Category Archives: PC Engine RPGs

PCE Game 35 – Dragon Knight III (short post)

So I was going to make a short post about this game but I’m not sure I could add anything to the Hardcore Gaming 101 coverage of it, and CRPG Addict’s series on Knights of Xentar (the English localization). The game is not really worth playing.

The main mystery surrounding this game is why Megatech Software decided to make the changes they did in the localization. In the original DK3, Takeru comes to a town during his journey with no real goal, and thieves accost him. He normally doesn’t like to draw his sword against humans so they’re able to beat him up and take his stuff. In the English localization, he stumbles into town drunk, and the same thing happens. In DK3, he goes to beat up bandits to get his stuff back and figures out that the leader is actually a demon. In KoX, there’s this bizarre dialogue about the bandits coming to the town and impregnating women with “demon seed”. Desmond (the KoX main character) smells really bad and has a tiny penis, neither of which is in DK3.

So why did they do this? My only guess is this. They were trying to introduce the world of Japanese eroge to western players who were totally unfamiliar with it. Perhaps they felt that they needed to make it more crassly comic and insulting to make it less creepy or offputting to an audience who might not have reacted well to a cartoon porn game that took itself (fairly) seriously. But I really don’t know. I also wondered if the localizers themselves found the game creepy and were taking a kind of revenge by translating it this way.

There are two more Dragon Knight games that I will be playing — I will at least start the Dragon Knight 1 remake for PCE which is still another year or so away. Dragon Knight IV is an SRPG that was released for SNES, Playstation, and PC-FX (the followup to the PC Engine). I’ll be playing the Playstation version (which seems to be the most polished remake) on my other blog relatively soon.

I’ve already finished Tenshi no Uta so that post should come out this weekend.

PCE Game 34 – KO Seiki Sanjushi Revival of Gaia Kanketsuhen

KO Seiki Sanjushi Revival of Gaia Kanketsuhen (KO世紀ビースト三獣士〜ガイア復活 完結編〜)

Released 6/17/1994, Pack In Video

I’ve been in a bit of a slump with my playthroughs lately; the semester has been quite busy and I haven’t had as much time to play. I’m having trouble with Bounty Sword on my other blog and proceeding slowly through Slayers for this one. This will be a fairly short post since I only played this game for a few hours. (I also hate the new Blogger interface)

This is yet another game based on anime, this time an OVA. There were two games based on it for computers; the name “kanketsuhen” sounds like this might be a compilation remake of the two games but I wasn’t able to find enough information on it to be sure. Most of the anime-based games I’ve played so far have not been all that good; they tend to be unoriginal and dull, cashing in on the name value and putting in only a token effort to distinguish the game from any other RPG. I’ve played bad games based on anime (Fist of the North Star 5, 3×3 Eyes, Villgust), and just dull games (Ranma 1/2). This one is closer to the dull variety, although I suppose it’s not noticeably worse than a lot of the other games that were coming out at the time.

Here’s Wikipedia’s description of the series’ basis:

The series is set in the distant future in which the Earth is split in two. The southern hemisphere is placed in another dimension while the inhabitants of the northern hemisphere are able to morph into beast-like humanoids. Eventually the humans of the southern hemisphere, led by Uranus, attack the Beasts.

The Three Beasts, Wan Derbard (Wan Dabadadatta) of the Tiger Tribe, Bud Mint (Baado Mint) of the Bird Tribe, and Mei Mer (Mei Mah) of the Mermaid Tribe, are taken prisoner along with Mei Mer’s companion Tuttle Millen (Mekka Mannen, also of the Mermaid tribe), but manage to escape thanks to a little girl named Yuuni Charm Password. Together they seek Gaia, which they believe to be a fabulous treasure, but they are pursued by Uranus’s minions : V-Darn the vicious mage-knight, V-Sion the warrior woman, and Akumako, V-Darn’s sadistic imp-like partner.

This is exactly how the game starts, so they must be following the original story pretty closely. The opening sequence is fairly long, and the voice work is sadly limited — in the time I played I only saw two voiced sections, an opening cutscene narration, and one cutscene after that.

The battle system is fairly standard, but does have a “beast” option. This lets the characters (at least the three main ones) transform into their beast forms and do a powerful attack, at the cost of HP. They also get some sort of machine to allow them to cast magic with their BP, which I think stands for Battery Points. They can be recharged at stations here and there, although they were not common enough and I often had 0 BP — the instruction booklet might have helped more here, but it took me a while to even figure out how to recover them. 

The characters escape their prison not only with the help of Yuuni, but with these beast god-type things that come from the home villages of the characters to fight them. So once they escape, the goal of the game comes to recover these beast gods and find out how to use their power to fight back against the humans. They first head to Wan’s home village, where they learn that the beast associated with the village has still not returned. They head out to a nearby mountain where it has been spotted, and you fight lots of random encounters along the way.

We’re joined by a human who seems to be some kind of prince in disguise; he found us after we escaped from the humans and crash landed with the beast gods. He’s a nice addition because he can equip all the stuff whereas the beast main characters seem only able to equip a weapon and a piece of clothing.

The team does not find the beast god at the mountain, so they head on to the mermaid town where Mei Ma is from. Everyone has fled the town and gotten trapped in an underground area, and we need gunpowder to blow it up. Once we do that, there are still people trapped that need something more powerful than the gunpowder, and it’s time to find this drill machine that should work.

This is where I stopped; I couldn’t figure out where the next town was and this was a pretty run of the mill game of the kind I usually pass over quickly on the PCE. It’s not a bad game and I think if you were a fan of the anime it would be fun, but there are better games on the PCE.

Next up will be another anime-based game, Slayers for the SFC.

PCE Game 33 – Cosmic Fantasy 4

Cosmic Fantasy 4 (コズミック・ファンタジー4 銀河少年伝説突入編 伝説へのプレリュード)
Released 6/10/1994, produced by Telenet

This is the fourth and final game in the Cosmic Fantasy series for PC Engine. It’s divided into two parts, one which starts the characters from CF1, and the second which stars the CF2 characters. I have not been a huge fan of the series so far, although I was hoping that for this final game they would improve things — particularly the dullness of the battle system and the high random encounter rate.

The main characters are “Cosmic Hunters”, people who go to various planets and solve problems. This game starts out with a section that seems like it’s trying to be an adventure game. You can look at things, talk to people, search, and move.

Unfortunately this section is a waste of time. There are no puzzles, real choices, or even freedom of movement — you just choose each option over and over again until the game lets you advance. Although it does introduce the characters and the basic plot, I don’t see anything here that couldn’t have been done with a normal RPG style. At least if they wanted to do this style gameplay they should have made it less tedious. As usual, there are a lot of fanservice scenes in the game.

Yuu and Saya are the pair from the first game. Their mission this time is to go to a planet and rescue a princess who has been captured. While Yuu goes after the princess, Saya will have to pretend to be the princess so that nobody notices she’s gone.

Once this long opening scene is over, Yuu reaches the planet, and the game switches to the standard RPG mode. Yuu meets up with an old woman who is separated from her tour group, and decides to escort her to the capital — there are a bunch of digressions and side quests along the way.

They actually did change the battle system a bit. That yellow bar fills up and then it’s your turn, although you can wait a bit longer and the bar will start filling up green. I think the more green that fills it the stronger the attack is, but a full green attack is definitely stronger.

Yuu is by himself for this first part of the game. He has a lot of MP which are enough to heal and cure poison as much as needed, especially since a level up restores all HP and MP.

The first little quest is to turn humans in a village back from monsters; it turns out this monster at the top left did it because he was lonely, but in the end the villagers accept him and he can play with the village children.

Next up, we have to recover a healing grass from a dark cave.

Even though these kind of caves are an RPG staple, I’ve never really liked them. You have to blunder around in the dark passages and press random directions to find the hidden passages. At least there are no encounters.

Next up, the old woman gets kidnapped by thieves, and we have to rescue her. There are two boss fights here, the first against two of the underlings.

Then, we fight the leader. This fight took forever. Sometimes she switches into a defensive mode so you have to wait until she’s out of that or she’ll counter. I was never in danger of losing the fight because I had enough MP restore items, but it took a long time.

Then, Yuu reaches the capital. They won’t let us in to the castle so Yuu has to sneak in with help from some people he is supposed to meet here (that the initial dialogue told us about).

Now I have a party of 4. I was glad to finally get some party members, until I got into a fight. Now we have 4 people’s bars filling up. It’s like the Final Fantasy ATB system, but there are two issues. In FF4, when someone’s bar fills up it automatically switches to them. Here, you have to select them. This is fine, especially since there’s the extra green bar and some characters you might want to leave ready (like a healer).

What is not fine is the enemy turns. Unlike FF4, this is a Dragon Quest like system where everyrthing is done through text boxes showing the hit and damage that you have to clear. I found that dealing with 4 enemies bring up text boxes while also trying to select characters and attacks (which bring up text boxes) was incredibly annoying. After suffering through two battles I was done — presumably I would have gotten used to it after a while, but it was almost the end of the week anyway.

If you like the Cosmic Fantasy series, this is probably the best of the games (assuming the battle system becomes easier to manage after you get used to it). The random encounter rate seems lower, and there’s more speech and CD music. But it’s still not a great game.

PCE Game 32 – Monster Maker: Dragon Knight of Darkness

Monster Maker: The Dark Dragon Knight (モンスターメーカー 闇の竜騎士)
Released 3/30/1994, published by NEC Avenue

Monster Maker is a franchise that started out as a card game but grew to include a CCG, a tabletop RPG, manga, and such. There were a number of video games based on the franchise as well. The first couple of games used card mechanics and apparently were somewhat innovative, but after that they switched to a regular RPG format. I previous covered the third game in the series, for SNES. I thought it had a lot of potential but was hampered by some poor design decisions, and I was hoping for an improvement.

Unfortunately this game is much worse, and is an infamous kusoge for the PCE. It was hampered by a long development delay of 2 years. Even then, when it finally came out it was riddled with bugs, including ones that delete your save games or stick you in impossible to win situations. They even had to include a flyer in the package warning you about one of them. There are also freezes, combats ending for no reason, not being able to move on the world map, and others. Furthermore, the game ends suddenly in the middle of the story with “To Be Continued,” but the sequel was never made. One contemporary reviewer for a PC Engine magazine refused to give it a score because of how unfinished it was.

The early games had a card-based battle system. Monster Maker 3 changed this to regular RPG but did have some positioning elements that made it a bit different. This game goes back to just Dragon Quest II style.

The main character, Laia, is a half-elf who was abandoned and raised in the village of Ferund. She likes talking to the fairies outside of town, but is chased out of town when the town is attacked by other dark-haired elves like her. She is given her mother’s circlet and has to go on a quest to find the truth of what happened and her background.

She quickly gets two kobolds and a fighter named Mary in her party — the Monster Maker title means that there is some monster recruiting element, but like MM3 it’s poorly implemented and not necessary to use.

There’s a fair amount of voiced dialogue with some big name actors, so that’s probably the high point of the game.

In order to reach the elven village, she first has to pass a barrier station. But the leader of the station won’t let her pass until she investigates what’s going on in Derius Castle. At the same time, a dragon egg she got in the mountains hatches, giving a baby dragon.

This is basically where I stopped. The Derius Castle part requires you to go through 3 dungeons with no opportunity to heal or save. Healing items and spells do very little and I could see this was going to take a fair amount of grinding just to get through this introductory part, and with the game’s reputation I see no reason to do that.

After this game, it was 8 more years before Monster Maker 4 came out for GBA. I don’t know how that game was, but this is the last we’ll be seeing of MM on this blog.

PCE Game 31 – Princess Minerva (Part 2, Finished)

Chapter 2 takes the women to the next outlying area of the kingdom, which is a desert land. This is annoying because touching the desert does damage, and you have to cross the desert to reach the dungeons you need to. You get shoes later in the chapter that protect against the damage, but not at first.

Bonus fanservice

I noticed that in this section the SNES version has an extra floor for the dungeon; there are several places in this game where the SNES version’s dungeons are larger or an optional dungeon becomes required. Once again the heroes defeat a corrupt barracks commander as the Cutie Kamen group.

The boss of this section, the fire spirit, is in a volcano, so first we have to go get an item to freeze the lava to enter the volcano. This involves a Sphinx, who fights and then does a quiz.

Each question you get right gets you a treasure chest, and if you don’t get them all you get warped back to the beginning and then can try again up to a limit of 3. I believe that after that you get the item you need regardless of how many questions you got right. They are pretty difficult questions about history and literature; I got lucky guessing some of them and knew some other ones.

Then it’s on to Fire Pressea, who use a lot of hit-all magic. The Fire Sailor Outfit is good, as are freeze/water techniques.

Now Chapter 3, where we have a big bridge that’s broken and requires some elven shoes to fly across. The elf with the shoes doesn’t trust us humans, though, so we have to save the elf’s daughter from yet another corrupt commander. Time for another cutie kamen segment, although this time they parody the Mito Komon movies.

Then the elves also decide to improve our half-elf child’s magic abilities, which requires them to wear sheer clothing.

Then it’s off to the air tower to beat the boss, where there are invisible platforms you have to traverse.

She’s not a tough boss, especially now that the little elf girl has a strong mass heal.

Chapter 4 is in a water area, so the boss is the water follower:

We first have to deal with some slavers (Cutie Kamen style). The water lady doesn’t like them either because she wants to capture all the girls herself. Here, we get the “King Sailor Outfit” which you equip to make the characters naked, with special poses:

Does this flag my blog?

Also one of the characters leaves temporary for a personal vengeance, which is annoying because now one of the parties is down a character.

The water tower has the boss, and once again she slinks back to Dynaster having accomplished nothing:

Chapter 5 is the last chapter, and we’re back at the capital city to save Minerva’s parents. First off, we get tricked with fake “Dragon Armor”, which is the most powerful armor. This is how they think the “most powerful armor” is supposed to look:

That looks like it provides great protection against monsters. Anyway, it’s cursed, and now that means that until we can get it removed, it provides the lowest possible defense, making this chapter a bit harder. Eventually after many sequences and dungeons we find the sage who can remove the dragon armor.

He also reveals that Dynaster is actually Minerva’s sister, who was given to him as a baby based on a prophecy that said she would bring ruin to the kingdom. He trained her as a wizard but then she turned evil because she was so upset about how the king treated her.

So now let’s head back and deal with Dynaster! The last place is two fairly large dungeons but they’re not too bad. Healing items are plentiful in the game so you can just beat everything up.

She’s not that bad. By now my technique was just to have Tua block until she’s needed for healing, then the other two people attack.

Oh no, the sage was the secret enemy!

Dynaster helps out against the sage but it’s the same technique. Then there’s a final final boss:

Apparently the SNES version has some special transformations for this fight but not the PCE one. Same technique.

A fanservicy ending scene where Dynaster decides to go out on her own instead of staying in the castle. Minerva follows!

Despite all the fanservice this is a fairly good game. The battle and levelling system is fun and everything goes quickly. You don’t need to grind. The visuals and voice are great. When I get to this game on the SFC I’ll play a bit of it just to see how it transferred over but I would definitely recommend this game.

PCE Game 31 – Princess Minerva

Princess Minerva (プリンセスミネルバ)
Released 3/25/1994, River Hill Soft

This is another game that started out for Japanese PCs (in 1992) and then had ports to both the PC Engine and Super Famicom. The SFC version has a translation patch. It seems like it’s mostly the same game except that some of the dungeons are differently laid out (and they added some new ones). The PCE also has voice and some animated cutscenes that are not in the SFC version.

I’ve noticed a trend that the Japanese computer RPGs don’t just copy Dragon Quest II but usually have some innovation in the system — it doesn’t always work, but at least they tried. Princess Minerva is no exception. It also has a large amount of fan service — I don’t know how much of this survives into the SFC version, but I probably can’t even provide some of the PCE version pictures unless I want the blog to be 18+.

The game opening tells us that Princess Minerva got bored and decided to form a Royal Bodyguard of all women, so 8 different women joined up (who represent all kinds of common fetishes — loli, china dress girl, BDSM chick, etc) Of course they wear armor that makes no sense:

The game opens with them all in a bath.

Minerva is bored, but just then an arrow shoots through the room with a letter, from someone named Dynaster, who has sent out her minions to all the areas of the kingdom, turning girls into monsters. She challenges Minerva to stop her, and thus the quest begins.

As the story indicates, you have 9 party members. You organize them in groups of 3, and in a random encounter it randomly picks one of the groups, with the top one the most likely. Although having 9 members might seem cumbersome, the interface for equipping and buying things is very clean and easy to use, and makes it smoother than a lot of the games I’ve played that only have 3 or 4 characters. This also means you can make greater use of everyone’s magic and skills, partly because the drain is spread around to all the units, but also because tents and sleeping bags are fairly cheap (and can be used in dungeons).

Each character has five different areas to gain XP — Sword, hand-to-hand, magic, priest, and elf. Each character has their own specialty; you can see Minerva’s percentages in the shot above. When you gain XP in a battle, the percentages determine the chance of that XP going to a particular skill. So Minerva has a 50% chance of the XP going to Sword, and only a 15% chance of it going to Priest. When any of the bars fills up, the character gains a skill level and an overall level. The skill level determines learning new skills and magic, and also what armor and weapons can be equipped. The overall level raises the stats, HP, and MP depending on what kind of level was gained (e.g. a priest level gets more MP than a Sword level). There are a few caves in the game where you can drink water to change the percentages, but these are not common.

Battles are vs. 1-4 enemies (all the enemies are girls, often nude or scantily clad). You can attack or use abilities, do a combined attack, and the last option is to repeat the actions from last turn, which is a convenient addition.

The skills can take either MP, SP, or TP.

When you equip a new armor you get a picture:

That’s probably the least revealing outfit there is; they provide a lot of “cosplay” type outfits like china dress, school swimsuit, leotard, and even “King’s Outfit” which is a naked pose. The PC Engine was definitely the main target for this kind of game.

The game is divided into six chapters; I’ll just cover chapter 1 on this initial post and then do the rest in the next one so that people can just see an overview of the game if they want. The first four chapters are in the outlying areas where Dynaster sent her minions, beginning with Dream Navi in the Duchy of Tselmat.

The first small quest is to save the commander of the town guard, who is is a small cave. The reward is supposedly 1000 gold, but when we return he acts like he has no idea what we’re talking about.

For the boss battles, you either pick a team, as in this case:

Or for the big boss battles you can choose any three characters.

Whenever Princess Minerva has to deal with one of these evil thieves or commanders, there’s a parody of Cutie Honey and other magical girl series where everyone transforms into Cutie Kamen fighters.

The commander is no problem, and then it’s time for a bath scene at the inn.

But Dream Navi appears, and kicks the heroine’s butts by confusing them in her dream world.

But in usual villain fashion she doesn’t kill us here, but tells us to meet her in the No Entry Tower, which is through the No Entry Forest. This requires some intermediate quests to figure out how to make it through the forest, but once we do, it’s on to the tower. Fortunately the tower has a recovery spring in front (the walkthrough on GameFAQs makes me think this is not in the SNES version).

Finally at the top of all these dungeons is Dream Navi. 

Minerva, Mizuno, and Bluemoris are weak to her confuse attack (the ones in the bath scene), so as long as you pick other people than that it’s not too bad. Potions are cheap and you have a ton of money in this early section.

Dream Navi then goes back to Dynaster and announces her failure, and gets punched out of the screen. On to the next land, and chapter 2!

This is definitely one of the best PC Engine RPGs I’ve played to date; despite being a fanservice game they actually took time to make a decent system and a clean, usable interface. Good for them!

PCE Game 30 – Kaze no Densetsu Xanadu (Part 2)

I’m going to structure this post as more of a review than an account of my playthrough — at times I’ve considered that the whole blog should be like that; one initial post covering the first few hours of gameplay and story in detail, followed by a review post. This is partly because it’s easier to write, but also I notice that when I read other blogs like CRPG Addict I find myself mostly interested in the first and last post, and tend to skim the middle posts unless I’ve played the game and know what he’s talking about. In some cases (like Dragon Quest V) I’ve found a lot to write about in each post, but often I struggle to say much because the gameplay is so repetitive and the story is not that interesting.

Anyway, back to Xanadu. First, the gameplay.

The game’s 12 chapters are mostly structured around the same idea. You warp into a church in the area, and then have to solve a problem in the area to be able to move on to the next place. This involves a great deal of running back and forth from place to place. The NPCs and towns do have a lot of life, with memorable people whose dialogue changes as the game progresses. It reminds me a bit of the Trails series in embryo. It’s also an interesting touch that you knock on the doors to the houses instead of just blundering in.

The backtracking gets excessive at times. You will find yourself having to talk to person A, then go all the way out to a cave or area to talk to person B, then go back to A again, and then once again back to B. This to me is the weakest aspect of the game and I’ve seen Japanese players complain about it as well. The only thing that saves the game from being unplayable is that the travel speed is very fast and you can buy Wings to warp back to the towns (which are trivial to afford after the first few chapters).

Another issue is that it’s often not clear what you’re supposed to do next. There are a lot of places where you have to talk to a specific person or go to a location to make the next plot event happen, but sometimes they don’t give you any real clues. You’ll stumble upon it eventually because the areas are fairly small, but I found this game a lot more tolerable with a walkthrough.

The final stage has a 31 floor castle that puts the Darm Tower of Ys to shame; this is possibly the longest and trickiest final dungeon in any game I’ve played (Ao no Kiseki had a pretty long final dungeon too). Overall when you think about how short the Ys games tend to be, this game has an impressive volume.

The combat is Ys style. As I mentioned in the first post, the distinctive feature here is leveling up your weapons and armor. This means a lot of sitting in place letting the enemies beat you up, but eventually you’ll have a strong enough armor to survive everything in the chapter.

Death is interesting. If you get to 0 hp with no healing items, you turn into a ghost. This actually lets Arios fly freely around the map (through walls, etc), but cannot interact with anything or use stairs. Sometimes this is actually helpful in a dungeon to figure out where you need to go to get to the stairs or item, but you have to make your way back to the town where the priestess can revive you. But this means that there is no such thing as a game over.

I found the side-scrolling action scenes to be the weakest part of the game. There are only two healing items in the game — one that heals 1000 HP and the other that heals you fully. The full heal elixirs are very rare until the final chapter where you can buy them (for a huge price). So you rely mostly on the 1000 HP heals. In the early chapters, you can easily get enough of these that the action stages are trivial. You just run through them and let the items heal you, and the bosses go down without much trouble as well.

But there’s a rather sudden change from this to the point where your HP is too high for these items to be worthwhile. Then the action stages are very difficult. There is no invincibility frame, which means a wrong move can cost you half or more of your HP. I used a lot of save states in these scenes; I would not have had the patience to go back to the church to get revived over and over again. The second to last one is by far the hardest — I would actually recommend that you use all of your elixirs against the boss; you’ll get more than enough in the last stage to make it through the final action stage (which is significantly easier, especially considering how easy it is to make it up to 999,999 HP). Now, I’m not all that good at action games so it’s possible others won’t have as much of an issue with this.

The graphics are serviceable but a bit disappointing; the PCE is capable of better, which Falcom will deliver in Xanadu II next year. The cutscenes between stages are not as good as the ones in other games like Emerald Dragon.

The music is good as usual for a Falcom game. It’s unfortunate that all the music outside of the cutscenes are chiptunes, but they probably didn’t have the space to make CD audio for all the BGM they wanted to use.

The story is fine. It relies on a lot of old cliches — chosen descendant, legendary hero, age-old evil, etc. There’s not all that much about the overall main plot that’s unfamiliar (although the earlier chapters have some interest). What Falcom does do right here is flesh out all the party characters better than most games are doing in this era. They don’t just join your party and then never talk again. This, coupled with the rich (for this era) NPC dialogue, makes the world seem more alive.

Overall this is a decent game for the period. I’ll be interested to see what changes or improvements they make for Legend of Xanadu II.

Next up will be a return to Super Famicom with the game Kabuki Rocks (after Majin Tensei II on my other channel).

PCE Game 30 – Kaze no Densetsu Xanadu

Kaze no Densetsu Xanadu (風の伝説ザナドゥ)
Released 2/18/1994, published by Falcom


This game is part of the long-running “Dragon Slayer” franchise by Falcom. The title Xanadu first appeared as the second Dragon Slayer game, which CRPG addict did a review of (although he didn’t like it). For a while I thought the PC Engine would be a remake of that game, but it’s actually an entirely new title. Falcom normally did not develop console games, relying on other companies to make ports of their games to various consoles. But here they actually were behind the development, and of the 1995 sequel.

There is a fan translation in progress, but I believe it is stalled for a long time over the voice acting to dub the cutscenes.

It looks and feels like a combination of Legend of Heroes and Ys. The main gameplay is the top-down “run into the enemies” style of Ys, but each chapter ends with a side-scrolling action section that recalls the earlier Dragon Slayer games. This game also carries over from the older Xanadu the system where each weapon and armor has its own experience level. When you get a new weapon or armor it typically starts anywhere from 30-50% power. So if the sword has a max 100 power it might start only at 50. You level up weapons by attacking, but not killing, enemies (so once you start killing enemies in one hit, you can’t level up the weapon on them anymore). You level up shields and armor by taking damage, although eventually enemies in an area won’t be able to harm you anymore.

This system results in a rather comical growth in the numbers — the first weapon has a max power of 12, the strongest weapon has a max power of 598,000. The game also does not have experience levels; you gain HP from resting and from getting hearts from enemies.

The game is divided into 12 chapters, each of which takes place in its own little area usually with a couple of towns and dungeons. This game is well known for having a lot of running back and forth between places talking to people, and it’s not always clear who you are supposed to talk to or why. I definitely think this game benefits from a walkthrough.

The main character is Areios, a knight commander in the kingdom of Ishtar. He begins shipwrecked on a small island. His goal is to get back to the kingdom, but while he’s waiting for the boat he decides to solve a problem happening in the island. Two towns, which produce different kinds of alcohol, are rivals, causing a bunch of problems.

The graphics are somewhat disappointing, but serviceable for the game. The music is good but unfortunately it’s almost all chiptune music instead of the CD-quality music that Falcom used to such good effect in the Ys games. The only voiced sections are the short cutscenes between chapters.

The action scenes are not too bad; the enemies do a lot more damage than the ones in the normal areas, but you get to shoot a wave out of your sword.

If you equip the healing items, you get restored 1000 HP when you get to 0, so that makes the action scenes fairly easy — even if you don’t really figure out the boss patterns you can just sit in front of it and attack and you might use a couple of heal items, but that’s easily replaced.

I’m up to chapter 3 now, so I’ll say more about that in the next update. The story is not bad, and the NPCs and towns are memorable. Overall this is a pretty good game although the fetch quest nature of the gameplay can get somewhat annoying.

PCE Game 29 – Star Breaker

Star Breaker (スターブレイカー)
Released 2/10/1994, developed by Ray Force

Star Breaker is one of three RPGs developed for the PC Engine by Ray Force. The first, Startling Odyssey, was a cookie cutter RPG that I covered briefly some time ago. They followed that up with Startling Odyssey II, but Star Breaker came between them. I can’t find much more information about the game than this.

I’m going to try giving a bit more detail about the game by blogging while I play rather than taking notes and writing the post later.

The opening narration tells us that in the year 2550, humanity has expanded into the galaxy, fought two huge wars with “non humanoids” and then created the Alliance Army, which both protects humanity and also keeps the peace in the galaxy. The main character is Harry, who serves in the 7th fleet. He’s testing out a new type of fighter, the Pegasus. He engages the warp, but there’s some kind of error and he’s blown into another dimension, and then shot down, crash landing on a planet.

He awakes in a room in a castle, unable to understand what people are saying. But a woman comes out, who calls herself Princess Aria.

She uses telepathic means to help him understand the language and also to learn about him. Apparently he’s been shot down by the Doran, who are enemies, and he’s on Menalis planet. She asks him to talk to her father the king. Now we get to control Harry.

The status screen looks pretty typical (I assume ESP is the magic of this game, and PP will be for the psychic/magic characters).

I explored the castle, finding some basic equipment to outfit Harry. The king had basically nothing useful to say, so I went down into the basement to see how the Pegasus is doing. Apparently they can’t fix it, but the Pegasus tells me that if I can find some parts from the Doran ships, it should be possible to repair it. So we’ll have to infiltrate a Doran base nearby.

Surprisingly (or not) Aria begs to come along, and the king lets her, also sending the ship technician Oregano.

Aria has a healing spell, and Oregano has Antidote. They also have some battle spells. The PP they have looks very low, and I’m afraid this will be yet another game where you really can’t use magic because it’s so limited. Time to go out to the castle town.

Oregano and Aria came with equipment, so I just gathered information — the most important was an old man who told me to look for a guy named Baki who could help us with getting into the Doran base, and gave us a music box. Now for the world map.

Usually at first I try to get in a fight right around town to feel out how difficult the encounters are.

There’s an auto battle; given my resources now I think I’m pretty much limited to attacking and healing. The enemies took a lot of hits to take down, but they gave 9 XP and my guys only need 19 to raise a level so I’ll gain one or two levels before moving on. I generally don’t like grinding but often it’s important right at the beginning.

The level ups turned out to be pretty significant; they provide full heal of HP and PP, and the stat gains are high. At level 2 I started exploring a bit beyond the area, and soon reached level 3. I also bought better equipment for everyone.

Of course you can’t see what the stats of equipment are. It’s 1994! Final Fantasy VI is coming out in two months!

The next town, Soreid, gave me some information. I’ll need to take down a shield to make it into the Doran base, and the mine nearby has been taken over by Doran. Baki turns out to be the mine leader, but he’s drinking in a bar. They want me to bring his wife to the town to restore his confidence. This is in another town, but my guys are now strong enough to beat the random encounters in this area with no problem.

The music box I got in the first down plays their wedding theme, and she agrees to go with us back to Baki. He lets us know that the shield generator is in the mine, and gives us some dynamite to help out with that.

The mine has the same enemies as outside, so my level 5 party had no difficulties, especially after finding some equipment upgrades for Oregano and Aria.

There’s no boss fight, so I destroyed the shield generator with the dynamite.

On the way out, I met this nasty enemy, who I think is just a random monster. But everything heals him except Oregano’s attack spells.

Now that the shield generator is gone I can head north to the base. The cave leading to the base had the same enemies as before, so I got through there fairly easily, moving up one level in the process.

The base is nearby. The monsters seem mostly the same, but I did encounter these nasty frogs, who use all-attack spells and can’t be hurt by most of my attacks.

Aria was at 7 HP so that was close. Now inside the fortress there is a tantalizing save point that I can’t get to yet:

But it was easily reached by going up those nearby stairs. Proceeding through the fortress, I eventually found the C Module I needed, but then a boss appears.

He uses a nasty all-attack and some big attacks, and my healing can’t really keep up (both Aria’s healing spell and the Heal Ampures I’ve been getting from fights and chests) heal less than a single attack from the boss. I died the first time so I guess I’ll try one level up and see if he’s easier at level 8. Harry had gotten a move that takes 1/8 of his HP off, but it seemed to do almost the same damage as a basic attack, so that’s not worth it.

This was sufficient to beat him. Of course he blows up the base, and then takes off in a ship, which goes over to destroy the castle.

Making my way into the castle, I learn that the King has been captured, and agree to go after him, so it’s time to fix the ship.

The ship is soon fixed, and Harry decides to stay in this dimension for now to help Aria find the king. They take off, and head to space station Ios. This is a neutral area with many Doran soldiers. There’s a shop which seems to have things for the ship, but they’re way too expensive.

The next destination seems to be the other planet in this system, Rimurus, so I head over and land there.

This menu indicates that there is some sort of space combat, but it’s evidently not a major part of the game.

And I land on Rimurus.

That’s where I’m going to stop this game. As I’ve said before, PC Engine games have to clear a higher bar for me to play them beyond a few hours. By far the biggest surprise in this blog has been how slow developers other than Square and Enix were to innovate. Final Fantasy VI comes out two months after this game. It’s just stunning to me that at this late of a date, it’s still acceptable for studios to be publishing RPGs where the gameplay is essentially Dragon Quest II. 

This game also makes fairly poor use of the PC Engine; there was one voiced sequence at the beginning and some of the music is off the CD, but it’s mostly just the same as you would see on the Super Famicom.

Next up will be Xanadu, an original action RPG by Falcom for the system.

PCE Game 28 – Emerald Dragon Part 2 (Finished)

At the end of the last post we had retaken Durgwand Castle from Ostracon. The next main goal is to defeat the demon king Garcia, who is (appropriately) in the Demon Castle. We hope that the Priestess of the Sea, living in the Kasha Islands can help us. On the way, a researcher named Warumaru helps restore Hasram from the black crystal that Ostracon trapped him in.

The Priestess of the Sea tells us that we need the Mountain Priestess’ help as well as various ancient documents that can be recovered from nearby caves. As we explore, Garcia’s troops attack us to stop us from getting that power. Once all the documents are recovered, the Priestess gives Tamlyn a “teleposta” (without explanation, and it can’t be used) and a secret message.

Now it’s on to the Mountain Priestess, and along the way we actually have to fight Garcia himself.

Fortunately the priestess helps us out, and Garcia flees after we beat him up. Now on the Mountain Priestess, whose temple is right next to the Demon Castle. Garcia kills the priestess but she opens up the way to his castle.

The castle is a very long dungeon with a whole bunch of boss fights. This is really where I felt the tedium of the game.

Eventually, we come to Garcia himself.

Who really is not that hard. Tamlyn has learned this laser beam spell that does an enormous amount of damage, and when she can use that rather than healing it makes the battles go a lot more quickly. If only I could get her to use that instead of healing the other NPCs!

Now once Garcia is beaten, the game’s not over yet. He reveals that it was the Hors people that summoned him and had him get the Avesta. We’ve been hearing about the Hors throughout the game — they created the world, they were called gods, etc. And Tamlyn reveals that she herself is a Hors, as she uses the Teleposta to take us out of the crumbling Demon Castle.

So while the world celebrates the defeat of the Demon King, the party decides to continue investigating to see what the Hors are up to.

After a few quests we manage to get through a cave to the land where the Hors live. A bunch of them confront the party, but after realizing that Tamlyn is the princess, they take her and throw the rest of the party in jail.

It turns out that Tiridates, the Prime Minster, has taken control of the government after the king’s death and Tamlyn’s disappearance. He wants to use the Avesta to attack and conquer the outside world. Fortunately a faithful knight Jessil rescues everyone and we prepare for the final assault. The final dungeon is not very long and has a lot of really good equipment for everyone.

First we defeat Tiridates, and then he turns into the demon Zandig, who had been controlling his body. Zandig is not very hard with Tamlyn constantly laser beaming him for thousands of damage a turn, and he goes down quickly.

Now the power of the Emerald Graces restores the Emerald Dragon, who seals away Zandig. Atorushan decides to stay in the human world with Tamlyn, and the game ends.

Overall I found that the game got pretty tedious as it went on. The story is fine, and the visuals and music are great. There’s lots of voiced dialogue, and the animated sequences are well done. The ability to talk to your characters (by pressing start) is a good touch that fleshes them out a bit.

The real problem is the gameplay. At first I felt like the encounter rate was reasonable and the battles were enjoyable. But eventually I got tired of every battle being the same thing — you just run into monsters, and maybe use a healing item every so often. Tamlyn has a lot of interesting spells but you can’t control her use of them at all (and because of the way the battles work she tends to use a healing spell most of the time). I think this is an artifact of the game being made originally in 1989.

The other problem is that it can be hard to tell where to go next. You often have the name of where you’re supposed to go but it’s not always clear where that is, especially when you have to backtrack and remember which one of the 6 similar forts you visited is the one you’re supposed to go to.

I’ll try out the Super Famicom version when I get there (in 1995) to see how that version goes. My other blog has a good number of SFC games coming up so be sure to check that out as well.