Category Archives: PC Engine RPGs

PCE Game 38 – Megami Paradise

Megami Paradise (女神天国)
Released 9/30/1994, published by NEC Home Electronics

 

As you might expect from the title and the PC Engine’s library, this is a fanservice RPG with a lot of girls — aspects of the game remind me of Princess Minerva. It’s based on some kind of reader-participation game that ran in Dengeki PC Engine. These games seem to have been popular in the 1990s but I’m not clear on exactly how it worked. I think it’s sort of like a Choose Your Own Adventure or Lone Wolf style game that you can create characters and play on your own from the magazine. Along with the game there was a manga, OVA, and this PC Engine RPG.

 

The story and setting is silly. The main character is Rinrin, studying at the Megami Academy to become a Megami (goddess). When she gets there she comes across the “MegaQ” orbs that the Academy guards, and not knowing what they are, throws them away, hits them with baseball bats, etc. and scatters them around the world. She then begins her registration to enter the school, but they learn about the “disappearance” of the MegaQ orbs. Rinrin has the help of Pop, a fairy, and is sent to go find them. Also sent out are the four goddesses of the school — Lulubell, Juliana, Lilith, and Stacea.

 

Opposing them is the student council, who is secretly working for the Yamamama (Darkness Mom), who wants to find the MegaQ to take over the world.

 

There is a lot of voiced dialogue and cutscenes. It may seem obvious since that was the PC Engine’s selling point (especially in late 1994), but a surprising number of games only add a tiny amount of this content to the game.

The first part of the game is entirely in the school. The student council sends out a message to all students that they should beat up Rinrin for going against the council, so the first random encounters are students from the tennis club, anime club, soccer club, etc.

The combat system is standard RPG except that all attacking is done through spells (which cost no MP). Each character can have 4 spells, which are learned by finding sunflowers that will teach them. One annoyance for me is that there’s no way to tell what each spell does, although the names have some onomatopoeic clue. However, this is an interesting system.

I found the first part annoyingly difficult. Since it’s just one character, you basically have to level up a lot. As usual the balance is way off; the bosses are much easier than the random encounters so if you can just survive to the bosses you’ll probably win.

The first area involves going around to the different school buildings, beating up the leaders of the clubs, and getting keys to the next area. There is a shop in the main building that sells outfits and items. Outfit changing requires you to go to a changing room, then you can equip different things. Each one has a “beauty” value and then raises one of three stats — goddess, defense, or speed. I think goddess is attack. I’m not entirely sure what the “beauty” value does, but the in-game explanations indicate it’s important to always have that as high as possible. Even a better defensive item, if the beauty is less, might not be as good.

 

You can unlock special skills by equipping certain pieces of clothing, or by combining certain outfits. Apparently you can also get cutscene pictures this way as well. 

Eventually I made it to the student council room and faced Rouge, one of the 4 followers of Yamimama. She brought out a Mazinger Z ripoff to fight, but with repeated healing and attacking it was fine.

Rinrin gets the yellow MegaQ (that talks to her and raises her stats). Now Rinrin is sent out into the world to find the other MegaQs, but she takes off in balloons and gets sunk by a storm.

She washes onto a beach and meets Kurisu (the dude you name at the beginning of the game). In the next town, all the 4 goddesses are there and you can pick 2 of them to join your team. There is also a way to warp back to the school so you can use the sunflowers to get spells for the new members.

 

This is where I stopped. I guess this is an OK RPG for this era; the spell system and outfitting are interesting features, and you can progress in the game fairly quickly. There are a lot of well known VAs (well known for the 90s, at least) and a good amount of cutscenes and voiced dialogue. The silliness and fanservice will probably turn a lot of people off, though.

PCE Game 37 – Xak III

Xak III: The Eternal Recurrence (サークIII ジ・エターナル・リカーレンス)
Released 9/30/1994, developed and published by Micro Cabin 
 

  

This is the final game in the Xak series, which had three main games and two side games. As I said in my previous post on the game, it is clearly modelling itself on Ys: an action RPG with meaningless short name for the series, and a first game split into two parts.

As with the previous games, Xak III began as a computer game and was later ported to PC Engine. From what I could see on Youtube, the port is pretty faithful although the computer version had a stat called EP in addition to HP and MP, I don’t know what that is and don’t think it’s in the PC Engine version.

The first two games had the Ys-style “run into enemies” system, but this game has you press the button to attack. The port is disappointing like the original games’ was — there is hardly any voice or cutscenes throughout the game, not even at the beginning. I actually wondered if there was something wrong with the copy I had but the first cutscene doesn’t happen until a bit through the game and there are only two more (a very brief one near the end, and then the ending scene). However, this might be good because surprisingly this game actually has an English translation patch — they don’t do anything with the voiced cutscenes, but they don’t add much to the story and you can almost guess what’s happening in them just from the pictures.

The game is quite short as is typical for ARPGs of this era (the youtube playthrough is 6h30m). However, it does conclude the story of Xak, as Ratok takes on the third evil general (having beaten the other two, Badu and Gospel, in the previous games). The question of what happened to Ratok’s father is addressed as well, and there’s sort of a conclusion to Pixie and Frey’s stories too. You could definitely play this without playing the first two, though, since anything of importance in those games is repeated here.

The graphics in the dialogue scenes are not bad.

The opening scene is the bloodiest thing I’ve seen yet, where this dude comes into the castle and kills the King, ripping his head off. The princess then says he might as well take her head too, and he rips it off, leaving both heads on the throne. The PC Engine generally allowed more explicit content (in both violence and sex) than the Super Famicom did.

Like the last game, this game has jumping puzzles, but they’re nowhere near as annoying as the previous game — for one thing, you don’t die if you miss the jumps, and the graphics make it much easier to see where the platforms are and where you’re supposed to jump.

There’s also a dragon riding part again, but it’s quite easy.

Unlike the first game, you get companions in this game — most of them are from the other games (Frey and Ryun, for instance). They just run around and fight on their own, and are actually relatively helpful unless they die — you can’t change screens without reviving them.

 

Overall the game is easy. There are some parts (particularly near the end) where the grunt enemies hit hard, but the bosses can almost all be beaten just by mashing the button and taking hits — as with the previous game, it’s easy to level because the amount of XP you get from the enemies never goes down. You can also buy tons of healing potions since there’s nothing else worthwhile to spend money on.

There’s a lot of laziness in the interface and presentation — you can’t see stats of items at all, so you have no idea what to equip (I can’t believe we’re still seeing this at the end of 1994). You can “teleport” back to any place you’ve been with no explanation for why. There’s no real backtracking or exploration, it’s more like a series of stages.

This is not an especially good game, but it’s not terrible either. That being said, the Ys games that were coming out around this time weren’t all that great either (except for Dawn of Ys, I suppose). But somehow Ys was able to continue on to the present, but Xak never produced another game after this. I’m not sure if that had to do with Micro Cabin itself, or the sales of Xak relative to Ys.

PCE Game 36 – Alshark

Alshark (アルシャーク)
Released 8/26/1994, port developed by Ocarina Systems

This game was initially released on computer in 1991, and this port was done 3 years later (along with one to Mega Drive CD). The result is similar to what we’ve seen with previous computer games ported to PC Engine — an old fashioned and somewhat peculiar system with voiced cutscenes. It’s frustrating to see the designers spend all their effort on adding in the voiced cutscenes, but do nothing to address the interface issues. 

The original developer of the PC game was Right Stuff. It seems to have been their first game. They went on to make Emerald Dragon (which I played earlier), Sword Master (which I played on my SRPG blog), and Alnam no Kiba (which I’ll be playing later). They struggled after 1994 and went bankrupt after releasing their last game in 1998.

The main character is Shion. At the beginning of the game, a mysterious comet or asteroid has come down nearby and his dad goes to investigate, telling Shion to stay home. But Shion rounds up his friend Shoko and they decide to go see what’s up.

 

They grab one handgun from Shoko’s house and head out.

The battle system makes it look like there will be some sort of grid or positioning system, but it’s just a normal RPG system and the way everyone is represented on the battlefield has no purpose. Whether it’s a hand-to-hand attack or a gun attack the position doesn’t matter. It’s the usual Dragon Quest II system.

Reaching the asteroid area, Shion and Shoko see Shoko’s dad with some of the Imperial troops (who are the villains of this game). Shoko’s dad seems manaical and they kill Shion’s dad and the other humans, and then leave. As Shion’s dad is dying, he tells them to find Scrap Joe who will help them out. Heading back to town, they find that Shion’s mom has run away from home, so they chase after her, taking the house robot Saru for help.

After picking up a few items from shelves, I headed down to Hamack, hoping to find Scrap Joe.

Scrap Joe is in a garbage dump near the town, along with a bunch of robots that attack. Once we find him, he’s an ornery old cuss. But once he knows who he are, he changes his tune — it turns out that he was close friends with Shion’s and Shoko’s dads. So he agrees to help, and shows us his ship that he’s outfitted himself. It turns out Shion’s mom headed off planet so we’ll try to save her.

 
We manage to catch up with the ship that took off from the planet, and get onto it — Shaina (Shion’s mom) is there, captured by the Jagma Forces which are the elite troops of the Empire. Maon (Shoko’s dad) is also there, ranting about some great mission he has, and that even his beloved friends couldn’t be allowed to stop him. He’s found some great power. We might have all been killed but a woman named Milets comes in to rescue us, and Shaina is freed. Maon leaves, telling us not to interfere anymore.

Milets takes us to her ship, where we join her in doing missions — the first one being on a nearby planet Zajil. We use Joe’s ship, and he has a menu:

Using “scrap” that you get from beating enemies, you can upgrade the ship’s components as well as make weapons and armor for your group.
 

Now we can fly the ship through space. I found this part very hard to navigate.

 There is a map but it’s difficult to understand, and there aren’t any landmarks to help you know where you are. Every so often you get in a fight, where you just watch the ship shoot the enemy until it dies. Just wandering around I gained a bunch of levels because the enemies could barely hurt me. Eventually it turned out that the planet I needed to go to was really close to where I had started, but you move so fast that you blow past it in a second if you aren’t inching along.

This is where I stopped playing. The story seems potentially interesting and some of the gameplay elements might work, but it just feels like a 1991 game and with the PC Engine I’m not interested in a game where I’m just going to be holding down a turbo button for every fight.

Next up is Mother 2/Earthbound!

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).