Category Archives: Uncategorized

Rarity of games

I’ve been trying to purchase most of the games that I play, partially to support the used game community, but also to get the instruction booklet. I like to at least start the game with only the information in the instructions, and some games I’ve played are obscure enough that even Japanese sites don’t have good information on them. I wasn’t able to get any during Covid because shipping costs would have been through the roof, but cheap(er) shipping has started again. I also typically skip buying the game if the price is over $30 before shipping. I just went through ebay to see the prices of all the games I haven’t bought yet that I have passed in my list. These were the games that were not available for less than $100, which I suppose means they’re the rarest:

  • Nage Libre (SFC) (this was not originally on my list but it’s been added to 1995)
  • Shining Force Gaiden Final Conflict (GG)
  • Heian Fuunden (SFC)
  • Der Langrisser FX (PC-FX)

I think the most expensive was Der Langrisser, which is not surprising given how poorly the PC-FX sold. However, they are all cheaper than Fire Emblem Thracia 776.

Part of me wants to spend whatever I have to in order to get a complete set of CIB strategy RPGs, but I don’t really know what the purpose of that would be.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with Energy Breaker.

Dragon Quest / Adventures of Valkyrie

I’m on the last stage of FE4 so I should be back next week with Aretha II.

I think I said last time I was going to try to do Dragon Slayer for the Epoch Super Cassette Vision. I had trouble finding an emulator and in the end I didn’t think it was worth spending any more time to play a game that probably wasn’t going to be very good anyway — CRPG Addict did a very full report on Dragon Slayer anyway.

Dragon Quest

 

This is another game I don’t think needs a detailed introduction and coverage; even CRPG Addict did an entry on the game. It’s the first game that really matches the true “JRPG style” that we think of. Is this the first game to combine the Ultima style top-down world map/towns, with the command-based Wizardry combat? I don’t know of any game that does it prior to this but there may be a computer game that does so.

I remember when this game came out in the US. They gave away free copies if you subscribed to Nintendo Power, and there were hint guides since they were so scared Americans wouldn’t know what to do (although Japan had lots of hint guides as well). The US version was actually an upgrade from the Japanese version that improved the graphics and replaced the password system of the original with a battery-backed save. The translation used a pseudo-archaic English that isn’t in the original Japanese.

Also they changed the cover — this is something that US publishers do with Japanese games for a long time after this. It’s not hard to understand why; when DQ came out in Japan, Akira Toriyama was already very popular for both Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball (which had been running for 2 years at that point). So the cover naturally uses Toriyama’s art, which was surely a selling point for the game.

Since this art would not have meant anything in particular to American audiences, the localizers were probably concerned that it would look too childish or cartoony for the target audience of young boys. So they changed the cover to this:

I have to say that I always found this rather patronizing and wondered if it were really necessary. But CRPG Addict has been harshly critical of the cartoony graphics of Zelda and other games, to the degree where he almost does not want to play them because of the art style. He mentions it every time he plays a Japanese game on his blog. I have a feeling that his opinion would have been the dominant one in the 1980s before anime had really become mainstream in the US, and so I suppose the localizers knew what they were doing.

I don’t think this game really holds up other than for nostalgia purposes; the vast majority of the game is grinding levels and money. The many remakes seem to have modified the numbers so that you don’t have to grind as much.

 

A couple of other notes:

  • This may be the first RPG for any system where the villagers actually sound like real people and flesh out the world a bit. Most prior RPGs either had no NPCs to talk to at all, or they just give brief hints like “EXODUS LIES BEYOND THE SILVER SNAKE”.
  • Toriyama’s monsters are the best looking monsters of any RPG so far, not only because of his art but the graphic designers’ ability to translate them into the screen. It’s no accident the slime has become so iconic.
  • At the end of the game you can choose whether to marry Princess Laura or not, although if you refuse she just asks the question again. This “Laura choice” (as it’s sometimes called) was repeated in future Dragon Quests to a point where it became self-parody, and other games sometimes do this as well. 

 

Dragon Quest II came out only six months after this game, which is extraordinarily fast development. According to the English wikipedia it even had delays, although the Japanese wikipedia does not confirm this.

Adventures of Valkyrie


 
I have been familiar with Valkyrie the character for a while because she’s appeared as a cameo in so many Namco games (particularly the Tales series), and several characters from the games are in Namco x Capcom and Project X Zone. She was the heroine of four games — this one, a 1989 arcade game, and two mobile phone sidescrolling action games with RPG elements.

The original Famicom game is a spiritual successor to Hydlide, with Zelda influences. There are many similarities; the main difference is that you actually press a button to swing a sword. This is probably influenced by Zelda, as is the assignment of items/spells/weapons to the A and B buttons. Also, unlike Zelda and Hydlide, this game has a scrolling world map rather than different screens — this was easier to pull off on the Famicom than on computers, although computer RPGs did eventually introduce scrolling. The dungeons are also more Zelda-like than Hydlide-like.

As with Hydlide, a good portion of the game is just grinding levels, and wandering around the world with no hints trying to figure out what you can do. You can apparently finish the game in less than an hour if you know where to go.

Initially you pick a blood type and a zodiac sign which affects your starting stats and the pace of levelling. I did B, which is faster levelling at the beginning, and Taurus which gives you a balanced magic/fight.

The first destination is an inn on the right where you can get a password, recover HP and MP for money, and raise levels. From here I grinded up to level 5 and then headed around west to where I saw a treasure chest. There was a big thing blocking the area but if you just keep attacking it freezes him. He dropped a key, but I was unable to open the chest.

If you want to see more about the game, here’s a good video:

EDIT: I realized something else after I posted this — this is the earliest JRPG with a woman main character, and it may even be the first Famicom (console?) RPG, beating Metroid by 5 days.

I hope you enjoyed this little dip back into the early days of RPGs — back to 1994 next week.

Tower of Druaga / Hydlide Special / Legend of Zelda

As I thought, Fire Emblem 4 is very long, so I’ll need at least this week and possibly next week with side posts.

For this post I want to look at a few games from very early in the JRPG tradition — on the sites I’ve been using to compile my game lists, they are the first three listed. Obviously these sites have a very broad (and inconsistent) definition of an RPG, and I often have to cut games that are on their lists. But I think especially in the very early days of the genre, the core RPG ideas had yet to be established. In particular, there were a lot of different ways that designers tried to mix action and RPG elements.

I don’t think you can really do a true history of JRPGs without covering early computer games, and also looking at the early Japanese reception of Western RPGs (particularly the Wizardry series). I had always thought that Dragon Quest was likely inspired by Ultima III, but Ultima III came out in Japan only 6 months before DQ, so it seems more likely that it was a combination of Hydlide and Wizardry. Although the Japanese Wikipedia article does seem to indicate inspiration from Ultima, so perhaps I was right all along.

So this is not really going back to the roots of JRPGs, just the roots of what a console-only player would have had access to. (Panorama Toh, Black Onyx, and Mugen no Shinzo are games I have seen as particularly influential early RPGs or proto-RPGs, but none of those were released for consoles at the time.)

Tower of Druaga

I don’t think anyone considers this game an RPG, but it unquestionably helped lay the groundwork for the JRPG genre. The arcade version came out in 1984; it was made on leftover Mappy circuit boards that Namco wanted to use up, and it became unexpectedly popular.

The gameplay is relatively simple. You are Gil, trying to rescue Kai from the evil Druaga. There are 60 levels. On each level you have to grab the key and then go to the exit door. You press and hold the attack button to draw your sword, and then you can attack enemies by running into them. You have to be careful; the slimes can only be killed if they are stationary when you move into them; if they’re moving into your square Gil will die. If you unsheath the sword, Gil can block projectiles and other things with his shield. There’s also a time limit, and if it runs out additional enemies come out.

But the real meat of the game is that every stage has a secret treasure box that appears when certain conditions are fulfilled. Some of these are easy to find — the first stage’s box appears when you defeat two slimes, which most players will do. Others are essentially impossible to get on your own. You have to get a fair number of these items to win the game. When this came out on Wii Virtual Console in 2009, US reviewers lambasted the game for this, correctly noting that the game is impossible to finish without help — there are no clues in the game that would show you how to get these items. Some of them are difficult to get even if you know what to do.

So why was this game so popular in 1984 when it came out? Here’s my guess. In 1984, the idea of “finishing” a video game (especially an arcade game) was still a pretty new concept, and most games could not be beaten. You just played for a high score. So players would not necessarily have been immediately bothered by the difficulty of completing the game. Furthermore, there was a community aspect to the game, where people might find some of the secrets on their own, or read them in a magazine, or see someone else at an arcade do them. People traded the secrets, and once you knew how to do them, it might be fun to go to an arcade and show everyone else that you’re able to finish it. There wasn’t anything else like it in the arcades at the time. But I would be curious to know more about what the designers were thinking when they created it — did they already have a plan to publish the secrets in magazines or the like?

The 1985 Famicom port is pretty much a faithful one (with worse graphics, of course). They added a second set of levels called “Another Druaga” that has different conditions for all of the items. I played through the first quest using an unlimited lives code and a walkthrough. I actually had fun with it. Even with the walkthrough it takes some skill to do everything you need to do to win. It only took me a couple of hours to win.

This youtube video is a good walkthrough of the arcade version that’s fun to watch.

Hydlide Special 

This technically came out a month after Zelda, but since the computer version predated (and likely inspired) Zelda, I’m flipping the order. This is probably the most criticized and misunderstood Famicom RPG, because it came out in 1989 in the US, well after Zelda and other games that did things better. But in Japan, the original computer version was a huge influence on JRPGs. It was the first game to have an open world system (as small as the world is). There’s no story development and no towns, but you can level up and get a few equipment upgrades.

The Famicom version is actually a remake with some elements of Hydlide 2 built in. It apparently was not well received even in Japan; the Famicom had a much younger player base than computers, and like Druaga there are no hints to help you figure out what to do.

You can put the main character Jim in attack or defense mode, which is reminiscent of the Druaga system and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was directly based off Druaga. But now you can explore the area, and level up by defeating monsters. The game as a whole is short and if you know what to do can be finished in less than 2 hours. But if you play blind it can be quite difficult because as I said above there aren’t many hints to help you figure out what to do. The goal is to save three fairies and take on the final boss, but even just getting started is rough. You will die a lot, although thankfully there is a quicksave/load you can use (this is one thing AVGN got wrong in his great video on the game — the passwords are only necessary if you are turning off the game and coming back later.)

Hydlide to me is not as fun as Druaga, and I’m probably not the only one who feels this way because Druaga had several remakes and has been re-released many times on numerous consoles, whereas the whole Hydlide series has essentially vanished into the history books. It can be hard for an innovator in a genre to hold up against later imitators who improve on the basic concept.

Legend of Zelda

 

This game is very well known and I don’t think I have to say much about it. It was one of my favorite NES games as a kid and I can’t count the number of times I played through it. I think that most people do not consider this game an RPG, but when it came out I feel like Japanese players would have seen it as being basically the same kind of game as Dragon Slayer and Hydlide. There seems to be clear inspiration from Hydlide but I wonder if the item system was not inspired by Druaga. The sword and shield upgrades could be from that game, the bomb is sort of an implementation of the mattock, and both games have candles. It’s certainly a more flexible and robust system, but the origins may be the same.

In Japan, this game came out for the Famicom Disk System, an early peripheral for the Famicom that sought to overcome the limitations of the cartridge storage, and also provide a way to save games. This never came out in the US so when they released Zelda it was with a battery backup cart. The Disk System was a fairly short lived peripheral; there were piracy problems and issues with reliability of the disks, and eventually cartridges became much cheaper and could hold more space, and also had battery backups. 

Of course unlike Druaga or Hydlide, Zelda went on to an entire franchise that is still releasing blockbuster hits today. I could never adapt to the 3D games and so my Zelda experience stopped with Link’s Awakening. 

I had played all these games before this week so I’m just writing them up. In next week’s post I might go on and play a little bit of the next two games on these sitesDragon Slayer for the Epoch Super Cassette Vision, and the original Dragon Quest. But we’ll see.

What is a “DQ2 clone” or “AMID game”?

I finished Glory of Heracles IV and I will have that post up probably on Sunday. The next game would have been Basted for the PCE but that turned out not to qualify as an ARPG by my standards. Next after that is Startling Odyssey II, but I will only be playing a few hours of that — it’s another DQ2 clone, and my practice has been to not finish those on the PC Engine.

I’ve repeatedly disparaged games as being DQ2 clones, and I used to refer to them as “AMID systems” but I’m not sure I ever fully explained what that really means.

In essence, a DQ2 clone is a game that doesn’t go beyond the system that Dragon Quest II introduced in 1987. You have a fixed party of people with set roles that cannot be changed or modified. The magician character will learn spells at level up but cannot do anything else. In battle, your choices are Attack, Magic, Item, Defend (thus AMID).

Furthermore, these games typically copy one of the worst features of early RPGs. They were based on Wizardry which was based on Dungeons and Dragons, and the result is that magic tends to be very hard to use. The random encounter rate is high, MP fairly low, and MP restoring items either rare or nonexistent. This means that effectively in most fights you are simply mashing attack over and over again, with magic being reserved solely for healing, or sometimes boss fights.

Startling Odyssey II is an example of a straight DQ2 clone, without even basic modifications. It’s more common for there to be some minor, token system modification — maybe you buy spells instead of learning them on level up, or the fighter character has spell-like “techniques”. There might be a front and back row of monsters. But these slight modifications do not change the fact that you are still basically mashing “attack” in every battle. 

A DQ2 clone is not necessary a bad game — Glory of Heracles III is an example of a slightly modified DQ2 system that is fun, and you could make the case that Breath of Fire 1 counts as well. Both of these games are saved by the story and/or interesting dungeon design. And games that do not copy DQ2 are not necessary good — Wizap! and Kigurumi Adventure are prime examples.

The worst is when you have the straight (or slightly modified) DQ2 system combined with dull, featureless dungeons, a generic fantasy world, and a boring story.

I’m curious to see how long these kind of games continue. Honestly if you had asked me before I started this blog I would not have thought they were still coming out in late 1994 but now I’m expecting to see them right up to the end.

Masakari Densetsu – Kintaro RPG-hen

Masakari Densetsu: Kintaro RPG-hen
Released 10/28/1994, by Tonkin House
 

 

The games I’m choosing for these “off week” posts are going to be two kinds: games that are forerunners of Super Famicom games I’m playing, or games that came out around the time I’ve reached but for a different system. That’s what I’m covering this week; a game boy RPG that came out in late 1994.

Despite the obvious technological superiority of the Game Gear, the Game Boy remained a strong system — the smash hit Pokemon came out in early 1996, when the Game Gear was essentially dead. There were RPGs for the original Game Boy coming out as late as 1998, almost a decade after the system’s initial release. The Game Boy Color was released in the same year and development for the original GB stopped pretty soon after that.

One quirk of the games released around this point is the existence of the Super Game Boy, a Super Famicom cartridge that enabled you to play Game Boy games on your SFC. I highly recommend Christine Love’s series of articles called Fuck the Super Gameboy, which is an entertaining look at the technological capabilities of the cartridge and the squandered potential, as well as some games that used it well.

 The game I’m looking at today used the Super Gameboy in the way that most games coming out around this time did — just a custom border and an assigned color palette. These were pretty easy things for game designers to provide, and my estimate is that between mid-1994 and the release of the GBC in 1998, around 75% of the Game Boy games released in Japan had at least this basic SGB feature.

I can’t find a whole lot of information about the game today. It was made by Tonkin House, responsible for the Light Fantasy games and two of the SNES Ys games. Kintaro is a famous legendary figure in Japan. There are various versions of the Kintaro legends, but the one this game follows is that he was abandoned at birth and raised by a yamamba mountain witch. He usually just wears a fundoshi loincloth and carries a type of axe called a masakari (thus the title of this game). He defeated the demon Shuten Doji and eventually joined Minamoto Raiko along with other warriors to deal with bandits and demons.

Tonkin House made two games around this idea — an “action hen” (action game) and an RPG. The RPG is just another Dragon Quest II clone; it seems like at least for the Super Famicom, designers were starting to accept that you couldn’t just clone DQ2 forever and at least try to add some new features, but I feel like designers didn’t always value the portable systems highly and were sometimes willing to shovel inferior products on there with the knowledge that the portability was an automatic draw for some people. Only 6 RPGs came out for the game boy in all of 1994, so the competition was not especially fierce. 

The game begins with Raiko sending out his team to deal with various oni threats. Kintaro is paired with Tsuna since Raiko is afraid that Kintaro won’t actually do his job and just go out to play pranks. He gives Kintaro a Legendary Masakari.

There’s really no specific goal given, but Princess Kaguya’s adoptive parents are in a house in the city saying that she was taken. That’s at least a goal but there’s no real advice on where to go. The people in the town are all accusing Kintaro of having played pranks on them…

The battle system is exactly what you would expect. The random encounter rate is quite low, and the advancement seems fairly quick so I think this would be overall a pretty easy game to play.

The stuff in town was too expensive so I just went on exploring for other places. First we cross a bridge, and Kintaro tries throwing his masakari in the river in the hopes that the river spirit will give him a better one, but she can’t because the river is poisoned. He just gets a regular masakari instead…I found a village on the east side of a forest, and they told me that a bunch of people have been captured in a cave to the south, so that seems like a reasonable place to go.

There’s a nice feature in the caves where the Super Gameboy background actually switches:

So Tonkin House did more than the bare minimum for the SGB support. The enemies here were hard, especially the fire spirits, so I did a bit of grinding and bought better equipment before trying again. In the cave are some captured women.

They want me to defeat the demon in the cave to free them. This is where I stopped; it’s a perfectly functional DQ2-clone RPG but nothing special. The various mythological references may provide some interest, and there is some nice humor in the conversations. I often find that portable games in this era are hard to judge fairly because they were still at a point where the capabilities of the handhelds lagged way behind the consoles, and the portability was a big bonus of the games. But nowadays the portability no longer matters unless you insist on playing everything on original hardware. That’s not to say that no one managed to bring out any portable games that were competitive with the console games, but games like Masakari Densetsu just don’t seem all that worth playing now.

I’m afraid that I will need one more of these off week posts before I get back to Super Famicom — Bahamut Lagoon is turning out to be a little longer than I thought, and I have family visiting this week so I may not have that much time to play. But I should definitely be back with Wizap the weekend of April 10th. (EDIT: I think I should be done with Bahamut Lagoon by tomorrow so we should be OK.)

Glory of Heracles II

Glory of Heracles II (ヘラクレスの栄光II タイタンの滅亡) 
Released 12/23/1989, published and developed by Data East
 

  

When Data East released the first Glory of Heracles in 1987, console RPGs were still in their infancy. You had the first two Dragon Quests, two Deep Dungeon games (first-person maze crawlers), and a number of action-RPG hybrids like Hydlide and Adventure of Valkyrie. So there weren’t a lot of established rules for how the console RPGs should work, and Glory of Heracles has a lot of oddities in its system.

In late 1989 when Glory of Heracles II was released, the situation was totally different. Since the first game, there were many other DQ-like games released for multiple systems: Dragon Quest III, Final Fantasy I and II, SaGa 1, Phantasy Star II, Mother 1, Tengai Makyo, and others. The Dragon Quest clone had become fully established as the dominant console RPG style, and Glory of Heracles II follows the pattern. All of the oddities of the first game are gone — the durability of weapons and armor, the passwords that don’t preserve which bosses you’ve beaten, and overworld and towns on the same field, for instance. 

The wikipedia article says that what did make this game stand out was the Greek mythology theme, as well as the tragic story that was somewhat more developed than other games at the time.  

 

The game begins in the town of Nana, with naming your hero, and then talking to a girl and naming her. The hero (Kurisu)’s grandmother has gotten a letter looking for people to go out fight the Lord of Darkness. She tries to hide it from him, but Kurisu finds it in his bed and heads out. The Queen of Nana tells me to find Homer, who should know more about what to do. I bought a sword and then headed to the mainland, to Athens.

Homer’s already left Athens, but I meet a doctor who tells me to find Deadelus in Selan because his son Icarus is injured. Selan is to the east, and I gained a few levels before going there.

The battle system doesn’t need description; it’s Dragon Quest II. I did learn from wikipedia and reviews that there are monsters later that can break your equipment, which is pretty annoying. There’s also a day and night system like DQ3, and it seems like the random encounter rate is much higher at night. The enemies give a lot of XP though so raising levels was fast.

 

I made it to Selan and found out that Deadalus wasn’t there. Homer had gone north to Minoa, so that’s where I headed next.

Homer was there, and told me that we need to find the Chaos Axe to break the seal leading to the Dark God. That’s a big quest with no direction, but at the same time a centaur being bullied tells me that there’s a great treasure in the cave to the east, guarded by Cerberus. Unfortunately there’s no inn in this town so that’s a hassle to walk back and forth.

This is where I stopped; it seems like this is a perfectly playable (for 1989) RPG that has an interesting theme. I believe this has a translation patch so if you like early NES era RPGs, give this a try. Next week I will cover the Glory of Heracles game for Game Boy that came out in 1992, six months after the third game. I should be done with Bahamut Lagoon by then and I can move on to Wizap and two PCE games.

1995 wrap-up

1995 was the longest year yet. Here were the games, which I’ll categorize in three sections — good, average, and bad.

Good: Majin Tensei II, Super Robot Taisen 4, Riglord Saga, Tactics Ogre

Average: Front Mission, Royal Stone, Another Bible, Shin SD Sengokuden, Arc the Lad, Little Master 3, Shining Force Gaiden: Final Conflict, Bounty Sword, Heian Fuunden, Tenchi Muyo, Sangokushi Eiketsuden

Bad: Gundam Cross Dimension 0079, Farland Story, Super Robot Taisen 2G, Battle Robot Retsuden, Sengoku Cyber, Farland Story II

This year was mostly Super Famicom games, but Playstation and Saturn both had their first offerings. Of course graphics and presentation are improving. Front Mission and Tactics Ogre introduced height and the isometric perspective, and Arc the Lad continued the trend of SRPGs with far more RPG elements than previously.

Which of the 4 good games should be the Game of the Year? For me it’s between Riglord Saga and Tactics Ogre. Both have flaws. But Tactics Ogre’s story writing is far beyond anything else, and it emphasized the role of class changes and job systems. Riglord Saga has an open world, non-linear style, and a neat skill system.

I think I am going to go with Riglord Saga because Tactics Ogre has some pretty serious balance problems, and the permanent death is too severe given the lack of in-battle saves and the frequent places where you have to fight two or more battles in a row. I think the designers realized they messed up there because in the PSX remake the following year you can do in battle saves (I used save states myself). But it’s very close.

Games of the year:

  • 1990: Fire Emblem
  • 1991: Langrisser 
  • 1992: Just Breed 
  • 1993: Super Robot Taisen 3 
  • 1994: Langrisser II
  • 1995: Riglord Saga

 

Glory of Heracles

Glory of Heracles (闘人魔境伝 ヘラクレスの栄光)
Released 6/12/1987, by Data East, for Famicom

I’m still playing Sangokushi Eiketsuden for my other blog. As I said in the previous post, when I don’t have a post ready for this blog, I’m going to make a short post about some other retro RPG. I’ll play it for a short time (1-2 hours at most). This is not a new chronological project, just a way to make a quick post to fill a gap here.

This post is for Heracles no Eikou (The Glory of Heracles). The third game in this series was one of the early games I played here, and Glory of Heracles IV is a 1994 game that I will get to later. So I thought I would go back and see how the series started.

As far as I can tell, this game is the first RPG imitating the Dragon Quest style. Dragon Quest 1 and 2 had already come out by this point, but it took a while before other companies began to mimic their design. Rather than the generic fantasy world of Dragon Quest, Data East used ancient Greek mythology as the basis for their game.

As is typical for games of this era, the game itself gives no backstory — upon starting the game you’re immediately dropped in Athens. The instruction manual has the story. Hades has captured Venus, and Heracles has come from Olympia to save her. 

 The graphics are pretty underwhelming even for this era — look at how Heracles gets lost in the brown color of the floor. The inside of the buildings is also strange:

Dragon Quest did a much better job with their limited graphics.

It appears that the game involves defeating 12 bosses (reminiscent of the challenges of Hercules from mythology) and then defeating Hades. You cannot save your game; instead you have to visit a person in town to get a password. Many western players do not know that the first two Dragon Quest games in Japan used passwords instead of saves. In the early days of the Famicom, the battery backed memory had not yet been developed. The Famicom Disk System had come out in 1986, which allowed saving games as well as larger games than the cartridges of the time could hold. But Data East stuck with the cartridges.

The password system is strangely implemented. Using it allows you to preserve your levels, equipment, and items. But all the bosses you defeated return, and all the chests in dungeons can be taken again. This seems to mean that you do not actually need to defeat all 12 bosses to win the game. Some of them have items that you need to win, but others just give XP/gold or items that might be useful but not necessary to win. I understand that Data East wanted to keep the passwords shorter (the DQ2 passwords are 41 characters), but it creates a strange playing experience. If you die you return to Athens with half your money but everything else the same. So I suppose nowadays you could just use save states on an emulator instead of passwords, although it would change the way the game played.

I wandered around Athens, getting some clues to various places I could go — everyone agreed that I should go south first and gain levels. I bought some basic equipment and a few pieces of food to restore HP. 

I bought a copper sword, copper shield, and leather clothes, which are shown on the right. Those numbers are not the strength, but the durability — as you fight and get hit, the durability goes down. You have to return to Athens and get Hephaestos to fix them before they get to 0 or they will break and disappear. You can also hire him for 5000 gold and then he’ll be permanently in your inventory and automatically fix things after each battle.

I’m not sure what the stats of equipment is or even if they have stats — apparently the weapons have different compatibility with different types of monsters (which is listed in the manual).

I left the city and headed south. Unlike Dragon Quest, the city and overworld are not on separate maps. I quickly encountered my first enemy.

As in DQ1, each fight is one on one. Running is pretty effective; I’m not sure what talking does. The instruction manual warns you to be careful doing it but doesn’t say what it actually does.

I gained a level wandering around, but ran into an Iron Golem that blocked the way and was impossible to defeat. However, you can simply run from him and pass by, which leads to the second city, Pella. This is actually where I stopped playing — I intended to do a bit more than this, but this game is really bad. It’s slow moving, ugly, and the annoying blacksmith feature means you have to keep running back to Athens.

So this is not a good outing for Data East, and according to the Wikipedia page it was not received well in Japan — it was criticized for its poor game balance, lack of in-game guidance, and difficult puzzles with inadequate clues. There were also ways you could mess up your game, by selling key items or running into certain bugs that would stop you from being able to finish the game.

I should be able to do a Live a Live post next week, but next time I have a free week I’ll do Glory of Heracles II to see how they improved on the original.

Merry Christmas

 Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates.

I’m playing games but won’t have any updates until after New Year; expect Farland Story 2 on the other blog probably next weekend, and then back here for Kishin Korinden Oni.