Author Archives: kurisu

SRPG Game 63 – Arc the Lad II

Arc the Lad II (アーク・ザ・ラッドII), released 11/1/1996, developed by Arc Entertainment

Information

  1. Turn type: Player/enemy phase
  2. Maps: The maps don’t have much in the way of features, and they’re fairly small.
  3. Character Customization: None
  4. Character Development: Standard XP/level system, plus levelling of weapons and other equipment, as well as levels for each type of weapon.
  5. Party Size: Max 5
  6. Equipment: One weapon and two other slots.
  7. Game Flow: The game is much more like a normal RPG, just without truly random encounters (some battles can be repeated).
  8. Saving: At specific save points, although if you lose a battle you just try the battle again
  9. Death: After the battle, the character returns with 1 HP.

Arc the Lad was one of the earliest RPGs for the Playstation, and it was released in a fairly incomplete state — apparently Sony pressured the developers to get something out because they wanted some RPG titles to promote on the platform. The original game could be beaten in less than 5 hours and the game stopped in the middle of the story (although with extra content the length could be extended to 15-20 hours).

By contrast, the second game is much more polished and finished, and both the main story and the extra content are significantly expanded. The RPG elements are also greatly increased; you can explore the towns and dungeons, and freely travel to various places. In fact, I would say this game is one that technically satisfies my definition of SRPG but feels much more like regular RPG with grid battles.

The first game ended on a cliffhanger of sorts, but rather than picking up immediately from where they left off, this game begins with an entirely different protagonist, Elc. This is an interesting decision by the writers, since the first game made such a big deal about how Arc was the destined hero who would save the world and such. Also, this game begins by letting you transfer data from the first game.

In any case, the game begins with Elc having a bad dream, it seems that the Silver Noah (Arc’s ship from the first game) attacked his village, although his memory is a bit dim. If you’ve played the first game, you know that Alc and his friends were framed as villains.

Elc is a “hunter”, someone who does odd jobs for money at the guild — throughout the game there are a number of sidequests you can do from the guild to get additional money (forerunner to the Trails in the Sky Bracer’s Guild?) You also can get info about wanted monsters that can be found in various places for money. This includes Arc, who is worth a huge amount.

Each character has a set of weapon skills they can build, and the weapons and items themselves have experience levels that can increase their statistics. As in the previous game, there are throw/catch values that affect range, counterattack, and jump.

I have to say that I am still not a fan of the Jump idea. You cannot pass through your own party members or enemies unless you have a high enough Jump value. The battlefields are often very narrow and it’s easy for your characters to get stuck in places where they can’t move, whereas if you have jump it’s easy to just jump over the enemy and attack them from behind. I suppose this adds some strategic value to the maps, but I would have preferred if the system were a bit weaker — I think part of the problem is too many characters/enemies have the Jump necessary to jump over people to attack from behind, and getting blocked by your allies because the field is so small is annoying.

The battle interface is still the streamlined one from the first game where you just use circle to attack rather than picking from a menu. While this is not a bad system, I don’t like the fact that X is both “close menu” and “end turn”. Having played so many SRPGs up to now, I have the deeply ingrained habit that X means to back-up choices, and in particular, to start your move over. Although I feel like I should have gotten used to it by now, I still find this happening too often: Move character, see that spell range is wrong, press X to exit the menu and then X again to start my move over again….but that skips turn instead. When the spell I was hoping to cast is a heal spell, this can have disastrous consequences. I guess this is mostly my fault.

Those are my two main complaints about the game, which overall is pretty good, so I’m just getting them out of the way. Elc soon meets up with Liza, who has a wolf with her. She can use the Ravish ability to capture monsters, which is a major way to get additional people on your team. Unfortunately she’s also being pursued.

As I said before, this time you can freely explore the towns, and even do a bit of travel on the world map (more later when you have an airship).

The next character to be introduced is the ninja Shu, a friend of Elc’s. Another upcoming member, Shante, is a dancer who offers information for money — to earn the money it’s time to do guild quests, which are now available. But even when we have the money, she’s gone.

You can rename the items

From here the game proceeds smoothly as Elc and friends investigate the mystery of why his village was attacked, and try to destroy the research labs that the Empire has set up. The first game had a problem with level differences making a huge effect on combat effectiveness — this problem is one that is shared by a lot of games (such as Tactics Ogre, Sword Master, and Summon Night). I found that it was hard to catch the lower leveled people up, and I relied mostly on Arc and Gogen to power through the first game. Here it seemed like it wasn’t as hard to keep everyone even on levels — this may be because you level more quickly, or because you seem to get XP for more things (like having spells cast on you).

However, this changes once we get through the first part of the game and deal with the “White House” where Elc and friends were kept. For the next third or so of the game, you switch around from character to character and are often dealing with ad-hoc parties of only 2 or even 1 person. You also team up frequently with the Arc the Lad 1 characters. My understanding is that if you do not carry over data, they all start very powerful, but instead I got the low levelled scrubs that I had in AtL1. I think this made many of the battles in this section much more difficult than they were supposed to be — fortunately if you get a game over you just repeat the battle you lost.

But this is definitely a weak point in the game for me, and where it feels the most RPG-ish. 2 vs 3 or 1 vs 2 battles are not my idea of an SRPG, particularly when they are forced deploy low level units.

Anyway, I’ll end there for this week. There are more aspects to the game, particularly some of the optional content, that I’ll get into more next time when it becomes more of a presence in the game. My overall opinion at this point is that the story is entertaining but the gameplay is still somewhat disappointing, although better than the first game.

Hopefully I can finish the game by next weekend’s post.

Welcome! (Sticky post)

Thank you for visiting; this is a blog that chronicles my playthroughs of various Super Famicom, PC Engine, and general strategy RPGs. Feel free to respond here to introduce yourself, let me know what your favorite SRPG is, whatever.

I generally update on Saturday or Sunday. I play one strategy RPG, then two Super Famicom (or PC Engine) RPGs.

I’ve now finished the links to all the previous posts, so you can use the links at the top to see the full list of played games so far. Also, if you are only interested in certain types of posts, you can filter by categories (see the bottom of the sidebar). The three categories are Strategy RPGs, Super Famicom RPGs, and PC Engine RPGs.

SFC Game 74 – Nekketsu Tairiku Burning Heroes

Nekketsu Tairiku Burning Heroes (熱血大陸バーニングヒーローズ). Released 3/17/1995, published by Enix

In this game, the player can choose from 8 different heroes — at first only 4 are there, but when you beat one scenario, another hero will be unlocked that’s from the first hero’s story. This seems to recall games like Live a Live, or perhaps Dragon Quest IV/Monster Maker 3 with the separate heroes. But Burning Heroes does things a bit differently.

I chose Lila first, who is a “treasure hunter”. Her scenario begins with her idol Fuga sending her on a quest to find the three Jabol orbs. She doesn’t really know why Fuga wants it, but assumes it’s just some kind of collector’s item.

The first thing we can do is explore the town and find some information, as well as get party members. The NPC party members have no role in the story at all; they just fill out the party for combat purposes (there is one place at the end where they each say a line but they’re not specific to the character). Then we leave the town and get into the first battle.

The biggest problem with the game is the battle system, I think. You cannot control the NPC characters at all — there isn’t even an AI setting. What this means is that magic users are worthless because they will immediately use their strongest magic and run out of MP within a few battles, leaving them as weaker fighters. So you want a full party of fighters, plus Lizer who only has heal spells — the heal AI is a bit better, and he won’t use the spells unless someone is hurt. At the same time, it’s sometimes frustrating that he won’t heal you when it’s necessary.

I really don’t understand this choice by the designers. It’s not the first time I’ve wondered about baffling choices made by companies or designers — I’d love to see an interview or anything where they explain their thought process behind this system.

What you can do is change the formation of your characters in battle. You start with just one formation, but earn more from leveling as well as finding books in dungeons — you will end up with 25 or so formations. Unfortunately, there are no explanations for what the formations do. Some of them are identified by letters: H increases hit rate, D is defense, M is magic defense, and A is balance (I think?) If you pick an M formation it will greatly reduce magic damage but also your characters will do very little damage.

There is also a system where if certain characters are on certain positions in the battlefield, they will do a “rush attack” that does more damage — but there’s no way to tell what positions those are, and according to one Japanese site I saw they even change positions as they level.

As the main character gets hurt, their “nekketsu” meter goes up, and when it hits 100% you can do a Nekketsu move that does damage to all the enemies.

For Lila’s scenario, the first thing we do is recover the Jabol orbs. One thing you find in various places in each scenario are Jump Shoes; by holding down Y you can jump across gaps. The more Jump Shoes you have, the longer gap you can traverse, so you sometimes have to find additional Shoes to be able to progress.

After finding the three orbs, she takes them back to Fuga and it turns out that Fuga has been controlled by some sort of power. Zades appears and uses the orbs to revive the Demon Jakou. Now Lila has to pursue Jakou to stop his goal of taking over the world.

Most of part 2 is chasing Zades. Lila eventually catches up with him at a ruin. Zades explains that he wants revenge on humans for destroying the Earthlings many centuries ago, and that he’s going to use the power of Jakou and a sky ship to do it. Lila destroys Zades, but Jakou has already headed up to the sky lands, and Lila follows.

The sky area has three dungeons. Lila defeats Jakou in the second dungeon, who then decides to crash Cosmion (the sky tower) into Earth, killing everyone. Lila goes through Cosmion and kills the remaining Earthling called Death Wise.

Once Death Wise is defeated, Cosmion goes into the sea instead for some reason, and Lila survives with Fuga — although there’s really no ending sequence beyond that.

After beating Lila’s scenario I decided to try Ryu’s scenario. Ryu’s father is the warrior Adam, who we heard about in Lila’s scenario. Adam went out and left Ryu alone.

As I played this, I realized two things: first, all the dungeons are repeated from Lila’s scenario, although they’re in a different order. Second: the plot is a repeat of the Lila plot, with the same final boss and final dungeon, just with a different motivation for the main character and some other different plot details. So Ryu’s story is not a different part of the story that’s complementary to Lila’s, it’s the same story retold with a different main character.

I then was going to try Shen’s story, which was unlocked by beating Lila. However, checking a walkthrough, it seemed that Shen’s story also had the same dungeons and the same final boss. Looking further through the walkthrough, it was clear that some of the people had some different dungeons, but that the final chapter was the same for all 8 heroes, with one different dungeon but the same final dungeons and boss. Furthermore, nothing happens if you complete all 8 scenarios — there’s no final scenario or anything, the game’s just over at that point.

So I’m not sure I see much point in playing the other six scenarios, especially since the battle system isn’t all that great. I don’t think it would take an especially long time (probably all 8 scenarios together would be in the 20-30 hour range). Can anyone else who’s played this offer an opinion? For now I’m going to move on to Arc the Lad II but if anyone can offer a compelling reason to play the other 6 scenarios I can do that before moving on to Esparks

SFC Game 73 – Love Quest

Love Quest (ラブクエスト)
Released 3/17/1995, published by Intermedia

This is a stupid game — that is, a “bakage” to use the Japanese word. It falls into the same category as Maka Maka in that it relies heavily on humor based on parody, gag manga tropes, poop jokes, puns, and occasional racist humor. It was originally developed for the Famicom and apparently completed in 1994, but then the release was cancelled and it was ported to the Super Famicom.

The game begins with the weak-willed “mothercon” (Jocasta complex) main character at his wedding with his fiance Yuka. But then suddenly Yuka disappears, and the main character goes on a quest to find her.

The game takes place entirely in various areas of Tokyo. There really is no coherent plot; it’s mostly just a string of parodies and jokes as I mentioned above, as the main character travels through various regions of Tokyo. I’ve never liked gag manga-style humor, and I didn’t really think most of the game was that amusing. Along the way you’re joined by two main helper women. The first is Haruka, who works as a cashier in a store.

 The second is Reiko, a “fleeter” (someone who does temporary jobs).

 
There are other women with these full size pictures as well, although they don’t join the party.
Some of the plot elements include defeating rogue cabs that have come to life, catching a panty thief, appearing on a TV station, and tricking a Crane Game machine into digging a tunnel.

In the end, you finally discover Yuka on a ship in Yokohama harbor. It turns out she ran away so that you could go out an earn experience and money, which makes you a more attractive husband. The main character is so upset by this that he rejects her and marries either Haruka or Reiko instead (depending on choices you made earlier). He throws away all his XP and gold, and the final scene is the new couple’s life where they have no money and he can’t get a job because he has no experience.

The game itself is a pretty normal RPG. It has a lot of usual bad features of old RPGs — slow walking with no dash button, no way to see the stats of equipment, no explanations of what the techniques (spells) do, etc. Rather than fighting monsters, you encounter women, and the “attack” command is replaced by “flirt” (kudoku, which can also just mean “persuade” — I don’t know if the game is using that as a kind of double meaning or whether the “persuade” meaning has become obsolete.)

Once you get party members, they don’t participate in the battle, but you can ask them to heal you or to “protect” (I never fully understood what this did). The main character’s techniques are color coded based on their effect, but it still would have been nice to have some explanation of them.

Some of the “foreigners” you meet are depicted in pretty stereotypical/racist manner, like the black person in the illustration above. Also at one point you visit the Indian embassy where they’re all walking around eating curry, and later they are contentedly eating a huge pile of poop, having mistaken it for curry. 

On the whole, I’m not sure this game is really worth playing. Maybe if you really like Japanese-style humor it might work for you, and at least I can say that the setting is original and it’s not the same old “defeat the demon lord” sword and sorcery game. There are a lot of townspeople to talk to. The enemies are colorful and detailed, and the graphics on the whole are fairly good, especially when you consider that this was ported from a Famicom game.

After yet another frustrating week with Blogger (having a lot of difficulty uploading the pictures, which has been broken ever since they switched to the new layout), I have decided almost for certain that I am going to transition to a WordPress site, where I will most likely combine my two blogs into one (using the more flexible layout to make it easy for people to find the various posts). It may be a while before I actually do this, and I will continue to post links on the Blogger site for a good while after I switch, but in the end I think it will be better. And if I continue to do posts after I finish the SFC project, that will be even more convenient.

Also, I may not have a post next weekend due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but we’ll see.

Deep Dungeon

 I’m on the last chapter of Vandal Hearts so I should be back here next week. Until then, a short post continuing my “old RPGs” sequence — this time the Famicom Disk System game Deep Dungeon.

This is the first of four first-person dungeon crawler games for the Famicom (the first two for the disk system). It’s the first attempt to transfer the Wizardry-style gameplay to a console. It is considerably simpler than its inspiration; you control only one character who is just a fighter — you can buy items and use them to cast spells by spending HP, but other than that it’s just attack.

The story is pretty simple — a princess has been captured and you have to go into the underground dungeon (just like Wizardry) to find her. There are 8 floors about the same size as Wizardry ones. The game is also quite similar to the first Wizardry in that the main activity of the game is making maps of the dungeon. There is very little to find in the dungeon — for instance, the first floor has a couple of places where you can find gold, and one message. There are some places with guaranteed encounters and adventurers, but other than that the maze is empty. This is something that I found fun when I was a kid and hadn’t played many of these games, but now I feel like there has to be stuff to find in the dungeons or it’s not fun just to wander around.

One other clear indication of Wizardry’s influence is that you have to press a button to kick a door down rather than just walking through it.

Saving requires you to switch sides of the disk, which takes a long time (of course in a modern emulator you can just use a save state).

I wandered around the first floor for a while. The encounter rate is very low, but the main character has a hard time surviving. There’s also a certain sluggishness to the whole game, which is not that surprising from this era.

There is a translation patch (and a full set of maps on GameFAQs) so this can be played, but it’s hard to imagine many people finding it fun. I think I would have enjoyed it in 1986 when it came out, because these kinds of RPGs were still fairly new. But I can’t see playing it now except for some kind of masochist completion.

The series takes steps forward in successive entries, by adding multiple dungeons, more characters. The second game came out about 6 months after this one, suggesting that like Dragon Quest I this was more of a trial run and the next game is a more polished entry. If I keep doing these early games now and then we’ll see Deep Dungeon 2 before too long.

Surging Aura

 For this week’s off-week post I’m looking at Surging Aura for the Mega Drive, which came out the same day as the next two SFC games on my list. I was already planning in my mind a post that would contrast the Mega CD with the Playstation that just came out as well as the PC Engine CD — but then I realized that Surging Aura is not a Mega CD game, it’s just a regular Mega Drive cartridge game. It looks like of the 4 Mega Drive RPGs that came out in 1995, only one of them was a CD game. This is in sharp contrast to the PC Engine, where the final non-CD RPG came out in 1992. The Mega Drive was a more technologically advanced system than the PCE, but it’s still surprising to see that many games released this late in the system.

As you can see from the title screen, the character designs are by Inomata Mutsumi. She is best known for her work on the Tales series over 20 years; this is an early video game she worked on (I believe she had done some anime work before this as well). This game has a feature I wish SFC RPGs had — inset graphics and face graphics.

Maybe there was a feeling that it’s better for all the action to take place in one style of view, but I like these graphical insets, especially for games when you can barely tell even what the characters look like without the instructions.

The story starts out pretty cliche — the main character, Muu, is waking up to go through a ceremony to confirm him as crown prince. But as the ceremony starts, monsters attack and seemingly kill everyone, including Muu himself. But a “time rabbit” comes out and restores Muu’s life, leaving him in an unknown place. But since he’s a silent protagonist we don’t know who he is or where.

Immediately in the town he wakes up in, bandits attack the magic shop and steal away a girl, and Muu finds himself assisting a local guardsman who is in love with her to free her.

The combat system is interesting; it’s a realtime system where you choose an action while a glass sphere fills up. When it fills, the action happens (but magic takes additional time beyond that). Then they will just keep doing that action until you change it. Muu starts off weak; he seems to be the only magic user (at least judging from the status screen, which has no space for any other characters to have MP).

The interface is rather frustrating to use, particularly the spellcasting. There are 6 types of spells you can get and there is some complexity in that, but to choose a spell in battle you have to use this confusing wheel and a number counter; I never found it convenient to use (I notice that richie, in his walkthrough, says that the system is bad — I’ve never seen him criticize a game in the ~40 or 50 walkthroughs of his I’ve looked at up to now).

So this is a pretty short post as these off-week ones usually are. This isn’t a terrible game and it seems generally competitive with the quality of games that were coming out for the SFC. I’m surprised that it wasn’t released on CD.

SFC Game 72 – Last Bible III

Last Bible III (ラストバイブルIII)
Released 3/4/1995, developed and published by Atlas


This is another game in the long running Megami Tensei franchise. By this point, there were five main Megami Tensei games plus the two Majin Tensei strategy RPGs. The Last Bible series was a spinoff that started on the Game Boy in 1992. The idea was to take the core idea of monster recruiting and combining, but put it into a more kid-friendly fantasy setting that eschewed the usual darker, post-apocalyptic settings of the main games. (The first two games were remade for the Game Boy Color, and the first one was released in English in 1999 as Revelations: Demon Slayer.) The games are also standard top-down RPGs rather than the first-person games of the main series.

This game has an English patch, so you can try it yourself.

1995 actually had three games released in the Bible series — Last Bible III, Another Bible (a strategy RPG which I covered on my other blog), and Last Bible Special, a game gear game that went back to the first-person dungeon style. This was a busy year for the franchise; 1995 is also when SNES remake of the first two games came out, as well as Devil Summoner for the Saturn.

I played the first two LB games quite a while back, but I don’t remember much about them. Of course because this is on Super Nintendo (and released in 1995) the graphics are much better:

The text can be annoying to read at times because they have mixed kanji and hiragana in words — I’ve played enough of these old games that I’m used to reading all hiragana text now, but having a mix of the two really throws off my speed. 

 

The story overall is much more developed than the previous games. It begins with a flashback to a group of “Shadow Walkers” who were heroes of a big war 15 years prior. One of them is Glen, the main character’s father. Another, Alec, is about to die in the snow but reaches a gate to the Makai (demon world). Now 15 years later, the Shadow Walkers are being targeted by the government of Megapolis, who has made a perpetual energy machine but at the same time outlawed the use of Gaia (a kind of magic power) by anyone. At the moment, Kurisu (the main character) is outside their purview, attending a school where he is taught to use his Gaia along with his friends. Soon, the Megapolis soldiers attack the town, and Kurisu is forced to flee. The story takes Kurisu through a fight against Megapolis while at the same time trying to figure out the mystery of the Shadow Walkers.

(The main character gains Gaia techniques from the school at the beginning, but I never found out how to actually use them. I was obviously missing something in the system because for me they always did 0-5 damage but I saw videos where people were using them for 400+ at the end of the game.)

 

The battle system is normal, but as is so often the case in these games, the game is virtually ruined by the unbelievable random encounter rate. This is my 72nd SFC game on this blog so I’ve seen a lot of games with high encounter rates, but this is one of the worst. The saving grace is that once you recruit monsters to your side, you can then talk to the monster type and the battle will end — even with this, though, it’s very tedious to go through the dungeons. And there are several places in the game where you only fight human enemies you can’t talk to — these places really sapped my will to play.

 

This is coupled by a poor balance throughout the game. The game goes from being very difficult to very easy. I reached the final boss around level 34 and got obliterated. I did grinding up to level 43 and tried again, and got obliterated. At this point I was so tired of the game I used a cheat to beat the final boss; I then went looking for guides and videos and found that most people recommended levels in the low to mid-50s (and they actually knew how to use the Gaia techniques of the main character). So I was supposed to grind 20 levels to beat the final boss, which is absurd.

The high random encounter rate coupled with rare/expensive MP restore items means that, as usual, magic is nearly worthless other than heal spells. I also found that in general the magic didn’t work very well.

As this is a Megami Tensei game, you can recruit monsters to your side. I think this is the best implementation yet of monster recruitment. You are still doing the usual “answer questions” system, but you can see both the mood of the monster and the connection level change as you answer, which means you can actually see what your answers are doing and it feels much less random. There’s also the normal monster combining. As with Shin MT2 and If…, I found usually the preset characters were better than the monsters.

This is a pretty harsh review, but I think it’s deserved. I was really disappointed by this game; I was expected another decent entry from Atlas. The world is interesting and the story is pretty good, which is a good basis, but the absurd random encounter rate and the sheer amount of grinding required makes the game a chore to play, and I got to the point where I was no longer caring about the story that much because I just wanted to get the game over with.

Now after I wrote this, I went looking for more information on the main character’s techniques, which I probably should have done during the game. Apparently you can increase the MP cost to do more damage. I wonder if I can go back and beat the final boss without cheating now, although it was mostly that I couldn’t survive his turns where he would attack 6-8 times doing several hundred damage to each person.

Anyway, if any of you have played this game maybe you can tell me how to suck less at it — I don’t think it will change my opinion on the encounter rate but maybe at least the balance won’t be such a problem then.

Next up is Vandal Hearts on my other blog, then we’ll come back here to an odd looking game, Love Quest.

SFC Game 71 – Eternal Filerna (Finished)

Last time I was heading into the Imperial capital, Bow. Bow is kind of odd because it seems like it’s just a big building — maybe we’re supposed to imagine it’s bigger or has more structures, but I’m not sure. In any case, the goal of reaching here was to find the great smith Uto, who had the secret of the Sword of Filerna.

Uto is in the basement, but he doesn’t believe Filerna’s story, until he fights her and sees her sword style. Then he reveals what he has been keeping — the Sword of Filerna can cleanse the sea that the Empire fouled, and will restore the kingdom of Firosela. So that’s now our goal, but the Black Demons have caught up with the party as well and once again we have to escape out of a secret underground passage.

Incidentally, a problem a lot of games and anime have with story consistency is how to have powerful villains that don’t just instantly crush the heroes. Most of the time this is done by making the villains incompetent for no reason, or they use nonsensical things like “Let’s not kill him now, let’s see how he progresses. Mwahaha.” or “There would be no point in killing you, you’re too weak. Mwahaha.” This game definitely leans on the incompetent villains trope. 

Better stories like Lord of the Rings use more coherent reasoning — Sauron doesn’t have the ability to warp anywhere in the world or make meteors strike Frodo. That quest succeeds partly because they play on Sauron’s blind spot (not thinking anyone would try to destroy the Ring), and using a small party that wasn’t based on combat ability. Sauron never quite learns where Frodo is or what he’s doing until the last moment.

So we escape through the basement, and fight yet another Black Demon (#22). The next goal is to head south to where Firosela was. We pass through a town and near a locked windmill shed, eventually reaching an empire military base.

We have to head back to the windmill and get some imperial clothing disguises; it also turns out that Yakos, the man there, was a Firoselan, and is happy to see that Filerna lived. He’s sick and probably won’t live to see the revival of Firosela, but at least he can help us proceed. Unfortunately the soldiers find us out pretty quickly, and we have to fight. Two of the top-tier Black Demons appear here; this was a big chokepoint for me where I had to move up about 6 levels to proceed (until I learned a better Crystal attack). Fortunately there is a heal spot in the barracks.

Afterwards there’s a strange looking baby creature in a bubble that flies away, but no explanation for that now. But now we can pass the military base and finally reach the place where Firosela was. Filerna tries to cleanse the sea with the Filerna sword.

 It makes the castle rise up that we saw in the flashback earlier. The door won’t open unless two Firoselans touch the statues, but if a non-Firoselan touches them they will die. We head back to the windmill to talk to Yakos — the rest of the game contains an annoying amount of backtracking. Yakos is too sick to go help us, but he notices that Lila reminds him of a Firoselan, and a fortune teller seems to confirm that she is Firoselan. It’s dangerous, but they try having Lila open the door, and it works.

Inside, Filerna learns that she needs to revive 6 lighthouses to be able to proceed and make a miracle happen. This part is mostly just wandering around, backtracking, and some fetch quests to make the lighthouses activate. Midway through, we head back to Bow having heard that the High Priest there is the true ruler of the Empire, and if we beat him it will severely cripple the Empire. On the way, we learn that the Resistance Armies have grown by a lot, all of them being inspired by this unknown “Filerna” that they’re hearing about. It turns out that this is all being spurred by Nest, the scenario writer we met at the beginning, who has been publishing an underground newspaper. He joins up to go deal with the high priest.

The high priest is underground in Bow, and we also find a place where they are experimenting on people (this is what they were doing to Fis much earlier). And in fact Fis is here, and fights us, but stops after a few rounds and instead decides to sacrifice himself to destroy the lab. We continue on to beat up the high priest, who actually is very easy to beat.

Once we activate all the lighthouses, the miracle is an ice boat that comes up.

We need to use this to go to the final area, the place where the Black Demons have their command HQ.

The final dungeon is a tower, and the final bosses were another chokepoint so it was time to grind (I was tired of these chokepoints and used a code this time to move up 4 levels).

After beating the last of the black demons, the story takes a strange turn:

 The fetus(?) tells us that it’s already destroyed the Empire for creating the abominations, and that now it’s just looking for a place to be born — the Heart of Hatred has captured the Pot of Life, and so we need to beat the Heart to allow this thing to be born. I don’t know what this has to do with the rest of the story (I checked another blogger who did this game and he also had no idea where this came from, so I didn’t miss anything).

The boss is not especially hard at the levels I was at (I think it’s easier than the final Black Demon fights). Upon being the boss’s two forms, we restore the Pot of Life, the source of all life of the planet. 

Now Filerna goes back to restore Firosela. We’re followed by some last remnant of the Black Demons, but when Filerna uses her sword in the ocean, Firosela is reborn and the thing dies.

Now Firosela is destroyed, and Lila seems to become the queen with Filerna. Is this the first lesbian relationship in an RPG? There’s no dialogue here but Lila is pretty insistent that she’s Filerna’s wife, throughout the whole game. I found a post of someone talking about the original novel and it does seem to imply that Lila is in love with Filerna.

Overall it’s an OK game. Interface annoyances and chokepoints are troublesome, but the skill system is interesting and the story is overall well done for a game of this period.

Next up is Last Bible III.

SFC Game 70 – Estpolis Denki II (Lufia II)

Estpolis Denki II (エストポリス伝記II)
Released 2/24/1995, published by Taito
 

The first Lufia game was a pretty standard RPG, although not that bad compared to the games made around the same time. The beginning is the part that stands out the most. It’s a time-worn game cliche that some heroes defeated an enemy long ago, and now the descendants of the heroes have to fight the enemy again. But Lufia actually starts with you playing the strong hero party in the final dungeon against the Four Gods — translated as Sinistrals to get around Nintendo of America’s content policies. At the end of the prologue, Maxim and Selena die in the Gods’ floating island while Artea and Guy escape. Then the main game takes place 90 years later with the descendants fighting the Gods again.

Lufia II focuses on Maxim and his party, so (if you played Lufia 1) you already know the ending of the game. Here we start out with Maxim living in a small village, fighting monsters for money. He has a friend/potential girlfriend Tia who runs the item store. A mysterious woman named Iris appears and tells Maxim he is a destined warrior who will defeat a great evil. Tia joins him and the adventure begins. Lufia 1 players know that by the end of the game he will have met Selena, married her, and had a child, so at least this beginning does provide some unknown direction for the story to travel.

There are some other people that join in the story — not only Tia, but also Hidekker the warrior and Lexas the scientist. They’re only around for a bit, though. The story is OK, though nothing groundbreaking beyond the fact that you know the main characters will die at the end (if you played Lufia 1 — I guess it’s a bigger surprise if you didn’t). Some of the dialogue in the ending is a bit garbled in the translation because they were not able to refer to the Sinistrals as “gods”.

The battle system is fairly standard RPG. The only innovation is the IP system. Many of the weapons and armor have IP skills that you can activate with IP points that you earn by getting hit in battle. Sometimes it’s better to equip weaker equipment that has good IP abilities (like the ones that restore MP or give you 3-5 attacks).

 

The interface is clean and easy to use, and the walking speed is fast.

Definitely the most distinctive and memorable aspect of this game is the dungeon design and puzzles. Every dungeon is full of puzzles that involve switches, moving platforms, pillars, warp tiles, and other things. You gain a variety of items (arrow, bomb, hookshot, etc.) that help you solve the puzzles. Many of them are optional and lead to treasure chests, and a counter at the end shows how many you found. You can even try the “hardest puzzle in the world” at one point.

 

The first time I had to consult a walkthrough, it was for a puzzle that had a bunch of routes in a room that all led to warps, but one was a door. The door is shut, and there’s no clues for what to do. I looked at a GameFAQs walkthrough and didn’t see any mention of it. Finally I consulted a Japanese walkthrough and found out this was based on Amidakuji, which I’ve heard of but didn’t know it well enough to recognize the puzzle.

It turns out the puzzle was removed in the English version, but rather than simply making the door open they replaced it with new puzzles having to do with colored blocks — an impressive effort by the localization team. There was one other puzzle replaced in the English version:

The room starts out with the black squares forming an X and you have to change it so the O is black instead. Japanese people have a much stronger association with “X = wrong, O = correct” than we do, and the localizers must have felt that with no hints, this would be impossible to solve. For this one they just removed the puzzle and left an empty room.

 

For the most part I found the puzzles fair and well-designed; even the few times I had to consult a walkthrough I felt that I should have been able to work the solution out on my own. There is a pretty wide variety as well, and they’re always sure to throw in an easy puzzle or two in every dungeon so you don’t always feel like you’re banging your head against the wall.

Also the designers made the excellent decision to eschew random encounters (except on the world map) and replace them with monsters on the map. This reduces a lot of potential frustration.

The game also has “capsule monsters”. You find them at various points in the game and then can feed them various weapons and items to grow them into different forms. You don’t control them in battle. I found this was the weakest part of the system — especially once you get a bunch of them, growing them just involves visiting different shops (or going to Forfeit Island) and buying items to feed them. It’s repetitive and boring; I gave up once I got them to their third forms.

Finally, there is a good amount of optional content in the game. Not just finding all the chests, but there’s also a casino, and the Ancient Dungeon. This is a 99 floor dungeon that works like a Torneko/roguelike game. You can’t bring in most items and you’ll lose most of what you have when you leave, although there are some blue chests in the dungeon that have good items you can take out. You can easily spend more time on this than the entire main quest. There are also Dragon Eggs you can find throughout the world which you can trade in for bonuses.

I missed 42 chests so I could have done a lot more.

But overall this is a great game; it’s one of the best I’ve played so far on the blog and it’s well worth all the hype it gets.

Next up will be a SRPG (Nage Libre) which was released the same day as Lufia II. I’ll be covering it on the other blog.