Time for a new post outlining my next set of games. As usual, I took my full list from a variety of sources, some of which are very liberal in labeling something an RPG. There’s also a burst of PCE games in this section. The bolded games are the ones I will be playing.
The first three games on the list are all games that I think qualify as Action RPGs, but I’m not 100% certain about any of them.
Lady Stalker: Challenge from the Past
Rejoice: From Far Aretha’s Kingdom (the last game in the Aretha series)
La Wares (This game is notorious as a kusoge)
River Fishing 2 (this game may technically qualify but it’s mostly a fishing game rather than an RPG, and I’m not a big fan of fishing games.)
PCE Gulliver Boy (This is a different game from the Super Famicom RPG of the same name, although both based on the same anime)
Elfaria II (Sequel to the auto battle game I played earlier)
PCE Nekketsu Legend Baseballer
Princess Minerva (I already played the PCE version)
Der Langrisser (I played the PC-FX version on the SRPG side)
Little Master 3 (already done on the SRPG side
Tottemo! Lucky Man (I may reevaluate this when I reach this point, but I don’t believe this quite qualifies as an action RPG for me.)
PCE Xanadu II (Apparently much shorter and simpler than the first Xanadu game)
No big names in this list. The huge hitter for 1995 will be the last set (October-December), although the next block does have Seiken Densetsu 3 in it.
Esparks (エスパークス・異時空からの来訪者）Released 3/31/1995, developed by Tomy
This game is based on characters that originated on kids’ notebooks and other stationery, produced by the San-X company. Apparently the storylines were done in manga distributed with the stationery but I’m not clear on the details. There were 9 storylines, and this action RPG is based on the 7th and 8th stories. It was apparently intended to come out in 1993 but was delayed to 1995; despite this the game is very light on content, and it seems that even with the two year delay it didn’t come out with all the expectations.
The game begins with an unnamed boy at his house in Page Village, celebrating his birthday. His father is coming back from Sandoria Castle, but there are Protorude monsters causing havoc in the area. The boy has an older brother Saggitarius who is a ne’er-do-well. The first part you have to talk to everyone and then talk to Dr. Flipper (it’s hard to tell when you’ve talked to everyone).
Dr. Flipper is inventing time travel machines. Anyway, the father comes back and we celebrate the birthday, including a gift of a pendant from Dad. But an enemy called Barba comes, killing both parents and critically wounding Saggitarius.
Kurisu (who got his name on his birthday) is saved by someone named Key-suke who comes in and drives Barba away. Also then Dr. Flipper uses something called the ESP Seed to save Kurisu’s life, and it turns out that both he and Key-suke are “chosen” by the ESP seed. Key-suke himself came from a different time; he escaped Barba with the help of a friend Esparks who sacrificed himself to save Key-suke. The pendant also transforms Kurisu into a warrior. Now we can buy weapons, items, and ESP (spells) and then head out.
The game is top down action; you swing the sword with A and occasionally get critical hits. There are different types of weapons (bows, spears, swords, axes) that have different ranges and methods of attacking. When you level up you restore HP although the enemies never give much XP. The party members can be given commands by pressing L and R to choose from a set of AI commands.
Kurisu and Key-suke head to Clap Village. On the way I found a “god statue” of a mouse — these are scattered throughout the world but they don’t seem to do much. Occasionally they offer a clue for what to do next, often they just say useless things.
In Clap Village, the mayor tells us that we are the chosen ones to save this time and that there are three more ESP Seed chosen ones we need to find to drive off the Protorude.
Barba seems to be in the Eicha Cave to the E of Clap, so we go there and find him — before that, a mysterious “white knight” tells Kurisu to awaken his power; it turns out that Esparks gives Kurisu his power, including the magic of Soul Blade. Barba is at the end of the cave; I beat him at level 9.
Now we have to go all the way back to Page Village, through several caves and overworld areas. This introduces by far the worst aspect of this game — there are very few locations in the game, and you have to visit all of them over and over again, including a large amount of backtracking. Even the final boss is just in a location that you’ve already visited three times before (and fought three bosses in the same room).
Back at Page Village, we use the time machine to go back and try to save Kurisu’s parents. Unfortunately we go back too far, back to Key-suke’s time. Dr. Sashi, who we meet in the past, has a son that has gone to the desert, so that’s our next destination.
Unfortunately this requires going all the way through Tekken Cave, to Clap Village, through Eicha Cave, and then out to the Furui Fortress, where we fight the next set of bosses. Then you have to walk all the way back to Page Village through those locations. It turns out Sashi can repair the Time Machine to send us back to the present, but he needs an item that will only be found in Rich Village. Back to Tekken Cave where we blow up a rock, leading to a new area.
Rich Village has a junk dealer that can supply the item, but all his goods were stolen by Gobi, who is in the Tomtom Cave.
All the way back to Page Village, where Dr. Sashi is able to send us back to the present, slightly before the parents die. Now the brother Saggitarius joins (he’s the next of the ESP Seed Heroes). Now it’s back through Tekken cave, Clap Village, Eicha Cave, back through Furui Fortress again, through Furui to Sandria Castle. Here we see the origin of Barba’s arrival in the present time, but we’re too late — he heads back to Page and kills the parents before we can intervene. So we get to walk all the way back: Furui->Eicha->Clap->Tekken->Page Village. Back to the original present time, and we hear about disappearances in Rich Village.
There we meet the fourth ESP Seed warrior, Shira, and fight Barba yet again in the Tomtom Cave (he ate the villagers). Then it’s Tomtom->Rich->Tekken->Page->Tekken->Clap Village, where the elder tells us we have one more companion to get. He’s in Furui Ruins, so Eicha->Furui to fight the boss Prudence. This has to be done with Kurisu only, but he’s not too bad.
The items are fairly cheap so you can load your inventory with them — for some reason you can’t figure out how many of each item you have (you also don’t see damage for attacks, another interface issue).
Prudence tells Kurisu that his real father was Bariscros, a hero who fought with Prudence, Kurisu’s adopted father, and another warrior against the Protorude. Presence joins and tries to teleport us home but fails, and we get sent to Haga-chan island. There are pirates there, but they’re so weak and spineless that all we have to do is guess a correct barrel and they hand over the pirate ship. At this point you have visited all the locations in the game.
Finally with the ship we don’t have to do all the tedious backtracking anymore through so many areas. Back in Page Village we learn that people are getting sick mysteriously, and we head to Sandria Castle to see what’s going on — there we fight Troma and Guilty, other A-Rank Protorude. Guilty says something about trying to ease the suffering of the Protorude but there’s never any more dialogue about this.
Back at Page Village, Dr. Flipper tells us that the sickness is actually caused by miniature Protorude that are in everyone’s blood. At that moment Guilty reappears (he can revive himself endlessly) and sends Kurisu to the future (where the Protorude have taken over) and scatters the companions.
Shira can be found in Tomtom Cave, where she’s fighting Gobi. After another boss fight, we manage to get back to the present, where Dr. Flipper tells us that Guilty is in Future Sandoria Castle, and gives us a treasure box key. The time machine is also fixed so we can freely transport times. Now there are several things to do:
Find the companions (in various times and places)
Get the ultimate equipment (from locked chests)
Get an upgraded pirate ship from the future that can time travel
Once all this has been done, it’s time to go to Sandoria. Guilty is there again, but even defeating him he will just get stronger again. Fortunately Dr. Flipper has figured out a chemical that can destroy the cells.
Back to Sandoria yet again, where Barba has appeared and absorbed the Guilty cells to change into a final boss form. I used a ton of items but in the end I did defeat him at level 29. Now in the ending everyone goes back to their places, and Kurisu goes off with Key-suke on new adventures (we never did save the parents).
This game is not really worth playing. As I said, by far the worst aspect is the extremely small amount of content — there are only 4 small dungeons that are used over and over again, and the amount of backtracking is the most I’ve seen in any game. Despite that it’s still a pretty short game. The story is nothing special, and the interface has a lot of frustrating features. The game had a lot of potential, but I guess they should have delayed it a few more years.
Thank you for visiting; this is a blog that chronicles my playthroughs of various Super Famicom, PC Engine, and general strategy RPGs. Feel free to respond here to introduce yourself, let me know what your favorite SRPG is, whatever.
I generally update on Saturday or Sunday. I play one strategy RPG, then two Super Famicom (or PC Engine) RPGs.
I’ve now finished the links to all the previous posts, so you can use the links at the top to see the full list of played games so far. Also, if you are only interested in certain types of posts, you can filter by categories (see the bottom of the sidebar). The three categories are Strategy RPGs, Super Famicom RPGs, and PC Engine RPGs.
Nekketsu Tairiku Burning Heroes (熱血大陸バーニングヒーローズ). Released 3/17/1995, published by Enix
In this game, the player can choose from 8 different heroes — at first only 4 are there, but when you beat one scenario, another hero will be unlocked that’s from the first hero’s story. This seems to recall games like Live a Live, or perhaps Dragon Quest IV/Monster Maker 3 with the separate heroes. But Burning Heroes does things a bit differently.
I chose Lila first, who is a “treasure hunter”. Her scenario begins with her idol Fuga sending her on a quest to find the three Jabol orbs. She doesn’t really know why Fuga wants it, but assumes it’s just some kind of collector’s item.
The first thing we can do is explore the town and find some information, as well as get party members. The NPC party members have no role in the story at all; they just fill out the party for combat purposes (there is one place at the end where they each say a line but they’re not specific to the character). Then we leave the town and get into the first battle.
The biggest problem with the game is the battle system, I think. You cannot control the NPC characters at all — there isn’t even an AI setting. What this means is that magic users are worthless because they will immediately use their strongest magic and run out of MP within a few battles, leaving them as weaker fighters. So you want a full party of fighters, plus Lizer who only has heal spells — the heal AI is a bit better, and he won’t use the spells unless someone is hurt. At the same time, it’s sometimes frustrating that he won’t heal you when it’s necessary.
I really don’t understand this choice by the designers. It’s not the first time I’ve wondered about baffling choices made by companies or designers — I’d love to see an interview or anything where they explain their thought process behind this system.
What you can do is change the formation of your characters in battle. You start with just one formation, but earn more from leveling as well as finding books in dungeons — you will end up with 25 or so formations. Unfortunately, there are no explanations for what the formations do. Some of them are identified by letters: H increases hit rate, D is defense, M is magic defense, and A is balance (I think?) If you pick an M formation it will greatly reduce magic damage but also your characters will do very little damage.
There is also a system where if certain characters are on certain positions in the battlefield, they will do a “rush attack” that does more damage — but there’s no way to tell what positions those are, and according to one Japanese site I saw they even change positions as they level.
As the main character gets hurt, their “nekketsu” meter goes up, and when it hits 100% you can do a Nekketsu move that does damage to all the enemies.
For Lila’s scenario, the first thing we do is recover the Jabol orbs. One thing you find in various places in each scenario are Jump Shoes; by holding down Y you can jump across gaps. The more Jump Shoes you have, the longer gap you can traverse, so you sometimes have to find additional Shoes to be able to progress.
After finding the three orbs, she takes them back to Fuga and it turns out that Fuga has been controlled by some sort of power. Zades appears and uses the orbs to revive the Demon Jakou. Now Lila has to pursue Jakou to stop his goal of taking over the world.
Most of part 2 is chasing Zades. Lila eventually catches up with him at a ruin. Zades explains that he wants revenge on humans for destroying the Earthlings many centuries ago, and that he’s going to use the power of Jakou and a sky ship to do it. Lila destroys Zades, but Jakou has already headed up to the sky lands, and Lila follows.
The sky area has three dungeons. Lila defeats Jakou in the second dungeon, who then decides to crash Cosmion (the sky tower) into Earth, killing everyone. Lila goes through Cosmion and kills the remaining Earthling called Death Wise.
Once Death Wise is defeated, Cosmion goes into the sea instead for some reason, and Lila survives with Fuga — although there’s really no ending sequence beyond that.
After beating Lila’s scenario I decided to try Ryu’s scenario. Ryu’s father is the warrior Adam, who we heard about in Lila’s scenario. Adam went out and left Ryu alone.
As I played this, I realized two things: first, all the dungeons are repeated from Lila’s scenario, although they’re in a different order. Second: the plot is a repeat of the Lila plot, with the same final boss and final dungeon, just with a different motivation for the main character and some other different plot details. So Ryu’s story is not a different part of the story that’s complementary to Lila’s, it’s the same story retold with a different main character.
I then was going to try Shen’s story, which was unlocked by beating Lila. However, checking a walkthrough, it seemed that Shen’s story also had the same dungeons and the same final boss. Looking further through the walkthrough, it was clear that some of the people had some different dungeons, but that the final chapter was the same for all 8 heroes, with one different dungeon but the same final dungeons and boss. Furthermore, nothing happens if you complete all 8 scenarios — there’s no final scenario or anything, the game’s just over at that point.
So I’m not sure I see much point in playing the other six scenarios, especially since the battle system isn’t all that great. I don’t think it would take an especially long time (probably all 8 scenarios together would be in the 20-30 hour range). Can anyone else who’s played this offer an opinion? For now I’m going to move on to Arc the Lad II but if anyone can offer a compelling reason to play the other 6 scenarios I can do that before moving on to Esparks
This is a stupid game — that is, a “bakage” to use the Japanese word. It falls into the same category as Maka Maka in that it relies heavily on humor based on parody, gag manga tropes, poop jokes, puns, and occasional racist humor. It was originally developed for the Famicom and apparently completed in 1994, but then the release was cancelled and it was ported to the Super Famicom.
The game begins with the weak-willed “mothercon” (Jocasta complex) main character at his wedding with his fiance Yuka. But then suddenly Yuka disappears, and the main character goes on a quest to find her.
The game takes place entirely in various areas of Tokyo. There really is no coherent plot; it’s mostly just a string of parodies and jokes as I mentioned above, as the main character travels through various regions of Tokyo. I’ve never liked gag manga-style humor, and I didn’t really think most of the game was that amusing. Along the way you’re joined by two main helper women. The first is Haruka, who works as a cashier in a store.
The second is Reiko, a “fleeter” (someone who does temporary jobs).
There are other women with these full size pictures as well, although they don’t join the party.
Some of the plot elements include defeating rogue cabs that have come to life, catching a panty thief, appearing on a TV station, and tricking a Crane Game machine into digging a tunnel.
In the end, you finally discover Yuka on a ship in Yokohama harbor. It turns out she ran away so that you could go out an earn experience and money, which makes you a more attractive husband. The main character is so upset by this that he rejects her and marries either Haruka or Reiko instead (depending on choices you made earlier). He throws away all his XP and gold, and the final scene is the new couple’s life where they have no money and he can’t get a job because he has no experience.
The game itself is a pretty normal RPG. It has a lot of usual bad features of old RPGs — slow walking with no dash button, no way to see the stats of equipment, no explanations of what the techniques (spells) do, etc. Rather than fighting monsters, you encounter women, and the “attack” command is replaced by “flirt” (kudoku, which can also just mean “persuade” — I don’t know if the game is using that as a kind of double meaning or whether the “persuade” meaning has become obsolete.)
Once you get party members, they don’t participate in the battle, but you can ask them to heal you or to “protect” (I never fully understood what this did). The main character’s techniques are color coded based on their effect, but it still would have been nice to have some explanation of them.
Some of the “foreigners” you meet are depicted in pretty stereotypical/racist manner, like the black person in the illustration above. Also at one point you visit the Indian embassy where they’re all walking around eating curry, and later they are contentedly eating a huge pile of poop, having mistaken it for curry.
On the whole, I’m not sure this game is really worth playing. Maybe if you really like Japanese-style humor it might work for you, and at least I can say that the setting is original and it’s not the same old “defeat the demon lord” sword and sorcery game. There are a lot of townspeople to talk to. The enemies are colorful and detailed, and the graphics on the whole are fairly good, especially when you consider that this was ported from a Famicom game.
After yet another frustrating week with Blogger (having a lot of difficulty uploading the pictures, which has been broken ever since they switched to the new layout), I have decided almost for certain that I am going to transition to a WordPress site, where I will most likely combine my two blogs into one (using the more flexible layout to make it easy for people to find the various posts). It may be a while before I actually do this, and I will continue to post links on the Blogger site for a good while after I switch, but in the end I think it will be better. And if I continue to do posts after I finish the SFC project, that will be even more convenient.
Also, I may not have a post next weekend due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but we’ll see.
Released 3/4/1995, developed and published by Atlas
This is another game in the long running Megami Tensei franchise. By this point, there were five main Megami Tensei games plus the two Majin Tensei strategy RPGs. The Last Bible series was a spinoff that started on the Game Boy in 1992. The idea was to take the core idea of monster recruiting and combining, but put it into a more kid-friendly fantasy setting that eschewed the usual darker, post-apocalyptic settings of the main games. (The first two games were remade for the Game Boy Color, and the first one was released in English in 1999 as Revelations: Demon Slayer.) The games are also standard top-down RPGs rather than the first-person games of the main series.
This game has an English patch, so you can try it yourself.
1995 actually had three games released in the Bible series — Last Bible III, Another Bible (a strategy RPG which I covered on my other blog), and Last Bible Special, a game gear game that went back to the first-person dungeon style. This was a busy year for the franchise; 1995 is also when SNES remake of the first two games came out, as well as Devil Summoner for the Saturn.
I played the first two LB games quite a while back, but I don’t remember much about them. Of course because this is on Super Nintendo (and released in 1995) the graphics are much better:
The text can be annoying to read at times because they have mixed kanji and hiragana in words — I’ve played enough of these old games that I’m used to reading all hiragana text now, but having a mix of the two really throws off my speed.
The story overall is much more developed than the previous games. It begins with a flashback to a group of “Shadow Walkers” who were heroes of a big war 15 years prior. One of them is Glen, the main character’s father. Another, Alec, is about to die in the snow but reaches a gate to the Makai (demon world). Now 15 years later, the Shadow Walkers are being targeted by the government of Megapolis, who has made a perpetual energy machine but at the same time outlawed the use of Gaia (a kind of magic power) by anyone. At the moment, Kurisu (the main character) is outside their purview, attending a school where he is taught to use his Gaia along with his friends. Soon, the Megapolis soldiers attack the town, and Kurisu is forced to flee. The story takes Kurisu through a fight against Megapolis while at the same time trying to figure out the mystery of the Shadow Walkers.
(The main character gains Gaia techniques from the school at the beginning, but I never found out how to actually use them. I was obviously missing something in the system because for me they always did 0-5 damage but I saw videos where people were using them for 400+ at the end of the game.)
The battle system is normal, but as is so often the case in these games, the game is virtually ruined by the unbelievable random encounter rate. This is my 72nd SFC game on this blog so I’ve seen a lot of games with high encounter rates, but this is one of the worst. The saving grace is that once you recruit monsters to your side, you can then talk to the monster type and the battle will end — even with this, though, it’s very tedious to go through the dungeons. And there are several places in the game where you only fight human enemies you can’t talk to — these places really sapped my will to play.
This is coupled by a poor balance throughout the game. The game goes from being very difficult to very easy. I reached the final boss around level 34 and got obliterated. I did grinding up to level 43 and tried again, and got obliterated. At this point I was so tired of the game I used a cheat to beat the final boss; I then went looking for guides and videos and found that most people recommended levels in the low to mid-50s (and they actually knew how to use the Gaia techniques of the main character). So I was supposed to grind 20 levels to beat the final boss, which is absurd.
The high random encounter rate coupled with rare/expensive MP restore items means that, as usual, magic is nearly worthless other than heal spells. I also found that in general the magic didn’t work very well.
As this is a Megami Tensei game, you can recruit monsters to your side. I think this is the best implementation yet of monster recruitment. You are still doing the usual “answer questions” system, but you can see both the mood of the monster and the connection level change as you answer, which means you can actually see what your answers are doing and it feels much less random. There’s also the normal monster combining. As with Shin MT2 and If…, I found usually the preset characters were better than the monsters.
This is a pretty harsh review, but I think it’s deserved. I was really disappointed by this game; I was expected another decent entry from Atlas. The world is interesting and the story is pretty good, which is a good basis, but the absurd random encounter rate and the sheer amount of grinding required makes the game a chore to play, and I got to the point where I was no longer caring about the story that much because I just wanted to get the game over with.
Now after I wrote this, I went looking for more information on the main character’s techniques, which I probably should have done during the game. Apparently you can increase the MP cost to do more damage. I wonder if I can go back and beat the final boss without cheating now, although it was mostly that I couldn’t survive his turns where he would attack 6-8 times doing several hundred damage to each person.
Anyway, if any of you have played this game maybe you can tell me how to suck less at it — I don’t think it will change my opinion on the encounter rate but maybe at least the balance won’t be such a problem then.
Next up is Vandal Hearts on my other blog, then we’ll come back here to an odd looking game, Love Quest.
Last time I was heading into the Imperial capital, Bow. Bow is kind of odd because it seems like it’s just a big building — maybe we’re supposed to imagine it’s bigger or has more structures, but I’m not sure. In any case, the goal of reaching here was to find the great smith Uto, who had the secret of the Sword of Filerna.
Uto is in the basement, but he doesn’t believe Filerna’s story, until he fights her and sees her sword style. Then he reveals what he has been keeping — the Sword of Filerna can cleanse the sea that the Empire fouled, and will restore the kingdom of Firosela. So that’s now our goal, but the Black Demons have caught up with the party as well and once again we have to escape out of a secret underground passage.
Incidentally, a problem a lot of games and anime have with story consistency is how to have powerful villains that don’t just instantly crush the heroes. Most of the time this is done by making the villains incompetent for no reason, or they use nonsensical things like “Let’s not kill him now, let’s see how he progresses. Mwahaha.” or “There would be no point in killing you, you’re too weak. Mwahaha.” This game definitely leans on the incompetent villains trope.
Better stories like Lord of the Rings use more coherent reasoning — Sauron doesn’t have the ability to warp anywhere in the world or make meteors strike Frodo. That quest succeeds partly because they play on Sauron’s blind spot (not thinking anyone would try to destroy the Ring), and using a small party that wasn’t based on combat ability. Sauron never quite learns where Frodo is or what he’s doing until the last moment.
So we escape through the basement, and fight yet another Black Demon (#22). The next goal is to head south to where Firosela was. We pass through a town and near a locked windmill shed, eventually reaching an empire military base.
We have to head back to the windmill and get some imperial clothing disguises; it also turns out that Yakos, the man there, was a Firoselan, and is happy to see that Filerna lived. He’s sick and probably won’t live to see the revival of Firosela, but at least he can help us proceed. Unfortunately the soldiers find us out pretty quickly, and we have to fight. Two of the top-tier Black Demons appear here; this was a big chokepoint for me where I had to move up about 6 levels to proceed (until I learned a better Crystal attack). Fortunately there is a heal spot in the barracks.
Afterwards there’s a strange looking baby creature in a bubble that flies away, but no explanation for that now. But now we can pass the military base and finally reach the place where Firosela was. Filerna tries to cleanse the sea with the Filerna sword.
It makes the castle rise up that we saw in the flashback earlier. The door won’t open unless two Firoselans touch the statues, but if a non-Firoselan touches them they will die. We head back to the windmill to talk to Yakos — the rest of the game contains an annoying amount of backtracking. Yakos is too sick to go help us, but he notices that Lila reminds him of a Firoselan, and a fortune teller seems to confirm that she is Firoselan. It’s dangerous, but they try having Lila open the door, and it works.
Inside, Filerna learns that she needs to revive 6 lighthouses to be able to proceed and make a miracle happen. This part is mostly just wandering around, backtracking, and some fetch quests to make the lighthouses activate. Midway through, we head back to Bow having heard that the High Priest there is the true ruler of the Empire, and if we beat him it will severely cripple the Empire. On the way, we learn that the Resistance Armies have grown by a lot, all of them being inspired by this unknown “Filerna” that they’re hearing about. It turns out that this is all being spurred by Nest, the scenario writer we met at the beginning, who has been publishing an underground newspaper. He joins up to go deal with the high priest.
The high priest is underground in Bow, and we also find a place where they are experimenting on people (this is what they were doing to Fis much earlier). And in fact Fis is here, and fights us, but stops after a few rounds and instead decides to sacrifice himself to destroy the lab. We continue on to beat up the high priest, who actually is very easy to beat.
Once we activate all the lighthouses, the miracle is an ice boat that comes up.
We need to use this to go to the final area, the place where the Black Demons have their command HQ.
The final dungeon is a tower, and the final bosses were another chokepoint so it was time to grind (I was tired of these chokepoints and used a code this time to move up 4 levels).
After beating the last of the black demons, the story takes a strange turn:
The fetus(?) tells us that it’s already destroyed the Empire for creating the abominations, and that now it’s just looking for a place to be born — the Heart of Hatred has captured the Pot of Life, and so we need to beat the Heart to allow this thing to be born. I don’t know what this has to do with the rest of the story (I checked another blogger who did this game and he also had no idea where this came from, so I didn’t miss anything).
The boss is not especially hard at the levels I was at (I think it’s easier than the final Black Demon fights). Upon being the boss’s two forms, we restore the Pot of Life, the source of all life of the planet.
Now Filerna goes back to restore Firosela. We’re followed by some last remnant of the Black Demons, but when Filerna uses her sword in the ocean, Firosela is reborn and the thing dies.
Now Firosela is destroyed, and Lila seems to become the queen with Filerna. Is this the first lesbian relationship in an RPG? There’s no dialogue here but Lila is pretty insistent that she’s Filerna’s wife, throughout the whole game. I found a post of someone talking about the original novel and it does seem to imply that Lila is in love with Filerna.
Overall it’s an OK game. Interface annoyances and chokepoints are troublesome, but the skill system is interesting and the story is overall well done for a game of this period.
Released 2/24/1995, developed and published by Varie
This is a game I missed on my first pass through 1995. It’s a 美少女ゲー, a game where every character is a high school girl in various school dress. There was a 1997 sequel for Playstation as well. The game was way too expensive to buy, so I don’t have in instruction manual. My discussion of the system is entirely based on playing the game plus information from one walkthrough site I found; there may be parts of the system I didn’t get.
The game is 23 stages back to back, with no other content other than short story sequences. The story as a whole is fairly thin — five high school girls get brought into the world of Nage. They spend the first half of the game trying to escape, but then find that Nage is imposing itself on the real world. They go back into Nage to defeat Misty, the person that initially summoned Nage, and then defeat Nage itself. Most of the dialogue is just banter between the girls.
The first thing you do is input birthdays for the 5 girls.
This affects the birthday stone system in the battles, but there are two special things you can do. If you put in the birthdays as 1/23, 4/5, 6/7, 8/9, and 10/11, all cards count as birthday stones, making the game much easier. If you do 10/10, 3/3, 2/14, 7/7, and 12/24 you can see profiles of the girls. If you put everyone as 11/25, when you beat the game you get this unknown bald guy singing Happy Birthday to Me (a designer?)
Everyone can move 6 spaces on the map regardless of the terrain. What the terrain does it affect the speed that your turn gauge fills, and some of the map squares are damage or healing.
The battle system is interesting. It’s based on a card system, but not deck-building as such. Each encounter is 6 rounds (or until one person dies). At the beginning of each battle there is a random hand of 5 cards. When you use one of the cards, it will get replaced by another random one. Everyone shares the same hand so you do sometimes have to use less-than-optimal cards to clear them out of your hand. Each card has two numbers; a power at the top left and a speed at the bottom right. Who actually goes first is affected also by the character’s speed stat in addition to the speed of the card. There is also a gemstone on each card, and if it matches the character’s birthday gemstone, it automatically has max power (15).
The types of cards are:
Defense (raise defense just for that battle)
SP (a special super attack)
COS – This changes your costume.The Winter costume gives you more def/agl at the cost of str/mt. Gym clothes are +str/agl, -def. Swimsuit is +str/-def (more than Gym). Coat is just +10% def. The costume change just lasts until the end of the stage.
CHG – This allows you to pull one of your stock cards. Between battles you can buy up to 5 stock cards for each person. All of them have 9 speed and X (maximum) power. At the beginning of the game you have to be somewhat frugal, but starting around mid-game I always had one heal and four SP cards to draw from.
Escape (end the battle, can fail)
????? – random effect, although I swear that defense is the most common outcome — maybe this is just confirmation bias though.
Every character also has a club, although some people are “regular students” or bosses. The main thing I am not sure about is whether the clubs affect your stats; there’s no information about this in the game or on the site. There is a compatibility like in other games (for instance, the Tennis club is very strong against the Karate club but weak against Japanese Dance). This is potentially interesting but in the end not very useful. You only ever have 5 people and can only switch clubs between stages. Most stages have a large assortment of enemies and so it’s difficult to pick an optimum set of clubs.
It’s not really necessary though — the game is quite easy for the most part. There are a few tricky stages and bosses, but if you lose a girl they just come back in the next stage.
One other thing I’m not sure about is the level advancement. There’s no XP; the girls gain levels at the end of the stage, but I can’t tell whether it has anything to do with what they did during the stage.
There are a lot of interface issues. It’s very hard to see the stats of your girls during the stage, and there’s too much opacity in the system (although some of that might be cleared up by the instruction manual).
In the end this is not a bad game, but it’s not particularly good either. I’ll be interested to see what the PSX game changes in the system. I read one complaint that there aren’t as many clubs, but that doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me. I did notice that they made some changes that reduce the randomness of the card draw a bit, which is probably good — it can be frustrating at times when you’re drawing nothing but costume change and escape cards.
After you win the game you can play an Extra Stage with all the bosses on one map.
Next up we’ll be back to 1996 for Vagrant Story, a game I have heard about but never played.
The first Lufia game was a pretty standard RPG, although not that bad compared to the games made around the same time. The beginning is the part that stands out the most. It’s a time-worn game cliche that some heroes defeated an enemy long ago, and now the descendants of the heroes have to fight the enemy again. But Lufia actually starts with you playing the strong hero party in the final dungeon against the Four Gods — translated as Sinistrals to get around Nintendo of America’s content policies. At the end of the prologue, Maxim and Selena die in the Gods’ floating island while Artea and Guy escape. Then the main game takes place 90 years later with the descendants fighting the Gods again.
Lufia II focuses on Maxim and his party, so (if you played Lufia 1) you already know the ending of the game. Here we start out with Maxim living in a small village, fighting monsters for money. He has a friend/potential girlfriend Tia who runs the item store. A mysterious woman named Iris appears and tells Maxim he is a destined warrior who will defeat a great evil. Tia joins him and the adventure begins. Lufia 1 players know that by the end of the game he will have met Selena, married her, and had a child, so at least this beginning does provide some unknown direction for the story to travel.
There are some other people that join in the story — not only Tia, but also Hidekker the warrior and Lexas the scientist. They’re only around for a bit, though. The story is OK, though nothing groundbreaking beyond the fact that you know the main characters will die at the end (if you played Lufia 1 — I guess it’s a bigger surprise if you didn’t). Some of the dialogue in the ending is a bit garbled in the translation because they were not able to refer to the Sinistrals as “gods”.
The battle system is fairly standard RPG. The only innovation is the IP system. Many of the weapons and armor have IP skills that you can activate with IP points that you earn by getting hit in battle. Sometimes it’s better to equip weaker equipment that has good IP abilities (like the ones that restore MP or give you 3-5 attacks).
The interface is clean and easy to use, and the walking speed is fast.
Definitely the most distinctive and memorable aspect of this game is the dungeon design and puzzles. Every dungeon is full of puzzles that involve switches, moving platforms, pillars, warp tiles, and other things. You gain a variety of items (arrow, bomb, hookshot, etc.) that help you solve the puzzles. Many of them are optional and lead to treasure chests, and a counter at the end shows how many you found. You can even try the “hardest puzzle in the world” at one point.
The first time I had to consult a walkthrough, it was for a puzzle that had a bunch of routes in a room that all led to warps, but one was a door. The door is shut, and there’s no clues for what to do. I looked at a GameFAQs walkthrough and didn’t see any mention of it. Finally I consulted a Japanese walkthrough and found out this was based on Amidakuji, which I’ve heard of but didn’t know it well enough to recognize the puzzle.
It turns out the puzzle was removed in the English version, but rather than simply making the door open they replaced it with new puzzles having to do with colored blocks — an impressive effort by the localization team. There was one other puzzle replaced in the English version:
The room starts out with the black squares forming an X and you have to change it so the O is black instead. Japanese people have a much stronger association with “X = wrong, O = correct” than we do, and the localizers must have felt that with no hints, this would be impossible to solve. For this one they just removed the puzzle and left an empty room.
For the most part I found the puzzles fair and well-designed; even the few times I had to consult a walkthrough I felt that I should have been able to work the solution out on my own. There is a pretty wide variety as well, and they’re always sure to throw in an easy puzzle or two in every dungeon so you don’t always feel like you’re banging your head against the wall.
Also the designers made the excellent decision to eschew random encounters (except on the world map) and replace them with monsters on the map. This reduces a lot of potential frustration.
The game also has “capsule monsters”. You find them at various points in the game and then can feed them various weapons and items to grow them into different forms. You don’t control them in battle. I found this was the weakest part of the system — especially once you get a bunch of them, growing them just involves visiting different shops (or going to Forfeit Island) and buying items to feed them. It’s repetitive and boring; I gave up once I got them to their third forms.
Finally, there is a good amount of optional content in the game. Not just finding all the chests, but there’s also a casino, and the Ancient Dungeon. This is a 99 floor dungeon that works like a Torneko/roguelike game. You can’t bring in most items and you’ll lose most of what you have when you leave, although there are some blue chests in the dungeon that have good items you can take out. You can easily spend more time on this than the entire main quest. There are also Dragon Eggs you can find throughout the world which you can trade in for bonuses.
I missed 42 chests so I could have done a lot more.
But overall this is a great game; it’s one of the best I’ve played so far on the blog and it’s well worth all the hype it gets.
Next up will be a SRPG (Nage Libre) which was released the same day as Lufia II. I’ll be covering it on the other blog.