Category Archives: Strategy RPGs

SRPG Game 72 – FEDA 2: White Surge the Platoon (PSX)

フェーダ2 ホワイト=サージ・ザ・プラトゥーン, released 4/18/1997, developed by Max Entertainment, published by Yanoman

This is of course the sequel to 1995’s FEDA: Emblem of Justice. It continues the story from where the first game left off and features similar gameplay. There was supposed to be a third entry to complete the series but it never came out.

The designers made the strange decision to have a nearly 10 minute live action opening sequence filmed with Western actors. The actors include David Hayter (Solid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid dub), Kim Mai Guest (Mei Ling in MGS), and Deron McBee (Malibu in American Gladiators). The voices are dubbed over by the Japanese VAs for the characters. It’s a surprising use of the budget; it looks pretty cheesy and dumb now but I wonder what people would have thought in 1997.

Other than this, each section closes with a narration by one of the characters, and when you get later in the plot there are PC Engine-style voiced scenes (with just slightly animated still pictures).

Anyway, the game takes place 8 years after the original FEDA. In that game, a thousand year war had closed with the Empire taking control of the entire continent of Balfomoria, but the peninsula of Arcadia rebelled and in the end freed themselves from Imperial rule with the help of deserters Brian Stelbat and Ain McDougal (at least if you get one of the better endings).

Now 8 years later, the Empire has reversed their decision of letting the provinces govern themselves, and the Senate has now introduced a military rule that favors the Grunreim, the most populous race in the Empire. The Dragonnewt race has opposed this, essentially restarting the 1000 year war. At the same time, Arcadia has split into two, with part of it accepting the Senate’s decision and part rejecting it. The main 5 characters are “White Surge”, a group of skilled fighters who have some kind of criminal or questionable past. They’re working in East Arcadia, who wants a closer relationship with the Empire. But they’re not respected by anyone in the military and tend to be used for dangerous or morally questionable missions. The five members are:

  • Harvey Winston, a human (humans are looked down on in this world)
  • Tom Woodland, an Alshidean who joined the army despite his sister’s objections. Harvey and Tom are the characters in this game who give you a game over if they die.
  • Marsha Barnwood, a Shade Elf who specializes in assassinations, but was involved in a number of sex scandals.
  • Device, another human who is a gun/explosive specialist. But he has a problem with alcohol.
  • Minerva Lilac, a Forest Elf. She comes from an illustrious family that served as elite royal guards, but she refused an arranged marriage and was expelled from the country.

I found the plot rather hard to follow. I think this is because the game is trying to tell two stories at once — what White Surge is doing in their own missions, and how the war in the entire Empire is going. But White Surge’s missions aren’t necessarily following a clear story path and sometimes what’s happening in the Empire have nothing to do with White Surge. Also most of the Empire parts are done through voiceover dialogue on a map that you can’t pause; I think maybe my Japanese just isn’t quite good enough to keep track of everything that’s happening in this style of storytelling.

The first scenario has you against the Dragonnewt trying to release some ancient seal (although that’s been done by others). Once this is done, White Surge is simply abandoned to their own devices. They get captured by the Dragonnewts but then are able to convince them to let White Surge work for the Dragonnewts, which is what they do for the rest of the game.

Minerva, Marsha, and Device

The game takes place over 8 “scenarios”, which are sort of like the 12 chapters of the previous game. Unlike the first game they did away with the overworld map and just give you fixed battles in sequence. In a few cases there are alternate battles depending on what happened in the previous one.

The alignment system has returned from the previous game but in a much different form. You now have a certain amount of OPM to spend on bringing characters into battle, changing them in to more powerful forms, or assigning them items. You can spend as much OPM as you want, but if you go into negative you will lose alignment and you’ll be in negative until you can pay back the OPM with future rewards. I believe that your alignment can also be affected by whether you fulfill the mission goals (in some cases you can move on even if you fail to do the mission; you won’t get any OPM though). As in the first game, after each chapter your alignment will change on a law/chaos scale.

However, unlike the previous game, in this game your alignment has no effect. There are no alternate characters, story differences, or any ending difference. It’s purely decorative. I have a feeling this is the result of development time/budget restraints, but it’s a rather strange system in that respect.

Instead of an experience level, each character has a rank starting with E and going up through A to S. When you get 100 exp you go to the next rank. The EXP gains are slow, and by the end of the game I only had two of my characters at S rank and some weren’t even at A. When they rank up they get new abilities and also sometimes can change to different forms (which is a big improvement over the original game, where you never changed at all).

If Tom or Harvey dies in a mission it’s game over. Otherwise the character will suffer a wound; if it’s a light wound they can be in the next battle with a stat penalty, if it’s a heavy wound you’ll have to sit them out until they recover.

The battles themselves are the same as FEDA. They are normal SRPG with the odd turn mechanic where you move one of your characters, then the enemy moves one, etc. But rather than taking turns, it’s proportional to how many are on each side. So if you have 5 guys vs. 10 enemies, you will take one turn, followed by 2 enemies. This is an interesting system but makes it hard to know who is going to move when.

Unskippable battle animations. In 1997.

The game is pretty difficult. The grunt enemies are about equal in strength to your guys. You can’t save in battle and there are several sequence battles with no saves (an unforgivable sin for me that I will always use save states to deal with). Although there is no permadeath, you cannot afford to lose anyone at the beginning (later you can probably afford to lose one person in a battle).

However, there are a few things about the system that can mitigate the difficulty.

First, regular attacks are worthless. They do little damage, and the enemies block them frequently. Play the game with the understanding that you will be doing almost all of your damage through your special attacks. The game becomes significantly easier when your characters gain a few ranks and you have better special attacks.

Second, the enemy AI is predictable. They will always start off by using their special attacks. It doesn’t matter if it’s an area effect and only one person is in the area. Also they typically only have enough MP to use their special once. They also attack the closest person rather than going after Tom/Harvey the way they did in the first game.

Third, you can do “hit and away” and the enemies cannot. The “hit and away’ system just means you can use your full movement every round and make an attack at any point during that movement.

Even with these tips you will still get the usual “killed from full HP game over” situations that you see in permadeath games, but it helps. The hardest parts are in the beginning.

One other harsh aspect of the game is that Poison and Paralysis do not heal naturally. So a paralyzed enemy is out of the battle (which is great when you get paralyze moves yourself), but when the enemies have area effect paralyze moves you need to make sure you can either kill them first or get them to use it on just one character.

Ain eventually reappears from the first game, and I think there are a number of other connections to the first game that I didn’t quite pick up because I had forgotten the specifics of the FEDA 1 plot.

My difficulty following the plot resulted in the game ending very suddenly (for me) at the end of scenario 8; I didn’t even realize I was fighting the final battle until it was done. There is a built-in suddenness in the plot too because once the heroes destroy this ancient weapon that someone was trying to use, the Senate suddenly signs a peace treaty with the Dragonnewt and White Surge is disbanded. I have a feeling some of the loose ends would have been tied up in the third game if it had ever been made — for instance, they never said what was going on with the seal at the beginning of the game, and Brian didn’t appear although he was talked about quite a bit.

I don’t think I’m going to do a stage-by-stage or scenario-by-scenario description. Most of the stages, as in FEDA 1, have goals that aren’t just “kill all enemies”, which is always appreciated. But the general tactics that I outlined above work for most or all of the stages, except for one annoying one where you can’t use MP.

On the whole I’m not sure this game is quite as polished as Feda 1, but I probably found both games about the same in quality — Feda 2 fixes some of the issues in the first game but introduces new problems.

SRPG Game 71 – Nage Libre: Rasen no Soukoku (PSX)

Nage Libre: Rasen no Soukoku (NAGE LIBRE 螺旋の相剋), released 2/28/1997, developed by Varie

This is a sequel to the original Nage Libre for Super Famicom. Like its predecessor, it’s quite an obscure game that obviously never sold well. Right now on ebay you can get the original super famicom game for $450 and this game for $250, which is by far the highest price I’ve ever seen for an SRPG on either system. So obviously I did not get the game, so without the instruction booklet my understanding of the system is limited — unlike the SFC game there is almost nothing about the game on the Internet.

The story is not a direct sequel to the first game, but has a similar idea. The Nage statue is stolen from a temple near the town’s high school, causing monsters to come into the world. Five high school girls go through a portal to track it down.

The graphics are strangely worse than the SFC game. As with the SFC game this is supposed to be a fanservice game, but compare the in-battle graphics:

The gameplay is based on the first game but they made a number of changes. The movement is no longer on a grid but an open system; this makes it a little difficult to know when you are in a valid space to move or within range of a character to fight them.

As with the first game you use cards in battle, but some changes were made here as well.

Rather than having several rounds in each combat, there is only one. They also retained only attack cards — escaping and defending are now free actions you can take instead of using a card, and all non-attack cards were removed. Instead, there are three basic kinds of attack cards: physical, magical, and special. Certain characters (and certain club choices) are better at magic than physical attacks. On the whole I found the SFC system a little more robust and strategic; it is true that the PSX version avoids the issue where you get into a combat with crappy cards. But that put some strategic value in the original system because you had to do some planning and could not just use the strongest cards you had available. Here I found myself more often just always picking the strongest attack or magic cards, and there didn’t seem to be much of a reason not to do that. The stock cards are also gone (as is money completely).

The game has a lot of magic spells. Some of them can target the units surrounding the target (who are providing support). Others are debuffs/buffs. But the magic system is a bit opaque without the instructions because sometimes I couldn’t cast certain spells and I didn’t know why. The debuff spells never seemed all that useful.

Unlike the first game this does have a clear EXP gauge although characters only level up after a battle.

The club and costume system are back, but they work a bit differently. There are fewer school clubs to choose from, but they have clearer effects — for instance, the cooking club can heal, and the archery club attacks from a distance. I don’t know if the compatibility chart from the first game came back, but on the whole the club system seems better here.

The costume system lets you pick a complete outfit from four options (you get a huge variety of clothing from chests and enemies). However, I have no idea what the purpose of the costumes is. There is no listed in-game effect for them, and you only see the character models on this screen between battles. If you hit the circle button you’ll get a judgment of the outfit, but I have no idea if this judgment represents an actual in-game effect; I made sure everyone was on what sounded like the best judgment.

The story is pretty basic although maybe slightly better than the first. It turns out that students from the Bairin School, led by Kamizaki Kaoru, want to get the Nage statue — her goal was to drive the main characters out of their area so her dad could build a shopping center there. But it eventually turns out she was being used by a guy named Kurosawa, who steals the statue.

His goal is just the usual “take over the world and cleanse it” idea. The ending is confusing — Nage herself appears and uses the emotions of the main characters to restore all the worlds, but then blows up because one of the characters’ purity is too strong. Then the main characters return to their world and get tickets for a Hawaii vacation.

This game is really not worth playing. The first game was OK and the card system at least provided some interest, but almost everything about this game is worse than the first one, and it just felt tedious and boring to play through. Even if you like fanservice bishoujo games the content this game delivers is pretty poor.

Varie soon got absorbed by another company called Layup and so there are no more Nage Libre games, which is probably a good thing.

SRPG Game 70 – Sangokushi Koumeiden (PSX)

Sangokushi Koumeiden (三國志孔明伝), released 2/14/1997, developed by Koei

This is the second in Koei’s SRPG series, informally called the “Eiketsuden series” after the name of the first game. Like the first game, it initially came out for computers, and was then ported to Playstation and Saturn, and many years later the Game Boy Advance. It once again takes place in the Three Kingdoms period of China, following the story of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel. (The Saturn version seems to be identical to the Playstation version.)

As far as the gameplay goes, it’s nearly identical to Eiketsuden, so I’m not going to describe in again — please read my post on that game for details. The one change I did notice is that they rebalanced the statistics so that equipment is generally more useful than it was in the first game.

As the title suggests, the game this time focuses on Zhuge Liang, or Kongming (Koumei in Japanese). At first the story might seem to be treading exactly the same ground as Eiketsuden, but most of Zhuge Liang’s famous exploits happened after Liu Bei’s death, so it’s not exactly the same. But there is the same issue as in Eiketsuden — in that game, they had to rewrite the story so that Liu Bei could become the hero unifying China and restoring the Han monarchy, even though in history he died of illness in the middle of the conflict. The same issue happens here; in history Zhuge Liang died of illness in the middle of one of the campaigns and his goal of restoring the Han dynasty ultimately fails.

The game is divided into five chapters. The first chapter is the weakest part of the game. A very long prologue summarizes the whole story up to the point where Zhuge Liang joins Liu Bei. As I said above, most of Zhuge Liang’s most famous deeds happen after Liu Bei’s death, when Zhuge Liang served Liu Bei’s son. So chapter 1 covers everything that happens up to Liu Bei’s death. It’s done through very long cutscenes in which a lot of key action is happening off-screen; it feels like Xenogears disc 2 and it’s very hard to get invested in this part of the game when you’re playing a 10 minute battle and then sitting through 45-60 minutes of text and summaries.

The in-battle graphics are not as good as Eiketsuden; I don’t like the blocky nature of the terrain graphics. This was clearly done to support zooming out the map, but it’s pretty bad and takes some time to get used to. For comparison:

The “one-on-one” fights from the first game are back, but they use anime scenes for the graphics.

The problem with this is that with a very small number of exceptions (like the scene above), no matter who is attacking who it just shows an anime of generic people saying generic lines (the attackers are more varied than the defenders). It’s odd to see that even people like Cao Cao and Sima Yi don’t have unique sequences. What they should have done instead is have personalized non-anime sequences for the majority of the people and then use anime only for some of the most important characters.

Once the game reaches Chapter 2, it improves considerably. Your team is much more stable than in chapter 1 (and in Eiketsuden) so you feel more like you’re building up a force of people. The story also moves more slowly and feels more in-depth, and the story sequences are nowhere near as long.

Since the focus is on strategy-minded Zhuge Liang, most battles have you pick one of two strategy options before the fight, which can change the goal and the layout of the units. There are also often several ways you can win the map, some of which will give you bonus experience. I always appreciate it when a game offers more variety than just a series of “defeat all enemies” maps.

Chapter two is Zhuge Liang’s Southern campaign, particularly the (probably legendary) seven battles against Meng Huo, where he captured and released him after each battle. It is possible to let him get away as well without capturing him, which changes things later.

Meanwhile Zhuge Liang’s son Zhuge Zhan is growing up, and you can choose how he will be educated. Choosing “freedom” every time is the best because then you can choose what class to make him at the end, including the Tactician class.

Chapter three is the beginning of the Northern Expeditions. This is only the first one, ending with Zhuge Liang’s execution of Ma Su. You can actually choose not to execute him. If you do the execution everyone gains 5 levels, if you don’t it opens up an alternate ending in the next chapter.

Sima Yi is the primary antagonist of the rest of the game.

Chapter four is the rest of the Northern Expeditions. Here they have to change the story; in the novel, Zhuge Liang dies of illness during these campaigns. His son Zhan dies soon after in a doomed defensive battle. Sima Yi himself dies of illness several decades later, before the ending of the Three Kingdoms period, but his grandson becomes the first Emperor Jin of the next Chinese dynasty.

There are a few possible story branches in this chapter leading to “bad” endings. The first is when Sima Yi starts the rumor that Zhuge Liang is going to declare himself Emperor, causing Liu Shan to recall him to the capital — I don’t know if this is historical or in the Three Kingdoms novel; none of the wikipedia pages mention it. In any case, if you did not execute Ma Su in the previous chapter, you can choose to actually start the rebellion following the rumor. This leads to a bad ending but I don’t know the details.

The other thing that can happen is that Zhuge Liang can die of illness. The Japanese site I was looking at does not say how this happens, but an English page I found said that it could happen if you take too many turns and retreat (restart battle) too many times. I don’t know what happens if he dies; presumably the game ends there because the rest of the story depends on him too much for this to be an actual alternate route.

The fifth and final chapter is entirely original. Zhuge Liang makes peace with the kingdom of Wu, which agrees to fight for the restoration of the Han monarchy. Sima Yi usurps power from the Cao family that is ruling Wei, and the final chapter is Zhuge Liang fighting his way to the capital of Wei and defeating Sima Yi.

The final fight is rather long but not especially difficult, it’s just slow because you have to move through the palace. IMO any time a player is spending more than one or two turns just moving characters without any action, that’s a failure of the game design. In any case, Sima Yi is the final boss.

They also find the former Emperor Xian (the last of the Han dynasty) shut up in the castle, so they’re able to restore him to the throne. The ending scene covers the remaining years of Zhuge Liang’s life; he retires after five years and becomes an ascetic.

This is a solid B game, I think — the first chapter is a mess but the rest of it is pretty enjoyable. I think that if you are a fan of the Three Kingdoms you would get a lot more out of it than I did.

This series will be back near the end of 1997 as it switches to Japanese history with Mori Motonari and at least a somewhat new system.

(SRPG) 1996 wrap-up / 1997 preview

1996 is done! This was the last hurrah for Super Famicom (other than the one rogue FE5), with a lot of strong late-period entries. It was also the first real year for the Saturn and Playstation. Time for Game of the Year selection — this is a very arbitrary process that’s mostly based on subjective opinion, and I often prioritize variety over picking the same series repeatedly, so don’t take it too seriously.

The games this year that got an A ranking for me are these seven: Bahamut Lagoon, Der Langrisser FX, Fire Emblem 4, Energy Breaker, Sakura Taisen, Vandal Hearts, Riglord Saga II.

Langrisser has already been GOTY twice, and FX is a remake so I will exclude that. Sakura Taisen is not really an SRPG so I will exclude that as well. Since Riglord Saga was 1995 GotY I’ll avoid picking the sequel. I think I will actually go with Energy Breaker — although it definitely has flaws and some evidence of rushed development, it’s overall a fun game and is a great display of late Super Famicom graphics, music, and presentation. It’s a good sendoff for the SFC (unless Fire Emblem 5 wins 1999?) All seven of the above games are worth playing, though. Here’s the GotY list (which all have English versions, although that’s a coincidence):

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

Now here’s a list of 1997 games. The system is Playstation unless otherwise specified. A number of these games are for both Saturn and Playstation; my method is that unless I can find a specific reason to play the Saturn version, I will play the Playstation version instead, but I will check for each game before I start it (and let me know if you know anything about the differences for specific games, or if I missed anything).

  1. Sangokushi Koumeiden – the second in Koei’s Eiketsuden series; from what I can see it’s very similar in gameplay to Eiketsuden.
  2. Nage Libre – Rasen no Sokoku – Sequel to the Nage Libre game for SFC. (Like the SFC game, this goes for several hundred dollars on ebay).
  3. Feda 2 – Sequel to Feda.
  4. Seikon no Joka – This is based on a light novel series.
  5. Sparking Feather (PC-FX) – This is the only original PC-FX game I will be playing.
  6. TILK: The Girl from the Blue Sea – I just discovered this recently.
  7. Riot Stars
  8. Atelier Marie – I’ve already played this game so this will just be a review post (I’ll also explain again why I’m including at least the early Atelier games)
  9. Final Fantasy Tactics – Most likely just a review post, but I might do a challenge run if I feel like it.
  10. Angel Blade – This is an early release from Nippon-Ichi; it may be their first SRPG.
  11. Slayers Royal – based on the popular light novel/anime.
  12. Shinseiden Megaseed: Rebirth Chapter – This is a Banpresto game that looks very similar to the Masou Kishin games; there’s a Creation Chapter that might be a sequel but from what I can tell it was only a manga.
  13. Langrisser 4 – Everyone tells me I should play the Playstation version of this. But apparently the L4 PSX version is based on the L5 system, so I should probably play the Saturn version?
  14. Front Mission II – I was somewhat disappointed in FM1 so hopefully this will be an improvement.
  15. Super Robot Taisen F/F Final – Just a review as usual.
  16. Mori Motonari – Third game in the Eiketsuden series. This one is based on Japanese sengoku history instead of Chinese, and the gameplay seems to be redone rather than just a copy of Eiketsuden.
  17. RONDE (Sat) – This is basically the third Majin Tensei game.
  18. Galaxy Fraulein Yuna 3 Final Edition – The first two games in this series were not SRPGs.
  19. Shining Force III Scenario 1 (Sat) – Many say this is the best SF game by far.
  20. Ryuki Densho – This is a port of a computer game. There were two more games in this series but they were not ported to consoles.

Rejected games:

  • BS Fire Emblem: Akaneia Senki – The main reason I’m skipping this is that it’s not fully implemented; this was originally a game done through the Satellite View and the cutscenes are missing.
  • Dark Law: Meaning of Death – This does not seem to fit my criteria, but I will be playing it on the SNES side of the blog.
  • Master of Monsters: Disciples of Gaia – This game and the next three all fall on the “strategy” rather than the “SRPG” side of the line given my criteria.
  • Soldnerschild
  • Power Dolls 2
  • Wakusei Kokitai Little Cats – I’m not sure this is really an SRPG; it looks to me more like a dating-sim like gameplay with some strategic battles. In any case it gets very poor reviews so probably no point playing it.

SRPG Game 69 – Terra Phantastica (Saturn), Part 2

In this post I’ll give some indication of the story and progression of the game although I’m not going to cover everything in detail. My overall thoughts are at the end.

One thing I forgot to mention about the gameplay in the first post is that every stage has a 50 turn limit. This is largely meaningless; I think the longest battle I had was around 17 turns.

First of all, there’s a rather large unbalance in the number of battles per chapter. There are ten chapters in the game and 33-34 battles, but 19 of those battles are in chapters 8 and 10, and two chapters have no battles. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it does make me wonder if this is another place in the game that points to the original plan being much wider in scope than how they actually were able to implement it.

The first five chapters are basically following the Emperor’s orders as he sends Mais forces to various places in the land to assist with military operations. First, we deal with Bofon forces headed by goblins. They tend to be pretty easy because they only have 1 AP, meaning that they cannot move and attack in the same turn — so as long as you keep out of their range you can deal with them easily.

The first chapter also has another one of the 4 generals, Evil Shade:

The bosses often are not all that much more difficult than the other enemies.

The second chapter involves Ridis, who is another one of the Bofon 4 generals. She does something to invade Alexis (the duke)’s dreams, and we have to stop him from reaching a gate where he thinks his mother is waiting.

The third chapter gives you the two best units in the game, the witch girls Coco and Jean:

They fly and can use magic. Magic is very powerful in the game and because they can fly, they can ignore height and pass obstacles. Once you have the two of them, you can beat many of the game’s stages in 2 or 3 turns, often without attacking any other enemies besides the boss. I pretty much did this whenever I could.

However, this third stage battle was the hardest one in the game:

Height has a big effect on combat effectiveness in this game, and most of the enemies are archers. I died a number of times but finally I worked out a method to ignore the units on the right and focus on the left side where the boss was (this is pre-witches so we can’t just go kill him). Once I had enough of the grunt units cleared out I was able to rush the boss and get him.

Chapter 4 involves a rebellion in Huron province.

The leader of the rebellion tells us that the “children of men” stole the King’s crows of flowers, and now he will come back in great anger and usher in a new age of peace — this has already begun as “that person”, who sleeps in Bofon, is awakening. We’ve been hearing from other places things about how people stole the “names” of the gods, using them to create human society, which also weakened the gods since they had lost their names.

Chapter 5 is another place where we respond to the Emperor’s request to fight, and also can find a research area to revive characters (or really create clones of them). Chapter 6 we have to put down another rebellion, this time started by a peasant girl Monica who saw prophetic dreams.

After Monica is beaten, one of her followers tries to kill Dine, but fails — Dine lets her go. Chapter 7 lets you visit the spirit realm if you have any dead units and can bring them back to life (I didn’t have anyone dead at this point so this got skipped).

Up to now there have only been 15 battles — chapter 9 has no battles so chapters 8 and 10 have 19 battles. I’m not sure why there’s this big unbalance.

In chapter 8, three things happen all at once: Mikael assassinates the Emperor and tries to take power, at the same time one of the vassal states (Aroma) has its leader want to take over the Empire, and Bofon is attacking again. You can do these three in any order but it just changes the order of the battles, there’s no effect on the story or stage themselves.

It turns out that Darma, one of the people in the Mais council, has participated in this rebellion supposedly in return for control of Mais. As far as I can tell, this is a fixed event, but it makes me wonder if in the planning stages, the designers intended for this section to be influenced by the state councils and who got mad during them. That would have been quite complicated to implement, though.

I went for Bofon first. One of the 4 generals, Ridis, tells us that her master is pissed off because humans stole the gods’ names to develop their civilization, but we don’t learn anything more than that. As usual, most of the stages can be beaten with the witches.

In Aroma, King Julian wants to use this floating island to take over the world, but we’re able to crash it and kill him. Finally, we have to deal with Mikael back at the capital, continually chasing him out of the capital and through the area until we finally catch up with him. Most of these are 1-2 turn witch stages but one of them is harder, you have to make your way up a few tiers dealing with archers and catapults until you can finally send the witches up. One refinement I made to the strategy is that you should usually move at least one witch directly next to the boss if you can. Typically the boss will first switch formations, then block if you are out of range. Often all this blocking will leave the boss with two-digit HP after all the spells, but if you move next to them they’ll attack instead of blocking, and they can be taken down.

Once everything is taken care of, Alexis becomes the new Emperor, and we prepare to deal with Bofon once and for all.

In Chapter 9, that Monica follower from before stabs Dine and kills her, sending her to a spirit realm of sorts.

There’s no battle here, but Dine learns about all the gods who had their names stolen from them by the humans and who are now reduced to near impotency. Mais was one of the main people who did this. The Goddess still loved humanity, but eventually all her names were stolen too and Mais beheaded her. The head was reborn as Dine when Alexis gave her a name, but the torso still exists as the leader of Bofon, working on pure revenge and hatred. It’s now time to see which Name will be stronger; the one Alexis gave, or the name of the sleeping Head. Dine is able to choose to return to the human world again, and we start the final chapter.

We start off with a messenger from the Bofon telling us that the King of the World will soon awaken, and exact revenge on all humanity for their collective mortal sin, and especially Mais. So we decide to attack Bofon before they can do that. Ridis appears first, and when we beat her up she tells us to go to Jurubal to learn why they hate Mais so much.

This is a weird stage, with a flower that has to move to the center of the map. But all the enemies surround it and take their turns beating it up (it immediately revives if killed). The enemy turns take forever, but eventually you can clear out enough of the enemies that it will make it to the center. Dine then gets the Sword of Mais, and we learn that Mais stole the flower crown of the goddess to make the sword — when the gods have all their names stolen, they turn to stone and enter an endless sleep of nightmares.

Next up is Zaitan, finally back from the beginning scene. He endlessly revives, but we’re able to stop this from happening by placing various people on runes (this game also has a bunch of stuff with “rune words” that can do powerful things).

Next we find a big fish who teaches us the Forgotten Rune Word, which will help save the world. Now we need to head back to Mais, because the Bofon have destroyed it — the four generals are actually creations of the sleeping goddess to replace her stolen head.

Ridis goes down next, and then finally Evil Shade and Dark Child (the other two). These are all 1-2 turn clears. We learn that the nameless god will soon awaken and take names from our world.

Finally we reach the coffin where the final showdown will occur between the two parts of the nameless goddess (Dine and the enemy).

The nameless goddess is a tough opponent; she has extremely high defense and 7 actions a turn. I lost 4 or 5 units but eventually took her down. You actually have to equip the Mais sword on Dine and have her take the final action to win.

I was a little unclear on the ending — the basic idea is that through this fight, the human name was stronger than the name given to her in her nightmares, so the world would not be destroyed. But Dine says something about going through spacetime to grant two names to the goddess and I wasn’t sure what that meant.

In any case, you see what everyone does afterwards, and then after the credits there’s a brief scene telling you what happened to Alexis. This depends on the choices made during the conversation scenes as well as who survived the final battle — I didn’t realize that made a difference so I did not get the best “God Emperor” ending.

Ultimately this game has a lot of strengths — the story is interesting, the graphics have good style, and the system has a lot of depth. But the game never really drew me in the way that other top SRPGs have. And I think that is down to one reason: the pace of the battles is way too slow. When I first started the game I was able to watch NCAA basketball games during the battles which helped, but the tournament ended before I finished the game. In the later stages, even though I was winning in 2 or 3 turns with the witches, it still felt tedious. If you are playing on a console this is compounded by not being able to save in battles, not even a temporary “suspend save” like some games have.

So that’s 1996. Sometime mid-week I will post the wrap-up with game of the year, and a 1997 preview. Next game will be Sangokushi Koumeiden for the PSX.

SRPG Game 69 – Terra Phantastica (Saturn), Part 1

Terra Phantastica (テラ ファンタスティカ), released 12/27/1996, developed by Chime, released by Sega

So this is the final game of 1996 on my list. The game’s presentation reminds me of Tactics Ogre in that it has a more realistic art style and focuses on politics, and the setting seems more European than the typical high-fantasy world. The story is not as dark as TO, though. This first post is mostly going to describe the system since it’s rather complicated, but first I will cover the opening story.

The Duchy of Mais is one of the parts of the larger Seleshion empire, which has the oldest temple in the world. The ruler is Alexis, and he has a son Alexis II. The child Alexis visits the old temple and sees a statue; he’s told this is a statue of the Nameless Goddess. He feels sorry for her and gives her a name, Dine.

Meanwhile, the monster kingdom Bofon to the west invades Seleshion, destroying the Duchy of Vershen and continuing east. The Emperor gathers together the forces of the various lands and attacks, but fails to stop them, and Alexis I is killed. The forces, led by one of the four generals Zaitan, reaches the Mais duchy and even the capital. But a mysterious woman appears and drives off Zaitan. She remembers nothing except her name (Dine), and is immediately installed as General of the Armies to lead the Mais forces.

Each chapter begins with a Council, where the current situation is discussed, and they make various decisions. At certain points you can ask the members their opinions on a question. If the decision doesn’t go their way, they will get upset. This to me is the most opaque part of the game; even looking at a walkthrough it doesn’t seem like it really affects the game that much. I wonder if this was a part of the game that they had planned to play a bigger role but ran out of time to implement it — perhaps the designers had wanted to make this affect branching story paths or something like that. (I did later find a different page that said there were big story branches, but I wonder — most of the time you don’t even get to choose Dine’s response, and the original page I was looking at was basing their walkthrough on an official strategy guide.)

Next, Alexis will come to Diene with a question or problem, and they’ll talk about what’s going on. You’ll get a choice at some point, and this will raise certain attributes for Alexis like Benevolence and Wisdom. This is another aspect of the game that doesn’t really affect much; it apparently has a small effect on the ending and there’s at least one other part of the game where you can recruit a character if Alexis has certain attributes.

Next you outfit everyone for the chapter. You can choose what kind of troops they will use and the item they equip. You can have Claude do it automatically for you, which is usually what I did. Otherwise you have to consider which type of troops work well with each person (there will be a 適 or 不 at the top) and the items. The one thing I did often change is to give one of the ranked officers an item that gives them Moon or Sun vision since they’re the only ones that can search, and you sometimes need one of those types of vision to find an item. Once you leave this screen you cannot change the troop type for each unit until the next chapter, but you can equip different items by using an action in battle.

Now you move to the area map. Some chapters only have one battle, but most have at least 3. You can often choose which path to take towards a goal; sometimes that switches the order of the battles, other times there are two different battles you can fight.

Finally we move to the actual battle map.

On the map, you can only see the troops that are within the field of view of your characters; otherwise they show up as shadows. (The triangle there is a heal spot). The game works on a player turn-enemy turn system. You can choose any order to make your moves, and you don’t have to take a character’s moves all at once.

A character can make as many moves as they have AP. Characters generally have 2-4 AP. Also, if a character does not start within one of the ranked officers’ leadership fields at the beginning of a turn, they have one fewer AP for that turn. The actions you can take are:

  • Move
  • Attack
  • Cast spell (this is only for healing spells and the like), for offensive spells you have to attack
  • Tactic – each unit can switch between several tactical styles. They default to a move style that has fairly low attack/defense but high move. You can switch to two other styles which will emphasize various stats (and usually lower move).
  • Equip
  • Rest – this restores ELAN. ELAN is a stat that goes down as you take actions, and the lower it is, the less effective the unit is in combat.
  • Search – only available to officers, this lets you talk to people in houses or get items, etc.

Once you attack a unit, you get taken to the attack screen.

In the attack screen, each unit has several turns (represented by their CP). Your options are:

  • Attack
  • Charge (does more damage and may critical, but takes more ELAN and shifts your tactic to “movement” style)
  • Spell
  • Tactic (changing tactics in battle sometimes fails and you lose your turn)
  • Defend
  • Retreat (sometimes fails, and you cannot do it if the unit cannot move back a space)

The battle ends when one side loses all their SP (Soldier Points) or when everyone has taken all their actions. As far as I can tell, having lower SP does not lower the attack of the unit — this doesn’t make much logical sense but it’s probably better from a gameplay standpoint. If Dine or Alexis II go to 0 SP, you get a game over. A ranked officer will retreat from the battle. Anyone else will die permanently, although there are several chances during the game to revive fallen members. (The instruction manual seems to indicate that non-ranked officers can survive, but I never saw this)

You want to attack from the back or side, but after the first action the unit will turn towards the attacker. This stays outside of battle, so if you have a pincer attack going you can then attack from behind with someone else.

One of the big issues with the game is that you cannot save in battle. The pace of battle is pretty slow, and this must have been a serious issue playing on an actual console.

In the next post I will cover more of the story and the actual battles. I just finished the game a few hours ago, so I’ll put the second post up on Tuesday or Wednesday, then do the 1996 wrapup and 1997 preview next weekend. (My quick overall view of the game is that it’s a mid-tier game; overall the pace of the battles is too slow and there are too many parts of the game that seem like they never quite got finished. But it’s by no means a bad game and the story is decent.)

SRPG Game 68 – Shin Super Robot Taisen (Playstation)

Shin Super Robot Taisen (新スーパーロボット大戦), released 12/27/1996, developed by Banpresto

This is another Super Robot Taisen game, and as usual I’m reposting the message board posts I made many years ago when I played the game. For this one I was playing on an actual console and at the time I did not have any equipment to take screenshots, so this was all text. I’ll grab a few pictures off the Internet to show what the game looks like.

I offer my usual caveat that these posts may not be of interest to people who don’t know SRW or have played the game. OK, now on to my 2008 comments:

Banpresto was still feeling for direction, and Shin SRW, the first original game for the Playstation, represents a dead end for the series in a number of ways. Even so, there are some elements of the game that survived into future installments.

The game followed LoE in using full-size sprites instead of SD. The game featured fully voiced combat quotes for all characters (4S had voices only for the heroes). The original characters are not the Masou Kishin, but a new set of heroes and enemies. It seems that this was intended to be the start of a new storyline, but in the end this was the only game, and it was up to Alpha to steal the SRX characters from this game and extend their story.

Series-wise, this is an interesting game in that the only UC Gundam series are CCA and V. This is the first time CCA’s plot is represented in the game, and CCA-era Char makes his first appearance. The Getter Robo team is done using the manga “shin getter robo” character designs; including a version of Benkei made specially for this game by Ishikawa Ken (the original manga artist). It’s not until Crossbone Gundam’s appearance in Alpha 2 that a manga is used as a source material again (aside from small cameo mech design appearances).

For new series, on the real-robot side, Layzner and Gundam W debut, although Gundam W is something of a cameo since the series was still in progress. On the Super Robot side, Voltes V, Gaiking, and Trider G7 make their first appearances — Voltes V shows up somewhat often after this, but Gaiking and especially Trider G7 are rare.

Systemwise, the game follows 4 in most ways. There are still buried treasures, the seishin are still old SNES-style, EN and Limit are capped at 255, etc. The story path is the most linear since 2 — there are two major story branches, and there’s one instance where you can get one of three stages depending on what happens, but other than that, it’s completely linear. There’s a secret stage at the end if you complete both routes on the memory card.

Here we go.

Stage 1 – Mysterious Invaders

The game opens with an impressive FMV of the Balmar ships destroying a colony. After this you get some talk with a shadowed Char and some other people, then Voltes V makes its debut.

THE BATTLE SCENES LOAD SO SLOWLY…WAAA. I’m glad I had some papers to grade while doing this.

Stage 2 – Trider G7 appears!

THE BATTLE S..ok, I won’t mention that every time.

How do I combine Voltes V? Even if I do it in the intermission menu I have to sortie the 5 units separately and I don’t see a combine command anywhere even if I arrange them in a V pattern.

Stage 3 – Photon Power Lab

The first 3 stages are all pretty easy; just fights vs. Voltes enemies (and a few Mazinger), mostly those weak disc things. The game is now freed from the confines of the Divine Crusaders setup, so they can have the super robot enemies acting alone. No Reals yet, but looks like V Gundam appears in the next stage.

Stage 4 – League Militaire

THESE BATTLE SCENES LOAD SO SL…sorry. But they’re even slower than F/FF.

Some real robots finally show up, but they’re in the water. Another fairly simple stage; I doubt you can beat the boss here.

Stage 5 – Ryuusei Date

First appearance of Ryuusei and the R-1. In this storyline, the SRX project is done by Dr. Hamaguchi (of Voltes V). Ryuusei and the R-1 both start out essentially in the same design they’ve had ever since, and Ryuusei’s personality as a mech otaku is already there.

Stage 6 – Point Kasaleria

The attack animations are a little more varied — the game now uses some inset graphics to show weapons, and they use different models of the sprite to suggest movement (i.e. if they are going to fire a gun, the arm actually extends). There’s still no true animation (and won’t be until Alpha).

This is more V Gundam; you finally get the V Gundam itself, although it’s not particularly impressive.

Ryuusei hasn’t joined the team; I wonder if you have to take the Earth Route to get him. I notice that Stage 29 on the space route is an SRX stage so it must come in at some point.

Stage 7 – Chronicle Strikes Back

More V Gundam. The major route choice comes here; the way it’s done is kind of interesting. The League Militaire is under attack, and Voltes V and Mazinger decide to stay to help, while the Daiku Maryuu decides that since it’s in the military, it can’t get involved, and goes back to Japan.

Stage 8 – Vesper and the Aliens

As others have pointed out, it looks like the Balmar group includes all the super robot enemies rather than them acting independently.

Stage 9 – The Warriors’ Shine

I only have 3 units right now (Voltes V, V Gundam, and Mazinger) so the game is a little odd, but the maps go “quickly”. They’re much shorter than the early F missions, although the animations load a lot more slowly.

This is a “protect” mission; I actually got game over once because the little truck only has 800 HP. I finally was able to combine Voltes; maybe you have to wait until some point in the story. It does look like they all have to be together rather than in a V shape.

The next stage has you protecting two 800-HP trucks; I’ve already gotten two game overs on it since one laser blast from the enemy blows up the ship and I still only have Voltes, Mazinger, and V Gundam.

Stage 10 – Heart

Protect two trucks, with the same three units. Kind of an annoying stage since one attack can take the truck out (and of course they don’t dodge or block).

Stage 11 – The Gaddol Team

Yet another stage with protecting the two trucks, with the same three units. At least I finally figured out how to combine Voltes V; I think you may have to get to a certain stage before you can do it.

The story is still basically following V Gundam; the aliens have apparently made some deal with Vespa since the mysterious commander “Gozzo” (who we know from @ and OG of course) told them to stop attacking Vespa.

The next stage is protecting those damn trucks again.

Stage 12 – Vivid! The Shurak Team

Arrrgh, another annoying “protect the trucks” stage. I don’t like these stages because they depend entirely on you positioning your units in exact places to block the enemies (since one hit kills a truck). The entire Shurak team joins in this mission, so now I have more than 3 units. However, I’m not sure 3 units + 8 gun-ez (or whatever the number is) is all that much more interesting. I also don’t like how the Gun-EZs are better than the Victory Gundam.

Stage 13 – Starting a Journey

All you have to do on this stage is move all your guys in the plane. You don’t have to kill (or even engage) a single enemy.

Stage 14 – Voltes Can’t Combine

Another odd stage; just move all the Shurak team near the Voltes parts and the stage ends. Voltes leaves after this.

Stage 15 – Gibraltar Area

Dancougar! Dancougar stays around, right? If so I’m going to start dumping money into it. After this stage, the Gun-EZs get upgrades — they were already better than the V Gundam, now they’re even more better.

Stage 16 – Lienhorse Jr. Takes Off

This stage introduces the Layzner characters. It’s a little hard to tell this early, but it looks like there is no “Grados”, instead the Layzner characters are all just part of the Balmar empire (with Gresco being a top ranking person). Later there may be more info on this, but in general the earlier games blended the series together a lot better than the later ones.

However, it doesn’t look like you actually get any of the Layzner people on your team in the Space route. Guess I’ll have to wait until SRW 64.

The dialogue in this stage is the first appearance of the name “Balmar”. Also, Aya joins. Even though they still have T-Link moves, there’s been no real explanation of this, or the SRX project, or any backstory at all for the SRX characters.

Stage 17 – Mysterious Enemy Warship

First appearance of the Helmoze, and of Gozzo (although there’s no indication which one it is, or even if the idea of the clones had been developed yet — I guess I’ll find out later). You have to be careful since it has a devastating MAP attack, but it moves very slowly and you can easily avoid it. The stage ends when the Lienhorse leaves the map.

Stage 18 – Becoming a Blue Shooting Star

Char and Amuro appear here. Char is the head of “Neo Zeon” but there’s no indication of what the original Zeon was. The instruction manual mentions some colony that declared itself a dukedom, setting the stage for numerous wars, but no names or specifics are mentioned. Zechs is with him as well, but once again, it’s not yet clear what the backstory of the Gundam Wing characters is — Char has saved Zechs from a colony explosion, and from what I saw on the Earth route in MN’s walkthrough, Hero is trying to stop Char.

This is the first stage that has fairly tough enemies. The best thing to do is move everyone to the left to be near the Londo Bell forces when they arrive.

Gyunei gets a pilot cut in for his funnels. I had thought that Compact 2 was the first game with pilot cut-ins, but I was wrong.

Stage 19 – Big Cannon

Now that I have the Ra Kalium I can smoke the enemies with super MAP attacks. Apparently also if you upgrade certain weapons they turn into MAP attacks; Dancougar can get one so I’ll have to remember that when I have a little more money (you have to upgrade it to level 8).

The Gun-EZs are cool because you can use them as suicide grunts; they only cost 300 to repair so there’s really very little harm in losing one (or three).

Stage 20 – Moon Surface Operation

Fight against Ashura. Nothing really special happens here.

Stage 21 – Moon Guardian

All you have to do here is defend the ships until two of them leave the screen; it’s a lot like the truck missions but the ships are a lot easier to protect.

Stage 22 – Confusion of Zanscare

There are only 6 enemies on this stage — there might be reinforcements but I beat all six on the first round so the mission ended. You get Nu Gundam after this stage, and Rai joins. Aya also gets the R3 powered. It looks like Aya plays Beltorchika’s role for pissing off Chein.

Stage 23 – Amuro and Char

Quess shows up here; the events are a really abbreviated version of some CCA stuff. The fight is just against grunts, though.

One thing I forgot to point out is that the SRX team has old-MK syndrome in that all of the SRX team pilots get Time To Come as their music. Strangely, Psychic Energy is in the game but it’s a stage BGM rather than Aya’s theme.

Stage 24 – True Intention

This is another really short stage — it starts out with you vs. Gyunei, Zechs, Quess, and Char. They all run away in a few turns when the reinforcements (3 units) show up. I only defeated Zechs; I think you would need some serious upgrades to Nu Gundam, R-2, and R-3 to defeat them all, although it should be theoretically possible.)

Stage 25 – Battleship Motrad

This is another short stage; all the enemies leave and get replaced by a very small number of reinforcements. I killed them all in 1 turn, or maybe more would have showed up?

Stage 26 – A New Power

There are a lot of enemies with a lot of reinforcements; I found out that the battle ends after 12 turns or so no matter what so I didn’t have to kill as many enemies as I did.

Ryuusei and Shin Getter joins after this stage. Shin Getter uses the Shin Getter manga designs for the Getter team, which is always interesting to see.

Stage 27 – Mystery of Side 5

This is an easy stage because you can sit on Angel Halo (+30% DF/evade and healing) and just let the enemies come to you.

However, this stage has some of the most ridiculous mechs in Gundam history — when I was watching V Gundam I couldn’t stop laughing at the silly tire mechs (the Einerad), and the Dodgore is pretty silly too.

Stage 28 – Space Grave

Heero appears as a guest here (you can control him). You have to shoot down Zechs with him to get him later. The Wing Gundam kind of sucks, though — the Buster Rifle only has 2 uses, and every other attack is range-1.

Stage 29 – Decoy Operation

I can see this stage being hard if Amuro doesn’t have double move. The stage ends when one person from the main group (who you can’t control) reaches the base. Reinforcements pop up right next to them. They exhibit the usual NPC behavior of only counterattacking with their strongest weapon no matter what the circumstance. But with double-move Amuro this is pretty easy.

Stage 30 – The SRX is Operational!

This is SRX’s first appearance; there’s no real explanation for it except “Hey, guess what! We can combine!” There seems to be (as of yet, at least) no deeper explanation behind the SRX like there was in the Alpha timeline. Unfortunately you can only use it for three turns before it has to separate.

I really, really hate these indoor maps of the early games, where you have to travel through passageways encountering reinforcements along the way. They always take 25+ turns to complete and are very tedious. (More recent games have had “indoor” maps but they are not as annoying.)

Stage 31 – Angel Halo

This is a massive fight with most of the Victory Gundam enemies and a lot of reinforcements. I’m afraid these final stages are going to get more and more tedious as the game throws larger and larger groups of enemies at me. Unfortunately the next mission is another indoor mission.

Stage 32 – Angels Rising to Heaven

This is an annoying stage, although I guess I at least give them some credit for trying something new. You have to move 4 Shurak team members to the right places to set the bombs. Luckily they don’t screw you over with reinforcements, and there are energy tanks to recover you. Zechs appears and you can kill him with Heero to get Heero on your team in two stages.

I had a hard time figuring out what to do once the enemies were dead. The walkthroughs I could find weren’t very clear on this point — you have to have a specific set of 4 Shurak team members (the ones that autodeploy) and they have to be at specific spots. When you get one into the right spot she will say a line and then be unable to move; that’s how you know it’s right.

Char shows up here, finally, but the Sazabi is fairly easy to take down with Shin Shine Spark or the like.

Stage 33 – The Sound of Bells Resounding in the Battlefield

This is supposed to be the climactic Victory Gundam battle with all the V enemies coming out and beating you up. In fact, if you beat the mission by the third player phase, most of the enemies in the stage will never appear (this is still the old SRW style where the mission ends when all enemies are dead even if some reinforcements have not appeared). This messes up the story, though, because Katejina is apparently supposed to die in this stage but she never appears.

MN’s descriptions of these last few stages have some hilarious lines; he must have been getting annoyed with the game: [2002 Kurisu: Michael Neidengard, who did a bunch of walkthroughs and story summaries for SRW games.]

This is odd because Fala can be wiped out like a crack-smoking bitch writing
on the whiteboard in a single hit. Call it poor game design. Anyways.

As your dudes point out, Usso has Shakti to keep him warm at
night, so no need to worry about psycho hosebeasts from years past.

Stage 34 – Char’s Counterattack

This is kind of a tough stage, but only slightly so. You just have to make sure you’ve got the firepower to deal with a whole bunch of double-move enemies right at the beginning and you’re fine. Char himself is a weakling.

Despite this stage being called “Char’s Counterattack” it has nothing to do with CCA; it’s just a fight against Char and his goons. In general Char doesn’t seem to really have the personality or motivation he does in the shows; he just sort of sits around and mopes and gets mad at Amuro.

Somehow I didn’t get Wing Gundam; I must have done something wrong. Wing Gundam sucks, though, so that’s OK.

More MN:

And all of this taking me 1.5 turns – so much for the legendar(il)y
#sexually_impotent Red Comet and his assorted analwives.

Stage 35 – Deciding Battle! Helmoze

This is the final battle. Gottso appears in the Zfield (or Zphroude or however it’s spelled). You have to hurt it a little, then Gresco comes out in a ship, then beat him, then Gottso reappears and you have to take him down. I ignored most of the enemies and just used Shin Getter + resupply seishin, plus some sacrifice guys, to win the game. The Helmoze is not actually a unit; if you move your guys in the wrong place the MAP weapon instantly fires and you die automatically.

The ending scene is pretty short, Char apparently goes with the Balmar and warns that they’ll send more forces eventually.

So that’s the end of Shin. It’s a bad game; I don’t recommend playing it at all. It is sort of interesting to see the first appearance of Balmar and SRX, but they’re pretty thin. Balmar is just a generic invading enemy force; there’s no hint of any particular affinity with Earth or with the SRX project or anything like that. SRX likewise has no deeper significance other than yet another super robot. There’s really very little good I can say about this entry.

If you could skip battle scenes I might actually put it in the left group of “acceptable” SRWs but instead I will put it at the head of the “unacceptable” group. Judging from what I’ve played and read about the rest of the games, I don’t think any other entries in the series will go in the unacceptable group. [2022 Kurisu: Compact 1 did go in the unacceptable group.]

SRPG Game 67 – Dragon Knight 4 (Playstation)

Dragon Knight 4 (ドラゴンナイト4), originally released for PC in 1994, then ported to Super Famicom in 1996, and Playstation/PC-FX in 1997, developed by Elf

Elf was a pioneering company in the field of eroge (this term, a shortening of “erotic game”, is the normal term used in Japanese rather than “hentai”, which is only used in English). In 1992 they released Dokyusei (classmates), the first dating sim eroge and one of the first dating sims of any kind. Dragon Knight, which they made in 1989, was an attempt at making an RPG eroge — although there were 4 games in the Dragon Knight series, few other companies seem to have copied this style. I’m not all that knowledgeable about the eroge landscape, but I have a feeling that fans preferred games like visual novels and dating sims which seemed to integrate the erotic content more closely to the game, rather than RPGs which just had random sex scenes.

All four Dragon Knight games were released in censored versions for consoles — the first three for the PC Engine, and Dragon Knight 4 for three separate platforms. I covered the first and second games, and CRPG Addict did posts on the third game, released in English as Knights of Xentar. The first two games were first-person dungeon crawlers, the third was a more standard RPG, and the 4 is an SRPG.

The three console versions were all modified versions of the original game. The Super Famicom version redid the story, added additional characters, and used a normal XP/level model instead of the more peculiar levelling system of the original. The PSX version is basically an upgraded port of the SFC version but made much more difficult, and with voicing in the scenes. The PC-FX version is essentially a direct port of the PC version without the sex scenes, although there is less censorship than either of the other two ports. There is also a lot more voicing in the PC-FX version.

After a lot of thought I decided to play the Playstation version.

The opening story is in the demon world, where one of the 4 generals of the demons, Lushifon, is in love with Mano, the daughter of Minax, the demon king. When Mano’s sister reveals the affair to Minax, Minax imprisons Lushifon in the space between worlds. But many thousands of years later he called Lushifon back and tells him that if he can accomplish a certain task, he will let him take Mano as his bride. Lushifon has to go back in time to kill Yamato Takeru (the hero of the first 3 Dragon Knight games).

Lushifon decides there’s no point killing Takeru if another hero just takes his place, so instead he starts to take over the world, and also use a black mist that turns everyone to stone. As usual for RPG villains, for no clear reason he sends all his minions out to do the work instead of doing it himself.

One of the kings sends Takeru and Bahn (a Dragon Knight descendant and a friend of Takeru’s from the previous games) a letter asking for help. Takeru decides instead to send his 15 year old son Kakeru, and Bahn sends is son Seil. (Yes, this means that in the PC version some of the sex scenes involve a 15 year old boy with adult women.)

Kakeru and Seil head out to meet the king, but along the way they encounter the black mist coming from the left, and the forces of Lushifon coming from the right. All the soldiers of the town lose their will to fight, a mysterious older knight comes in to rally everyone. When Kakeru asks his name he says “etoo…” (“umm…” in Japanese) so his name becomes Eto. He convinces the soldiers to follow the lead of Kakeru and Seil since they’re the children of the famous Takeru and Bahn.

The story doesn’t really develop that much from there — there are a lot of new characters introduced, like Kakeru’s childhood friend Natasha, and various other women. There’s a lot of dialogue in the towns between missions developing their characters, but no real plot developments until near the end.

The battles are essentially Farland Story with a bit of Langrisser. In the tradition of the worst SRPGs, each character can move and attack at a certain range. There are no skills, spells, or powers, no equipment, no class upgrades, or anything like that. Each character does have a class, but the class just determines movement range and attack range. There are only two exceptions: one class can heal (although there is only one optional character that you get late in the game who can do this), and one class can destroy obstacles on the map.

The Langrisser aspect is that each character starts with 9 troops, which essentially act as the HP. The fewer troops you have, the less damage you can do as well.

Each stage also has a turn limit between 15 and 23 turns (because the black mist is coming). I found the turn limits were not that bad; they’re not so strict that you have to move everyone forward at max speed.

However, the game is pretty boring. It’s also very difficult, but not for good reasons. The game has no in-battle save and permadeath; also if any of the 5 key characters get killed, it’s game over. The enemies have high stats in general and 2-3 attacks by any unit are usually enough to kill someone from full HP. The classes are also not well balanced, with some units being nearly useless. I used a lot of save states and I doubt I would have made it past a few stages if I hadn’t done that.

This is as “spicy” as things get in this version of the game

Between the stages, you have a town you can walk around in. You can talk to everyone and develop their character, and there’s usually a heart place where Kakeru can have a date with someone to increase the love rank — I think this just affects the ending. You can also find stat up seeds by searching boxes and such. Finally, you can recruit new characters; typically you just get a choice of one, and some of them you have to talk to people or do events to get them to be recruitable. There are a lot of mysterious conversations with Eto and other girls (and in the PC version you can spy on him having sex). Eventually you’ll be allowed out into the field and it’s on to the next map.

The big twist happens when you reach Lushifon’s base after about 15 stages. When you reach there, Lushifon mocks you as usual for a villain, and then turns all your party members to stone and kills them all, leaving just Kakeru alive. For some reason Lushifon then imprisons Kakeru in a dungeon. Many years later, Marlene (the elf woman in the picture above), who is obviously Mano’s sister Ino, comes to Kakeru and gives him a device to go back in time. If he can get to Lushifon again with a magic item he’ll be able to cancel Lushifon’s power. Marlene then sends him back in time, and it turns out that Eto is Kakeru as an adult. So now we get to see the game again from Eto’s standpoint. This is somewhat interesting and I would be curious to see how things develop — but you literally have to play the same 15 battles over again, with no changes (and everyone’s levels reset also). There is then one final battle at the end.

So I’m going to stop at this point; I don’t like the game enough to play through the exact same thing again. This overall is a pretty poor game, mostly because the system is so plodding and basic. The story is at least somewhat interesting but it’s not worth the gameplay.

This was the final Dragon Knight game, and I’m not sure if the ero-RPG trend was picked up by other companies. There was something called Dragon Knight 5 – Rising X; I believe this was a mobage that was only active for a few months in 2020. I don’t know if Elf had anything to do with this.

We’re almost at the end of 1996! Midweek I will do a Shin Super Robot Taisen post, and the only remaining game is Terra Phantastica for Saturn.

SRPG Collection

As I’ve been going through the SRPG list, I’ve been trying to collect as many games as I can (cart in box so I get the instruction manual), while also not spending too much money. The basic way I do things is that when I finish a game, I buy the game that’s 4 places down on the list, as long as it’s less than $30 (I originally did this because pre-covid you could get things shipped from Japan for $2-3 if you used slow sea-mail shipping). Any game that’s above $30, or a game that I already have a different version of, gets put on a separate list. Each month I buy one game from that separate list. I’m not sure what I will do if I run out of sub-$30 games to buy.

Here’s my current collection in a convenient IKEA bookshelf:

And here’s my collection rate (* means I’ve played all the games for that system):

  • Famicom* 3/4
  • Game Boy 0/4
  • Game Gear* 0/5
  • Mega Drive 8/9
  • PC-Engine* 4/4
  • PC-FX 0/3
  • Super Famicom 19/32
  • Saturn 12/13
  • Playstation 11/14

PC Engine is the only one I have all the games for. All of the consoles except for Saturn (so far) have at least one game that’s over $80 (in some cases $150-200) so it will be a long time, if ever, before I complete those consoles.

SRPG Game 66 – Funky Fantasy (Saturn)

Funky Fantasy (ファンキーファンタジー), released 12/13/1996, developed by Yoshimoto Kogyo

It’s hard to know what to expect with a game called Funky Fantasy, and when you see the character designs it doesn’t inspire confidence:

The game was developed by Yoshimoto Kogyo,a large media conglomerate that manages mostly comedians and comedy groups, although they’ve been branching out in recent years. All of the characters in this game have faces of comedians or entertainers that were managed by the company at the time — I have no idea how popular or well-known the people were at the time (or still are).

The story is basically a string of parodies, cliches, and gags — the princess Bunny Muno (above) has lost her kingdom and has to gain allies and fight to get it back; that’s pretty much the whole story — even the few twists or developments are just parodies. The game is also pretty short, with only 16 stages. The parodies draw from a wide range of sources, and there are probably a lot I missed. I noticed Gundam, Sailor Moon, Evangelion, Dragon Quest, Ninja Hattori, and even Sakura Taisen and Langrisser:

So we have a game produced by a comedy entertainment company, using weird character designs and a plot mostly centered on gags and parodies. Surely this must be a terrible game? Well….no. I can’t say that it’s particularly good, but the designers didn’t just copy other SRPGs. There are a lot of new gameplay elements and innovative features. I wonder if the non-traditional background of this game gave it both potential and ultimate disappointment — the fact that this wasn’t a major game development studio allowed them to avoid simply making a clone of other SRPGs, but they didn’t have enough experienced staff to actually implement their ideas in a balanced and satisfying manner. This is just a guess, though.

The rocking horse thing there is the White Base parody, your main ship. Bunny controls it and is a summoner. The way you get your people on the board is to combine them with monster types and send them out.

Each character has a class (with a promotion at level 10). The combination of the character and the monster will produce different skills — for instance if you combine a Ninja with a Centaur Lord, the unit will have the Steal skill from the Ninja class, as well as a ranged attack from the Centaur Lord. The stats of the unit will be a combination of the character and the monster.

If a unit is defeated in battle, they can be re-summoned as long as they have life points remaining (the candle on the picture above). However, summoning costs MP, and the higher level the monster, the more MP it costs. You gain MP every turn, 2 MP for each of the magic circle pentagrams you control on the board. You gain control of a circle by moving any unit onto it, and it will then remain under your control until an enemy unit goes on it.

The enemy often has a summoner as well, and so they’ll be trying to capture the magic circles as well. If there are named units on the enemy side they will also have life points — often the goal of a map is to either reduce someone’s life points to 0, or kill their summoner and then kill them. However, the enemy summoners can bring out an unlimited number of grunt units; they still cost MP but don’t have life candles. This is one area I thought they made a mistake on in the game; too often it’s impossible to actually reach the summoner because they can just keep pumping out endless numbers of units, and it’s difficult to actually advance and make progress in the stage.

When you make an attack, the units to the left and right of the attacker, and left and right of the defender, all participate (up to 6 units total). Confusingly it’s not 3 vs 3 but can be 5 vs. 1 or 4 vs 2 as well, despite what the picture might look like above. Characters on the attacking side can participate in the attack even if they have already used their turn to do something else (like shooting, casting a spell, whatever).

I think that if this were the entire game, it would be quite difficult due to the unbalanced nature of the enemy ability to do unlimited summons. However, there is one more aspect to the game — the card system.

Before each battle, you form a deck of 60 cards from your total stock of cards. These cards include ones that increase your attack for the battle, increase defense, do damage to enemy units, increase movement speed, steal cards, and others. Using the cards during the stage does not permanently use them up; they’ll still be in your stock when you make your deck for the next stage. The enemy also has a deck of cards. Each turn the side will draw 2 cards from their deck.

You can use as many cards as you want on a turn or before a battle. Often when you have your first encounter with the enemy, they’ll unload all their attack cards on you, making it basically impossible to win unless you have an “absolute defense” card.

Between stages you can buy cards for your stock, as well as weapons and armor for your characters. Eventually I sunk most or all of my money into damage dealing cards, which I think are the best way to get through the later stages.

I found this game quite difficult in the beginning until I learned some of the peculiarities of how the system worked. Stage 5 is a big wall because there’s this Kraken that you can barely hurt; you need to figure out cards and magic by this point.

Even afterwards, the game remained fairly challenging until the last 5 stages or so when I could make a deck that was 2/3 damage dealing and “draw more cards” cards. I would then rely primarily on those cards to hurt the bosses, along with fire spells and ranged attacks. I don’t think I did any regular attacks after stage 10. For units, I thought the most useful were the Ninja (who can steal enemy cards) and the spellcasters. The best monster was the Centaur Lord because of its 5 range attack.

There were some elements of the system that I never fully understood. Sometimes I could not use my spells or abilities and I wasn’t entirely sure why.

So in the end I can’t really say this is a good game, but at least it tried something new. I would have liked to see a followup that refined the system, but there was never a sequel and I don’t think Yoshimoto Kogyo made any more strategy games.