Riglord Saga (リグロードサーガ)
Released 7/21/1995, developed by Micro Cabin, published by Sega
- Turn type: Player/enemy turn
- Maps: Medium, height affects movement, and maybe combat effectiveness?
- Character Customization: Only by what skills you focus on (see next)
- Character Development: Standard XP/level system, plus a skill leveling system.Using a type of skill gives you XP in that skill area, and when you level it up you can learn new skills of that type.
- Party Size: Max 6 on the map, 13 in party
- Equipment: Weapon and 4 armor slots.
- Game Flow: After an opening section, you are free to roam the map and do the required combats in any order for a while. There is an optional challenge dungeon.
- Saving: Outside of battle, sometimes between battles in a series.
- Death: Defeated characters are removed from the battle but return afterwards.
This game is also called “Blazing Heroes” or “Mystaria: Realms of Lore.” I guess they didn’t like the original Japanese name.
This is the first Saturn SRPG (I played the Feda remake earlier, but that came out in 96). It looks very different from the games I’ve been playing up to now because they use the power of the new system to do 3D style graphics. Unfortunately I don’t think they look very good. I’ve always had a problem with early Playstation and Saturn attempts at this kind of graphics — even in 1997 I thought FF7’s characters looked stupid.
For me there was never a time when I looked at graphics like these and said “Yeah, that looks cool.”
This also appears to be one of those games where they ran into severe limitations in text space for the translation, or were just too lazy to expand it. For the technique names in particular, it seems like they were limited to six letters in two groups of three. So “Shuriken” had to become THR STR, “Repeating Kick” became KIK, Sleep is SLP, and Lightning Arrow is LTG SHT. I remember this kind of thing from Paladin’s Quest and Breath of Fire but this is perhaps the worst I’ve seen.
The game starts out with Prince Kurisu fighting against Gen’yusai, who is taking over his castle. He quickly gets overpowered, and then slaughtered by a story loss fight. Then you get to the first real battle of the game, with one of the bad guys joining us. The only required units for all the battles are Kurisu and Musashi.
One really nice feature of this game is that at the end of each battle, all characters get an equal amount of XP based on the enemies killed during the battle, with non-participating characters and characters who died during the battle getting half. I greatly prefer this to the common system where XP awards go to individual characters; it gets tiresome to attack your own guys or leave people at 1 HP so that you can level weaker characters.
The battle system is fast-moving and I never felt the need to use a speedup key, even on the enemy turns.
After this initial fight we get locked in a cell but can escape with some additional friends joining. There are locked doors with chests behind them in this battle but they can’t be retrieved until later in the game.
After escaping the castle, we had to go to a mountain with a sage on it who would tell us how to defeat Gen’yusai. I had to do this battle three times; the enemies are difficult and have nasty counterattacks. Fortunately this game lets you retreat from a battle at any point and earn all the XP you got up to then (and the chests). I always appreciate systems like this because it means that you never have to do any true grinding, you can always attempt the next battle and then retreat when you’ve gotten as far as you can.
The sage tells us that we need 13 warriors to go against Gen’yusai. The next part of the game is nonlinear; there are 5 or 6 places you need to go but they can basically be done in any order. You can travel freely around the map and visit the various towns to buy things. When crossing a border into one of the other provinces you may fight a random encounter, which will be with several randomly chosen members of the party. This can be a bit hairy if they choose a bunch of weak characters. I generally tried to level up everyone until the late stages of the game.
The next part I did was going after a pirate and then getting shipwrecked on an island. For me this part was the most difficult in the game, and the last hard fight until the final boss. There is some method that the levels of the enemies scale to match yours, but it’s not absolute. I was having so much trouble with a battle in this section that I was afraid I might have to go back to a previous save, but I noticed that as I retried the battle over and over again, the enemy levels were not going up at all. Also I was learning new skills, which is probably more important than the levels. So eventually I won.
After this I found that the game got significantly easier. I think this is because once you get better techniques and moves, the fact that the enemies match your levels is no longer that important. There was a tower where enemies could only get hurt by magic or certain moves, and I had to skip it for a while, but when I came back it was easy.
Honestly the next stage that provided any challenge was the final stage, and that’s only because almost every unit on the map can confuse your characters. I thought I was going to have to try from the beginning but I managed to beat it with only the main character left alive.
Overall this is a decent game. It’s a bit short, and the difficulty is very uneven, but it’s a fun play and the very clean and easy interface makes it much less of a chore than some games. I’m looking forward to trying the sequel in a while.
I agree with you, I really don't like the 1995-2000 era 3D graphics, but when you come to think about it, ZX Spectrum wasn't much better when it comes to 2D, and it was massively popular here in Europe. It's mostly about the fact that these graphics were just very early attempts I feel, and thankfully we're past that stage. This game still looks alright though.
Never heard of this one, but it look surprisingly good – apart from the hideous pre-rendered characters.
I don't really remember what young me thought of FF7's characters, but I can't imagine I ever thought of them as particularly great looking. I do remember being blown away by how amazing FF8 looked by comparison, so there's that.
Really wish the second one had gotten a translation at some point. I'm digging this game so far. It was the first truly 3D SRPG, the first SRPG to let you survey the battlefield from a 1st-person perspective, the first SRPG for the Saturn, and the most open-world SRPG I've seen yet. Mystaria is lowkey groundbreaking! Not perfect by any means, but still a fantastic game for 1995. The more Saturn games I play, the more I realize it's an outstanding console that I wish I had experienced earlier.
Yeah, I agree this game was pretty good. I especially like the way XP is awarded. Even though it's so common in SRPGs, I'm not a huge fan of the idea of individual XP awards. In some games it works fine, but it always irritates me when you have to do things like attack your own guys, use spells or items just to get XP, leave characters at 1 HP so other people can kill them, and such. Other than this game, the only other SRPG I know of offhand that does things differently is the Summon Night series, which gives you a lump XP award at the end of each battle that you can spend to level up any character.
Tactics Ogre's PSP remake socializes experience as well. There's also Valkyria Chronicles, if you consider that to be a SRPG (which I personally don't). Bahamut Lagoon strikes an interesting balance between individualism vs. socialism too, with experience individually being rewarded after skirmishes and experience collectively being rewarded after entire maps.
It's certainly nice to see different systems tried out, because there's so much you can do even within the confines of a SRPG system.