Category Archives: Strategy RPGs

SRPG Game 89 – Rebus (Kartia) (PS1)

REBUS (レブス), released 3/26/1998, developed and released by ATLUS

Two Atlus games in a row. This is Atlus’ first SRPG that isn’t in the Megami Tensei franchise, although it still involves summoning monsters. It was localized in the US as “Kartia: The Word of Fate”. In a coincidence, a twitch streamer I follow named Karkalla has just started the game on Friday and should be playing it for a couple of weeks.

The art was done by Yoshitaka Amano, well known for his Final Fantasy illustrations that go against the typical anime style that you normally see in JRPGs. Now that we are in the fifth generation of consoles, Amano’s art can actually be directly used in the game rather than simply providing art for the instruction manuals that isn’t reflected anywhere in the actual game.

The story is presented in an unusual fashion. There are two protagonists with 18 chapters each, but the story is laid out in a total of 36 episodes that weave back and forth between the stories. There is a lot of overlap and interaction between the two stories and they are basically telling two parts of the same tale. You can either play one all the way through and then the other, or play episode order which requires you to switch back and forth between the two. The latter is what I did.

The game takes place in a world that is strongly controlled by a church — the terms “heresy” and “heretic” are constantly used in the game of people who question the church’s teaching, or even non-humans. There are a group of “inquisitors” who are given extra-judicial and extra-national powers to hunt down and punish heresy. The English translation blunted these terms by using “inquirer” and “heathen”. I don’t know if this was a conscious decision or if it was simply ignorance of the translators for what the terms mean. It can be something of a challenge to deal with this kind of thing because Japanese games frequently use terms that were originally coined to refer to the Catholic Church, but they are then applied to any fictional religion that is sort of Christian-like. Translators perhaps want to avoid the strongly loaded Catholic terms to avoid giving a connotation to the terms that they don’t have in Japanese, but I don’t know whether they think of it this closely.

Lacryma Christi, the woman protagonist, is a Holy Knight devoted to the church, with a strong belief in its teachings. She’s the daughter of Cainas, a deceased hero, and is revered as a holy woman. Toxa is the son of a merchant who dreams of being a knight. Both are involved with the local guard of the Crossland kingdom, operating in the Shinon barony. The story first involves fighting against a bandit group, but soon expands to involve a plot by certain people in the church to summon the holy land of Eden.

The story and characters are definitely a strong point of the game. Each character gets a fair amount of time and development, and the overall story is interesting as well. Amano’s art is also memorable in highlighting the characters.

The other worldbuilding aspect that has more to do with the system is Kartia. These are a type of card that people can use to “imagine” things, writing them on the materials to make them appear. They are used for a lot of things in the world, but all of the “texts” are copies of the Originals that can be used for great power, although often at a great cost to the user.

In terms of the system, you find “texts” in the stages (either from beating enemies, opening chests, or burning barrels/boxes/etc, or as a stage reward). These texts can be combined to do three primary things, and each use takes one or more of your materials (Silk, Mithril, or World Tree).

Most of the combinations are given to you and you just have to select them, but you can usually add additional texts to increase the power. For the most part the additional texts you add just up the power without any relevance to what the text actually is (each one is a kanji character), but there are a few hidden combinations that can make additional items not listed.

The first thing you can do with the kartia is make equipment. There are no shops in the game so this is the only way to get new equipment other than finding it in a stage. There are six types of weapons, and six armors (two head, two body, two leg/foot).

The second thing you can do is cast spells. It doesn’t look like I took a screenshot of that, but the spells window is similar to the others — you pick a base spell (which are sorted into about 8-10 basic types) and then you can add additional texts to increase the power. The different classes of spells are elemental types, some of which have AoE, can heal, or burn things, raise and lower the ground, etc. There are no buff or debuff spells.

The third thing you do is summon Phantoms (幻獣). These are summoned monsters that can fight alongside you. They come in three basic types, and the types operate on a rock-paper-scissors system (which applies only to the phantoms themselves, not the human characters). They can gain levels and equip things, but if they reach 0 hp they die and cannot be revived. You can summon them before a battle starts, or use certain characters’ turns to summon them during battle (although they appear with their turn already used).

Each route is made up of 18 stages, played back to back with no alternate routes or anything in between the battles (other than story scenes). The only thing you can do between stages is play the Arena, where you are provided with a stock of monsters to fight against a group of enemies. You can’t gain XP here, only Kartia materials. I never used it.

The battle system is relatively complicated with a lot of moving parts. In addition to the RPS system with the monsters that I mentioned before, height makes a big difference in weapons and armor. Spears work better when attacking from below, and axes work better when attacking from above. Helmets protect better against attacks from above, etc. Characters can counter attack unless they are ranged attackers. You can use Quake to raise and lower the ground.

The system has two aspects that I do not like. First, any human character reaching 0 hp means a game over. This means you have to be aware of letting monsters gang up on your guys. Second, the lower a character’s HP, the worse they fight. This is a system that is not commonly used in games, and I never like it when it is. It may be realistic but it’s not very fun.

The Phantoms are a big problem in the game. They are extremely difficult to keep alive. They always start at level 1, and because the RPS system has such a huge effect, it’s very difficult to keep them from getting killed by opposing monsters who have good compatibility with them. However, they are very cheap to summon, so especially early on in the game they can be used profitably as cannon fodder. I never had one higher than level 2, but I wonder how effective one would be if you actually managed to get them to a high level and equip them with some decent stuff.

However, it’s not particularly relevant because after the first 4 or 5 stages, the game is extremely easy. Your human characters quickly reach a level where the enemies can’t do much against you even if they gang up on you, and you can defeat almost any enemy with just a few hits. There are still a couple of situations that are easier if you summon some monsters, and the final bosses take a little bit of strategy (particularly on Toxa’s route), but for the most part you can just send in your human characters with swords and slice through everything.

Which was fine, because I found the system more cumbersome than fun, and so it was nice to be able to enjoy the story without having to worry too much about the battles. From what I can see, my opinion of “good story, meh gameplay” seems to be shared by most of the reviewers in both English and Japanese.

One other aspect that is commented on a lot is that because you can’t repeat stages, many of the Texts in the game are permanently missable. You definitely want to make sure that when possible, you do not clear the stage without getting all the chests and boxes/barrels, and defeating any enemies that are carrying Texts. There are also hidden items in the stages but I didn’t bother with any of them.

So overall this is an OK game, but give it a pass if you insist on having good gameplay — I do wonder what it would be like to play a game where you really try as hard as possible to build an army of the summoned phantoms. I have a feeling it would be more frustrating than anything else. I wish they could have made the phantoms more costly to summon, but have their levels and stats continue — unfortunately the disposable nature of the Phantoms is part of the plot.

The next random game I chose was another SRPG so next week will be Esper Dream for the Famicom Disk System.

SRPG Game 88 – Farland Saga (SAT)

Farland Saga (ファーランドサーガ), released 1/29/1998, developed and released by TGL

I gave a basic introduction to TGL’s Farland Series in a previous post, and I have played the first two Farland Story games. This game was released very soon after the eight Farland Story games, and ported to the Saturn two years later.

This game is essentially the same as the previous ones but it makes two changes that address some of the biggest problems I had with the first games. The maps are a bit smaller but more importantly you don’t start so far away from the enemies, so you don’t waste half the playing time just moving your characters. Second, characters now do get new spells and powers when they level up, and the differences between characters are more than just “do they have a 1 or 2 attack range”.

Despite that, this is still a relatively bad game. One of the biggest problems that is probably unique to the Saturn port is how slowly the game plays. The load times are very long, and the enemy turns take forever. Possibly because of the limitations of the laptop I use to play these games, it’s basically impossible to use emulation speedup so this is a much bigger concern than when I play the Playstation games.

One other major problem with the game is that it’s now done in this 3/4 view, but you cannot rotate the camera. You can see from above that there are a lot of obstacles on the map, and it’s very easy to lose track of units or monsters that are behind obstacles, especially since there is no way to see who has not moved yet. More than once I figured out that I had forgotten about one of my characters because I couldn’t see them behind a tree, or forgot that a monster was on the screen. The only reason it works at all is that you can bring up an overhead map to see everyone’s positions.

Beyond the characters getting lost behind things, it’s also often very difficult to see where you can actually walk, or where the enemy units are in relation to your own guys. I often had to bring up the overhead map just to see what move I needed to make or to figure out why I wasn’t able to attack an enemy I thought I should be able to. The fact that you can’t move past your own allies is another annoyance.

The interface is another lazy annoyance. There is no between-stages part, so all equipment transferring, equipping, etc has to be done in battles. It probably won’t come as a surprise that there is no way to see whether one piece of equipment is better than the one you already have without manually checking.

The shop is another travesty — after every few stages you just get taken to a shop with no story reason for it, and you have only that one chance to buy things (if you accidentally press X you move on to the next stage). It also will probably not come as a surprise that it doesn’t show who can equip what or what the stats are, and all the equipment and items are in one long list that scrolls very slowly. Often when a shop came up I took that as a sign to quit for that session because I couldn’t face doing the equipment buying.

The system involves height and facing this time. The height part is a little bit half-assed though because it doesn’t affect missile weapons or spells at all. The obstacles also don’t block them at all — the sticks and spears that hit multiple targets can go through walls and trees.

Spellcasters recover a bit of MP per round so this allows for more spellcasting, although the most expensive spells will require some MP restore items to be able to use them well. They also grow in effectiveness as you level, which is nice.

Another big problem about the system is that the effect of a difference in levels, so that lower leveled characters are often ineffective in battle. This is coupled with the annoying system that grants XP based on how much damage you did, which makes it very hard for the behind characters to catch up.

The game has 25 main stages, and then after the credits roll you can load your save to play another 25 stages. While there is some story in that part, 20 of the 25 stages are just different floors of a tower, and I considered the game beaten when I had just done the first part.

The story is the best part of the game — it’s not great, but it’s entertaining enough and all the dialogue is voiced by well known (at least in 1998) voice actors.

The game takes place on a (large) island where there are two different kingdoms, Yohk and Barth. The two kingdoms have been in a long war that has recently concluded with peace. In addition, there is a land across the mountains called Thulk, which is home to the “mazoku” (demon/vampire/etc) species that is distrusted by both human kingdoms. Recently someone named Avi has appeared in Thulk and pushed for Thulk to be an actual recognized country, and he has worked to make peace with both Yohk and Barth. The game begins in southern Barth with a young man Leon and his friend Ralf, who have both lost their parents and are in the care of Brian, who used to be a knight in the service of the court.

They head to the capital, and there Avi is murdered, with the blame being put on the princess of Barth, named Fam. The mazoku use this as justification to destroy the capital, killing the king and queen, and sending Fam and the other characters into exile. The party then heads north to Yohk to inform them of the impending mazoku attack.

The story develops decently and has some interesting twists, but on the whole it’s not worth suffering through the bad gameplay and sluggishness to experience it. I can’t recommend this game at all. Unfortunately we have one more Farland game (later in 1998) but then the series will be over (at least as far as the console ports).

I chose randomly for the next game, and it landed on Elminage Original for the PSP. This is a port of a DS game that was ported from PS2. It’s a “blobber” first-person dungeon explorer, but it seems very close to Wizardry in its whole style and gameplay. Since I recently played a Wizardry game (Gaiden 4), I decided instead to try out Sekaiju no Meikyuu (Etrian Odyssey) for the DS — a game in the same genre that I’ve wanted to try for a while. So that will be next week’s post.

SRPG Game 87 – Back Gainer (Awakening Chapter) (PS1/SAT)

Back Gainer (バックガイナー よみがえる勇者たち 覚醒編「ガイナー転生」), released 1/29/1998 (PS1), and 7/30/1998 (SAT), developed by Ving

The SRPGs are back! In 1996, Ving released a game called Harukaze Sentai V-Force, which was an attempt to make a game that would do its storytelling through high quality anime cutscenes. The anime scenes were well done (they were essentially at the level of a TV show or OVA of the time), but the reliance on these expensive anime scenes limited the amount of story they could tell. And also, perhaps because they had to spend so much of their resources on the anime, the game itself was poorly designed and not much fun.

At the time, I said that I didn’t think Ving tried this again but I was entirely wrong — this game is another attempt to do the same thing as V-Force, and it’s basically has the same plusses and minuses of the previous game. Even before getting into the specifics of the game, there’s a huge problem with the way it was released. For V-Force, I think they realized the limitations of what they were doing, and they chose to tell a story that had a conclusion, but that contained significant foreshadowing for a sequel (that was never released).

In this case, they chose to make a longer base story, and release the game in three separate parts. However, each part was not a standalone complete game — the first game has only 9 stages and takes about 10 hours to complete, and the second game has (I think) 7 stages. The third game was never released, probably due to poor sales of the first ones. So essentially you are playing a game that is only 2/3 complete, and the conclusion to the story is unknown.

Obviously that is a big reason to avoid this game, although in theory it still might be worth playing if the gameplay is fun (especially now when you don’t have to pay full price for both games). Unfortunately, the gameplay is bad — at least as bad as V-Force, if not worse.

Each mech has a “synchro level” and a “burning level”. The Synchro Level affects various things, but the most important is that if it falls below 5, you can only move and use the Synchro command (which takes Burning points). Burning is what you get from being attacked and taking damage. You can use it for special moves, to increase your synchro rate, and you can spend 60 (I think) points to enter “burning mode”, which lasts for one turn and greatly increases your stats and move rate. The enemies also have synchro rate and burning.

That doesn’t sound too bad, so what’s the problem?

For one thing, all attacks except for map (multi-hit) attacks are 100% hit rate. There is also no “zone of control”. This makes it very hard to protect your units. Second, too many of the enemies have map attacks. Third, the maps usually involve a pretty tight time limit plus numerous waves of surprise reinforcements.

But all of this is not necessarily bad; it could still add up to be a challenging but enjoyable game. What I think really pushes it over into being tedious and unfun is that there is little to no way to upgrade or change your own mechs. You can level up the pilots, but the stats of the mechs never change (including HP). There was one time when I was allowed to shift around the weapons equipped, but after that, I never found a way to do it again. This means that while the enemies keep getting stronger and more numerous, and the stages more difficult, your party basically seems the same, which feels frustrating.

Being attacked reduces your synchro rate, and so you can also find yourself having to waste a bunch of turns on the synchro command.

As with V-Force, each attack comes with a little anime clip, but you can’t skip it or turn it off the way you could in the previous game. This makes the stages take a lot longer.

The basic story involves the high school students Shin and Natsumi. When they stumble in to a fight between some monstrous things and some people in powered suits, it turns out that they have an amazingly high synchro level with the suits and are able to pilot them well.

They join a special attack group of the Japan forces, who are dedicated to fighting these enemies (and who are all women). As the story progresses, it turns out that both Shin and Natsumi are reincarnations of warriors, and in some stages they are able to become “Gainers”, a sort of hybrid being that fights much better than the normal suits.

The enemies are also reincarnations from the same place — they recognize Raizetsu (Shin’s Gainer form) as the most powerful warrior of the previous age, although he hasn’t awakened to his full power yet. The enemies are looking for vessels to act as hosts for their own reincarnated warriors, and they are particularly concerned about finding one for Lucita, who seems to be their leader.

The story has familiar elements — it’s heavily criticized for being a combination of cliches from other mech series (particularly Evangelion and Sakura Taisen). I actually thought the story was fairly interesting and better than V-Force, despite the cliches.

I made it up to stage 8 out of 9, but that stage had unlimited reinforcements and starts you off with only one unit — I tried to rush the boss but a bunch of powerful reinforcements arrived, and it just didn’t seem worth it to keep playing an unfinished game. I also will not be playing the second part — apparently they added an Easy Mode, and if the 3rd part had actually been released I might continue just to see how the story ends up.

My impression from the Japanese blogs and such is that V-Force was already considered a kusoge (bad game) and that this game is considered to be even worse. I’m certain this was Ving’s last attempt to do this kind of game (and almost their last game before they exited the game market), but I’m not sure if any other company tried it again. I just don’t think it’s likely to work unless you get a situation where a company is willing to give the game enough of a budget that both the anime cutscenes and the gameplay development can be fully supported.

SRPG 1997 wrap-up, 1998 preview

1997 wrap-up

1997 was not a good year for SRPGs overall, at least for ones I like. I only gave A ratings to four games: Final Fantasy Tactics, Atelier Marie, TILK, and Shining Force III-1. Atelier Marie isn’t an SRPG and TILK got an A- because of how much I loved the story and atmosphere even though the gameplay was a total disaster. So that basically just leaves two games for the GotY choice.

And it has to be Final Fantasy Tactics. Not just because of the general importance and popularity of the game, but it remains one of my favorite SRPGs and was my introduction to the genre. Despite its flaws, I still think it’s great.

  • 1990: Fire Emblem
  • 1991: Langrisser
  • 1992: Just Breed
  • 1993: Super Robot Taisen 3 
  • 1994: Langrisser II
  • 1995: Riglord Saga
  • 1996: Energy Breaker
  • 1997: Final Fantasy Tactics

Still by coincidence (or is it?) all eight of the GotY are available in English.

1998 preview/list of games

As with 1997, this list is all Playstation and Saturn games. It’s interesting that the Game Boy is completely silent; the last game was March 1995 and it won’t be back until Puyo Puyo Gaiden in August 1999. The list includes some games that I suspect may not turn out to qualify under my rules.

  1. Back Gainer Awakening (PS1) — this is another anime movie game made by the same people as Harukaze Sentai V-Force. I didn’t realize they had tried again.
  2. Farland Saga (SAT) — Hopefully this is better than the previous Farland games.
  3. REBUS (i.e. Kartia: World of Fate) (PS1)
  4. Brigandine (PS1) — I think this is going to be disqualified like Dragon Force but I will try it (in the Grand Edition) and see if I like it.
  5. Sakura Taisen 2 (SAT)
  6. Shining Force III Scenario 2 (SAT)
  7. Tokyo Majin Gakuen: Kenpucho (PS1)
  8. Langrisser 5 — not sure if I will play the Saturn or PS version.
  9. Back Gainer Flight (PS1) — The second of the Back Gainer games; there were supposed to be three but the third one never came out so the story is incomplete.
  10. Masumon KIDS (PS1)
  11. Seirei Shokan: Princess of Darkness (PS1)
  12. Bounty Sword Double Edge (PS1) — Sequel to the SFC original.
  13. Epica Stella (i.e. Vanguard Bandits) (PS1)
  14. Gojin Senki (PS1)
  15. Valhallian (SAT)
  16. Wachenroder (SAT)
  17. Black Matrix (SAT) – Flight Plan’s first SRPG; I love Summon Night but have never tried this. There are several ports; the Dreamcast version seems to be the one that has the best reputation so I may play that.
  18. Houshin Engi (PS1)
  19. Oda Nobunaga-Den (PS1) — The fourth of the Eiketsuden games and the last one to be released on consoles.
  20. Shining Force III Scenario 3 (SAT) – This is the final Saturn game I will be playing.
  21. Guardian Recall (PS1)
  22. Farland Saga 2 (PS1)
  23. Atelier Elie (PS1)
  24. Robot Senki Brave Saga (PS1)
  25. The Doll Princess of Marl Kingdom (i.e. Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure) (PS1) – This does not qualify as an SRPG under my rules but I may play it anyway because it looks interesting.

Rejected games:

  • Monster Seed – I’m having a hard time understanding what kind of game this is; it doesn’t look like it qualifies for me despite being listed as a TRPG on Wikipedia. Let me know what you think.
  • SRPG Tskuuru – Just a construction kit.
  • Hyper Fishing – This has grid-based battles but it’s not an SRPG.
  • SD Gundam G Generation – I think I said this in an earlier preview but I am only going to play the SDGGG games that are SRW-style “mix the series together in one plot”.
  • Dragon Force 2 – I stopped Dragon Force for not qualifying as an SRPG so I’ll skip the second entry as well.

As I said in an earlier post, progress will be slow for a while. I’m going to focus on Super Famicom games to finally finish up that project, although I do intend to play an occasional SRPG.

SRPG Game 86 – Ryuki Densho Dragoon (PS1) Part 2

After avoiding it for 3 years I finally got covid, but I suppose that’s no excuse not to do my weekend update.

As I said at the end of the previous post, I feel like the designers ran out of time or money to properly do the second half; it seems a lot more rushed than the first one. We ended with Sedy being found on the beach by Maria. Then 3 years pass when Sedy lives with Maria.

He’s apparently lost his memory, but one day he sees attack planes flying by and recovers his memory and realizes he needs to go find Myuu — this whole sequence takes about 3 minutes.

Sedy comes across Silva and Bublet in a nearby town, helping the residents against bandits. A recurrent theme is that nobody recognizes Sedy because he’s grown up.

After Sedy helps them deal with the bandits for good, soldiers come to impress the villagers into being soldiers (it seems that Lafall has been taken over by Galbard). We decide to go to the castle instead and pretend to be soldiers. We immediately get sent to the front line and meet Deen and a woman who are there as part of the “Soul Force”, a resistance group.

The woman turns out to be Milly (Sedy’s sister). Sedy of course is happy to join the Soul Force resistance. They’re readying for the final attack against Galbard, and the head is actually Arcland (who screwed us over 3 years ago). Lilith and Rain also rejoin, and you can get everyone else in the party by going to some optional towns.

Our first task is to go to Galbard Castle, which is now mostly an empty husk, to try to shut down their air force program. It turns out there really is no program there any more, but Sedy does meet Marsh and a woman called Alpha.

Alpha is obviously Myuu but nobody on the heroes’ side recognizes that. In any case, Marsh has been here having Alpha grow her power so that she can destroy the world. But we easily defeat her (all the battles in this part are easy, including the final battle, with one exception). She hasn’t fully recovered her power yet.

Back at the resistance HQ, Gamon attacks (the guy who had been using Arcland in part 1); he’s easily defeated. We then head to Lafarl, and meet Bashua again. He goes down easily, and Sedy stops Lilith from killing him. He joins the team for some reason. In Lafarl we see that the castle town has been replaced with a massive attack ship, so we go back to the HQ to tell people of that fact. Instead of launching an attack on that, we head back to defeat Landoll instead. Despite him being a big deal in part 1, here he just randomly appears with a few troops and goes down easily, with no dialogue afterwards.

We also meet Geit here, who was the old man that we met on the ship in part 1. Landoll had apparently cursed him, and with Landoll’s defeat he turns back into a young man and joins our team.

At this point we can visit Sedy’s home — mom is happy to see us but sadly dad died only a few months ago.

So now all that remains is a final attack on the Galbard flying machine. However, the initial try at it is a complete failure, as our attack ship goes down in flames — luckily, though, we crash land on an island with nobody hurt, and there’s a big tower that we head for.

Mel appeared briefly in part 1 but she was a mystery. Here she knows who we all are and says that if we go to the top of the tower we can find out the full truth.

The fight against Duft in the tower (one of Marsh’s henchmen) is the only difficult fight in this part — there are a lot of enemies in a small area and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But I moved everyone back and tried to get the enemies to come to me, and accepted some deaths, and I won the second try.

The “truth” you find out at the top doesn’t seem especially relevant to the game — Meru is the queen of the Heaven People, who once controlled the world as gods but have given up their power. She helps Kyui evolve into a Master Dragon that can fly us to the attack vessel for the final dungeon. But first there’s a strange battle with NPC ships that have to attack the enemy planes to clear a way for Kyui to reach the vessel.

In the vessel as you might expect we fight a series of easy bosses, including Emperor Jedi. The guy who knew Myuu at the end of part 1 is Professor Gabriel and he seems to hold himself responsible for everything because of his research.

The final battle is against Marsh and Alpha (easy as usual) and then we get all the big reveal, most of which has no foreshadowing.

Marsh is a half-android from the future (along with Gabriel and Alpha). In the future there is a huge war that destroys humanity, so for some reason Marsh decides that he should travel back in time and destroy humanity in the past. Alpha was created by Marsh and Gabriel, but Gabriel used his wife’s cells so Alpha retained some humanity. Therefore when Marsh tries to kill Sedy, Alpha blocks it.

Marsh had a weapon ready though that will destroy the whole world, and Alpha tries to control it to stop it.

The assault ship blows up, but the game does not explain how anyone escaped.

The ending shows what everyone does. Milly and Rein apparently get married, as do Sedy and Myuu.

Bashua is apparently Lilith’s dad, and Gabriel is Maria’s dad — two things that are just thrown in there with not much explanation.

So that’s Ryuki Densho. It’s not that great of a game. The gameplay is boring and forgettable, and the story is too rushed in part 2.

Now time to go take a nap.

SRPG Game 86 – Ryuki Densho Dragoon (PS1) Part 1

Ryuki Denshou (竜機伝承), released 12/18/1997, developed by KSS

The final 1997 SRPG started out as a computer game. There were two more computer games in the series but the first entry was the only one ported to consoles. Like a lot of these computer->console ports the game feels weird in a number of ways.

The game is a bit like Arc the Lad style where you can walk around and talk to people and explore, but then when you get into a battle it’s SRPG style — all the battles are fixed, though. However, there is very little to do outside of the battles and there are only one or two places in the game where you can do something other than simply proceed to the next battle.

The game has a lot of voiced dialogue, with well-known (at least at the time) seiyuu like Ishida Akira, Imai Yuka, Seki Toshihiko and Hoshi Shin’ichiro (lots of Gundam SEED people…)

The main character is Sedy, a 15 year old boy who lives with his family in Northton. His father was once the head of the knights but suffered a serious injury in the previous war against Galvard, and now lives here with his wife and two children. He has taught Sedy swordsmanship from a young age. One day Sedy has a dream of some sort of aircraft dropping bombs on a city, but he wakes up. He goes out to do sword practice but comes across two soldiers trying to abduct an unconscious girl. He goes into to protect her.

The battle system is pretty basic — you have a certain number of AP that you can use for all your actions. Movement generally is 1 AP per square although it depends on the terrain. Attacking is 5 AP, and special moves can be anywhere from 4-10 AP.

The battles for the most part are quite easy; the general strategy is just to let the enemies move next to you and then unload all your attacks on them. Few of the enemies can do more than one move per round. In the 30 or so battles the game has I only had trouble with one or two of them, and even then they weren’t that hard — if a character reaches 0 HP they are just out of that battle but will reappear with 1 HP afterwards. Almost every battle allows you to rest at an inn before the next battle, and even if they don’t you can buy and use healing potions (or just have your healers keep the HP up during the battle).

Levelling is very fast. If the enemies are below your level you will get almost no XP from them, but if you’re even 1-2 levels below you will rocket up the levels from killing them.

Sedy takes the unconscious girl to a nearby cabin where he and his father often stay when they are training. He makes some stew for her and she finally wakes up.

She doesn’t remember anything but her name, Myuu. He brings her back to the village, and after talking with his father, decides to go on a journey with Myuu to find out who she is and where she is from. His little sister Milly, a healer, joins up as well.

The first destination is Fearlad Kingdom, which is now a constitutional monarchy. Sedy hopes that either the Queen or the Prime Minister will help — surprisingly they agree to, but the Prime Minister (Landoll) serves them poisoned food to put them to sleep, intending to give Myuu back to the Galvard Empire.

However, fortunately they had met the prince (Raine) of the kingdom earlier in a bar.

He helps them escape. However, things are still looking really bad, especially when Landoll shoots Prince Raine with a gun. Myuu recognizes what this is and then uses a mysterious power to knock all the enemies out, but she falls unconscious briefly.

Now we need to get a pass to leave, and the rich man in town (Arcland) helps us out after Myuu drives away a demon that one of his helpers had used to control him. With Landoll hot on our trail, we escape by ship, but Milly has to stay behind to distract the guards.

One really annoying thing about this game is the item interface. It’s one of the worst of any SRPG I’ve played so far. There is no way to see who can equip what. You have to use two separate menus to do it — one to move the item to the character, and then another to equip it. Fortunately the equipment makes very little difference and so a lot of the time I just didn’t bother.

Myuu and Sedy talk on the boat ride. An old man on the boat thinks there is something strange about Myuu, but gives us a little dragon-like animal named Putil to accompany us.

Eventually the party reaches Norbel, a port town in the eastern continent. The team sees two people run a scam on a stall owner and steal his food.

But catching up with them, it turns out they were giving most of the food to homeless kids in town. Sedy isn’t particularly happy with this but they let the issue drop and leave — only to find that when they are attacked by bandits, the two people (Lilith and Bubret) join up to fight. Lilith says they are headed for the capital anyway so they might as well travel together.

On our way we pass through the town of Mana, where the townspeople are having problems. A lake dragon keeps taking their girls as sacrifice. Myuu and Lilith decide to have fun swimming.


And Myuu and Lilith are taken to the depths! However, the town chief tells us there is a way to get into the underground caves, and perhaps they might not be dead yet. A woman named Silva joins us.

Reaching the bottom of the cave, the party finds all the town women alive, and Lilith and Myuu are playing in the water with a little boy. However, when we say that we’re rescuing everyone, the boy gets mad and turns into the dragon. He attacks, but after the fight it turns out he’s simply lonely, and when we agree to take him along with us the rest of the women are freed and life in Mana goes back to normal.

Finally the party reaches Lafarl, the capital city. First stop is of course the pub, but there Lilith finds the black-haired man that destroyed her town and killed her parents. She’s looking for revenge.

However, Bashua (the man) easily knocks her away with dark power, although he doesn’t kill her. He leaves behind a locket that has Lilith and her parents in it — now why would he have that? For now we can’t really bother with this, though. The Queen here agrees to help, and in return we go investigate a southern bridge where a number of soldiers were lost. Bashua is there with some followers, and after a battle, knocks us all into the bridge. This is one of the dumbest parts:

Prior to the battle, they make a big deal about how deep the chasm is and how we can’t cross the bridge. After the battle, Bashua knocks everyone into the gap. But during the battle you can walk over the gap and even stop on the chasm. I think things like this show the sort of half-ass nature of the battle system.

Four of the party members wake up on a shore, near a town that Lilith seems to know — it turns out this is where she was found after her village was destroyed. This little girl (I guess?) named Marle also joins.

Now it’s across the desert to try to get back to Lafarl. In the city across the desert we meet a researcher.

He’s working on an airplane but they need Magic Stones to make it work, and those are hard to find. Lilith has a solution — although her home town is destroyed, there still should be magic stones there. We’ll get them as long as he agrees to fly us back to Lafarl. Her town (Weldin) has a bunch of ghosts and zombies in it, but also the magic stone we need. Up up and away!

Unfortunately Silva and Lilith screw around on the plane causing it to crash in Galvard, the third continent. After it was defeated in the previous war it was supposed to be demilitarized, but something seems odd. It’s especially odd when Landoll shows up, wanting to meet Emperor Jedi and a guy named Marsh.

Troops at the castle stop us and then say because we tried to enter the castle we’ll be executed, but a dude with a gun shoots the troop off the bridge.

He is a mercenary named Deen, and we’re able to get access to the castle by pretending to join the military, and then bluffing our way past various guards. We come across a Professor Gabriel who recognizes Myuu and tells us to please get as far away from the castle as we can with her, but he doesn’t tell us who she is. In any case we continue into the castle and find Lafarl troops in jail — Galvard is ready to make war on Lafarl again. For some reason you can talk to Mash Gearhazard and Emperor Jedi and they’ll laugh about their plans to take over the world.

Deen has a magic stone so that lets us fix the airplane and take off to try to go back to Lafarl and warn them. Unfortunately a large fleet of Galvard planes (much more advanced than anything Gideon and his scientist friend came up with) are going too. The bombing of Lafarl from Sedy’s dream happens.

Sedy’s ship crashes into one of the Lafarl ships, and they fight soldiers. Afterwards they have to escape on a small ship.

Unfortunately Myuu doesn’t make it onto the ship.

She thanks Sedy for all his help, and then the ship crashes.

A girl named Maria finds Sedy unconscious on the shore. Now three years pass!

I’ll end the post here; we’re kind of in the second half of the game although I think they ran out of development time because the second part seems somewhat rushed. I need a bit of padding for July so this will become two posts even though I have finished the game. I’ll do Part 2 next week, then the 1997 SRPG wrapup and 1998 preview, and I hope I can have Ys V finished for the week after that, but there might be one week of missed update.

SRPG Game 85 – Shining Force III Scenario 1 Chapters 5-6

Early in chapter 5 we do this “tower” map; it reminds me of the tower map in SF2 although it wasn’t quite as hard because there weren’t as many spellcasters. This map also has a thief map with a hidden character in it; if you escape you can’t get him (he’s mostly helpful because of a sleep spell).

The next battle vs. Golem is interesting; once you get in the main corridor you have to take repeated multi-hit attacks from the Golem, although the enemies will get hurt as well. But once I got my guys up there with the help of some healing, he went down pretty easily. The last battle vs. the Queen Worm isn’t so bad since she can also be rushed fairly easily — the little worms’ poison attacks can be somewhat rough.

Chapter 6 is the final assault on Aspia. The first couple of battles aren’t too bad.

This was a tricky battle. Spiriel will join in scenario 3 if you don’t kill her here, but she hits hard so I used Hagane to put her to sleep. The final enemy group is rough because you only have this short plank bridge to cross and it’s easy for the enemies to block your access where you can get killed by Basanda’s spells. I just had to be cautious and not move everyone too far forward at once, although Hagane was running out of MP for the sleep spells as well… (This map also has a thief’s map if that weren’t bad enough, but I forgot to bring the map item and didn’t think the reward was worth it)

After this, you can do the “Hero’s Test” optional series of maps. I didn’t complete them, but the endless enemies are really good for levelling up the force before the final battle. I’m not sure if they give more XP than normal enemies or if it just seemed like that, but just an hour or so in the maps gained 5-7 levels for each guy.

The final battle is in two parts. The first part you have to split your force into two. Synbios’ half of the force takes on these enemies in the bridge. It begins difficult but if you can move everyone to the left and take out the mages it becomes easier, even when the Colossus comes out.

In the other map you have to beat a Giga Knight guarding the dam wheel. I will admit I used a rather cheap strategy here; you just fly the winged guy up to the boss with a Rapier equipped and reset until you get a critical hit on Danse Macabre which kills him instantly. If you don’t do this you’ll need a decently powerful second group that can get up there as quickly as possible and take him out.

The final part of the battle is significantly easier; the enemies do not regenerate so you can take them out and then focus on the boss himself. Even though he gets two turns and only one person at a time can attack directly from the front, as long as you didn’t lose too many people in the first part it’s not that difficult.

Then Part 1 ends with a big cliffhanger that won’t be resolved until part 3 (since part 2 takes place at the same time). The English version is different, evidently because they already knew they wouldn’t be releasing parts 2 and 3. It doesn’t fundamentally change what happens but it softens the cliffhanger and provides a bit more resolution; it makes it seem more like setting up for a potential sequel that isn’t necessary, rather than a direct lead-in to part 3.

I would say that I enjoyed this more than SF2 or 1. We’ll see if I keep the positive impression over the next two parts (which are both 1998 games).

SRPG Game 85 – Shining Force III Scenario 1 Chapters 1-4 (Sat)

Shining Force III Scenario 1 (シャイニング・フォースIII), released 12/11/1997, developed by Camelot, published by Sega

As the copyright logo above indicates, the first two Shining Force games came out in 1992 and 1993, then the next one did not come out until 1997. In this period there were four games in the Shining series released — the CD compilation of the game gear games, and Final Conflict for the Game Gear. There were also two games released for the Saturn (an action RPG and a dungeon crawling RPG).

Finally, the third main Force game came out. It was planned in three scenarios which were fortunately all released, although only the first one came out with an official English release. The first two scenarios take place at the same time with different parties, and the third one forms a conclusion to the story. There are certain parts in the game where you can do things that will affect the other scenarios if you carry over save data (called the “Synchronicity System”), although it mostly seems to be a few optional characters and small changes to battles rather than any sort of major story difference.

The system as a whole is almost entirely the same as the previous games. The graphics were redone in 3D; while apparently some people were put off by the quality, they are definitely not the worst I’ve seen from this era. The interface is pretty much the same, and I still think the item management is annoying. Especially when you kill a monster and can’t carry the item without dropping something because you are already carrying 4; that seems like something that shouldn’t be in a 1997 game.

Almost everything else is the same as SF1 and 2 — the classes, promotion (at level 10 in this case), Return spell for the main character, cheap revive in the churches, status effects, spells, etc. They added a few new things, though. The first are special attacks that you can learn by using a type of weapon repeatedly. I don’t find these change the strategy very much because they activate randomly. There’s a FE-like weapon triangle system. There is also a friendship/support system which grants bonuses to people adjacent, shown by the shields and swords here:

But despite those changes it feels more or less exactly like SF1 and 2. Because it’s 3D there are some height differences but from what I can tell they don’t affect damage/hit at all.

As I did with the last SF post I’m only going to mention battles that have something beyond just moving forward and using basic tactics. Wikipedia has a good overview of the plot which I will copy:

Scenario 1 features Synbios, a young lord from the Republic of Aspinia. Aspinia was once a part of the Empire of Destonia, but seceded after a war of independence spearheaded by some of the more democratic-minded nobles. They opposed Emperor Domaric’s totalitarian policies, which disenfranchised a large number of people, creating a huge disparity between the wealthy and the poor. Tensions remained between Aspinia and Destonia after the secession, marked by occasional border disputes.

As the game begins, Synbios is part of a military force representing Aspinia at a peace conference in the neutral city of Saraband. Due to manipulation by outside forces – later discovered to be connected with a religious cult known as the “Bulzome Sect” – full-scale war breaks out again between Aspinia and Destonia. The majority of the game’s storyline covers this conflict as well as Synbios and his team’s fight against the Bulzome sect.

The beginning of the game seemed more difficult than the previous SFs, although as with those games you can always escape from the fight and try again. In Stage 2 you need to rush forward if you want to get some optional characters, but this leaves your force exposed to attacks from the front and back.

Stage 5 has the first “thief map” which I don’t seem to have gotten a screenshot of. In towns you can find some maps that will allow you to enter ruins on the next stage. When you do so, a thief (or thieves) will go in and try to get the treasures ahead of you. Sometimes there are additional monsters in the ruins as well. Only the enemy thieves can open the main chests in the ruins, and so you have to let them take the items and then hit them which will force them to drop them. But the thieves, after getting the chests, will try to leave the map and if they do the ruins are destroyed and you can’t try again. You have to enter the ruins with as many non-Synbios characters as you want, but they’ll be off the main map for the time being. The one on stage 5 has the very useful Life Ring, which regenerates HP every turn. I gave this to Synbios.

There’s a slight steampunk vibe to the game with steam trains, but so far that seems to be about the only visible tech other than one optional character who is in a little steam robot-type thing.

Stage 7 is not so hard to clear, but you need to try to save a bunch of refugees with trains coming in to block your progress.

You can hit a lever to make the train go somewhere better, but even then this is tough — I’m not entirely sure how I got the refugees away; there was one turn where the enemies could have reached them and attacked but for some reason they didn’t.

Stage 12 in chapter 3 pits you against a strong sorcerer in a haunted mansion with a lot of hidden enemies — I had to escape this battle twice to win.

There is, as usual, a suspension bridge fight — I think they are being a bit cheeky by making one of the enemies want to drop the bridge but then another enemy kills him to prevent it.

The joke (Jogurt) character for this game is pen, a little chicken:

Apparently if you train him up he can be decent, but it’s a lot of work to do so.

Overall this is a decent game and I think it’s probably my favorite of the SFs so far although they’re all pretty similar. I should be done with the game next week (I’m already on the final chapter).

Now bear my arctic blast!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SRPG Game 83 – Ronde (Saturn)

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

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

The characters and battle maps look like this:

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

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

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

Sakurako talks to Charlie Watts, the Englishman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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