Category Archives: Super Famicom RPGs

SFC Game 107 – Front Mission Gun Hazard

Front Mission Series Gun Hazard (フロントミッションシリーズ ガンハザード), released 2/23/1996, developed by Omiya Soft and published by Square

This was the second game released under the Front Mission title. It’s not really an RPG, it’s more of a side-scrolling action shooter with some RPG-derived elements. But it’s a fun game so I played it to the end.

The game takes place in an alternate timeline from the rest of the games. In this world, the entire world had come together to build a space elevator to make it easier to launch ships, but it was never finished because the countries of the world started fighting each other.

The main character, Albert, is part of the military of the republic of Belgen. At the beginning of the game, the republic’s military is taken over by Ark, who leads a coup d’etat against the prime minister. The first episode of the game involves Albert trying to protect the prime minister from the coup.

In most stages you just move from left to right and shoot everything. There are also base stages where you have to explore around in a base, and sometimes the side scrolling stages will have underwater sections or the like. New enemies will appear as you kill the existing ones, although there is (I think on every stage) a limit to how many new enemies can come out. If you look at the top right of the screen, when that part with ENE turns beige, that means no more enemies will appear.

After each stage, Albert will get money and XP. As he levels up, the HP of his Wanzer increases, and he is able to use new weapons (although you also have to find a shop that sells them). You can upgrade the wanzer with body, vernier (to fly), shield, and dash units. In addition to that, you can equip one of four main weapons, and a certain number of subweapons depending on the Wanzer body.

There is an overworld map of the entire world, and then in each place there are a number of areas. Some areas just have enemies to fight, others advance the story. You can often repeat areas as many times as you want, so it’s pretty easy to level up and buy everything. I mostly used the Shotgun weapon and the Knuckle as the subweapon, although the healing field and the armor plate are useful as well. (The Spark Gun is pretty good also, especially for certain fights — it locks on to an enemy and does damage as long as you hold it down).

Fortunately there is a map you can check, that shows where the enemies (and loot boxes) are.

Because you can level up easily and buy a lot of repair items to use, the game as a whole is pretty easy. There are a few bosses where you need to learn the attack pattern to survive enough to kill it, but for probably 80% of the game you can just hold down the attack button and jump around, and use your shield to block the projectiles if needed. I’m not great at action games but even I didn’t have much trouble.

You can also get out of your Wanzer and fight on foot (with hand grenades and a gun); the advantage of that is that you can duck and avoid all damage, but generally it’s not something you want to do unless you have to.

Finally you can have companions for the battle but I didn’t find this very useful. The ones that actually appear in mechs get killed too easily and then you have to pay money to get them new stuff, and the game just isn’t hard enough to where I thought it was worth bothering.

At the end of the first episode, Albert is branded a traitor and has to flee Belgen; he goes with a woman named Brenda Lockhart to the US where he becomes a mercenary. The next few episodes are seemingly unconnected stories where he goes to various areas to deal with unstable situations. Slowly though, Albert hears about an organization called The Society that seems to be behind what is going on, and eventually he decides (for various reasons) to try to find out who they are and stop them.

The music is quite good, as you might expect from that composer list. The graphics are pretty good as well.

Overall, although it’s not an RPG, I did enjoy it — there is a fan translation so I would definitely recommend giving it a shot.

SFC Game 106 – Bakumatsu Kourinden ONI

Bakumatsu Kourinden ONI (幕末降臨伝ONI), released on 2/2/1996, developed by Pandora Box and Winkysoft, published by Banpresto

This is the seventh game in the ONI series and the second one for the Super Famicom. I played the first one (Kijin Kourinden ONI) earlier. The first one took place in the Kamakura period (14th century) whereas this one takes place in the Bakumatsu period, which is the transition from the Edo to Meiji periods (mid-18th century). Despite this change, it’s rather unfortunate that the Japan part of the game doesn’t really feel any different. The towns and even Kyoto/Edo that you visit don’t feel particularly Edo- or Bakumatsu, they’re kind of generic towns that you might have found in the first game. There should be Westerners in Japan, people talking about the cultural changes and such, but you don’t really see that until later in the game.

The story opens with the “Shadow Shinsengumi” — the Shinsengumi were a historical group of samurai associated with the shogunate that is well known through pop culture representations. The “Shadow Shinsengumi” is a fictional part of this organization dedicated to dealing with spirits, demons, and other creatures of that nature. (The text is written vertically; I don’t think I’ve seen an RPG before this that does that.) They’re driving out some yokai that were disguised as humans.

The main character is Yamatomaru, whose father was a yokai hunter but was killed by a strong enemy. At the beginning of the game he goes to a nearby mountain to drive out some spirits. Later more spirits attack his town (Iidamachi) but he is saved by a warrior Jurota. They go to the capital to find out why the yokai attacks are increasing all over Japan, and end up joining the Shadow Shinsengumi.

The graphics are quite nice; good late-SFC quality.

The game system is similar to the previous title, with some changes. They switched to a normal XP/level system. This game also has the NPCs, kami (gods), and 5 Heavenly Swords from the first game but the implementation is a bit different:

  • There are NPCs that randomly do stuff in battle; this time you can get as many as you want although only 8 can be in your active roster at once.
  • The kami still give you spells, although not all of them are associated with a particular character anymore. In addition, some characters will also learn spells naturally through levelling.
  • The game kept the “monster” transformations from the 5 heavenly swords. However, in addition to that you now equip the swords and they level up. You learn sword techniques that use the power represented by the green number in the shot above, and that regenerates 1 point per step. If you have a sword equipped you only earn 1/2 XP for the person (but full for the sword). Basically when you get these swords you never really equip another weapon again with one or two exceptions.

The NPCs and kami still require a lot of backtracking and talking to random people at certain times without much in the way of clues.

The plot is rather static for the first 2/3 or so of the game. The main characters are given the task of figuring out where all the yokai are coming from. We are soon joined by Natsume and her brother, two survivors of a clan who can control spirit forces. It turns out that the yokai are coming from out-of-control Spirit Holes, and we decided to seal all the ones we can find in Japan. However, although behind the scenes we see that the Shogun wants the power for himself, and that a foreigner named Risshu is manipulating some of the military in the shadows, also wanting the Spirit Holes for themselves.

At each Spirit Hole we get a new Heavenly Sword and see a flashback involving the characters from Kijin Kourinden ONI; it turns out in the end that they put their own spirits into the Swords so that they could protect the Spirit Holes.

Eventually we deal with all the Spirit Holes in Japan, although in doing so we make an enemy of the Shogun, who is tired of us sealing all the holes, and declares us traitors. We also face off personally against Risshu, and defeat him. The heroes then decide that they need to get away from Japan, and head to the United States, taking along a native American woman who was in Japan — she tells us that there are “Guardians” (like the kami) in the US and some spirit holes there as well.

This leads to a weird section of the game where you have to make it across the ocean in a boat. You buy cannonballs and torpedoes, and can also level the ship up. You also sometimes have to fight regular enemies as well. This part is annoying and slow because you need to be pretty strong to deal with all the enemies you have to beat to reach America, but to get that strong there’s really no option aside from just a bunch of grinding. Or, you can use items that eliminate random encounters, which is what I did…this would bite me in the ass later but for now it seemed like a good idea.

There is no explanation for how you deal with the language barrier, but in any case the white people in the US pretty much scorn you (except they’re willing to sell you things), and the Native Americans are a lot more receptive.

In America we find out that Risshu was some kind of cybernetic creation of three scientists — Alva, Tesla, and Reich (I’m not sure exactly who ライッヒ is supposed to be), who have depleted the Spirit Holes in the US and want to use the ones in Japan to continue their scientific researches and eventual world takeover. Natsume’s brother eventually has to sacrifice himself to defeat one of the scientists’ creations, and after his death, Squanto joins the party as the 4th member. After this, the scientists head to Japan and we need to chase them back there.

This is where my earlier actions were fatal because there’s no way to buy the no-encounter items, and as far as I know there is no way to upgrade your ship in America. Maybe there was some other way to get out of the situation but after about 10 game overs I just turned on a no-encounter cheat code to get back to Japan. So if you want to play this legitimately you will need either 4 no-encounter items total, or you need to have a boat strong enough to reach America without using them.

In Japan, we have been branded traitors so can’t access any resources anywhere in the land (if you stay at an Inn, you get attacked by Shinsengumi). So for allies we have to call on the ancient Ihika (the name comes from one of the ancient kami of Japan). Their clan once tried to control and wield the powers of the Spirit Holes for themselves, but their civilization was destroyed. Hopefully the same will not happen to humans.

Next up is a large tower with a lot of created spirits in it; I think the scientists were able to make this with the power of the Spirit Hole but it seems pretty fast. In any case the goal here is to shut the tower down so that the power can’t be used anymore.

After this, the scientists use the power on themselves to make themselves spirits, heading to the final Spirit Hole in Hokkaido.

You have to beat all three scientists, followed by Risshu who is back and fuses himself with the Spirit Hole to make a huge monster.

The final boss was a huge step up in difficulty and I had to do some grinding just to be able to survive his attacks. It helps if Natsume can use her “sacrifice” move to kill the left hand and then you can kill the right hand quickly with strong attacks. It’s still not an easy fight because the head can only be hurt by the transformed attacks and he has a move that puts everyone back in their regular forms.

After the fight, the main characters have to sacrifice themselves the seal the Spirit Hole.

Although later, Sakamoto Ryouma (one of the few historical figures in the game) gets a message that the heroes actually did survive and set out for a new land in their ship, but were never heard from again.

Overall this is a decent game; it’s perfectly playable and has nothing egregiously bad in it. The story is serviceable, and there’s a decent amount of side content (although some of it seems basically impossible without a guide). Ultimately it doesn’t rise to the level of the top tier SFC RPGs but it’s worth a play.

SFC Game 105 – Madou Monogatari Hanamaru Preschoolers

Madou Monogatari Hanamaru Preschoolers (魔導物語 はなまる大幼稚園児), released 1/12/1996, developed by Compile

Madou Monogatari is a series that started in 1989 for computers, and was originally a trilogy of short dungeon crawlers starring Arle Nadja, a little girl who was learning magic. The characters are best known for their later appearance in the Puyo Puyo series, but variations of the original games were released through 1996. This game is based on the first game in the original trilogy, where Arle has to find three orbs in the magic tower to graduate kindergarten. I’ll be playing the PC Engine remake of this game near the end of 1996, but this game is an expansion of that story by including Arle’s quest to find eight items she needs to even begin the magic tower quest. Rather than a 3D dungeon, this is a standard JRPG style, although it borrows elements of the system from the earlier games.

By the time this game came out, Puyo Puyo 2 had been released along with the Nazo Puyo games, so this game was attempting to follow in the major success of those titles.

The game uses the same “fuzzy parameters” system as the original; you don’t get any numbers for HP, MP, XP, or the like. Instead, you have to judge Arle’s HP based on her expression and what she says when she gets hit. The above screenshot shows her max HP expression.

Here she’s nearly at 0 hp. After you use a spell she will tell you what her remaining MP are like. XP are the green gems at the sides; when all of them fill up you move up a level. The level is indicated in the status screen by a general description.

Near the beginning of the game she is “weak”.

Near the end she is “Strongest in the preschool”. The flower circles at the right are her speed, defense, and strength.

In battle you don’t attack, you choose a spell instead. They’re all represented by pictures but you can get help to see what they are — they’re all the familiar ones to Puyo Puyo players, along with the voice clips probably taken from that game. While this interface is OK, I think that when it comes to the item usage it becomes annoying. You have to scroll through a lot of screens to get to the item you want and there’s no item stacking so if you want 10-15 healing items of several types it becomes cumbersome to use.

One nice feature of the game is that if you are high enough level compared to the enemies, you can hold down L+R when the encounter is beginning and you will automatically win the fight. I wish more games with random encounters had some feature like this, or at least a way to avoid fights that you can easily win.

Arle learns new spells by reading silver signs that are around the world.

There are also gold signs that can only be read with the help of a dictionary, which you get partway through the game. The top level of all the spells can only be reached through an optional sidequest. Higher level spells can be cast by powering up one level each turn.

The items there on the right are things you can use on the map to help you access new places by jumping, entering small holes, pushing far away switches, and such. I evidently didn’t get any screenshots, but you can also equip a staff and a ring that provide various benefits. The best ring is the one that lets you immediately power up to the maximum in order to use your best levels of the spells.

There’s no real storyline to speak of — Arle’s main opponents are the gang depicted in the picture above, and some devils that periodically control people. But basically you’re just traveling around the small world map and finding the 8 crystals you need to enter the tower for the final quest. It’s a pretty short game and can be completed in roughly 10 hours.

The game is also not especially difficult since you can always run successfully from fights. If you are having trouble with a boss you can level up until the monsters in the area don’t give you much XP, and try different spells to find the weak points of the boss. Healing items are also relatively affordable.

So this is an OK game — nothing too special but perfectly playable and with some enjoyable elements that aren’t in other RPGs. But how are all the other kids supposed to graduate from preschool if it’s this difficult!?

Game list Jan-Mar 1996, plus some changes

1995 is done! That had the most games of any year — all that’s left is 1996 and a few 1997 games (plus 1999’s Fire Emblem 5 when I get to it on the SRPG side).

Here’s the first three months of 1996 games.

  • Mado Monogatari: Hanamaru Preschool – This is in the series with Puyo Puyo but I don’t know anything about it.
  • Madara Kindergarten Saga – A rather odd hybrid time game but is doesn’t look like an RPG to me.
  • BS Dynami Tracer! and BS Treasure Conflix – These games are listed as RPGs on some sites; they involved the satellite internet addon for the Super Famicom; not sure if they even count as RPGs but they can’t be fully played in any case.
  • Bakumatsu Korinden – Followup to Kijin Korinden Oni from 1994.
  • Bahamut Lagoon – SRPG, already played
  • Front Mission Gun Hazard – This seems to be an RPG although a bit of an unorthodox one.
  • Super Mario RPG – A classic.
  • Brandish 2 Expert – In English, also I don’t know if it’s fully an RPG
  • Chaos Seed – This is another game that seems questionable as to whether it’s actually an RPG or not, but we’ll see.
  • Masou Kishin Lord of Elemental – SRPG, played
  • Ys V Expert – The 5th Ys game. Not much harder than the original despite the title.

Now, a moderate change in how things are going to go — I want to make a push to finish the Super Famicom games. I have three more SRPGs to finish up 1997. Once I do that, I will have roughly 24 Super Famicom games left. What I think I will do is change the “2 SFC games, 1 SRPG game” sequence and just play as many SFC games as I can until I feel like I need a break, then play SRPG. So it may be 3-5 or even more SFC games per SRPG game.

One I finish the SFC games, I will go back to playing more SRPG games. In addition to that, I would like to take some reader requests, perhaps play some very old games, and also pick games either at random from a large list I’m making, or even do the very shocking thing of just choosing a game I want to play.

Here’s the list I’m making. It’s compiled from two different comprehensive Japanese sites and has gotten rather out of hand. I started it quite a while back when I needed some filler posts for the Super Famicom blog, and I thought it might be fun to play some of the oldest games, so I made a list of the first 100 RPGs. Then I decided I might also want to play some games that were released around the same time as the games I was playing, so I extended it up to 1996. From that point I just kept going — I’ve added to it little by little over the past 4 years or so and as this point it’s complete through 2009 with over two thousand games. I’m going to include everything through the 7th generation of consoles, finishing with the last PS3 game release in 2016. There are probably a lot of mistakes in it but there’s no way I’m checking the entire thing.

SFC Game 104 – Super Chinese World 3

Super Chinese World 3 (スーパーチャイニーズワールド3 超次元大作戦), released 12/22/1995, developed by Culture Brain

The last SFC game of 1995 is also the last of Culture Brain’s “Super Chinese” RPGs — there are a couple of games after this with the Super Chinese title but they are remakes or not RPGs. Unfortunately the series ends with basically a whimper; this is clearly a rushed product that was shoveled out the door with relatively little effort. The game is only 12 megabits instead of 16 like the last game.

The cornerstone of the series had been its mix of Action RPG and turn-based RPG styles. For World 2, they completely removed the turn based aspect and made it only ARPG. For 3, they have two options — you can play either the ARPG mode or the Turn Based mode. The two modes have slightly different story developments so I think the intent was that you would play both modes, although from what I can tell there’s no bonus if you finish both.

I initially tried the ARPG mode but I’m just no good at this kind of combat; I found people saying the ARPG mode was braindead easy and you could just mash buttons, but I got so many game overs in the early parts that I went back to the turn based.

The saving is still done with passwords rather than battery backed memory.

The story setup is essentially the same as before. Gingaramao is back again, trying to revive Dimetron to take over the worlds. Jack and Ryu, the kung fu brothers, initially don’t know anything about this. The storyline basically involves just trying to get to “Beautiful World” to stop Gingaramao, but there’s only one other world between the start one and that (Dino World). It’s a pretty short game; one route takes about 6 hours or so to beat. It does provide a sort of conclusion to the Super Chinese story if you care about that at all.

There are a lot of evidences of the laziness — buying weapons and armor buys them for all members of your team, for instance. In battle each character has their own HP but out of battle they all share the main character.

The ARPG system is the same as Super Chinese World 2, and it’s just as annoying — you fight random enemies until the game decides the fight is over. There are various moves you can do but they require Street Fighter-like combinations. Also as in SCW2, they have platforming stages.

The turn based system usually has Jack and Ryu, but you can use a spell to switch between Linlin (a new character) and Shubabarn, who was an enemy in the last game but promises he’s not going to join the enemies again. You have a basic attack, and then hissatsu and jitsu (roughly techs and spells). Each one can be used a certain number of times until you rest at an inn. Bosses for some reason are 1-on-1.

Levelling is fast and there are few challenges in the game (on the turn based side at least). The final boss is the one exception; he gets 5 attacks per turn and you have to be at a decent level just to survive his attacks. I found that I had levelled up so quickly just from playing the game that I was strong enough to beat him, but this was the only boss that provided any true difficulty.

Honestly I don’t really want to write any more about this — it’s a boring game, but at least it was short. There’s a translation patch so you can try it out for yourself.

Next up is the last 1995 game, the PC Engine game Seiya Monogatari: Anearth Fantasy Stories, which I’m about 2/3 done with. It’s a genuinely good game — probably in the top 5 I’ve played for the SFC/PCE games. So we’ll have at least part 1 of that post next week.

SFC Game 103 – Record of Lodoss War (Finished)

We’re continuing chapter 4, which is Parn’s adventure. I recognize plot elements from the PC Engine Lodoss game and the story seems to cover the first 8 episodes of the anime, although some of the details are different.

In order to find the priest who will heal the village, we have to go to an ice cavern where he has gone.

The best way to deal with the dungeons is to use Slayn’s Vision spell, take a screenshot, and then open that screenshot up alongside your emulation window. The map doesn’t show where you are, but as long as you know where you came in the dungeon is should be useful. The world map, by contrast, is completely useless because it’s hard to relate anything on the map to what’s in the actual game and there is no indication of where you are.

The most efficient way to fight the battles is to identify the leader and then without doing too much damage to him, try to knock him into the pit for the x2 EXP (you can’t kill him though, or it doesn’t count). This is easier to do once you get spells that can freeze the enemy — casting Quick on Parn helps as well to get more turns. It’s not always possible, though.

In the dungeon, the dwarf Ghim joins, and we find Neese, the healer who helps with the village. Now we hear about a plot to assassinate the king, and join up with Woodchuck the thief so that we can sneak through the sewers and get into the castle. After this, we get sent out to save the king’s daughter, get captured, escape, and finally have our full party of six (with Deedlit joining).

Now the king wants us to be messengers to two nearby castles to see if they will join us in opposing Beld. This is probably the most frustrating part because of how useless the world map is, and also there are no teleport spells (there’s one that takes you out of a dungeon, but not town to town). After this, the war starts.

After the war, we have the final event — Neese had told us that it will be possible to kill Karla if we can get the circlet from her just as she’s dying, before she has the chance to move into another body. If we do this successfully, the body she has now (Layla) could be freed, but this is a dangerous thing that might not work. Of course, first we have to get to Karla through some long dungeons.

This is the same dungeon from chapter 1 but there are no chests anymore. Coming out on the other side, we can finally reach Karla’s tower and the final dungeon.

Something went wrong for me in this dungeon. If you look closely at the map, there are two possible ways to go. One way is “rely on magic” and the other is “rely on sword”. You are supposed to choose one of the directions and then get two keys, which will unlock the bottom door. I could not get the second key, though — the treasure chest just opened and closed without giving me the item. I saw someone complaining about this on GameFAQs as well with no answer. I tried watching a video and also beating the room boss without using any magic, but none of that worked. In the end I just used a cheat code to give myself the key, but I really don’t know what I was doing wrong. All of the chests once you pass the double locked door wouldn’t open either.

The final fight is against Karla. She’s quite difficult; her companion golems block your way to her and barely take any damage. She can be silenced and frozen (by Deed’s Ice Pole spell). I did have to do a bit of grinding but I think the key is just to get lucky enough with your freeze/silence spells that she can’t cast too many damaging spells. I buffed with Slayn, healed with Eto, and attacked with Parn and Woodchuck (Ghim could never reach her).

Woodchuck then steals the circlet, but he then runs away and it seems like he is possessed by Karla. I’m not sure why they stopped the story here — I don’t know enough about the Lodoss franchise to know what story this is covering. From what I can tell from Wikipedia, Woodchuck doesn’t appear again in the anime after episode 8, so there’s no continuation to this story at least in that medium.

In any case, this is not a bad game. It has some quirks and annoyances that you do have to get used to, but the battle system is reasonably fun, the characters are clearly differentiated and have a lot of spells that are actually worth using. It does have a translation patch so it’s worth a try. There is also an optional boss against an ancient red dragon, which I didn’t attempt.

SFC Game 103 – Record of Lodoss War (Part 1)

Record of Lodoss War (ロードス島戦記), released 12/22/1995, developed by Hummingbird Soft

This is yet another game based on Lodoss War; the Wikipedia article has background information on the series. But in short it started out as records of a D&D campaign and developed into a multimedia franchise. This is the fourth Lodoss War game I’ve played on this blog.

The game is divided into four chapters. The fourth chapter has the familiar Lodoss characters (Deedlit, Parn, etc) and seems to cover a story similar to the anime series and the first novels. The first three chapters are essentially prologues that cover some backstory of characters that appear in the final chapter — despite their prologue status they make up about 40% of the game.

The opening scene shows the Six Heroes battling the Demon King 30 years prior to the main storyline. They defeat him, but one hero dies and a mysterious helmeted woman helps them out.

Chapter 1 follows the mysterious woman, who turns out to be Karla, a 500 year old sorceress dedicated to preserving a neutral balance between factions of the world. She has a circlet with her consciousness in it, and if she is ever killed, her consciousness inhabits a nearby person.

She starts out with no memory but quickly gets back some memories and also levels up and gains spells as she possesses other people. The basic plot of her story is to hunt down one of the remaining minions of the Demon Lord who escaped the final battle.

The battles take place on a small grid. Each battle has a leader, and if you finish off the leader the rest of the enemies will flee (and you’ll get XP as if you beat them). You uncover the leader usually by hitting them, and then a crown will appear on their head. Also, if you can knock the leader into the pit at the back, you’ll see CHECK MATE and get double the XP for winning the fight. You can also flee by going off the bottom of the map. The system is OK but as usual the random encounter rate is pretty high. You also get a lot of XP for battles and level very quickly.

This is what the dungeons are like. At first I couldn’t figure out how the movement worked and I kept turning backwards and going ways I didn’t want to go — eventually I figured out that you are supposed to press diagonally to move, something I haven’t seen in any of these isometric view games before.

Chapter 2 is about Beld, who has a cursed sword and armor. His LP deplete every few steps and he can’t recover at Inns, but he regains all LP when the leader of a battle is beaten.

At first he’s trying to find someone to break the curse on his sword, but after that fails he decides to unify Marmo Island, by gaining the trust of the various factions on the island.

Chapter 3 concerns Fahn, another one of the Six Heroes. He uncovers a plot in Valis to take over the kingdom, but uncovers it and becomes the King of Valis himself. One of his underlings is Parn’s father.

After those prologues we reach Chapter 4. Beld has unified Mormo Island and is now attacking the mainland, with the help of Karla (who I guess feels this is necessary for neutrality). Fahn, now the King of Valis, is trying to oppose him. Parn is our main character here, the son of one of Fahn’s knights who was branded a traitor.

Goblins attack a girl in the woods. Parn fights them off with the help of Etoh (priest), but then the townspeople are mad that they’ve provoked the goblins who will now attack the town. This does happen at night, but they fight off the goblins with the help of Slayn the magician.

The trio go to a nearby cave to eliminate the goblins before they can attack anymore, but there are only a handful of goblins there. Heading back to the town they find that the goblins have attacked while they’re gone and hurt a lot of people, but the trio fights them off. Since Etoh’s healing power is not enough to heal everyone, the party decides to go find Neese, one of the Six Heroes, who should be able to help. They also learn about Karla and Beld’s attack on the mainland — Parn decides that after they help the villagers he’ll head to the capital to meet King Fahn.

That’s where I’ll stop here, hopefully I’ll have the game finished next weekend.

SFC Game 102 – Tengai Makyo Zero (Finished)

I did finish the game this week. After the Fire Bear Nation, you essentially go through the other five nations sequentially with a similar pattern — go to the nation, learn what is happening to it, and then make your way to the boss and defeat it.

The most annoying thing about all this is the very high random encounter rate. These aren’t encounters you can just hold down attack to beat — it’s appreciated that you should be using elemental attacks and such, but when there are so many of them it becomes quite tedious.

Peacock Nation

Blood is raining from the sky here, making everyone get sick. But to get to the tower with the boss we need a flying machine. This guy named Akamaru tries to trick you into giving him the key to the machine, but it turns out he’s the villain of this land. Fortunately Subaru, your second companion, shows up to help you out.

Some of her skills involve this egg/animal raising minigame, but it can’t be done if the clock is not working so I didn’t get any of those skills.

Once we get the ship we go to the bloodshed tower and finish off Akamaru.

Crane Nation

This land has suffered a severe drought that has turned everything into desert. You walk slowly through the desert but can hire a Sand Rat Cart to help out.

The boss here is Sara, the third of Ninigi’s underlings. We also get our third companion, Tenjin, who was one of the fire clan 600 years ago. He was in love with one of the Hell people Mizuki, but was cursed to have Mizuki inside him. He and Mizuki can switch who is in the real world but they can never meet.

Once Sara is beaten, the next person Juri absorbs Sara inside herself and then goes to the next world.

Turtle Nation

Juri has caused everything to be overgrown with forest. She’s a weird person who leads you through the world, putting up a lot of games, quizzes, signposts, and such.

Eventually though, she’s forced to fight — you fight her twice, once in the main form and then she combines with Sara and you have to fight her again.

Canine Nation

Here, some scientist has taken over and everyone has turned greedy, going after gold.

The first task is to deal with his big cat giant robot…this involves mining some gold ourselves and doing some other tasks to revive an ancient robot.

After a minigame we can get into the main castle, and beat the boss.

There’s a minigame in this nation that gives you a 1 in 3 chance to double your money, so you can save a few times and easily have several million gold which is enough to buy anything in the game.

Dragon Nation

We now have freed five of the six divine gods, the final one is the dragon in dragon nation. In a break from the past nations, we actually revive the Dragon as the first task. But this is also the land where the Gates of Hell is, so we’ll have to deal with that too.

The Dragon tells us that to beat Ninigi we’ll need Agni’s sword, which was what originally sealed him. It’s beyond the gates of Hell, and using the six stones of the divine gods we can open Ninigi’s barrier long enough to recover the Agni Sword. Higan has to do this on his own, but after going through a few tricks and traps he recovers it.

Now we go take on Ninigi in the Dragon Castle, but despite the Agni sword he wipes the floor with us and breaks the sword. So what do we do now? The Dragon tells us our only option is to go to Takamagahara in the heavens and ask Agni directly to help us. We need to use Ark’s Mirror to activate the divine ark that will take us to the heavens.

In Tamagahara, Agni is pissed off that we came to the heavens and brought conflict with us — she never liked the fact that the Fire Clan and the six nation gods rebelled against the heavens. She’ll help us if we show our strength by dealing with some of Ninigi’s monsters that have come to the heavens.

This just involves going around the heavens and beating three bosses in various towns. Higan’s “Dragon Strike” attack is helpful. The random enemies get much harder at this point.

Back at Agni’s place, one of Ninigi’s minions, the Atramentous Alabaster, is trying to break in, but we drive him off.

    Higan has to go through another solo dungeon to get the Fire of Agni in his sword, and then Agni also gives the other two their ultimate weapons. Now it’s time to take on Ninigi.

    I thought this was a tough fight. Higan needs a lot of health to use his Dragon Strike, and my basic strategy was to have Subaru and Tenjin mostly healing and buffing (Tenjin gets a skill at level 50 that lets him use any spell), but I kept getting Higan’s turn right after Ninigi’s — some speed manipulation helped here.

    But the game still is not over, we have to go to the Dragon Palace and fight Ninigi one more time.

    This was an easier battle, I thought, but the same strategy.

    Once Ninigi is beaten and sealed, Higan can choose to become the new king. I chose to become king, which seemed like a good idea.

    In the end this isn’t a bad game, but it’s really hampered by two things — the ridiculous random encounter rate, and the inability to do any of the clock-based events on an emulator (which is not the fault of the original game). There are a lot of other minigames and random stuff that I didn’t cover in the post. It of course suffers with comparison to the PC Engine games with the lack of speech and CD-quality music, but it’s a decent late-SFC period game.

    SFC Game 102 – Tengai Makyo Zero (Part 1)

    Tengai Makyo Zero (天外魔境ZERO), released 12/22/1995, published by Hudson

    This is the fourth RPG in the Tengai Makyo series. The first three games were for the PC Engine, and I covered them all earlier, although I didn’t finish any of them. (See the posts on Tengai Makyo, Tengai Makyo II, and Tengai Makyo Kabuki-Den.) One of the big draws for the PC Engine games were the voice, CD-quality music, and cutscenes, which can’t really be carried over to the Super Famicom. Instead, they added a real-time clock chip that keeps track of the date and time, allowing for special events based on either the time of day or even the season of the year. The game is also one of the largest games on the SFC, using a special compression chip to allow for 72 megabits of data.

    Unfortunately the clock chip creates a problem for emulation that I’m not sure can be fixed. The game of course had no way of knowing what the actual time and date was since the Super Famicom had no internal clock. Instead you set the clock/date on your first play and the chip will continue to update it even when the game is off (apparently this drained the save battery faster than other games). But in an emulator the clock can’t advance while the emulator is closed, so unless you’re willing to leave the game running when you’re not playing it, you’ll finish the game before 2 or at most 3 days have passed. I googled to see if anyone had a solution for this; the fact that I couldn’t even find many complaints about it make me wonder if there is a way people got around this. (EDIT: I think this is simply my own ignorance of how to get the clock working — other people have reported that it worked for them.)

    I decided to go against my usual practice and play the English patch. Byuu/near, who developed the bsnes emulator that I’ve been using for this whole process, counted this as one of their favorite games. I don’t know exactly what involvement byuu had in this patch — it may just be that they were able to create an emulator that would actually run the game, but they may have also contributed some hacking to the patch as well. In any case, it’s interesting to play in English once in a while.

    As you can see above, this once again takes place in Jipang, but in a time many centuries before the other TM games. Here the Eternal Flame has chosen a new king for the Fire Bear Nation, which turns out to be the younger brother. The older brother is so upset that he unseals the Hell Door to seek power from Ninigi who is trapped there. It’s interesting that Ninigi is the villain since in Japanese history, Ninigi is the god who becomes the great-grandfather of the first Emperor (Jimmu) and thus the ancestor of the Imperial line.

    In any case, this causes the demons to come forth from Hell, and one of the underlings of Ninigi goes to each of the six countries and causes problems there. The main character Higan is a 12-year old person from Fire Shadow Village. His grandfather was a hero who fought against evil, and now he’s trying to prove himself as well.

    Higan is trying to beat the “Coal Hermit” at the bottom of a nearby mine, but he’s been defeated a few times.

    The battle system is pretty standard. “Scrolls” are the spells you get from hermits, just like in the other games. This time you don’t equip scrolls to specific people, but there are certain spells that can only be used by certain characters. The “skills” are also acquired by various events; these are specific to each character. Some are free to use, others cost tech points or HP. The game lets you set 4 “plans” that autobattle with specific commands for each person. (The two other people in the above screenshot are Higan’s friends who don’t stick around for long).

    Once Higan beats the Coal Hermit and gets the Blaze Cutter skill, he heads back to the village and finds that the first of Ninigi’s underlings, Zettai Reido (“Absolute Zero”) has frozen the town and kills his grandfather. But since the Eternal Flame has now chosen Higan as the Hero of Fire, he’s able to fight off Zettai Reido, who retreats to his castle.

    The basic gameplay is to visit each of the 6 areas and solve the problems that Ninigi’s underlings are causing there. Then there’s a final area (I assume) where you beat Ninigi? We’ll see.

    In the Fire Bear Kingdom you have to free the Fire Bear god, who has been frozen by Zettai Reido. This involves first having Hisui forge your rusty sword back into the Fire Bear Sword, and then going to the Ice Castle.

    He’s pretty easy; you can just cast Singe over and over again and have Hisui heal. After this, Hisui puts the rest of her life force into the next fairy that will be born (named Subaru), but she won’t join you yet. Now with things unfrozen you can move on to the next land.

    One major sidequest I haven’t been doing at all is the Tea House events. I think these are based on the Yoshiwara (red light) district in Edo, which was commonly depicted in literature. Basically you can talk to different women in the tea houses and try to get in their good graces by bringing them gifts and other things. They’ll repay you with various things — good items, or love scenes where you get your HP/MP restored, they can write you love letters, and such.

    This is an interesting sidequest but the main character is 12! Why would they include this event with such a young main character? In any case a lot of the events depend on the clock also, so unless I can figure out how to get the clock to match the real world clock I wouldn’t be able to do a significant chunk of these events anyway.

    I’ll end here; this is basically as far as I had gotten because it took me so long to finish Mouri Motonari. It seems like a pretty short game so I’ll probably have the finishing post up next week.

    SFC Game 101 – Seiju Maden Beasts and Blades

    Seiju Maden Beasts and Blades (聖獣魔伝ビースト&ブレイド), released 12/15/1995, developed by BPS

    This game began as a reader participation game in a magazine. These were very popular in the 80s and 90s although I don’t fully understand how they worked even after reading up on them. You sent in a postcard each “turn” to participate and then somehow things were handled through magazine articles. I know that Play by Mail games were popular here too in the pre-Internet era (I remember them being advertised in Dragon Magazine); maybe they worked in a similar way. I vaguely recall that a previous game I played also began as one of these reader participation games but I can’t find the details.

    In any case, the Super Famicom game was based on the franchise; some places say the game came out December 1996 but I think the 1995 date given by other sources is probably correct.

    The basic underlying story is that the world is repeatedly fighting battles between the Light and Dark Goddesses. Each time a war starts, one of the races will be chosen to split into two sides and fight for control of the world. The purpose of these wars is unknown; there is a legend that the Goddesses are fighting to become the wife of the supreme God, but why the war would have to be repeated if that is the case is unclear. The reader participation game was planned to have 5 total segments, but it ended after the first 4, so if there was going to be an answer to why the wars were actually being fought, it was never revealed. Both the magazine game and the SFC game start at the beginning of the Fifth War, when humans are the chosen race.

    The game is a curious mix of strategy and RPG elements that I think some people would classify as an SRPG — it’s right on the dividing line of my criteria; I think that it may technically qualify as an SRPG under my rules but since I’m playing it either way, it’s not that important. More importantly, I feel like the game is not fully implemented, which I’ll say more about as we go along.

    The game begins actually before the war has started. The main character wants to be a “beast master”; the beasts in the title refer to monsters that can be controlled by the characters. You can get beasts from a shop in town, some characters come with beasts, and the Beast Kings get their own special beasts. Over time beasts will become upset and you either have to take them to the shop to fix them (which never worked for me), or use an item that increases their friendliness. (The Beast King special beasts always stay at max friendliness).

    This is an area of the game I found confusing. Every character I recruited either came with a beast that could not be changed, or couldn’t control beasts. I never bought a beast from the store or used the services because it never seemed to be allowed — I read the instruction manual but don’t see anything I was doing wrong.

    The way you get companions is by using the “friend” command in town until you find someone who can join. You can’t see what type of character they are before you get them on your team which is frustrating. Each character only differs in the type of weapon they use, and whether they can have a beast or not. Weapons can be bought at the shop and also refined into better versions. I believe that each weapon has a fixed maximum it can be levelled when you buy it (maybe randomly chosen?) and if you exceed that it breaks. If you can get a level 4 weapon you can sell it for an enormous sum that will fund all your purchases for the rest of the game. I got one by luck very early in the game so after that I had no money issues.

    The game doesn’t really have a strongly developing story. There are a lot of events you can activate — some of them are optional, and some you have multiple choices for which event to do in order to get the next one to open. There’s no real feeling of story progression. Some reviews I saw in Japanese complained that it was difficult to figure out what to do next (I used a walkthrough for this), and I can see that being an issue.

    Kurisu accepts a request to go to the west cave to save a little girl. You move on an Ogre Battle like map where you send your guy in real time across the map. The “food” goes down as you move but is very easy to replenish in town. There are random encounters as you go, but most can be easily escaped from.

    Battles are done on an SRPG-style grid. Each character starts their turn with a number of points, and each action takes a certain number. You can do as much as you want until you lack the points to do anything else, then that’s the end of your turn.

    Inside caves and dungeons, you explore on an isometric style map. The battles in here are fixed (which is why I said that it may technically qualify as an SRPG by my rules).

    As Kurisu does the first few events, he meets some of the Dark Kings who recognize that Kurisu is one of the light kings (even though he doesn’t yet) — because the war hasn’t officially started they can’t oppose Kurisu directly, though.

    After doing a few of these events, Kurisu eventually learns that he is the First King of Light and heads out to Meishilva Castle to join the other Kings as the war officially starts.

    The game now changes once the war starts. You can send out multiple parties at once, each headed by one of the 11 Kings (you don’t have them all at the beginning). In addition, Dark parties will appear on the world map as well and head towards towns or towards the hero parties. The game’s text indicates you should be sending out the parties to protect the towns around the world, and by selecting a town you can see how closely associated the town is with the Dark or the Light. Each town also has a defense rating.

    So this seems like it should add some strategy aspects to it, but from what I can tell the system was not actually implemented. From what I saw, any time a dark unit reaches a town the town’s defense always repels it. If heroes are defeated they return to Melshiva castle and the dark unit disappears — this even happens if the hero is already on Melshiva castle. There seems to be no difference between entering a town that is aligned with the Dark or the Light. The only thing that changes is that sometimes when you go to a town you’ll have to join the defense force to fight an attacking unit before you can enter.

    So for the most part there is no real purpose in using any unit but the main character, except for one story required event where you have to be using a female unit for it to activate. There are some optional events involving the individual heroes, though.

    At this point your goal is simply to go around to places in the world activating various events. As I said earlier there is no feeling of any kind of forward story progression, and the dungeon that basically acts as the “final dungeon” has no feel of finality at all, it just seems like another dungeon. Once you finish that everyone goes back to Melshiva castle, and the castle itself becomes a floating palace to take on the stronghold of the Dark Kings.

    This part is annoying because they take away your companions and stick you with two specific Light Kings and give you no opportunity to equip them. Even so this succession of battles was not very hard. If you have the beast masters use the “beast” command they strengthen the beasts who can then use moves that hit all enemies on screen. If you lose these fights for the first time in the game you actually get a game over (in this case I guess an ending where the Dark Goddess wins the war).

    At this point the heroes go to a gate where the Light Goddess says it’s time to send the Light Dragon into the world to cleanse it of all the dark people and win the war for Light. If you accept this it apparently leads to another bad ending, so you should refuse. The main God himself then thinks this is interesting and you fight a three headed dragon.

    You use all the Kings here but without their beasts. This was kind of a long fight and I lost about half the (unlevelled) Kings but in the end I won. The God decides that the people of the world can now decide their fate for themselves, and that (perhaps) the wars won’t happen again.

    As far as I know there isn’t a B&B II

    I don’t know about this game. It has a lot of interesting components but the actual implementation of them is kind of a mess. If you were playing this just to mess around and send out your people to various towns without worrying about making a lot of progress you might enjoy it, but it’s hard to feel that there’s any kind of story development or whether you’re doing anything productive or not. And as I said earlier, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that the designers had bigger plans for the game that they were not able to implement for whatever reason.