Category Archives: Super Famicom RPGs

SFC Game 121 – Daikaiju Monogatari II (Part 1)

Daikaiju Monogatari II (大貝獣物語II), released 8/2/1996, developed by Birthday, released by Hudson

This is the sequel to the 1994 original — there are some of the same characters although I believe this is not a plot sequel, it’s just a new story with some of the same elements. As in the first game, the Fire Shell has to be used to summon someone from Earth to help fight off enemies.

The gameplay is mostly the same as in the first one as well. We still have the punishingly high random encounter rate, the “helpers”, the basic magic system, equipment, etc. This game added a clock-based feature like Tengai Mayko Zero, although it has very little effect on the game (and apparently drained the battery quite a bit). You no longer recover MP/HP on level up, which makes the game a bit more fraught in the dungeons. I made occasional use of a no encounter code, mostly when there were puzzles in the dungeons (I find it very annoying to try to do dungeon puzzles when a random encounter is breaking your concentration every few steps).

This time our big bad is “Dark”, who is trying to take over Shell Land.

Kurisu and his dog Millie are transported from Earth, but something goes wrong during the process and Kurisu ends up alone, and is immediately attacked. Fortunately Princess Rumiella from the nearby castle finds him and brings him back.

We are also introduced to Baltes who has a crush on Rumiella, and Baboo (who was in the first game, but as I said I don’t believe this is a plot sequel — I think it’s just reusing the same assets). The basic structure of the first 2/3 or so of the game is that Dark (the big baddie) is sending out his underlings to find the six Aura Stones, while we travel around and fight the underlings, recovering the stones.

The battle system (and even the graphics) are basically the same as the first game. You can still set up “strategies” to have people use certain moves automatically, although this game doesn’t have that extremely helpful move that puts the enemies to sleep with no MP cost. And since you no longer recover MP on level up, that means that more often than in the first game I was just doing attack with everyone.

The first location is north of the king’s castle, where Megaloking is using captured humans to dig up the aura stone.

This operation is a success; beating Megaloking and freeing all the villagers, and getting the aura stone. Unfortunately Dark, though his evil spying ways, has recognized that Baltes is in love with the princess, and decides to use nefarious tricks to turn Baltes to their side.

Baltes thinks that the hero kurisu has taken the princess from him and that they were making fun of him, which allows the next of Dark’s generals, Mushking, to use spells on him and turn him to evil. To reach Mushking we first have to recruit an ally who can cut the trees in our way (he can also remove boulders from other places to reveal hidden treasures).

Once Mushking is defeated, we find the second stone, although Baltes decides to go out on his own to train so he can overcome the weakness of his heart that allowed him to betray the party.

Next up is a strange sequence involving Jodan, a clown that captures people and turns them into pigs. He also likes to collect unusual animals, including a few people that should be in our party! Poyon, Kupikupi, and the main character’s dog (who I named Millie) are ale here. The game switches to Poyon and Kupikupi, who free the dog, beat Jodan, but only the dog escapes.

The dog and Kurisu are reunited then, and Millie tries to lead us to the others. This is an annoying desert section — this is an example of a dungeon where I turned on the no-encounters code because finding my way around in the place was annoying. There are sandstorms that carry you around, but the places are invisible and it’s hard to figure out how to get through it. This leads us back to Jodan’s circus again, where we finally free the others (plus a thief named Shamuru, who is another party member).

Next up we can find the third aura stone in the Antlion lair, another annoying dungeon that I used no encounters for.

Here we find the evil scientist Dorn, who has revived Megaloking to fight again. Fortunately Megaloking is a chivalrous dude who gives us the aura stone when we beat him!

Now the Sand Scorpion, a big machine controlled by Dorn, heads for the nearby city to explode. We try to stop it, but in the end Millie (the dog) pushes Kurisu off the Scorpion and sacrifices her own life to stop it.

Some kids bring Millie back to a scientist who is developing a robot (Dr. Spanner). Spanner tries to do what he can, but the next day he tells the kids that he couldn’t save the dog and buried him nearby. Now the robot activates (we’ll learn soon that the dog was put into the robot, so now Millie is the robot).

The next section is done with the robot alone. She’s easy to use because if you buy 99 bomb items she can use a powerful attack on all enemies to kill them in one attack. The job here is to go to the crystal castle, where Dorn is using Gabro, one of his underlings who is still basically a baby. The robot Sonia is taking care of him.

Gabro is kidnapping children to play with. Sonia isn’t quite sure that’s a good idea, and she eventually grows close to the robot (Millie) because they’re both automata. Eventually Dorn comes in and kills Sonia, which upsets Gabro. In this section you have to switch back and forth between Gabro and Millie in order to progress in the dungeon, until we eventually catch Dorn (who escapes). But we have the 4th aura stone.

After this whole sequence the game switches back to Kurisu, and you can immediately go back and get Millie robot in your party. Two more aura stones! That’s where I will stop for now; hopefully I will have the game done by next weekend.

SFC Game 119 – Star Ocean

Star Ocean (スターオーシャン), released 7/19/1996, developed by Tri-Ace, released by Enix

This game was developed by people from Wolf Team who had left to form their own unit after being dissatisfied with the development process of Tales of Phantasia. The game pushes the SFC to its absolute limits, boasting a 48 megabit cart with a special compression chip that allowed for more graphics storage. It also used a method to quickly swap in voice clips to allow for a large amount (for a SFC game) of voice in the battles. It’s definitely a great looking game, and the music (by Motoi Sakuraba) is good as well.

On the other hand, there is a lot of evidence that the development of the game was rushed — the Roak section seems to represent just the first part of the story they were trying to tell but consists of about 70% of the game. There are places where it seems like things had to be quickly cut out or shortened last minute, dummied out places in the game, and such.

The emulation process of the game is also a narrative in itself. DeJap did a fan translation of the game in the early 2000s, but the S-DD1 compression chip at the time could not be emulated. So the hackers who worked on the translation, together with the zsnes team, simply used a process to feed the compressed files through the chip and then save them as a “graphics pack”. You had to download this pack and use zsnes (or later snes9x) which had been specifically hacked to load the graphics from the pack.

One of byuu/near’s big goals for bsnes was to eliminate these kinds of hacks. The first step was “high level emulation”, where tests were used to figure out what the S-DD1 chip was doing, and code that into bsnes. Therefore you no longer needed the graphics pack to play. Later, byuu used the services of an anonymous engineer to use some process to extract the S-DD1 chip’s inner workings, and now you can get the sdd1.cpp file which is simply the code that is on the chip.

To insert a personal anecdote here, byuu and I happened to be living in the same city when they were working on this, and I had a super famicom unit that I wasn’t using anymore. We met up for lunch and I gave him the sfc — I know they used it for the extraction of one of the chips but I don’t think it was the S-DD1. I think I’m one of only a few people in the sfc/emulation area who actually met them in real life.

I remember trying the game out at the time but I never played it much. I think the random encounter rate was too annoying, and I also could never find a control pad that worked well enough to make me want to play it. I did play the PSP version later but also never finished that. Now I finally have finished Star Ocean. (On the other hand, I was totally obsessed with Star Ocean 3 to the point where I probably put in 300 or so hours in the original and the director’s cut combined.)

The game begins with a fully voiced (in English!) opening sequences where a federation ship sees a planet get destroyed. The game then moves to the planet Roak, which seems to be a low-tech planet. This sets up what seems to be the standard for all Star Ocean games — although the game involves spaceships and future technology, the majority of the game takes place on a pre-modern civilization planet.

We are introduced to some of the main characters — Ratie, Milly, and Dorn. They are part of the defense force of Kratus town. After defending the town from some thieves, Milly’s dad sends a letter telling them that the town of Coule is suffering from some kind of epidemic disease.

The battle system is real time like Phantasia, but here it’s on a battlefield rather than just a linear screen. Also in contrast to Phantasia your other members can actually fight rather than hiding behind Cless all the time. To attack you just pick a target with A, then hit A to use a physical attack or L/R to use abilities assigned to those buttons (either short or long). I found that most of the time physical attacks were perfectly fine.

For the most part the difficulty level is low; you can stun enemies pretty easily and the encounter rate is high enough you should be levelled enough to beat most enemies. The exception are monsters that can turn your characters to stone; I found these were always potential game overs and that I had to immediately run away to have even a chance of not getting a game over.

The first problem in this opening sequence is one that reoccurs throughout the game — there’s too much backtracking, and there’s no town warp item or spell. Also the complexity of the graphics make traversing the dungeons more annoying than it should be.

Eventually all the people of Coule are turned to stone, including Milly’s dad. Dorn is also infected Milly and Ratie try to get some herbs to help but instead they run into Ronix and Iria who have beamed down from a ship.

They’re here investigating a bioweapon that has apparently been developed from the blood of people on Ratok, this planet. There is a very long story sequence where we learn that the Federation is at war with Lezonia, and Lezonia is making the bioweapon. But Lezonia is being forced into this by some shadowy third power. The characters go to the Time Gate (I think this is borrowed from the Star Trek episode “City on the Edge of Forever”) and go back to Ratok 300 years in the past. This is where the majority of the game takes place, although as I said earlier I suspect that this is due to development limitations rather than the original intent of the story.

The basic idea of the Ratok section is to get four items from the four kings of the world, then enter the “demon world” to take on Asmodeus. Although something went wrong in my playthrough because Asmodeus was never actually introduced, the characters just suddenly said our goal was to beat him — I think I missed an event, perhaps one that wasn’t supposed to be optional.

You can recruit a number of characters, some of whom are mutually exclusive. There are also “private actions” in towns — your characters will split up, and then you can activate sub events by finding them in town. I didn’t really do any of these.

When you level up, you get skill points that you can spend on a large number of abilities. Some of these affect your combat, others let you identify items or do item crafting. I didn’t do much item crafting because the things necessary are only available in specific towns (and once again you can’t town warp). I understand that if you know what you are doing you can make really powerful items and weapons. But as I said before, I didn’t find this necessary.

Eventually it is revealed that the Roak people are actually from the legendary continent of Mu on Earth, who were somehow taken to Roak when a meteroite hit the Earth. They eventually find Asmodeus, who still extracts the blood sample from the Roak people (since we can’t change history), but at least we are able to take some things from the lab to make an antidote. Milly and Rati return to present Roak and use a vaccine to cure all the people who have been turned to stone, and Ronix and Ilia go back to their ship.

This is where the story and pacing go off the rails. I have a feeling the rest of the story was supposed to be a more significant part of the game, but as it is it’s just crammed into the last 15% or so. For no clear reason, a ship from Fargett (the mysterious 3rd power) appears and demands a surrender, but Ronix is allowed to use the time gate to bring back the Ratie, Milly, and the 300 year past characters and go beat the Fargett ship. It turns out that they are also descendants of Mu.

I didn’t think the final boss was very hard. It was easy to keep him stunlocked and my attacks did a lot of damage. Now after this, everyone goes back to their homes.

So overall this is an impressive technological display of what the Super Famicom can do. And I wouldn’t say it’s a bad game. But the development problems really show, and the annoying amount of backtracking coupled with the high encounter rate can be tedious (although you can use an ability called Scout to reduce the rate).

I believe that Tri Ace immediately started working on Star Ocean 2 and my understanding is that game is a bit more polished than this one. I’d like to play it some day.

SFC Game 118 – Traverse Starlight & Prairie

Traverse: Starlight & Prairie (トラバース スターライト&プレーリー), released 6/28/1996, developed by Pandora Box, released by Banpresto

This game is a spiritual sequel to Soul & Sword, which I played (much) earlier on the blog. Both games share the same general idea — virtually the entire game is open world and optional, and rather than having an “ending” you can stop the game at any time. In S&S you did this by leaving the island, and in this game you do it by marrying someone. There is no real storyline although both games have a sort of “best” ending that you can get by completing most or all of the events in the game. The idea is that each playthrough creates its own story, so I will tell the story of Kurisu, with some gameplay notes in brackets.

Kurisu’s mother died in childbirth and his dad then fell into drunkenness. When kurisu is 14, his dad sends him to get liquor from the bar. Sonia, a childhood friend who works there, is reluctant to give more alcohol to drunken dad, but she’ll do it if kurisu can bring her some flowers from a nearby mountain.

The character creation as done by a goddess asking you questions

Kurisu fights his way up the mountain and finds the flower, but it starts talking and complains when he tries to pluck it. Feeling bad for the flower, Kurisu goes back without getting it, but Sonia gives him the liquor anyway.

Later in the night, a man breaks into the house, wanting to steal the “Holy Sword” that Kurisu has always had with him — he claims that he’s a prince of a defeated kingdom and that the sword belongs to him. Kurisu tries to fight him off but loses badly, but the guy isn’t able to get the sword away.

Kurisu wakes up in a cave — the guy (Bullmore) tried to bring Kurisu with him but fell into this cave. Kurisu is able to climb up the vines but Bullmore is too heavy, so Kurisu goes up to get help — eventually he pulls up Bullmore by a stronger vine.

Once he saves Bullmore, he decides that there’s no reason why he should stay in his village anymore, and decides to go on an adventure with Bullmore. Sonia tags along. [This is the end of the required stuff before the real game starts]

Kurisu reaches the main continent, and looks at a map showing all of the towns in the continent.

He decides to travel around the world to the towns, seeing what kind of adventures he can find there. [The game has a real-time system as you travel; apparently it ends in 10 years regardless. Once you find a town you can then choose to ‘teleport’ there (really just omit the actual walking, it still takes days)]

Kurisu travelled the world. He found one dying girl whose favorite toy musician set had come to life and gone on a journey, but she wanted to see them one more time. We agreed to try to find them. Kurisu also found a girl whose father made “fakes” of paintings to hang in other museums, but somehow a major painting had been replaced with the fake. So we had to sneak into the place and switch them back.

Other than that, the world seemed at peace — Kurisu did not encounter a single monster on his travels. Most of the towns he visited seemed to have no problems, and the villagers had little to tell them. Even going to the three parts on his map labeled “quest” did not good — the places were either closed or locked.

After travelling for nearly a year, Kurisu decided that the entire world had not much more to offer than his starting island — he had more adventure getting the flowers from the nearby mountain than he had in the 35 or so towns he had visited since then. And travelling all that way with Sonia, he decided that everything he needed for life was in his hometown. He proposed to Sonia, who accepted.

Bullmore wasn’t happy that we never helped him revive his kingdom, and went off on his own. And Kurisu lived happily ever after.

So that was my experience playing the game. It was boring as all hell — I am not exaggerating in that description above. I played the game for several days and found almost nothing to do. I barely know how the battle system works; the characters have skills but I never used them because I didn’t have a single fight after the first island.

I checked Japanese reviews and they all said the same thing — this game is impossible to play without a walkthrough because it’s so difficult to find any quests, and the quests themselves are often inscrutable without help. I couldn’t find a Japanese walkthrough but there is one on GameFAQs.

Not only are the quests hard to find, but there is a hidden “karma” value that cannot be seen, which affects quests you can get. If you want the true ending by completing all quests, you have to make sure your karma is at certain values (high or low) when you do certain things. Some quests won’t activate, others will activate but if you don’t have the right karma value you won’t be able to finish the quest in the right way to count for the true ending.

I could have followed the walkthrough, I suppose, and done all the stuff. But it seems silly to me that you should need that help just to find anything to do. Since I technically finished the game, I’m fine in putting this one aside and moving on to Star Ocean.

SFC Game 117 – Gulliver Boy

Gulliver Boy (空想科学世界ガリバーボーイ), released 6/28/1996, by Bandai

I covered a previous game based off the anime for PC Engine. That game pushed the PC Engine to its limits to include lots of full motion video, and in general seemed to be a decent game. This one, on the other hand, is a lazy shovelware IP project that can be finished in a few hours, including grinding levels.

Unlike the PC Engine version, the story in this one is introduced in fairly brief story segments that don’t introduce the characters or story particularly well — you can follow the basic plot thread but you constantly get the feeling that there’s more fleshing out of everything in the source material.

The system also shows signs of being rushed — you can only see your current XP level by resetting the game and looking at the load game screen. There’s a robot combat mode that is only used once. The “dungeons” are often only a few screens long. There’s no real exploration; when you finish one area you just get taken to the next area automatically. While it’s not necessarily a bad game, it’s definitely one that you would feel cheated spending full price for in 1996.

The battle system is action RPG style. You can switch between the three characters you have during the game. Gulliver attacks with his Maken Glove, which takes a bit to regenerate. He also has “discs” that use his disc power but have stronger effects. Misty in the early game uses spell like abilities, and then later gets a boomerang-like circle she can attack with. Edison throws bombs; he’s not a great character but is necessary to destroy the enemy lairs that otherwise will spawn endless enemies.

When you are controlling one character, the others will recover HP and also their special ability meters will recover more quickly.

There is one place where you will fight in a robot for just two battles.

There is no money or equipment; you find a few items throughout the game that can heal you or restore gauge.

The game is not terribly difficult for the most part, although you can die pretty quickly if you’re not careful or are behind in levels. The way you gain levels is that when you beat enemies, they will sometimes drop these colored bars that give 10 XP to the character who the color matches. Although if you level too high, the area’s monsters will start giving 1 XP instead. Some bosses give 100 xp bars that can go to anyone. My characters were only at level 10 at the end of the game.

The story is difficult to follow but it seems to be essentially a greatly stripped down version of the first half of the anime, ending with the fight against Hallelujah. But a lot of side characters are missing and there is almost no establishing dialogue to help people who haven’t seen the series.

Unless you are a huge fan of Gulliver Boy I don’t recommend this game — if you can read Japanese I would recommend the PC Engine (or Saturn remake) over this.

SFC Game 116 – Arabian Nights

Arabian Night: King of the Desert Spirits (アラビアンナイト 砂漠の精霊王), released 6/14/1996, developed by Pandora Box, published by Takara

This is a game that was on my radar before I even started the blog just because of how good it looked — it’s a nice example of late SFC era graphics. I knew that some people had reviewed it negatively because of the short length and high random encounter rate, but I wasn’t sure how accurate the criticisms would be. Having played games like Last Battle that have absurd encounter rates, I’m used to having to speed up through battles, run a lot, or even use no-encounter codes (this is something I would have never done in the early days of the blog but I have softened considerably to doing this. I still haven’t done it on that many games though).

In the end I think both criticisms are fair. I finished the game in less than 10 hours, and that was including a number of optional events you have to do to get the true ending. I did use a no encounter code for some of it, although you get an ability at level 19 that can 100% escape from battles. The encounter rate is high, but that’s paired with dungeons that are needlessly large, and the fights themselves often take a fair amount of time.

The game begins with the djinn Ifrit being defeated and enslaved by a wizard of some kind named Suleiman (the person next to Ifrit there is one of his underlings, Majnun). He becomes Suleiman’s servant for a while, but when Suleiman’s house is attacked by some mysterious power, Suleiman splits Ifrit’s power into 8 spheres that fly off to different areas, and Ifrit himself is trapped in a ring. When Ifrit grants 1000 wishes, he will be freed.

Time passes and Ifrit grants 999 wishes, so he only needs one more. A young girl named Shukuran finds the ring, and her wish is to bring peace to the land. Ifrit is kind of annoyed because granting money or power is easy, but this is going to take a while. So he’s going to have to actually go out and solve the world’s problems, although Shukuran has to come along too because he can’t move very far away from the ring.

The basic game involves finding the 8 spheres to restore Ifrit’s power, and then defeating the enemies behind the problems. To get the true ending, you have to also gain the power of the nine djinn who served under Ifrit when he was his original self. This is a typical situation where the true ending is difficult or impossible to get without a guide; some of the djinn join automatically in the story, and others just require you to go to an optional area. But a few require you to make specific dialogue choices that are not clear (in some cases it’s not even clear that the choice you are making has anything to do with recruiting a djinn). There’s one dungeon where you can take two different paths — the left path is what moves the story ahead, but if you do that it blocks off the right path which has one of the djinn recruits. Another one makes you find an item that is completely hidden without any clues. I personally don’t get as annoyed by this as some people do because I don’t mind using a guide for the true ending, but I can see why people find this frustrating.

The main distinctive feature of the battle system are the Cards. You get cards from beating enemies, and they can be used in battle before a turn starts. Their effects last for 3 turns, and include damage, stat increases, nullifying special defenses, etc. A card can be cancelled by playing a higher level card, and enemies use them as well. Even if the enemies don’t do much damage, if they play a big damage card you have to get rid of it or take a lot of pain.

You have only three characters during the game. Shukuran will gain spells once you start forging alliances with the nine djinn. Ifrit gets spells when you recover the jewels containing his power. Harty, the third person, gets abilities from levelling up (including the all-important Escape at level 19). Frustratingly there are no healing spells in the game except for one of Shukuran’s djinns, so most of the healing is done through items. This increases the annoyance of the random encounters since the monsters are often tough and can do a decent amount of damage (especially with the cards).

There’s not a great deal of story to go through; a lot of it is just finding the spheres and getting the djinn in events that don’t really advance the overall story.

Eventually it turns out that Majnun is the one who caused all the chaos, because of how much he resented humans for trapping Ifrit and taking away his power. I believe that if you don’t fulfill the secret ending conditions, the game ends here. If you did, you learn that the Earth Mother Goddess tricked Majnun into acting this way. Suleiman knew that she was going to arrive and trapped Ifrit somehow to let the djinn build power over time to deal with her (or perhaps the journey Ifrit had to take strengthened him).

Once you beat the Earth Mother Goddess, you have the choice to release all the djinn or keep them trapped with their items; releasing them is the “best” ending but there’s actually not that much difference between them.

This game is OK, and worth a play if you can deal with the high encounter rate. The graphics are really nice and the music is decent as well. There is an auto battle which helps with the tedium as well.

Next up is Gulliver Boy which I have already beaten (it took 2 days) so that post will be up next week and I have a nice cushion as I start Traverse: Starlight and Prairie.

SFC Game 115 – Dark Half

Dark Half (ダークハーフ), released 5/31/1996, developed by Weston, released by Enix

This game tried a lot of interesting new system ideas, but ultimately I didn’t like it.

The idea of the game is that you switch off between two protagonists — one is Falco, a hero, and then Rukyu, the Dark King. 1000 years ago, six heroes defeated Rukyu. He is now out for revenge against them, whereas Falco hears of the Dark King’s revival and gets caught up in the attempts to stop his evil plans.

The game takes place over 7 days. For the first 6, you switch off between Ryuku and Falco, and the 7th day is the final chapter. The two protagonists work differently, but have some similarities.

Both characters have “soul power” (at the top left) which goes down with every step you take, and for Rukyu it powers his spells. If it hits 0, you get a game over. The dungeons have a lot of traps that are designed to steal your soul power or make you walk a bunch of extra steps. The save points give you 500 soul power back but you can only use each save point once, and there aren’t very many of them. This makes the game quite frustrating to play if you want to play it straight — I used save states.

Rukyu has demon/monster allies — starting in the second day he can use the Dark Gate to capture monsters. This powers up his spell levels but also allows the monster to join the team. The battles are on a grid, but you can’t control the monsters at all, even general AI settings. Also Rukyu cannot move or attack, only cast spells. So even if a monster comes right up to him (like in the image above) all he can do is sit there and take the hits. Healing also doesn’t work on him; all you have is a small amount of HP you recover at the end of each fight.

For Falco, you have human companions. You get scrolls from defeating enemies that can be used as spells, and also “Chaos Orbs” that increase stats. There is no normal levelling system. You can control your allies and Falco but you can’t move freely, you can only choose who you want to attack — this is annoying because the spells have areas of effect but you can’t actually move your characters into specific positions to take advantage of them.

Because of all of this, the difficulty level is quite high if you want to play without any assistance. If you know some tricks you can make it somewhat easier, but there are still some frustrating boss battles where the enemies seem to get 5 or 6 turns for every one turn of yours. The most powerful equipment is also hidden in random areas on the map.

When you walk around as Ryuku, you gain soul power by killing the humans in the towns and absorbing their spirits. The dialogue is always interesting when you do this as the humans beg for their lives or else are resigned to their fate. When you are Falco you can come across these dead bodies and take their “light of hope”; if you can collect 90 of them throughout the game you can get the best ending.

Now for the plot spoilers. As you continue in the game with Ryuku, there are hints that he’s not really a “dark king” — ultimately it turns out he is the creator of the world, who was ready to destroy humans because of their sins, but decided to wait 1000 years to give the humans a chance to do better. Now the 1000 years are up and they haven’t done any better so he decides to wipe them out.

Meanwhile on the Falco side, the king who was once one of the 6 heroes has decided to use Ryuku’s ring to control the world himself. Once you complete the first 6 days for both characters, Falco and Ryuku do a final showdown. You can pick which character you want to control for the fight.

I picked Falco because if you have the Dark Gate for him you can kill Ryuku in one use of the spell. I did not have 90 lights of hope so I got a medium ending where Ryuku entrusts his ring to Falco, who becomes the new ruler of humanity but it leaves the question open of how Falco does that. I looked at some of the other endings but they looked equally vague.

As I said in the opening, I didn’t like the game. I found the system annoying and poorly implemented, and the plot was only so-so. It has a translation patch so you can try it out for yourself, if you want.

SFC Game 114 – Treasure Hunter G

Treasure Hunter G (トレジャーハンターG), released 5/24/1996, developed by Sting, released by Square

This is Square’s final game for the Super Famicom. It’s classified by some people as a strategy RPG, for me it’s perhaps SRPG adjacent but isn’t quite there. The game follows Red G and Blue G, the sons of the treasure hunter Brown G who has disappeared seeking something. The brothers go north of their town to look for an “iron bird” that appeared there, which begins an adventure that leads to the usual world-saving quest.

The battles take place on grids like the above. Each character has a certain number of ACT points, which decrease when you take actions. The enemies have colored areas around them, and moving within them takes more ACT points the stronger the color is. Also there is a “grid level” to the whole map which also affects how many points all the actions take.

Overall this is an interesting system. The biggest problem with it is that you cannot take back any move, meaning that if you hit the wrong direction you can end up wasting a large amount of points. The attacks can also go wrong — if you try to attack empty air it won’t use any points, but you can attack your own allies and that will take up points. So you need to pay careful attention to which way you’re facing (you can change with the L and R button).

Each character also has abilities that use up SP. SP go up by levelling and then paying 50 gold to a priest (who also saves your game). After a battle, each character will recover some HP, and you also recover HP when you gain a level (even in battle).

There are two types of defense — F Guard (front) and B Guard (back); often it’s better to attack enemies from behind, although it may take more movement points to get there. Some weapons have 2 range and will hit any enemies/allies in that range. Axes knock enemies into another square and also usually turn them around.

Inventory management is a huge headache. Each character can only carry 20 items, and you get a lot of items so that quickly fills up. You’re constantly having to discard items or sell them — I’ve said this before but I’ve never played a game where I thought it was fun to frequently manage inventory. Inventory space doesn’t necessarily have to be unlimited, but when you are having to do inventory management multiple times in each town or dungeon and after every couple of battles, that’s tedious.

The game also has unnecessarily “cute” ways of doing town services — you pay for the inn and then have to walk to the bed yourself. You buy things by picking up items, then going to the clerk and paying for them, and then deciding whose inventory each will go in (at which point you can’t see the stats or who can equip). There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel like this for something that makes the experience worse.

The graphics are fine — they are a good example of late SFC style. I feel that the sprites are kind of fuzzy and they remind me of Donkey Kong Country; I think I prefer the more typical sharper style of RPG sprite but it’s not a big issue.

There are four characters in your party:

  • Red is the typical sword fighter. He gets a lot of action points and can equip powerful weapons. He also had sword techniques — the “double attack” is particularly useful in boss battles.
  • Blue uses spears or axes. Spears have a 2 range; sometimes it’s one front and one back, sometimes it hits both enemies in range, other times just the one 2 away (depends on the spear). His moves are all trap-laying moves that require enemies to walk over them. I never bothered using them, or any of the items that have the trap effects.
  • Rain is the healer, she uses Chakrams which have a 2 range and can also cast fire spells. But the healing is her main virtue.
  • Pongo is a monkey, who has a wide variety of elemental spells and also uses 2 range boomerangs. His AoE spells are very useful in a lot of battles.

The battle strategies tend to revolve around minimizing your AP expenditure moving, but you also need to get in position to do good damage (especially if you have to attack from behind). Spells can help a lot. Sometimes there are enemies that hide at the back and attack all of your guys or summon people, and so there you have to be able to either beat the front enemies quickly or manage to get around them to the back.

For the most part I did not find the game particularly challenging although there are a few tough battles. There are often heal points in dungeons, and the enemy encounters do not regenerate until you leave the dungeon so it’s not uncommon that you can heal completely after each fight if you need to.

The plot is a pretty basic “collect 7 items to stop the Dark King from destroying the world” plot with only one or two twists. There is some evidence of haste; several characters are introduced that seem like they should be involved in the storyline but barely make an appearance at all.

This game is OK but could have been a lot better if they had a better inventory system. Nevertheless, it’s probably still worth playing for SFC RPG fans, and I believe there is a patch.

SFC Game 113 – Gokinjo Boukentai

Gokinjo Boukentai (ごきんじょ冒険隊), released 5/24/1996, developed by ITL, released by Pioneer

The title of this game might be translated as “Neighborhood Adventure Group” — I think the title is supposed to evoke the idea of a bunch of children pretending to be adventurers. So it’s perhaps not surprising that the main character Mana is a preschooler and the various party members you get throughout the game are other people in her preschool class.

The game occurs over 6 months. In each period, you first do the preschool section during the week, and then have the exploration/event on Sunday.

You choose two subjects that Mana will work on during the week — speaking, playing, napping, building, or exercise. You can also pick a friend to work with, and sometimes a third friend will join as well (I’m not completely sure what determines this). Each activity will be done 3 times and has three different results — failure, OK, or success. The better you do the more your stats increase. When one of those dark green bars fills up completely, you get a blue gem that indicates that stat has increased.

There are no experience levels in the game so this is the only way (other than equipment) to change your stats.

Mana’s mom then wakes her up on Sunday and the adventure part of the game starts. Each Sunday has an event, although some of the events require Mana to have certain stats for them to activate. Sometimes there are alternate events provided — for instance, on 4/28 there is one even if Mana’s strength is above 16, and an alternate event if it is below 16. Other times if you don’t fulfill the requirements there simply will not be an event that day. You can tell this is what happened if there is no cutscene between the training and mom waking you up, and if mom doesn’t say anything beyond her usual wakeup speech. In that case you can just do whatever shopping or talking you want to in the town and then tell mom you’re ready to go to bed. You can also sometimes skip events entirely by going to bed, or later in the game by visiting the “clear man”. You can only skip through some of the days like this, though.

On the first day Mana meets God(!) who then sets up shop in the pipe in that picture; this is where you can save your game and add companions to your party for the day. There are a total of 5 party members aside from Mana, although I believe that 2 of them are optional. Mana’s cat also hangs around randomly and can sometimes do helpful things in battle.

Mana can then wander the town. Apparently 1/3 of the size of the cart is text, and there are a lot of people in the town who frequently change what they say. This is mostly window dressing, though. The town is pretty complicated to navigate, and I would recommend using a map or making your own, noting what the various stores sell and where key people are. The shops that sell the weapons and armor for characters aren’t always immediately evident. They change inventory each month.

Money is relatively limited in the game. Mana will get an allowance from her mom each day, but it’s not that much money. The cat will sometimes return with money, but this is unreliable. You can sell items for money; enemies drop things like Crowns and Iron Scrap that you can trade with some people in town for items that can be used in battle or sold.

The events frequently deal with Nanako (the pink haired girl) who is the daughter of a rich CEO and bullies everyone else. Other antagonists (or semi-antagonists) are Gojirin, whose underlings remind me of Earthbound.

There are also some fantastical elements, such as meeting kappa in a river, and helping ghosts.

The events always end with Mana’s mom coming to get her, scolding her for being late for dinner — she’s able to find you anywhere.

The battle system has some peculiarities. You recover all your HP at the end of each battle. Techniques cost HP to use, so there is some limit on what you can do in that respect.

By rotating your formation at the bottom you can change the stats a bit. I found that in general the difficulty level was relatively high, especially at the beginning. If Mana’s HP reaches 0, you get a game over, but God will then take you to train and you will upgrade one of the three main stats (atk, def, spd) and try again. These upgrades go away when you beat the enemy — I believe that if you keep getting game overs the upgrades stack, but I’m not 100% certain about that.

Although most of the game is just foiling Gojirin or Nanako’s mischief, a pattern emerges of people being possessed by some kind of evil spirit that we keep driving out. Eventually that leads to the final boss, who is some sort of embodiment of those negative feelings.

In the end Mana moves away because her father gets a job transfer, but all her friends say goodbye to her as she goes.

You can then replay the game in V-MAX mode, which doubles the gains you get from the training/school parts and thus makes it much easier to qualify for the events that require certain levels of stat (you can easily qualify for them without V-MAX, though, if you know what they are in advance — the one you have to work the hardest for is Level 4 Conversation by 8/25, but even this can be done without too much trouble.)

On the negative side, the balance can be a bit weird sometimes. I had several instances where enemies surprised me and got the first turn, and killed Mana before I could act. However, given the way the game over works that’s not a huge deal because you’ll come back with better stats and they may not get the surprise attack. Sometimes the hints for where to go next are hard to find or even nonexistent, although being able to skip days means that it’s hard to get completely stuck. There are some interface issues — you can’t see what items do when you’re buying them, which is annoying given the limited money. You can only see what the abilities do from the status menu, not when you’re in battle. It’s a little surprising that in 1996 companies are still not providing basic information like this to the player in a helpful way.

But overall I had fun with the game and it’s definitely worth a play. The cuteness and quirkiness sets it apart from the other RPGs of the era, and there’s a lot you can do and explore in the little town.

SFC Game 112 – Adventure of Hourai High School

Adventure of Hourai High School!! Transfer Student Scramble (蓬萊学園の冒険), released 4/19/1996, developed by J Wing

This is a game based on a somewhat extensive 1990s franchise that began with a “play by mail” game in a magazine — this is about the third or fourth game I’ve covered that started as one of these magazine games. From there they made a tabletop RPG with supplement books, and several manga and novelizations. This was the only video game. The setting is a huge island with a sprawling high school campus as well as some other locations that can serve as places for adventure.

The main feature of the system are the school clubs, which I imagine was a big part of the other versions of the game as well. Each character can be a member of 3 clubs, each of which has 3 levels. This is basically a job system, and when you “master” a club you can keep its abilities even if you switch to another club. Each club requires a certain kind of personality to join, so only certain people can join certain clubs. Some also have level requirements.

This is an interesting system but there are three issues that make it not as good as it could have been:

  1. You cannot see what abilities do in battle, only from the out of battle status menu. This is annoying given the large number of abilities.
  2. Switching clubs is a hassle because you have to go to the club building for most of them, but some of the better clubs are in other locations that require you to go through dungeons or make long trips. When you have a party of 10 people or more it’s tedious to do that.
  3. Finally, the game is so easy that the club abilities aren’t really necessary. The random encounter rate is very high. You do recover HP and GP (for the abilities) on level up, so you could use your abilities frequently, but it’s easier just to hold down a turbo button and speedup key. The bosses are easy enough that I beat them all just using a few basic club abilities, mostly the “triple hit” from the Kendo club and the heal abilities that you can get from one of the starting clubs as well. Although I rarely even had to heal in a boss fight.

You get a lot of companions throughout the game and earn “friendship points” that you can level up people’s connection to you, which strengthens their friendship ability that you can use before a battle. I tried using these a few times and they failed so I pretty much ignored this.

Sometimes I feel like this kind of criticism is a bit unfair to the game and may not reflect everyone’s experience — because of this project I’m doing, I’m usually looking to cut corners to finish a game faster unless it’s an exceptionally fun game. I imagine that if I had this game as a teenager I probably would have spent a lot more time with the job system.

The story involves one year in the life of a transfer student, who you name and choose the sex of. She is complaining that the plane trip is taking too long and so they push her out of the plane — her parachute doesn’t open so she lands in the middle of the new semester assembly, sending one student to the hospital. She immediately joins the school newspaper, and a lot of the game involves seeking scoops for that paper.

As you might be able to see from that description of the start, the story is relatively silly and involves a lot of gags and surreal things. It takes place over thirteen different dates in the year.

The first chapter is in April, and is basically just the introduction. Trying to get a scoop, you overhear someone seemingly hypnotize the student council into approving a “horse fight” competition (which you can see above). In the US we usually do this in a swimming pool, but when I was in Japan on the JET program I saw them do this on dirt fields in both elementary and middle school — I couldn’t believe people didn’t get seriously injured (you have to try to knock the top person off).

In May the first of the new “rules” goes up, that students have to exercise every day. In the jungle we do the competition, but also free someone named Hinako from a cell; someone unknown imprisoned her because she’s descended from some ancient priestesses.

The third chapter in May involves tracking down the Twilight Penguin group who stole test answers to sell — it turns out one of the teachers was involved, but we foil their plans.

In June (chapter 4) we meed Isaac and Julia, an international student couple (interracial! in the US even in 1996 this was unusual in media, and in some ways still is). A ghost joins our party, and we defeat a Devil Jinn accidentally summoned by a member of the occult club.

Chapter 5 (July) involves going to Shinmachi north of campus to a Star Festival, but some mysterious group (not the penguins) has stolen the necessary prayer book for the festival, and we have to track it down.

Chapter 6 and 7 (August) involve a school trip to Africa where the plane crashes midway and we’re stranded on an island. There the young principal sneaks into a forbidden temple to try to recover some kind of ancient artifact, which turns out to be a notebook owned by the founder of Hourai. It also turns out that we crashed on the Hourai island, the plane barely made it out of the runway before crashing.

Chapter 8 involves the inventor club’s robot going berserk; it is controlled by Shin, one of the people in the same group as Rachel (who was hypnotizing the student council at the beginning). His goal was to implement strict new rules for campus, but nobody is following them.

In Chapter 9 we learn the secret group is “Kouzan Nostra”, looking for some kind of secret items to take over the school. Chapter 10 is Christmas, and you have to investigate fake Santas to find out which one is working for Kouzan Nostra.

In Chapter 11 we go to the campus’ research lab to once again stop Kouzan Nostra from acquiring an item they want, and we learn the name of their leader, Jomra. Professor Daiouji tells us that KN needs to implement all the rules in their secret book to be able to take over the school, but we can stop them with three secret items (a pencil, a ledger, and the first student ID card). We happen to already have 2 of them, and Chapter 12 nabs us the third one.

Now in Chapter 13 it’s time to stop the Kouzan Nostra. First, we fly into the student assembly to stop the hypnotizing of the entire class.

Jomra flees under the school, and reveals that the Kouzan Nostra are descendants of miners who were excavating ore from the island when Hourai High School was suddenly built on top of them, trapping them underground. Now it’s time for revenge. He shows us the Mogemoge Idol which is the god they all worship, and then uses the power of the “Keystone”, a special stone made with the island’s ore, to transform into a monster.

After beating Jomra, the Mogemoge idol comes to life, which surprises Jomra because he had just made up Mogemoge as a way to intimidate Kouzan Nostra into following his plans. But it seems all the bad feelings in the campus have crystallized to give life to the “god”. The three items give us power to fight the final boss.

The game ends with the closing ceremony, and you get your “grades” which is a record of what you did in the game. But what happened to the Keystone? It was destroyed, right? Dum dum dum…

This is a pretty average game. There is a lot of content and a lot of stuff to do in the game, even if a lot of it isn’t very meaningful (I didn’t search for the “7 wonders of Hourai Campus” for instance). If the interface and system were a little more up to date it would have been a lot more fun.

SFC Game 111 – Mahoujin Guruguru 2

Mahoujin Guruguru 2 (魔法陣グルグル2), released 4/12/1996, developed by Tamtam, published by Enix

This is the followup to the first Guruguru game, released about a year later. In my post on the original game I gave some background on the series but I failed to notice that although the original manga had ended in 2003, there is a “Mahoujin Guruguru 2” that started in 2012 and is still running in the online version of Monthly Gangan.

The first game was only marginally an RPG; it had no real story and was based on randomly generated dungeons. This game is a full-fledged RPG though, essentially an unusual type of action RPG.

As in the first game, you only control Kukuri, while Nike automatically fights the monsters. However, this time the battles take place on the same map as the exploration. When the battle starts, Nike will face up against the enemy and try to attack. You can change AI settings for him but without the instruction manual I was never sure what they did. Meanwhile, Kukuri can run around the map and cast spells to support Nike or damage the enemy. The spellcasting is the same as in the first game and I can copy my comments from the post there:

“To cast a spell, you first choose one of four elements (wind, fire, life, water). Then you pick an area of effect, and then a style (like “powerful”). This makes a possible 64 combinations that result in 64 different spells. The idea is interesting but as with most games that offer this many spell choices, there are a few that are really powerful and the rest aren’t worth using.” In the 2nd game you get all of the effect/style/element factors by moving forward in the story. None of them are hidden or optional. I don’t remember if this was the case in the original, but here you also have to have Kukuri at a certain level to be able to cast each spell. It’s hard to keep track of what is what; I had to make a list of the useful spells in my notebook.

If there is more than one enemy in the area, the other enemies can attack Nike or Kukuri with spells or other moves. Kukuri can try to deal with those enemies on her own but for the most part she’s more effective helping Nike deal with the monster he’s fighting. Nike often is not all that effective; his attacks frequently miss and it takes him a long time to kill an enemy unless you are way above the enemy’s level.

The game balance is problematic beyond what I just mentioned. There are bosses that will kill Kukuri in one hit from full HP even with the best equipment she can buy, meaning that there is no way to beat the boss other than levelling up. For the majority of the game, I found that if I was strong enough to reach the boss I was also strong enough to beat it, but there were a few times (the last boss in particular) where grinding was necessary. Fortunately there is a code where you can set the XP you get from a battle; if you set it too high it messes up but if you put it around 500 XP per battle you can quickly level up to wherever you need to be.

The plot is as usual mostly a parody of Dragon Quest-style RPGs; overall it’s pretty light and has only a few turns. According to the kusowiki description, the plot makes more sense and is more satisfying if you have read the manga.

The beginning of the game is actually the hardest part — you have to do a tutorial battle with only Nike and also one with only Kukuri. You can’t do any levelling or upgrades, you just have to beat the fights. The battle system is very unintuitive at first — I died so many times in these tutorial battles that I seriously thought of skipping the game entirely, but I watched a video where someone beat the Nike part just by holding down the attack button at the start of the fight, and while that didn’t work completely for me, it was enough to beat the boss. To beat the Kukuri fight you need to figure out how the initial spell works; it’s easy to hit yourself with it and at level 1 that does a huge amount of damage (of course you have no healing items).

Once you get past that the game is still a bit tricky until you level up a bit because you still have to be careful of hitting yourself or Nike with the fireball. Fortunately all but the very early spells autotarget the enemies so it’s not an issue after the first area.

The game is entirely linear. You come to a new village and have to solve a problem there, then you automatically get moved on to the next village — you can revisit old areas with a flying shoes item, but the only reason you would want to do that is that grinding is easier in previous areas than in current ones.

Basically you do the same thing in each area — fight the monsters in the area and find the treasure chests until you can reach the boss (and have the best equipment and a good stock of healing items), and then beat the boss. Level up if you can’t do it. If you die you lose half your money but keep everything else.

The hardest part for me other than the beginning was the Nekojita Valley because the healing items weren’t keeping up with Nike and Kukuri’s HP and I had not gotten the healing spell yet, so I basically had to grind until I was much more powerful than the enemies.

Eventually you get the glimmer of a story — in order to defeat Giri in the Underworld, Kukuri and Nike need the power of the four spirits. At the same time, they hear about another person from Kukuri’s clan who tried to get the power himself and sealed the spirits away.

This turns out to be the final boss Rido, a failed guruguru user who tried to get the power to defeat Giri himself but realized he was too weak, and now decides to test the heroes to see if they can do it. Giri actually extends his power to corrupt Rido for the final boss; Kukuri has to be level 77 to survive his attack but once you’re there the battle itself is not too bad as long as you immediately heal Kukuri. For Kukuri I spammed the spell that makes Nike attack faster.

The ending is bizarre – Rido tells the heroes they are strong enough to go into the underworld and face Giri. First the heroes decide to go say goodbye to everyone, but then after that they decide the underworld sounds too scary and give up, and nobody knows what happened to them after that. I guess this fits with the comic tone of the series?

Overall this is an OK game. The system is unusual and original, but everything seems not quite fully polished, and the battles can be frustrating when enemies are spamming attacks that cancel Kukuri’s spells or when Nike can’t seem to hit at all. You can also switch screens and have Kukuri get stuck inside a monster and if you can’t manage to free yourself you can’t cast any spells. But this certainly is far from the worst game I’ve played and it’s better than Guruguru 1.