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SFC Game 93 – Seiken Densetsu 3

Seiken Densetsu 3 (聖剣伝説 3), released 9/30/1995, developed and published by Square

Here we are in the last game of the July-September 1995 block, and it’s a big hitter — the sequel to Secret of Mana and the next entry in the Seiken Densetsu series. I was really looking forward to this game. It’s had a good reputation for a long time. Secret of Mana had a number of flaws that I thought resulted from the weirdness in its development process, and I was hoping that Seiken Densetsu 3 would be the game Secret of Mana should have been. I was disappointed in the game, though, and in the end didn’t think it was all that good.

The game’s graphics are quite good, and the music is maybe not exactly the equal of Secret of Mana but it’s close. The game’s best known feature is that you start off by choosing three characters out of six. Although the overall plot is basically the same with all of them, there are some different bosses and events with each of them. Also the combat experience will be different based on who you pick — as well as which class upgrades you select for each person (there are two second level classes and four third level classes for each). This gives the game a high level of replayability.

I went with Duran, Angela, and Riese. Duran and Riese were quite good. The Star Lancer class has very helpful stat boosts and she has a high attack. Duran was fine as well — I made him a Lord and the healing was helpful. Angela was not as good. Magic is worse in this game than it was in SoM and by the end of the game she was basically dead weight, especially in boss battles.

My biggest gripe with the game is how sluggish and unresponsive the system feels to me. It’s supposed to be an action RPG, but you spend a lot of time watching animations and mashing buttons to bring up menus. It can be hard to tell what’s happening as you’re knocked around the screen.

SoM had a big problem where magic was too powerful, and the upper level techs were tough to use. Magic is weaker in this game — late-game Angela is still decent for attacking grunt enemies although you have to sit through the animations to do so. The 2nd and 3rd level techs do not require as much time to build up; you get one bar filled for each successful attack you do and when it fills up you get to use the tech. It’s nice that if the tech misses you don’t lose the bars and can try again.

However, in the latter half of the game, most bosses and some grunt enemies respond to magic or level 2/3 techs by powerful counter attacks. So not only do level 2/3 techs take longer to build up, but they have a good chance of the enemy walloping you in response. Because of this I just kept everyone on level 1 techs later in the game.

Another issue I had with the game is that when you’re going after the 8 mana beasts in the second half of the game, the difficulty seems to ramp up faster than you can keep up just by fighting the monsters as you go. Because of the way the weapon and armor stats work (they interface with your base stats), I had to do a lot of grinding to keep up with the enemies. There were enemies in the later dungeons that could wipe my entire party with one of their special moves, and if I was 4-5 levels behind it was hard to do much damage to them. This is really the part that made me go from not much liking the game to actively disliking it.

One side note on the graphics is that this game uses the Super Famicom’s “high res” mode to render the text, allowing them to fit more text in a box and use sharper, easier to read kanji. The next game I’m playing (Odysselia II) also uses this method, although I wonder how widespread it becomes after this point. It does cause a bit of a graphical glitch or stutter on bsnes as the game switches from the regular resolution to the high-res box (and it messes up bsnes-MT’s pixel perfect scaling mode), but I wonder what this looked like on an actual CRT.

The story is fine. With Duran, it begins with the “Red Magician” attacking the kingdom Duran serves, and he leaves home to defeat the magician. Duran’s father was a famous knight hero. Along the way he is chosen by the mana fairy and has to work first to stop the enemies from reviving the mana beasts and destroying the mana stones. The Mana Tree is dying, and to save it they need to open the way to the mana holy land and recover the Mana Sword (this area is taken straight from Secret of Mana).

Along the way we learn about the stories of the other five characters — because I chose Angela and Riese their stories are more involved (Riese needs to take back her kingdom and Angela has to save her mother), but we get some insight into the other three characters as well.

Of course getting the Mana Sword is not the end of the story. The mana beasts have been revived anyway, and we have to go track down all 8 of them and beat them — the story grinds to a halt here. Once the eight are defeated, the final confrontation occurs in a different dungeon depending on your main character choice. Once those people are dealt with, the final boss is in the Mana Holy Land.

I wonder if I would have liked this game more if I weren’t expecting so much from it. I think I first heard about this game in the late 1990s and tried playing it a bit around then. Sometimes a game can be a victim of high expectations.

So don’t necessarily take my bad experience as how you would feel about the game — it’s highly regarded and has a strong fan base.

That being said, this game was remade in 2020 for next-gen systems, and this version looks more fun to me from what I saw on youtube videos. The battle system is much smoother and faster paced, with far fewer moves that pause the gameplay while you watch an animation. I would be interested to hear from anyone who has played this version.

SRPG Game 77 – Final Fantasy Tactics (PSX)

What can I say about this game that hasn’t been said already? It’s by far the most well known and popular SRPG; the Japanese wikipedia page says that it sold 1.35 million copies, the most of any SRPG in history. Many people discovered the genre through the game, some never really playing many others (“Where can I find another SRPG like FFT” is still a very common question on Internet forums). Although I had played a few stages of Shining Force 1 in high school, this was the first SRPG I completed. I stayed with a friend in college while I was doing a summer research project, and he had this game. I played it through, and the night I beat it I immediately started a new game, something I’m not sure I’ve ever done with any RPG.

The game was made by people from the Final Fantasy development as well as Yasumi Matsuno, the developer of the Ogre series. It is clearly based on Tactics Ogre, combined with a version of the job system found in FF5 and FF3.

The story is often cited as one of the best in an RPG; I personally think it’s a bit overrated — the first chapter is a masterpiece of RPG storytelling, but I feel that it loses some focus in the rest of the game. It is by no means a bad story, but I preferred Tactics Ogre in that respect.

The graphics are well known for the lack of noses.

The music is another high point; it’s one of the best soundtracks in a video game and it was the first video game soundtrack I ever bought on CD.

The job system allows you to select a job for a character, and then level up the job level (which unlocks new jobs) and also earn JP to spend on abilities. You can switch to a new job and then set some abilities from other jobs that you have earned.

This gives you a lot of flexibility, but it does create one of the flaws of the game, that the system is not very well balanced. Some of the jobs are nearly worthless (Archer, Knight) while others are grossly overpowered (Calculator). The system is opaque and can lead to misconceptions about how well your characters are performing — for instance, the prominently displayed “Brave” value actually affects very little in the game (mostly reaction abilities, barehand attacks, and a few special “knight” swords). However, I believe this is the first SRPG to show a detailed prediction of what will happen with a move (with attack percentage and damage).

It is a bit more generous in death compared to Tactics Ogre. When someone reaches 0 hp, you have 3 turns to revive them or they will permanently die (or game over if it’s the main character).

The flexibility of the job system does allow for a lot of self-designed challenges, though. After playing it a few times, I played several “Double Dares” (where you can only use two characters, and each can only use abilities from two jobs). After that, I was on GameFAQs around the time people started getting interested in the Solo Straight Character Class challenges — where you can only use Ramza, and Ramza must stay in one class for the whole game (and not use any abilities outside of it). I was the third one to complete one of these; I beat Monk (the first two were Ramza Squire and Time Mage). My contribution is immortalized in the long GameFAQs walkthrough. At this point all of the classes have been done except for Mime and True Calculator, which are thought to be impossible. (The less difficult “Straight Character Challenge” where you can use 5 people of one class, has been completed for all characters.)

These SSCC’s weren’t the most fun, but the community around them on IRC and GameFAQs was great, and it’s one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had around a video game. 20 years later I’m still in touch with some of the friends I made doing those.

This game is still remembered as a classic but it is somewhat a victim of its own success; there are some people who strongly dislike it. Harvester of Eyes, who has now deleted his youtube channel and site, hated it so much that he refused to cover it on his site and considered it one of the worst SRPGs he had played (or so he claimed). I think he did have some valid points about the game — the opaque system requires a lot of grinding if you don’t understand it, there are a few cheap battles (particularly the solo vs. Wiegraf), and it’s not quite as tactical as other games. But for me it’s still a one of my favorites.

It was re-released for the PSP in an updated version, which I don’t know much about, but I’ll cover it when I reach there.

I’m close to finished with Seiken Densetsu 3 so things should return to normal next week.

Atelier A1 – Atelier Marie

When I made my full SRPG game list I included Atelier games, which caused some comment — they are not Strategy RPGs, certainly, but I would consider at least the earlier ones to be Simulation RPGs. Plus I like the series so I put it on there so I could play more of the games.

The long running series began in 1997 and currently has 23 main titles and around 15 side games, plus a number of remakes. The first five games are primarily simulation games where you control a young alchemist trying to achieve some mild goal (like pass an exam or bring prosperity to your village). There is usually a basic “good” ending that’s quite easy to get, and then a number of other endings that are more difficult. As the series progressed, they put more and more RPG elements in — by A5 (Viorate) you had explorable dungeons, a complicated weapon and armor crafting system, and five different bosses. However, the game could still be completed without doing much of this, and the focus was on running a store and crafting items.

A6 (Iris) was a straight RPG (with a crafting system), and the next 4 games after that continued that trend. I first played the series when Iris had just come out, and there was a lot of uncertainty whether the series would ever return to the simulation roots.

But A11 (Rorona) did go back to the earlier style, although the RPG elements seemed more prominent. I haven’t played anything past A13 (Meruru) but from what I hear the RPG elements have become more and more dominant as the series has progressed.

The side games include some games that aren’t RPGs or simulation games, but also a few games for Nintendo portable systems that look like they may be the more traditional games.

I am at least going to post about A1-A5 when I get to them, but after that it will depend on how I feel and what kind of game they are. I’ve already played Marie and gotten all the endings, so I won’t be replaying it here, but I’ll write a bit about it.

Atelier Marie (マリーのアトリエ~ザールブルグの錬金術士~), released 1997/5/23, developed by Gust

The first game in many ways is a tentative beginning for the series — if you’ve played any of the later games almost everything is in a very simple form, which perhaps makes it a good starting game? Apparently the game was originally planned as an SRPG but the director thought that there were too many big name RPGs already out there, and so decided on a new type of game. The game was regarded as a side project for the company but it was so popular that it quickly became Gust’s main product.

The main character is Marlone (nickname Marie), a not-so-great student of the alchemy school in Zalberg. Apparently a normal girl was chosen as the main character because the developers felt that women were starting to play games more — the female main character became a mainstay of the series. Marie’s on her last chance at the school, and she has five years to make a good item so that she can pass the exam and graduate.

This imposes a 5 year time limit on the game. One of the core elements of the early games is the time limit; everything you do takes time, and part of the game is learning to use your time wisely. (I’ve heard that recent games have gotten rid of the time limit; I’m sure this is more popular among casual players but it’s a bit disappointing.)

The dialogue is fully voiced, and the graphics are quite nice. The music is also exceptional; I place Gust second only to Falcom for consistent high quality music in almost every game they release.

The game has no real story. There are some characters like Schia (above), Kreis (a good student at the academy), Ruven (an adventurer), and others. Many of them can join your party for a price to help you out when you adventure outside of the town. They also have some events and small story events, but nothing much.

Basically everything in the game is optional. There are several endings — the basic ending is to craft a level 4 item to pass the exam. This is quite easy and can be done even if you barely know what you are doing. But the fun of the game is that you can replay to try to get some of the other endings — there’s one for levelling Marie to 50, one for beating an optional boss, one for crafting all items, etc.

The core of the game is the item crafting. Marie can learn recipes for items, and then if she has the right ingredients, she can craft them. The difficulty and time it takes depends on Marie’s level — unlike later games there is no separate alchemy and adventurer level; you gain XP for crafting items and for killing monsters. Marie can also buy tools that will either be necessary for the crafting, or make it less likely she will fail.

Later games introduce more complexity to the crafting system, but in Marie you just combine the ingredients into the final item.

How does Marie get the items? Two ways — she can either buy them, or she can go out to the field and collect the items. Buying items of course requires money; the main way to get money is to take jobs at the pub. By turning in certain items Marie will receive money. However, it’s also necessary to get some items by leaving town.

At the start of the game Marie can only access a few locations close to the town, but as the game progresses you gain access to more areas with rarer items. When you reach a location, you simply press the circle button to search for items, which costs a day.

You may also encounter monsters.

The battle system is very basic; characters can attack, use a special move, and Schia and Marie can use attack or healing items. Marie by herself will die (at least at the beginning) so you need to hire some adventurers (which costs money).

So the game is essentially a loop of taking jobs for money, getting the items to craft, buying new books to learn how to make items, and activating events — some events open up when you pass a certain time, and others are only available for a certain time each year.

As I said above, even if you have no real idea what you’re doing, you can easily get the basic ending — as long as you can read the game’s text you would have to try to fail, I think. The extra endings are more difficult but not to a great degree. I was able to get all the endings in one playthrough with just a list of the endings and some information on a few events that activated at certain times. But there was something fun about the simplicity of the game.

The game was later released for Saturn as “Atelier Marie 1.3” with one additional ending and some new events, and some minor things based on the Saturn’s internal clock (like if you play the game on Christmas she’ll wish you Merry Christmas). This version was then ported to the PSX as Atelier Marie Plus, which is the version I played. There’s a later release for Game boy, and then a combination release for PS2 of Marie and Elie. You would think that’s the definitive version of the game, but the designers made the bizarre decision to get rid of the 図鑑, a place in the main menu that shows you all of the items you’ve crafted, monsters you’ve found, and endings you’ve gotten.

The next game for the series is Atelier Elie which came out in 1998, which I have not played.

As I mentioned last week I’m in a busy part of the fall. Next week will most likely be a quick post on Final Fantasy Tactics, and then hopefully I will have finished Seiken Densetsu 3 by the following weekend.

Super Robot Taisen odds and ends

One of my goals is to have every entry in my SRPG game table lead to a post, even if it’s a remake or port. Sometimes I will just link to the main post if all I need to say is “The Saturn version has slightly different graphics and one bonus map”, but if it’s a more extensive remake I will make a separate post or mini-post for it.

This post will cover four Super Robot Taisen games that I passed over or that will occur later this year. As usual I’m mostly copying things that I wrote many years ago when I played the games, but I didn’t write much for any of these games so I added some additional notes.

Super Robot Taisen 2G (Gather), Game Boy 6/30/1995

Here’s what I wrote about this game many years ago:

After 4, the SRW franchise entered a period of uncertainty and confusion, primarily caused by the console wars at the time. The situation was very comparable to what SRW is going through now [That is, in the transition from PS2 to the next gen consoles]. There were a lot of remakes, original character games, games for established portable systems, and false starts as the series felt around for a new direction.

The next game after 4 was a remake of 2 for Game Boy, which came only three months after 4’s release. Despite being a remake, it contains a lot of new things. V Gundam and G Gundam both premiere in this game — G Gundam ended three months before the release of 2G, so these series really were on the cutting edge of mecha anime at the time. In terms of gameplay, the system is basically the 4 system, minus the equippable items. This game also has the first instance of the Full Upgrade Bonus system (where upgrading all of a units stats to full will let you add an additional upgrade bonus)

The story presents itself as the “true chronicle” of the 2nd SRW (the NES game being the official federation version). However, it doesn’t fit in with the established continuity because Tetsuya and Ryuune both appear in this game. The story writing is much more advanced than the NES version; more like 4.

The game is not especially good, though, and it looks like I didn’t take any real notes when I played it 15 years ago.

Super Robot Taisen 4S (Scramble), Playstation, 1/16/1996

Five months after 2G, the next remake came out. This is notable as the first game for a disc system, and the first game for what would eventually become Banpresto’s dominant console for SRW. 4S is essentially a straight remake of 4; there are a couple of new stages and some bug fixes, but overall it’s the same game.

Probably the most notable thing about it is the introduction of voices. This is the first SRW game to have any kind of voice acting — however, it’s only for the heroes. Supposedly some of the voice clips recorded for 4S are still used in games today [That is, in 2008]. (Shiozawa Kaneto died after F/FF came out so it’s good he was able to contribute his voice to these older games).

At the time when I was writing these old posts, I did not have a computer that was capable of running a PSX emulator and I didn’t want to import this game so I didn’t play it — a few days ago I did play a bit of the first stage; the graphics are identical to the Super Famicom.

I wonder if this is the version of the game you would want to play if language weren’t an issue — the load times are obviously worse than SFC but it does have the voicing.

Shin was after this, which I posted about earlier.

Super Robot Taisen F and F Final, Saturn 12/25/1997(F), 4/13/1998(FF) PSX 12/10/1998(F), 4/15/1999(FF)

The next step after Shin was to switch platforms over to the Sega Saturn; apparently Banpresto was trying to strike some sort of merger or deal with Sega. The resulting game had a rather tumultuous history. According to Wikipedia, it was originally intended to be a sequel to Shin. But Sega wanted them to use their established chronology, so they decided to remake 4 instead. The letter F could be interpreted to stand for “Fifth” or “Final”. However, the production took so long that the game had to be split into two. Finally, whatever negotiations were going on between Sega and Bandai broke down, and thus the game was later ported to the Playstation. (This was a relatively inactive time for SRW — in two and a half years, F/FF was the only game that came out.)

It really wasn’t so much a “remake” of 4 as a completely new game that used the 4 originals and very broad plot outlines. 4 series were removed, all old Super Robot shows (Grendizer, Raideen, Daimos, Zambot 3). The new additions were Evangelion, Ideon, Gunbuster, Gundam Wing, and G Gundam. (Wing and G had of course appeared before, although Wing just in cameo. Endless Waltz is in FF, but only in the Wing Zero Custom and Tallgeese III.) For Evangelion, there was even some scripting done by Hideaki Anno (the scene where Bright slaps Shinji).

Systemwise, the game is similar to Shin, although the “healing = xp” thing is brought in from Masou Kishin. In addition, the map items are gone and you now get items from defeating enemies. One major development is the splitting of “luck” into one seishin that doubles XP and one that doubles money. Finally, the “love” system was added in this game where you can have two units near each other (e.g. Sayaka and Kouji) for their stats to increase. This was not in the manual or strategy guides, though, and there’s no display of the change on the screen, so the effect can only be seen by testing and comparison.

The graphics are back the old-style SD graphics. Compared to Shin, they are kind of a step backwards to the old “sliding sprites” model, and they’re way behind the times, as may be expected from a port that comes out a year later than the original game. The portraits are worse than Shin in that they often only show the face, not the head, and it can be hard to tell even what a person is supposed to look like (Gato’s portrait, for instance, doesn’t show his hair at all). However, they do incorporate the multiple portraits showing emotions that was introduced in Masou Kishin. (Speaking of MK, the MK characters get their own themes in this game, carried over from MK:LoE.)

[I did not write stage-by-stage updates for this game because I did a walkthrough for GameFAQs, for each game.]

Overall, it’s a decent game. The story is a step up from what’s been in previous SRW in the development of the characters and the amount of dialogue — however, the dialogue is still mostly oriented towards explaining the next battle; there’s little of the character interaction (particularly of minor characters) that develops in later SRWs. The difficulty level is fairly high, although I don’t think it’s as hard as 4. The main problem with the game is its length. The split into two parts resulted in a lot of unecessary padding; I think the game could have been reduced by 25-30 stages and still kept essentially the same story. Also given that you can’t skip battle animations, playing the game becomes very tedious. The final stage is also kind of dumb; ending it with Zezenan might have felt more fulfilling.

Super Robot Taisen Complete Box, released 6/10/1999

This game is much later than where I am now, but it makes sense to put it here so that I can refer to the post later. This was a remake of Super Robot Taisen 2, 3, and EX. It was done by reusing the assets from 4S and F/FF, and standardizing the gameplay of all three titles to that of F and FF. The biggest changes were made to 2 because of how different 2 was from the later games; the plot is the same but the maps are somewhat different.

The next SRW game was in 1999 so it will be a while before we see it again.

SRPG Game 76 – Riot Stars (PSX)

Riot Stars (ライアット・スターズ), released 5/2/1997, released by Hector (or Hect?)

This game seems to have been inspired by Ogre Battle, although it’s not just an imitation (it’s interesting that there haven’t been any other OB-like games since OB). The title is a mystery; I don’t know what kind of game to expect seeing it, but it takes place in a typical medieval fantasy world (with an ancient culture that produced robots).

As in Ogre Battle, you create squads. Each squad can have up to 5 members and 3 types of units. There are various types of human classes, and a number of monster classes. They can be class changed if they fulfill the right conditions.

What is different about the growth system is that it’s all done through “jewels”, which are the currency you use to buy thing but also level up. This means that you have a lot of control over your party’s development. But since you just play the 35 or so battles in order with no opportunity to free battle or repeat, the amount of money and XP you can get in the game is limited. There is a huge difference in effectiveness of classes — if you know the system well you could create 4 or 5 squads in the first few battles that could stomp all over the rest of the game. Or, you can waste a lot of jewels on squads that are always going to be a struggle to use and will ultimately not be able to handle some of the later game enemies. If you used no help at all, it would be possible to end up in the latter third of the game with a team of totally unusable characters, no jewels, and no choice but to restart from the beginning. The nature of the game makes it hard to experiment.

Making the squad formation even more of a challenge is that the game has permadeath. As long as one unit from the squad remains alive at the end of the battle you can pay 50 jewels per unit to heal after the battle. But if the squad is wiped out, they are gone forever. You can visit a building in the capital (when you have access to the capital) that will give you some jewels as a consolation prize. But I don’t think the jewels you get from there are enough to rebuild a whole squad; you can do some cheap tricks with that spirit shop to farm jewels (I don’t know the details but I think you can just buy the cheapest units and intentionally get them killed?)

As usual, I’m not a fan of permadeath. This game is not as unforgiving as Fire Emblem, but you will still encounter enemies that can wipe out weak squads from full HP in a single battle, and you still have to deal with the situation of accidentally moving a unit one space too far and then having them wiped out. So I did use save states, as I usually do with permadeath games.

The turn system is based on the squad’s “wait” value. A counter counts down everyone’s wait from the full value to 0, then that squad gets to act, and their counter gets put back up to the maximum. I’m not entirely sure how the wait value is calculated; having 1 unit in the squad vs. 5 units doesn’t make much of a difference so I think it’s calculated from the average of everyone’s wait — wait is affected by Agility but I don’t know if there are other factors involved. 40 is the lowest wait; I don’t know if there’s a theoretical maximum but the highest you will generally see is upper 70s or lower 80s. So there is no concept of a player or enemy turn; each unit just acts when their wait hits 0.

Each unit’s movement type is also controlled by who is in the squad (whether they fly, etc). Finally, the range of attack is also different — if you have people who have range 2 or 3 attacks they can attack from afar. Attacking from behind produces a situation like the picture above where you get first strike and can attack their back ranks.

The battles happen in real time. Characters move forward and attack for a while, then the battle will end after a time. “Losing” the battle doesn’t have any effect other than just the HP/guys that were lost during it. During the battle you cannot directly control the characters, but you can use special attacks from the leader and activate a party attack.

As you attack you build up gems (the green things in the picture above). When you fill up the bar and it starts flashing, you can use a party attack, or you can choose not to and then you will get a jewel at the end of the battle. These jewels can be used to activate the special attacks (you also get a jewel for doing a 15 hit combo).

Clearing a battle gives you jewels, and sometimes there is a bonus goal — usually beating the map in a certain amount of time, but it could also be saving NPCs or not allowing towns to be captured (the towns are like FE where you get items). In the first few chapters almost every battle has a bonus goal, but starting with chapter 3 almost none of them do; I wonder whether that’s just a rushed release issue, although it seems like at least they could put in time limits.

Between battles you can sometimes move around to different towns to buy equipment, recruit new people, or talk to the villagers for hints. As I mentioned before, for the most part this is simply fighting each battle in sequence, but there are a few places where there are optional battles or the battles will go differently depending on what you did previously.

The game is divided into 5 chapters. At the beginning, the main character is assigned to the 9th unit of the Carlain Kingdom army. Carlain is being invaded by the Empire. The 9th unit is a place where they stick people for their careers to die; nobody trusts them to do anything right and they constantly get stuck with drudge jobs and blamed for things that go wrong.

The first chapter is basically them just getting sent on random tasks; they make friends with some fairies and hobbits (once again the Tolkien estate can’t read Japanese), rescue the Princess of Carlain but get blamed for kidnapping her, and other things like that. In the second chapter we start to encounter the robots — there are 4 ancient robots that are being unearthed from the ancient civilization, and both the Empire and Carlain are building their own robots in imitation. (These robots are very powerful in general but take huge damage from spells)

In the third chapter the 9th squad starts getting blamed for more and more stuff and eventually has to flee the continent as we’re facing the death penalty for supposed treason. This was the last difficult chapter for me; the image above was an especially annoying battle because there’s a hidden cannon that comes out. The cannon can destroy most units in one attack phase. I had to load state a huge number of times to pass this without anyone getting destroyed; in retrospect I should have just let one of my more useless units die.

This was also the point where I looked up some info on stronger units; the dragons and upgraded fairies above are quite powerful and once you have a couple of squads of them plus a hidden character robot and some magic using squads, the game is not very challenging. The dragons’ “windstorm” attack (pictured above) drives back the attackers so that sometimes they will all die without even getting an attack.

Another way to beat strong units is to mash the circle button as soon as the battle starts to use Super attacks over and over again.

In Chapter 4 we end up exiled on an island with the prince and princess of Carlain; it turns out that one of the higher up ministers has usurped the government and is hoping to use the ancient robots to take over the world. First we have to beat the Dark Elves on this land (the main 2 are difficult but with the new magic user that joins, her Holy Blast will take them out in one hit — as far as I saw this holy blast attack will destroy any enemy in the game in one use).

Finally we head back to Carlain, and take back the country. The minister heads to a floating island of ancient technology but we stop him (the final boss is just a robot that dies to one use of holy blast or any magic, really). He tries to crash the island into Carlain but we redirect it into the ocean instead.

Overall this is an OK game. The story is a bit weak and the game balance could have been a lot better — it’s too bad there’s no Riot Stars 2 where they could have fixed some of the issues.

In the next couple of weeks I’m going to have limited time to play games, so I may need to make some “cheat” posts on Final Fantasy Tactics and Atelier Marie before I get back to making the next SFC game post of Seiken Densetsu 3.

SFC Game 92 – Hi no Ouji Yamato Takeru

Hi no Ouji Yamato Takeru (火の皇子 ヤマトタケル), released 9/29/1995, developed by MIT and Aim, published by Toho

Sigh. You would think that by the end of 1995 designers had figured out how to make at least a decent game, but stuff like this keeps appearing. The title would suggest it’s patterned after the famous figure from early Japanese myth-history, Yamato Takeru. It does seem to take place in early Japan (sort of) and some of the events of the story are based on the Yamato Takeru myth, but it’s basically an original story.

The graphics are underwhelming, and the interface is overall bad. The shop interface is strangely modern, allowing you to buy multiple things at once, buy an item and sell your current equipped one at the same time, and you can see the stats of equipment and who can use it. But you walk slow, the menus are annoying to navigate, and you can’t see what any spell or ability does without looking at the instruction manual.

The battles are old DQ style, right down to the “Takeru did 6 damage” message rather than numbers appearing — you will definitely want a speedup button for this. There’s some system based on the movement of the sun through different zodiac signs but it’s hard to tell what effect it has except in a few parts of the game where you the sun has to be in a certain position for an event to occur.

You can get 12 different “juuma” to join your party that you can summon. I never understand why designers go through effort to make systems like these, and then make them virtually unusable by stupid decisions that should be caught during playtesting. You have to summon them using consumable items — you get plenty of them so that’s not an issue, but they don’t stick around for very long before they go back to the mirror and have to rest a while. Also any levels you gained while they were out go away (except for the HP). So each juuma quickly becomes unusable; the only purpose to the system is a few places in the game where you have to summon one to make an event happen.

The story is OK. As in the myth, Takeru is a prince, and is banished to Izumo Province to subdue the “Kumaso Braves”. However, in the myth it was because the Emperor feared his power. Here it’s because the goddess Tsukuyomi has been supplanting the traditional goddess of Yamato (Amaterasu). When Takeru’s brother tries to kill the Tsukuyomi priestess, Takeru intervenes and cuts off his brother’s arm, and thus is banished.

The rest of the game is mostly fighting against the Tsukuyomi takeover, but there are bizzare elements like someone from Greece coming with robots. Then halfway through the game one of the party members who Takeru has fallen in love with dies, and a huge part of the second half of the game is getting to the land of Yomi to recover her, with the help of Susanoo’o. This ends up with you fighting Satan(!?), then going to the moon and then defeating Tsukuyomi and restoring her to normal.

The game balance is a mess. The boss above, Yamata Orochi, is a huge difficulty spike that requires a bunch of grinding, but in the latter half of the game most of the bosses have as much HP as the grunt monsters in the dungeons (up until the final boss). I guess at least we can say the enemies sometimes have some nice graphics.

The ending is dumb too; after restoring Tsukiyomi and bringing Takeru’s girlfriend back to life, they head back across the rainbow bridge, have a short conversation, and then just line up on the bridge and face the player.

There’s no credits, “The end” or anything, the music just loops until you turn the game off.

I’m sorry if this post seemed more annoyed than usual, but I would expect this kind of game in 1992, not 1995. Fortunately Seiken Densetsu 3 is next.

A few notes on comments

Hello, happy weekend. First, I appreciate everyone who comments. I love reading the comments, and even if you comment on something from 4 years ago I will see it.

There are two issues I’ve had with comments, though. First, I have the setting on where I need to manually approve your comment if it’s your first time posting. For some reason, this doesn’t always work and I sometimes have to manually approve comments even if they’re not first-time posters.

Second, I have Akismet’s free spam filter on. Sometimes legitimate comments end up there, and it’s happening consistently with two commenters who have been around since the very early days of my blog (cccmar and Kicksville). I don’t know why this is happening and since this is just the free version of Akismet I can’t tweak the settings. However, I do manually check the spam filter every couple of days and so if your comment ends up in there I will manually approve it.

I just wanted to post this in case people are seeing their comments disappear or getting notifications that they need approval.

SFC Game 91 – Verne World

Verne World (ヴェルヌワールド), released 9/25/1995, published by Banpresto

The premise behind Verne World is certainly original. In 2028, to celebrate Jules Verne’s 200th birthday, a large theme park is built. It is manned almost entirely by robots, who will take visitors through several of Verne’s stories, acting out the parts of the heroes, villains, and side characters. The main character’s family is one of a number of people who are given a sneak peek at the park before it opens. But soon after they arrive, there are several earthquakes, and the main character and his little brother get separated from the family. Everyone then seems to have vanished, except for the robots, who are beginning to act under their own power and attack. The setting draws from eight of Verne’s books (I’ll give their common English names):

  • Dick Sand, a Captain at Fifteen
  • Five Weeks in a Balloon
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • Carpathian Castle
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • Facing the Flag
  • Around the Moon

I read Around the World in 80 Days when I was a kid, and I’ve heard of Journey and 20,000 Leagues; the other books I haven’t even heard of. The cover art shows all the characters in a rather unusual style:

The picture shows the 8 party members you can get during the game. From the top left they are Nicolai (a Russian who fights with his fists), Chris (an American nurse who fights with a basketball), David (an Englishman who fights with a rugby ball), Ai (your girlfriend who fights with a baseball), main character (who fights with a sword), Somu (an Indian who uses technology), Emma (a wheelchair-bound woman), Kei (main character’s younger brother), and then Shaolin (Chinese girl) at the very top . Unfortunately I named the main character kurisu as usual so I ended up with two people named Chris in the party (the default name is YOU).

The battle system has two kinds of special attacks. The first kind use something called GP (Guts Points) which is just the usual EP/MP. The second kind are called TW attacks (I never did figure out what that stands for) and use Energy. Energy serves as the currency in the shops, as well as the energy for these TW attacks. You equip them like items, and then “charge” up EP in the status menu. Some TW moves can only be used by certain characters.

With the exception of the very beginning, GP restoring items are so cheap and easily available that you will rarely use regular attacks. However, they miss quite frequently, and against bosses they can be a liability so TW attacks (which do not miss) are better. Most bosses have some kind of elemental weakness that you can exploit if you find it, but I found the most generally useful TW’s to be the various Chainsaws. There were some bosses they did not work on, but for the most part just spamming Chainsaw attacks with healing items was enough.

Sometimes you are also in vehicles, which have the same basic system but no TW attacks and the healing is done through Repair Kits.

First Kurisu and Kei try to contact Kurisu’s girlfriend Ai, but the connection is cut off. At the same time, they hear that someone named Emma is stuck in a ferris wheel and try to save her because at least then they’ll have another human.

Why is King Kong in the game? Anyway, he’s holding Emma, but once we beat him up he gives her back. Emma is in a wheelchair but knows a lot about computers so is a big help in figuring out where everyone is. Anyway I will try to hit the highlights of the story rather than covering everything (as I usually do unless the story is really good).

The basic way the plot moves is that we are trying to open up various areas that have been blocked by either flooding, broken doors, etc. Through a combination of Emma’s computer skills and going to places in person, we manage to continue on into the park. Usually the characters in the books (like Phineas Fogg) are helpful; they are somehow not affected by whatever has caused the majority of the robots to go berserk and fight us.

The game does not have you go literally through the plots of the books, but often you have to make your way through areas from the books that are full of danger — if the park were working correctly you would have “defeat the villains” through some scripted sequence and not be in any real danger, but here you actually have to fight your way through. Fortunately the theme park shops are still running normally so you can buy weapons, armor, and food along the way.

Eventually we learn that all this is happening because of Verne, the central robot that is supposed to be manning the whole thing. But a separate entity called Dark Verne has split off from Verne, and decided that humanity needs to be destroyed. The rest of the park humans (like kurisu’s parents) are in cold sleep for some reason; it was never made clear that I can remember why Dark Verne didn’t just kill them.

We also encounter someone named Gilarman, who has apparently come in from the outside and tries to take control of the situation by ordering us around. We sort of follow his instructions, but not always — eventually it turns out that Gilarman is behind the creation of Dark Verne; he did this to become superhuman and eventually take over the world (mwahaha). But he has lost control of the program, and after he continually tries to betray us and get back control of the island, Dark Verne eventually kills him by blowing up a helicopter he’s in.

Our ultimate goal is to take the Reset Disc to be able to restore the park to “factory settings”, so to speak, eliminating Dark Verne and all of Gilarman’s interference. This eventually requires fighting Dark Verne himself:

He heals himself once, but with chainsaws he was pretty easy. Then the final boss, which is computer-world Dark Verne:

This is a rather unusual final boss. He also heals himself and is a bit more tanky than regular Dark Verne, but at max level (64, which is very easy to attain) he goes down fairly easily.

After this everyone is restored from cold sleep with no memory of what happens, and the park is back to normal.

This isn’t a bad game, but it’s not one of the greats either. I will give it a lot of credit for the unique setting, and I think if you like Jules Verne and know more about the books than I do you may enjoy it more. I will also credit them for including a bunch of different characters from different countries and skin tones and not being super stereotypical about them (the African American Chris does play basketball which is a bit cliche but she’s also a social worker nurse.)

The battle system has enough variety that you cannot just hold down a turbo button in battles. The interface, for the most part, is very clean. Definitely a respectable mid-late SFC game.

SRPG Game 75 – TILK: The Girl from the Blue Sea Part 2 (PSX)

(This is the second post on this game.)

Chapter 3 – The Oannes, the People at the Bottom of the Sea

Billy tries to go out by himself to rescue Silky, but everyone obviously knows he’s going to do it and they all show up to help (even Jake). Meanwhile Gratz, the head pirate, is showing Silky the dresses he bought for his estranged daughter — he hopes that one day when he meets his wife and daughter again he can give the dresses as a present (Silky points out that she’ll be too big for them…I guess it’s the thought that counts).

Billy and the gang show up on the ship, and fight the pirates. After they win, Gratz threatens them with a gun, but a mysterious figure with a skull mask (Captain Skull) shows up and knocks the gun away, then they have to fight the pirates again.

After this fight, the pirates are about to retreat again, but Kars has had enough — he pulls out his own gun and shoots Billy, knocking him off the ship. Silky dives in after her. The skull mask guy seems to recognize Kars, and tries to intercept him, but Kars retreats. Robots come on to the ship, and the pirates and kids team up to fight them.

A few days pass, and everyone assumes Billy is dead. They’re all moping around in the treehouse, but Jake comes and insults them for being so weak — they realize he’s right and go to the beach to search for Billy. On the beach they fight some random monsters again, and then Silky shows up, giving them Billy back, who is alive.

Meanwhile we see a flashback. It turns out that Silky is one of the Oannes, the descendants of Bell (who appeared as a ghost in chapter 2). Her mother is the great priest of the tribe. By bringing Billy to the underwater area she has broken the rules of the tribe, which says that they cannot show themselves openly until the time is right. She must be banished, and her voice taken away.

Later Billy thanks Silky, but she can’t speak.

Then Silky is captured.

It’s Elrich, the little kid from the empire, who wants Silky as the key to open Eden. He leaves, leaving behind robots that Jake and Billy have to fight, along with the pirates who now want to help.

Elrich’s underlings, meanwhile, have analyzed the Emerald Tablets (I think Kars got them in the previous chapter; he turns out to have been one of Elrich’s underlings). They’re in a submarine, heading for Eden. Kars it trying to get Silky to talk so they can learn the secret of Tupshimaty, but of course she can’t talk. It also looks like Elrich’s main motivation is to get back at adults who treat him like a child — he’s the son of one of the higher-ups in the Empire.

Fortunately the pirates’ ship happens to have a submarine function as well — they haven’t used it before….fortunately it works. The pirates fire torpedoes at the Empire ship but the ship manages to get away, and reaches the island where Tupshimaty is being held. The kids and pirates catch up, and fight their way through Imperial forces and robots down into a building.

Eventually they meet up with Elrich, Kars, and Silky at a door. After beating up the Imperial troops, Kars shoots Captain Skull’s mask off and it turns out its Billy’s dad. He was once an Imperial soldier but deserted. In any case the victory of the kids is short lived because Elrich reveals his trump card — a huge robot called King Poseidon.

Elrich threatens to kill everyone if Silky doesn’t use the tablets to release Tupshimaty. She finally relents.

The power of Tupshimaty goes into King Poseidon, and Elrich is overjoyed — now he can use the robot to make sure no one ever looks down on him or insults him for being a kid again. However, his joy is short lived. King Poseidon starts to go haywire, and begins to destroy the temple. Kars is killed by falling rocks, and Elrich has to face death for the first time. This shocks him to the point where he realizes this isn’t a game, and he escapes with the pirates and kids back to the ships. Meanwhile King Poseidon continues to rampage, pulling down the temple.

Final Chapter – Goodbye to Our Island

Everyone makes it back to Tilk safely (except for Kars of course), but it turns out that King Poseidon was not destroyed. It reappears from the water and heads for Tilk. Elrich tries to run away, but Captain Gratz stops him and forces him to take responsibility for what he’s done and help us deal with King Poseidon. Unfortunately it has no weaknesses, but the group comes up with a plan — set off the volcano and cause a tsunami that will destroy the robot. Unfortunately this will destroy the island as well, so they have to evacuate everyone.

Billy and the other kids head back to their secret base to recover their box of treasures — the final battle is a bit of an anticlimax but I guess dealing with robots at the base has some meaning.

After that, it turns out that the Empire submarine they sent to cause the volcanic eruption was destroyed by King Poseidon. Billy heads down to the cape and finds Silky where he first met her.

Silky decides since Tupshimaty is the fault of the Oannes people, she’ll have to solve the issue as well. She breaks her tribe’s rules once again by talking.

Using the power called the Magnus Stone, she’s able to cause the eruption, but this means she will have to go back to her people to deal with the punishment for breaking the rules again.

Everyone escapes Tilk before the tsunami arrives. But since everything is destroyed, they are going to have to go their separate ways for a while will things are rebuilt. The pirates decide to go find Captain Gratz’s wife and daughter, and Elrich heads back to the Empire to face a court-martial for his deeds.

The kids meet one last time and divide their treasures on the shore. Now the game asks you to pick your favorite treasure (these are bonus “memory” items you get after certain battles).

I chose a picture that Fon took of the group.

The scene switches then to Billy showing the object to someone who seems to be his son. We’re many years later when Billy has moved back to Tilk, married, and had a kid.

Billy’s wife yells at them to come for dinner and stop wasting time. But as they go, Billy’s son hears a song from the sea (whether it’s Silky or another member of the tribe isn’t clear).

So that’s Tilk. Great story, characters, and setting, lousy gameplay.

SRPG Game 75 – TILK: The Girl from the Blue Sea (PSX)

Tilk: The Girl From the Blue Sea (TILK 青い海から来た少女), released 4/25/1997, developed by TGL

This is another obscure game, one that I did not notice in my original list but I picked it up later. It was released for both the PSX and Saturn — the Saturn version has full voice acting (I think). I didn’t find this out until after I had played about half of the Playstation version. However, the voice work sounded a bit amateurish and I had never heard of any of the seiyuu, and the ability to speed up the battles was pretty important so I’m fine with the Playstation version.

It’s also an unusual experience for me. Usually I value gameplay above everything else, and I always say that a good story can’t save bad gameplay. I was proven wrong here though — based on my criteria this gets an A rating because I was playing it for fun right up to the ending scene. But objectively speaking the battle system is not good, and the interface has a lot of problems too. Thus the A- rating. So what I am going to do with this post is first describe the system, and then spend the rest of this post (and maybe another one) telling the story.

First off, I really like the graphics.

The sprites and the backgrounds have a great feel to them that accentuate the story. But let’s get to the battles.

The game proceeds in sequence from one battle to the next. You can only save in battles, and the only time you can do status screens is before a battle, where you can equip up to 3 accessories, and if you have more than 8 people, choose which 8 you want to send out. Once in battle, it’s typical player turn-enemy turn, you can choose the order.

Everyone has pretty low movement rates. You can attack (everyone has a range-1 attack and a range-2 attack), but the hit rates tend to be lower than I would like. There is a weapon-triangle like system with each character having a certain affinity. Special moves are 100%, but neither the instruction booklet nor the game itself tell you what most of them do. You can use items freely without taking turns, but the only way to get items is the treasure boxes in the stage, so you have to be careful. There is also a “wait” that changes your stance to raise or lower stats, and a “field action”. This is supposed to let you do things like roll barrels but it’s rarely useful, and often involves some obscure item that they don’t tell you what it does.

Movement is annoying because you can’t move through your own guys, so it’s easy to get stuck.

Unskippable battle animations.

Since the treasure boxes are the only way to get items you want to get as many of them as possible, but it’s not practical to get every single one on every map — it is a big waste of time in the game though to keep one enemy alive and take 15 turns tracking down all the boxes. Healing items are particularly valuable because you don’t get many good techniques that heal.

The goal is usually beat all enemies, but some maps are “beat boss” or “reach a certain point on the map”.

So unfortunately the battle system pretty much stinks. Once you get used to its quirks it becomes a bit less annoying, but it’s never a whole lot of fun, and you definitely want an emulator with speedup.

So let’s get to the story and setting with the Prologue chapter “Boys of Tilk Island”. The text and pictures won’t capture the detail and charm of the game, but at least it’s something.

The game takes place on the island of Tilk. This is an island to the far south with rich farmland and blue seas. The main character Billy Drake is the son of a fisherman. At the beginning of the game he has overslept again, and races to the treehouse to meet his four friends. They are Fon Tokun (a nerdy scientist type), Meril Fount (the lone girl), Pack Myson (the son of a shipbuidler) and Grus Ganto (a big strongman).

At first the kids waste time by going down to the ocean to beat up Sand Jellyfish and visit the local farm to see baby animals, but eventually they decide to visit a nearby mountain. Unfortunately this is the domain of another kid named Jake and his band of unruly ruffians (Sharks).

From left to right it’s Rui, Jake, Phillip, and Eric (the big one). Grus actually used to be a part of this band until Billy beat him in a fight and then Grus joined Billy. In any case, Jake doesn’t like the Billy group invading his territory. They knock the Sharks around a bit but then go home because it’s late.

The next day Billy and his friends are wasting time on the beach, looking for a rumored pirate ship that has supposedly been visiting the area. The adults tell them to go deal with some crabs that have been bothering the fishermen. After that, Billy hears some mysterious singing that nobody else does. Going to a certain place on the beach he meets a girl named Silky.

They talk for a bit but then when Billy’s friends show up Silky disappears.

Meanwhile Jake wants to get Grus to rejoin his group, and when Grus refuses again, the Sharks attack him. (This is the hardest battle in the game; if you did not save a healing item you can go left from the start and there is a Bread in a box. That should be enough to win the battle.)

After this, the whole group decides to take on Jake’s band, and when Billy’s group defeats the Sharks, Jake gets depressed and decides that he is once again alone as he always is. Later, it turns out that Rui never came home, so Billy and his friends go look for her. They find her in the Sharks’ base (an abandoned mine), but she’s being attacked by some kind of robot.

With the help of Eric they take down the robot and rescue Rui. Later when the adults show up, Billy’s father seems to recognize the robot but says nothing.

Chapter 1 – The Legend of the Hidden Treasure

The group decides that for today’s adventure, they will visit a nearby island to explore an abandoned house. But how will they get to the island? They meet Silky on the beach who reminds them that when the tide is down (like today) they can simply walk over there. Silky trails along as they explore the house — and happen upon the pirates!

They spy on Captain Gratz and his underlings Henry and Oyster. They’re looking at a map showing the location of six emerald tablets. This makes Silky alarmed, and she insists that they have to steal the map. The other kids are hesitant, but Silky charges in and manages to rip half of the map away. The kids fight grunt pirates on their way out of the house.

The kids escape through the forest and back to the mainland. Silky explains a legend: in olden times the gods and humans lived together, but the gods became birds and fish, and now some of them live in an underwater palace Dilm, where something called Tupshimaty exists, that can grant wishes. They need to keep enough of the emerald tablets from the pirates that they won’t get access.

Chapter 2 – To the Island of Adventure

The next day, Billy and his group set out to visit the islands marked on the map (I don’t remember how they get a boat; I forgot to write that down). Jake and Rui come along, but Jake decides this is none of his business and leaves. Meanwhile, the pirates are pissed off. They want the half of the map back. A fourth member named Kars offers to kill the kids, but Gratz turns him down — that goes against his pirate code.

The island segments can be done in any order. In the first one I did, we cut the tablet out of a tree — after everyone else leaves, Silky appears to talk to the tree, and apologizes before healing it. The second one involves beating up armor sharks — the kids feel bad afterwards because the sharks were just protecting their area.

At the next islands, the robots from first chapter are back. A young girl named Bell initially attacks the kids thinking they’re with them.

But once the kids drive off the robots, she relents. She was just protecting her “god”, and gives up the emerald tablet. She then disappears, leaving only a skeleton behind…

Meanwhile, a little kid named Elrich, who a commander from an Empire, is heading to the island for an as-of-yet unknown reason.

The final emerald tablet on the kids’ map is at the top of a mountain, but the pirates manage to find them and chase them up the mountain. Of course the kids manage to beat the pirates up as usual and get the tablet.

Now the pirates have kidnapped Phillip, a weak, traitorous member of the Sharks (Jack’s gang). With very little prompting he gives up the location of Billy’s secret base, and the pirates go there to get the tablets…of course they lose to the kids, yet again.

Now there is an interlude — Pack’s grandfather, who was once a famous adventurer, is sick. Pack wants to go to the mountain to find a Veronica Flowers — many years ago his grandfather brought some seeds back and planted them, and he thinks that if he can show one of the flowers to his grandfather he’ll feel better. Unfortunately they don’t grow well in this warm climate.

At first they only find one, and Pack can’t bring himself to uproot the only flower remaining from his grandfather’s seeds. But then they find that a whole bunch of them grew elsewhere, and he brings one back.

However, on the way back they meed Fredrick (the grandfather) who seems to have totally recovered. The other kids head back to town, and Pack talks to his grandfather. Fredrick says he’s about to go on a long journey with his friends — Pack wants to go too, and Fredrick says that he’ll come back for Pack eventually, when Pack is ready to go. He also tells Pack not to come to the harbor tomorrow, because it’s bad luck to see off a sailor while crying. Pack heads back home. The next day, the grandfather is found dead in his bed, and the funeral occurs, although Pack does not attend.

Next the pirates fake a circus to try to trap the kids…it doesn’t really work, though, because Billy and his gang have no idea what a circus is. Eventually they just have to strongarm the kids into the tent and attack them. As usual the kids beat them up, but in the resulting chaos, Silky is captured. Later a letter comes for the kids saying that if they want Silky back, they have to give up the Emerald Tablets they have.

I’m going to stop there so this post doesn’t get too long — I’ll post the other two chapters soon, maybe tomorrow, or Monday at the latest. It’s really a shame that the gameplay was so bad or this would be an all-time classic, I think.