Story/Characters: There are so many characters that most of them don’t get more than a sketch, but that’s typical for this era. The main characters, at least, have some development and a few of the villains are interesting. What would have really helped in this area is if, between missions, you could walk around the Earthshaker and talk to your various party members. That’s probably too much to ask for a game from early 1993, though.
The story starts off slow, with seemingly disconnected missions involving your fight against the Damaya army. The plot doesn’t really get going until the last few missions — then you get some twists that are a bit silly but at least keep things interseting. It’s definitely one of the better storylines I’ve seen from games on this blog so far.
World: You don’t get much detail on this, but there’s a spoilery reason why this is that I won’t go into here. Since you can’t freely explore the world, you don’t get a good feeling for what the world is like at all.
Game Flow: Some people will not like the mission-based gameplay, because you can’t freely explore. Each of the 15 missions takes place in a specific area, and you can never backtrack or go to different places. This makes sense from a story standpoint but won’t satisfy all gamers. It didn’t bother me much, though.
I did not have to grind at all; the enemies give lots of XP and money, and the encounter rate is probably a bit too high but I never had much difficulty against anything. The only sticking point as far as progress is that the dungeons are often complicated and hard to navigate.
You can turn the walking speed really fast, which is nice.
System: This could have been a lot better. It’s a bit like Metal Max 2 in that the characters aren’t really distinguished from each other, since your only option is “item” which covers attacks and anything else.
But this biggest problem, which I mentioned several times in the posts, is that you get very little feedback. The stat window only gives you HP, MP, “DP” (I still have no idea what this means), and compatibility with the Dragons. There’s no indication of attack or defense value, what effects any of the weapons or armor have, whether certain characters are good with certain types of weapons, or anything like that. I suspect that this is primarily so that they could sell hint guides (which are prominently advertised in the instruction manual). There’s a perception that Japanese gamers were “hardcore” and didn’t need as much handholding as Americans did, but I think this is based on people not understanding how game companies made their games to encourage the purchase of hint guides.
Side Quests/Optional Content: Apparently the final dungeon has an ultimate weapon guarded by a fight that’s harder than the final boss; I didn’t do this.
Interface: As I said above, there’s no way to tell what the strength of any equipment is, or even what your current attack or defense are. Other than that I don’t have any big complaints, nothing too annoying about it.
Graphics/Sound: The graphics are a bit disappointing; I’ll be interested to see the point where we abandon the “NES graphics but with a deeper color palette” era for good. I do like the use of face portraits in the dialogue boxes and I wish more games did this.
The music is not bad. There’s no playlist on youtube so I can’t link specific songs, but I will say that none of them really stood out as awesome tracks.
The next game on the list is Barcode Battler Senki. I’m not sure this qualifies as an RPG for me since it doesn’t look like you can develop or level your guys at all. Even if you can, there’s not much point playing the game since the peripheral used to scan the barcodes isn’t supported by any emulators.
I will also skip Legend of Heroes II although I will be playing this when it comes up in the PC Engine list.
So that means next up is Shinseiki Odysseria, a game with a Greek mythology theme. But first, a few PC Engine games, starting with an eroge.