stat points). You can use up to 3 of them at a time. None of them have any story.
There are basically two things you can do in the game. The first is go to a cave outside of the town where you can explore a large-ish dungeon, fighting monsters and finding treasures. The second thing is to find quests to do in town — there are a fairly limited number of these, and they depend on your level to appear. You get good XP awards from the quests, but not enough that you won’t also have to do some grinding in the dungeon. I believe that all the quests are optional except the final one, which you need to be at level 13 to access.
The first character you create begins in an ancient temple with no memory. She heads to a nearby hut of a farmer Oriona and his daughter. After doing some hoeing for the farmer, evil troops come by and burn his house, kill him, and (possibly) abduct the daughter. Your MC heads to the nearby town to tell the King about what happened.
Once you talk to the King it’s basically freedom until the end. The first huge barrier you run into is the severe money limitation in the game. It is very difficult to get money even to buy the most basic equipment for your characters. You get some money from clearing certain quests. When you level up, you get money from your characters’ jobs (which you assign to them at a building in town — the money listed there is the money you get, not the money it costs to take the job). You can also sell some things you find. However, the money you get from these three sources is nowhere near enough. Maybe some people like the idea of sweating over the purchase of even the weakest weapons and armor, but I didn’t find it particularly fun (and this is a frequently criticized area of the game).
The quests feel very much like a tabletop RPG — I think they were going for a similar feeling to a game like Sword World SFC. However, that game was far superior to this one. A big problem with the quests is that so much of what you have to do is counterintuitive and mysterious, often requiring you to check things 3 or 4 times. One particularly egregious section is where you are trying to get a prism out of a wall. You are told “The prism is impossible to move” but you just have to keep hitting circle several more times with that same message, and then the encasing will break and you get the prism. (This is even putting aside the fact that getting the prism is not an obvious way to advance in the first place). Other places you just have to keep wandering around talking to people multiple times and examining seemingly unconnected areas of the map.
The stories in the subquests are interesting, although frequently tragic and sad. The first one involves the sighting of a mysterious wolf being in the forest. The second involves a dog who seemingly dies of old age but then returns to life the next day. The third involves the visit of a grim reaper to someone who shouldn’t be ready for death. These little stories are definitely the high point of the game, but they’re embedded in a virtually unplayable system that makes them unrewarding to see through to the conclusion.
The combat is done in a TRPG style. Each character has an action point meter that depletes when you move. You attack by facing an enemy, and if you have enough attack points the enemy will flash and you can attack. It’s a workable system, but healing is so expensive and spells so difficult to get that it seems like you want to have missile weapons on all your characters so they can avoid as many attacks as possible.
There is a magic system in the game, but you either have to buy the spells (at great cost) or make them yourself using a character with the “scroll” ability (they still cost money and you have to know some formulas; I used a walkthrough so I don’t know how you’re actually supposed to know the formulas). However, getting the scroll ability is random on level up, and levels are very limited.
The last sentence brings up another huge issue with the game — the incredible amount of randomness. Your hits may do 1 or 15 damage. Level ups vary greatly in how good or bad they are. Certain screens have potential random encounters that are devastating. You can save at any time and there’s even a “reroll luck” in the status menu when shows (I guess) that the designers recognized how swingy the game is.
In the end, I just found very little to enjoy about this game. I played the first three quests but when I realized I was going to have to grind over 1000 XP in the cave to access the next quest I decided that was enough — fortunately there is a translation patch so I can move on. I do like the idea of the tabletop-like atmosphere, which is one reason I enjoyed Sword World SFC so much despite its problems. But this one just had way too many problems for me to continue.
Next up is Solid Runner, the final SFC game! (I’ve actually already finished it)
BUSHI Seiryuuden: Futari no Yuusha (BUSHI青龍伝〜二人の勇者〜), released 1/17/1997, developed by Game Freak, released by T&E Soft
We are into 1997! By this point the Playstation and Saturn had eclipsed the Super Famicom (with FF7 coming out in January 1997). If you look at this chart from Game Data Room, it’s clear how the trend was going:
This game was developed by Game Freak, which of course is best known for the Pokemon series. What we have here is an interesting blend of styles — it appears like an action RPG but is actually turn based. The subtitle means “Two heroes” and refers to the two characters that you control during the fight sections.
The opening scene relates a myth about the creation of the world, and then we start in Mamoshima with the main character who is turning 15 (who we’ll name Kurisu)
The graphics are quite nice, as you would expect from a game developed this late. Kurisu grabs his father’s sword and goes down to the shore to practice with Ido, and then you are able to cut bushes away so that you can proceed north. The game works essentially on a series of screens that are top down like the above. In the woods, Kurisu saves a small spherical being called Wokuu, who claims to be a girl that was changed into a monster — she is the second hero of the title. Returning home, Kurisu finds his house on fire.
A monster has stolen Kurisu’s sister, and Kurisu (after getting a bit more training from Ido) heads out to try to save her. After this first screen, there are monsters on the top-down areas, which somehow I do not have a picture of. They move one square for each square you move. You can swing your sword at them to get first attack, although if your level is too high it will simply kill them instead. When you get in a battle, it switches to a separate screen.
First, you get a target number of turns (7 in this case). For each turn under that target, you will get 1 “magatama” bead. Kurisu soon learns that collecting these beads is essential to destroying a large tower that is spawning the enemies appearing in the world.
The battles take place on a 2D field. As on the overworld map, you trade actions — you take one action, then all the enemies each take one action. The actions include moving, swinging your sword, and using a charge attack (which hits multiple enemies but makes you lose a few turns recovering). Wokuu can pick you up, which is the only way you can jump in this game. She can do a short or high jump but can only carry you for a couple of moves. You can also raise a shield, which will get broken by an enemy attack or if you swing your sword. The shield can also be thrown to act as a distance attack. Finally, as you progress in the game, Wokuu will get more abilities (such as the ability to go attack enemies herself).
The system is well done, I think. The enemies have a variety of attacks and patterns, and you will have to make use of all of your capabilities to clear the battles, especially clearing them under the turn target to get the magatama. You have to change your tactics based on the specific enemy, as well as whether they’re above or below you, and you get a variety of additional moves as you progress through the game. It means that even fights against easy enemies are still worth thinking over because you need those magatama to win the game.
When you enter a cave or dungeon (or the like), it becomes a larger 2D side scrolling map.
In these areas the controls and gameplay are identical to the battles on the overworld, except that there is no target turn number and you can’t get the magatama. In these sections, Wokuu’s ability to stop your falling (by hitting X when you are falling) is more useful, and you have to use it to get some of the treasures. You can also hit select to see enemy HP, and in these kind of places it will reveal breakable walls as well.
The main goal in the first section is to remove the mushrooms from blocking your way to leaving the first island. Along the way you fight enemies and get some bits of info about the backstory of the war of the gods.
The second area is buffeted by snow; here we have two goals, one is to stop the snow, and the other is to get a more powerful sword that can cut through the stumps. Stopping the snow involves recovering a mirror that can reflect the sunlight back to the area.
After accomplishing these goals, Kurisu finally chases down the monster that captured his sister, and chases it through the next large dungeon.
The bird boss is not all that difficult, but at this point the game froze after I beat the boss. I could not pass this freeze — I tried changing the emulator settings, using a different rom, and even a different emulator, replaying the dungeon and fighting the boss again, and every time it froze. This isn’t a known bug, I don’t think, since people have played through the whole game with and without the translation patch. I’m not sure if starting over from the beginning would let me progress, but at least for now I’m not going to do it.
It’s a shame because I was enjoying the game — the gameplay is an interesting mix of action and turn-based strategy, the music and graphics are good, and the story is interesting enough.
One additional note — although this game gets generally good reviews, there’s one thing that everyone complains about. I mentioned above that you need to get the “magatama” beads by clearing battles quickly. The problem is that you end up needing an enormous amount of these beads just to get a bad ending, and a common experience people have is to reach the end of the game and find out that they need to do a whole bunch of grinding even just to get the worst ending. It’s definitely worth taking extra time as you play the game to get magatama beads to counteract this.
I’m disappointed I was not able to finish the game. I may replay it at some point in the future, or maybe if I can get a save game that starts after this boss I can continue there.
The next game up was supposed to be Milandra, but this is just a Mystery Dungeon clone so I will skip it and move on to Dark Law.