Author Archives: kurisu

SFC Game 106 – Bakumatsu Kourinden ONI

Bakumatsu Kourinden ONI (幕末降臨伝ONI), released on 2/2/1996, developed by Pandora Box and Winkysoft, published by Banpresto

This is the seventh game in the ONI series and the second one for the Super Famicom. I played the first one (Kijin Kourinden ONI) earlier. The first one took place in the Kamakura period (14th century) whereas this one takes place in the Bakumatsu period, which is the transition from the Edo to Meiji periods (mid-18th century). Despite this change, it’s rather unfortunate that the Japan part of the game doesn’t really feel any different. The towns and even Kyoto/Edo that you visit don’t feel particularly Edo- or Bakumatsu, they’re kind of generic towns that you might have found in the first game. There should be Westerners in Japan, people talking about the cultural changes and such, but you don’t really see that until later in the game.

The story opens with the “Shadow Shinsengumi” — the Shinsengumi were a historical group of samurai associated with the shogunate that is well known through pop culture representations. The “Shadow Shinsengumi” is a fictional part of this organization dedicated to dealing with spirits, demons, and other creatures of that nature. (The text is written vertically; I don’t think I’ve seen an RPG before this that does that.) They’re driving out some yokai that were disguised as humans.

The main character is Yamatomaru, whose father was a yokai hunter but was killed by a strong enemy. At the beginning of the game he goes to a nearby mountain to drive out some spirits. Later more spirits attack his town (Iidamachi) but he is saved by a warrior Jurota. They go to the capital to find out why the yokai attacks are increasing all over Japan, and end up joining the Shadow Shinsengumi.

The graphics are quite nice; good late-SFC quality.

The game system is similar to the previous title, with some changes. They switched to a normal XP/level system. This game also has the NPCs, kami (gods), and 5 Heavenly Swords from the first game but the implementation is a bit different:

  • There are NPCs that randomly do stuff in battle; this time you can get as many as you want although only 8 can be in your active roster at once.
  • The kami still give you spells, although not all of them are associated with a particular character anymore. In addition, some characters will also learn spells naturally through levelling.
  • The game kept the “monster” transformations from the 5 heavenly swords. However, in addition to that you now equip the swords and they level up. You learn sword techniques that use the power represented by the green number in the shot above, and that regenerates 1 point per step. If you have a sword equipped you only earn 1/2 XP for the person (but full for the sword). Basically when you get these swords you never really equip another weapon again with one or two exceptions.

The NPCs and kami still require a lot of backtracking and talking to random people at certain times without much in the way of clues.

The plot is rather static for the first 2/3 or so of the game. The main characters are given the task of figuring out where all the yokai are coming from. We are soon joined by Natsume and her brother, two survivors of a clan who can control spirit forces. It turns out that the yokai are coming from out-of-control Spirit Holes, and we decided to seal all the ones we can find in Japan. However, although behind the scenes we see that the Shogun wants the power for himself, and that a foreigner named Risshu is manipulating some of the military in the shadows, also wanting the Spirit Holes for themselves.

At each Spirit Hole we get a new Heavenly Sword and see a flashback involving the characters from Kijin Kourinden ONI; it turns out in the end that they put their own spirits into the Swords so that they could protect the Spirit Holes.

Eventually we deal with all the Spirit Holes in Japan, although in doing so we make an enemy of the Shogun, who is tired of us sealing all the holes, and declares us traitors. We also face off personally against Risshu, and defeat him. The heroes then decide that they need to get away from Japan, and head to the United States, taking along a native American woman who was in Japan — she tells us that there are “Guardians” (like the kami) in the US and some spirit holes there as well.

This leads to a weird section of the game where you have to make it across the ocean in a boat. You buy cannonballs and torpedoes, and can also level the ship up. You also sometimes have to fight regular enemies as well. This part is annoying and slow because you need to be pretty strong to deal with all the enemies you have to beat to reach America, but to get that strong there’s really no option aside from just a bunch of grinding. Or, you can use items that eliminate random encounters, which is what I did…this would bite me in the ass later but for now it seemed like a good idea.

There is no explanation for how you deal with the language barrier, but in any case the white people in the US pretty much scorn you (except they’re willing to sell you things), and the Native Americans are a lot more receptive.

In America we find out that Risshu was some kind of cybernetic creation of three scientists — Alva, Tesla, and Reich (I’m not sure exactly who ライッヒ is supposed to be), who have depleted the Spirit Holes in the US and want to use the ones in Japan to continue their scientific researches and eventual world takeover. Natsume’s brother eventually has to sacrifice himself to defeat one of the scientists’ creations, and after his death, Squanto joins the party as the 4th member. After this, the scientists head to Japan and we need to chase them back there.

This is where my earlier actions were fatal because there’s no way to buy the no-encounter items, and as far as I know there is no way to upgrade your ship in America. Maybe there was some other way to get out of the situation but after about 10 game overs I just turned on a no-encounter cheat code to get back to Japan. So if you want to play this legitimately you will need either 4 no-encounter items total, or you need to have a boat strong enough to reach America without using them.

In Japan, we have been branded traitors so can’t access any resources anywhere in the land (if you stay at an Inn, you get attacked by Shinsengumi). So for allies we have to call on the ancient Ihika (the name comes from one of the ancient kami of Japan). Their clan once tried to control and wield the powers of the Spirit Holes for themselves, but their civilization was destroyed. Hopefully the same will not happen to humans.

Next up is a large tower with a lot of created spirits in it; I think the scientists were able to make this with the power of the Spirit Hole but it seems pretty fast. In any case the goal here is to shut the tower down so that the power can’t be used anymore.

After this, the scientists use the power on themselves to make themselves spirits, heading to the final Spirit Hole in Hokkaido.

You have to beat all three scientists, followed by Risshu who is back and fuses himself with the Spirit Hole to make a huge monster.

The final boss was a huge step up in difficulty and I had to do some grinding just to be able to survive his attacks. It helps if Natsume can use her “sacrifice” move to kill the left hand and then you can kill the right hand quickly with strong attacks. It’s still not an easy fight because the head can only be hurt by the transformed attacks and he has a move that puts everyone back in their regular forms.

After the fight, the main characters have to sacrifice themselves the seal the Spirit Hole.

Although later, Sakamoto Ryouma (one of the few historical figures in the game) gets a message that the heroes actually did survive and set out for a new land in their ship, but were never heard from again.

Overall this is a decent game; it’s perfectly playable and has nothing egregiously bad in it. The story is serviceable, and there’s a decent amount of side content (although some of it seems basically impossible without a guide). Ultimately it doesn’t rise to the level of the top tier SFC RPGs but it’s worth a play.

SFC Game 105 – Madou Monogatari Hanamaru Preschoolers

Madou Monogatari Hanamaru Preschoolers (魔導物語 はなまる大幼稚園児), released 1/12/1996, developed by Compile

Madou Monogatari is a series that started in 1989 for computers, and was originally a trilogy of short dungeon crawlers starring Arle Nadja, a little girl who was learning magic. The characters are best known for their later appearance in the Puyo Puyo series, but variations of the original games were released through 1996. This game is based on the first game in the original trilogy, where Arle has to find three orbs in the magic tower to graduate kindergarten. I’ll be playing the PC Engine remake of this game near the end of 1996, but this game is an expansion of that story by including Arle’s quest to find eight items she needs to even begin the magic tower quest. Rather than a 3D dungeon, this is a standard JRPG style, although it borrows elements of the system from the earlier games.

By the time this game came out, Puyo Puyo 2 had been released along with the Nazo Puyo games, so this game was attempting to follow in the major success of those titles.

The game uses the same “fuzzy parameters” system as the original; you don’t get any numbers for HP, MP, XP, or the like. Instead, you have to judge Arle’s HP based on her expression and what she says when she gets hit. The above screenshot shows her max HP expression.

Here she’s nearly at 0 hp. After you use a spell she will tell you what her remaining MP are like. XP are the green gems at the sides; when all of them fill up you move up a level. The level is indicated in the status screen by a general description.

Near the beginning of the game she is “weak”.

Near the end she is “Strongest in the preschool”. The flower circles at the right are her speed, defense, and strength.

In battle you don’t attack, you choose a spell instead. They’re all represented by pictures but you can get help to see what they are — they’re all the familiar ones to Puyo Puyo players, along with the voice clips probably taken from that game. While this interface is OK, I think that when it comes to the item usage it becomes annoying. You have to scroll through a lot of screens to get to the item you want and there’s no item stacking so if you want 10-15 healing items of several types it becomes cumbersome to use.

One nice feature of the game is that if you are high enough level compared to the enemies, you can hold down L+R when the encounter is beginning and you will automatically win the fight. I wish more games with random encounters had some feature like this, or at least a way to avoid fights that you can easily win.

Arle learns new spells by reading silver signs that are around the world.

There are also gold signs that can only be read with the help of a dictionary, which you get partway through the game. The top level of all the spells can only be reached through an optional sidequest. Higher level spells can be cast by powering up one level each turn.

The items there on the right are things you can use on the map to help you access new places by jumping, entering small holes, pushing far away switches, and such. I evidently didn’t get any screenshots, but you can also equip a staff and a ring that provide various benefits. The best ring is the one that lets you immediately power up to the maximum in order to use your best levels of the spells.

There’s no real storyline to speak of — Arle’s main opponents are the gang depicted in the picture above, and some devils that periodically control people. But basically you’re just traveling around the small world map and finding the 8 crystals you need to enter the tower for the final quest. It’s a pretty short game and can be completed in roughly 10 hours.

The game is also not especially difficult since you can always run successfully from fights. If you are having trouble with a boss you can level up until the monsters in the area don’t give you much XP, and try different spells to find the weak points of the boss. Healing items are also relatively affordable.

So this is an OK game — nothing too special but perfectly playable and with some enjoyable elements that aren’t in other RPGs. But how are all the other kids supposed to graduate from preschool if it’s this difficult!?

SRPG Game 84 – Galaxy Fraulein Yuna: Final Edition (PS1)

銀河お嬢様伝説ユナ FINAL EDITION – released originally for Saturn 12/4/1997, developed by Hudson and Red Company, published by Hudson

Two Hudson games in a row. The Galaxy Fraulein Yuna franchise is a magical girl series in the Sailor Moon tradition and clearly draws a lot of inspiration from that series in particular. The franchise consists of a number of games, OVA, and other things. The first two video games were for the PC Engine and are basically visual novel-style adventure games with some light RPG elements. The third game, originally for the Saturn, is a strategy RPG. It was rereleased without the “3” in the title for Playstation. The two games look identical; the rerelease apparently added some optional bonus content and some revisions to the characters’ movesets.

The story sequences are fully voiced and take place with a large number of anime-style pictures like the one above. There are also a small number of animated cutscenes although I don’t think they would be more than 4-5 minutes total aside from the theme song opening.

The main character of course is Yuna, the “savior of light”. She has these little fairy robot type things that are alongside her, and then a few main companions Yuli Tulip and Ria, who is the Tuxedo Mask figure called Polilina.

The rest of the characters you control seem mostly to be made up of enemies that Yuna defeated in the first two games — the “13 Girls of Darkness” and the “Erika Seven”. There are a few more characters that I think were in other Yuna properties but I’m not sure.

The game is divided into 5 chapters and 41 maps (although you don’t do all 41 in a single playthrough). At the beginning, robots appear on Earth and someone calling themselves the Empress of the Machine Kingdom appears in the sky, declaring her intent to attack Earth.

The battle system is relatively simple. Turns are speed based. Each character can move and use one action (in either order). You can attack, use an item, defend, or use a special move (that takes EP). Attacking from the back or side does more damage. Having a difference in levels has a big effect on combat effectiveness. Levelling is very fast if you are fighting people above you in levels, and pretty slow if they are equal or lower than you. Throughout the game you can almost always access some area where you can do training fights and choose between three difficulties, so it’s pretty quick and easy to keep your team caught up in levels.

The goal of the battle is usually beat all enemies, but in some cases you have to beat the boss or reach a certain point on the map. However, in each battle you get a rank depending on what percentage of enemies you beat, and what percentage of your allies survived. This has no effect on the game except for some minor dialogue in the ending.

As the girls level, they gain additional special moves, and also their existing moves get upgrades in AoE. A few characters (including Yuna) get “hit all” moves and a few enemies have those as well — it looks to me like these were added in the PS1 version, and they do have a rather unbalancing effect on the gameplay, particularly at the end.

As is usual for magical girl anime, the main boss has a number of underlings — in this case there are the “rokkasen” (six flower fighters), the “shitenki” (four heavenly machines), and the “three machine sisters” who were apparently in a previous Yuna game but are revived by the Empress.

Chapter 1 takes place on Earth, as we try to find what’s going on with this huge device that came down from the heavens.

In Chapter 2 we head out to space, and decide that we need to go find the Empress herself.

In Chapters 3 and 4, Yuna and the team make their way to the Empress’ planet, defeating the underlings along the way. We also learn the backstory of what happened — at one time the Black Empress was a great scientist, and ruled the planet along with the White Empress. But they disagreed on how to use force against their enemies, and eventually the Black Empress became obsessed with power and started attacking other planets and galaxies. The White Empress sealed her away, but the black Empress was somehow able to escape her confinement with the help of some kind of darkness power.

Chapter 5 is the final series of fights on the machine planet. As usual for magical girls, Yuna wants to convince the Empress to stop fighting rather than kill her.

You can also head back to Earth and visit Yuna’s parents house, where they will give you fan letters that contain actual art sent in by fans.

The last set of fights I found fairly easy because you can just use Yuna’s all attack, have Miki use her copy ability to also use it, and have everyone else restore their EP or revive defeated characters. Even the final boss went down to this technique.

All in all I thought this was an enjoyable game. They captured the feel of a magical girl anime pretty well, and the game is smooth to play. It’s pretty easy to train your characters and so you can get by with pretty much any party — I would recommend not letting anyone fall really far behind in levels because there are a few places in the game where you have to use fixed parties or fixed characters.

It’s not the greatest SRPG ever but it gets a solid B rating for me.

Game list Jan-Mar 1996, plus some changes

1995 is done! That had the most games of any year — all that’s left is 1996 and a few 1997 games (plus 1999’s Fire Emblem 5 when I get to it on the SRPG side).

Here’s the first three months of 1996 games.

  • Mado Monogatari: Hanamaru Preschool – This is in the series with Puyo Puyo but I don’t know anything about it.
  • Madara Kindergarten Saga – A rather odd hybrid time game but is doesn’t look like an RPG to me.
  • BS Dynami Tracer! and BS Treasure Conflix – These games are listed as RPGs on some sites; they involved the satellite internet addon for the Super Famicom; not sure if they even count as RPGs but they can’t be fully played in any case.
  • Bakumatsu Korinden – Followup to Kijin Korinden Oni from 1994.
  • Bahamut Lagoon – SRPG, already played
  • Front Mission Gun Hazard – This seems to be an RPG although a bit of an unorthodox one.
  • Super Mario RPG – A classic.
  • Brandish 2 Expert – In English, also I don’t know if it’s fully an RPG
  • Chaos Seed – This is another game that seems questionable as to whether it’s actually an RPG or not, but we’ll see.
  • Masou Kishin Lord of Elemental – SRPG, played
  • Ys V Expert – The 5th Ys game. Not much harder than the original despite the title.

Now, a moderate change in how things are going to go — I want to make a push to finish the Super Famicom games. I have three more SRPGs to finish up 1997. Once I do that, I will have roughly 24 Super Famicom games left. What I think I will do is change the “2 SFC games, 1 SRPG game” sequence and just play as many SFC games as I can until I feel like I need a break, then play SRPG. So it may be 3-5 or even more SFC games per SRPG game.

One I finish the SFC games, I will go back to playing more SRPG games. In addition to that, I would like to take some reader requests, perhaps play some very old games, and also pick games either at random from a large list I’m making, or even do the very shocking thing of just choosing a game I want to play.

Here’s the list I’m making. It’s compiled from two different comprehensive Japanese sites and has gotten rather out of hand. I started it quite a while back when I needed some filler posts for the Super Famicom blog, and I thought it might be fun to play some of the oldest games, so I made a list of the first 100 RPGs. Then I decided I might also want to play some games that were released around the same time as the games I was playing, so I extended it up to 1996. From that point I just kept going — I’ve added to it little by little over the past 4 years or so and as this point it’s complete through 2009 with over two thousand games. I’m going to include everything through the 7th generation of consoles, finishing with the last PS3 game release in 2016. There are probably a lot of mistakes in it but there’s no way I’m checking the entire thing.

PCE Game 48 – Seiya Monogatari (Part 2)

Last time we left off as Taris was heading to the pirate island, or as it’s listed on the map, a place for people to do stretching and yoga:

We don’t find the statue that our priest was looking for, but the son of the head pirate wants to leave the island to become a “rob artist” which is apparently a thief; I thought it was some kind of art person at first. But for him to go he has to go through the challenge cave.

This is mostly puzzles although there are a few fights with ghosts. I could not figure out this puzzle because I was ignoring the dark green text (usually the dark green is a heading). Eventually we recover the Magic Lockpick; the head pirate won’t let us keep it for now but at least he lets his son (Kashim) leave. Kashim is an archer who is quite fast. He has a “charge” skill (that takes time but increases damage) and an “aim” skill (which takes extra time and I assume increases hit rate). He can attack characters in the back which is useful, but his attack power isn’t especially high.

Just as importantly, we get the ship! Now we can sail to the capital Rostarl. Here the head priest tells us that we need to find 5 holy statues and return here. A fortuneteller says that we’ve collected 4 of the 5 “lights” (companions) that will help us; the fifth is in the abandoned magic school in the capital. The magic school has people who keep teleporting in to mock us, and locked doors. I couldn’t figure out what to do so I went back to the pirate leader who sent us to Fislo Village.

Here we learn more about Talis’ past. 20 years ago, a baby washed up ashore, who was supposed to be a sacrifice for the sea god, but they saved him instead, and since then no fish have been in the area, slowly destroying the town. But there wasn’t anything to do here so I had to check a walkthrough — apparently I just didn’t walk in the right spot in the magic school to activate an event.

The head of the magic school tells us to go to the Wisdom Tower and find Nasha, who will help us (she would be the 4th party member if I were not the magic-using main character). We get the unlock scroll and head in.

Everything is upside down, and there are a number of puzzles to solve to get to the top. The spirit of Kyurientes tells us we need to find the lost “6th Helix”, and Nasha also (once we catch up to her) says the same thing. So that’s all that can be done here for now, and I didn’t really have much of a lead on where to find either the 5 status or the 6th Holix. I went to the palace and met the king and some of the other high-ranking people there. It seems that the king’s behavior has been strange lately, but other than that there was nothing to do.

Fortunately an event happens where Adis lures us to a nearby mine by controlling Gregory (the mage who taught Talis) to write a letter having us come there.

The mine has Homonculus creatures in it. By using levers and other things we can activate elevators that eventually take us down to the bottom, where Adis is.

Adis tries to kill us with the “meat” of the Monster of Destruction, but Lena’s divine power comes in to save us, and we survive — Gregory seems to be messed up and has forgotten who Talis is, but teleports away after giving us a Holix.

This was another place I had to check a walkthrough to figure out — if you go back to a fat “gourmand woman” in the capital, one of the Urikuri from earlier in the game has been trapped there (he’s being fattened up for eventual eating). He tells us to visit the Ulitex Canyon and find the holy dragon Ulitex.

Ulitex recognizes Talis as “Fau”, and tells us once again that we need the 5 statues. The first one is on Begolian Island, but before he can tell us anymore, a masked knight named Bartram comes in and kills him — Olga says that Bertram and she studied under the same teacher. In any case, we need to ask the Urikuri how to get to the island. Before that, I did a long event in the castle that involves helping a dancing girl who the king is obsessed with; this gets us the route to Yothmil, the main city where villains live. At the same time, we learn that the king is under Adis’ control.

The Urikuri tell us where Begolian Island is, unfortunately the people that live their are man-eaters and capture us. The chief allows us to escape if we can recover their treasure from the big ogre below.

Ideally you want to find the treasure (one of the statues!) first, because then you can skip fighting the ogre and get one of the permanent Holix. Unfortunately I found the ogre first, and he’s a very tough fight. In the end we get the statue and the Bregolian chief recognizes us as the hero that will save the world.

Next I went to Yothmil, where Talis can change into a cult uniform we found earlier.

There is a shop where you can blend plants to make potions, and also a guy that will give items in return for the gold and silver coins you can find throughout the game. I got one of the permanent helix here, but there didn’t seem to be anything else to do so I left.

It turns out that you need to go back to the fishing village, where Gregory has mysteriously turned up. He is still confused and doesn’t remember us, but does tell us that the “lost son” of Fislo village (the pirate chief) knows where Conrole Island is. He finally tells us and heads back to Fislo himself.

Lizardmen live at Conrole. The priest has become corrupted by Adis and stolen the statue; we recover it and the lizardman chief takes it back to soothe the sea. You have the option to fight him and take the statue instead, but I assumed that we could get it later and let him be for now. That’s apparently 3 out of 5 statues (I didn’t write down where you get the first one, it might be from Ulitex Canyon).

Another important find here is the Search magic; way back in the sewers I had found a tablet that said we could find a legendary sword with the search magic — I did this and got a much better weapon for Olga.

Now we’re without a lead again, but fortunately one of Adis’ followers, a demon called Baryubogil, tells us to come to the Yeogle forest to find the next statue. There, a ninja called Buster Gear challenges us to come to the bottom of the Fire Temple.

There’s a lot of good treasure in here, and we fight Buster Gear at the end. I somehow didn’t get a screenshot, but he’s a tough enemy. He’s really fast and comes with several annoying underlings — I had to try the fight several times to finally win. Now we have 4 out of the 5 statues, and Buster Gear tells us the 5th is back in the capital (why are the enemies so generous with information?) and gives us the candle of truth (why?)

At this point, now that the statue has been restored to the Lizardmen, we can go back to Fislo and fish.

The fish can be sold to the gourmand woman for 50 gold each, so this is a way to make money. There is some equipment in Yothmil to buy, as well as getting 10 holix for a 50 gold donation to the Rostal church. Unfortunately when I try to go back to the church we’re branded as traitors to the king, and Leonard the Knight attacks.

Of course as we heard earlier, the king is in lead with Adis; it turns out it’s that demon from before. The Candle of Truth unmasks him.

And now we have the 5th statue. We still need to get the statue from the lizardmen, but at the same time we hear that Bartram (the knight) is protecting the Time Drops that we will ultimately need. Let’s go to the lizardmen first.

Unfortunately there’s no way to get it without fighting the chief (he’s corrupted by Adis like all the others), so it’s a fight to the death. (Actually later I realized I messed up the order here — you need the Time Drop to successfully remove the statue without messing up the sea again, so I did this later.)

Next up we go back to Yothmil, where Olga realizes it’s time to deal with Bartram once and for all. Before only Talis could enter the town, but now that we have the full party we can explore more places (and fight guys). We find the hilt to the sword that was left with Talis at the beginning of the game. When this is reforged, Talis powers up quite a bit (unfortunately the mage Talis can’t equip the sword).

We’re also able to save Sister Maria that got kidnapped way back at the beginning of the game, and take on Bartram. Now with the Time Drop and the 5 statues, we can open the path to a hidden island.

This island has the 6th Holix on it, but there is a long series of puzzles you have to solve to get it out.

Taking this back in to the magic school gives us the Holy Nova magic. With Talis at full power and having the Holy Nova magic, the rest of the game is not much of a challenge. He can beat most enemies, including the bosses, with just repeated casting of that.

Now it’s time to take on all the big enemies. First up is Adis, who is in a tower hidden behind a waterfall.

She has two forms, but loses to Holy Nova. She was protecting the Sage Sword Shakhall, who gives Talis a good weapon and also gives himself to Olga to use. Now it’s time for the final location — the Oltis Palace.

This is the pope, who is the proper body for Fau’s spirit. Talis has to take him on in a 1-on-1 fight. He’s not too bad but then he goes into the dragon statue behind him and attacks again.

He falls quick to Holy Nova. Finally we meet with the mother, Lena, who has been saving our game up to now. She says that the Pope’s soul was actually that dragon, who wanted to kill Fau when he was born. The only way Lena could protect Fau was to put his soul in a different baby and send him away. (Although the only reason the Dragon wanted to kill me was because of Adis’ meddling, again).

However, we’re not quite done yet. The Beast of Destruction still awaits.

Holy Nova makes quick work of him, and the game is over.

The ending is sort of disappointing, it’s just a bunch of images with no text or speech. But it looks like the world is saved and everyone goes back to their lives.

As I said in the last post, this is a good game; definitely the best PCE game I’ve played and one of the best of this entire blog project. It’s not perfect — there are some interface issues, the battles are sometimes frustrating because of all the missing, and the ending is a bit sparse. But overall it’s really good and I hope some translation group takes it on at some point.

That’s it for 1995! Mid-week (for real this time) I will put a list of the next set of games up, and then it’s on to Galaxy Fraulein Yuna 3 (SRPG).

PCE Game 48 – Seiya Monogatari (Part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The forest has Holix scattered around it, though.

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

Never mind, I do have an early picture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SFC Game 104 – Super Chinese World 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SRPG Game 83 – Ronde (Saturn)

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

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

The characters and battle maps look like this:

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

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

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

Sakurako talks to Charlie Watts, the Englishman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SFC Game 103 – Record of Lodoss War (Finished)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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