Category Archives: Super Famicom RPGs

SFC Wrap-up

7 years ago I decided to play all the RPGs for the Super Famicom that had not been released in English. I now have completed this, more or less. There are some games I skipped that perhaps I shouldn’t have, some games I didn’t finish, and a few that I “finished” on a technicality. But I feel like I fulfilled what I set out to do.

If you’ve read many of my posts this may not be a big surprise, but the games on the whole were much worse than I thought they would be. I wasn’t expecting to find a ton of games that could match up to the stuff Square was releasing, but I thought more companies would at least copy them. It’s amazing that Final Fantasy VI, if I had played it, would have been game 48 out of 129. And yet FF6 is miles ahead of almost every game that was released after it.

It was surprising to find companies releasing games well into 1995 that were offering almost no innovation over the system that Dragon Quest II had in 1987. Even when they do add a bit of stuff, it’s often poorly implemented. The interfaces are also not great.

So it’s unfortunate that overall I enjoyed the games less than I thought I would. The saving grace was that for a lot of them I could listen to podcasts or watch some football game (in the fall and winter) while I played them. There was a point at which I was wondering whether I just didn’t like retro games at all, but when I did the SRPG games I enjoyed those much more than the SFC RPGs, even the ones that weren’t so great.

Here are my top 13 favorite games I played on the blog (not counting the SRPGs):

And the 10 worst games

In closing, thank you to everyone who read my posts over the years, and especially to those who commented. Also thanks to my Acer Spin 3 for running all the games, and the DS4 wireless controller for handling most of the input. In the 7 years since I started the blog I moved three times and worked at 4 different places, but this was sort of a standard thing that I kept up…hopefully I can continue going forward for at least another few years.

SFC Game 128 – Solid Runner

Solid Runner (ソリッドランナー), released 3/28/1997, developed by Sting, published by ASCII

It was a strange experience starting up this game — it’s been sitting on my list for years as the final game I would play (at least once I started the SRPG project so that FE5 was no longer the last game). I didn’t know anything about it and have never heard anyone say anything about the game. But it’s probably a good final game in that it embodies a lot of the frustration that has arisen for me throughout the project. The game has a nice setting and the story has interesting aspects, but it’s hampered by a high random encounter rate and an interface that isn’t always friendly.

Of course as is true for most late-era SFC games, the graphics are good. The main character is Shuu Askin, who lives in Solid City. The game is taking place in 21XX in the real world; I think Solid City is supposed to be in Japan although the entire game is in the city so it’s not completely clear. Shuu uses a “runner” (basically a mech) to carry out various jobs for money. He’s engaged to Airin, the daughter of Tao who is the head of “Dark Dragon”, the town’s Chinese mafia. Recently they are having trouble with Babaria, a gang that has come in from Europe, who is selling drugs in the town.

The first part of the game is just taking some random jobs — a number of them involve “bio monsters” who are some kind of human-monster hybrid; this may be caused by the drugs or some other thing.

Shuu has a computer where he takes requests. You can also pay a small amount of money for rumors and information, but I was never clear on exactly what the purpose of that was. Maybe it unlocks some of the requests? (I think a few of them are optional). Once you have a request you have to go out to the town.

You can visit any place you know about (or at least is relevant) in the 10 sectors. At some point you will proceed to a dungeon area.

The random encounter rate is high. Every battle is 1 vs 1, which is pretty unusual for an RPG at this stage. You can use one of 4 weapons, which are generally two shoulder-mounted missile type things (which can reload at the cost of a turn), and then your right and left hand (which can be freely assigned but I usually had one melee and one shooting weapon). If you do a shooting weapon you can also hold left or right to strafe.

Both you and the enemy act at the same time. Depending on the moves chosen, one side might get an advantage — for instance, a strafe shot has the advantage over a melee attack. As far as I know there is no way to tell what the enemy is going to do except that enemies seem to have patterns that you can memorize (maybe even including bosses).

You can also “boost” which will increase your power for that round but runs the risk of breaking the weapon.

When you level up, you get stat bonuses and then you can go back to your base and pay the mechanic to raise the mech’s HP (and recover it to full). This is the only way to recover your mech’s HP aside from using items. Money is only gotten from completing requests (I think there are only 10 or so that actually give money) or selling drop items. Later on you can fight in a tournament that gives some extra money, but money is quite tight in general.

Buying things from the shop is frustrating because (in 1997!) the interface is still not very good in terms of showing you what kinds of items you are buying or how good they are compared to your current equipment.

The story is quite dark. Shuu used to be a soldier, but he quit after an incident he was involved in where civilians were killed by his troop. After a few missions, Babaria attacks Tao’s house, killing both him and Airin (Shuu’s fiancee). After that, Shuu’s goal is simply to take down Babaria.

Many of the requests are also quite dark stories, often ending with the deaths of people you were trying to save.

Around a third of the way through the game I lost one of my weapons to a boost, and I equipped an item I had found in a dungeon. This turned out to be very lucky because it was a melee weapon that inflicts the lightning bolt status on the enemy, which lowers their hit rate. This weapon made 90% of the remaining battles in the game trivial, including many of the bosses. The only enemies that presented any kind of challenge were ones that were immune to the status effect, and often I just ran from those fights.

I think the writer of the gamefaqs walkthrough was not aware of this because he recommends a ridiculous amount of grinding levels (especially near the end); I beat the game something like 30 levels below his recommendation.

The dungeons tend to be large and involve a lot of “throw switch to open door” or “find the keycard”. There were times when I turned on a no-encounter cheat because of how frustrating it was to figure out where to go when you are encountering monsters every few steps.

The storyline grows to involve Babaria’s research into bio creatures, and the attempts of some of the creatures to form their own way aside from humans. Babaria’s leader is I believe supposed to be a descendant of either Hitler or one of the high ranking Nazis.

Overall the story is not bad, and it’s unfortunate that it wasn’t paired with a somewhat better system — this is far from the worst I’ve played but there were so many ways that it could have been improved.

The end of the game at least is relatively happy, with Shuu finding a new love and continuing his work in Solid City.

So that is it — with game 128 I have (more or less) completed the project I set out to do when I started seven years ago nearly to the day (my first post was Feb 3, 2017 but I don’t know if that was the exact day I started playing GD Leen). It is very nice to have this off my plate.

I will do “final thoughts” post on the Super Famicom Games sometime in the middle of this week, and then starting next Saturday we’ll be back to 1998 SRPGs.

SFC Game 127 – Dark Law: Meaning of Death

DARK LAW 〜Meaning of Death〜, released 3/28/1997, released by ASCII

ASCII is responsible for a lot of the late Super Famicom RPGs. This one fits in to a kind of “spiritual trilogy” with Dark Lord (for Famicom) and Wizap! When I played Wizap! I found it difficult to play, with a rather inscrutable system and annoying gameplay. I have the same feeling about Dark Law. It’s interesting that even the positive reviews of the game (both in English and Japanese) spend most of the review trashing the game but then say that “despite this I enjoyed it” or “you will feel accomplished if you beat it.”

The story involves two gods that are normally in balance, but the evil god has gained too much power, and now in the land of Rayfoll, monsters have appeared. You begin by creating between 1 and 4 characters (just names, genders, and assigning stat points). You can use up to 3 of them at a time. None of them have any story.

There are basically two things you can do in the game. The first is go to a cave outside of the town where you can explore a large-ish dungeon, fighting monsters and finding treasures. The second thing is to find quests to do in town — there are a fairly limited number of these, and they depend on your level to appear. You get good XP awards from the quests, but not enough that you won’t also have to do some grinding in the dungeon. I believe that all the quests are optional except the final one, which you need to be at level 13 to access.

The first character you create begins in an ancient temple with no memory. She heads to a nearby hut of a farmer Oriona and his daughter. After doing some hoeing for the farmer, evil troops come by and burn his house, kill him, and (possibly) abduct the daughter. Your MC heads to the nearby town to tell the King about what happened.

Once you talk to the King it’s basically freedom until the end. The first huge barrier you run into is the severe money limitation in the game. It is very difficult to get money even to buy the most basic equipment for your characters. You get some money from clearing certain quests. When you level up, you get money from your characters’ jobs (which you assign to them at a building in town — the money listed there is the money you get, not the money it costs to take the job). You can also sell some things you find. However, the money you get from these three sources is nowhere near enough. Maybe some people like the idea of sweating over the purchase of even the weakest weapons and armor, but I didn’t find it particularly fun (and this is a frequently criticized area of the game).

The quests feel very much like a tabletop RPG — I think they were going for a similar feeling to a game like Sword World SFC. However, that game was far superior to this one. A big problem with the quests is that so much of what you have to do is counterintuitive and mysterious, often requiring you to check things 3 or 4 times. One particularly egregious section is where you are trying to get a prism out of a wall. You are told “The prism is impossible to move” but you just have to keep hitting circle several more times with that same message, and then the encasing will break and you get the prism. (This is even putting aside the fact that getting the prism is not an obvious way to advance in the first place). Other places you just have to keep wandering around talking to people multiple times and examining seemingly unconnected areas of the map.

The stories in the subquests are interesting, although frequently tragic and sad. The first one involves the sighting of a mysterious wolf being in the forest. The second involves a dog who seemingly dies of old age but then returns to life the next day. The third involves the visit of a grim reaper to someone who shouldn’t be ready for death. These little stories are definitely the high point of the game, but they’re embedded in a virtually unplayable system that makes them unrewarding to see through to the conclusion.

The combat is done in a TRPG style. Each character has an action point meter that depletes when you move. You attack by facing an enemy, and if you have enough attack points the enemy will flash and you can attack. It’s a workable system, but healing is so expensive and spells so difficult to get that it seems like you want to have missile weapons on all your characters so they can avoid as many attacks as possible.

There is a magic system in the game, but you either have to buy the spells (at great cost) or make them yourself using a character with the “scroll” ability (they still cost money and you have to know some formulas; I used a walkthrough so I don’t know how you’re actually supposed to know the formulas). However, getting the scroll ability is random on level up, and levels are very limited.

The last sentence brings up another huge issue with the game — the incredible amount of randomness. Your hits may do 1 or 15 damage. Level ups vary greatly in how good or bad they are. Certain screens have potential random encounters that are devastating. You can save at any time and there’s even a “reroll luck” in the status menu when shows (I guess) that the designers recognized how swingy the game is.

In the end, I just found very little to enjoy about this game. I played the first three quests but when I realized I was going to have to grind over 1000 XP in the cave to access the next quest I decided that was enough — fortunately there is a translation patch so I can move on. I do like the idea of the tabletop-like atmosphere, which is one reason I enjoyed Sword World SFC so much despite its problems. But this one just had way too many problems for me to continue.

Next up is Solid Runner, the final SFC game! (I’ve actually already finished it)

SFC Game 126 – BUSHI Seiryuuden

BUSHI Seiryuuden: Futari no Yuusha (BUSHI青龍伝〜二人の勇者〜), released 1/17/1997, developed by Game Freak, released by T&E Soft

We are into 1997! By this point the Playstation and Saturn had eclipsed the Super Famicom (with FF7 coming out in January 1997). If you look at this chart from Game Data Room, it’s clear how the trend was going:

This game was developed by Game Freak, which of course is best known for the Pokemon series. What we have here is an interesting blend of styles — it appears like an action RPG but is actually turn based. The subtitle means “Two heroes” and refers to the two characters that you control during the fight sections.

The opening scene relates a myth about the creation of the world, and then we start in Mamoshima with the main character who is turning 15 (who we’ll name Kurisu)

That dog just follows you around in the first area, he’s not an actual companion

The graphics are quite nice, as you would expect from a game developed this late. Kurisu grabs his father’s sword and goes down to the shore to practice with Ido, and then you are able to cut bushes away so that you can proceed north. The game works essentially on a series of screens that are top down like the above. In the woods, Kurisu saves a small spherical being called Wokuu, who claims to be a girl that was changed into a monster — she is the second hero of the title. Returning home, Kurisu finds his house on fire.

A monster has stolen Kurisu’s sister, and Kurisu (after getting a bit more training from Ido) heads out to try to save her. After this first screen, there are monsters on the top-down areas, which somehow I do not have a picture of. They move one square for each square you move. You can swing your sword at them to get first attack, although if your level is too high it will simply kill them instead. When you get in a battle, it switches to a separate screen.

First, you get a target number of turns (7 in this case). For each turn under that target, you will get 1 “magatama” bead. Kurisu soon learns that collecting these beads is essential to destroying a large tower that is spawning the enemies appearing in the world.

The battles take place on a 2D field. As on the overworld map, you trade actions — you take one action, then all the enemies each take one action. The actions include moving, swinging your sword, and using a charge attack (which hits multiple enemies but makes you lose a few turns recovering). Wokuu can pick you up, which is the only way you can jump in this game. She can do a short or high jump but can only carry you for a couple of moves. You can also raise a shield, which will get broken by an enemy attack or if you swing your sword. The shield can also be thrown to act as a distance attack. Finally, as you progress in the game, Wokuu will get more abilities (such as the ability to go attack enemies herself).

The system is well done, I think. The enemies have a variety of attacks and patterns, and you will have to make use of all of your capabilities to clear the battles, especially clearing them under the turn target to get the magatama. You have to change your tactics based on the specific enemy, as well as whether they’re above or below you, and you get a variety of additional moves as you progress through the game. It means that even fights against easy enemies are still worth thinking over because you need those magatama to win the game.

When you enter a cave or dungeon (or the like), it becomes a larger 2D side scrolling map.

In these areas the controls and gameplay are identical to the battles on the overworld, except that there is no target turn number and you can’t get the magatama. In these sections, Wokuu’s ability to stop your falling (by hitting X when you are falling) is more useful, and you have to use it to get some of the treasures. You can also hit select to see enemy HP, and in these kind of places it will reveal breakable walls as well.

The main goal in the first section is to remove the mushrooms from blocking your way to leaving the first island. Along the way you fight enemies and get some bits of info about the backstory of the war of the gods.

The second area is buffeted by snow; here we have two goals, one is to stop the snow, and the other is to get a more powerful sword that can cut through the stumps. Stopping the snow involves recovering a mirror that can reflect the sunlight back to the area.

After accomplishing these goals, Kurisu finally chases down the monster that captured his sister, and chases it through the next large dungeon.

The bird boss is not all that difficult, but at this point the game froze after I beat the boss. I could not pass this freeze — I tried changing the emulator settings, using a different rom, and even a different emulator, replaying the dungeon and fighting the boss again, and every time it froze. This isn’t a known bug, I don’t think, since people have played through the whole game with and without the translation patch. I’m not sure if starting over from the beginning would let me progress, but at least for now I’m not going to do it.

It’s a shame because I was enjoying the game — the gameplay is an interesting mix of action and turn-based strategy, the music and graphics are good, and the story is interesting enough.

One additional note — although this game gets generally good reviews, there’s one thing that everyone complains about. I mentioned above that you need to get the “magatama” beads by clearing battles quickly. The problem is that you end up needing an enormous amount of these beads just to get a bad ending, and a common experience people have is to reach the end of the game and find out that they need to do a whole bunch of grinding even just to get the worst ending. It’s definitely worth taking extra time as you play the game to get magatama beads to counteract this.

I’m disappointed I was not able to finish the game. I may replay it at some point in the future, or maybe if I can get a save game that starts after this boss I can continue there.

The next game up was supposed to be Milandra, but this is just a Mystery Dungeon clone so I will skip it and move on to Dark Law.

SFC Game 125 – G.O.D. Mezame yo to yobu koe wo kikoe

G.O.D. (G.O.D~目覚めよと呼ぶ声が聴こえ~), released 12/20/1996, developed by Infinity, released by Imagineer

This is the final game of 1996. The strange sounding title seems to be a Japanese translation of the German chorale Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (“Sleepers wake, a voice astounds us” in the usual translation sung nowadays), which was the basis for one of Bach’s best-known cantatas BWV 140.

The game begins with you choosing your name and the title you call your mother by (I picked “okaa-chan”).

Kurisu is riding his bike to Hokkaido by himself for some reason. You can talk to various people in the town and then it’s off through the fields. Eventually Kurisu reaches Tsubane village (I’m not sure if this is a real place), where some bullies challenge him and it’s time to learn the battle system. At the moment all we can do is attack, though.

This game uses the hi-res text system that is found in other games of the period. After beating the bully Kurisu goes to investigate a ghost on Tsubane mountain, where he finds a boss bat that becomes a recurring comic character throughout the game.

After beating the bat, Kurisu comes across a “god stone” inside the cave.

He hears a shaking and then goes out to see alien ships invading the Earth.

The scene then suddenly shifts to 10 years later (2006) where Kurisu is working for an organization called BLESS that is dedicated to fighting the aliens. It seems that Kurisu was an amnesiac but now has recovered his memory (the first part of the game). Kurisu immediately goes back to Tsubane Mountain to find the god stone again, which awakens an unused part of his brain.

Each time you find one of the seven God Stones, you can unlock an additional level of Chakra power. To actually learn the Chakra abilities, you have to get Cosmo Stones from beating the monsters, which will add points to the ability you have selected. You can earn points in a different ability from the one you have equipped to use the powers from. Once you reach Level 4, you can pair two abilities (if they are at least level 4) and then you’ll get to use both of them, plus get an additional passive ability. At level 7, all of the Chakra powers for that command will get a big upgrade.

Personally I found that prior to reaching the level 4 combos, the Chakra commands were not very useful (with the exception of the Hundred Fist attack technique). However some of the L4 commands are quite powerful — particularly the ones that absorb HP/MP from the enemy, recover HP/MP, and let you attack twice.

In addition to the Chakras you also have Psycho powers which are basically spells.

However by this point the biggest issue with the game becomes clear — how slow and sluggish everything is. The key/button response is slow, there is loading time, and battles take a long time just because everything seems to be moving through molasses. Although I thought that overall this game was pretty good, this sluggishness really keeps it from being in the top tier of games. It was remade for Playstation in 1998 and from what I can tell from videos, the PS version runs much more smoothly.

The first 2/3 of the game or so involve travelling around the world, finding the God Stones, and gathering the game’s three companions:

  • Heath (the dude in the above picture), who works at the Neo Kobe bless group and fights with guns. He’s powerful but his defense against spells is so low he often dies, and his speed is low as well. Later on with a x2 attack effect he’s quite good.
  • Mina, a girl with psychic powers who can read people’s feelings and intentions. She is the primary healer although she can cast some damage spells as well. I mostly used the absorb HP/MP ability although later I switched that to the “recover MP” ability.
  • Basil (I guess?), some kind of Tibetan monk who used to be a thief. He has a lot of powerful attack spells; I didn’t find him as useful as Mina but he can offer some support.

The healing spells and items never seem adequate to keep up until the very end of the game. There’s no point to the “Miss You Turbo” item which raises dead with 250 hp, because that’s functionally the same as the “Miss You”‘s effect of 25 hp, based on the damage the enemies do. Too many of the mid to later game bosses seemed to depend a lot on luck of hoping they didn’t spam their powerful abilities.

Along the way, they keep getting opposed by Michael, who tells them to turn back but gives no explanation for why. He just reduces everyone’s HP and MP to 1 and then leaves.

Meanwhile we go through the usual process of getting a ship and then later an airship.

Before Basil joins, we have a 4th party member Ai, who Heath has a romantic night with and then she later becomes pregnant. She stays behind at one point while we do some jobs, but then on the way back the aliens have attacked the place she was staying.

Ai and her unborn child are both killed. There are a few pretty dark story elements like this throughout the game.

The story doesn’t really develop beyond the fetch-quest travel nature until the last third or fourth of the game.

Eventually the party learns that the aliens are actually from Earth; they existed before humans but after everything was destroyed by God in the great flood, they took off into space on Noah’s Ark. But now they are reclaiming the planet that was once theirs. The final destinations are the three lost continents — Lemuria, Muu, and Atlantis, as well as the Lunar City where the aliens currently are (mostly in cold sleep). Atlantis of course comes from Greek sources, where as Lemuria and Muu were 19th century hypothetical lost islands that were theorized to explain certain issues of biological origins before plate tectonics and continental drift were understood.

In Atlantis, Kurisu encounters his mother again, who has been turned into some kind of alien-human hybrid that is giving birth to all the aliens and monsters on the Earth.

Partway through the battle she starts to heal us, and eventually begs us to kill her so that the aliens will stop appearing….and Kurisu complies.

The final showdown is in Muu, where Ra Mu the leader of the aliens is. Following richie’s recommendation in his GF walkthrough I got to level 54 and then took him on — this might have been a bit too much because the boss was pretty easy despite the 7 different faces in three phases.

However, it’s still not over. The final boss is God himself, who wants to absorb all humans back into himself to make the perfect being, and he destroys the Lunar Base with the cold sleep aliens to prove his power. We decide to fight him (I forgot to get a screen shot, but it’s just depicted as light with no body) and eventually defeat him.

But the game is still not over. We get a big parade and a feast, but a little boy is scared of us — if we beat God, does that mean that we are now God? After the credits roll and you get the End screen, it says “Will you continue?” If you pick no, you get this:

You became God. GAME OVER

If you pick yes, the party wakes up uneasy about what the boy said and they go to the south pole to an Earth Shrine. There, they take on manifestations of their sorrow, fear, and anger. You have to use healing spells to win the fights or remove all your equipment. It’s not entirely clear to me what this is supposed to mean; after the fights it shows everyone’s life afterwards and you get an ending but the “are you now God” question doesn’t really seem to be answered or even addressed.

Overall this is a decent game. As I said above, the sluggishness of everything is a huge problem, and I would probably recommend the PS version if you can read Japanese (otherwise you will have to do this one since it has a patch).

We’re done with 1996! All that is left are four 1997 games. The next post on SFC games will be January 13, although I will have at least one other post next Saturday.

SFC Game 124 – Dragon Quest III

Dragon Quest III (ドラゴンクエストIII そして伝説へ…), released 12/6/1996, developed by Chunsoft, published by Enix

This is the last of the major studio games released for the Super Famicom; a remake of 1989’s Dragon Quest III for the Famicom. It basically picks up the style of Dragon Quest VI and adds a number of features to the original game — a few new classes, additional weapons and items, a “bag” to store items in, small medals, a board game miniquest, a world map, and a bonus dungeon. The graphics are some of the best looking RPG graphics on the Super Famicom, and the remastered music is great as well.

I have started this game many times. When I was a kid, I used to rent it from the local video store and play it over the weekend. My parents could never find it in stores, so I just kept renting it and playing the first part (and reading the manual with the complete hint guide in it so I could vicariously experience the rest of the game). When I first discovered emulators, this was one of the first games I played along with the Super Famicom remake but I never was able to keep myself engaged in it. I also bought the Game Boy Color version, but also didn’t finish it. In all these playthroughs I never got past the point where you get the ship (I’m not even sure I got it). So it’s nice to be able to come back and finally finish this game that I played for the first time probably 30 years ago.

After the opening cinematic showing your father Ortega hunting the demon lord Baramos, the first thing you have to do is answer a bunch of questions to determine the personality of your main character.

The personality determines your stat growths. You can change personalities throughout the game by using book items, or equipping certain pieces of equipment. After this, Kurisu wakes up on his 16th birthday, ready to go in search of his father Ortega and hopefully beat Baramos himself.

The first task is to create your party. When I played this game before I always went with the “boring” standard party of Soldier, Priest, and Wizard. This time I decided to go with a more unusual party. I went with a priest to make sure I had the healing, and then added a thief and a goof-off. The thief can use some helpful abilities like locating treasures and towns, and the goof-off can immediately switch class to Sage at level 20. The game on the whole is easier than the original because weapons like whips and boomerangs were added, but the game wasn’t really rebalanced to take account of that.

I still remembered exactly what to do on the first island you start out on, which is just an introductory section to help you get used to game. I didn’t find it necessary to do actual grinding except for one point in the game. Other than that I would just venture forth and do what I could, returning when necessary (when Hero learns the warp spell it’s much better).

As I went I made notes of where doors locked with keys were — you get the thief key on the first island so that solves the initial problem quickly, but there are also “magic” and “final” key doors that we’ll have to come back to later.

The second section is where my playthroughs usually stopped before. A lot of stuff in this section is technically optional but if you don’t do it you’ll have to do a bunch of grinding to survive the next area (actually in the remake they made the Shanpane Tower a requirement for later in the game). By going west from the castle you end up in here, you can see that your next major goal is to get to Portoga to get a ship, which will require the Magic Key.

At this point the first board game minigame comes up as well. You do it by using a ticket that you can find various places around the world, then roll a die and move the number of spaces indicated. The real goal is to reach the end of the track (on an exact roll) where you will get some good treasures. But even if you don’t manage that, there are some decent things in the chests on the board itself. I didn’t do much of the board gaming because it takes a long time and the rewards are hard to get since you need exact rolls.

The magic key is in the pyramid — I got here once or twice as a kid and I have a vague memory of a gold claw that you can carry out except that you get attacked every step you take. I didn’t find that this time.

With the magic key, you can reach Portoga, and then you have to do a fetch quest to bring the king pepper (which gets you in a nest of quests but eventually it ends). This is also the first time you can visit Dharma Tower.

At Dharma tower you can change classes of any companion who is at least level 20. They go back to level 1 and lose half their stats but retain any abilities (like magic spells). At this point nobody was at level 20 for me so I moved on.

After getting the ship the next part of the game is nonlinear. The goal is to get six gems which you will then use to revive a dragon so that you can reach Baramos’ castle. You also need to get the Final Key, and there are some other optional events and items you can find as well. Along the way I started doing class changes. As soon as the goof-off reached level 20 I switched her to a Sage. At first I was a bit worried because she came with very low MP due to her 20 goof-off levels, but in the end she gained enough MP to catch up. For the priest, I decided to hold off switching to Sage until he learned the revive spell. Initially I had planned to switch my thief to something else but in the end the thief was quite good on his own and so I kept him as a thief so that I could keep stealing items.

With the six gems, you can activate these flames and hatch the egg to get a dragon. With the dragon you can fly around and get to a few new places, the most notable of which is Baramos castle.

Baramos kicked my butt at the levels above. He can move twice in a round, do strong attacks, and use several damage-all moves. I lacked useful spells like Beoma (complete heal) and Fubaha (barrier that reduces fire/ice damage) and it seemed like it was time to level. Unfortunately Beoma is level 30 and Fubaha is level 34 so that would be a lot of time….

Enter the Hagure Metals (metal babbles), souped up versions of the Metal Slimes that give lots of XP. I cheated a bit here and did a save state every time I encountered one, loading the state until I beat at least one. With this technique it only took an hour or two to level up to 30 for Beoma, at which point I decided to try again despite the lack of Fubaha. In the end it worked out; with the extra levels, buff spells, and Beoma I was able to outlast him. I read that you can use Matohon on him to take away his spellcasting ability but this never worked for me.

Kurisu is hailed as a hero! But just then, a mysterious voice Zoma comes in and declares he is the true evil boss. Mwahaha. We then have to go down into the dark world…which turns out to be Alefgard from DQ1. This would have been a cool twist for people at the time although it’s given away in the hint guide so I already knew about it.

Here you have to repeat in some sense the stuff in DQ1, making a rainbow bridge to Zoma’s castle by using the sun stone and rain staff.

Zoma was much easier than Baramos. You can use the Sphere of Light to reduce his power a lot and then the normal buff/debuff spells work pretty well.

Once Zoma is defeated, access to the upper world is closed off, but then you get the final twist of the game, that your hero is Loto (Erdrick) of DQ1 so this is a prequel to that game. Neat way to wrap up the initial trilogy.

In the SFC version they added a bonus dungeon; I didn’t do it but by defeating the boss there you can revive your father which is a nice addition. The game Boy Color version added a second bonus dungeon but it requires a pretty ridiculous set of criteria to enter (finding lots of monster medals from defeating monsters around the world).

I’m finally glad to finish this game that I played so much as a kid. It’s a pretty good DQ and really shows how even an old game can be done much more competently than a lot of the RPGs coming out in the early 1990s. The story is thin to nonexistent but there’s a lot to explore, side events, a bonus dungeon, minigames, and more. You can also try experimenting with different parties.

Next up we have the final PCE RPG.

SFC Game 123 – Monstania

Monstania (モンスタニア), released 9/27/1996, developed by Bits Laboratory, published by Pack-In Video

My heart sunk a bit when I saw Pack-In Video pop up as I started the game, but actually I had a lot of fun with Monstania. The genre is hard to pin down — many places consider it an SRPG but to me it’s almost more like a puzzle or adventure game. From what I can tell, the level ups and the equipment upgrades are pre-determined after each battle and there is no opportunity for grinding, buying equipment, finding anything optional, etc. That disqualifies it from being an SRPG for me, and it’s almost not really much of an RPG either.

It’s also extremely short; I finished the game in around 3h 30m. But that also makes it a good play in an era where we’re not paying full price for a cart.

The main character is Fron (or whatever you name him), a 16 year old boy born on the island of Monstania. His obsession is finding fairies, who were supposed to exist on the island in the past but no longer do. He is present in most of the battles, and will be accompanied by at most one of the other characters. You can never choose which character will be in the battle (there are a couple of branching paths though).

The battles are on an isometric grid. You can take a turn with one of your characters, then the enemies will get a turn (some enemies only get 1 turn for every 2 of yours, some get 2 turns for every 1 of yours). Each action you take depletes your AP, although moving doesn’t. You can recover AP by either skipping a turn, or by taking an action with your other character. You can either join the two characters together and have them move around together, or separate them. Either way the enemies will be acting when one (not both) of your characters take actions.

Characters can attack, but also use a wide variety of special abilities that they get from levelling up. There are also some abilities that everyone can use (self-heal, defend, item). I believe there are about 8 characters in the game although a number of them only appear for one or two maps. Tia and Chitta are the only two characters that you will be repeatedly using. They can help out a lot with their ranged attacks and Chitta has some good AoE powers.

A common strategy in the maps is just to move forward slowly and deal with the monsters as they come to you, then heal up and recover AP before continuing. This works on many (though not all) of the levels. It helps if you have someone like Tia who can shoot a bow to get the monsters across the map.

Not all of the maps are battles. There are puzzles like the one above where you have to clean up all the dirty areas without moving over the same square twice. Another one involves avoiding a rolling boulder. Other ones you have to pick up objects and place them in the proper area, and so on.

The story is not especially deep or involved; they encounter Chitta (who is in that picture), a mysterious child who is being pursued by soldiers. In the course of protecting Chitta they stumble upon a plot that could threaten the safety of the entire Monstania island.

The game is not especially hard, although I did have to restart some missions a few times. The final boss is a challenge but I hadn’t used any of my items so by just repeatedly using the restore items I was able to win fairly easily. Many of the bosses are rather poorly designed because if you just run away from them they will start wandering aimlessly which gives you time to recover your AP and HP before re-engaging with the boss.

I had a lot of fun with the game and it’s definitely worth playing (It has a translation patch) since it’s so short. However, I would like to see how the game would have played if they had expanded it into a true RPG/SRPG that wasn’t just fixed level ups and equipment gains; where you could choose your party more freely and that maybe was a bit longer and more involved. I think the system is interesting and shouldn’t depend on such a rigid style of gameplay, but I guess neither Bits nor Pack-In Video ever tried this style of game again.

SFC Game 122 – Wizardry Gaiden IV

Wizardry Gaiden IV: Throb of the Demon’s Heart (ウィザードリィ・外伝IV~胎魔の鼓動~), released 9/20/1996, developed and published by ASCII

Wizardry is of course one of the ancestors of CRPGs, with 8 main games centered around so-called “blobber” dungeon exploring. At the time this game was released, the first seven main Wizardry titles were available in Japan both on computers and in a variety of console ports. In addition, three “gaiden” games had been released exclusively in Japan for the Game Boy. These followed faithfully in the pattern of the early Wizardry games. CRPGAddict played half of the first one, and his post is interesting for his view of this game coming from a fan of the western computer games (and someone who is decidedly not a fan of JRPGs). CRPGAddict also has a guest post covering the Japanese wizardry games in more detail.

Back in the day I finished the original Wizardry and I have played 5 and 6, though I never finished either of them. Gaiden IV is basically in the style of the first five games, although it borrows some of the races and classes (and magic types) from 6 with a few new things.

When you start you are immediately dropped into the town with no explanation; as you may be able to see this game uses a Japanese flavor rather than the usual medieval European fantasy of the Wizardry games. The game manual gives the backstory — basically there are three legendary objects that the new king hopes to use, to gain the power to put down a rebellion and bring peace to the kingdom. We are an adventuring party sent out to get the three objects.

You can use pre-generated characters but I took all their gear and sold it for money and deleted them, and made my own party. All of the classes from the original Wizardry are there — the Priest, Thief, Fighter, and Mage for basic classes, and the Lord (fighter + priest), Bishop (mage + priest), Samurai, and Ninja for prestige classes. They also added psionic and alchemy spells and new hybrid classes to take advantage of them. The races are the W6 races (so the classic ones plus Rawulf, Mook, Faerie, etc).

As in the classic games you roll a random value for points to add to your base stats. Normally you get 10 or less, but rarely you will get above that (up to 30 max). In the original games it was beneficial to spend a long time rerolling so that you could start with better stats and also be able to access the prestige/hybrid classes early. It’s not necessary to do that in this game because if you get 10 or fewer points, you start at level 4. This not only gives you 3 levels of stat boosts but also lets you start with more HP, which is a big help surviving at the beginning.

My party (which I named after Tale of Genji characters) was two fighters, two priests, a ranger (who can do Thief stuff), and a mage. My intention was to class up later to a Lord, Valkyrie, and Monk, and I wasn’t sure what to do with the extra priest and mage. (In the end, I ended up leaving the priest as is, and turning the Mage into a Valkyrie after she learned her last level of spells.) Everyone starts with a basic set of equipment but I bought some additional things with my money.

The interface is a big problem, I think. It’s based on the computer games, which are marginally better because you can use the keyboard to directly select items and people. Even there it can be frustrating, but when you have to use a controller to select everything, it’s really annoying to have individual gold, for instance. Also the fact that every item you find in the dungeon needs to be identified is troublesome because you either need to transfer all the items to a bishop, or pay quite a bit of money to have it done in town. Then a big failing of the game is that there is no way to see what the stats of equipment is; I found a list of weapons/armor by googling but it was still frustrating to figure out if the new equipment I had gotten was any good.

The healing is also done via the classic method where you either pay a bunch of money to rest in the inn, or use priest spells, going in and out of the dungeon until everyone is at full.

This was a different party I tried to use at the beginning

Each of the three objects you need is in one of three dungeons. I’m not sure why they set it up the way they did — once you recover one of the objects, the other two dungeons have almost all their NPCs and puzzles removed, but you still have to go through them to get the objects. I think maybe the reason they did this is that the monsters are of similar difficulty in each dungeon, so perhaps they didn’t want you to have to spend a lot of time with easy monsters once you had cleared one place? Even so you have to explore the other dungeons so I’m not sure what the point was. The fourth choice there is a “training dungeon” where you can go just to fight things; there’s also an opaque sidequest involving that dungeon that can unlock the strongest monster in the game.

At this point you just make excursions into the dungeon. As in classic Wizardry games, the majority of the dungeon is empty and so you’re mostly just mapping things out looking for the few events you need to do to progress. Your resources are quite limited and you have no “warp back to town” spell so you need to be quite careful in your excursions — this provided most of the tension and I suppose enjoyment of classic Wizardry.

This game is easier in two ways than the original. First, there is an automap, although you can only see the 3×3 square around you unless you cast the Dumapic spell. The second is that unless you play it on “mania mode”, you can reset your game during a fight and you will start before the fight. In classic Wizardry, you never “save” your game; if your party dies, their corpses remain in the dungeon and you have to get another party to go in and find them. You also are not guaranteed to be able to raise dead characters and can lose them permanently. I think a lot of players (myself included) made disk backups to lessen the sting — it was too time consuming to do the backups constantly, but it was better than losing your whole party.

The battle system is classic Wizardry, although weapons have a range — I’m not sure when (if) this was added to the core Wizardry games. Your characters in 4-6 position can only attack if they have weapons with long enough range to reach the enemies. Otherwise they just have to defend or cast spells. Same is true for the enemies, of course.

In the first tower, you basically find a number of keys and other objects that open up doors and let you explore the entire tower. One part you have to get a dude to drop you into a pit so you can explore the lower levels.

There are multiple solutions to each dungeon — you can kill the NPCs to get their items, or you can take “peaceful” solutions, some of which require items from the other dungeons. As far as I can tell there is no gameplay benefit to the peaceful solutions and you actually lose XP for doing them.

Once you get the three items, the lord goes to defeat the rebels, but then an unnamed lord suddenly awakes a different evil and you have a new dungeon to explore.

The first 4 levels of this dungeon are copies of the Wizardry 1 (proving grounds) dungeons, but after that, the B5-7 dungeons have a complicated puzzle where you have to press buttons to get statues onto the bottom floor. I used a walkthrough to solve this.

Beyond this, you get the last dungeon level, which is an embryo-like place (the “taima” of the title is really “demon embryo” rather than “heart”). This is where I stopped playing — you have to beat 7 or 8 very difficult encounters to reach the final boss. I got ten game overs on the first encounter, did some grinding, and decided it was going to take way too long to finish it. There is a translation patch so anyone can try it themselves.

As I understand, after you beat the boss there are two additional post-game dungeons, in addition to the superboss in the training dungeon, so there’s quite a bit of content in the game. I think that if you like the classic Wizardry format and don’t mind the interface issues, you will enjoy this game a lot.

As a final note, the Wizardry wiki has the title misspelled as 大麻の鼓動 “Throb of the marijuana”.

Final game list (SFC)

I started playing Akazukin cha-cha, but I don’t think it really qualifies as an RPG. It’s more of an adventure game with a small number (around 7) of fixed RPG-style battles. There are no levels, instead you just gain stats at pre-determined points in the story. Apparently it’s considered a good game for fans of the manga or anime series, but I will leave it to others to cover the game.

So what this means is that we have come to the final list of games, the remaining 9 games I have to play. I will be taking a break around Christmas time, so I think I should probably finish this up around March or April of next year, although it depends on how long all the games are. Here’s the full list of games, with the bold ones being games I will actually play.

  • Wizardry Gaiden IV: Throb of the Demon’s Heart
  • Monstania – It was not clear to me whether this is an SRPG or not, so we’ll find out now.
  • Marvelous: Another Treasure Island – This is an adventure game, not an RPG.
  • Dragon Quest III – I could skip this as a remake but I believe I will play it.
  • Madou Monogatari I (PCE) – The final PCE game! This was released very late in the system’s life, and also came out for the Sega CD pretty late also.
  • G.O.D.: Listen to the voice telling you to awaken
  • Dragon Knight 4 – I played the Playstation version of this.
  • BUSHI Seiryuden: Two Heroes
  • Milandra
  • Gunman’s Proof – This is a zelda-style game that does not qualify as an ARPG for me.
  • Dark Law: Meaning of Death
  • Solid Runner – The last game I will play!
  • Mini shiku Let’s & Go!! POWER WGP2 – This is a racing game for the most part; it has some parts where you can talk to people and buy things but this is not enough to make it an RPG.
  • Wizardry I-II-III: Legacy of Llygamyn – Since this is a remake of Western games I will skip it.
  • Fire Emblem Trachia 776 – I will actually play this, but it will be once I reach 1999 in the strategy RPG playthrough, not now.

SFC Game 121 – Daikaiju Monogatari II (Finished)

At this point we have all the party members (the first four were my endgame party):

  • Kurisu, the hero of the fire shell and main character — you have to use him. He can cast fire spells and do sword techniques.
  • Shamuru, a catwoman thief. She can steal things which is nice, but can also use some helpful spells, particularly Powered (attack up). She is also important for one point where you can do some nice levelling.
  • Kupikupi, who has the best healing spells. By the end of the game he can cast a full party heal spell and a full party “restore conditions” spell for fairly cheap, and can contribute some attack spells as well if necessary.
  • Millie, the robot (who used to be your dog). Strong attacks, and also nice all-attack abilities that involve various elements.
  • Pot, who was also in the first game. Has a number of summon spells that you gain from various events — unfortunately a few of the best ones are only available with the real-time clock system (I had the same problem that I did in Tengai Makyo Zero where the clock never synced or advanced when I wasn’t playing).
  • Baboo, who uses boomerangs. I didn’t use him much.
  • Baltes, the warrior. I also didn’t use him much.
  • Poyon, who learns spells from enemies like Blue Magic. I barely used him.
  • Ruimella, who has decent healing and support spells. I used her some but I generally found Kupikupi to be more useful.
  • Gabro, who joins fairly late and as such I didn’t use him much. He seems like he could be useful with some elemental powers.

Next up is “kimoi” town, where the townpeople’s souls are being extracted by Jarama (who of course is being controlled by the evil Dark people). To clear this part we have to bring a certain kind of water to a holy spring, and the god then allows us to enter the realm of the dead as spirits so that we can clear out the monsters.

Beyond the mountain there is a creepy bone dungeon.

And finally we defeat the Phantom Queen (one of Dark’s underlings), and recover the 5th aura stone along with freeing Jarama. She can stop random encounters but only once, for a short time, recharged when you stay at an inn. So pretty much useless.

The final aura stone is in a mechanical fish in the sea.

This is an annoying dungeon because the visibility is very poor, and of course you are facing encounters every 4 steps. But in the end we recover the sixth aura stone, although then Dark tries to kill us in the sea monster. We rush to an escape capsule, but are now stranded in the sea.

Fortunately our small dragon comes to save us, and with the six aura stones he is able to power up into a full size dragon that can be flown around the world. At this point, you can go to the snowy islands at the top of the map where you encounter two sets of enemies that give huge amounts of XP and gold. In a fairly short time I was able to get as much money as I needed for the rest of the game, level up to the high 30s, and steal “Angel Medals” which offer a huge increase to attack and defense. This allowed me to keep the “no encounter” code on for the rest of the game and still manage to beat all the bosses. (However, this area is only available at this short window)

Now we have to fly up to the castle in the sky, where the heroes display their usual stupidity and give the aura stones to the queen, who turns out to be a clone made by Dr. Doan (Dark’s servant).

Now we rush to the temple in the sky land to stop Dark from using the aura stones, but of course we’re too late — once we arrive Dark destroys us with one hit and then activates the aura stones to capture power for himself.

Dark activates the stones, making the sky land crash to the ground and doing huge damage to the land. Many towns are displaced or destroyed. In this section of the game you are basically trying to recover your team members, find the 4 shells (which were lost during the crash), and also free the Dragon so that we can fly up to Dark’s lair.

Once this is done, it’s time for the final dungeon. You have to use two parties here, switching back and forth with the Y button to open up new areas until both of your parties arrive at the top. Then your B party stays back to fight Beauty (the last of Dark’s underlings) while the A party with Kurisu goes for Dark.

Beauty is the hardest fight in the game — she uses a move almost every turn that has a chance of confusing everyone, and then your party members kill each other. Even using the cure-all spell of Kupikupi it’s hard to avoid this. Fortunately if you lose with your B party, the A party takes her on instead. Even so I had to try 6 times before I could get enough luck to defeat her.

Dark’s three forms, by contrast, are a cakewalk. Kupikupi can just Sun Shower every turn to fully restore HP, Robot can exploit elemental weaknesses, Kurisu attacks, and Shamuru supports.

Afterwards, Kurisu has to go back to Earth (leaving Millie behind since she’s a robot now), and everyone else goes back to their lives.

Overall this game is OK. The random encounter rate is a serious problem — if someone could develop a code that halves the encounter rate that would improve this game immensely. The storyline is acceptable but relies on a lot of cliches (particularly the “haha, the heroes are too weak to deserve to fight me! Here is my underling to fight” and “there’s no way the heroes survived that, they must be dead.”)

We’re down to 10 games (9 sfc and 1 PC-engine)!