Category Archives: Strategy RPGs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately Myuu doesn’t make it onto the ship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now bear my arctic blast!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SRPG Game 83 – Ronde (Saturn)

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

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

The characters and battle maps look like this:

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

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

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

Sakurako talks to Charlie Watts, the Englishman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SRPG Game 82 – Mouri Motonari (Final)

Stage 26

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.

Stage 27

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.

SRPG Game 82 – Mouri Motonari Part 2 (PS)

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.

Stage 21

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.

Stage 22

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.

Stage 23

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.

Stage 24

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.

Stage 25

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.

Qualities of good and bad SRPGs

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.

Map size

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.

Map construction

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

Opaque systems

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.

Any thing you all dislike or like in SRPGs?

SRPG Game 82 – Mouri Motonari Part 1 (PS)

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 — enemy reinforcements will come in from the top right

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.

SRPG Game 81 – Front Mission 2 (PS)

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.

There is a lot of English in the game

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!