Little Master: Legend of Likebahn (リトルマスター ライクバーンの伝説)
Release Date: 4/19/1991
System: Game Boy
Developer: Zener Works
- Turn type: Player turn/enemy turn.
- Maps: Small. Terrain gives bonuses. Gimmicks on each stage.
- Character customization: None.
- Character development: Standard XP level system. Max level is 8, but monsters can be combined at temples to change to better monsters.
- Party size: 7 is the most you can send out on a map; I’m not sure what the maximum size of your party is. You can get additional monsters from buildings on certain maps.
- Equipment: The game has no items or equipment.
- Game flow: Most of the stages can be repeated. No exploration. No alternate paths or secret maps.
- Saving: Any time. There is something odd (or perhaps glitched) with the saving though; sometimes it will restart you at the beginning of the level if you reload, but with your XP intact. If you get a game over, you have to reset before you’re actually returned to the world map or it will auto save you there and you’ll have to do the stage again.
- Death: When a unit reaches 0 HP it is removed from the map and loses all XP (but retains level).
Games for the Game Boy were always “lesser” than games for the home consoles — not that the games were automatically less fun on the portable system, but they tended to be less ambitious, smaller, easier to play, and shorter. Some of this is due to the limitations of the hardware, but sometimes it’s simply developer laziness or the audience perception. This game has only 15 small stages compared to Fire Emblem’s 25 medium-to-large ones. Little Master 2, which came out a year later, has 34 stages, so it would not seem that the developers were hardware limited here.
This game does have some interesting features. They tried to differentiate the maps by putting gimmicks in (like tornadoes that randomly move characters, or graves that spawn zombies). The monster combination system has a lot of potential. The main problem with it is that unless you repeat stages, it’s hard to build your monsters up to the point where you can combine them to make a lot of different units. And it’s not really necessary because Moomoo and your hero are strong enough to beat the majority of the game (maybe the whole game) themselves. This does increase the replay value and length, something I would have appreciated as a kid when I only got a few games a year. I can see having fun playing the early stages repeatedly to level my monsters and make the most powerful ones. But it’s not necessary.
In 2018 there’s not much reason to play this unless you’re a huge Game Boy fan. Even if the gameplay seems appealing, I have a feeling that the 2nd and 3rd games in the series are better, but we’ll see shortly. There is a translation patch for this game, however.