Thanks to the action of our ninjas we’re able to uncover a plot by the remaining major warlords to attack Mouri all at once. Meanwhile Motoharu (one of Motonari’s sons) is seriously injured by another ninja; this seems to be an invention of the game since the historical Motoharu retired after participating in one of Hideyoshi’s campaigns and then died of cancer.
The initial way I did this map turned out to be a mistake; the reinforcements at the top come out and then head for your base. The problem is that the island at the bottom center and the place with the main boss at the right have endless reinforcements until you kill the boss associated with the place. The island isn’t a big problem because the boss heads towards you. So what I eventually did is take part of my force down there with Terumoto, beat the enemies in the castle, and then moved Terumoto forward to force the reinforcements to come out. Then I dispatched the other half of my force and had them go north. I was able to kill all the enemies on the right just with my partial force.
This is a two battle stage. First, Sekigahara.
This is not an especially difficult stage. Some reinforcements at the NW but this is a stage where steady progress is enough to win (I used some of the slower units to deal with the reinforcements.)
The final stage, on the other hand, is annoying. Tokugawa Ieyasu is in the castle at the NE. You only have to beat him to win, but there are four places with endless reinforcements. I split my party in two and sent one N and one E. It took a long time but eventually I took out the 4 places and was left just with the upper part. But that part was very long too;
Eventually you come near the castle, which also has endless reinforcements. My goal was just to brute force forward enough to let Terumoto use the hissatsu move (x4 damage); this wasn’t enough to kill Ieyasu but I had one of the flute players give Terumoto another turn, which was enough.
The ending is pretty short. Tokugawa escapes but is killed by people hunting the remnants. Terumoto becomes the Shogun, and the game ends with him heading out again to beat some of the remnants of those who oppose him (this may be based on the Shimabara Rebellion, or some other conflict).
This is a hard game for me to give a rating to. It was very long (duckstation says I spent 65 hours on it; that’s including resets and reloads, so I think this game was still shorter than FE4 which I finished with a 65 hour in-game timer.)
On the whole I enjoyed it, but the game is quite slow moving and feels long. You spend a lot of time moving your forces to get within range of the enemies. The stuff you do between battles can take a long time (easily an hour or more). I’m conflicted whether to give this an A or B rating — I feel like it’s between the two but I don’t have that option.
This series will make one more appearance with Oda Nobunaga-den, which I believe is based on the system from this game.
I should have kept better notes for the earlier stages but for the last part of the game I have stage writeups. This will take one more post later in the week.
This part of the game is a mix of historical and ahistorical content; the historical content goes up to stage 24.
This is the first stage without Motonari, although Terumoto inherits all his equipment. The stage begins with a few enemies to the right and a wide open space on top; of course reinforcements will come in there. There are two groups, one to the left and one to the right, plus sea units. I sent my main force right to deal with the initial enemies, and then had them go up while the backup units sat near the main castle to deal with the sea guys and some of the left units, although I was able to wipe out the right units and bring my main force to the left side of the map before they seriously threatened the castle.
This is based on a historical sea battle that took place as part of the Ishiyama Hongan-ji war. In the game you have to protect 3 supply units that are getting food to Honganji. They start out in the sea but will end up on land. There are a ton of sea units but the Wave ability is so powerful that I was able to kill them all with 4 pirates, losing only one. I sent one ninja SW for the villages, two bandits into the mountains for the mines, and everyone else just went forward. There’s one set of reinforcements near the end but they can be easily dealt with.
So far we’re still following history, this is the Siege of Kozuki Castle. Hideyoshi starts with some guys at the NE and they will have endless reinforcements until you take him out so that’s the first target (although I didn’t realize this so had to split my team). After that there’s an annoying middle section with cannons and gun units, but once they’re all dealt with it’s smooth sailing after that.
The tactician units have a very useful heal all units tech; it costs 90 points but that’s enough for two uses even without heal TP items.
The beginning of this stage has the last of the historical content. Oda Nobunaga is killed by Akechi Mitsuhide in the Honnoji Incident, and Hideyoshi makes peace (more of a partial surrender) with the Mouri clan so he can go after Mitsuhide. Terumoto accepts the terms. In history the Mouri clan then became one of Hideyoshi’s most loyal supporters and even joined in the failed invasion of Korea. After Hideyoshi’s death, Terumoto opposed Tokugawa Ieyasu and after Ieyasu’s victory, Terumoto surrendered to him and was reduced to the Choshu Domain, where the Mouri clan remained for the rest of the Edo period. Like other domain heads, the Mouri clan leader became a “duke” in the post-Meiji system. The current head of the clan is Mori Motohide, who works for Hitachi Metals (which became Proteria earlier this year).
In this game, Terumoto decides to take advantage of the confusion surrounding Nobunaga’s death to attack Hideyoshi from behind as he’s leaving to deal with Mitsuhide. Hideyoshi flees for Himeji Castle — I don’t think it’s possible to stop him from reaching the castle and you have to deal with reinforcements along the way. The second group started going for the home base; I sent out some trash units to guard it but they didn’t end up reaching it soon enough before Hideyoshi was killed. So much for his dream.
Next up Terumoto decides that the best thing to do is to enter Kyoto (being allowed to enter Kyoto as a warlord means you have the direct support of the Shogun and thus the Emperor); he gets the support of Shogun Yoshiaki. On the way he meets Akechi Mitsuhide, and this is the first of two fights in this chapter.
There’s not much to it — two sets of reinforcements appear but they are strangely light (I assumed endless reinforcements would come out of the forts but they didn’t — given how few units are in the reinforcement castles I wonder if this is a bug). Akechi’s castle has a lot of cannon units which are dangerous, but you get 80 turns to beat the stage so it’s easy just to approach slowly and use healing from the tacticians and supply carts.
The second part of the stage has Terumoto going after Mitsuhide after establishing himself in the capital. This stage only has some water reinforcements, but after getting across the water with the help of pirates, the rest of the stage is much easier than the last few. Now Mitsuhide is dead (in history he was killed in a different place by an attack of Hideyoshi’s).
Three more stages, hopefully I can have the last post up by Tuesday.
I’m still working my way through Mouri Motonari; the next post after this will be the conclusion of that game, although it may not come out next weekend (perhaps a few days after that).
I was thinking of doing a filler post of some other game, but I didn’t want to take away any time from MM. Instead, I thought of writing this reflection post — I’ve now played 82 strategy RPGs for this blog, which is far more than I had ever played before I started writing it. I’m getting a better picture of the kind of SRPGs I like, at least when it comes to these older titles. So here are some qualities that seem to make a game enjoyable, or not enjoyable, for me. I’m trying to pick categories here that don’t apply to just a single game.
Character Differentiation and Growth
I like when the characters have significant differences between them (or at least characters of different classes). A bad example is Farland Story, where everyone just attacks either 1 or 2 range (even the mages), and the cleric heals 1 range. You can use different weapons but it just makes the numbers go up, and they don’t learn any skills or powers as they level. The game doesn’t necessarily have to be a full-on FFT job system but I like to have a party that feels different on stage 20 than on stage 2.
A big map is not a problem — FE4 was a good game and it had maps that were quite large. What I don’t like is when the maps are needlessly large, and you have to spend a significant amount of your time on the map just moving your characters forward until they get close enough to fight the enemies. If there is some strategic value in this that’s fine (although I’m not sure I can think of an example), but in many of these cases there isn’t. It’s even more annoying when overall movement rates are slow, or when different characters have such different movement rates that you have to deliberately move the faster ones more slowly so they don’t get too far ahead.
Memorable maps that are constructed with some thought are a good thing. Generic enemies on generic maps (e.g. Shining Force II) are not good. I like to have a situation where you can remember stage 11 because it’s the one where you have to deal with the initial onslaught of horsemen, then defeat General McAdams in the fort before you can move on to the narrow mountain pass with the archers, etc.
Level difference between combatants
I don’t like it when characters cannot fight well if they are below the defender in levels. This just forces grinding or focusing your party on a few people. This was a big problem with Tactics Ogre and Arc the Lad. Although strangely, Summon Night 3 and 4 have this but they are two of my favorite SRPGs
For some reason it took designers a long time to figure out that it was OK to give the player a lot of information about how the system works. You can show how much damage the attackers will do, specify exactly what having elemental compatibility will do, and such. Few games I’ve played so far have had this, unfortunately.
Mouri Motonari – Chikai no Sanshi (毛利元就 誓いの三矢), developed by Koei, released 10/12/1997 [Saturn version]
This is the third game in Koei’s Eiketsuden series, after Sangokushi Eiketsuden and Sangokushi Koumeiden, both of which I played earlier. This game moves the action from the Three Kingdoms period of China to the Sengoku period of Japan (15th and 16th centuries). The settings are similar in that you have a lot of local warlords attempting to extend their own territory, and a lot of shifting alliances, betrayals, and such. It also has a strong pop culture presence with the various warlords. Like the first two games, this was originally released for computers and then ported to consoles (in this case Playstation and Saturn — from what I can tell, the Saturn and PS versions are identical).
Mouri Motonari is known for being a calculating, intelligent, and perhaps ruthless warlord who expanded his territory from a tiny province. He’s a bit like Liu Bei in that he had a lot of initial success, but suffered some later setbacks and then died of illness before the end of the war. As with the previous games, the last third of this game is a “what if” scenario where Motonari struggles through and unifies Japan, defeating Tokugawa Ieyasu and Hideyoshi (who were the historical victors of the conflict). Unlike the previous games, there are no alternate scenarios here — there’s no “bad” historical ending, just one path through the the game. The title “Pledge of the three arrows” refers to a possibly apocryphal story in which Motonari shows his three sons that three single arrows are easy to break, but a bundle of three arrows cannot be broken.
Because of the nature of the story I’m not going to do a summary; like the first two games there are just too many names and the constantly shifting alliances and events are complicated. You can read the Mouri Motonari wikipedia article to see a basic summary of the game at least for the first two parts, as well as the Sengoku article for a historical background. The basic idea is that Motonari grows his power from a small local clan to a major player in the Sengoku period (and in the game, at least, eventually unifies Japan). He does this through a combination of alliances, marriages, and warfare.
The gameplay in the battles is a slightly refined version of the system in the first two games. Because of the time period, there are now guns and cannon units. The biggest change is that different weapons have different attack ranges even within a category — for instance, there are at least three ranges that a spear can have. A big part of the strategy in the game is to have a variety of weapon types so that you can attack enemies from places they can’t counter. There are a lot more villages and mines on the map that you can visit for resources and items. Units also get a bonus from standing next to Motonari himself, or a tactician — I don’t remember if that was the case in previous games.
What is quite different is the pre-battle stuff. You can visit various buildings in the castles and towns you have control over, and talk to people, buy things, and such. You can also train your characters who are behind in levels (a nice feature), and craft items. All of this takes a really long time, especially if you aren’t looking at a guide and actually talking to every single person.
The item crafting is the major way you get new items and equipment (you can also buy them at stores). You hire craftsmen from the towns and then level them up by crafting items. Some of the resources you need to make the items you can buy, others you cannot. I’m not completely sure what having multiple craftsmen of the same type does; maybe there’s a maximum you can level up or things you can’t make, or maybe you level faster with more guys? The manual doesn’t make it clear. In any case, you can upgrade your weapons pretty easily early in the game, and also get money by selling the things you make in town for more than the materials are worth.
I’ve played the first 12 battles so far out of 29; this is a rather long game and it may take me another 2 weeks or so to finish. This is “part one” of the game that covers from Motonari’s youth up to to the Battle of Miyajima in 1555. Some notes on a few of the stages:
Battle 7 has you trying to escape. You might be able to kill all the units here if you really work at it but I just followed the story and sacrificed most of my troops to secure Motonari’s exit from the map.
Battle 8 is tough because you really have to go fast to save the NPC characters that are guarding a fort, but on the way you also have to make sure to send some people aside to help guard a different fort. Even moving a lot of my horsemen and ninjas at top speed, I was only barely able to save the fort by sacrificing all my ninjas to draw off their attacks until enough decent units could get there to stave off the attacks.
Battle 12 (Miyajima) is interesting; if you go into it straight it’s very hard, but you can do various plots beforehand to get allies or put the enemies in bad positions. The best result is to get a fleet of ships to help you kill the sea units (so they don’t reach the NE castle) and then have the Sue attacks start out on the land near Motonari.
I may not want to do three posts on this game, so next week could be a filler post since I doubt I will finish the remaining stages in a week.
Front Mission 2 (フロントミッション セカンド), released 9/25/1997, developed and published by Square
This is the second main game in the Front Mission series (Front Mission Gun Hazard, a non-SRPG, was released before it). As I said in my original post, I was disappointed in the first game for a number of reasons, and was hoping the second game would improve on various issues.
I feel like it did, while at the same time having its own flaws and drawbacks. One that is criticized by almost everyone is how slow the game plays. Load times are long (even playing off an ISO), everything is sluggish, and there are unskippable long battle animations. Setting up your Wanzer units is frustrating because of how long it takes the images to render. When FM2 was re-packaged in the “Front Mission History” set, they hacked in a battle animation skip feature (thanks to Harvey for letting me know about this). However, this is only a hacky patch; you get little to no information about what happened in the battle and have to check the status afterwards — all you see from the overhead map is the total HP of a unit, which is a virtually irrelevant statistic (the HP of each part is much more important).
The game is the same basic system as FM1, with each “wanzer” (mech) having HP divided into body, two arms, and legs. If you lose parts you also lose the ability to move or use that weapon, and if the body goes you’re dead. This game no longer has the ability to aim at specific parts, but that introduces more luck into the game because an attack might miss, or spread damage around to parts, or it might take out your arms or body. Current total HP is no guarantee of anything.
The skills are implemented better in this game. One of the complaints I had about FM1 was that the skill learning seemed random, whereas this time you get specific skills at specific levels (which are still divided into Fight, Short, and Long).
One big change is the AP system. Each character has a certain number of AP (starting at 7 but going up as you level). You use the AP to move (1 point per space, up to your move limit) and to make attacks (from 3-6 AP). You also then need AP in the enemy phase to be able to counterattack.
In principle you recover all AP at the beginning of each round. But each enemy that is adjacent to you reduces the AP recovery, and each Ally increases it again. So this incentivizes you to move as a group — the same rules apply to the enemy as well, so if you surround an enemy they will likely be unable to act on their turn.
There are also “honor levels” that get you skills which help out your surrounding allies; I know you get them from beating enemies or attacking but neither the instruction manual nor the in-game help really explain how the system works.
One of the main complaints was the slow speed, but another one is the balance issues. This is one of those games where differences in levels between attacker and defender make a huge difference, particularly in hit rates. So if you have a guy who falls behind a bit they are ineffective in combat, and there is no real way to catch them up. More problematic, a common issue I saw is that if you try to use your whole team (you can dispatch up to 11 people later), you will get to a point where none of your characters can match the enemies in levels and you’re stuck. What you should do instead is focus on 5-7 characters and have the rest just use items for healing, without “stealing” any of the XP.
On the good side, Amano’s designs are good as usual and overall the graphics are strong. This game benefits from the increased internal resolution options of emulators which sharpens the mech polygons as well as the buildings and other objects on the map.
And also on the good side, there are a number of people who consider this the best game in the series because of the difficulty level and strategic challenge — it seems like if you start out knowing what you are doing (or are willing to restart from the beginning once you figure things out) you can enjoy the game. Although it is telling that all of the positive reviews I saw spent the first paragraph reassuring people that the game was not as bad as everyone says it is.
The story takes place 12 years after the first game, in Alordesh. The military overthrows the pro-OCU (Union) government and declares independence, led by Ven Mackarge. The main character Ash Faruk escapes Alordesh with his companions from the Muddy Otters, but then decides to return to Alordesh to save his friend Griff who was left behind.
Ash comes across Thomas Norland, a survivor of the OCU, as well as Lisa Stanley, an intelligence officer. At first the story switches between Ash and Lisa. Lisa is trying to figure out what is going on with the coup — who might be behind it from the outside. Here’s some nice fanart of her companion Sayuri, and the battler champion Cordy who joins their team: (courtesy of Autumn Sacura on deviantart)
I played the first 11 of 31 stages — some of the stages are quite challenging, others are relatively easy if you move slowly forward and surround the enemies. The hardest one was stage 5 where you have to protect a weak helicopter as it escapes the stage. I had to restart this stage four times to finally be able to beat it.
But, I’m really not having that much fun with the game. I’m having to force myself to play it, and even when I sit down to play it I often watch youtube videos to procrastinate starting the emulator, which is not a good sign. So I think I’m tentatively deciding to move on to the next game. It does bother me a bit to skip a game because it’s hard, although I feel like in this case it’s a combination of the difficulty, the slow pace of the game, and the worrying possibility that I would reach a point where I could not progress further. However, a remake is currently in progress for the Switch, which hopefully will fix some of the issues without completely changing the game to something unrecognizable.
Let me know if you played this game and enjoyed it!
I’m going to take a break from posting for the Christmas holidays; I may or may not have some filler posts like this scheduled during the break, but I will be back with normal updates on Jan 7 (Romancing SaGa 3)
This post will collect the information on the Farland series and include some of the remakes that I did not discuss in other posts.
The main Farland series consists of 14 games originally for computers, and eight games for various consoles. The console games are mostly ports, but a few of them are more extensive remakes and one is an entirely new game.
The original series
The first 7 games came out for PC-98 and the eighth for Windows. It seems like six of the games have fan translations.
Two games came out for the Super Famicom. The first was just called Farland Story, but it was not a direct port of any of the games. Apparently it’s roughly a combination of the first and second games but not just a straight adaptation. As I said in my review, it’s an incredibly boring game. It’s about the most basic, laziest implementation of a strategy game possible.
The second game for SFC was an entirely original game. It was still bad, but slightly better than the first one.
The second game was remade for Sega Saturn as “Farland Story: Dance of Destruction.” The Saturn version is nearly identical to the SFC version; the graphics look the same. They did not voice the text.
There are two changes that make the game a bit easier to play. You can turn off battle animations, and there is a “gather” (集合) command that moves everyone to the same place, which helps with the parts where you spend 30 minutes just moving your guys to get in range of the enemies
In addition to the SFC games, there was Farland Story FX. It is similar to the SFC version but apparently it’s a closer remake of the first two games together. I’m not going to play either game enough to determine all the differences.
As expected, it plays on the strengths of the PC-FX console with animated sequences and fully voiced dialogues. It has a “speed” mode that cuts out the walking animations and also lets you skip battle animations but the “gather” feature isn’t there. So it’s better than the SFC version but still the same basic bland/boring gameplay, I think.
This version was then ported to the Playstation.
There are some minor graphical differences, you can skip the pre-battle text by pressing start, and there is text for the speech in the pre-battle sequences, but other than that it seems to be the same game. This is probably the best version to play if you really want to do it.
There were two games in this series, both for Windows. The first one came out in 1996 and got a 1998 Saturn port, and the other came out in 1997 and has a 1998 Saturn and a 1999 Playstation port. I’ll reach these games later, and I will be interested to see if they solve any of the problems with the original game. Given that Saga 1 came out immediately after the 8 Story games I’m not hopeful, but we’ll see.
Farland Odyssey and Symphony
The four games in the Odyssey and Symphony series were never ported to any consoles, so they will not be covered here. The first Symphony game has a fan translation. Since 2002 when Symphony 2 came out, there have been no more Farland games. The TGL company still exists (now as a subsidiary of Entergram) but it doesn’t seem like the series will ever continue.
You have to cross some mountains and go around a castle to get to him but I didn’t find the stage all that difficult. I had Sherufanir’s arbalests help from below the castle, and using Decline and magic spells helped clear out some of the enemies before my main force got into the castle to win.
This stage seemed to be very similar to the previous one, and the same tactics worked. Ivar shows up to the right but I just ignored him and he left after a few turns.
I was annoyed to find out here that somehow I had done things wrong and Landius could not get the final class promotion. I was rather confused by the card drawing at the beginning and I tried to consult several sources, but apparently I never understood it correctly. This is also where I started seeing that McClain, Ricky, and Angelina were going to be dead weight most of the time, I’ll talk about this later. But the GameFAQs walkthrough that says you should make McClain and Ricky Serpent Lords is not good.
This is the usual “Defeat Bozel” stage. Here you have to kill Bozel, get Landius to the back and pick up the Langrisser, and then defeat Chaos with Landius or one of Landius’ units. The first time I tried teleporting Landius up to Langrisser but that didn’t work at all. So instead I used a slow and steady advancement and mostly ignored Chaos (who wasted a lot of turns). In the picture above I think I am using Heal 2 to restore my health.
To beat this stage I teleported Landius directly to Emily — I found this was the only way to save Lansford. He can’t die as an NPC or you lose the stage, but he has no AI at all. There are strong pikemen near where he starts and he goes straight for them on his horse and dies within a couple of turns. But once you have control over him you can move him down away from the pikemen, and use normal tactics to beat the stage.
At this point you get a love scene with Landius and another girl. I tried Sherufanir and Angelina but my love points with them weren’t high enough and they turned Landius down. Only Listil the demon accepted:
This is the final stage and unfortunately it’s where my playthrough came to an end. I tried this stage several times, with different strategies and different pre-battle formations. I went back and cleared 26C again using the stage select code to class up Sherufanir, Lansford, and Naal, and I used the shop code to be able to buy anything, and I still couldn’t do it. The enemy archers and ballistae were too strong and I couldn’t take out enough of them (or their commanders) to stop them before the decimated my forces. Teleporting Landius up to the top didn’t work because he couldn’t get a turn quickly enough to avoid being killed by the enemies up there.
The problem is that too many of my characters were just outclassed and useless, particularly McClain, Ricky, and Angelina. Even at Angelina’s hidden Dragon class, with the best buyable equipment, she could not attack anyone, even grunts, without dying or being reduced to 2 HP. Her Archangels were fine but the enemy archers would just go for Angelina herself and kill her in two attacks. McClain was utterly useless. Ricky could do a little bit but not enough.
Lansford, Listil, and Landius were fine, and Sherufanir and Naal were useful, but that just wasn’t enough to be able to beat all the Meteors and archers.
So this is where I’m going to end my L4 playthrough, unfortunately. I may possibly redo the game when I reach the PS remake of it — if I do, I will do the A or B route, make sure I can promote Landius to a secret class, and do more sensible promotions for McClain. Angelina, and Ricky. But for now, I’ll have to end Langrisser IV here.
I had a busy week so I haven’t finished L4 yet. Should be done next weekend.
Stage 16 – This is an annoying water stage, where your people are on various boats. I used Angelina’s flying units to take out all the catapults and then slowly moved everyone up to beat the boss. The guest units that came in were mostly useless.
At this point the story branches into three routes. If you put it in Der Langrisser terms, the A route is the “light” route, the B route the “Chaos” route, and the C route the “independent” route. I went with the C route, which requires you to have the sisters love values at a certain point, you have to activate the event where Emily realizes that Landius is her brother, and you have to choose to reject the alliance with the demons before stage 17.
Stage 17C – I tried the Der Langrisser independent path but was not able to beat the first stage because I was left with only three commanders, one of which I had not levelled much at all. You are also left with 3 here but on the whole they were a bit better, and Landius was strong enough to basically win the stage by himself — I mostly went for the enemy commanders to shorten things.
Now the demon Listil and her companion Naal join; Sherufanir mentions later that it’s odd Landius rejected the alliance with the demons but then immediately got two demons on his team. Listil is a healer and Naal an attacking magician, although Listil’s MP start pretty low.
Stage 18C – I found this stage to be fairly easy; there are plenty of Meteor casters but at least on this stage the enemies quickly run out of MP and with three commanders able to cast heal it’s easy to recover.
This was a slow, but not especially difficult, stage. We fight against Sherufanir and Selena. By moving slowly and using troops with good affinity I progressed to the bottom. I did have a difficult time dealing with Selena along with Sherufanir’s spells and the other enemies but Landius was able to deal with Selena and from there Sherufanir by herself couldn’t do much.
Stage 20C – This is very similar to 19C, you’re just beating Sherufanir and Selena again. Of course at the end of this stage Bozel brings out Langrisser and Alhazard and revives Chaos.
Stage 21C – Much easier; you start out vs. Sherufanir and Selena but quickly Sherufanir joins your team and Selena as an NPC. Selena won’t die and will help out with the healing, and there are not very many spellcasters.
I found this stage to be quite difficult. I went very slowly at first, killing all the archers and spellcasters near the start with Sherufanir’s arbalests, and Decline + magic spells. After that I started moving forward but the trolls are strong, and then once you near Bruno, he pulls out a cheap trick that turns Sherufanir and Angelina into enemies. I tried to rush the stage but Bruno’s arbalests were able to make mincemeat of Landius. Plus, you have four enemy commanders that all cast magic spells plus some nasty archers.
However, if you just wait a turn or two, Jessica shows up and disables the arbalests. This gave me enough of an edge that I could kill the archer commander, just walk past the demons (with healing sent up from Ricky and Listil) and then defeat Bruno.
Five stages left; I should be done by next weekend.
Langrisser IV (ラングリッサーIV), released 8/1/1997, developed by Masaya
Time to return to one of the main series of SRPGs in this era. This entry in the series abandons the real time system of the previous game (thankfully), although the turns are now speed-based instead of player turn-enemy turn. Langrisser 5 was released only 10 months after this one, and then both games were ported to the Playstation in 1999. My understanding is that Langrisser 5 is essentially a polished version of 4s, and that the Playstation 4 upgrades it to 5’s system. I decided to play the original Saturn version of 4 to better show the progression of the series.
The game takes place 200 years after Langrisser II, in the kingdom of Yeless. Gizlof, a wizard high in the ranks of the Regenberg Federation, attempts to bend the Federation to his will. At the start of the game he needs the Sage Crystal that is in Gotahl Village, and he uses crushing taxes as a pretext to attack the village for rebellion. The main character Randius is the foster son of the village elder. Gizlof kills the father and captures his other foster daughter Rachel and the crystal. Randius and Ricky, the actual son of the elder, escape, and attempt to rescue Rachel.
After they escape they meet up with the daughters of the ineffective king of Caconcis, the southern kingdom. Randius and his group join up with Caconcis to fight against Regenberg, while Gizlof tries to take over Regenberg. He also seems to have some otherworldly backers with their own ideas (if you’ve played the other Langrisser games you already know who the villain here is).
As I said above, the system abandons the real time system of III and goes back to the grid, turn-based system of 1 and 2. The main difference is that units now act based on their “judgment” stat; basically a speed based system. Magic, as in 3, takes time to cast depending on the magic itself. While I think the system works overall, a major issue is that the hired troops and the commander can have different judgment values and act at different times. This can make it difficult to effectively use the troops and keep them within the commander’s leadership range. I believe that this was changed in 5 (and the 4 remake).
The other main difference is that commanders can’t hire as many units as they could in previous games. The number of available units is now a stat value that raises with level ups (and class changes), and possibly depends on the type of units as well. I think they also added some new abilities like the kind you see in Fire Emblem 4, although they’re mostly about equipment.
There are other minor gameplay changes but other than the major ones I mentioned earlier this is a familiar game for someone who has played Langrisser 1 and 2. I didn’t find the game especially challenging in the early parts (certainly not as hard as Langrisser 2). So I won’t do a stage-by-stage treatment.
The first really challenging stage, I thought was 14. Here you have Lanford as reinforcements who goes straight for the main character and can kill him in one hit from full HP. So you really need to finish the stage before he can reach you, but the first time I didn’t have my guys set up correctly. The second time I had everyone go around to the left, and that helped my strength be concentrated enough to defeat the enemies.
Stage 15 is a bit tough too but I think as long as you make a strong attack first and make sure that the main character can survive until Lanford leaves, it’s not too bad.
I’m finding archers much better in this game than in the earlier games.
Finally, as in the previous games, the way the AI will always heal the commander if they are below 7 or 6 HP makes it easy to deal with fleeing enemies or guys with strong attacks.
I just finished chapter 15 and it looks like I’ve fulfilled the conditions to get the C route (the Independent route that seems to be the “true” one). I’ll have more to say about the game next weekend when hopefully I will have finished it.
Shinseiden Megaseed Rebirth Chapter (神聖伝メガシード 復活編), released 7/4/1997, developed by Banpresto
This game was a joint production of Sunrise and Banpresto, and it was an attempt to make a game that would resemble the various tokusatsu hero series and super robot anime. As the addition of the subtitle shows, this was conceived as possibly being a large franchise taking place in several time periods over a number of games, anime, etc But this presumably depended on the sales of this game — since no other media ever came out in this franchise, it must not have sold well. (There was a “creation chapter” single manga volume that came out a few months before the game that covered the backstory that is narrated at some point in this game).
The storyline does feel like the genre they were trying for, and the visuals are relatively good (with both the special attacks and the pictures in the story sequences). Unfortunately the gameplay is lacking — I’ll cover this first and then do the story afterwards.
The game is made up of 14 “scenes”. Each scene has story and then a first battle. After this battle comes the only chance to improve your characters, spending roughly 3000 “guts points” to raise stats. It costs the number of GP as the value you want to raise the stat to — that is, if DEF is 100 and you want to raise it to 101, it costs 101 points. Each stat can be upgraded max 5 times. As far as I can tell, the GP you have to spend is a fixed value (I think 3000, although you also save whatever you didn’t spend last time). Since there are no items or money, that means that defeating the enemies in the battle has no purpose other than to complete the stage goal. If the goal is to defeat the boss, you will gain nothing by beating any enemies other than the boss.
You have anywhere from 2 to 6 characters in the battle. All moves except basic attacks cost BP, and for the two “biofighter” characters, they lose some BP each round. The biofighter characters begin in human form, and it takes a turn to transform them. The main character has multiple forms, but to switch forms you have to first take a turn going back to human form, then choose the new form (a total of 2 turns). Switching forms is essentially useless because of this. If the Biofighters run out of BP they revert back to human form.
The fatal flaw of the game is how difficult it is to recover BP. The only way it can be done is to go to an armored vehicle that is around on some (not all) stages. The vehicle cannot move. It takes several turns to recover the BP and then once you leave the vehicle you are in human form. Because of the limited number of units in each stage, recovering in the vehicle basically is not an option unless you are at a point in the stage where you can win without any further attacks by the character in the vehicle. Otherwise, the enemies will simply surround the vehicle and destroy it before you can recover enough to fight again (if the vehicle gets destroyed with someone in it, that person dies). This means that in every stage, you are essentially limited by the BP of each character, and to a certain extent the HP although there is one unit that can do a limited amount of healing.
Because of this, I found that essentially the only option on most stages is to go directly for the boss when the goal is to beat the boss (which is most stages). You simply cannot afford the BP it takes to beat the grunts, and there is no purpose to doing so because you don’t get any XP, money, or anything like that. If either Biofighter dies you get game over, but the other characters simply leave for that battle.
So the gameplay is basically crap, I think. It had some good ideas but they just botched the execution so badly that it’s maybe not a surprise that there was never a followup game. I actually quit on the final stage because I could not beat the first part of the map and didn’t care to try anymore — another C grade game in what is shaping up to be an overall poor year for SRPGs. Fortunately we still have Langrisser IV and Shining Force 3, at least. Anyway, now for the story.
The story is not bad, aside from the main character who is an insufferable dick. Yuuki is the main character, who begins walking home from school with friend Miyu. There’s an explosion and some alien enemies come to kidnap Yuuki’s sister Ruma, who they seem to be looking for. Yuuki tries to protect her but gets killed. A little robot named Eddy appears and sees that Yuuki has the Megaseed ability, and revives him by turning him into a Biofighter — this is apparently only the second time this has succeeded. Yuuki has now transformed into a beast, and attacks the enemies trying to save Ruma.
But Ruma gets taken anyway. After the fight he goes back to being human, but when more enemies appear, he goes back to Biofighter again by Eddy’s interference (he doesn’t want to turn into such a beast again). He also gains a new transformation, to a water Biofighter that can deal with the boss in the water.
Later, he talks to Miyu again and hears that enemies are attacking Shinrin Park; Yuuki hopes that he can find Ruma there and heads out. A mysterious man shows up investigating as well. Enemies show up again — Yuuki doesn’t want to transform but Eddie forces him to again. It turns out this mysterious guy is also a Biofighter.
One of the “Three Generals of Baidner”, Dr. Min, arrives and the other Biofighter leaves to fight him. Yuuki is left to fight the very fast Kreutzfeld, but he gets a new speedy transformation to beat him. Yuuki passes out and the other Biofighter takes him back to the base of the Jeen, an arm of the military that is dedicated to fighting the Baidner. Yuuki reluctantly agrees to join them, not because he cares about saving the world, but he hopes that he’ll find his sister (every chapter contains at least one scene where Yuuki sulks, blows up, yells at everyone, says he doesn’t care about anything but his sister, and often screws things up by going off by himself. Even when he learns that other people have had their whole family killed by Baidner he still just pouts and yells and goes off by himself. Even when this results in other people getting killed, he continues to pout and yell and insult everyone and say he doesn’t care about anything but his sister. I know this is a common anime trope but this story seems to take it to an extreme that leaves the main character completely unsympathetic.)
It turns out that Yuuki is the only “perfect” Biofighter they have found. Sei, the other Biofighter, was created by Jeen and so is not perfect. Dr. Min can control him in battle, seemingly because of this.
The other two members are Zek and Yui, normal humans, but they get some bio armors after a few stages that allow them to fight. As the story continues we are introduced to other enemies (“Myu fighters”), and the other two generals of the enemy force. Also a creature called Breth-O comes in a capsule from space; apparently this robot thing was created to kill the Biofighters, but it doesn’t seem to work correctly and so often leaves the fights, attacks the other Myu Fighters, or is ineffective. Yuuki also continues to develop new forms to fight the enemies.
Yuuki eventually learns that the enemies are doing some kind of experiments on Ruma, who is apparently someone they’ve been searching for.
Stage 11 is strange because one of the generals Rigna revives all the previous bosses we’ve fought, but you only have to kill one (who is in the water and is annoying to reach). I feel like this was done because given the way the system works, there’s no way you could have killed all the bosses before running out of resources.
Eventually we learn that Bres-O is working for the Dark God Meizas, who seems to be the head of the Baidner. Meizas was created by an ancient culture to protect the world, but now sees the Megaseed/Biofighters as a threat. It also turns out that every person in the world has some Machinery Mark in their DNA that comes from Meizas and allows the enemies to theoretically control everyone (this is how Rigna controls Sei). I was a little lost here; I think the idea is that this ancient culture was entirely destroyed but that Meizas was somehow able to preserve life by creating humans, who all have the Machinery Mark.
In Scene 13 we reach the Baidner base after defeating the 3 generals. Ruma is there, but she has been transformed into Aruma, another evil demon creature. But Ruma is able to fight for control from Aruma, and after she is beaten, Ruma completely rejects Aruma. The heroes then beat Meizas.
Unfortunately the Meizas they beat is just one terminal, and Meizas reappears and shoots a bolt of energy, killing Ruma. This seems to make Yuuki finally accept that he needs to fight for the world, not just for Ruma. They need to go to the moon to defeat Meizas for good — they can send Eddy and Yuuki there in the capsule that Bres-O used to visit Earth.
Scene 14 (the final one) is where I gave up. You have to defeat 5 Bres-O’s, without Yuuki or Eddy. I tried five times and I was unable to beat more than three of them before everyone died. Maybe I needed to spend my level up points differently, but I had no desire to try this anymore. I looked at a review that said how the story concludes — Yuuki goes to the moon and defeats Meizas, but as he is returning to earth they lose contact with the capsule, and the fate of Yuuki and Eddy is left open as the game ends.
So this is yet another game that shows promise but is not worth playing. It barely qualifies as an SRPG and there’s just not that much good about it.