SFC Game 14 – Song Master

Song Master (ソングマスター)
Released on 11/27/92, published by Yanoman

This game has a bad reputation, but so far I don’t think it’s terrible — this is a sign of how low my expectations have gotten. If a game can just be played normally that already puts it above the bottom 25% of the games so far. It’s really not that good, though, still suffering from a lot of the problems that early RPGs have — slow battles, poor balance, clunky interface, etc.

The instruction manual gives the general background for the game. Tiris, an island in Limerick Kingdom of Albion continent, is known for its Singers Guild. King Kain, who founded the kingdom, passed down the secret of the Sacred Song after defeating the powers of darkness. These songs can drive away evil, heal, etc. So Kain was called the Song Master. The main character is Yuri, the grandson of the Song Master Robinton (I assume named after the Masterharper from the Pern novels). He has trouble with controlling his song magic, although he seems to be quite powerful, and so Robinton sends him out to find his one-time rival Ferion, who he hopes will be able to help Yuri out.
 

Robinton and Yuri


He is joined by Shion, a warrior who was once studying Song magic and can’t return to his village because of the shame, and an elf king El Ran. Robinton also gives Yuri some surprising news — he’s not really Robinton’s grandson, but an orphan picked up from a burned down village.

Yuri, El Ran, and Shion



Unfortunately the whole “song magic” system doesn’t have a real effect on the game, it’s just a veneer over a standard magic system. It has a few unique qualities, but when I think of song magic I can’t avoid thinking of Ar Tonelico.


 Yuri leaves Tiris for Tiris Noa, a larger city, by ship. Once there, I went to the rumor guild and got a sidequest, to recover a lost pendant in a nearby cave. You can’t explore the world map; leaving a location by an exit automatically takes you to the next place.

The world map

 The cave was fairly easy with level 10 El Ran around. Levelling up recovers all your HP and MP, and this is the first game I’ve played for this blog where MP restoring items are affordable and easily available. This means that you can actually use the characters’ magic freely, which makes sense since your main character is supposed to be a magician.

The battle system is simple, but also confusing.

A boss battle

The system looks like it has some element of strategy RPG in it — you can set up your people in three lines, and move them around in battle. But it’s hard to tell what this actually does. You can attack anyone from anywhere on the screen. The manual says that you can increase a character’s defense by moving them to the back of the formation but I can’t tell what penalties they might occur for doing that (lower attack?)

The song magic is the usual array of attack and healing spells, but there are also summons. You can summon a spirit (like the little gnomes in the screenshot above). They become actual characters and will attack and use spells, although you can’t control them. If they lose all their HP they die but that has no permanent effect on anything (as far as I know).

As is common for games of this age, the battles are quite slow, and the random encounter rate is relatively high (though not the highest I’ve had). I’m looking forward to Tuesday when I can start using the speedup key.

I easily found the pendant, although it also had a magic circle nearby. Returning to town, we found out that Davy was the one who set it, although he was under the influence of a dark spirit, who is the next boss.

Evil spirit

Afterwards it’s time to move on with the main story. Our ultimate goal is Bernisia, but right now we want to get to Meritus to visit the singer guild there. Yuri decides it’s a good idea to travel with a caravan, but unfortunately we all oversleep and the caravan is gone. Pursuing the caravan we come across a grisly sight:

They’re not sleeping

Goblins have attacked the caravan, and we are soon taken captive. But then it turns out that it was actually mountain bandits who attacked: they’ve been trying to get the goblins and humans to fight to further their own goals.

The captives

Also with us are the mayor’s daughter of a nearby town, and Cat-eye Jack. Along with them we escape, and then have to convince the townspeople not to attack the goblins. The mayor lets us go on a diplomacy mission to talk to them.

The Goblin King

Of course the goblins are suspicious, and even more so when humans capture the goblin prince. Of course it’s the mountain bandits, but El Ran is able to convince the king to let us go save him, as long as the mayor’s daughter stays as a hostage. Once we catch up to them, the bandits want to run away, but a random cyclops comes in and finishes them off.

Cyclops  

This boss is somewhat tough, but with a summoned Flame Bird I was able to keep up the healing enough to outlast him.

The equipment system in this game is unusual in that anyone can equip anything. But some people are not proficient in certain weapons. Armor seems open to everyone, though. All equipment increases all four attributes generally (attack, defense, speed, and “rhythm”). It’s odd for a sword or hat to increase your spellcasting power, and the instruction manual offers no justification for that.

After saving the prince, we are able to use an abandoned tunnel in the goblin cave to reach the next destination — unfortunately Jack steals Yuri’s circlet and runs away, so we’ll have to get that back. First, El Ran wants to make a detour to the fairy kingdom.

The Queen of Fairies

El Ran seems to be in love with the fairy queen. That night Yuri overhears them talking about something; it sounds like they’re talking about some destiny that Yuri has to face that he’s not ready for. Probably a cliche “chosen hero” plot, but we’ll see.

We now set off for Lankafan to find Jack and/or the circlet. The enemies in the next section are hard, and I had to run from a lot of battles because the enemy spellcasters did way too much damage. At some point I get the ability to increase the number of musical notes for a spell, which increases its power (at the cost of more MP) but I guess I’m not high enough level for that yet.

4 thoughts on “SFC Game 14 – Song Master

  1. Atantuo

    Well, this one doesn't seem all bad. Certainly a lot better than the streak of kusoge you had to endure. Of course, slow combat coupled with a high encounter rate can quickly take away what enjoyment the game might otherwise provide. Let's hope this gets better. Or if it doesn't, let's at least hope it's not too long…

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  2. Kurisu

    It's a bad game, just not a terrible game. Although the battle system is wearing on my nerves more and more — looking forward to Tuesday when I can start using the speedup button.

    Reply
  3. Zenic Reverie

    It's interesting how our scale of game quality shifts the more truly terrible games we play. I suppose that's true of anything of quality. As Atantuo said, this one doesn't seem all that bad. At least somewhat playable, and the plot has the potential for some interesting courses. Hopefully it doesn't take a turn for the worse mid-game.

    The only other game I can think of that auto-navigates the world map is Arcana. I realize now that in skipping over US localized titles, you're missing out on a lot of the good games. Maybe refresh yourself on those a bit as you pass them so you're not slogged down in mediocrity.

    Reply
  4. Kurisu

    At least Song Master is short. I had to check a walkthrough for something and found that I'm halfway through the game already.

    I'm expecting the games to generally get better as the blog goes on. I'm going to play some of the localized games (Breath of Fire is the first one I plan to play).

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