Category Archives: Super Famicom RPGs

SFC Game 84 – Laplace no Ma

Laplace no Ma (ラプラスの魔), released 7/14/1995, published by Vic Tokai

The title of this game means “Laplace’s Demon,” and is a reference to a thought argument against free will in a deterministic universe. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the game, though. The game was initially released for several Japanese computers in 1987. The original game was a first-person blobber dungeon explorer game. The Japanese sites I can find about it say that it was extremely difficult and some people even consider it a kusoge, although when you think about the kind of RPGs that were coming out in 1987, this may not be a surprise.

Image courtesy of Mobygames

In 1993 it was ported to PC Engine; it seems to be mostly a direct port although I did see a Japanese site saying that it was easier and that it lost some of the original atmosphere of the game. Finally in 1995, eight years after its initial release, it was ported to the Super Famicom. This version changed from the first-person style to a top-down JRPG style. Since this is a port I only played the first of the three dungeons in the game. There is a translation patch for it if you want to try it out.

The game takes place in 1920s America, in an eastern rural town called Newkam (apparently named after Lovecraft’s Arkham). There’s an old mansion called the Weathertop Mansion that has all kinds of ghost stories associated with it, and the player characters have gathered in town to investigate. You start off by creating your main character.

You choose a sex, name, and job. The jobs are basically the classes:

  • Investigator (best at fighting)
  • Journalist (can take pictures of enemies to sell for money, this is the main way to get money in the game)
  • Scientist (can make various machines to attack with)
  • Spiritualist (casts spells)
  • Dilettante (kind of a mix of journalist and spiritualist, but learns magic from books)

The abilities are on the left, which include some standard ones, but others I wasn’t sure of the use for. The right is Skills which can be improved at the library by spending experience. The skills are:

  • Hand-to-hand combat
  • First Aid (helps with using heal items)
  • Search (I was never sure what this did; a page says that if your search is low you can’t always get items or might break them, but I never saw this happen)
  • Magic (for the dilettante)
  • Machine (for the Scientist)
  • Gun
  • Mental healing (helps with using MP restore items)
  • Negotiation (helps with gaining information, but I wasn’t sure exactly how this worked)
  • Spiritualism (for the spiritualist)
  • Photography for the journalist)

Once you create your person, you go to the bar and find the NPCs you want to join your party. I took a journalist, a dilettante, and a scientist.

They start with equipment so it’s not necessary to buy that; I was never quite sure what the weapons did in the shop since there’s no real explanation (probably that’s in the instruction manual). I stocked up on bullets, and film for the photographer and batteries for the scientist’s machines. I also got some requests to find out what happened to other people who went to the mansion.

Finally I headed into the mansion. From what I can see on web pages, the dungeons in this game are based on those of the original game but are generally larger.

There are random encounters. The battle system is standard although the machines and spells do give you some variety. The arrow under each character advances during the battle and unlocks a special attack once it fills up.

The biggest problem with the battles, and probably the largest flaw in the game, is that they give so little XP that they’re barely worth fighting, especially given how nasty some of the monsters can be. You get so much XP from fulfilling the town requests and other story things that you really can run from every fight and still advance quite a bit, and since there really aren’t important equipment upgrades in town, you can refill your stocks of healing and other items just by taking a bunch of pictures.

The mansion, on the other hand, is well designed. Almost every room has some kind of description and character to it, and you can find a lot of hidden items as well as monsters and story lore in the rooms. There are a lot of puzzles you have to solve to move forward in the game.

The story of this first part of the game is basically that Benedict, the owner of the mansion, became erratic and strange after his mother’s death, and began to dabble in magic. He was hoping to revive his mother but instead got involved in stuff he wasn’t expecting, and the house became overrun with monsters. Eventually we are able to ring a bell in the mansion and stop the monsters in there, but we then have to go through a portal to Laplace Castle to stop the true evil.

This game does not have a good reputation among Japanese players, but it was hard for me to determine why. I thought that maybe players were comparing it unfavorably to the original PC game, but that doesn’t seem to have a great reputation either.

It definitely has a good setting and story, and some of the system innovations are interesting. For me the biggest problem, as I said above, is that there’s almost no purpose in fighting the monsters. Given this, I think I would have enjoyed the game a lot more if there were no random encounters, only fixed ones (perhaps with some places where you could fight a fixed encounter multiple times). Having the exploration constantly interrupted by pointless encounters really hurt the immersion for me.

SFC Game 83 – Shiki Eiyuden

Shiki Eiyuden (史記英雄伝)

The “shiki” of the title is the Japanese pronunciation of Shǐjì, the first of the Imperial histories of China. The most common English translation is Records of the Grand Historian. It set the tone for the remaining 23 histories that came after it, particularly in its use of 列伝, usually translated “biographies” or “memoirs”. These sections focus on short anecdotes and illustrative scenes that show moral character.

The period that this game is concerned with is the Warring States period (4th-3rd century BCE), which is covered not only by the Shiji but also the Strategies of the Warring States. It is known not only for the stories from these works, but also for being the time when many of the famous philosophers lived, such as Meng Zi. Chinese and Japanese students still have to read parts of the Shiji, and learn the “4 character compounds” that are derived from stories in these works.

The page for the translation patch of this game claims the story is “100% historical” but that’s not really the case. It’s a pastiche of characters (some of whom were dead by the time the story supposedly takes place) with a few famous anecdotes from the period, but the main character is a fictional person and the story is basically fiction.

The main character has a pretty bad life; his parents are dead, his older brother has been conscripted, and his younger sister was sold. He lives in a tiny village with some old women and has no purpose in life. Suddenly a soldier appears in his house with a scroll, and gives it to Kurisu and tells him to run away. Kurisu runs out of the back of his house and gets in a fight with a soldier.

Before I started this blog, I would probably have been surprised to hear that in 1995 games were still using the Dragon Quest II battle system, but now I’ve come to expect it. The only two differences are that you can freely switch in and out party members before each turn, and running still gives you XP (half, I think).

Anyway, that soldier above did 22 damage with his first attack; I thought it might be a plot battle but no, I got sent back to the title screen with a game over. That’s not a promising start for a game. I don’t know if the designers thought you might level up outside of town first, but you can get past this part just by running from the three fixed soldier combats.

Kurisu heads to a nearby hut where the sage Chen lives; I don’t know if this is supposed to be a historical person — the other sages in the game are famous people but this guy may just be a creation of the game. He teaches Kurisu magic and tells him that the scroll he possesses can either end the world or save it, and sends him on an adventure…after playing some puzzle games.

The first puzzle you have to pull or push the lines to match up the colors with the initial state. The second is the game of Nim, and the third is a sliding square puzzle. I’m not a fan of things like this being required to win the game; fortunately the first one you can hold down B on the second controller to automatically win it. These puzzles recur several times throughout the game. The old man also gives Kurisu a stamp book where he can ask people for stamps throughout the game. You can press Y to ask people whether they will stamp your card; I think there are 60 people throughout the game that do it. The only purpose seems to be that you can unlock quizzes, and somehow that lets you go beyond the Great Wall to fight some optional hard bosses — I just ignored this.

Kurisu then heads to Luoyang, where he can meet up with Lu Buwei and Fan Li, both historical figures, although Fan Li should be dead by this point. There is a lot of mixing up of different historical eras here and it’s not entirely consistent with a single time period. Anyway, a nearby cave has 鬼先生, which I guess is “teacher demon” — he gives us more spells and a Demon Crest that you can use later to recruit mercenaries from Luoyang. The demon also tells us to visit all the sages in the various lands, and we get our first companion Lin Xiangru, who is another historical figure.

One of the peculiarities of this game is that what weapons and armor you can equip is determined not just by character but also their strength. The main character is really weak and often can’t equip new things. Overall the game balance in this game is poor; it’s one of those old style games where some encounters are easy, and others can kill you from full HP in a few moves (and game over sends you back to your last save). At least levelling up restores your HP and MP. Also, enemies do not drop gold, so the only money you get is from selling things.

At this point your goal becomes to stop the war between the 7 kingdoms. First we travel around the world, visiting the sages such as Confucius, Mengzi, and Zhuang zi (even though some of them should be dead at this point). Along the way we gain some more historical figure followers (including Jing Ke). Soon you can use the Demon Crest from earlier to recruit mercenaries. The best one to recruit is the level 99 old man; he has no fighting ability but if you put him up front he can run from every battle. Since you get XP from running this is a good way to level and you almost never have to fight a random battle again.

We also find Kurisu’s younger sister, who managed to become the Empress of Qin, giving birth to Sei, who will be the next Emperor. Kurisu’s older brother has become a mountain bandit, and Kurisu has to kill him at some point. There are other small events that are re-enactments of famous stories from this period

After meeting all the sages, we have to find three mirrors to open the way to a powerful sword, the Damascus Sword. By giving this to Sei he is able to unify the country and become Emperor of China. Kurisu decides to become a Sage himself, which requires a long dungeon by himself with no help — after several game overs I put in a no encounter code.

Now that Kurisu is a sage he starts to write down philosophical books, but it turns out that Sei has become evil and is oppressing the populace. So as the final act of the game he has to join with the old companions and defeat Sei.

Sei is pretty tough; some people on gamefaqs said he could be put to sleep but this never worked for me. Maybe I needed to be higher level. Instead of grinding more I just put on an invincibility code and beat him.

Overall this game is not especially good. The gameplay as usual is a boring mess, and the story is all over the place — there are some interesting parts, but it’s hard to know exactly what the designers were going for. There is a translation patch if you want to try it out.

I really need to think about what to do going forward with these Super Famicom games, because I’m getting burned out on games like this one to the point where I’m not sure I’m giving them a fair try. When I find a game bad, I do try to check around on Japanese sites to see what the opinion of Japanese players is; often they also think these games are not very good (this game, for instance).

I’m certainly not going to stop playing the SFC games; I’m too far along and there are still quite a few games I want to play on the list. But perhaps it is finally time to relax my rules more and allow myself to stop playing games like this — they’re not only boring to play, but they’re boring to write about also. I’m just tired of having fun with a strategy RPG, then sighing as I force my way through two more bad/boring SFC games, then back to having fun with a strategy RPG. We’ll see; I’m only going to play the first section of the next game because it’s a port of a computer game, and then Mystic Ark sounds good.

SFC Game list July-September 1995

I’m making good progress with Sangokushi Koumeiden so I should have that post up next Saturday. Meanwhile, here’s the list of games I’ll be playing in the next three-month block, the first one that has no PC Engine games. This list was compiled from a variety of sources, some of which are rather generous in labelling something as an RPG. The bold ones are the ones I will actually play.

  • Shiki Eiyuden – Another game based on Chinese history, but this one is earlier than Three Kingdoms.
  • Demon of Laplace – This is a port of a computer game; it was also ported to PC Engine but this port is a total remake that changes the game from maze exploration to regular console JRPG style.
  • Mystic Ark
  • Danquest: Legend of the Seal of Demon God – I am not 100% sure that this counts as an RPG; it looks to me like it does but it could be in the Ruin Arm sphere; we’ll see.
  • Emerald Dragon – I already played this on PC Engine.
  • Ultima Savage Empire – This is a port of a western computer game.
  • Super Magic Land WOZZ
  • Brandish 2 – Out in English, plus I’m not sure it’s quite an RPG.
  • Battle Robot Retsuden – SRPG
  • Bounty Sword – SRPG
  • Sailor Moon Another Story – Looking forward to this; I used to be a big fan of the series.
  • Heian Fuunden – SRPG
  • Magic Knight Rayearth – Two shojo manga games in a row.
  • Metal Max Returns – A remake of the Famicom game.
  • Verne World
  • Wizardry VI – Western computer game port.
  • Yamato Takeru
  • Holy Umbrella: Dondera no Mubo – This is another one I am not 100% sure about, it does not look like it is quite an ARPG.
  • Seiken Densetsu 3 – Yay!

Back next week.

SFC Game 82 – Granhistoria

Granhistoria (グランヒストリア 〜幻史世界記〜), released 6/30/1995, developed by J-Force, published by Banpresto

We’ve seen developer J-Force at least twice on this blog — for La Wares and Nekketsu Tairiku Burning Heroes. Neither of those were particularly good games (although Nekketsu is at least playable). They were also involved in one of the legendary kusoge of the Playstation, the RPG “Mystery of Satomi”. Probably their biggest success was Dragon Force, the Saturn strategy/SRPG game.

The basic concept of this game is that the main character is some kind of supernatural entity that inhabits a person in the continent of Grand, twenty years before the entire world will be destroyed. You can check the “Historical Record” and see all the things that will happen leading up to the destruction of the world. The goal is to prevent that from happening by changing history.

It’s an interesting premise, although perhaps somewhat limited by the very linear nature of the game. You occasionally are given choices that seem like they would cause a story branch but they really don’t; at most they change who will accompany you for the next dungeon.

There is also a huge amount of lengthy backtracking in the game, with no spells or items that let you warp to towns. As is very typical for this era the random encounter rate is quite high, and the dungeons themselves generally do not have any distinguishing features of interest.

The battle system is also pretty disappointing. There’s a system where enemies can appear in the sky or on sides of you (sort of like the Aretha games) but in the end you’re mashing the attack button until everything dies; it’s the same old Dragon Quest II system that game companies are still relying on. The only different feature is that depending on which god (of two) the character is aligned to, their spells will use either Stones or Spirit Points — but in practice this is just a regular SP system that makes no real difference other than a thin veneer of world building.

The one good design feature is that SP and Stone restoring items are plentiful and cheap, so it is possible to actually make use of the characters’ spells in battle. But since the encounter rate is so high and you can beat most battles just by mashing attack, it’s not really worth it.

Then we have the problem that once again, in June of 1995, you cannot see the stats of items when you’re buying things in shops. Why are game companies still treating this like it’s an optional feature that isn’t necessary?

The game begins with Kurisu getting ready for his wedding ceremony. But some evil bandits associated with the god Ge, lead by Tando, attack and kill Kurisu. The “world record” appears, depicted as a blue orb, and has an accompanying red orb take Kurisu’s body to try to stop the attack that the thieves will do the next day; the first step in stopping the destruction of the world.

You wander around the town for a while, rest, and then it’s time for the wedding ceremony. Unfortunately the bandits attack the ceremony and kill Kurisu again — they wanted to access this Za temple that only opens once every 10 years. He then revives in a nearby forest backwards in time; this is the one part of the story I didn’t understand. It never happens again, although I never got a game over so maybe if you game over there’s some kind of teleporting like this.

Kurisu reaches the bandits (this is before they attack the wedding ceremony) and for some reason they don’t kill him — they let him undergo the Ge initation. The ge “god” is obviously a computer of some kind, and we later learn that the “angels” are robots or mechs of some kind. But the god immediately accepts Kurisu, which surprises the thieves, and they let him join.

Now it’s time to attack a train. It’s a trap, and now Kurisu can choose to stay with the thieves or join the imperial forces that set the trap — this might seem like a big story branch but it’s not; I joined the imperial forces but even if you don’t, you end up joining them soon after.

Kurisu is able to put himself out as a “prophet” because he already knows what will happen via the World Record, so he quickly gets the trust of the imperial forces. But at the same time, there is a mysterious man in black named Cain that has underlings; the World Record does not recognize Cain or his minions.

It’s now 806, 19 years from world destruction. We need to try to save the crown prince from dying. This involves a plot by someone from the family that the current royal family supposedly deposed — but we stop him, and the Za “god” registers the baby in the computer system.

Next up, in 807 a Ge follower causes a bunch of Angels to go berserk, hoping to lower the Za god’s influence in the world, but we stop him. I was not always sure what stopping these things had to do with the end of the world — I think the idea is that the World Record is showing all the things that lead up to the final destruction (perhaps in a butterfly-effect way) and we hope that dealing with the most immediate one will eventually change the history.

Next up we have to help the Asashina king set him his marriage, but in the process the king gets killed an Kurisu is accused of the murder. This causes the entire World Record to get erased. But once Kurisu escapes from prison he becomes king himself, which restores the Record. Kurisu also gets 10,000,000 gold which basically solves the money issues for the rest of the game — you can by 99 of all the best healing items and there is no more challenge in any battles or dungeons.

Kurisu goes and cleans up a few things, then Cain appears again, suggesting that Kurisu put out an order to unseal 4 sealed temples around the world. Regardless of your choice, the game continues on for a while; we have to put down another attempt by the deposed former royal lineage. Eventually Cain shows back up with his minions — they claim to follow the Record of Destruction, and want to return history back to “normal”, by which they mean the destruction of Gran. Cain is able to steal Kurisu’s body from him, leaving the World Record and Kurisu to seek out a new host.

A year passes while Kurisu gets a new body; it’s now 817. However, Cain immediately shows up to steal the World Record from Kurisu when we try to stop a priest from getting assassinated. It turns out that Cain is the servant of a third god, Ma. Without the World Record, Kurisu is on his own and can’t check what’s going on anymore. Also with Cain now in the old body (which is the King), he’s been attacking the other countries, and he has also started unsealing the 4 temples, which will result in the destruction of the world.

Eventually Kurisu manages to reach the Sky Ship and then the Sky Country, where the people who made the Ma god live. They surround Gran with a barrier to protect it; but when the barrier was briefly removed so Kurisu could come down at the beginning, that’s what allowed Cain and his minions to come down as well.

Kurisu needs to have both the Ge and Za power, but he has to go back in time to get the second one; after this happens he tries to go back to the present but things get messed up and he arrives in 825, right before the destruction of the world.

Kurisu learns that the ancestors of the people on this planet came from the stars, although I didn’t see much more information about this or what the different gods are (maybe I didn’t talk to people I should have). In any case, we can stop the world from being destroyed by beating the Ma god itself.

The ending scene lets you choose one of two options — both of which lead to rather bad endings. The first one is that the Za god completely stops, causing all the Za priests to die, and that destabilizes the world. The second one is that the Za god’s Angels continue to spiral out of control, causing wars and chaos through the world. As far as I can tell from googling, there is no good ending.

There’s more to the story than the broad outlines I wrote; more side characters and such. Certainly the story and the setting is the strong point of the game, but it’s wrapped in such a boring system that it’s hard to get really immersed in it.

SFC Game 81 – Ruin Arm

Ruin Arm (ルインアーム), released 6/23/1995, developed by Bandai

This game is considered an Action RPG by some sites, and I can see the classification — I believe that by my definition it technically qualifies, but it’s really more of a Zelda type adventure game. The game was clearly heavily inspired by Link to the Past, inviting unfavorable comparisons with that game at every turn.

The opening scene shows a mech of some kind destroying a city. We’re told that once there was a large thriving civilization using both magic and technology, but humans destroyed themselves, leaving only ruins to mark the previous high civilization.

The main character is Kurisu along with his sister Litol (You can have them choose names; there are a bunch of preset names including some injokes like Luke and Leia, Hansel and Gretel, and some anime references.) The characters’ father tells us to go to a nearby cave and get a sword.

The game plays out like a Zelda game. In this case you can assign one item to each hand and one armor; each piece of equipment is activated by a button although not every item can work that why (pressing X in the above screenshot would do nothing). The numbers below the weapons are durability — I don’t know why so many games feel like they have to include this. Most of the time it serves no real purpose other than to annoy the player.

There are no XP or levels; instead you find stars from chests in dungeons. You can assign these stars to five stats (HP, MP, strength, defense, speed). You can reassign the stars at any time. While this might seem like an interesting system, it works into the biggest complaint I have with this game. The interface is too fiddly and you have to interact with it way too often. You spend a lot of time in the item menu, which is never a good sign for a game. Zelda has a very clean interface and you can quickly switch items in the menu. Not here.

ルインアーム始めてみました#2 - YouTube
This screenshot courtesy of youtube

As you can see from this shot, only 3 items from the list fit on the screen at once. You have to choose what you want to do with the item in the list above (right arm, left arm, body, use, exchange, split, merge, discard) and then find the item in the list. You have to do this at times you really shouldn’t. As in Zelda there are keys you find in the dungeon to open locked doors. But unlike Zelda they don’t just automatically work. You have to go into the item list, find the key, assign it to a button, exit the menu, press the button to open the door, and then go back into the item list and re-equip the item you had before.

Later you get Jump Shoes, but these go in the armor slot, meaning that you’ll have to go through the item menu to get the Jump shoes then put back on your armor once you’re done. In addition, the jump distance is controlled by speed, meaning that you may also have to juggle the stars to be able to make the jump. This constant fiddling in the item menu gets old and really slows the game’s pace down. On top of all this each character can only carry 16 items, and so there is inventory management again. I still have yet to play a game where I thought that managing limited inventory was fun.

The other big problem with the game is the second character. You can play this 2 players, which may be the best way to do it. The computer controlled player is constantly getting stuck behind things. If you equip her with attack magic she’ll immediately use it all. There are parts of the game where you have to do things with both characters, so if you’re playing on your own you have to once again fiddle around in the menu to switch control of players and such.

It’s too bad because I think there is a good game in here, if it weren’t such a chore to play. I ended up stopping at around the 40% mark of the game; as I said in the intro while this may count as an ARPG in a technical sense according to my rules it doesn’t feel like one. If it were a really good game I probably would have kept playing it but I just wasn’t having fun.

To briefly go over the part of the game I played: dad sends us to find a sword in the cave. There, we have a letter from him telling us that something bad has probably happened and they should look for Jeek in Londium. Heading back to the town we find that some black clad men chase the dad to a cliff; the dad jumps off the cliff with a friend but they probably survived.

We then chase after dad, and eventually locate him but he has lost his memory. So we have to find a gem to make a medicine to cure him (there is some kind of item synthesis system in the game).

But dad is gone by the time we get the gem, so we continue on. Eventually I did find Jeek, but he didn’t tell us much and just gave us some spells and jump shoes. The story hadn’t developed all that much, but presumably there will be something about the lost technology and robots.

So I wouldn’t say this is a terrible game, but it has a lot of flaws and to me is not really an RPG.

SFC Game 80 – Elfaria II: Quest for the Meld

Elfaria II (エルファリアII ザ・クエスト・オブ・ザ・メルド), released 6/9/1995, published by Hudson

Elfaria was one of the early games I played on this blog. It was an innovative game, using an autobattle system with some elements of a strategy game, and an interesting “meld” system that allowed you to customize your characters. My final review was somewhat negative — the storyline was interesting and I do commend them for trying something new, but in the end I found the game rather tedious and repetitive, and the lack of control over the battle system became more frustrating as I played the game more.

2 years later, the same development team released Elfaria II. The story is a sequel to the first one, taking place 100 years later, but involving many of the same ideas (including time travel). The gameplay is more like a traditional RPG; they kept the auto battle system but you have more control over the characters this time.

The “meld” system is also back from last time although it works in a different (and IMO not as interesting) way. You have two ways to do it. The first is “Charge”, which uses up an item to increase either the stats of a weapon or unlock its abilities. This is the only way you can do anything but attack, by equipping a weapon or unlocking abilities. You can also charge with certain items to increase the max level of a weapon, up to a certain point.

Meld combines a weapon and an item to make a new weapon. The resulting weapon depends on the element of both items, as well as their relative strength.

There are several major problems with the system, though. The first is the severe inventory limit of 30 items, 2-4 of which will be taken up by key items. You get up to 3 items for winning a battle, and there are a lot of reasons to want to keep items around. You will be constantly managing inventory and throwing a lot of things away, which is really boring. I don’t remember ever playing an RPG and thinking it was fun to manage inventory, and especially in a game like this where they give you so many things you can do with the items it’s really unforgivable. Not only do you want to keep around HP/MP restoring items and meld/charge items, but also various elemental defense items and weapons. But you basically can’t keep anything.

The second problem is that like Elfaria 1, you have very limited resources. MP, in particular, is so limited that you can often only fight a few battles before running out. You can’t use items in battle, and as mentioned before you basically can’t keep a stock of MP/HP restores because of the inventory limit.

You can tell the developers were aware of this because even small dungeons often have 2 or 3 restore and save points in them. But even with all these restore points the game is still hard to survive, and the end result is that the game involves an enormous amount of grinding, probably the most of any game I’ve played on this blog. The Japanese reviews I read of this game all mentioned this. Even the grinding is often difficult because your characters that were in the back row didn’t gain any fight levels, so they’ll be weak when you have to switch them to the front for elemental reasons.

It’s a shame because I think the system could have been better with just a few changes — a much bigger inventory, allowing characters to gain 1/2 XP for the row they’re not in, and giving characters a lot more MP to use their skills.

The story begins 100 years after the first game. The 16 heroes from that game are legendary now, and the world is controlled by a church that has banned melding and charging following the teachings of Pine, who apparently taught that they would ruin the world’s Ra energy. Pine later went to the Twisted Forest to stop its expansion — he never returned, but the Twisted Forest stopped expanding so apparently he saved the world.

The leader of the church is Gedora. Gedora is adamant in his belief that Melding and Charging are evil, and he has a vast army of inquisitors that imprison or kill any they find doing it. Leina is apparently the prophet of Pine. She prophecies that a hero has been reborn somewhere, but Gedora tells her to shut up — she’s only supposed to transmit the teachings of Pine, not prophecy.

Our main character is Kiba, who is the son of a researcher Beta. Years ago, Beta took Kiba to the Elven Forest apparently to atone for something he had done, but now he’s been gone for a while. He has a companion Shango, a strange monster that can’t talk. They’re hunters, looking for monsters to kill. An elf named Keel shows up, saying that he is going to make Elfaria just for elves, and that he knows where Kiba’s father is. Another elf named Leefa shows up as well and joins Kiba along with her companion, a little Grif (the small bubble things from the first game). These are your four party members for the whole game. Leefa wants to stop Keel from his ambitions — Keel tried to resurrect and combine himself with an elf named Elzard, but he was rejected.

Now the gameplay finally starts as we head south to help out a resistance movement against Gedora. It turns out meanwhile that Leena and another priest Ramon are working against Gedora.

Each area on the map shows the element of the monsters in it — you want to do the formation that is best against that element so you get an advantage in battle, and also if possible equip defensive rings that help protect against it.

I already mentioned all the issues with the system above, so I’ll just continue with the story highlights. In the Wind Hill we meet Dr. Hermes who recommends that we find someone to teach us melding in order to oppose Gedora — Ramon the priest doesn’t like this idea but Kiba agrees. Back at Zaza town (the starting town), melders are being put to death. Another enemy Dr Daros is there overseeing it, and Kiba learns that his father sold his research to Gedora which is why he felt he had to atone. Apparently his work sunk an entire town into the water.

Dr Daros is turning people into monsters; it seems that Gedora is having him research that in order to control all of Elfaria. But Keel is opposing him, and Kiba learns that his father is apparently helping Keel. Luke, our little green blobby guy, has a gem that keeps us in touch with Eruru — she’s a mysterious figure that was also inspiring Pine in the first game, and apparently we are just continuing Pine’s work that is not yet finished.

One of the things we do throughout the game is find colored gems, which are then put into these temple altars to get the elemental symbols. This clears the evil monsters from the area. It usually also involves beating one of Gedora’s elemental priests (in this case, the wind one).

I’ll try to hit the highlights of the story from here on out since giving it in detail would be too tedious of a post — the story actually is not that bad and it’s a shame it’s not coupled with a better game. What we have at this point are several factions: Keel is working with Beta (Kiba’s father) against Gedora. Ramon and Leena are together against Gedora as well. Gedora himself is trying to make a powerful Dark Monster with the help of Dr. Daros, although he also seems to distrust Daros. The player characters are mostly working with the resistance while also looking for Kiba’s father.

Eventually we reach a research lab. Shango mysteriously transforms into a different monster that can actually talk — in a later town it’s revealed that he was originally human but was turned into a monster by the experiments. We find Kiba’s father but Daros has turned him into a monster; he dies, but tells us to go learn Melding. This is done from the Merudon in the Twisted Forest, but after we learn the Melding, Gedora’s troops show up and massacre all the Merudon.

Leena eventually leaves Ramon’s side and joins us, because her prophetic voice has told her to follow us. Meanwhile Gedora has imprisoned Daros for betraying him — Gedora wonders why Elzard’s spirit seems to be spurring the heroes on to fight him. Elzard turned himself into a monster to defeat all the humans, so why would he be against Gedora for using monsters? Daros thinks there’s more to it than that.

To get the Water Symbol we need the blue gem, but it was lost in the sinking of Hambu town (due to Kiba’s father), so we have to go back in time. Time travel was in the first game as well. We succeed, but Leena is lost in the travel and ends up in Elzard’s time, where he falls in love with her. Meanwhile Dr. Daros turns Gedora into the strongest dark monster — Gedora then tries to kill Daros but Keel saves him. Keel wants to be changed into the strongest Light Monster. Ramon tries to stop it; he kills Daros but not before Daros turns Keel into the monster.

We manage to find and defeat Gedora. Ramon tries to take his place as high priest, but Keel shows up — he needs to change Ramon into a light monster so that he can combine with the monster and become the strongest Light Monster, resurrecting Elzard. In the past, Leena has become Elzard’s empress.

At this point I hit a very difficult boss fight. I consulted Richie’s walkthrough on GameFAQs. He rarely recommends specific levels unless it’s absolutely necessary — he was recommending level 38, and I was at level 26. That was enough for me, so I looked up cheat codes. I try to use the least invasive cheat code possible, but the only one I could find was setting Kiba’s stats to 9999 and 255, so that’s what I did (including current HP, which means he can’t die). Grinding up to level 38 would have taken a really long time.

Elzard is in the original town, but when we defeat him, a shadow Elzard appears and destroys the world. We are sent back in time to when Elzard first became a monster. But Eruru says we can’t just kill Elzard here because that will mess with the timeline and completely ruin everything. Instead, we have to go to Elfis Castle and find the Ra Water. It also turns out that this mysterious force impelling us on the quest is Pine himself, who is using the last of his power to guide us to where he is. (My notes here aren’t good so I don’t remember why the Ra Water is necessary)

Elzard has gone to the Crystal Forest, and we follow him there. Pine dies, but gives us the World Egg to resurrect the world after Elzard destroys it. Even though we manage to defeat Elzard (the final boss), the world is still being destroyed — but even Elzard says he wants the world to be reborn, since he loved a human (Leena).

The party puts their hopes into restoring the world via the World Egg. The final scene shows a festival in Zaza (the starting town). All the characters are there, including the villains, with slightly modified names, and everything seems to be much more peaceful and stable.

So that’s Elfaria II. It’s similar to Elfaria I in that the story is much better than the gameplay, but in E2’s case the gameplay is a total disaster. E1 is a much better game, and I would not recommend this game unless you really don’t mind grinding levels.

SFC Game 79 – La Wares

La Wares (真・聖刻), released 4/21/1995, developed by J Force

This game is part of a franchise that originally began with a tabletop RPG “Wares Blade” released in the 1980s. The game is based more closely on a novel called Wares 1092. The term “wares” is assigned to the characters 聖刻 which mean something like “holy time” and has a number of different meanings in the franchise.

This game is one of the legendary kusoge of the SFC and it definitely lives up to that reputation; it’s one of the worst games I’ve played on the blog so far, in the gutter with games like Fist of the North Star 5, Light Fantasy, and The Last Battle. It actually has a translation patch, but it’s not worth playing.

One issue is the number of typos in the text. If you can read Japanese you can see how in the screenshot above, 青ざめた has been written 育ざめた (then you have 青だてる). The character 救 is substituted for 教 in every instance. The main character’s name changes spelling throughout the game. There are is annoying kana-kanji majiri that to me is harder to read than all hiragana (things like きょうあく犯 and 再とう合).

But the issues go far beyond the text. The interface is a mess. When you choose “equip” you can’t even see what’s a weapon/armor or a regular item. There’s no way to see the stats of an equip item, or what items do. You can’t see a character’s current XP. The stat menu is under “system” for some reason.

The story is an incoherent mess. They adapted it from the novel, but they left out a bunch of the scenes, so that characters enter and leave for no reason, there are key terms undefined in the game, and the overall story is very short. The only reason this game takes any amount of time is because you have to grind to beat it, which I’ll get to later.

So the story is bad, but that’s not a deal breaker. The interface is annoying but a lot of those problems can be overcome as well — is the game system any good? No, it sucks too. There are two types of combat in the game. The normal combat as shown in the shot above is just the basic “hold down the attack button” that we’ve seen many times. There are only 2 enemies, and they only use regular attacks. As you level up (you recover HP fully when you level) the enemies get stronger, but they’re not very hard. So why did I say this requires grinding earlier?

You also have mech combats. These are all 1-on-1. You have three choices — punch, kick (which is lower accuracy but higher damage), and defend (which is pointless in a 1-on-1 battle). So there is no opportunity for any kind of strategy, and whether you win these fights comes down to luck on the kicking, and whether your level is high enough. The red meter there is your HP and the blue is your “water”; both can only be recovered in towns.

When you travel on the overworld, you just pick a location and then automatically go there, encountering mech combats on the way. The random encounter rate is unpredictable, and if you get unlucky you can’t survive all of them and just have to try again from your last save.

I actually played over half the game in just a couple of hours, but I reached a boss that I was going to have a do a ton of grinding on, and one review of the game said that over half their time in the game was just grinding. So I decided to put my little used rule to effect that if a game has a translation patch, I can give up if it’s really bad.

The shop menu

The story is basically that thousands of years ago there was a civilization that came up with powerful mechs that could only be used by the chosen ones. It seems like the main character will be able to become one of those chosen ones; he begins the game as part of a bandit group but his father dies and he goes out to seek the mechs. The other main characters is a princess who escapes the confines of her life and begins adventuring.

In the end, there’s really no reason to play this game, but there is a translation patch if you really want to try it for some reason.

SFC Game 78 – Rejoice! Beyond Aretha Kingdom

Rejoice: Beyond Aretha Kingdom (リジョイス 〜アレサ王国の彼方〜), released 4/21/1995, developed by Yanoman

Yanoman is back with the sixth (and last) Aretha game. This one takes place in the same timeline as the Game Boy games, and involves the Dark King Howard from the first two GB titles (as well as Doll or Dorl or however you want to romanize it). I got the feeling that there were other parts of the game that were references to the GB Aretha games but not having played them I’m not completely sure. The game takes a different approach from the previous five in being an action RPG rather than a regular RPG.

The game starts with the dark king Howard trying to capture Milrose, who he calls a princess. When she runs away he sends Ice Cube after her (complete with Ice Ice Baby lyrics — the whole game’s soundtrack has a hip hop theme).

This is an unwinnable battle but it lets you play around with the battle system a bit before the real game begins.

Now we switch to our “protagonists”, the Rejoice! group, who are a bunch of thieves and swindlers. I’ve seen thief main characters in RPGs before but they usually try to make them sympathetic. Here they insult each other, rob a statue from a tomb, and then go back to town and rob a man’s house by setting it on fire to distract him, steal a cart from a sleeping old woman, cheat a shopkeeper with fake money, and try to rob another shop at knifepoint. The townspeople treat them like they’re just incorrigible youth that you roll your eyes at, but this seems over the top.

Unfortunately the Black Ship Thieves show up and steal all their hard earned stuff, but they manage to hold on to the statue to deliver it to Ben Marxist. This whole part of the game was rather unclear to me — Ben claims that he doesn’t care about the statue, he just wanted it out of the cave. Then he gives the Force Book to the group. Kyu, one of the members, wants it for himself and kills Base, one of the other group members. He runs away, leaving the book behind. Treno, who is our main character, somehow is able to use the book to gain magic power but leaves it there, then a tsunami wipes out the village and Treno washes up on a beach.

Now he’s found by Aretha series regular Dorl, who is in all six games. Treno wants to find Mikey (the fourth member of the group); they find Mikey’s knife on the ground. This leads to a cutscene showing Mikey captured, with a prisoner in the next cell saying that they were looking for a hero to beat Howard.

Now Doll and Treno reach the first area of the game, the Mushroom Forest. This game supports two players, so someone can control Dorl (you can also switch people by pressing start to pause the game, then L or R).

Each character has a weapon, armor, shield, and up to two items. The “life” at the top right is shared between characters; if you die you will be revived and lose a life — these can be recovered with the Risarisa item.

The weapons you can equip vary quite a bit in range and attack style, so it’s not just a matter of equipping whatever the strongest one is. You also may have to switch, although the inability to switch in a boss battle is annoying because it means that if you see a different one might be better you have to reload or quit.

The most annoying feature is the armor and shield, because they can break by taking damage. I don’t know what the purpose of this system was, but it meant that most of the time I had no armor or shield.

I often found it hard to find my way around, but I often have that experience in action RPGs; I’m not sure why. Treno levels very quickly. I was level 6 by the time I reached the first boss, the Poison Mushroom, and level 11 after the fight. You recover HP on level up so you can sometimes kill the bosses’ things they shoot out and gain a bunch of levels during the boss fights that way.

Some people complain that you can’t see your HP while you are fighting. I actually didn’t find this to be that bad, because when you get hit, you flash a color based on your remaining HP; that was always enough for me to tell when I was in danger. The enemies have the same colors (this is a long standing feature of the series; in Aretha SFC 1 you couldn’t even see how much damage you were dealing).

After that we read Akim Town, where they collapse from the poison of the forest. Akim nurses them back to health, and then wants Treno to try to fight against Howard — if he could defeat the Poison Mushroom he may be able to beat the dark king as well. Of course Treno’s not interested.

The next part is annoying; it’s a common feature of RPGs that I sometimes call “inscrutable flags” — you have to talk to the right people in the right order, some of them more than once, to get the game to advance. But there’s no logic or way to find out what steps you have to do, so you just have to wander around the town talking to everyone over and over again and returning to Akim’s house until the game finally decides to advance. This is repeated several times throughout the game, in most of the towns. You can do a party chat which sometimes helps, but usually not.

Eventually Treno decides to try to go after Howard on the hope that he will find Mikey along the way. So they enter this magic door that just happens to be in the town which takes them to the Trick Castle, supposedly connected to Howard’s castle. The game has no sense of a world map or locations; it’s more like a sequence of stages than anything else.

There are two bosses in this castle. First up, a knight. If you switch to Dorl you can use some long range magic that might make it easier but it’s hard to tell where to hit the boss and I lost several lives.

After this we find Mikey, as well as the neighboring prisoner who turns out to be Milrose. So we fight Ice Cube again, but can actually win this time (I was at level 30 at this point).

Now we fall into a big pit to the Cave Town, where ants and grasshoppers are working together (although the grasshoppers are looked down on) against the antlions. This town and dungeon is by far the worst place in the game for the “invisible flags” I mentioned before — you have to constantly wander around randomly until a party member says something, then places you couldn’t go before suddenly open for no reason.

You have to solve this puzzle to advance, but even when you solve it the way forward doesn’t immediately open, you have to wander around and come back. I had to watch a video playthrough of this on youtube and the Japanese player was as frustrated with it as I was; half his time was just walking back and forth trying to figure out what to do, and even when he was able to advance he would just say something like “screw you, rejoice”.

Anyway, the boss of this section is a big bug, but I had moved up so many levels that he was no challenge.

Now to get out of here we have to cross the lava with the help of some rescued turtles from earlier. This leads to the Kaskal Sea, where we can breathe underwater for some reason. There’s a sunken ship whose captain will take us to Howard’s castle if we can get them out of the ocean.

This is a confusing section yet again. The dialogue makes it seem like you need to bring back parts from the sunken pirate ship to Captain Rock to repair the ship. Actually all you have to do is see the pirate ship, then go back to Rock and talk, then return to the pirate ship and fight ghosts. This is another place where the Japanese player was frustrated.

This lizard boss posed no challenge at all. I was at level 66 by this point.

Now we’re in Giant Forest, which has fairies, and also the nearby Neve Town. After another “invisible flag” hell, I found my way to the Tsuda Cave. Along the way we learn that Kyu (the guy from the beginning) has become a Dark Priest and Howard’s right hand man, and Milrose gets captured.

The cave soon leads to Howard Castle.

When we reach Howard, he tries to kill Treno but Kyu protects him and dies. He then flies on a dragon to Karakuri Castle and we have to fight the left-behind Balloon Dragon.

With the long range weapon it’s not too bad, just hit the belly button until he dies. Now onto Karakuri Castle.

At this point I had what I guess is the best weapon, this thing that creates a bunch of sparkles around you. It slows down the game a lot, though, and one time froze the game. In this castle we find Kurisu (another one!) who is a friend of Dorl; this part must be a reference to previous games. It turns out they are looking for Mahara Kingdom, but that’s Treno’s home that was destroyed in the tsunami. (Ben Marxist never appears in the game again so I don’t know what all that was about).

The Bamboo Dragon is kind of challenging until you learn how to avoid all of its moves and reliably hit the head. I was at level 79.

Final dungeon is Howard’s Tower.

I had a really hard time with Howard at first. There’s this bullshit first part of the fight where you just take a whole bunch of damage with no way to block it. I eventually did some level grinding and at level 89 he was easy.

At the end, they return to the ruins of Mahar Kingdom but it’s not clear what everyone is going to do — the Dorl/Kurisu plot is unresolved and I don’t know what Treno and Mikey will do either.

The designers were clearly proud of their music because the credits at the end have a whole track list including tempi.

In the end this game is playable and good in some ways, but has plenty of annoying parts as well. It’s also really short. This is the end of the Aretha series, and I don’t know how many more games Yanoman made — they’ve been a big presence so far in the blog but will this be their last hurrah?

SFC Game 77 – Mahoujin Guruguru

Mahoujin Guruguru is a manga that ran in Monthly Shonen Gangan from 1992-2003. It’s a parody of RPG video games and has a lot of meta-humor and 4th wall breaking. There are two video games based on it for the Super Famicom. This one is not really an RPG in my estimation because it has no developing story. The opening has the main characters Nike and Kukuri coming to a new village with no money, and the king gives them a quest to get the magic circles from 12 towers so that the 13th tower can be unsealed, and they can save the Ocroc Egg. That’s the entire story; there’s no further development (as least in the first 9 towers, which is the extent of what I played).

The graphics on the whole are well done; the sprites are large and detailed.

You first buy equipment; there are various weapon types that Nike can use but I just went with swords. Then it’s on to the area where you can access the 12 towers.

In theory you can do them in any order, but the monster levels pretty much force you to do them in a set way — starting from the bottom left, then the bottom right, then the second to bottom on the left, etc.

The towers are (I think) randomly generated when you enter. You explore around each floor, looking for chests and eventually the warp to the next floor. The chests usually have money in them, but can have some items as well.

There are also monsters that wander the dungeon, and when they encounter you, it’s time to fight. In the fights, Nike is at the front and fights automatically. You control Kukuri’s spellcasting. You can also give Nike one of 4 commands but without the instruction manual I was never clear on exactly what these did.

To cast a spell, you first choose one of four elements (wind, fire, life, water). Then you pick an area of effect, and then a style (like “powerful”). This makes a possible 64 combinations that result in 64 different spells. The idea is interesting but as with most games that offer this many spell choices, there are a few that are really powerful and the rest aren’t worth using. After the first dungeon, MP restoring items are so plentiful that you can basically cast as many spells as you want, which is nice. Healing items also come pretty easily as well.

The game on the whole is fairly easy, but there are times when you have to do a bit of moneymaking to buy new weapons and armor (the shops gain new equipment after each 2 towers cleared). The bosses for the most part can be taken down easily with the Ikari no Honou fire spell, but two of the bosses I encountered could kill me from full HP with a single special attack. I stopped playing on the 9th tower because I could see that there was going to be no way to beat the boss without a bunch of grinding — I tried all kinds of spells, including ones that claimed to raise defense, but he still killed me from full HP with a special attack.

Each tower is 5 to 8 floors, with the top floor being a boss fight. Some towers have some special elements to them, like one way arrows, enemies that change the direction on your control pad, or one tower where you can’t use the automap. But they don’t change the basic gameplay that much.

This is not a terrible game, but it’s not fun enough that I was willing to do a bunch of grinding to beat something that (to me) isn’t really an RPG in the first place. I watched a video playthrough of the ending; the last tower is the same as the first 12 and the final boss has no real character. The ending scene is just Kukuri using the 12 seals to protect the egg, which hatches into a bird — the end.

SFC Game 76 – Ladystalker: Challenge From the Past

Lady Stalker (レディストーカー 〜過去からの挑戦〜), released 4/1/1995, developed by Climax

In 1992, Climax released a game for the Mega Drive called Landstalker. It wasn’t really an RPG, it was more of an action/adventure game that used the same isolinear perspective as Solstice and other games like that. The title is rather odd because the word ストーカー in Japanese has the same meaning as “stalker” in English. I imagine the designers were trying to evoke other meanings of English “stalk”, as someone moving around sneakily. But I’m not sure. In any case this accounts for the dubious name of the sequel — the main character is a woman named Lady, so the game is a lady “stalking” around the land, not a stalker of women.

This 1995 game is based on Landstalker, which I never played (I was a Nintendo kid). If anyone did play this let me know your thoughts in the comments. They removed the ability to jump but added XP and levels, making it a full-fledged RPG. (Dark Savior for the Saturn and Alundra for the Playstation are additional games with the same basic developers.)

The beginning story is that this girl named Lady, who is the daughter of a rich person, causes so much trouble that her dad shuts her up in a house with a tutor Yoshio and a cook Cooks (spelled “Cocks” in the instruction manual but I’ll use “Cooks” instead). She manages to break out and heads to Destrand Island, where she’s heard rumors of great treasure. When she gets there, she learns that the island was ruled by King Baron long ago, a genius scientists who did all kinds of experiments, especially on his fellow monsters. But to learn more and further explore, Lady needs a visa, which she can only get by going through a training area.

The movement takes some getting used to. The up arrow is NW; I always felt like it should be the NE instead. I did get used to it after the first dungeon or so but it is really frustrating until you do.

Inside the training areas Lady meets her first combats. These are done in a random encounter style, but the encounter takes place on the same map where you are. Thankfully, not every place has random encounters, and in particular, the rooms that have puzzles usually do not have any enemies.

You swing the sword by pressing A. By holding down A she charges up a move. These moves depend on your equipped weapon, either a Whip or a Glove. There’s supposed to be a tradeoff where the whip has longer range but weaker strength. In practice, since the basic attack is always the short-range sword, I think the whip is useless.

One thing I did not find out until way too late in the game is that attacking from behind or the side does more damage. This is easier once Lady gets companions. You also can’t just hold down a turbo button because the enemies will block your attacks if you do that. I thought the battle system on the whole was well done.

The purpose of the first dungeon is just to teach you some of the basic features of the game — picking up blocks to make stairways (since you can’t jump), solving basic puzzles, easy fights, and dashing with the B button to cross gaps. At the end, Lady watches a film in the museum and learns that King Baron developed a machine to make monsters huge, but then somehow was defeated. An archaeologist named Sajik went to try to find the machine but nobody has heard from him.

Now Lady can leave the town, and she heads for Rivertown, the largest city on the island. It’s next to Baron Castle, but nobody goes there because there are too many traps and tricks — of course that’s our next destination.

There are a lot of traps in the castle, including fireball shooting heads. But the main thing is when the monsters trap Lady and force her to do various kinds of torture games before she can leave.

Here Lady learns about Jumbo BabyBaron (JB) who seems to be controlling things. There’s also the first boss, JB’s pet, but he’s not very hard. It seems like the monsters’ goal is to make some way to eat human meat every day — this turns out to be canned humans, which Lady finds out in the next town where a bunch of enslaved humans are laboring, and JB is trying to find an ancient relic of some kind. Lady needs to escape through the sewer to reach the next area.

The sewer has some areas where you have to swim underwater, losing health, but if you go to areas with bubbles you can breathe air and restore HP (even HP lost in combats, which is nice).

Coming out of the sewer, Lady reaches Deathvegas. There’s a casino which will open later, as well as Meg, Sajik’s wife. Lady tells someone she’ll work in the mines and she gets a ticket to ride the cable car there.

As soon as Lady reaches here she gets thrown in prison by JB, but Yoshio is there as well. Yoshio joins, and Cooks is apparently in the area as well. Yoshio and Cooks work on AI control; at the beginning they’re a liability because they’re so weak and there’s no way to revive allies except by visiting a church. But once you get them better equipment so they can survive a few hits, they do well at distracting the monsters while you go in for a back or side hit. Cooks can cast healing spells which is nice too, as the 5 healing items you can carry don’t last very long. Escaping the cell, Lady overhears that JB has found some ancient machine that can make monsters big.

This dungeon is based mostly on riding mine cards around, and you can change the direction by pressing the arrow keys and slow it down with B.

Eventually we find that JB is going to execute Cooks, but when JB reads what’s on a stone tablet in the box in front of him, he leaves, allowing us to rescue Cooks and put him in our party. The tablet tells us that we need to use a white ball to revive the ancient machine, so that’s probably what JB is going to try to find.

You fight the boss here on a minecart that shoots fireballs, so you have to shoot the opponent while racing around on the cars.

Next up is a monster village — Lady goes back to Deathvegas to get Monster Extract to become monsters. Here we also find the Shining Ball man who will take Shining Balls and exchange them for good items throughout the game. The Casino is also open.

The monsters there tell us that the mayor was trapped in the Volcano; we need to reach the interior machine and put the bolts back in to stop it.

I found this to be the hardest dungeon in the game in terms of the monster difficulty, partly because the companions were so weak. It’s possible I could have gotten better equipment before here, I’m not sure. In any case, Lady finds the mayor, but he’s dying. JB has been using a machine to make them bigger, but those bigger bodies age faster and die quicker. He warns Lady-monster not to be fooled by JB. After the Volcano is fixed we can take the mine car on to the next era, snow valley.

This is another mine car area, as well as ice-sliding puzzles. Eventually Lady reaches a machine that turns her into an ice block, and you actually have to fight a boss as the ice.

Afterwards there’s a hammer that can break the ice, and it also breaks the ice of another person who turns out to be Sajik the archeologist. He heads back to Rivertown, and we go on to Ramus Tower. (This area has some enemies that are like metal slimes in DQ that give huge XP but run away easily. The end area has ones that are clearly based on the king slimes as well.)

We can’t get in to Ramus Tower so back to the towns to find new equipment and various things — it also turns out that a lot of the townspeople have left, now that they’ve heard the treasure rumors were fake and that they were just lured here to become canned food. But the museum in port town has the Ramus Statue, which opens up the tower.

There are spirits in the tower that tell the story of King Ramus, who made this tower to try to steal King Baron’s machine. Ramus tried to reach Baron Rock by air, but never could. The King himself is at the top, and begs us to take him to Baron Rock…maybe this old rug we found in the tower can help? Yes, it’s a flying carpet, and the king accompanies us to Baron Rock and then disappears, having fulfilled his dream.

Unfortunately Baron Rock has places we would need to jump up — Lady can’t jump, so it’s back to Deathvegas again. There we get gas powered shoes that allow limited jumps, and the power can be restored by going to gas vents.

This part of the game was tricky because as you can see from the picture, the way the graphics are done does not make it very clear where the platforms are. I fell a lot just because I could not tell if the next platform was in front of me or to a side. The dungeon also requires you to use Stone Shoes to walk over spikes, and find the Ganubis Proof to walk over a holy area.

At Angel Rock, the next area, we learn the King Baron was devoured by his own monsters, who evidently then tried to seal the machine away.

There’s a puzzle to solve that opens the door to King Baron’s mansion — unfortunately we were tricked into doing this by JB, who could not solve the puzzle himself and so used us to gain access. In King Baron’s mansion, we have to prove that we are the worthy successor to King Baron in order to progress — as usual this is more puzzles. The boss of this area is copies of ourselves, who really aren’t that hard.

Now it’s on to Baron Tower, where we learn more about JB and King Baron’s experiments on monsters. There’s a weird area here where we shrink to miniature size and have to go around this monster’s body. Finally at the end, JB breaks a bridge and sends us down into the Gates of Hell…where there’s more rocket shoe jumping puzzles, worse than the ones in the previous area.

But after this it’s basically the end of the game. JB finally fights us, but he’s not particularly difficult. JB then tells his story — he was a little Baby Baron until he was thrown into the machine and turned into a giant.

JB then had to capture more monsters to use as experiments, but none of them survived. Even JB’s body is unstable…and he then changes into a dragon. After beating the dragon, JB is finally dead. But now the machine comes alive, apparently still possessed by the spirit of King Baron (or maybe King Baron is the machine).

The boss has three forms. The first two are heads that come from the machine, and Lady can get behind them and attack. But the final form is bullshit — it’s stationary at the back of the room, and uses spells that damage everyone no matter where they are. So there’s no strategy or finesse possible, it’s just a question of whether you are high enough level to survive. I think you have to be in the 29-31 area to do it.

The ending scene is short, and just has the island being turned into an amusement park. Lady makes sure there is a statue of JB at the top (I guess she feels sorry for him being used by King Baron? He still killed a lot of people…)

The final image is the photograph that Lady got taken earlier in the game (one of those “put your head through the hole”) pictures.

Overall this was a pretty enjoyable game once I got used to the controls. It’s fairly short but that’s probably a good thing. The occasional interface issues and the stupid final boss are disappointing, but I had fun with it overall.