Category Archives: Super Famicom RPGs

SFC Game 99 – Dragon Quest VI (Part 1)

Dragon Quest VI (ドラゴンクエストVI 幻の大地), released 12/9/1995, developed by Heartbeat, published by Enix

It’s been quite a long time, but we’re back to Dragon Quest. DQ5 was one of the earliest games I played for the blog and it’s still one of the best. 3 years was the longest gap between DQ games (although the space between 6 and 7 would be longer).

The basic gameplay is familiar; as usual DQ continues with the same general feel, familiar sound effects, Toriyama’s monster designs, and such. There are a number of interface improvements (like the Bag that stores extra items), but the big gameplay change is the new class system. DQ3 had a class system that was fairly rudimentary — you chose a class at the beginning of the game for each character (except the Hero) and could change that class at Dharma Temple upon reaching level 20. There was a hidden Sage class that could only be accessed by a “Goof-off” or with a hidden item.

In DQ6, about a third of the way through the game you revive Dharma Temple and can then choose classes for characters. Each class has 8 levels, and the levelling is based on fighting a certain number of battles. There are second-tier classes that you unlock by mastering two basic classes, and there is a Hero class that can be accessed by mastering one second-tier class for the main character, or all four second-tier classes by anyone else. Finally there are two hidden classes that can only be accessed by using items, one of which can only be found in the post-game content. (This system would be repeated in DQ7 with some modifications).

This brings a large number of new skills and abilities to the game. In battle there are many more options that do not cost MP, leading to something of an imbalance (the classes are inherently imbalanced at any rate).

The game begins with a dream sequence where the main character (Kurisu) and some companions are taking on the demon lord Mudo. But, it turns out this is a dream sequence, and Kurisu wakes up in his home village Lifecod.

The graphics are much improved from 5 and another good example of late-SFC era pixel art. Kurisu has been chosen to go down the mountain to sell some town goods and buy a tiara for his sister, who will be the priestess of this year’s spirit festival.

Rather than the usual blue slime to start off, they give us mottled slimes. This mountain path is actually one of the harder dungeons in the game because it’s just weak Kurisu and you have no Return/Escape spell. It takes some grinding or just exploring before you can make it down. However, I appreciate as always that if you die, DQ sends you back to the previous place you saved with any items/XP intact but half your gold. This game adds a bank you can store money in that will not be affected if you die.

Anyway, Kurisu makes it to Sienna at a beefed up level 4. This town has a bunch of bazaars and other things. You can buy a world map and a thief’s key (I think the World Map is not so useful despite what walkthroughs way; you do want it eventually but you can come back here later and buy it). I spent all my money on those things rather than equipment.

Turns out the tiara maker left down to the west and hasn’t come back, so Kurisu hunts him down hanging by a thread on the edge of a huge hole. Kurisu saves him but falls down the hole instead, and finds himself in some kind of parallel world where nobody can see him.

Apparently this world is having trouble with Mudo as well. In any case there’s not much to do here except take the well back to the surface and head back to Sienna — the tiara maker is so grateful that we saved his life that he gives the tiara for free. Kurisu heads back to Lifecod to do the spirit ceremony.

During the ceremony, the spirits come and tell Kurisu that it’s his destiny to go beyond the village and fight the darkness that’s threatening to world. So Kurisu gets a letter from the elder so that he can pass the barrier gate, and heads to Reidock Castle where the king is looking for warriors to fight against Mudo.

In Reidock, Kurisu meets Hassan and goes out to compete against other people to recover an item from the Trial Tower.

This is one of the few dungeons in the game that has a good construction — one of my biggest disappointments about this game compared to 5 is the dungeons. 5’s dungeons had a lot of individuality and were more than just tunnels and treasures. I always appreciate games that do this (Breath of Fire 1 was another good one for this). DQ6 trends much more towards the “tunnels and treasures” style that is a staple of lower budget games and old NES-era stuff.

Now that Kurisu passes the test, he’s given the mission to find the Mirror of Ra so that they can expose what’s going on with Mudo. Hassan wants to go to, but they decide first to tame a wild horse that will give us the cart (enabling us to have a bigger party).

Nobody really knows where the Mirror of Ra is so we set out without much of a goal, only to happen on yet another one of those holes to the other world.

We do find someone here in San Marino that can see us — Mireyu, who along with Hassan was the party in Kurisu’s dream at the beginning of the game. Apparently she was also transparent at one point but an old woman helped her. Said old woman can make us visible if we bring her a Dream-seeing drop (the name here seems to be a clue to later revelations). This does in fact work, and now that we’re visible we can take a ship to the Reidock Castle in this world.

In Reidock, it seems that the King and Queen have been sick for a year, and that Kurisu is mistaken for the prince of the kingdom (if you buy the Noble Clothes at the store). Although they quickly figure out that Kurisu isn’t actually the prince and ban him from the castle.

At this point we do a little story that switches between the two worlds, and starts to hint at what’s really going on — we switch to the starting world after sleeping and recover a ring for an old woman who says she dreamed of us. But then we get the key for the Mirror Tower and it’s time to get the Ra Mirror.

The tower gives us our fourth party member, Barbara, another ghostly person (who we can turn solid with another Dream Drop) — she had come to the tower hoping that the Ra Mirror could tell her what was wrong. In any case, we recover the Mirror and it’s time to go back to Reidock Castle (in our world, since they still won’t let us into the castle in the other world).

But the mirror reveals a strange truth — the “King” is actually the Queen, who says that the real King is apparently Mudo somehow. So we need to go Mudo and reveal his true form with the mirror. Mudo’s castle is far to the SE and requires going through a pretty long and involved cave — fortunately once you get through there you can use Rura (the town warp spell) to get back to the castle.

Barbara’s well known bad stat growths

Mudo himself is somewhat challenging but I was able to beat him at level 16. The Mirror of Ra reveals him to be the King of Reidock…the King from the alternate world. Although this is where the truth of the worlds is revealed: the world you begin the game in is the Dream World, and the “alternate world” is the real world. And back in the real world, we have to deal with the real Mudo.

This requires getting the God Ship from the Gent people; you also get the 5th party member Chamoro here, as well as the Gent Staff which is very very useful (casts Behoimi when used as an item). Now it’s off to Mudo, which requires another long cave and castle. In the castle, Hassan comes across a statue that he merges with to become his true form (presumably the statue is the stone figure from the opening).

When the party reaches Mudo, the same thing happens at the very beginning of the game — he turns them all to stone and Kurisu wakes up in his bed in Lifecod. I think the suggestion here is that what happened in the opening was not actually a dream, but was (perhaps?) the Prince of Reidock taking on Mudo for real. But I’m not sure. In any case the Ra Mirror reveals the truth and Mudo himself fights us.

This is a very difficult fight. Mudo has two forms, the first one he appears with two other monsters (who he’ll summon again if you beat) and the second can attack twice. It helps a lot to have Skult (the party def up spell) for Mireyu, and Zaoral (the revive spell) with Chamoro. I was at level 18 when I beat him.

Afterwards, the Queen of Reidock tells Kurisu that he is actually the Prince but needs to find his true form (presumably the statue, just like Hassan did) and sends us out with the Gent ship. Darma Temple has also revived (in the dream world) so we can use classes. This is what I chose:

  • Kurisu: Goof-off (I should have done Martial Artist 2 levels first to get the spin kick move, I did this after mastering Goof-off)
  • Hassan: Martial Artist
  • Mireyu: Priest
  • Chamoro: Magician
  • Barbara: Monster user

I’m not sure that monsters are especially useful but I decided to make one anyway.

This is how far I got when I played this game many years ago when the English patch first came out. At this point the game opens up a lot and there’s more freedom, but this is a good place to end this post.

SFC Game 98 – Romancing SaGa 3 (Part 2)

I’m back. In the last post I mostly went over the game system of RS3. After the initial story sequence the main goal is simply to explore around the world and find things to do. I was stymied by that rat quest I mentioned, which is an annoying beginning to a game that’s supposed to not have these kind of blocks.

In any case, with a walkthrough I solved the rat quest. Many of the game’s quests do not really provide much in the way of rewards, they’re just a way to build your levels and earn skills without having to just grind in circles.

Early in the game I talked to someone who revealed what seemed to be at least the first major “story” quest and links up with the opening pre-title screen narration. There are four elemental abyss gates that need to be sealed by defeating their guardians. But the person can’t give any specific information on where these gates are, so that’s something that will need to be uncovered through game progress.

Meanwhile I gained some party members — it’s annoying to have party members like the 2nd one who join you just by talking to them without any confirmation, and can’t be gotten rid of (except by killing them off permanently). I also found a place where I could send various people around the world to work on forging weapons and armor, which seemed like a better way to get equipment than to buy it in stores with the very limited amount of money I had. Instead I was using the money to open new towns.

I also didn’t get much magic because it seemed too expensive.

Here are the missions/events I manged to do:

  • Protect caravans going from one town to another, and then visit the thieves’ cave to stop their marauding
  • Recover a strange woman’s “pets” in the forest
  • The rat quest
  • Rescue a boy named Gon from the Devil King’s Palace (which will have a more in-depth quest later, I think)
  • Deal with the “mysterious thief Robin” and the imitator
  • Defeat the master fish in the Ice Lake to allow the villagers to fish again. This was a tough boss at the point I fought it, and I barely survived.
  • The Muse Dream world. This may seem tough at first but each fight gives you an item that completely restores all your stats (including LP), making it hard to game over if you’re aware of this — all of those items disappear when you complete the dream section, so you don’t need to worry about wasting them.
  • Treasure Caves in the islands (although I didn’t do the Dolphin statue part)
  • The long series of events in the desert — this place can be a bit annoying because you get locked into a series of quests and cannot leave back to the world map until you complete them. The final boss in this section is rather difficult, but you can recruit an old woman that has the Tornado spell which the boss is weak to.

Although I can’t say I was having a huge amount of fun with this game I am sorry that my save got deleted. From the amount I played, it does seem like this is the most approachable Romancing SaGa game — RS1 is too hobbled and unbalanced, and RS2’s system is too complicated and unforgiving, and is even more unbalanced than RS1. As I said before, I felt that the first two games wanted you to figure everything out on your own but then made the difficulty so punishing that it didn’t feel rewarding to try to work it out. RS3 is much easier (as long as you don’t get stuck on that rat quest as your first thing). You’re able to try out more things and make mistakes and experiment without permanently missing things or locking yourself into bad results.

I also did not do the Business or Ruling minigame at all; they seem quite in depth and could add a lot of interest (and the Business game seems like the best way to get money).

The game was remastered for Android quite recently and has an official English translation so that may be the better way to play than the original.

SFC Game 98 – Romancing SaGa 3

Romancing SaGa 3 (ロマンシング サ・ガ3), released 11/11/1995, developed and released by Square

This is the sixth SaGa game and the last one for the Super Famicom. My experience so far with the SaGa series has been rocky. I found RS1 to have some good concepts but overall seemed sloppy and unbalanced, and I was not able to finish it. RS2 was bold in its attempt to introduce radical new systems and a new way of playing an RPG, and while I enjoyed it to a certain extent, I thought the game was way too difficult. I managed to get to the final dungeon but I was unwilling to do the grinding necessary to win.

I will have to wait until I finish or abandon this one to be sure, but it does seem like this game is not as difficult and easier to play than the other ones. Basically the designers took some aspects of the RS2 battle system and went back to the RS1 style that is closer to a normal RPG. The designer evidently wanted the player to have to balance the usual RPG combat with business trading elements and a war combat simulation, but the latter two were essentially relegated to minigames and the focus is on the RPG play (although the business minigame is the best way to get money).

As in RS1, the game begins with you picking a character, and you do a small event connected to that character. I chose Katarina, a 24-year old noblewoman.

The graphics are overall excellent, which is probably to be expected from a late 1995 game by Square. Katarina has to deal with a potential coup in the kingdom, which turns out to be headed by a demon. Once that’s dealt with her family heirloom sword gets stolen. She cuts her hair and changes to adventurer’s gear to go out and find it.

At this point you are left basically to yourself to go out and find things to do. You can open up new areas by either hearing about them from people in towns, or taking a ship to a new place. There are basically no leads on finding the sword. Based on the opening narration and something we hear early on in Lance village, it looks like the overall quest is going to depend on sealing four Abyss Gates to stop some evil from entering the world, but there isn’t much in the way of clues to pursue that either.

So as in RS1, your basic task is to go around, collect information, and find things to do. Fortunately you don’t have to repeatedly pay transport costs the way you did in RS1, so it’s more forgiving in being able to travel around. The difficulty of the monsters is less variable than in RS1 and the fixed battles tend to be fixed in difficulty also. So some of the early game is finding out what you can do now and what you may have to put off until later.

The system is very similar to RS2. Each character has a skill level with each weapon, although they got rid of the confusing “tech points” system of RS2. After a battle you can get a bonus HP, a tech point, or a skill level in a weapon (which I think increases damage). You can “spark” new techs by doing a basic attack with a weapon — you have to have a sufficient skill level, and the enemies have to be high enough level for it to work. Once that happens, if you use the tech in battle enough times it will become “mastered” and then anyone can equip it.

There is also magic which you have to buy from people in towns.

Also like RS2 you have formations you can set that give various bonuses, although if you get attacked from behind or hit an enemy while running it will break the formation. Finally, you can have 6 characters and if you put your main character in the 6th position you enter “commander mode” where you give AI commands to the other people, they regain HP and heal status effects between turns.

Finally as in RS2 each person has HP and LP. HP are fully restored after each battle. If you get to 0 HP, or if you get hit when you are already at 0 HP, you lose an LP. If the main character hits 0 LP it’s game over, and if any other character hits 0 LP they are gone for good. However, you can restore everyone’s LP simply by resting at an inn.

At first I tried to find things myself without a walkthrough but I immediately got stuck — you can save anywhere and I got in this mission where you get put in a cave to deal with the monsters, but they shut you in so the monster will take you as a sacrifice. The boss is this horde of rats above, which slaughtered my party several times, and you can’t escape from the cave. So I went back to a previous save before I entered.

It turns out what you are supposed to do is run from the boss fight (which normally is not allowed), then go back to the beginning of the cave which will activate an event that lets you go — I’m not sure how you’re supposed to figure this out.

The party members I have there are ones I just happened upon in towns.

Anyway that’s an introduction to the game. Money is very hard to get; I think you are supposed to do the business sidequest minigame but I haven’t found out how to activate it yet. The monsters give almost no money as drops.

I’m not going to do regular updates during the Christmas holidays. I have a filler post scheduled for next Saturday, and I most likely will not have an update the 31st, but I’ll be back on the 7th by which time I probably will have finished RS3 and be playing Dragon Quest VI.

SFC Game 97 – Maten Densetsu (Finished)

Last time some commenters were saying that this was a ripoff of Shin Megami Tensei. I think this is a little unfair — while it’s clearly strongly inspired by SMT I don’t think it’s just a cheap ripoff. This game does not have the same monster recruiting system, the religious emphasis of SMT, or the “law vs chaos” idea. And the Energy system I described in the last post is an entirely new system.

Having now finished the game I have mixed feelings about it. One issue I had that (as far as I could tell) there is no way to get any information in-game on what all the items and spells do. I was able to figure some of them out just by experimentation but sometimes even using the spells in battle doesn’t make it clear what they are supposed to do. This game has very little information available on it; the Japanese sites are mostly just reviews. The usual richie walkthrough is on GF but this must have been one of his early efforts because he tries to summarize the story and the English is worse than usual (I tried e-mailing richie to thank him for all his work but I got no response; I don’t think he’s been active on GF for 10 years or so, so I imagine he’s moved on.)

My biggest issue with the game was that it became tedious due to how large the dungeons are. As is common with many of the first-person dungeon games from this era, there is very little of interest in the dungeons. In this game at least you do not have to explore every square to know what is there because of the HUD that shows you points of interest. But it still seemed like the dungeons were unnecessarily big. There is a certain tedium to fighting, making MP restore items, healing, walking down long featureless corridors, and fighting again.

The other issue was that there did not seem to be a clear forward movement of a story. Generally the flow of the game is that Chisato teleports you to an area, you beat a boss in a dungeon, the dungeon starts to crumble, and Chisato teleports you to the next area. There are issues in each area but I did not get the feeling that we were moving towards any kind of ultimate goal.

In the last post I had gotten to Hiroshima. Here, there are monster ants in a big anthill. Defeating them gives us another oopart that allows Chisato now to teleport to various places we haven’t been before. You can choose between two places; I went with Kyoto.

In Kyoto we go around to various places and collect body parts of a demon.

Eventually we go to a pyramid that reunites all the parts of the demon, and causes the demon to fight us. This was a tough boss but I figured out something that makes most of the game’s bosses much easier. One system thing I forgot to mention last time is that you have a total defense value that is divided among mental, physical, and energy defense. But you can change way the division goes any time you want. So for most of the bosses you can just see what type of attack they have and then put all your defense points into that type. Most bosses only have one attack type so this will leave them barely able to damage the main characters. (This does not work so well near the end of the game.)

We get another oopart and then proceed to Nagano, where some kind of monster plant has covered everything.

Beating the giant plant monster gives us another oopart and we go to Shikoku. This is a long section with a bunch of dungeons you have to clear; there’s also a strange place where people have transferred their consciousness into stone tablets so they can live forever, but they don’t like the results. I was never clear on where these people were supposed to have come from. In any case, another boss gets us another oopart.

Next up is Kyushu, which has another strange section with some kind of dinosaur humanoids. One of the shamans here tricks us into giving up an oopart so we have to chase him into a dungeon. Beating him and a giant dinosaur yields another oopart.

Next we teleport to where Tokugawa Ieyasu and other sengoku era generals are fighting. Maybe I just didn’t read the dialogue closely enough but as with the dinosaur humanoids I’m not entirely clear on what is happening here. But once we save them all from the monsters we gain access to a castle — another boss, another oopart.

We end up back at the Nazca pictures where Rai initially met the mysterious mask that gave him the ability to form weapons. Using one of the ooparts reveals an underground area. This area is enormous; by far the most tedious part of the game because of how many empty areas there are, but there are 6 important places in there so you have to know where you’ve been. The people here have been studying some kind of ancient rocketship.

After clearing the monsters from several areas we enter the rocketship and use it to go to some kind of final area. Here, Rai meets Ando, the mask from the beginning. Rai gathers power from all sources, including his friends, to make one final killing blow against Ando.

The final battle has an annoying part where each turn you go to his right or left (shown by right and left arrows) to decide where to attack, but it doesn’t seem like it’s doing any good. You have to press up (not indicated) to jump over him and attack his back. I wonder how long I would have spent on this battle figuring that out if I hadn’t seen it in the walkthrough.

After the battle, Rai learns that an ancient race split into two factions — one that wanted to leave their DNA in humanity and watch over them, and the other who wanted to control them as tyrants. Ando was the head of the tyrant group, but with them defeated, the Earth will be free from that influence. I guess Japan goes back to Earth? They didn’t clearly state that, and Japan is certainly going to have a lot of rebuilding to do.

In the end…meh? It’s certainly not the worst game I’ve played but it is too tedious and long, I think.

SFC Game 97 – Maten Densetsu (Part 1)

Maten Densetsu: Senritsu no Ooparts (魔天伝説 戦慄のオーパーツ), released 10/27/1995, by Takara

I’ve chewed through my buffer and am not done with this game yet so this will be a 2 part (hopefully) game. The game seems to have only been a minor release; there’s almost nothing available on it in Japanese. The subtitle means “terror of the ooparts” (an oopart, or Out Of Place Artifact, is a real term in pseudo-history/science referring to things like the Baghdad Battery or other things that supposedly support ancient alien or “lost civilization” theories.

The game begins abruptly — you choose one of five main characters (I don’t know how they are different, I chose Rai), and immediately start in a ruined Tokyo with this strange mask staring at you. Rai manages to somehow manifest a gun out of nowhere and tries to fight the mask. He can’t really do much but then he wakes up with a woman’s voice in his head telling him to come to Shinjuku, and he has the gun.

Rai wakes up in the house of someone named Akihiko. Because Rai was able to manifest this gun, Akihiko thinks he should have an invention that works on satellite data to find living things, automap, and do other things. It turns out that Japan is now floating in the air, and monsters are all over the country. Rai also has gotten a ball that can revive allies.

Everything in the game works off of Energy, which you get either from beating monsters, or finding certain places in dungeons or on the world map that grant you energy. You can do three basic things with the energy:

  • Raise your stats. I’m not clear on what the exact effect of each stat is, but it seems to be Physical Strength, Physical Endurance, Physical sPeed(?), Mental Strength, Mental Energy, IQ, and Defense. The amount it costs to raise each stat is shown at the right.
  • Upgrade your weapon. You need to raise your IMG stat (which goes up from Mental stat points) to at least the level of energy it costs to do the upgrade. There is a limit to how much you can upgrade, and some weapons can’t be upgraded. For the woman companion that you get later, you can learn new “spells” by raising her “psychic circle” level, which runs off the same IMG idea.
  • Make items. Any time you find a consumable item it goes in your item matrix, and then you can use energy to make more of the items. This is your main way to heal and recover (there are very few places in the game where you can rest to restore PSY/MP), and it’s important to find the items like the Coffee (which restore PSY).

On the overworld you move around like this (with the blue triangle representing your position). Pressing Y will show pink diamonds in areas where you can find things. They might be enemy encounters you can’t run from, or places you can go in, abandoned JDF cars you can search for items, people to talk to, and such. There are random encounters as well.

The dungeons are first-person with an automap. By looking at the top right of the view you can see black crosses where there are places of interest, so you do not have to enter every square. I think the dungeons are a bit too large, but maybe they had to do that because they can’t expect you to spend time exploring every square.

The combat system is the same-old same-old. Nothing to say.

I wandered around as Rai for a while, and picked up two monsters to join my team. You can get more of these throughout the game and use the revive orb to “store” the monsters you are not currently using.

Rai encounters a number of survivors hiding from the disaster, including one named Ryuji who is also able to manifest weapons (though he doesn’t join). Rai learns that reaching Shinjuku to find the mysterious woman’s voice will require going through subway tunnels. After finding some bombs in a JDF installation, Rai removes the rubble and then goes through the tunnels to Shinjuku.

In a park there he finds Chisato, the woman whose voice he heard. She joins the party as the “spellcaster” of the group. Chisato claims that Rai is the only one who can gather the 5 powers necessary to fight and defeat the root of this cause, and that by gathering the right energy she can teleport to various places.

We head for an underground area that has Fujin and Raijin monsters in it — defeating them both gives Rai a new weapon, and gives Chisato enough energy to teleport, but only once. We go to Hiroshima.

This is where I currently am, so I will update next week. So far the game is OK; I’ll have to wait until the end to see if it gets more tedious than I enjoy.

SFC Game 96 – Light Fantasy II

Light Fantasy II (ライトファンタジーII), released 10/27/1995, developed by Tonkin House

I’ve been dreading this since I played the original Light Fantasy years ago as one of the first games I did on the blog. The original game was horrendously bad; one of the worst designed games I’ve ever played and a good contender for the single worst RPGs on the system and one of the worst RPGs ever made. It’s virtually unplayable — the only reason it’s not is that you can exploit a glitch to turn random encounters on and off, and there’s a trick you can use with a gambling game to make as much money as you need. Using both of those you can get through the game fairly quickly.

This game improves on the original to the point where it’s playable, but it’s much longer. Basically it went from a short, unplayably bad game, to a long, still very bad game.

The battle system is the same as the first one, with the grid SRPG-style. The annoying movement ranges that the original game had are made somewhat better, and you don’t miss as often as you did in the first game. But the pots the enemies leave still block your movement, and the whole system is still very slow.

The status effects are still a huge problem with the game. There are a bunch of them (even more than the first game) and most do not go away at the end of a battle or sleeping at an inn. So you have to carry around a lot of status heal items or have the status heal spells — the inventory is much larger this time and you can stack items, which helps a bit. But so many enemies have spells that target everyone on the board and cause devastating status effects.

Basically you want to do the same thing as in Light Fantasy 1 — avoid the majority of the game’s encounters (since any random encounter can provide a game over), and only fight at certain points with fairly easy monsters to level up. The balance is all over the place, with one dungeon having enemies that aren’t very hard and give good XP, and the next dungeon having enemies that can give you a game over before you get a turn, but give almost no XP.

I used a no-encounter cheat code for most of the game. I also used a cheat code that makes the fast walking spell permanent (it’s annoying to see a late 1995 game require you to use items or spells to temporarily walk fast). I also used a money cheat to buy things. There’s probably a discussion to be had whether I should simply skip the game rather than use all these cheats to win, but I’m still following the old rules I set down for myself although I’ve rarely wanted to break them as much as I did for this game.

The interface is annoying. As you might expect, you cannot see stats of weapons or armor in shops or in the menu. There’s no way in-game to fight out what a spell does, and they have names like “gongon” and “yura”. At least the spells do not take as much MP as they did in the first game, so you’re freer to use them (and a level up restores all MP and HP).

As in the first game, you can form your party by inviting a lot of random people in towns — dogs, mermaids, demons, people — and you can also invite monsters from battle. As with the first game, this would be a neat feature if the battle system were actually fun.

The game takes place several hundred years after the first one, with another “jiyuu no yuusha” (Hero) who has to power up the Earth Sword to be able to defeat an evil goddess and save the world. What has increased the length so much is the unbelievable amount of backtracking you have to do, and the sheer number of fetch quests. You are constantly being diverted and digressed — you need item X but to get that you need Y, and to get that you need Z, but while getting Z you come across a child who has lost his father so we have to go look for the father and to do that we need item A but to get that B…I’m not even really exaggerating with this description. The majority of the game has no feeling of any kind of forward movement, and the power ups of the Earth Sword are mostly done because we blunder across the spirits in the course of these fetch quests.

If you played this game completely straight with no cheats, I think it would take in the 40-70 hour range, and 20-25 of those hours would be backtracking through places. There is no town warp or dungeon warp spell, and a good number of the towns you need to visit are through dungeons. So any time the game needs you to go to that town you have to go through the whole dungeon again. Sometimes you have to go to the town, and then learn about the fetch quest, walk back through the dungeon to get out, get your item for the fetch quest, then go all the way back through the dungeon to the town again, and out again.

Many of the dungeons are like the above, requiring you to use light spells or torches which only give you a small viewing area. This makes the whole dungeon backtracking part even more annoying.

The story is pretty basic. The hero is the descendant (I think) of the hero from the first game. At the beginning monsters are following him, and three women turn him into a baby and sacrifice themselves to save him. So for the first part you are a baby who can equip armor and weapons; it’s not really explained how you are able to attack.

As the game progresses, Ash (the default name) ages — apparently the baby form is a representation of his weak spirit, and as he gets more heroic he becomes an adult. Early in the game we learn that Lefina, who Ash wants to save, is being held by The Goddess. We need to power up the Earth Sword with all the spirits to be able to enter the towers that will open the way to where the Goddess is. This early plot development is then followed by the 70% of the game or so that is just fetch quest after fetch quest.

My whole party is blinded here

Eventually we gain access to the towers and open the way to the floating castle where The Goddess is. Using the help of a scientist we get shot out of a cannon into the castle and then have to beat a number of bosses. The bosses are quite difficult — there is a magic spell that drains all their MP which helps a lot, and if you’re cheating and have 99 elixirs that’s enough healing power to beat it, but even so I got a couple of game overs when I wasn’t quick enough to heal. I cannot imagine how painful this game would be to play with no help at all.

It turns out that Mink, a girl who lost her memory and has been accompanying you, is actually the Darkness Spirit that the Goddess created. But she turns against the Goddess, gives the dark power to the sword, and releases Lefina, who completes the Earth Sword with the light power. Then you fight the final boss.

On my first try, the boss killed the main character in one hit. The second time after I drained its MP there was some kind of glitch and she did not take any turns for the rest of the fight so I was able to just use spells until she died. She apologizes for being jealous of the hero and tells us to tell everyone in the world that she was sorry. The hero uses the sword to repair all the damage, we go back and heal various people that had been sick for the whole game, and then Kurisu goes off on a new adventure.

After the credits you can to go the Development Village where the game designers are. Unfortunately you can’t fight and kill them.

To sum up, this is a truly awful game — surely one of the worst RPGs ever made. The developers should all be ashamed of putting this game on the market and Tonkin House should be ashamed of having published it, especially in 1995 less than a month before Dragon Quest VI. I resent that I had to play it and write about it. There is no way to communicate through text how painful an experience it is to play this. If I had to choose to play Light Fantasy 1 or 2 again I would definitely do 1 — this game took 25 hours, and that was with following a walkthrough, not spending a lot of time talking to random people in towns, and using all the cheats I described earlier.

SFC Game 95 – Tenchi Souzou (Terranigma)

Tenchi Souzou (天地創造), released 10/20/1995, developed by Quintet, published by Enix

The Japanese title of the game means “The Creation” (capitalized, in the sense of “let there be light” god(s) creating the earth). Strangely it was released only in Europe in English, never stateside, making it one of the four RPGs on my list from 1995-1999 that was released in English (the other ones are Chrono Trigger, Lufia 2, and Super Mario RPG)

I first played it on an emulator about 20 years ago; I went into it knowing only that it was the third game in the loose trilogy including Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia. I honestly think this is the best way to play it. This time knowing how the game proceeded and concluded, a lot of the mystery and wonder of the first play was lost. It’s still a good game but on replaying both of them I think I may like Illusion of Gaia better.

I’m going to describe the gameplay first, and I suggest that if you are interested in playing this that you go into it knowing as little as possible about the game. This sort of mirrors the main character (Ark), who begins in his home village that doesn’t even have an exit — when the exit appears very early in the game, you can see that not only is he surprised to see it but evidently he never considered it unusual that there was no way to leave the village.

The graphics have a nice late-SFC quality, and the music is superb — I assumed it would be the same composer as Gaia, but it’s two new people.

The gameplay continues the action-RPG style of the series, but goes back to a more traditional RPG style than Gaia. You move up levels and equip weapons and armor. Ark can do a variety of moves, including a flurry blow, a dash attack, a jump spin, and a jumping dash attack. He can also block with the R button. All of these are useful from time to time.

The biggest failing in the system is the magic, I think. You collect gems called Prime Blue (“Magirock” in English) that you can use along with money to buy rings and crests at magic shops. When you use the rings in battle for the spell, they disappear but you also get the Prime Blue back so you can use it again to buy more spells. The main issue is how cumbersome it is to actually use the magic. You either have to go into the status screen and use several menus to cast it, or you can equip the box item that will let you press a button in battle to then choose one of the rings or crests. The system is far too awkward and I hardly use magic at all in the game because of it.

There are a few balance issues in the game — for the most part you can get smoothly through the game, and if you die you lose nothing except that you go back to the location you previously saved. Sometimes the difficulty goes up quite a bit, and there’s one infamous boss that is way too hard. However, moving up just one or two levels can make a huge difference in the amount of damage you take and do, so on the whole the game is not impossible.

OK, now let’s move on to the story and world — like I said, if you have a desire to play this I recommend stopping now, or at least after the next paragraph which covers the first part. (However, I’m going to avoid the big spoilers in any case)

The main character, Ark, lives in a town called Crysta. He’s a troublemaker and has a “friend” named Elle. After he opens a forbidden box underneath the chieftan’s house, he meets Yomi, a little ball with wings, and everyone in town turns to ice (or crystal). The Elder tells him the only way to revive them is to go to 5 towers outside in the underworld and pass the tests there.

The first weird surprise of the game is that upon finishing the first tower, you see a map of the world and are told that you’ve revived Eurasia. The other four towers each revive a part of the (real) world. Once the entire Earth is revived, Ark decides to continue to the surface to continue to revive the world.

Here Ark revives the plants, birds, animals, and finally humans. Once you revive humans, Ark falls into a coma and wakes up in human times, having lost the ability to speak to the birds and animals (which he could do before).

In the third chapter Ark travels around the world, helping the cities advance and starting to figure out the mystery of what caused the world to vanish in the first place, and who Ark is. Ark also encounters someone who looks just like Elle from the underworld and even has the same name.

One fun thing in this section is that you can help the cities grow by doing little sidequests; most of this is optional but it’s neat to see the cities develop by your actions.

Finally at the end of Chapter 3 Ark learns who he is and what happened to the world. Chapter 4 provides the conclusion, as Ark goes after the true villain and tries to restore the balance of the world.

The ending is poignant and bittersweet, although once again knowing how the game ended did blunt the emotional effect of it a bit.

In any case, this is still one of my top SFC games and worth a play if you like action RPGs, and especially if you liked Quintet’s earlier games. People have hoped for a remake for a long time; apparently the president of Quintet can no longer be located so perhaps that’s why…but remakes often fail to capture the charm of the original in any case.

SFC Game 94 – Shinseiki Odysselia 2

Shinseiki Odysselia II (神聖紀オデッセリアII), released 10/16/1995, developed by Vic Tokai

This is the sequel to the original Odysselia, which I played earlier. It is a direct plot sequel as well as essentially the same system as the original. The story has the same time-travel and combining various myths. At the end of the previous game, the goddess Zion flooded the world to destroy the monsters but humanity was saved by a giant ark. As this game starts humanity seems to have recovered back to the original countries (Persia, Greece, etc.)

The game begins in Persia, where the Persian king tries to make peace with Greece, but is killed by one of his generals for being weak. A priest named Lahan seizes power as regent for Darius, and destroys Zion. The queen escapes and sacrifices her own life to save Erg, the prince, who goes to Sparta and is raised there.

This game uses the same high-res mode for text that Seiken Densetsu 3 did

The game takes place over 9 chapters. Chapter 1 is the above prologue. In Chapter 2, 14 years have passed and Erg is training under a space bounty hunter trainer named Samus. The final test is to prove your worth in a training cave.

Each character has weapon and magic levels. The magic level for each type of magic determines how powerful the spell is — as in the first game, most elements have an offensive and defensive version. The weapon levels are more mysterious; they may affect hit rate but they don’t seem to affect damage. The battles are typical RPG style.

In addition to innate spells, characters can equip talismans to use magic of that type. I never found these very useful. There’s also a weapon crafting system as in the first game but I also found this mostly useless; the game is pretty easy for the most part and I didn’t have much trouble except in a few places.

After the training ends, Erg uses Athenian allies to defeat the Persian ships, and then goes to Persia and forces Lahan to flee. It turns out that Erg is the son of Loos, one of the characters from the first game and the prince of Persia. But rather than becoming king of Persia himself, Erg leaves Darius in charge and goes after Lahan through a warp circle.

Chapter 3 switches to another character Iria, in South America. She is not human (for now we don’t know exactly what she is). She goes in search of a witch that she hopes can make her human, but they can’t, and then a cyclops drags her through another time portal. That bottom character is a Doppelganger, one of the Familiars (tsukaima) you can get in the game; I didn’t find this a very useful system either but I didn’t explore it a whole lot.

Chapter 4 switches to another character, Talkus. He’s a roman gladiator. The chapter has you go to a training tower, fight a coliseum battle, back to the tower, and repeat until you become the champion. Talkus asks Nero for freedom, but instead Nero frames him for the fire of Rome, supposedly as a secret Christian. Lahan is with Nero as well; the chapter ends with Lahan capturing a girl named Lauren and leaving as Talkus is ready to be executed.

Chapter 5 goes back to Erg, who finds himself in Australia. In the Great Barrier Reef he comes across Iria and the Cyclops; the Cyclops actually joins the party as a familiar. They follow a warp through to Rome, where they save Talkas from execution. They’re apparently 500 years in the future from where they started. They head to the palace to overthrow Nero, who is being controlled by Lahan. Lahan transforms Nero into a monster and then runs through another portal to the future, which is apparently Lahan’s original time.

Chapter 6 switches to Leila and Garuda, two of the earth gods. This takes place before Chapter 1 and Samus is also there as one of the gods, saying that he will train the descendants of the Drakken (this is from the first game; Loos is a reincarnation from a dragon-human people that inhabited the world before humans). They are trying to oppose the 冥界 (Underworld), and seem uncertain that the decision to flood the world was correct.

I found this part of the plot hard to follow — I also had a hard time following Odysselia 1’s plot. I found one review by a Japanese player who said they were confused also so maybe it’s not just me. I believe the situation is this: the gods now believe that the Underworld King tricked them into flooding the world to destroy the beasts, when it was actually the underworld forces controlling them. So now they need to revive the beasts and defeat the underworld king. But the king has the seeds necessary to revive the beasts, and (for some reason) they feel that they need to power of the Drakken descendants to do this. Zion joins Leila and Garuda but eventually goes to the underworld herself, hearing a voice calling for her.

Chapter 7 presents us with yet another character, the knight Meyer. He lives in 12th century Prussia, where an epidemic is devastating the country, and girls are disappearing. A priest from the castle named Bain sends Meyer to defeat a witch who is causing the illness, but it turns out that she has the cure and Bain doesn’t want it to be known. Meanwhile a dude named Gustav is experimenting on the captured girls to discover eternal life. Meyer loses his wife to these experiments; eventually they expose the plot but the Emperor refuses to believe that Bain is responsible. He sends Meyer out to the crusades as punishment, where his two companions are killed — one of the companions is the son of Lord Vandark. Vandark becomes so upset and grief-stricken that he curses God and decides to get revenge on everyone (this is Lahan’s origin).

Chapter 8 finally returns to Erg and companions, who have shown up in 12th century middle east and are the prisoners of Saladin, suspected to be spies from the Crusaders. Saladin eventually uses them to make peace with King Richard, and then they escape back to Prussia where Lahan is still controlling things. The gods Garuda and Leila show up and say that Lahan has gotten his power from the underworld, and is trying to destroy humanity by destroying the “core” (which for some reason is Erg’s dad Loos, I don’t remember if this is something from the first game).

Erg and friends have to defend four seals in the world from Lahan, but of course he manages to break them all, opening the way to the underworld. Lahan hopes to gain power through the blood of Lauren (the girl he captured earlier) but is unwilling to kill her for some reason, showing his remaining humanity — he breaks free of the underworld control but becomes a demon so we have to kill him. Then it’s into the underworld to find a way to sever the underworld from the surface forever.

In Chapter 9 we learn that Iria is the daughter of Zion (the god who went to the underworld many years ago) and Deus, the son of the Underworld King, who was bred to be the opposition to the gods. It’s not clear to me why they fell in love instead of Deus killing Zion. They sent Iria to the surface in secret to avoid the king finding out. Loos’ power to keep the core intact is weakening, and Iria has the power to sever the surface and underworld.

The final bosses are a series of demons we’ve never heard of, and then Iria manages to sever the worlds — but she has to stay behind. There’s a tearful ending, but then Iria suddenly reappears with Leila who says there’s actually still a way to travel between the worlds (why??) and the game ends.

Thank you

So I guess this game is OK; the system is underdeveloped at points and I don’t fully understand the story. But the historical periods are fun and the game plays relatively smoothly.

SFC Game 93 – Seiken Densetsu 3

Seiken Densetsu 3 (聖剣伝説 3), released 9/30/1995, developed and published by Square

Here we are in the last game of the July-September 1995 block, and it’s a big hitter — the sequel to Secret of Mana and the next entry in the Seiken Densetsu series. I was really looking forward to this game. It’s had a good reputation for a long time. Secret of Mana had a number of flaws that I thought resulted from the weirdness in its development process, and I was hoping that Seiken Densetsu 3 would be the game Secret of Mana should have been. I was disappointed in the game, though, and in the end didn’t think it was all that good.

The game’s graphics are quite good, and the music is maybe not exactly the equal of Secret of Mana but it’s close. The game’s best known feature is that you start off by choosing three characters out of six. Although the overall plot is basically the same with all of them, there are some different bosses and events with each of them. Also the combat experience will be different based on who you pick — as well as which class upgrades you select for each person (there are two second level classes and four third level classes for each). This gives the game a high level of replayability.

I went with Duran, Angela, and Riese. Duran and Riese were quite good. The Star Lancer class has very helpful stat boosts and she has a high attack. Duran was fine as well — I made him a Lord and the healing was helpful. Angela was not as good. Magic is worse in this game than it was in SoM and by the end of the game she was basically dead weight, especially in boss battles.

My biggest gripe with the game is how sluggish and unresponsive the system feels to me. It’s supposed to be an action RPG, but you spend a lot of time watching animations and mashing buttons to bring up menus. It can be hard to tell what’s happening as you’re knocked around the screen.

SoM had a big problem where magic was too powerful, and the upper level techs were tough to use. Magic is weaker in this game — late-game Angela is still decent for attacking grunt enemies although you have to sit through the animations to do so. The 2nd and 3rd level techs do not require as much time to build up; you get one bar filled for each successful attack you do and when it fills up you get to use the tech. It’s nice that if the tech misses you don’t lose the bars and can try again.

However, in the latter half of the game, most bosses and some grunt enemies respond to magic or level 2/3 techs by powerful counter attacks. So not only do level 2/3 techs take longer to build up, but they have a good chance of the enemy walloping you in response. Because of this I just kept everyone on level 1 techs later in the game.

Another issue I had with the game is that when you’re going after the 8 mana beasts in the second half of the game, the difficulty seems to ramp up faster than you can keep up just by fighting the monsters as you go. Because of the way the weapon and armor stats work (they interface with your base stats), I had to do a lot of grinding to keep up with the enemies. There were enemies in the later dungeons that could wipe my entire party with one of their special moves, and if I was 4-5 levels behind it was hard to do much damage to them. This is really the part that made me go from not much liking the game to actively disliking it.

One side note on the graphics is that this game uses the Super Famicom’s “high res” mode to render the text, allowing them to fit more text in a box and use sharper, easier to read kanji. The next game I’m playing (Odysselia II) also uses this method, although I wonder how widespread it becomes after this point. It does cause a bit of a graphical glitch or stutter on bsnes as the game switches from the regular resolution to the high-res box (and it messes up bsnes-MT’s pixel perfect scaling mode), but I wonder what this looked like on an actual CRT.

The story is fine. With Duran, it begins with the “Red Magician” attacking the kingdom Duran serves, and he leaves home to defeat the magician. Duran’s father was a famous knight hero. Along the way he is chosen by the mana fairy and has to work first to stop the enemies from reviving the mana beasts and destroying the mana stones. The Mana Tree is dying, and to save it they need to open the way to the mana holy land and recover the Mana Sword (this area is taken straight from Secret of Mana).

Along the way we learn about the stories of the other five characters — because I chose Angela and Riese their stories are more involved (Riese needs to take back her kingdom and Angela has to save her mother), but we get some insight into the other three characters as well.

Of course getting the Mana Sword is not the end of the story. The mana beasts have been revived anyway, and we have to go track down all 8 of them and beat them — the story grinds to a halt here. Once the eight are defeated, the final confrontation occurs in a different dungeon depending on your main character choice. Once those people are dealt with, the final boss is in the Mana Holy Land.

I wonder if I would have liked this game more if I weren’t expecting so much from it. I think I first heard about this game in the late 1990s and tried playing it a bit around then. Sometimes a game can be a victim of high expectations.

So don’t necessarily take my bad experience as how you would feel about the game — it’s highly regarded and has a strong fan base.

That being said, this game was remade in 2020 for next-gen systems, and this version looks more fun to me from what I saw on youtube videos. The battle system is much smoother and faster paced, with far fewer moves that pause the gameplay while you watch an animation. I would be interested to hear from anyone who has played this version.

SFC Game 92 – Hi no Ouji Yamato Takeru

Hi no Ouji Yamato Takeru (火の皇子 ヤマトタケル), released 9/29/1995, developed by MIT and Aim, published by Toho

Sigh. You would think that by the end of 1995 designers had figured out how to make at least a decent game, but stuff like this keeps appearing. The title would suggest it’s patterned after the famous figure from early Japanese myth-history, Yamato Takeru. It does seem to take place in early Japan (sort of) and some of the events of the story are based on the Yamato Takeru myth, but it’s basically an original story.

The graphics are underwhelming, and the interface is overall bad. The shop interface is strangely modern, allowing you to buy multiple things at once, buy an item and sell your current equipped one at the same time, and you can see the stats of equipment and who can use it. But you walk slow, the menus are annoying to navigate, and you can’t see what any spell or ability does without looking at the instruction manual.

The battles are old DQ style, right down to the “Takeru did 6 damage” message rather than numbers appearing — you will definitely want a speedup button for this. There’s some system based on the movement of the sun through different zodiac signs but it’s hard to tell what effect it has except in a few parts of the game where you the sun has to be in a certain position for an event to occur.

You can get 12 different “juuma” to join your party that you can summon. I never understand why designers go through effort to make systems like these, and then make them virtually unusable by stupid decisions that should be caught during playtesting. You have to summon them using consumable items — you get plenty of them so that’s not an issue, but they don’t stick around for very long before they go back to the mirror and have to rest a while. Also any levels you gained while they were out go away (except for the HP). So each juuma quickly becomes unusable; the only purpose to the system is a few places in the game where you have to summon one to make an event happen.

The story is OK. As in the myth, Takeru is a prince, and is banished to Izumo Province to subdue the “Kumaso Braves”. However, in the myth it was because the Emperor feared his power. Here it’s because the goddess Tsukuyomi has been supplanting the traditional goddess of Yamato (Amaterasu). When Takeru’s brother tries to kill the Tsukuyomi priestess, Takeru intervenes and cuts off his brother’s arm, and thus is banished.

The rest of the game is mostly fighting against the Tsukuyomi takeover, but there are bizzare elements like someone from Greece coming with robots. Then halfway through the game one of the party members who Takeru has fallen in love with dies, and a huge part of the second half of the game is getting to the land of Yomi to recover her, with the help of Susanoo’o. This ends up with you fighting Satan(!?), then going to the moon and then defeating Tsukuyomi and restoring her to normal.

The game balance is a mess. The boss above, Yamata Orochi, is a huge difficulty spike that requires a bunch of grinding, but in the latter half of the game most of the bosses have as much HP as the grunt monsters in the dungeons (up until the final boss). I guess at least we can say the enemies sometimes have some nice graphics.

The ending is dumb too; after restoring Tsukiyomi and bringing Takeru’s girlfriend back to life, they head back across the rainbow bridge, have a short conversation, and then just line up on the bridge and face the player.

There’s no credits, “The end” or anything, the music just loops until you turn the game off.

I’m sorry if this post seemed more annoyed than usual, but I would expect this kind of game in 1992, not 1995. Fortunately Seiken Densetsu 3 is next.