SRPG Game 20 – Sword Master wrap-up

 FACTS

  1. Turn type: Player turn/enemy turn
  2. Maps: Medium to large. There is terrain that gives bonuses.
  3. Character Customization: None; characters promote at some point but you have no control.
  4. Character Development: Standard XP level system.
  5. Party Size: For most of the game, your entire party (up to 24 units)
  6. Equipment: Four equipment slots — weapon, armor, two items.
  7. Game Flow: The game is purely linear with no returning to previous battles; there are dungeons where you can explore and fight some optional battles.
  8. Saving: Anywhere, but only one save slot
  9. Death: Permanent.

 IMPRESSIONS

This is the final game of 1993 and the last PC Engine game. The PC Engine continued on strongly through 1994 and limped along until 1996, but no more strategy RPGs came out for the system.
The story is pretty good for 1993. Most of your party members have little to no presence in the story but Aks and the main characters have developed backstories. There are a lot of cinematic sequences and voiced sections of the story. 
The gameplay, unfortunately, is not as good. The game suffers from pretty serious balance issues. The first problem is that the damage you take or do can vary widely — with reloading I’ve seen the same attack do 1 damage, and then do 23 damage. For reference, the final boss has 32 HP and your characters will likely not get into the 30s. This wild luck also seems to affect the level up bonuses. A lot of times you get nothing on a level up.
But the most serious problem to me is the XP awards. I’m not completely sure what the formula is, but it’s clear that by far the most important factor is the amount of damage you do. There seems to be a small effect from level difference and from killing a monster, but if you kill a monster at 1 HP by doing 1 damage, you will get almost nothing. This makes it extremely difficult to use your full party, because you can’t really catch up the weaker characters. The game has no money or shops, meaning all the equipment you get is pre-determined, and there’s nowhere near enough equipment to outfit your entire party.
The game is not especially hard since you can save as many times as you want, and having a few strong characters is good enough to clear the game. But it’s more satisfying to be able to use a larger party rather than just having them sit back and watch.
So I probably wouldn’t really recommend this game; as I said, the story is interesting enough, and if you really like the PC Engine it might be worth a play. But there are better SRPGs even in this period.

1 thought on “SRPG Game 20 – Sword Master wrap-up

  1. Kicksville

    Those cutscene and character graphics sure are something, even though the actual gameplay doesn't seem amazing. But I suppose that's par for the course on PC Engine.

    Reply

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