Ryuki Heidan Danzarb (龍騎兵団ダンザルブ)
Released 4/23/1993, published by Yutaka
Back to Super Famicom. Yutaka has appeared once before on this blog, as the publisher of the 3×3 Eyes game. Fortunately Danzarb is a bit better. It’s yet another sci-fi RPG that involves mech battles in addition to normal RPG on-foot battles. This one does have a translation patch. The game starts up with no title screen, it just plops you immediately in the first scene:
|I thought something was wrong at first|
The main character is Matthew, a trainee in the Orbal Army. His father and older brother work developing Super Monoroids (giant robots). In the opening scene they are both killed in an attack by the Damaya Army, and his mother and sister are captured. Matthew himself is then assigned to the Danzarb group, a group of elite soldiers that everyone wants to join. Although when Matthew arrives, nobody gives him the time of day — it seems that they didn’t really want him, but they had to accept him to also get the Red Dragon, the Monoroid that his father was working on. (You actually get the choice whether to join Danzarb or not. This isn’t one of those false “Princess Lola” choices though; if you choose “no” you get a game over.)
|Now we get the title screen. Gainax was involved.|
The game is organized as a series of 15 missions, so there’s no backtracking or world map exploration or anything like that.
MISSION 1 – The First Assignment
This is basically a short tutorial mission. There aren’t any of the Dragons (Monoroids) yet; instead you’re just on foot. We start with 7 characters, of whom 5 can go on the mission.
I tend to pick lower levelled characters, but you definitely want to level Kim, and probably Janice as well. Kim is the technician, and the only way to get new equipment is to spend the “energy” points you get from battles on development, and which items you can make it based on Kim’s level. Also if you have Kim along with you, she can develop items for you on the fly. Later when you start using the Dragons, you also spend the points to level the Dragons up, and if you don’t have Kim with you, you have to go all the way back to the starting point to do it. Janice can make healing items; she’s not as crucial as Kim but it can be useful for her level to be high as well.
|The Earthshaker, the Danzarb ship|
The stat screen has a few stats, as you can see above. HP is hit points, BP is “battery points”, which you use to fire weapons and use other items. I have no idea what DP is. It’s not mentioned in the instruction manual and I haven’t seen a wakthrough site that explains it. The “Match” on the right is the character’s compatibility with each Dragon. 120 is the highest, 100 the lowest.
|Strangely the game includes an English mode but just for the menus|
My first complaint about the game is the opaque system. In addition to the unexplained DP, nothing in the game or manual makes it clear what different weapons do. There are swords, bows, guns, bombs, etc. but it’s hard to know if different characters are better with different weapons, or what the difference between a bow and sword is. There’s also no way to see your current defense or attack; I use a walkthrough site to find the power of weapons and armor when the game doesn’t tell me. There I did find out that some weapons have better “STEP” ratings (which means you can act quicker) or hit rates.
Each mission starts with Captain Seldar giving a briefing, then we are taken to the mission destination. The first mission is to protect an energy tank at a base being attacked by Damaya. The mission is fairly short and mostly consists of finding various base workers that have a series of keycards, which you then have to assemble as a puzzle into a master card.
|It’s one of those Final Fantasy puzzles where you move the pieces around|
There are random encounters along the way, although the rate is not excessive.
During battle, the yellow lights in the center above each character get lighter, and when they fill up that person gets to act. This is like Metal Max in that all you can do is use an item, defend, or run. Items include attacks, heals, and items. Most items consume BP, but with Kim along you can easily make new BP restore items, and also defending cuts damage a lot and restores some BP (not in Dragons, just normal humans). For the most part the battles aren’t very hard, and there’s an auto battle feature. But it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s happening because the game isn’t good about telling you what’s going on.
MISSION 2 – Don’t Let the Red Dragon Die
This mission is to recover the Red Dragon, the first of the Monoroids. At the beginning you get to fly the ship around. This is another short mission, and at the end we get the Red Dragon — of course in true mech anime fashion, Matthew’s father seems to have designed the Red Dragon specially for him. Now the squad finally accepts him as a real Danzarb member, and a new member Gunga Din joins.
|Red Dragon awakes|
After each mission you can spend points that you earn during the mission for various things (completing the mission, or optional subevents). You can increase HP or BP by 1, or level up a character, or buy certain items. I’ve mostly been using the points to level Kim and Janice. Sometimes you’re forced to use a specific character and it might be helpful to use the points beforehand to level them up, but unless you’re using a walkthrough you won’t know which characters to level.
MISSION 3 – Those Hidden at Craft Mine
In this mission, robots have gone berserk at a mine. The mission is just the Red Dragon alone; I sent Matthew out in the mech but at some point I needed Gunga Din to open a door (why would his strength matter when he’s riding the mech?)
This is another fairly short mission, made longer by the need to double back a few times to switch characters. Here’s the boss of the mission:
|Bandai’s lawyers were immediately dispatched|
After the mission some of the Danzarb members think they should investigate more but Captain Seldar refuses to let us. This is the first of an increasing number of instances of Seldar acting strangely.
MISSION 4 – Assault on Krand Bridge
The Damaya Army is trying to blow up the bridge. Gabriel, a tech on the bridge (who joins after the mission) can defuse the bomb if we find the code. Each bridge worker has a clue to the puzzle, things like “The number between 0 and 2 is over 4”. Why would they know such useless information? Anyway, talking to everyone narrowed it down to 2 possible codes, and you have three tries, so that was enough. After defusing the bomb, one of the elite Damaya units arrives in the Cerberus mech.
He does a lot of damage but with constant use of healing he’s beatable. One unusual thing about this game is that if you use a healing item, the healing happens gradually rather than all at once. It still usually completes before the enemy gets another turn but not always.
MISSION 5 – Rescuing Krishna
This mission pits us against the Tattoo Cats, a female group of soldiers led by Amanda. It turns out Amanda is the former lover of Dick, one of the Danzarb members. The mission has two parts. First, the Dragons have to find the base. The areas now start getting a lot larger and more confusing, with multiple entrances leading to multiple maps — fortunately the walking speed is fast and you can set it even faster (at this point it becomes hard to control).
|Walking around the map|
Once there, the tattoo cats attack…one at a time. Obviously it’s not very hard. But Amanda’s Amon is much harder. I had to get the best armor and weapons I could for all the units, and rely on some luck that she didn’t use her ALL attack too often.
Now Amanda runs away and we follow on foot; Dick demanding that he be allowed to go. This is a tedious mission because we have to save a large number of workers in this base, and each one has to be rescued and taken back to the Earthshaker individually. But finally they are all saved, and Dick fights Amanda one on one.
|Amanda, leader of the Tattoo Cats|
By sheer luck, Dick had one of the heal items that uses BP rather than being a consumable. So she wasn’t very hard. Fortunately you can save anywhere so I wouldn’t have lost much progress if I had gotten a game over. Amanda survives and runs away to live to fight another day.
The game isn’t bad so far; I wish there was a bit more complexity to the battle system but auto battle works well and I can always have a podcast, Law and Order, or now the Tour of California to occupy me while playing.
First of Pandora Box titles for the system, right? They worked on a large number of games, most of em rarely get mentions however. Semi-short games and average stuff at best? Anyway, they're making great use of the theme – colorful monsters and the straightforward mission format seems to provide a robust and easy to follow structure for the game.