Story/Characters: This is fairly weak, but what game from this era isn’t? The plot is mostly linear and fetch quests, with a strange twist at the end that I don’t remember much preparation for. The characters have sketched backgrounds and once they join your team they don’t talk much.
I guess I’ll mention here what was in comments a few posts ago: the English version of this did indeed change Dank’s portrait and sprite, which must have looked too close to blackface or older stereotypical depictions of African-Americans. You can see both versions here. Perhaps Dank being a thief character also worried them.
World: Regular fantasy — I guess the most distinctive thing about it is the different races. There are wolfpeople, moles, underwater fishpeople, flying people, dragons, and…the black people. Like most enjoyable RPGs, there are inaccessible places that you need to wait until you have later powers or characters to be able to visit, and you get the ability to fly everywhere at the end.
Game Flow: It’s funny that a review I saw said the random encounter rate was “insane”; compared to a lot of the other games I’ve played from this era it’s quite reasonable. There’s an auto-battle, and once you get Dank you can run from most fights. So it’s not too bad. The main irritation for me is the slow walking speed.
For the most part it’s clear where to go next, but there are a few places where I don’t understand how you’re supposed to know what your next goal is or how to get there. Sometimes I did notice that a single random villager gives a clue so I guess I should listen to classic RPG advice and talk to everyone.
System: Mostly standard A-M-D-I. This is one of the only games I’ve played so far where you have more characters than can be in battle at once and you can freely switch them (I think Maka Maka had that as well, but that’s about it). You can even switch them during battle, which is helpful.
Each character has their own ability when you put them at the front of the party, like being able to dig in places, turn into a bird and fly, etc. This is a good way to have some variation.
I also like that you can see the HP of the enemies. The bosses have an extra unspecified amount of HP after you reduce them to 0 to keep some uncertainty.
Side Quests/Optional Content: There are two endings, and some hidden treasures and transformations. Nothing major, but there is something to do if you want to go poking around.
Interface: Quite good. You can see the strength of weapons and armor before buying them, and how much they change your characters! The item limit is quite generous. You can assign commands to all the buttons, so that one button can instantly take you to use items, or spells, or whatever.
Graphics/Sound: The music is fairly well-done although not top class. The graphics are servicable — they’re better than the “RPG school” graphics a lot of games from this era has but still not quite at the level of later SFC games.
Overall a good game, probably the best game I’ve played on the blog next to Dragon Quest V.
Next on my list is Taiko Risshinden. I’m having a tough time telling if this qualifies as a strategy RPG under my definition. Even when I played a little bit of it I couldn’t tell, although I don’t think it does. Since it’s a port of a computer game anyway I’ll skip it, which means that next up is Dual Orb, a game that does not have a high reputation.