SFC Game 74 – Nekketsu Tairiku Burning Heroes

Nekketsu Tairiku Burning Heroes (熱血大陸バーニングヒーローズ). Released 3/17/1995, published by Enix

In this game, the player can choose from 8 different heroes — at first only 4 are there, but when you beat one scenario, another hero will be unlocked that’s from the first hero’s story. This seems to recall games like Live a Live, or perhaps Dragon Quest IV/Monster Maker 3 with the separate heroes. But Burning Heroes does things a bit differently.

I chose Lila first, who is a “treasure hunter”. Her scenario begins with her idol Fuga sending her on a quest to find the three Jabol orbs. She doesn’t really know why Fuga wants it, but assumes it’s just some kind of collector’s item.

The first thing we can do is explore the town and find some information, as well as get party members. The NPC party members have no role in the story at all; they just fill out the party for combat purposes (there is one place at the end where they each say a line but they’re not specific to the character). Then we leave the town and get into the first battle.

The biggest problem with the game is the battle system, I think. You cannot control the NPC characters at all — there isn’t even an AI setting. What this means is that magic users are worthless because they will immediately use their strongest magic and run out of MP within a few battles, leaving them as weaker fighters. So you want a full party of fighters, plus Lizer who only has heal spells — the heal AI is a bit better, and he won’t use the spells unless someone is hurt. At the same time, it’s sometimes frustrating that he won’t heal you when it’s necessary.

I really don’t understand this choice by the designers. It’s not the first time I’ve wondered about baffling choices made by companies or designers — I’d love to see an interview or anything where they explain their thought process behind this system.

What you can do is change the formation of your characters in battle. You start with just one formation, but earn more from leveling as well as finding books in dungeons — you will end up with 25 or so formations. Unfortunately, there are no explanations for what the formations do. Some of them are identified by letters: H increases hit rate, D is defense, M is magic defense, and A is balance (I think?) If you pick an M formation it will greatly reduce magic damage but also your characters will do very little damage.

There is also a system where if certain characters are on certain positions in the battlefield, they will do a “rush attack” that does more damage — but there’s no way to tell what positions those are, and according to one Japanese site I saw they even change positions as they level.

As the main character gets hurt, their “nekketsu” meter goes up, and when it hits 100% you can do a Nekketsu move that does damage to all the enemies.

For Lila’s scenario, the first thing we do is recover the Jabol orbs. One thing you find in various places in each scenario are Jump Shoes; by holding down Y you can jump across gaps. The more Jump Shoes you have, the longer gap you can traverse, so you sometimes have to find additional Shoes to be able to progress.

After finding the three orbs, she takes them back to Fuga and it turns out that Fuga has been controlled by some sort of power. Zades appears and uses the orbs to revive the Demon Jakou. Now Lila has to pursue Jakou to stop his goal of taking over the world.

Most of part 2 is chasing Zades. Lila eventually catches up with him at a ruin. Zades explains that he wants revenge on humans for destroying the Earthlings many centuries ago, and that he’s going to use the power of Jakou and a sky ship to do it. Lila destroys Zades, but Jakou has already headed up to the sky lands, and Lila follows.

The sky area has three dungeons. Lila defeats Jakou in the second dungeon, who then decides to crash Cosmion (the sky tower) into Earth, killing everyone. Lila goes through Cosmion and kills the remaining Earthling called Death Wise.

Once Death Wise is defeated, Cosmion goes into the sea instead for some reason, and Lila survives with Fuga — although there’s really no ending sequence beyond that.

After beating Lila’s scenario I decided to try Ryu’s scenario. Ryu’s father is the warrior Adam, who we heard about in Lila’s scenario. Adam went out and left Ryu alone.

As I played this, I realized two things: first, all the dungeons are repeated from Lila’s scenario, although they’re in a different order. Second: the plot is a repeat of the Lila plot, with the same final boss and final dungeon, just with a different motivation for the main character and some other different plot details. So Ryu’s story is not a different part of the story that’s complementary to Lila’s, it’s the same story retold with a different main character.

I then was going to try Shen’s story, which was unlocked by beating Lila. However, checking a walkthrough, it seemed that Shen’s story also had the same dungeons and the same final boss. Looking further through the walkthrough, it was clear that some of the people had some different dungeons, but that the final chapter was the same for all 8 heroes, with one different dungeon but the same final dungeons and boss. Furthermore, nothing happens if you complete all 8 scenarios — there’s no final scenario or anything, the game’s just over at that point.

So I’m not sure I see much point in playing the other six scenarios, especially since the battle system isn’t all that great. I don’t think it would take an especially long time (probably all 8 scenarios together would be in the 20-30 hour range). Can anyone else who’s played this offer an opinion? For now I’m going to move on to Arc the Lad II but if anyone can offer a compelling reason to play the other 6 scenarios I can do that before moving on to Esparks

SFC Game 73 – Love Quest

Love Quest (ラブクエスト)
Released 3/17/1995, published by Intermedia

This is a stupid game — that is, a “bakage” to use the Japanese word. It falls into the same category as Maka Maka in that it relies heavily on humor based on parody, gag manga tropes, poop jokes, puns, and occasional racist humor. It was originally developed for the Famicom and apparently completed in 1994, but then the release was cancelled and it was ported to the Super Famicom.

The game begins with the weak-willed “mothercon” (Jocasta complex) main character at his wedding with his fiance Yuka. But then suddenly Yuka disappears, and the main character goes on a quest to find her.

The game takes place entirely in various areas of Tokyo. There really is no coherent plot; it’s mostly just a string of parodies and jokes as I mentioned above, as the main character travels through various regions of Tokyo. I’ve never liked gag manga-style humor, and I didn’t really think most of the game was that amusing. Along the way you’re joined by two main helper women. The first is Haruka, who works as a cashier in a store.

 The second is Reiko, a “fleeter” (someone who does temporary jobs).

 
There are other women with these full size pictures as well, although they don’t join the party.
Some of the plot elements include defeating rogue cabs that have come to life, catching a panty thief, appearing on a TV station, and tricking a Crane Game machine into digging a tunnel.

In the end, you finally discover Yuka on a ship in Yokohama harbor. It turns out she ran away so that you could go out an earn experience and money, which makes you a more attractive husband. The main character is so upset by this that he rejects her and marries either Haruka or Reiko instead (depending on choices you made earlier). He throws away all his XP and gold, and the final scene is the new couple’s life where they have no money and he can’t get a job because he has no experience.

The game itself is a pretty normal RPG. It has a lot of usual bad features of old RPGs — slow walking with no dash button, no way to see the stats of equipment, no explanations of what the techniques (spells) do, etc. Rather than fighting monsters, you encounter women, and the “attack” command is replaced by “flirt” (kudoku, which can also just mean “persuade” — I don’t know if the game is using that as a kind of double meaning or whether the “persuade” meaning has become obsolete.)

Once you get party members, they don’t participate in the battle, but you can ask them to heal you or to “protect” (I never fully understood what this did). The main character’s techniques are color coded based on their effect, but it still would have been nice to have some explanation of them.

Some of the “foreigners” you meet are depicted in pretty stereotypical/racist manner, like the black person in the illustration above. Also at one point you visit the Indian embassy where they’re all walking around eating curry, and later they are contentedly eating a huge pile of poop, having mistaken it for curry. 

On the whole, I’m not sure this game is really worth playing. Maybe if you really like Japanese-style humor it might work for you, and at least I can say that the setting is original and it’s not the same old “defeat the demon lord” sword and sorcery game. There are a lot of townspeople to talk to. The enemies are colorful and detailed, and the graphics on the whole are fairly good, especially when you consider that this was ported from a Famicom game.

After yet another frustrating week with Blogger (having a lot of difficulty uploading the pictures, which has been broken ever since they switched to the new layout), I have decided almost for certain that I am going to transition to a WordPress site, where I will most likely combine my two blogs into one (using the more flexible layout to make it easy for people to find the various posts). It may be a while before I actually do this, and I will continue to post links on the Blogger site for a good while after I switch, but in the end I think it will be better. And if I continue to do posts after I finish the SFC project, that will be even more convenient.

Also, I may not have a post next weekend due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but we’ll see.

SRPG Game 62 – Vandal Hearts (chs 4-6)

Chapter 4

We’re fighting the Empire now! The first battle here has a ton of strong enemies, but the goal is just to escape the town. Apparently you can kill all the enemies, but I just grabbed some treasure with a few guys who then died, and everyone else escaped.

 The second battle seems easy at first, but there are so many long-range archer units that they can easily gang up on someone, and it’s difficult to judge where they can move and who they can hit. Once you’ve cleared out some of the archers it gets much easier (and the mages can be killed by your own archers).

 

Third battle is tricky because you start surrounded, but when I moved everyone towards one side I was able to escape with only one loss.

Fourth battle you just need to move forward while the train cars crumble behind you, but it’s not bad.

The last battle you have to destroy all the death devices in 8 turns. I managed to do it on the last turn, but I was not able to get all the hidden treasures. 

There’s also a trial map to be done in this stage; these are getting longer and more annoying. Here you have to do a lot of crate pushing to be able to reach the chest with the prism, and make sure you don’t block yourself off by moving them wrong.

Chapter 5

This chapter on the whole seemed a lot easier than the previous ones; maybe my characters were just a lot better.

The trial map, though, is a nightmare. It took me over 90 minutes to do; you just have to walk up this long spiral mountain and avoid archers by hugging the wall. It’s not challenging, it just takes a really long time. Thank god for emulator speedup.

The fifth battle has some reinforcements. At this point my mage had Salamander which hits a huge range and makes things generally easier.

Finally you have to protect Leena (who has a strange time travel backstory); once again not too difficult.

Chapter 6 

First task in chapter 6 is to do the last trial, which I thought was pretty easy.

Upon completing the last trial, you can change Ash into the Vandalier class; he gets super powerful equipment and can cast all the spells in the game, including Plasma Wave which hits every enemy on the board. This basically breaks the rest of the game but I’m not sure the final stages would have been that challenging even without plasma wave.

The chapter only has 4 stages. The first one is probably the hardest one, since Kain gains the ability to use Plasma Wave himself. If you let him stay near the cure circle he’ll keep regaining MP, but as long as you move towards him he’ll move away from that and then quickly run out of MP — with one or two Soul Water (heal all HP of all allies) it’s not tough to deal with.

I tore through the next two stages with no problem, leaving the final fight.

The final boss is not very hard (he’s easier than Kain), even though he has two forms. For some reason the second form only has 165 HP — was this a programming mistake?

I made sure to beat him with my Sky God — everyone always bashes that class but I really didn’t think they were that bad.

Afterwards the ending scene shows what happens to all the characters, and if you got Vandalier you get a special ending screen.

Overall this was a pretty good game. The story was above average – some cliches and I wish they had developed the villains a bit more. The ending was also a bit of a cheat (how did Ash get back?); I don’t know if VH2 or the third game are plot related at all.

I had some interface problems with the game — for instance, you can’t see a list of all your units and their HP, which is a pretty basic thing that is often useful and every SRPG should have. 

The map design is good, with different goals, gimmicks on the maps, some maps that aren’t just “defeat all enemies”, and other variety.

Vandal Hearts 2 came out in 1999 so it will be a while until I get there. Next up it’s back to Arc the Lad II, and I was able to dig out my save files from the first game so hopefully the carryover will work.

Deep Dungeon

 I’m on the last chapter of Vandal Hearts so I should be back here next week. Until then, a short post continuing my “old RPGs” sequence — this time the Famicom Disk System game Deep Dungeon.

This is the first of four first-person dungeon crawler games for the Famicom (the first two for the disk system). It’s the first attempt to transfer the Wizardry-style gameplay to a console. It is considerably simpler than its inspiration; you control only one character who is just a fighter — you can buy items and use them to cast spells by spending HP, but other than that it’s just attack.

The story is pretty simple — a princess has been captured and you have to go into the underground dungeon (just like Wizardry) to find her. There are 8 floors about the same size as Wizardry ones. The game is also quite similar to the first Wizardry in that the main activity of the game is making maps of the dungeon. There is very little to find in the dungeon — for instance, the first floor has a couple of places where you can find gold, and one message. There are some places with guaranteed encounters and adventurers, but other than that the maze is empty. This is something that I found fun when I was a kid and hadn’t played many of these games, but now I feel like there has to be stuff to find in the dungeons or it’s not fun just to wander around.

One other clear indication of Wizardry’s influence is that you have to press a button to kick a door down rather than just walking through it.

Saving requires you to switch sides of the disk, which takes a long time (of course in a modern emulator you can just use a save state).

I wandered around the first floor for a while. The encounter rate is very low, but the main character has a hard time surviving. There’s also a certain sluggishness to the whole game, which is not that surprising from this era.

There is a translation patch (and a full set of maps on GameFAQs) so this can be played, but it’s hard to imagine many people finding it fun. I think I would have enjoyed it in 1986 when it came out, because these kinds of RPGs were still fairly new. But I can’t see playing it now except for some kind of masochist completion.

The series takes steps forward in successive entries, by adding multiple dungeons, more characters. The second game came out about 6 months after this one, suggesting that like Dragon Quest I this was more of a trial run and the next game is a more polished entry. If I keep doing these early games now and then we’ll see Deep Dungeon 2 before too long.

SRPG Game 62 – Vandal Hearts (chs 1-3)

Vandal Hearts (ヴァンダルハーツ〜失われた古代文明〜)
Released 10/25/1996, by Konami
 

 

This seems to be Konami’s first SRPG. It makes use of the Playstation hardware capabilities to have a rotating 3D isometric map. This is not the first 3D game I’ve played, but it’s much more competent and worthwhile than Sengoku Cyber. Vandal Hearts allows for full rotation of the camera and angle change. Other than that, everything in this game we’ve seen before. 

There are narrated sequences between chapters, otherwise there is no voicing. This is something that always interests me about the Playstation, although there are fully (or mostly) voiced acted games as well (we’ll be seeing one example very soon).

I seem to have abandoned my data matrix because I stopped doing wrap-up posts. But I think it’s a good way to overview the system so I will resurrect it.

  1. Turn type: Player/enemy phase
  2. Maps: The maps have terrain bonuses, as well as height. There are chests, hidden items, and switches as well as poison bogs and occasional other things.
  3. Character Customization: Characters can promote at level 10 and 20. Some classes have the option to take one of two paths at level 10.
  4. Character Development: Standard XP/level system.
  5. Party Size: I don’t know what the max size is, but you always use all your guys.
  6. Equipment: One weapon, one armor, one shield, and then 2 carry items.
  7. Game Flow: 6 chapters with 5-7 battles each, all done in order. No random encounters. There are also some optional “trial” maps you can unlock throughout the game.
  8. Saving: On the world map, and one in-battle save.
  9. Death: Main character = game over, other characters will come back after the battle (you have a small money penalty)

Here’s the backstory for the game from Wikipedia:

Thousands of years ago, the holy man known to history as Toroah the Messiah traveled far and wide across the continent of Sostegaria, spreading his teachings throughout the land. After his death, his descendants and heirs assumed absolute political power over the region, forming the basis of the Holy Ashah Dynasty and ruling through a combination of religious doctrine and military power for millennia. The kings and queens of the Holy Ashah Dynasty, however, did not always rule wisely or justly, and, as time passed, the citizenry began to resent the power of their leaders.

Fifteen years ago, this growing discontent found its ultimate expression in the person of Arris the Sage, who united the desperate and resentful anti-royal factions throughout Sostegaria and shaped them into a powerful guerrilla army. Under the cunning leadership of Arris, this Liberation Army managed to outwit and outmaneuver the Royal Army, and finally smashed through to the palace of the Ashah Dynasty itself, and burnt it to the ground.

With the monarchy dissolved, the rebels establish a ruling council founded on the principles of democracy and popular sovereignty. From the ashes of the Holy Ashah Empire emerges the Republic of Ishtaria. The leaders of the revolution naturally assumed leadership positions within the new republic: all, that is, except for Arris himself, who suddenly disappeared and has not been seen of, nor heard of, ever since.

Today, the fledgling republic is in increasingly dire straits: the autocratic Minister of Defense, Hel Spites, and his elite anti-terrorism squad, the Crimson Guard, are using ever-increasing force to stamp out the last vestiges of resistance to Ishtarian rule, while they allow outlaws to roam the countryside and pirates to sail the seas.

The characters are generally much older than usual (Ash is 25 and I think the youngest party member is 17). Overall the story is decent so far.

(Sorry the screenshots suck for this post except the title one; I changed the duckstation settings after this to take better ones.)

 Chapter 1

The story for this chapter basically shows Hel Spites beginning to take control over the republic while Ash and his friends serve it through a guards regiment (while opposing the Crimson Guard, though not to the point of attacking them).

The first battles are pretty easy although I had to restart the first one until I learned the system basics. You can only counterattack, and units get support bonuses if their allies are surrounding the character. This means that if enemies gang up on one unit, that unit will tend to get severely hurt or die. This game has the “main character dies = game over” system; I really don’t like this in any games. It’s not as bad here as I’ve seen it, but it still tends to create this fear of actually using the main character.

But basically, the general tactic is to keep back and stay together unless you have to go forward. The system has unit compatibility; there’s a triangle between the fighters but then the Armors are good against all of them, and magic is good against armor.

 

There are hidden treasures on many of the maps. They are marked by things like craters, cracks, or strange patterns in the ground.

The second battle introduces the first switch, which you “search” to activate.

Battle 4 has a burning bridge so you do have to move forward.

Battle 5 is just one enemy plus a bunch of arms; the arms paralyze but if you just move towards the main enemy it’s not too bad.

Finally Battle 6 is a ship battle. The enemies cluster on the gangplanks and can be finished off with bows and spells.

 

At this point I had some people hitting level 10. These are the paths I took everyone on:

  • Ash – Hero (he has no choice)
  • Jose – Hawk Knight/Sky Lord
  • Reen, Amon, Genius – Sniper/Ace Gunner
  • Keith, Rado – Armor/Heavy Armor
  • Dolmen – Knight/Sword Master
  • Elena – Wizard/Spellmaster
  • Horcus – Bishop/Messiah
  • Samdera, Saria – Monk/Godhand

I did this without reading about the pluses and minuses of various classes. I probably should have made Samdera a second Wizard since their damage spells are quite good. It seems like most people recommend Genius being the Hawk Knight; you need one to get Ash’s hidden class. Personally I have found the Hawk Knight pretty useful so far in contrast to what everyone says. (BTW all the names are different in the translation. It looks like Keith->Clint, Jose->Diego, Elena->Eleni, Horcus->Huxley, Dolmen->Dolan, Rado->Grog, Saria->Sara, Samdera->Zohar, Genius->Darius, Reen-Kira.)

Near the end of the chapter we begin getting the Trial Keys. Each one can be taken to the promotion area and then there’s an optional trial map. In each map you have to beat all the enemies but also get a chest before you do that, which has a prism in it. If you get all the prisms, you unlock Ash’s secret class.

The trial maps all have some sort of gimmicky setup; in this case you just have to climb this huge mountain. I thought I would lose but I managed to win with 2 guys left alive and no MP.

Chapter 2

Here we go to an island and find the intrigue surrounding a certain gemstone. The first battle you have to destroy statues without destroying all the enemies (who are villagers changed into monsters). This is only a challenge because you can’t choose not to counterattack. This rubs me the wrong way; a battle that bases its strategy on a fundamentally flawed system element that makes no logical sense in the story. It does have strategy because you have to make sure you are placing your units in the right place. I ended up killing all the villagers but one.

The fourth battle in the chapter is annoying; you have to use these elevators that raise and lower to get everyone across a wall, and since the goal is “reach the castle door with everyone” even when you beat the enemies you still have to spend a bunch of time moving everyone.

The sixth battle is vs. a bunch of guard dogs, who have to be beaten within 7 turns and like to run away. Not very hard, but a strange battle.

There’s also another Trial in this chapter which is vs. all archers. It’s not especially hard but archers tend to be able to gang up on a character and it can be hard to judge placement because of the archers’ movement and then attack range.

Chapter 3

The plot takes a strange turn here as most of the characters get sent to another dimension where 3 years pass in a few days — I think this is to allow them to show the change in the world after the takeover by Hel Spites.

In the second battle you have to prevent towers from being destroyed by the enemies; I only had one left at the end but that’s enough.

The next few stages aren’t too bad, then there’s an interesting one where the enemies will start running away when you show yourself, so you have to wait until they reach a good spot and then pick them off before they can run.

Then we switch to a different party of people who are in jail, with some interesting enemies — they can’t be hurt except from behind, and from behind they die in one hit. So it’s all about maneuvering them into the right spot and then killing them. 

The trial for the chapter is easy; just one enemy and a bunch of chests, and you have to find the one with the prism.

So that’s half the game down (I’m on chapter 5 so hopefully I will finish up this weekend). Not bad but it does show its age in a few interface issues.

Surging Aura

 For this week’s off-week post I’m looking at Surging Aura for the Mega Drive, which came out the same day as the next two SFC games on my list. I was already planning in my mind a post that would contrast the Mega CD with the Playstation that just came out as well as the PC Engine CD — but then I realized that Surging Aura is not a Mega CD game, it’s just a regular Mega Drive cartridge game. It looks like of the 4 Mega Drive RPGs that came out in 1995, only one of them was a CD game. This is in sharp contrast to the PC Engine, where the final non-CD RPG came out in 1992. The Mega Drive was a more technologically advanced system than the PCE, but it’s still surprising to see that many games released this late in the system.

As you can see from the title screen, the character designs are by Inomata Mutsumi. She is best known for her work on the Tales series over 20 years; this is an early video game she worked on (I believe she had done some anime work before this as well). This game has a feature I wish SFC RPGs had — inset graphics and face graphics.

Maybe there was a feeling that it’s better for all the action to take place in one style of view, but I like these graphical insets, especially for games when you can barely tell even what the characters look like without the instructions.

The story starts out pretty cliche — the main character, Muu, is waking up to go through a ceremony to confirm him as crown prince. But as the ceremony starts, monsters attack and seemingly kill everyone, including Muu himself. But a “time rabbit” comes out and restores Muu’s life, leaving him in an unknown place. But since he’s a silent protagonist we don’t know who he is or where.

Immediately in the town he wakes up in, bandits attack the magic shop and steal away a girl, and Muu finds himself assisting a local guardsman who is in love with her to free her.

The combat system is interesting; it’s a realtime system where you choose an action while a glass sphere fills up. When it fills, the action happens (but magic takes additional time beyond that). Then they will just keep doing that action until you change it. Muu starts off weak; he seems to be the only magic user (at least judging from the status screen, which has no space for any other characters to have MP).

The interface is rather frustrating to use, particularly the spellcasting. There are 6 types of spells you can get and there is some complexity in that, but to choose a spell in battle you have to use this confusing wheel and a number counter; I never found it convenient to use (I notice that richie, in his walkthrough, says that the system is bad — I’ve never seen him criticize a game in the ~40 or 50 walkthroughs of his I’ve looked at up to now).

So this is a pretty short post as these off-week ones usually are. This isn’t a terrible game and it seems generally competitive with the quality of games that were coming out for the SFC. I’m surprised that it wasn’t released on CD.

SFC Game 72 – Last Bible III

Last Bible III (ラストバイブルIII)
Released 3/4/1995, developed and published by Atlas


This is another game in the long running Megami Tensei franchise. By this point, there were five main Megami Tensei games plus the two Majin Tensei strategy RPGs. The Last Bible series was a spinoff that started on the Game Boy in 1992. The idea was to take the core idea of monster recruiting and combining, but put it into a more kid-friendly fantasy setting that eschewed the usual darker, post-apocalyptic settings of the main games. (The first two games were remade for the Game Boy Color, and the first one was released in English in 1999 as Revelations: Demon Slayer.) The games are also standard top-down RPGs rather than the first-person games of the main series.

This game has an English patch, so you can try it yourself.

1995 actually had three games released in the Bible series — Last Bible III, Another Bible (a strategy RPG which I covered on my other blog), and Last Bible Special, a game gear game that went back to the first-person dungeon style. This was a busy year for the franchise; 1995 is also when SNES remake of the first two games came out, as well as Devil Summoner for the Saturn.

I played the first two LB games quite a while back, but I don’t remember much about them. Of course because this is on Super Nintendo (and released in 1995) the graphics are much better:

The text can be annoying to read at times because they have mixed kanji and hiragana in words — I’ve played enough of these old games that I’m used to reading all hiragana text now, but having a mix of the two really throws off my speed. 

 

The story overall is much more developed than the previous games. It begins with a flashback to a group of “Shadow Walkers” who were heroes of a big war 15 years prior. One of them is Glen, the main character’s father. Another, Alec, is about to die in the snow but reaches a gate to the Makai (demon world). Now 15 years later, the Shadow Walkers are being targeted by the government of Megapolis, who has made a perpetual energy machine but at the same time outlawed the use of Gaia (a kind of magic power) by anyone. At the moment, Kurisu (the main character) is outside their purview, attending a school where he is taught to use his Gaia along with his friends. Soon, the Megapolis soldiers attack the town, and Kurisu is forced to flee. The story takes Kurisu through a fight against Megapolis while at the same time trying to figure out the mystery of the Shadow Walkers.

(The main character gains Gaia techniques from the school at the beginning, but I never found out how to actually use them. I was obviously missing something in the system because for me they always did 0-5 damage but I saw videos where people were using them for 400+ at the end of the game.)

 

The battle system is normal, but as is so often the case in these games, the game is virtually ruined by the unbelievable random encounter rate. This is my 72nd SFC game on this blog so I’ve seen a lot of games with high encounter rates, but this is one of the worst. The saving grace is that once you recruit monsters to your side, you can then talk to the monster type and the battle will end — even with this, though, it’s very tedious to go through the dungeons. And there are several places in the game where you only fight human enemies you can’t talk to — these places really sapped my will to play.

 

This is coupled by a poor balance throughout the game. The game goes from being very difficult to very easy. I reached the final boss around level 34 and got obliterated. I did grinding up to level 43 and tried again, and got obliterated. At this point I was so tired of the game I used a cheat to beat the final boss; I then went looking for guides and videos and found that most people recommended levels in the low to mid-50s (and they actually knew how to use the Gaia techniques of the main character). So I was supposed to grind 20 levels to beat the final boss, which is absurd.

The high random encounter rate coupled with rare/expensive MP restore items means that, as usual, magic is nearly worthless other than heal spells. I also found that in general the magic didn’t work very well.

As this is a Megami Tensei game, you can recruit monsters to your side. I think this is the best implementation yet of monster recruitment. You are still doing the usual “answer questions” system, but you can see both the mood of the monster and the connection level change as you answer, which means you can actually see what your answers are doing and it feels much less random. There’s also the normal monster combining. As with Shin MT2 and If…, I found usually the preset characters were better than the monsters.

This is a pretty harsh review, but I think it’s deserved. I was really disappointed by this game; I was expected another decent entry from Atlas. The world is interesting and the story is pretty good, which is a good basis, but the absurd random encounter rate and the sheer amount of grinding required makes the game a chore to play, and I got to the point where I was no longer caring about the story that much because I just wanted to get the game over with.

Now after I wrote this, I went looking for more information on the main character’s techniques, which I probably should have done during the game. Apparently you can increase the MP cost to do more damage. I wonder if I can go back and beat the final boss without cheating now, although it was mostly that I couldn’t survive his turns where he would attack 6-8 times doing several hundred damage to each person.

Anyway, if any of you have played this game maybe you can tell me how to suck less at it — I don’t think it will change my opinion on the encounter rate but maybe at least the balance won’t be such a problem then.

Next up is Vandal Hearts on my other blog, then we’ll come back here to an odd looking game, Love Quest.

SFC Game 71 – Eternal Filerna (Finished)

Last time I was heading into the Imperial capital, Bow. Bow is kind of odd because it seems like it’s just a big building — maybe we’re supposed to imagine it’s bigger or has more structures, but I’m not sure. In any case, the goal of reaching here was to find the great smith Uto, who had the secret of the Sword of Filerna.

Uto is in the basement, but he doesn’t believe Filerna’s story, until he fights her and sees her sword style. Then he reveals what he has been keeping — the Sword of Filerna can cleanse the sea that the Empire fouled, and will restore the kingdom of Firosela. So that’s now our goal, but the Black Demons have caught up with the party as well and once again we have to escape out of a secret underground passage.

Incidentally, a problem a lot of games and anime have with story consistency is how to have powerful villains that don’t just instantly crush the heroes. Most of the time this is done by making the villains incompetent for no reason, or they use nonsensical things like “Let’s not kill him now, let’s see how he progresses. Mwahaha.” or “There would be no point in killing you, you’re too weak. Mwahaha.” This game definitely leans on the incompetent villains trope. 

Better stories like Lord of the Rings use more coherent reasoning — Sauron doesn’t have the ability to warp anywhere in the world or make meteors strike Frodo. That quest succeeds partly because they play on Sauron’s blind spot (not thinking anyone would try to destroy the Ring), and using a small party that wasn’t based on combat ability. Sauron never quite learns where Frodo is or what he’s doing until the last moment.

So we escape through the basement, and fight yet another Black Demon (#22). The next goal is to head south to where Firosela was. We pass through a town and near a locked windmill shed, eventually reaching an empire military base.

We have to head back to the windmill and get some imperial clothing disguises; it also turns out that Yakos, the man there, was a Firoselan, and is happy to see that Filerna lived. He’s sick and probably won’t live to see the revival of Firosela, but at least he can help us proceed. Unfortunately the soldiers find us out pretty quickly, and we have to fight. Two of the top-tier Black Demons appear here; this was a big chokepoint for me where I had to move up about 6 levels to proceed (until I learned a better Crystal attack). Fortunately there is a heal spot in the barracks.

Afterwards there’s a strange looking baby creature in a bubble that flies away, but no explanation for that now. But now we can pass the military base and finally reach the place where Firosela was. Filerna tries to cleanse the sea with the Filerna sword.

 It makes the castle rise up that we saw in the flashback earlier. The door won’t open unless two Firoselans touch the statues, but if a non-Firoselan touches them they will die. We head back to the windmill to talk to Yakos — the rest of the game contains an annoying amount of backtracking. Yakos is too sick to go help us, but he notices that Lila reminds him of a Firoselan, and a fortune teller seems to confirm that she is Firoselan. It’s dangerous, but they try having Lila open the door, and it works.

Inside, Filerna learns that she needs to revive 6 lighthouses to be able to proceed and make a miracle happen. This part is mostly just wandering around, backtracking, and some fetch quests to make the lighthouses activate. Midway through, we head back to Bow having heard that the High Priest there is the true ruler of the Empire, and if we beat him it will severely cripple the Empire. On the way, we learn that the Resistance Armies have grown by a lot, all of them being inspired by this unknown “Filerna” that they’re hearing about. It turns out that this is all being spurred by Nest, the scenario writer we met at the beginning, who has been publishing an underground newspaper. He joins up to go deal with the high priest.

The high priest is underground in Bow, and we also find a place where they are experimenting on people (this is what they were doing to Fis much earlier). And in fact Fis is here, and fights us, but stops after a few rounds and instead decides to sacrifice himself to destroy the lab. We continue on to beat up the high priest, who actually is very easy to beat.

Once we activate all the lighthouses, the miracle is an ice boat that comes up.

We need to use this to go to the final area, the place where the Black Demons have their command HQ.

The final dungeon is a tower, and the final bosses were another chokepoint so it was time to grind (I was tired of these chokepoints and used a code this time to move up 4 levels).

After beating the last of the black demons, the story takes a strange turn:

 The fetus(?) tells us that it’s already destroyed the Empire for creating the abominations, and that now it’s just looking for a place to be born — the Heart of Hatred has captured the Pot of Life, and so we need to beat the Heart to allow this thing to be born. I don’t know what this has to do with the rest of the story (I checked another blogger who did this game and he also had no idea where this came from, so I didn’t miss anything).

The boss is not especially hard at the levels I was at (I think it’s easier than the final Black Demon fights). Upon being the boss’s two forms, we restore the Pot of Life, the source of all life of the planet. 

Now Filerna goes back to restore Firosela. We’re followed by some last remnant of the Black Demons, but when Filerna uses her sword in the ocean, Firosela is reborn and the thing dies.

Now Firosela is destroyed, and Lila seems to become the queen with Filerna. Is this the first lesbian relationship in an RPG? There’s no dialogue here but Lila is pretty insistent that she’s Filerna’s wife, throughout the whole game. I found a post of someone talking about the original novel and it does seem to imply that Lila is in love with Filerna.

Overall it’s an OK game. Interface annoyances and chokepoints are troublesome, but the skill system is interesting and the story is overall well done for a game of this period.

Next up is Last Bible III.

SRPG Game 61 – Nage Libre: Seijaku no Suishin (Super Famicom)

Nage Libre: Seijaku no Suishin (ナージュリーブル 〜静寂の水深〜)
Released 2/24/1995, developed and published by Varie
 

  

This is a game I missed on my first pass through 1995. It’s a 美少女ゲー, a game where every character is a high school girl in various school dress. There was a 1997 sequel for Playstation as well. The game was way too expensive to buy, so I don’t have in instruction manual. My discussion of the system is entirely based on playing the game plus information from one walkthrough site I found; there may be parts of the system I didn’t get.

The game is 23 stages back to back, with no other content other than short story sequences. The story as a whole is fairly thin — five high school girls get brought into the world of Nage. They spend the first half of the game trying to escape, but then find that Nage is imposing itself on the real world. They go back into Nage to defeat Misty, the person that initially summoned Nage, and then defeat Nage itself. Most of the dialogue is just banter between the girls.

The first thing you do is input birthdays for the 5 girls.

This affects the birthday stone system in the battles, but there are two special things you can do. If you put in the birthdays as 1/23, 4/5, 6/7, 8/9, and 10/11, all cards count as birthday stones, making the game much easier. If you do 10/10, 3/3, 2/14, 7/7, and 12/24 you can see profiles of the girls. If you put everyone as 11/25, when you beat the game you get this unknown bald guy singing Happy Birthday to Me (a designer?)

Everyone can move 6 spaces on the map regardless of the terrain. What the terrain does it affect the speed that your turn gauge fills, and some of the map squares are damage or healing.


 


 

The battle system is interesting. It’s based on a card system, but not deck-building as such. Each encounter is 6 rounds (or until one person dies). At the beginning of each battle there is a random hand of 5 cards. When you use one of the cards, it will get replaced by another random one. Everyone shares the same hand so you do sometimes have to use less-than-optimal cards to clear them out of your hand. Each card has two numbers; a power at the top left and a speed at the bottom right. Who actually goes first is affected also by the character’s speed stat in addition to the speed of the card. There is also a gemstone on each card, and if it matches the character’s birthday gemstone, it automatically has max power (15).

The types of cards are:

  • Attack
  • Defense (raise defense just for that battle)
  • Heal
  • SP (a special super attack)
  • COS – This changes your costume.The Winter costume gives you more def/agl at the cost of str/mt. Gym clothes are +str/agl, -def. Swimsuit is +str/-def (more than Gym). Coat is just +10% def. The costume change just lasts until the end of the stage.
  • CHG – This allows you to pull one of your stock cards. Between battles you can buy up to 5 stock cards for each person. All of them have 9 speed and X (maximum) power. At the beginning of the game you have to be somewhat frugal, but starting around mid-game I always had one heal and four SP cards to draw from.
  • Escape (end the battle, can fail)
  • ????? – random effect, although I swear that defense is the most common outcome — maybe this is just confirmation bias though. 

Every character also has a club, although some people are “regular students” or bosses. The main thing I am not sure about is whether the clubs affect your stats; there’s no information about this in the game or on the site. There is a compatibility like in other games (for instance, the Tennis club is very strong against the Karate club but weak against Japanese Dance). This is potentially interesting but in the end not very useful. You only ever have 5 people and can only switch clubs between stages. Most stages have a large assortment of enemies and so it’s difficult to pick an optimum set of clubs.

 

It’s not really necessary though — the game is quite easy for the most part. There are a few tricky stages and bosses, but if you lose a girl they just come back in the next stage.

 

 

One other thing I’m not sure about is the level advancement. There’s no XP; the girls gain levels at the end of the stage, but I can’t tell whether it has anything to do with what they did during the stage.

There are a lot of interface issues. It’s very hard to see the stats of your girls during the stage, and there’s too much opacity in the system (although some of that might be cleared up by the instruction manual). 

In the end this is not a bad game, but it’s not particularly good either. I’ll be interested to see what the PSX game changes in the system. I read one complaint that there aren’t as many clubs, but that doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me. I did notice that they made some changes that reduce the randomness of the card draw a bit, which is probably good — it can be frustrating at times when you’re drawing nothing but costume change and escape cards.

After you win the game you can play an Extra Stage with all the bosses on one map.

Next up we’ll be back to 1996 for Vagrant Story, a game I have heard about but never played.