Category Archives: Super Famicom RPGs

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.

SFC Game 91 – Verne World

Verne World (ヴェルヌワールド), released 9/25/1995, published by Banpresto

The premise behind Verne World is certainly original. In 2028, to celebrate Jules Verne’s 200th birthday, a large theme park is built. It is manned almost entirely by robots, who will take visitors through several of Verne’s stories, acting out the parts of the heroes, villains, and side characters. The main character’s family is one of a number of people who are given a sneak peek at the park before it opens. But soon after they arrive, there are several earthquakes, and the main character and his little brother get separated from the family. Everyone then seems to have vanished, except for the robots, who are beginning to act under their own power and attack. The setting draws from eight of Verne’s books (I’ll give their common English names):

  • Dick Sand, a Captain at Fifteen
  • Five Weeks in a Balloon
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • Carpathian Castle
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • Facing the Flag
  • Around the Moon

I read Around the World in 80 Days when I was a kid, and I’ve heard of Journey and 20,000 Leagues; the other books I haven’t even heard of. The cover art shows all the characters in a rather unusual style:

The picture shows the 8 party members you can get during the game. From the top left they are Nicolai (a Russian who fights with his fists), Chris (an American nurse who fights with a basketball), David (an Englishman who fights with a rugby ball), Ai (your girlfriend who fights with a baseball), main character (who fights with a sword), Somu (an Indian who uses technology), Emma (a wheelchair-bound woman), Kei (main character’s younger brother), and then Shaolin (Chinese girl) at the very top . Unfortunately I named the main character kurisu as usual so I ended up with two people named Chris in the party (the default name is YOU).

The battle system has two kinds of special attacks. The first kind use something called GP (Guts Points) which is just the usual EP/MP. The second kind are called TW attacks (I never did figure out what that stands for) and use Energy. Energy serves as the currency in the shops, as well as the energy for these TW attacks. You equip them like items, and then “charge” up EP in the status menu. Some TW moves can only be used by certain characters.

With the exception of the very beginning, GP restoring items are so cheap and easily available that you will rarely use regular attacks. However, they miss quite frequently, and against bosses they can be a liability so TW attacks (which do not miss) are better. Most bosses have some kind of elemental weakness that you can exploit if you find it, but I found the most generally useful TW’s to be the various Chainsaws. There were some bosses they did not work on, but for the most part just spamming Chainsaw attacks with healing items was enough.

Sometimes you are also in vehicles, which have the same basic system but no TW attacks and the healing is done through Repair Kits.

First Kurisu and Kei try to contact Kurisu’s girlfriend Ai, but the connection is cut off. At the same time, they hear that someone named Emma is stuck in a ferris wheel and try to save her because at least then they’ll have another human.

Why is King Kong in the game? Anyway, he’s holding Emma, but once we beat him up he gives her back. Emma is in a wheelchair but knows a lot about computers so is a big help in figuring out where everyone is. Anyway I will try to hit the highlights of the story rather than covering everything (as I usually do unless the story is really good).

The basic way the plot moves is that we are trying to open up various areas that have been blocked by either flooding, broken doors, etc. Through a combination of Emma’s computer skills and going to places in person, we manage to continue on into the park. Usually the characters in the books (like Phineas Fogg) are helpful; they are somehow not affected by whatever has caused the majority of the robots to go berserk and fight us.

The game does not have you go literally through the plots of the books, but often you have to make your way through areas from the books that are full of danger — if the park were working correctly you would have “defeat the villains” through some scripted sequence and not be in any real danger, but here you actually have to fight your way through. Fortunately the theme park shops are still running normally so you can buy weapons, armor, and food along the way.

Eventually we learn that all this is happening because of Verne, the central robot that is supposed to be manning the whole thing. But a separate entity called Dark Verne has split off from Verne, and decided that humanity needs to be destroyed. The rest of the park humans (like kurisu’s parents) are in cold sleep for some reason; it was never made clear that I can remember why Dark Verne didn’t just kill them.

We also encounter someone named Gilarman, who has apparently come in from the outside and tries to take control of the situation by ordering us around. We sort of follow his instructions, but not always — eventually it turns out that Gilarman is behind the creation of Dark Verne; he did this to become superhuman and eventually take over the world (mwahaha). But he has lost control of the program, and after he continually tries to betray us and get back control of the island, Dark Verne eventually kills him by blowing up a helicopter he’s in.

Our ultimate goal is to take the Reset Disc to be able to restore the park to “factory settings”, so to speak, eliminating Dark Verne and all of Gilarman’s interference. This eventually requires fighting Dark Verne himself:

He heals himself once, but with chainsaws he was pretty easy. Then the final boss, which is computer-world Dark Verne:

This is a rather unusual final boss. He also heals himself and is a bit more tanky than regular Dark Verne, but at max level (64, which is very easy to attain) he goes down fairly easily.

After this everyone is restored from cold sleep with no memory of what happens, and the park is back to normal.

This isn’t a bad game, but it’s not one of the greats either. I will give it a lot of credit for the unique setting, and I think if you like Jules Verne and know more about the books than I do you may enjoy it more. I will also credit them for including a bunch of different characters from different countries and skin tones and not being super stereotypical about them (the African American Chris does play basketball which is a bit cliche but she’s also a social worker nurse.)

The battle system has enough variety that you cannot just hold down a turbo button in battles. The interface, for the most part, is very clean. Definitely a respectable mid-late SFC game.

SFC Game 90 – Metal Max Returns

Metal Max Returns (メタルマックスリターンズ), released 9/29/1995, developed by Data East

This is a remake of the long-running Metal Max series. Metal Max 2 was an early game I played for this blog, and in that post I mentioned that the newest game would be coming out that year — that was Metal Max Xeno (2018). Since then there has been an enhanced version of Xeno as well as a new game, Metal Dogs, that came out last year.

The remake completely redid the graphics, and they look better than Metal Max 2. The rest of the system and gameplay is essentially the same as Metal Max 2, which I don’t believe was all that different from the original Famicom game. From what I can see, the non-graphical changes to the game are mostly minor balance adjustments and things of that nature — with one exception, which I’ll mention later.

As with Metal Max 2, this is a non-linear, open-world-ish game. We’ve seen a number of these on the blog, and they’ve all used various methods to accomplish the non-linear gameplay. What Metal Max Returns does is essentially to separate the world into four or five regions. You have to accomplish something to get to the next region, and then there is a final boss. But the number of things you actually are required to do to win the game is very small, and most of the content is not required. However, you will not be able to beat the final boss (or the Big Cannons at the end of the second area) if you try to only do strictly what is required. So the rest of the content in the game is just there to give you interesting things to do while you build up your tanks and strength. The main change in Returns is that original had (I think) five bosses that blocked your way to new areas, where as Returns has only two (including the final boss series).

Just as in MM2, MMR has sixteen wanted monsters that you can beat to get XP and money. All of them are optional. There are also eight tanks you can acquire. I managed to get all the tanks and fifteen of the sixteen wanted monsters (two of them are very rare encounters). Some of them randomly appear in certain areas of the world map or in dungeons, others are found as specific encounters. You can run away from them in general so if you encounter them when you don’t want to fight them you can get away.

The game does not really have a story. The main character is the son of a mechanic, who kicks him out of the house when he decides to become a Hunter. Beyond that, there’s no real overall story development until the final boss. You can end the game at any time by returning to your dad and saying you want to quit being a Hunter. You have to confirm it four times and the last time he says “Are you serious? I’m going to save over your file now.” If you do that after you have beaten the final boss, you see the credits and ending sequence.

The tank system is the same as MM2. You have various types of weapons you can put on (if you have the right attachments on your tank), special weapons, and items. Everything has a weight, and the tank can only support a certain amount of weight determined by the chassis. Any leftover weight allowance will be “armor tiles”, which are essentially the tank’s HP. Once a tank’s armor tiles run out, further attacks will start destroying parts of the tank until it can no longer move. Parts can also be destroyed by certain attacks. This game also has the bird shit and mushrooms that take up space and have to get cleaned. You can tow one tank if it’s inoperable.

There is no game over; if you die your dad pulls you back to the first town and Dr. Minch (who was also in MM2) revives you. However, your companions are not there and I never figured out how to get them back, so I always reset when I got a game over.

Getting out of the first area just requires finding the first tank in the nearby cave. You can also clear the first wanted group here, the Salmonella Gang.

Getting out of the second area requires defeating two Mega Cannons. It would be basically impossible to go straight there and do it, but there are quite a few different places you can go in the second area first. My general method on gaining access to a new area was first to explore the whole land area to get it in my map, and to visit all the towns to see what kind of wanted monsters I could learn about and what new equipment I could buy. In the second area the main places are the factories at the shore, and some wanted monsters that can be picked up here.

Eventually after buying armor piercing shells, recruiting the second character (a mechanic) and getting a Buggy for him, and upgrading everyone, I was ready for the big cannons…more or less.

I had to use my full complement of armor piercing shells and most of my other resources. You have to beat two but can do them one at a time, which helps. After this, we open the third area.

Here you can pick up the third character, a soldier. Some players seem to have had a lot of difficulty activating the event that lets you recruit her but for me it just happened without issue. But it was a long time before I could get a third tank to give her one. This is also where you can now upgrade tanks by modifying their chassis to give them more weight allowance, and other such things.

From here to the end, the only required boss is the final sequence of boss battles at the end of the game. So by selective running from fights and such, you could now go all the way to the final area — getting out of the 3rd area is just talking to some people and going through a dungeon, and getting to the final area involves talking to some people in a tower. I did not go this quickly, though. A third tank is available by beating Mad Muscle but I found him very difficult and was not able to do it until I came back much later.

At this point I’m not sure I want to give a detailed recounting of everything I did; there’s no real story and I basically followed the outline I said above. Explore a whole region, buy new things, then start going in the dungeons in the area to see what I can find. Beat any wanted monsters I am able to, and go back to previous areas to sop up the wanted monsters I skipped.

Getting to one of the area involves toppling a tower to cover the water.

Anyway, eventually I had all 8 tanks and had beaten 14 of the 16 wanted monsters. The 15th one I was going to deal with, Bad Valdez, was quite challenging. However, raising your level helps quite a bit. I think I was at level 27 or so when I finally took him down.

The final dungeon is the Global Relief Center. At various points in the game you can hear some rumors about Noah, the computer system here. It turns out that Noah was created by scientists to fix the environmental problems in the world, and decided that the best way to fix them was to wipe out humanity. So Noah was the cause of the world apocalypse, and is also responsible for all the robots and such that are afflicting the world.

Noah has several forms, but I found him much easier than the final bosses of Metal Max 2. He hits just as hard but has fairly low HP.

Afterwards, I returned to my dad and told him I was ready to be a mechanic.

Then the credits roll and we get our stats and the level each wanted monster was beaten at. Afterwards it seems that Kurisu gets bored being a mechanic and goes off to be a Hunter again.

In the end I liked this game a lot more than Metal Max 2. I found the less restrictive nature of MMR was more fun. I still wish there were more complexity to the non-tank battle system since you have to use it so much. Has anyone played any more recent Metal Max series games?

SFC Game 89 – Magic Knight Rayearth

Magic Knight Rayearth (魔法騎士レイアース), released 9/29/1995, developed by Tomy

This is our second consecutive RPG based on a shojo manga. Magic Knight Rayearth was a series by the famous Clamp group that ran from 1993-1996. It had an anime adaptation, and there were a bunch of video games released in 1994 and 1995 for the Game Boy, Game Gear, Saturn, and this one for Super Famicom.

I never saw or read Rayearth so I do not have the nostalgic connection to the series that I do to Sailor Moon. I thought this game was greatly inferior to Sailor Moon, but some of that is probably that I’m not a fan of this series.

The game involves three 8th grade girls who get transported to a fantasy world and have to become the Magic Knights to save Rayearth. The game is an adaptation of the first half of the manga (the first storyline). It ends very abruptly because of this.

The three girls (from left to right above) are Ryuzaki Umi, Shidou Hikaru, and Hououji Fuu.

Because of the nature of the series, there is no equipment. Instead each girl has a weapon and an armor, that change a couple of times during the game and can be levelled up by fighting battles. Each girl will also gain the ability to use magic during the game; new spells can be gained by levelling up, and there are also a few powerful spells that are granted at certain points in the story. The battle system is normal DQ2 style, and there’s really not much to it — levelling is fairly quick and you can buy MP restoring items so the game goes smoothly. It’s also quite short.

When the story begins, Princess Emeraude has used Cephiro’s Pillar to summon the magic knights from the real world to Rayearth to defeat Zagato, a priest who was supposed to be her second in command but has turned against her and wants to reduce the world to nothing. (NOTE: I am not going to look up the official English romanizations for the names)

This magician Clef tells the three girls why they’ve been summoned, and tells them that the only way they’ll be able to get back to Earth is to defeat Zagato and have Emeraude send them back. First, they need to find the smith Presea so they can get their magic weapons.

At Presea’s, a little magic creature called Mocona joins up. Mocona can become a campsite where you can heal and save on the map, and will also perform various other helpful functions as the story progresses.

The girls need to find some Escudo so that Presea can forge their weapons. Meanwhile they meet a knight named Lafarga who was one of the Princess’ guards and wants to defeat Zagato, but he refuses to join the girls. On the way to find the Escudo, Clef reappears and gives Umi her water magic — unfortunately he doesn’t have time to give the rest of the girls theirs, because Alcione, one of Zagato’s servants, attacks.

Now you do a scenario with each of the three girls where they confront their weaknesses, and after that they gain the Escudo and their new weapons. I’m not entirely sure what the effect of getting these new weapons and levelling them up is, but I assume the attack increases.

The next goal is to revive the three legendary Mashins, which will give them power to defeat Zagato.

You have to go to three areas that represent one of the three Mashins associated with each girl (water, fire, wind). In each one you have to demonstrate your strength to the Mashin; it’s always by dealing with one of Zagato’s underlings and converting them to good by some method. Once all three Mashins give you their power, the girls reach their final upgrade.

Finally, we head to Zagato’s castle. First we have to make it through a mirror maze cave.

We then reach Zagato’s castle. It turns out that Zagato really just wants to break down the world so he can create a new one where Princess Emeraude doesn’t have to be bound to the Cephiro pillar. Once we beat him (and his Mashin form), there’s a final twist — Emeraude is in love with Zagato, and can’t deal with her anger that Zagato has been killed. She actually summoned the Magic Knights to kill her. This is the danger of the Pillar; the person who is chosen to pray for the world may have their thoughts distracted by things like love, causing problems.

Emeraude attacks you with her own Mashin form. Once killed, the girls get transported back to Tokyo Tower. Hikaru says “We have to get back!” and the game ends abruptly.

All in all this game was rather disappointing; it’s very short, with a high random encounter rate, and almost nothing to do other than just go straight through the story. Since it’s only the first part of the story, it has the most abrupt ending I’ve ever seen in an RPG. I suppose at least it plays smoothly (if you have a speedup key for the battles), and if you are a fan of Rayearth it should be worth a play. But it pales in comparison to the care with which Sailor Moon: Another Story was made. If any of the commenters were fans of this series, maybe you can tell me if that makes the game any better.

SFC Game 88 – Sailor Moon Another Story

Sailor Moon Another Story (美少女戦士セーラームーン ANOTHER STORY), released 9/22/1995, developed and published by Angel

I was (am?) a big fan of Sailor Moon. It was the first anime I really got into, back in the mid-90s when the dub was airing on American TV. I’m not sure why I liked it so much; part of it was the online community (in newsgroups and mailing lists) and part of it me wanting to see a cartoon with a developing storyline. I eventually acquired the whole series on VHS tapes (fansubs) and have watched all 200 episodes several times. I no longer own the VHS tapes though.

This means that while I’ve played many games so far based on existing anime, manga, etc, this is the first one that is based on a show I was really into. Probably the one before this that I knew the most about was Ranma 1/2, and that was a pretty crappy game overall. This game, on the other hand, is pretty well done in terms of adapting the original property and making something that will interest fans of the game. It would have been easy to just cram a retelling of the show or lazy product, but the story goes above and beyond that. It involves entirely new villains that do not seem out of place, and examines areas of the original story that were hardly touched on (particularly the future Silver Millennium and the past Moon Kingdom).

The game was developed while the manga was still running. When the development started, the third storyline (S) hadn’t started; when the game was released, the fourth storyline (SuperS) was currently running in both anime and manga form. Because of this, the developers were working off information from Naoko Takeuchi about how the story would develop. The story takes place after the third storyline (S), and mostly seems to follow the manga, although some anime-only things are included (most of the random encounter monsters are from the anime), and there are even references to the R and S movies. I think if you are a fan of Sailor Moon there is a lot to like about the story. If you are not, I think the story may be less interesting/effective.

There is a translation patch which was released a long time ago, but someone updated it with some various fixes and a “no-grind” patch that reduces the random encounter rate and doubles the xp/gold from each encounter.

All ten of the Sailor Senshi introduced so far are in the game, along with all the powers from both the anime and manga. They also have voice clips for all the attacks as well as their transformation lines.

The graphics on the whole are pretty good. I appreciate the face images in the dialogue (why don’t more games do this!) Since they had a large collection of enemies to draw on from the anime, there aren’t a bunch of palette swap monsters and the in-battle graphics are decent as well.

One of the challenges often faced by developers of games like this is being faithful to the original ideas while still creating RPG-like gameplay. In the manga and anime, they typically only fight one monster at a time, and a single attack by Sailor Moon is the only thing that can kill it (usually one other senshi will use an attack to weaken or stun it). This is a similar problem that was faced by the Fist of the North Star RPG creators — in that anime, the whole point is that people like Kenshiro can only be fairly matched against a small number of others who are trained like them. Kenshiro can take out a normal thug without even breaking a sweat.

So you basically have three choices, I think, in adapting something like this:

  • Try to create a completely new battle system that allows for more faithfulness to the source. I think Dragon Ball is the main example I can think of of a game that did this; it’s not a common technique probably because it’s not easy to do and takes more time.
  • Put some explanation in the story for why the characters cannot fight as well as they can in the original source. Slayers did this by having the “memory loss Lina” that couldn’t use most of her spells. This is not an attractive option because it may annoy players who want to play the original characters as they were in the source.
  • Just use a normal RPG system, and hope that the players will be happy enough to play their favorite characters that they’ll overlook how nonsensical it is (or they will understand that there was no way to adapt the original ideas into a satisfying RPG).

The third option is what most of the series take, and it’s what Sailor Moon Another Story does as well. Here, any move can beat the enemies, and Sailor Moon’s own moves are just damage-dealing moves like any other that she might have to use 2 or 3 times and not even kill the enemy. I think it works, though. An interesting choice they made was to completely restore EP after every battle so that you can make heavy use of the special moves rather than just basic attacks.

The other aspects to the battle system are Link Techs, where two (or three) senshi combine their powers, and Formation Techs (which I never used). There are four formations that increase or decrease the attack/defense of senshi in particular spots — for instance, the “Cluster” formation quadruples the attack of the center senshi but lowers the defense/attack quite a bit of everyone else.

Because of the setting, there are no weapons and armor to equip, just accessories (which are mostly rings, earrings, bracelets, etc).

The game is divided into four chapters. The story beings in the Silver Millennium in the future, where a comet is coming and there is a strange epidemic. Back in the present, old enemies are appearing again in Tokyo.

Fan favorite Hotaru changes from a baby back into Sailor Saturn again. She really shouldn’t have a move that just damages random enemies since she’s supposed to destroy planets, but we’ll allow it.

The first chapter just hints at what’s going on, with a new enemy revealing herself as “Sin”, and various dreams and prophecies. The inner senshi are all captured by Sin, and during the rescue you get various glimpses of their dream “perfect lives” that they’ve abandoned to be warriors (this was in the R Movie also I think). Sin also has 5 underlings headed by Apsu. Their goal is to get the Ginzuishou (silver crystal) from Sailor Moon. The senshi succeed in fighting them off but Mamoru (Tuxedo Kamen) is injured, a common situation for him.

In Chapter 2, the Inner senshi have to go around to different places by themselves to recover four gems based on the four generals of the first series. The game draws from the manga in making the four generals servants of Endymion (Mamoru’s past life); this was never stated in the anime. Each of the four stories involves one of the enemy underlings, and develops their backstories and why they joined Sin. They were all dissatisfied with life in the Silver Millennium in some way.

One big complaint about the game that I think is accurate is that there’s too much grinding; whenever you reach a new area the enemies outclass you by quite a bit and you have to do some levelling. It doesn’t take that long but it’s a bit annoying. The boss of Mercury’s segment here is particularly difficult (the no-grind patch hacked something here to make it a bit easier).

Now that we have the four gems, we still need the Rose Crystal, which is chapter 3 — the Outer senshi and Moon are going after the Rose Crystal while the Inners are gone. Saturn’s Death Reborn Revolution is really good so I usually put her in the middle of the Cluster formation.

This chapter also starts the relationship between Chibi-Usa and an enemy Anshar, a kid with a pet. This seems at least a bit similar to the Chibi-Usa/Helios story from the 4th season, making me wonder if they based this on future ideas for the story.

This chapter has you fighting all the Death Busters, Mistress 9, and Professor Tomoe again from S, followed by Queen Beryl from the original season. I have mixed feelings about the reappearance of all the old enemies from the previous seasons — I feel like they did it just to appeal to fans rather than because it fit organically into the story. They never really fully explain why some of the people came back. I suppose it’s a small complaint but it may lessen the appeal of the game to people who are not fans of Sailor Moon. In any case we fail to gain the Rose Crystal from Anshar, ending chapter 3.

In chapter 4 we find out the enemies are messing around in the past, threatening to change the timeline. So we use the Time Corridor (getting Sailor Pluto on the team) to go back. This is a nice chance to see Beryl and the Generals before they turned to the evil side, and also see original Queen Serenity. We also have to fight the villains from the second season (R) again.

We finally see here more motivation of the enemies — Sin, the leader, is going to die soon. Apsu, the sister of Anshar, was pissed off when the Dark Moon killed her parents, and wondered why the sailor senshi were just protecting Neo Queen Serenity rather than helping her parents.

However, we do manage to recover the Rose Crystal and heal Mamoru. Now it’s time for the final chapter.

At this point you have enough money to have 99 colognes (full MP restore for everyone). With this, you can have Pluto use Time Stop every round, which even freezes bosses (including the final boss). So all you have to do is have three characters use strong attacks (I did a triple tech with Mars-Jupiter-Uranus), then a 4th character use a cologne, and Pluto Time stop every round. If you do this, as long as you are at a high enough level to do reasonable damage and you can make it through the first round of combat without anyone getting confused/entranced/etc, you win every boss fight.

Here we do the final battles against the various underlings who then see the error of their ways. But Sin and Apsu still remain — first we have to defeat Apsu, and then a combination of Apsu and Sin. I thought the final section was a bit less satisfying than the others in terms of the motivation and background of the enemies, but it’s still a decent conclusion to the storyline.

Overall I did enjoy this game quite a bit despite the flaws in the system. Certainly a good part of this was my like for Sailor Moon in general, but I think it shows that this was a good adaptation of the source material, and it gives you a nice chance to see things that were never really touched on much in the original series. It also creates some interesting villains that would fit in the source manga/anime as well as fleshing out the main characters a bit.

I do wonder how people unfamiliar with Sailor Moon would like this game — I have a feeling not all that much since the game system is not necessarily the best in the world, and there is quite a bit of grinding involved. It does make me wonder if I would have had a better opinion of some of the other IP-based games I’ve played in the past if I had played those series.

Actually the next game is also a shojo manga (Magic Knight Rayearth). But first there will be two posts about SRPGs I only played the first few stages of.

SFC Game 87 – Super Magic Continent WOZZ (Part 2)

I left off last time with three more continents to explore. A few things happen at this point:

  • Money becomes nearly a non-issue, especially when it comes to items. You can easily have 300-500 (or even 999) of healing and MP restoring items. Leona will also learn how to make good MP/HP restoring items as well. This doesn’t make the game a complete cakewalk but it certainly lowers the difficulty.
  • You can start making vehicles to drive on the overworld. These have their own HP and attacks. They can only be made at factories in towns (which is also where you can repair them; you can also buy repairing items).
  • Leona can also make robots for Chun to summon in battle; I basically didn’t use these at all. Apparently there is one good robot near the end of the game but you can permanently miss it by not talking to someone in a town so I did not have it.

The next continent is Undetta, which has zombie, ghost, and skeleton villages.

The basic idea here is that each of the three villages has one guardian that the enemies are trying to destroy; if they succeed it will ruin the continent. A new party member ghost joins here, and we manage to save all three spirits. Next up is Anthill Tower where the boss of this region (Queen Artemis) is found.

After this Madisto leaves the party; too bad because his healing spells are very good. He does teach Chun some of the healing spells but they’re not powerful enough at the moment to be as good. I think this is one of the more difficult parts of the game because you have to work to make the healing sufficient to deal with the damage done by the bosses.

Now we have only the left continent left. The bottom desert part is Illuse, but to get there we need a ship. Leona creates one but first we have to deal with pirates — once the pirates are taken care of, the leader joins and we make it to Illuse. We can also travel around to the smaller islands here and there but there’s nothing game-breaking in any of them.

The goal in this section is to reach the temple at the top. Unfortunately villagers here have been tricked by Balam and we get shut in a prison where we fight all the previous bosses again.

There are also oases. At one of them Leona learns to make a 999 MP restore item which is quite useful. Unfortunately when we reach the temple, Balam’s shadow sends us down into the Dark World.

In the Dark World we get another companion — Ramune, the daughter of the ruler of the world of the dead “Pades” (later we get the lord of heaven “seus”). There’s some optional tournament and cave but I just went for the escape.

The boss here is somewhat challenging because of the 8-hit attack and the still somewhat ineffective healing.

Now it’s on to the last continent, the Demon area. Leona learns to build an airplane here so now we can fly anywhere.

The Demons are actually pretty friendly and don’t seem to like Balam very much. After some adventuring, we eventually reach the Pureland in the sky, where Balam is attacking Seus the king of heaven.

Balam decides to send us back to Earth in an attempt to get us out of his way, but Leona just grabs some inventing stuff and then heads back to Wozz through a portal (before it closes). Now for the final dungeon. I used Vargas (the pirate) as my 4th character since you can get his strongest sword for doing a sidequest of returning kittens to the wind fairy.

Balam has two forms. The first is pretty easy, the second is not.

The main problem is his “arm attack” which does 8 attacks at once and can easily wipe your party or put you in a position where you can’t keep up with the healing. However, his HP are relatively low and by just trying a few times I was able to get lucky enough with the Arm Attack that I won.

However, we don’t get back to Earth as promised. Well, that’s OK, maybe Madisto can help us. At this point the world is empty of monsters. Madisto beckons us to his basement, where there are monsters!

This is the big twist of the game. Madisto had very little magic power, which is bad when you are in the Magic Land of Wozz. He was tired of being looked down on, so he made a portal to Earth. He was the one who sent Balam to Earth to test it out, and now he’s ready to take over the world.

He has one devastating attack that hits everyone. After several losses I did a bit of grinding to move from 57 to 60 (with the help of a code); if you do that you can make the strongest weapons for Leona and Shott. More helpfully, Chun was then faster than Madisto and could always start the round with a full heal. Madisto’s HP are fairly low so it’s not very hard to win from here.

At this point we’re able to use some of Madisto’s remaining stuff to get back to Earth, where Leona is on her way to an invention conference.

I looked at English reviews of this game, and they were quite harsh. People fault the poor graphics (for late 1995), the lack of story development, the lack of character development, and the repetitive battles and dungeons. While I can’t disagree with these criticisms, I invite these people to play the previous 86 games I played and then see how good this is compared to those games!

SFC Game 87 – Super Magic Continent WOZZ (Part 1)

Chou Mahou Tairiku WOZZ (超魔法大陸WOZZ), released 8/4/1995 by Bulletproof Software

(First off, I want to thank commenter Endy who has been commenting on a lot of older posts, linking to archived images of Famitsu previews of the games — the screenshots often show interesting pre-development images.)

BPS, the developer, was the Japanese arm of Blue Planet Software, the company responsible for releasing most of the early console versions of Tetris, and developing Bombliss. This seems to be their first console JRPG; they’ll be on here one more time with “Beast and Blade”. They closed shop in 2001.

The basic premise is that the land of Wozz is being afflicted by the evil king Baram, who has been using technology from the human world to take over Wozz. He also has made the rain turn people into monsters. So the great magician Sullivan decides to bring over a hero from the human world to deal with the problem. He ends up transporting over three “heroes”.

From left to right on the platform (opposite from the title screen), there is Leona, a Japanese inventor girl. Shot, a brash American (who shoots a bow). Chun, a Chinese telepath. You can choose which one of these you want to be your main character. All three accompany you no matter what so the choice of main character only makes a slight difference here and there. I chose Leona. Her special power is that she can invent things.

She can learn new inventions by levelling up, getting recipes from chests/bookcases/etc, or having people teach her. From the menu you can make the weapons, armor, or items as long as you have the resources necessary. She can also make vehicles and robots, but this can only be done at invention stations in towns.

Shot is just an attacker; he gets special moves but for some reason only two of them during the game. Chun begins with Telepathy that can do a bunch of random effects, but will learn magic later. The magic system upgrades his magic after a certain number of battles. However, the number of battles is pretty high (I’m in the last fifth of the game as I type this and most of my spells are only at level 3-4 out of 7). Other companions will join as a 4th member throughout the game. Sometimes you can freely choose, other times a member will be forced for some part of the game.

Finally we have a relatively clean interface and no annoying inventory limits (you can even hold 999 of each item!) It’s not perfect; I would have liked a “best equip” choice, but given the crappy interfaces that most of these games seem to have I can’t complain much. The walking speed is also too slow and there’s no dash button, which is unusual at this stage. Two steps forward, one step back, I guess.

Our first mission is to stop the FearRain that is causing the people to turn to monsters. The battle system is basic RPG style. Leona can scan enemies for weakness, and the other two have their powers. One nice thing about the game is that money is plentiful (after the first couple of dungeons) and MP restoring items cheap, so you don’t really have to worry about using too much MP. The only time it does become an issue is in some boss fights, where the MP restoring items you have access to don’t heal as much MP as you would like. But this game doesn’t have much challenge so I suppose that’s a good thing.

We go to a nearby cave where Balam supposedly is, but it turns out to just be Balamo, one of his underlings. The early boss fights are a little bit challenging; what you have to do is just have Chun use Telekenesis and hope you get a lot of “rock drop” which does a ton of damage.

The great wizard Sullivan taught Chun how to use magic, so we can collect the various types of magic from fairies throughout the world. The first comes soon in the “fire forest”, although you have to walk behind a mountain to get there which is kind of cheap since it’s not clear you can do that.

Heading north, we come across a native inventor Madisto, who agrees to join our party if we can bring him some dinosaur DNA from a nearby lab (is he planning a park?) Once we do he joins. He’s quite helpful because he has powerful healing magics right from the start; I used him as often as I could until later in the game when he leaves the party.

Eventually we do come across the source of the FearRain, which is a whale that has been corrupted to shoot out the rain from its blowhole. So Leona has to invent a cleaner to attach to its hole, after we deal with a rather challenging boss. The Zanzori boss here was the only time I had to do any grinding in the game.

Now that we’ve stopped the FearRain, it’s time to head to the next continent. The game basically plays out over several continents, which have their own features:

  • Magic Land (where you start, with wizards/alchemists)
  • Elemen (spirits)
  • Undeata (skeletons, zombies, ghosts)
  • Iryuzu (witches)
  • Delmon (demons)

There are other areas than this, but this is the main flow of the game. As far as the story goes, there aren’t a lot of developments or twists; there’s a lot of comical dialogue but not a whole lot of character development either. It’s mostly just going through these continents solving the problems and driving away Balam’s underlings.

Elemen is a cold area, where you have to drive off an underling named Maif and her two servants.

Two new companions come on board here — Eliza and Ceramic. Ceramic has all status heal moves, which makes her rather useless, but Eliza is a decent fighter.

Maif is tough, mostly because you can’t use Madisto so you don’t have a good healer. She uses some nasty all-effect magic, and I think some of this battle is based on luck — if she decides to use her all attack too many times in a row it’s tough to deal with. But my basic strategy was just to have Shott doing most of the damage with Power Shot. Kurisu heals and the rest of the team either does minor damage or heals if they have a chance.

That’s where I will end this post; I’m on the last area of the game as I type this but I’m going to be away this weekend for the 4th of July so I won’t be able to finish the game in time. Overall this is a decent game; it’s not a masterpiece but it’s playable and relatively fun.

SFC Game 86 – Dunquest Legend of the Demon God’s Seal

Dunquest (ダンクエスト 魔神封印の伝説), released 7/21/1995, developed and published by Technos Japan

This game is classified as an Action RPG in many places, but to me it feels more like it’s somewhere between a Mysterious Dungeon game and a true RPG. The developer Technos Japan is best known for the Kunio-kun series (i.e. River City Ransom, Crash ‘n’ the Boys) and Double Dragon. They also produced the RPG-adjacent Sugoroku Quest (one of those board games that has RPG elements), but I don’t think they ever produced a full RPG.

The story takes place on Laster Island, part of the Malkes kingdom. There’s a legend that a demon god is sealed there but will return some day, and the current king is gathering heroes in preparation — including Kurisu, our hero. But Kurisu is just sent on various missions in four surrounding dungeons, and there’s uncertainty about whether the demon god will actually revive or whether it’s just a legend. I only played about half the game, but according to the Wikipedia article there are actually some interesting story twists near the end and it doesn’t end with just a simple “of course the demon lord revives” at the end.

The game does not have a traditional levelling system. Instead, each major quest you complete gives you the next rank, up to 17 (“Duke”) at the end of the game. When you gain a rank, you get some stat bonuses too. With the exception of the HP, these can be freely switched between Attack, Magic, and Defend.

In addition to this, the weapons and armor get better as you use them (like Xanadu) up to a defined limit. Finally, you have individual XP with each monster in the game, and the more XP you get vs a monster, the more damage you do and the less damage you will take.

Finding the next major quest is not always an easy task, or sometimes you get a vague instruction like “find out why these earthquakes are happening” but no indication of even which of the four dungeons this is in. I don’t know whether this is because I didn’t find the right people to talk to in town for information, or whether it was the designers’ intent that you would simply go through the dungeons seeing what you could find.

There are four dungeons, each with 35 floors. It feels a bit like a Mysterious Dungeon game except that the layouts are not random. One of my biggest issues with the game is that you always have to start from floor 1 of the dungeon, and you don’t do the dungeons in sequence. One quest will be on floor 7 of the Ice Temple and the next will be on floor 11 of the mines, then back to floor 15 of the Ice Temple. It would be helpful to make maps of the dungeons so that you can quickly get through the lower levels.

Each floor has a red chest which can only be opened with keys you buy in town. There are also brown chests which regenerate and give gold, and random items on the floor (like potions or scrolls that cast spells). Monsters appear out of summoning circles on the floor. The combat system is action RPG style where you hit the button to swing the sword. Some enemies have distance attacks, and you can also use spells yourself from scrolls. The number 28 at the top left in that picture shows how many of the current item you have (which can be used with X).

The system is real time rather than the Mysterious Dungeon turn based style. Often you can attack and then move back a space to dodge the enemy’s attack, and repeat. But you can get trapped in narrow corridors and killed easily, and some teleporting enemies are annoying.

One problem I kept running into was not being able to hurt the monsters at all, despite having the best weapon at 100%. The weapon and armor upgrades are pretty limited and don’t increase your attack/defense all that much. You can of course put more points into attack but sometimes even that wasn’t enough. I still managed to progress by simply avoiding the enemies, but this seems like either a design flaw or something I just didn’t understand about the game. You can use magic to defeat some of these enemies but that supply is limited. If you die, you are returned to the town with half your gold.

The dungeons also have a lot of traps, and every floor has warps that send you to different places in the floor.

One thing that is often praised is the number of things you can check in the town for unique messages, but this is just for flavor.

I played up to rank 10, so a little over half the game. The major quests of course involve doing things in the dungeons — some of them are beating a boss, some are finding an item, and others are talking to people on some floor of the dungeon. There are also additional bosses and other things that aren’t part of the main quests. I think some of these are for subquests, some may just be for completion purposes. There is also some kind of post-game scenario.

Looking around at various blogs and reviews of this game, it seems like opinions are fairly divided. Some consider it a bad game, but some really liked it a lot — I guess it probably just depends on whether this style of game appeals to you. I found the need to repeatedly go through the early parts of every dungeon over and over again annoying, but the game wasn’t terrible. It’s just (to me) not quite an RPG.

SFC Game 85 – Mystic Ark

Mystic Ark (ミスティックアーク), released 7/14/1995, developed by Produce!, published by ENIX

Produce!, the developer of this game, also worked on Elnard (7th Saga), Brain Lord, and Nekketsu Tairiku Burning Heroes. Although this is not a real sequel to any of those games, there are some reused assets and similarities. Apparently there was a plan to release the game in the US as “7th Saga II” but it never happened. There is a translation patch, though.

The opening shows six characters being attacked by a spinning square and teleported away somewhere. These are the six party members you can have (in addition to the main character). None of them have any backstory or dialogue in the game; perhaps there was some in the instruction manual? This I think is one of the weaknesses of the game; the party members are just statistics and powers, with no role in the story at all. None of them have any lines of dialogue (the main character is also silent).

Everyone seems to have turned into these wooden figurines in a strange temple of some kind. The main character Kurisu is transformed back into a human. At the beginning you can’t pick up any of the figures, and wandering around the church there are various rooms, some of which are open, that have objects in them. You can interact with a lot of objects in this game in this way:

You will have various options — touch, look, shake, and use items, etc. This adds an adventure-game like element to the game. A lot of things right now can’t be affected, but a fireplace will talk, and Kurisu learns that she’s supposed to get 7 Arks in 7 different worlds. She also gets the Crystal, which acts as the enemy radar (like in 7th saga) and also can warp to different places, but not in dungeons. It also turns out that by going to the ship above we can reach the first world — a world of pirate cats.

The basic flow of the whole game is that you enter a world, solve some problem there, and then find one of the seven Arks. Then you’ll be able to use that Ark in some way back in the main church to open the way to another world. Once you get all seven arks you can go to the final dungeon and win the game.

The battle system is more or less standard. Each character has powers they gain with level ups that do various things (special attacks, defense, etc.) and some of them get spells. One nice feature is that you can see the enemy HP. The main character will soon get a power called Figurine that can transform monsters into Figurines. I never found a purpose for these figurines but I think I didn’t explore optional things enough; there is some monster arena and maybe a place you can trade them in but if you just stick to the main quest there’s no point.

There are two sets of feuding pirate cats but they’ve forgotten why they’re fighting. Kurisu sort of plays both sides and eventually with the help of a witch stops them from fighting…although the world does flood, so that’s not great. Eventually Kurisu comes across a temple that holds the Power Ark.

Now Kurisu can pick up the six figurines in the main room of the church. By using the Ark of Power on one of them they will come to life. Simply carrying the other figurines in your inventory will earn them XP; the person you actually have out seems to earn more, but the figurines won’t fall too far behind. The six characters are Miriene (an offensive magic specialist), Lux (a robot with high defense), Resheene (A martial arts fighter, who I’m using in the above screenshot), Tokio (Ninja), Kamiwoo (beast fighter), and Meshia (healer).

The way the party members work is somewhat frustrating, though. Any time you go back to the church, they return to figurines so you’ll have to bring them out again when you go into a world. If they hit 0 hp in battle, they are returned to the church in figurine form, so you have to go all the way back to the church to get them. If the main character hits 0 hp, it’s game over (back to the last inn with 1/2 gold). This is really unacceptable in a game that has instant death spells from the enemies. I had a number of times where I got a game over or a party member death from full HP having taken only one action in combat (or even zero actions in one case). I used save states to a limited extent because of this.

The second world is a strange “fruit world” where people are building their homes in giant fruits. You have to help them find seeds, get water, and defeat the evil foxes and beetles that are trying to attack them. Most bosses at this stage go down to a pretty easy combination of attack and heal — some of them have annoying heal spells themselves, but they’ll run out of MP eventually. One the final fox is defeated, Kurisu recovers the Ark of Light. This Ark can be put into a weapon to give that weapon a thunder element and increase the damage.

Next up is a children’s world, inhabited only by children and one older woman looking after them. Sometimes you will find hearts in the world which you can take back to the church and put into figurines there to restore the people to the world. In addition, the Arks can often be used on objects — for instance, the Ark of Power may let you lift something you wouldn’t be able to, and the Ark of Light might illuminate something. This is more of the adventure-game like gameplay.

The main problem in the children’s world is that the older woman seems to have made some pact with a Chimera to create this world for the children, but the Chimera wants to use her magic power for his own end. Eventually she rejects him but we have to beat him up to free her from its power.

Once this is done, we find the Ark of Wisdom, which can get a third party member. At this point the boss battles become a bit easier because the Power and Speed buff spells stack, so with a party like Kurisu-Meshia-Resheen/Kamiwoo you can have Kurisu heal while Meshia buffs the third person’s power up to max (and speed if necessary). Meshia can also “compassion” to restore her own MP. I used this strategy on most of the remaining bosses.

Next up is the Machine World, which is all black and white.

There are machines all over the place. Going further through the world we see that another area of the world has no sound, and a third area turned everyone old. All of it seems to be the fault of malfunctioning machines, maybe. Eventually with the help of the scientists Edison and Einstein, we make it into the depths of a large industrial complex where slaves are working to make robots. Here Kurisu recovers the Ark of Fire, restoring the world to normal. The Fire Ark is another one that can be put into a weapon.

Next up is the Wind World, although the wind has stopped and there’s a big giant threatening the land. Here the Ark of Wood is in the first room you appear in but the villagers won’t let you take it until you solve their problem. It’s another world that involves machines; eventually you encounter clones, headed up by the Ancient One. He’s strong but goes down to the buff strategy — he says that some “darkness” awoke him earlier than he should have. We’ve heard hints of this darkness elsewhere.

The next world, the Dark World, is a nice change of pace — you only have Kurisu and the focus is mainly on the puzzle solving, although you do have to fight some encounters. Once again this “darkness” seems to be meddling with things.

Finally there is the fairy tale world, with a bunch of characters from well known fairy tales — the ant and the grasshopper, Cinderella, Pinocchio, the Emperor’s New Clothes, the Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding hood, and others. Here the “darkness” comes out explicitly, wanting to turn everything into figurines. We have to beat the big bad wolf, help Cinderella get to the ball, and other things of that nature.

Finally we fight the Darkness, and then get the final Ark, as the Darkness retreats to the final area. There are a few subbosses in the final short dungeon, and then the final boss — the Evil Heart. His goal is to return everything to a state of stillness, with no will or thought.

He’s pretty tough but if you use Mirrors to block his spells and then max Resheene’s power and speed, she can Kick with a decent enough success rate to make it worthwhile.

After defeating him, the voice behind the fireplace and the statue that has been giving us hints all game tells us what happened. The church and all seven worlds were created by this being to test Kurisu, as preparation for her entering the world she is supposed to be in. The “darkness” was supposed to be the final encounter, created from the evil in Kurisu’s heart. But it was too strong and it broke the being into seven parts (the Arks). Now that the darkness has been defeated, Kurisu can head to the new world.

During the credits sequence, all the party members are shown returning to their home worlds. Then Kurisu goes through a door of light. The screen goes dark; at this point there are sound effects that I think are supposed to represent a street with honking horns indicating that Kurisu is in our world, but it was hard to tell if that was the intent.

This game was a little disappointing, although not bad. Before I started the blog I would have expected something like this to be a below average game; in fact I would put it in the top third or maybe even 25% of games I’ve played. But the story is rather thin. The individual worlds are interesting and have some fun characters, but I wish the party members had more presence in the game. Also the final reveal is sort of dumb. The gameplay is overall decent, but the way the game deals with hitting 0 hp is annoying, despite the thematic reason for it. The graphics and music are good though, with some memorable BGM.

Next up will be Dunquest, a sort of action RPG game that’s a bit like the Torneko’s Dungeon series but without the random floors.