SFC Game 97 – Maten Densetsu (Finished)

Last time some commenters were saying that this was a ripoff of Shin Megami Tensei. I think this is a little unfair — while it’s clearly strongly inspired by SMT I don’t think it’s just a cheap ripoff. This game does not have the same monster recruiting system, the religious emphasis of SMT, or the “law vs chaos” idea. And the Energy system I described in the last post is an entirely new system.

Having now finished the game I have mixed feelings about it. One issue I had that (as far as I could tell) there is no way to get any information in-game on what all the items and spells do. I was able to figure some of them out just by experimentation but sometimes even using the spells in battle doesn’t make it clear what they are supposed to do. This game has very little information available on it; the Japanese sites are mostly just reviews. The usual richie walkthrough is on GF but this must have been one of his early efforts because he tries to summarize the story and the English is worse than usual (I tried e-mailing richie to thank him for all his work but I got no response; I don’t think he’s been active on GF for 10 years or so, so I imagine he’s moved on.)

My biggest issue with the game was that it became tedious due to how large the dungeons are. As is common with many of the first-person dungeon games from this era, there is very little of interest in the dungeons. In this game at least you do not have to explore every square to know what is there because of the HUD that shows you points of interest. But it still seemed like the dungeons were unnecessarily big. There is a certain tedium to fighting, making MP restore items, healing, walking down long featureless corridors, and fighting again.

The other issue was that there did not seem to be a clear forward movement of a story. Generally the flow of the game is that Chisato teleports you to an area, you beat a boss in a dungeon, the dungeon starts to crumble, and Chisato teleports you to the next area. There are issues in each area but I did not get the feeling that we were moving towards any kind of ultimate goal.

In the last post I had gotten to Hiroshima. Here, there are monster ants in a big anthill. Defeating them gives us another oopart that allows Chisato now to teleport to various places we haven’t been before. You can choose between two places; I went with Kyoto.

In Kyoto we go around to various places and collect body parts of a demon.

Eventually we go to a pyramid that reunites all the parts of the demon, and causes the demon to fight us. This was a tough boss but I figured out something that makes most of the game’s bosses much easier. One system thing I forgot to mention last time is that you have a total defense value that is divided among mental, physical, and energy defense. But you can change way the division goes any time you want. So for most of the bosses you can just see what type of attack they have and then put all your defense points into that type. Most bosses only have one attack type so this will leave them barely able to damage the main characters. (This does not work so well near the end of the game.)

We get another oopart and then proceed to Nagano, where some kind of monster plant has covered everything.

Beating the giant plant monster gives us another oopart and we go to Shikoku. This is a long section with a bunch of dungeons you have to clear; there’s also a strange place where people have transferred their consciousness into stone tablets so they can live forever, but they don’t like the results. I was never clear on where these people were supposed to have come from. In any case, another boss gets us another oopart.

Next up is Kyushu, which has another strange section with some kind of dinosaur humanoids. One of the shamans here tricks us into giving up an oopart so we have to chase him into a dungeon. Beating him and a giant dinosaur yields another oopart.

Next we teleport to where Tokugawa Ieyasu and other sengoku era generals are fighting. Maybe I just didn’t read the dialogue closely enough but as with the dinosaur humanoids I’m not entirely clear on what is happening here. But once we save them all from the monsters we gain access to a castle — another boss, another oopart.

We end up back at the Nazca pictures where Rai initially met the mysterious mask that gave him the ability to form weapons. Using one of the ooparts reveals an underground area. This area is enormous; by far the most tedious part of the game because of how many empty areas there are, but there are 6 important places in there so you have to know where you’ve been. The people here have been studying some kind of ancient rocketship.

After clearing the monsters from several areas we enter the rocketship and use it to go to some kind of final area. Here, Rai meets Ando, the mask from the beginning. Rai gathers power from all sources, including his friends, to make one final killing blow against Ando.

The final battle has an annoying part where each turn you go to his right or left (shown by right and left arrows) to decide where to attack, but it doesn’t seem like it’s doing any good. You have to press up (not indicated) to jump over him and attack his back. I wonder how long I would have spent on this battle figuring that out if I hadn’t seen it in the walkthrough.

After the battle, Rai learns that an ancient race split into two factions — one that wanted to leave their DNA in humanity and watch over them, and the other who wanted to control them as tyrants. Ando was the head of the tyrant group, but with them defeated, the Earth will be free from that influence. I guess Japan goes back to Earth? They didn’t clearly state that, and Japan is certainly going to have a lot of rebuilding to do.

In the end…meh? It’s certainly not the worst game I’ve played but it is too tedious and long, I think.

SFC Game 97 – Maten Densetsu (Part 1)

Maten Densetsu: Senritsu no Ooparts (魔天伝説 戦慄のオーパーツ), released 10/27/1995, by Takara

I’ve chewed through my buffer and am not done with this game yet so this will be a 2 part (hopefully) game. The game seems to have only been a minor release; there’s almost nothing available on it in Japanese. The subtitle means “terror of the ooparts” (an oopart, or Out Of Place Artifact, is a real term in pseudo-history/science referring to things like the Baghdad Battery or other things that supposedly support ancient alien or “lost civilization” theories.

The game begins abruptly — you choose one of five main characters (I don’t know how they are different, I chose Rai), and immediately start in a ruined Tokyo with this strange mask staring at you. Rai manages to somehow manifest a gun out of nowhere and tries to fight the mask. He can’t really do much but then he wakes up with a woman’s voice in his head telling him to come to Shinjuku, and he has the gun.

Rai wakes up in the house of someone named Akihiko. Because Rai was able to manifest this gun, Akihiko thinks he should have an invention that works on satellite data to find living things, automap, and do other things. It turns out that Japan is now floating in the air, and monsters are all over the country. Rai also has gotten a ball that can revive allies.

Everything in the game works off of Energy, which you get either from beating monsters, or finding certain places in dungeons or on the world map that grant you energy. You can do three basic things with the energy:

  • Raise your stats. I’m not clear on what the exact effect of each stat is, but it seems to be Physical Strength, Physical Endurance, Physical sPeed(?), Mental Strength, Mental Energy, IQ, and Defense. The amount it costs to raise each stat is shown at the right.
  • Upgrade your weapon. You need to raise your IMG stat (which goes up from Mental stat points) to at least the level of energy it costs to do the upgrade. There is a limit to how much you can upgrade, and some weapons can’t be upgraded. For the woman companion that you get later, you can learn new “spells” by raising her “psychic circle” level, which runs off the same IMG idea.
  • Make items. Any time you find a consumable item it goes in your item matrix, and then you can use energy to make more of the items. This is your main way to heal and recover (there are very few places in the game where you can rest to restore PSY/MP), and it’s important to find the items like the Coffee (which restore PSY).

On the overworld you move around like this (with the blue triangle representing your position). Pressing Y will show pink diamonds in areas where you can find things. They might be enemy encounters you can’t run from, or places you can go in, abandoned JDF cars you can search for items, people to talk to, and such. There are random encounters as well.

The dungeons are first-person with an automap. By looking at the top right of the view you can see black crosses where there are places of interest, so you do not have to enter every square. I think the dungeons are a bit too large, but maybe they had to do that because they can’t expect you to spend time exploring every square.

The combat system is the same-old same-old. Nothing to say.

I wandered around as Rai for a while, and picked up two monsters to join my team. You can get more of these throughout the game and use the revive orb to “store” the monsters you are not currently using.

Rai encounters a number of survivors hiding from the disaster, including one named Ryuji who is also able to manifest weapons (though he doesn’t join). Rai learns that reaching Shinjuku to find the mysterious woman’s voice will require going through subway tunnels. After finding some bombs in a JDF installation, Rai removes the rubble and then goes through the tunnels to Shinjuku.

In a park there he finds Chisato, the woman whose voice he heard. She joins the party as the “spellcaster” of the group. Chisato claims that Rai is the only one who can gather the 5 powers necessary to fight and defeat the root of this cause, and that by gathering the right energy she can teleport to various places.

We head for an underground area that has Fujin and Raijin monsters in it — defeating them both gives Rai a new weapon, and gives Chisato enough energy to teleport, but only once. We go to Hiroshima.

This is where I currently am, so I will update next week. So far the game is OK; I’ll have to wait until the end to see if it gets more tedious than I enjoy.

SFC Game 96 – Light Fantasy II

Light Fantasy II (ライトファンタジーII), released 10/27/1995, developed by Tonkin House

I’ve been dreading this since I played the original Light Fantasy years ago as one of the first games I did on the blog. The original game was horrendously bad; one of the worst designed games I’ve ever played and a good contender for the single worst RPGs on the system and one of the worst RPGs ever made. It’s virtually unplayable — the only reason it’s not is that you can exploit a glitch to turn random encounters on and off, and there’s a trick you can use with a gambling game to make as much money as you need. Using both of those you can get through the game fairly quickly.

This game improves on the original to the point where it’s playable, but it’s much longer. Basically it went from a short, unplayably bad game, to a long, still very bad game.

The battle system is the same as the first one, with the grid SRPG-style. The annoying movement ranges that the original game had are made somewhat better, and you don’t miss as often as you did in the first game. But the pots the enemies leave still block your movement, and the whole system is still very slow.

The status effects are still a huge problem with the game. There are a bunch of them (even more than the first game) and most do not go away at the end of a battle or sleeping at an inn. So you have to carry around a lot of status heal items or have the status heal spells — the inventory is much larger this time and you can stack items, which helps a bit. But so many enemies have spells that target everyone on the board and cause devastating status effects.

Basically you want to do the same thing as in Light Fantasy 1 — avoid the majority of the game’s encounters (since any random encounter can provide a game over), and only fight at certain points with fairly easy monsters to level up. The balance is all over the place, with one dungeon having enemies that aren’t very hard and give good XP, and the next dungeon having enemies that can give you a game over before you get a turn, but give almost no XP.

I used a no-encounter cheat code for most of the game. I also used a cheat code that makes the fast walking spell permanent (it’s annoying to see a late 1995 game require you to use items or spells to temporarily walk fast). I also used a money cheat to buy things. There’s probably a discussion to be had whether I should simply skip the game rather than use all these cheats to win, but I’m still following the old rules I set down for myself although I’ve rarely wanted to break them as much as I did for this game.

The interface is annoying. As you might expect, you cannot see stats of weapons or armor in shops or in the menu. There’s no way in-game to fight out what a spell does, and they have names like “gongon” and “yura”. At least the spells do not take as much MP as they did in the first game, so you’re freer to use them (and a level up restores all MP and HP).

As in the first game, you can form your party by inviting a lot of random people in towns — dogs, mermaids, demons, people — and you can also invite monsters from battle. As with the first game, this would be a neat feature if the battle system were actually fun.

The game takes place several hundred years after the first one, with another “jiyuu no yuusha” (Hero) who has to power up the Earth Sword to be able to defeat an evil goddess and save the world. What has increased the length so much is the unbelievable amount of backtracking you have to do, and the sheer number of fetch quests. You are constantly being diverted and digressed — you need item X but to get that you need Y, and to get that you need Z, but while getting Z you come across a child who has lost his father so we have to go look for the father and to do that we need item A but to get that B…I’m not even really exaggerating with this description. The majority of the game has no feeling of any kind of forward movement, and the power ups of the Earth Sword are mostly done because we blunder across the spirits in the course of these fetch quests.

If you played this game completely straight with no cheats, I think it would take in the 40-70 hour range, and 20-25 of those hours would be backtracking through places. There is no town warp or dungeon warp spell, and a good number of the towns you need to visit are through dungeons. So any time the game needs you to go to that town you have to go through the whole dungeon again. Sometimes you have to go to the town, and then learn about the fetch quest, walk back through the dungeon to get out, get your item for the fetch quest, then go all the way back through the dungeon to the town again, and out again.

Many of the dungeons are like the above, requiring you to use light spells or torches which only give you a small viewing area. This makes the whole dungeon backtracking part even more annoying.

The story is pretty basic. The hero is the descendant (I think) of the hero from the first game. At the beginning monsters are following him, and three women turn him into a baby and sacrifice themselves to save him. So for the first part you are a baby who can equip armor and weapons; it’s not really explained how you are able to attack.

As the game progresses, Ash (the default name) ages — apparently the baby form is a representation of his weak spirit, and as he gets more heroic he becomes an adult. Early in the game we learn that Lefina, who Ash wants to save, is being held by The Goddess. We need to power up the Earth Sword with all the spirits to be able to enter the towers that will open the way to where the Goddess is. This early plot development is then followed by the 70% of the game or so that is just fetch quest after fetch quest.

My whole party is blinded here

Eventually we gain access to the towers and open the way to the floating castle where The Goddess is. Using the help of a scientist we get shot out of a cannon into the castle and then have to beat a number of bosses. The bosses are quite difficult — there is a magic spell that drains all their MP which helps a lot, and if you’re cheating and have 99 elixirs that’s enough healing power to beat it, but even so I got a couple of game overs when I wasn’t quick enough to heal. I cannot imagine how painful this game would be to play with no help at all.

It turns out that Mink, a girl who lost her memory and has been accompanying you, is actually the Darkness Spirit that the Goddess created. But she turns against the Goddess, gives the dark power to the sword, and releases Lefina, who completes the Earth Sword with the light power. Then you fight the final boss.

On my first try, the boss killed the main character in one hit. The second time after I drained its MP there was some kind of glitch and she did not take any turns for the rest of the fight so I was able to just use spells until she died. She apologizes for being jealous of the hero and tells us to tell everyone in the world that she was sorry. The hero uses the sword to repair all the damage, we go back and heal various people that had been sick for the whole game, and then Kurisu goes off on a new adventure.

After the credits you can to go the Development Village where the game designers are. Unfortunately you can’t fight and kill them.

To sum up, this is a truly awful game — surely one of the worst RPGs ever made. The developers should all be ashamed of putting this game on the market and Tonkin House should be ashamed of having published it, especially in 1995 less than a month before Dragon Quest VI. I resent that I had to play it and write about it. There is no way to communicate through text how painful an experience it is to play this. If I had to choose to play Light Fantasy 1 or 2 again I would definitely do 1 — this game took 25 hours, and that was with following a walkthrough, not spending a lot of time talking to random people in towns, and using all the cheats I described earlier.

SRPG Game 79 – Shinseiden Megaseed Rebirth Chapter (PSX)

Shinseiden Megaseed Rebirth Chapter (神聖伝メガシード 復活編), released 7/4/1997, developed by Banpresto

This game was a joint production of Sunrise and Banpresto, and it was an attempt to make a game that would resemble the various tokusatsu hero series and super robot anime. As the addition of the subtitle shows, this was conceived as possibly being a large franchise taking place in several time periods over a number of games, anime, etc But this presumably depended on the sales of this game — since no other media ever came out in this franchise, it must not have sold well. (There was a “creation chapter” single manga volume that came out a few months before the game that covered the backstory that is narrated at some point in this game).

The storyline does feel like the genre they were trying for, and the visuals are relatively good (with both the special attacks and the pictures in the story sequences). Unfortunately the gameplay is lacking — I’ll cover this first and then do the story afterwards.

The game is made up of 14 “scenes”. Each scene has story and then a first battle. After this battle comes the only chance to improve your characters, spending roughly 3000 “guts points” to raise stats. It costs the number of GP as the value you want to raise the stat to — that is, if DEF is 100 and you want to raise it to 101, it costs 101 points. Each stat can be upgraded max 5 times. As far as I can tell, the GP you have to spend is a fixed value (I think 3000, although you also save whatever you didn’t spend last time). Since there are no items or money, that means that defeating the enemies in the battle has no purpose other than to complete the stage goal. If the goal is to defeat the boss, you will gain nothing by beating any enemies other than the boss.

You have anywhere from 2 to 6 characters in the battle. All moves except basic attacks cost BP, and for the two “biofighter” characters, they lose some BP each round. The biofighter characters begin in human form, and it takes a turn to transform them. The main character has multiple forms, but to switch forms you have to first take a turn going back to human form, then choose the new form (a total of 2 turns). Switching forms is essentially useless because of this. If the Biofighters run out of BP they revert back to human form.

The fatal flaw of the game is how difficult it is to recover BP. The only way it can be done is to go to an armored vehicle that is around on some (not all) stages. The vehicle cannot move. It takes several turns to recover the BP and then once you leave the vehicle you are in human form. Because of the limited number of units in each stage, recovering in the vehicle basically is not an option unless you are at a point in the stage where you can win without any further attacks by the character in the vehicle. Otherwise, the enemies will simply surround the vehicle and destroy it before you can recover enough to fight again (if the vehicle gets destroyed with someone in it, that person dies). This means that in every stage, you are essentially limited by the BP of each character, and to a certain extent the HP although there is one unit that can do a limited amount of healing.

Because of this, I found that essentially the only option on most stages is to go directly for the boss when the goal is to beat the boss (which is most stages). You simply cannot afford the BP it takes to beat the grunts, and there is no purpose to doing so because you don’t get any XP, money, or anything like that. If either Biofighter dies you get game over, but the other characters simply leave for that battle.

So the gameplay is basically crap, I think. It had some good ideas but they just botched the execution so badly that it’s maybe not a surprise that there was never a followup game. I actually quit on the final stage because I could not beat the first part of the map and didn’t care to try anymore — another C grade game in what is shaping up to be an overall poor year for SRPGs. Fortunately we still have Langrisser IV and Shining Force 3, at least. Anyway, now for the story.

The story is not bad, aside from the main character who is an insufferable dick. Yuuki is the main character, who begins walking home from school with friend Miyu. There’s an explosion and some alien enemies come to kidnap Yuuki’s sister Ruma, who they seem to be looking for. Yuuki tries to protect her but gets killed. A little robot named Eddy appears and sees that Yuuki has the Megaseed ability, and revives him by turning him into a Biofighter — this is apparently only the second time this has succeeded. Yuuki has now transformed into a beast, and attacks the enemies trying to save Ruma.

But Ruma gets taken anyway. After the fight he goes back to being human, but when more enemies appear, he goes back to Biofighter again by Eddy’s interference (he doesn’t want to turn into such a beast again). He also gains a new transformation, to a water Biofighter that can deal with the boss in the water.

Later, he talks to Miyu again and hears that enemies are attacking Shinrin Park; Yuuki hopes that he can find Ruma there and heads out. A mysterious man shows up investigating as well. Enemies show up again — Yuuki doesn’t want to transform but Eddie forces him to again. It turns out this mysterious guy is also a Biofighter.

One of the “Three Generals of Baidner”, Dr. Min, arrives and the other Biofighter leaves to fight him. Yuuki is left to fight the very fast Kreutzfeld, but he gets a new speedy transformation to beat him. Yuuki passes out and the other Biofighter takes him back to the base of the Jeen, an arm of the military that is dedicated to fighting the Baidner. Yuuki reluctantly agrees to join them, not because he cares about saving the world, but he hopes that he’ll find his sister (every chapter contains at least one scene where Yuuki sulks, blows up, yells at everyone, says he doesn’t care about anything but his sister, and often screws things up by going off by himself. Even when he learns that other people have had their whole family killed by Baidner he still just pouts and yells and goes off by himself. Even when this results in other people getting killed, he continues to pout and yell and insult everyone and say he doesn’t care about anything but his sister. I know this is a common anime trope but this story seems to take it to an extreme that leaves the main character completely unsympathetic.)

It turns out that Yuuki is the only “perfect” Biofighter they have found. Sei, the other Biofighter, was created by Jeen and so is not perfect. Dr. Min can control him in battle, seemingly because of this.

The other two members are Zek and Yui, normal humans, but they get some bio armors after a few stages that allow them to fight. As the story continues we are introduced to other enemies (“Myu fighters”), and the other two generals of the enemy force. Also a creature called Breth-O comes in a capsule from space; apparently this robot thing was created to kill the Biofighters, but it doesn’t seem to work correctly and so often leaves the fights, attacks the other Myu Fighters, or is ineffective. Yuuki also continues to develop new forms to fight the enemies.

Yuuki eventually learns that the enemies are doing some kind of experiments on Ruma, who is apparently someone they’ve been searching for.

Stage 11 is strange because one of the generals Rigna revives all the previous bosses we’ve fought, but you only have to kill one (who is in the water and is annoying to reach). I feel like this was done because given the way the system works, there’s no way you could have killed all the bosses before running out of resources.

Eventually we learn that Bres-O is working for the Dark God Meizas, who seems to be the head of the Baidner. Meizas was created by an ancient culture to protect the world, but now sees the Megaseed/Biofighters as a threat. It also turns out that every person in the world has some Machinery Mark in their DNA that comes from Meizas and allows the enemies to theoretically control everyone (this is how Rigna controls Sei). I was a little lost here; I think the idea is that this ancient culture was entirely destroyed but that Meizas was somehow able to preserve life by creating humans, who all have the Machinery Mark.

In Scene 13 we reach the Baidner base after defeating the 3 generals. Ruma is there, but she has been transformed into Aruma, another evil demon creature. But Ruma is able to fight for control from Aruma, and after she is beaten, Ruma completely rejects Aruma. The heroes then beat Meizas.

Unfortunately the Meizas they beat is just one terminal, and Meizas reappears and shoots a bolt of energy, killing Ruma. This seems to make Yuuki finally accept that he needs to fight for the world, not just for Ruma. They need to go to the moon to defeat Meizas for good — they can send Eddy and Yuuki there in the capsule that Bres-O used to visit Earth.

Scene 14 (the final one) is where I gave up. You have to defeat 5 Bres-O’s, without Yuuki or Eddy. I tried five times and I was unable to beat more than three of them before everyone died. Maybe I needed to spend my level up points differently, but I had no desire to try this anymore. I looked at a review that said how the story concludes — Yuuki goes to the moon and defeats Meizas, but as he is returning to earth they lose contact with the capsule, and the fate of Yuuki and Eddy is left open as the game ends.

So this is yet another game that shows promise but is not worth playing. It barely qualifies as an SRPG and there’s just not that much good about it.

SFC Game 95 – Tenchi Souzou (Terranigma)

Tenchi Souzou (天地創造), released 10/20/1995, developed by Quintet, published by Enix

The Japanese title of the game means “The Creation” (capitalized, in the sense of “let there be light” god(s) creating the earth). Strangely it was released only in Europe in English, never stateside, making it one of the four RPGs on my list from 1995-1999 that was released in English (the other ones are Chrono Trigger, Lufia 2, and Super Mario RPG)

I first played it on an emulator about 20 years ago; I went into it knowing only that it was the third game in the loose trilogy including Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia. I honestly think this is the best way to play it. This time knowing how the game proceeded and concluded, a lot of the mystery and wonder of the first play was lost. It’s still a good game but on replaying both of them I think I may like Illusion of Gaia better.

I’m going to describe the gameplay first, and I suggest that if you are interested in playing this that you go into it knowing as little as possible about the game. This sort of mirrors the main character (Ark), who begins in his home village that doesn’t even have an exit — when the exit appears very early in the game, you can see that not only is he surprised to see it but evidently he never considered it unusual that there was no way to leave the village.

The graphics have a nice late-SFC quality, and the music is superb — I assumed it would be the same composer as Gaia, but it’s two new people.

The gameplay continues the action-RPG style of the series, but goes back to a more traditional RPG style than Gaia. You move up levels and equip weapons and armor. Ark can do a variety of moves, including a flurry blow, a dash attack, a jump spin, and a jumping dash attack. He can also block with the R button. All of these are useful from time to time.

The biggest failing in the system is the magic, I think. You collect gems called Prime Blue (“Magirock” in English) that you can use along with money to buy rings and crests at magic shops. When you use the rings in battle for the spell, they disappear but you also get the Prime Blue back so you can use it again to buy more spells. The main issue is how cumbersome it is to actually use the magic. You either have to go into the status screen and use several menus to cast it, or you can equip the box item that will let you press a button in battle to then choose one of the rings or crests. The system is far too awkward and I hardly use magic at all in the game because of it.

There are a few balance issues in the game — for the most part you can get smoothly through the game, and if you die you lose nothing except that you go back to the location you previously saved. Sometimes the difficulty goes up quite a bit, and there’s one infamous boss that is way too hard. However, moving up just one or two levels can make a huge difference in the amount of damage you take and do, so on the whole the game is not impossible.

OK, now let’s move on to the story and world — like I said, if you have a desire to play this I recommend stopping now, or at least after the next paragraph which covers the first part. (However, I’m going to avoid the big spoilers in any case)

The main character, Ark, lives in a town called Crysta. He’s a troublemaker and has a “friend” named Elle. After he opens a forbidden box underneath the chieftan’s house, he meets Yomi, a little ball with wings, and everyone in town turns to ice (or crystal). The Elder tells him the only way to revive them is to go to 5 towers outside in the underworld and pass the tests there.

The first weird surprise of the game is that upon finishing the first tower, you see a map of the world and are told that you’ve revived Eurasia. The other four towers each revive a part of the (real) world. Once the entire Earth is revived, Ark decides to continue to the surface to continue to revive the world.

Here Ark revives the plants, birds, animals, and finally humans. Once you revive humans, Ark falls into a coma and wakes up in human times, having lost the ability to speak to the birds and animals (which he could do before).

In the third chapter Ark travels around the world, helping the cities advance and starting to figure out the mystery of what caused the world to vanish in the first place, and who Ark is. Ark also encounters someone who looks just like Elle from the underworld and even has the same name.

One fun thing in this section is that you can help the cities grow by doing little sidequests; most of this is optional but it’s neat to see the cities develop by your actions.

Finally at the end of Chapter 3 Ark learns who he is and what happened to the world. Chapter 4 provides the conclusion, as Ark goes after the true villain and tries to restore the balance of the world.

The ending is poignant and bittersweet, although once again knowing how the game ended did blunt the emotional effect of it a bit.

In any case, this is still one of my top SFC games and worth a play if you like action RPGs, and especially if you liked Quintet’s earlier games. People have hoped for a remake for a long time; apparently the president of Quintet can no longer be located so perhaps that’s why…but remakes often fail to capture the charm of the original in any case.

Cut game – Slayers Royal

I’m skipping Slayers Royal (and SR 2) — it’s a game that technically qualifies as an SRPG but only barely.

The game is of course based on the well-known Slayers series. It has a lot of voice-acted scenes and anime sequences made specially for the game, so I imagine big Slayers fans were pretty happy about it (the series is still running as novels, I learned).

However, the gameplay is pretty weak. One of the hard things to deal with is that Lina and the others are supposed to be ridiculously powerful, so they can’t start at level 1. The SFC game dealt with this by making the main character a memory-loss Lina, but here they just have them powerful from the start. The only progression you get is some stat up items when you kill some monsters.

Also the battle system is another AI-controlled one. You can issue orders but then you just watch everything play out in real time, and it moves pretty slowly (on a grid map so I don’t know why they didn’t just make it a normal system).

I’m not sure this is actually a bad game, but it’s right on the line of what I consider an SRPG and it doesn’t seem quite fun enough for me to play it more. So after Terranigma this weekend, the next game will be Shinseiden Megaseed.

PCE Game 47 – Linda Cubed

Linda³ (リンダキューブ), released 10/13/1995, developed by Alpha System, released by NEC

We’re down to the last three PC Engine RPGs, and they’re all rather unusual in their own ways. This one was developed by Masuda Shouji, who had worked before on the Tengai Makyo and Metal Max series. After the initial release for PC Engine, it was released for the Playstation in 1997 as “Linda Cubed Again” and then for the Saturn in 1998 as “Linda Cubed Complete Edition”. For the Playstation release, a difficulty setting was added, the graphically violent scenes were toned down, and the graphics were redone (the monsters are far less grotesque). The Saturn version restored some of the violence and added some minigames.

Advertised as a “psycho horror + hunting RPG”, the basic story takes place on Neo Kenya, a world colonized by humans. Eight years from now, a massive asteroid will strike the planet, killing everything. The humans there begin to emigrate off to other Federation worlds, but a giant ark appears with a mysterious voice telling them to collect 2 of each animal (including humans). The main characters, Ken, and his childhood girlfriend Linda, have been selected as the humans. From here, there are three scenarios that can be played, which are mutually exclusive stories (this is why it’s called Linda “cubed”).

The designer apparently had three main goals in setting up the scenarios: the main character would not be a traditional RPG “hero”, there would be no “take over the world” villain, and the asteroid would be impossible to stop.

I chose Scenario A. Apparently A and B are shorter scenarios and C is the full experience scenario (although they all tell different stories). The game tells me that I have two goals — collect 20 types of animals, and restore Linda’s memories. In the initial scene Ken is notified that he and Linda will be the humans on the ark, and Linda runs off, telling him that he better be at level 3 when he comes to see her in the hotel.

This immediately shows what I think was the biggest issue in the game. The game is mostly open world; you can go almost anywhere right at the beginning (although the A and B scenarios take place on only a small part of the world). The triggers for the events to move along the plot are mostly based on reaching a certain level, or letting an amount of time go by. The game does proceed in real time, and if you don’t complete the objectives in 8 years it’s game over. I don’t mind this kind of time restriction in something like an Atelier game, where there are multiple endings and the whole game is free-form. But when there is a specific chain of things you have to do in order to get the only ending possible (at least on that scenario), the time restriction seems artificial and annoying.

Your party members are dogs; there is a dog place in towns where you can pick them up (there’s also a free one in the first town). So we head outside and start to fight the animals. The goal is to beat them into submission so that you can put them in a device and deal with them later. If you do too much damage they will just run away and you’ll get nothing. Once they’re in the device, you can put one of each into the Ark (which will raise your stats and sometimes give you abilities). You can also sell them to a shop in town (the main way to get money), or turn them into meat (healing items).

The animal designs in the PC Engine version are offputting and grotesque (at least to me). They’re a little bit better in the re-releases.

Once I hit level 3, I headed back to the Hotel, but no Linda. I get a call from a friend saying that Linda is in a hospital. It took quite a while to find the town with the hospital (the later versions have better maps that mark the places for you). She has completely lost her memory. The doctor tells us that we can get a memory restoring medicine from a company in a town to the west. But if you go there, the CEO has no time to see you.

This is one of those “hidden flags” I don’t like; to get past this you have to be at level 7, which has no logical connection to the event. So I spent a lot of time wandering around, fighting animals, and bringing them to the ark. This is probably a good time to explore the world as well.

Finally once I reached level 7 the CEO saw me, and I was able to make the medicine by going to the extreme NW of the world and getting a type of ram meat.

But when I got back to the hospital, Linda wasn’t in her room. She had been moved back to a dungeon in the back, where Ken met up with someone wearing a santa outfit calling himself Nek, Ken’s identical twin. He kills someone that he claims is their father (in a very graphic scene).

This is where I stopped. I think the game has some potential and is certainly unusual, but I really don’t like the opaque progression of everything. This is a game I might return to some day in the Saturn remake.

SRPG Game 78 – Angel Blade (PSX)

Angel Blade (エンジェル・ブレード), released 7/3/1997, developed by Nippon Ichi, published by On Dimaend

This game is notable for being Nippon Ichi’s entry into the world of SRPGs, although since it was published by a different company their name is not prominent. After this game the next pseudo-SRPG was the first Marl Kingdom game (“Rhapsody” in English). It wasn’t until 2002 with La Pucelle and of course 2003’s Disgaea that they really came to prominence. (Incidentally, there is an eroge with the same title as this, although that one is spelled ブレイド instead of ブレード).

Overall the game is insubstantial in almost every way — it’s fast to play and can be beaten in around 6 hours with little trouble, but it doesn’t have much to offer. The story is just a string of parodies, gags, and meta-humor (the instruction manual even calls the story segments “comical parts”). The main characters are 4 girls and a guy who are members of the Neo Tokyo Guardians’ 6th division, fighting against an intentionally stereotypical evil organization. There is little character development and only a very slight bit of more serious plot at the end.

All the dialogue is voice acted, but the voicing is amateurish and it glitched a lot for me so I turned it off.

The battle system is average. Each character has a set number of AP (4 at the beginning, 8 in the latter half of the game). Each square of movement costs one AP and attacks cost from 1-4 AP depending on their strength. It’s a player turn-enemy turn system. In addition to a variety of special attacks, there are also multi-person formation attacks.

There is no equipment. There are some items you can find randomly on the map. Rather than levels, at the end of each stage, all characters get 3 points to put into various stats, with an additional 1 point to people who performed well in the battle.

However, there seems to be no particular reason to give one person or another certain stats. It’s also a moot issue because the game is pathetically easy. All you have to do is let the enemies come to you and you can kill most of them before they can attack. The bosses often sit still and have no ranged attacks, so there is no danger for them at all. The special multi-person attacks are too hard to set up, and the two times they force you to use them, the enemy doesn’t move.

The game is relatively fast moving for the most part, so it’s playable if you aren’t offended by the non-existent difficulty. But it also has nothing of substance to offer — even the jokes get old after a while.

After playing this game you might have low hopes for Nippon Ichi’s future success — I suppose that it does show the buds of the meta-humor, parody, and gags that will reoccur in the Disgaea series, but there’s really no reason to play the game.

SFC Game 94 – Shinseiki Odysselia 2

Shinseiki Odysselia II (神聖紀オデッセリアII), released 10/16/1995, developed by Vic Tokai

This is the sequel to the original Odysselia, which I played earlier. It is a direct plot sequel as well as essentially the same system as the original. The story has the same time-travel and combining various myths. At the end of the previous game, the goddess Zion flooded the world to destroy the monsters but humanity was saved by a giant ark. As this game starts humanity seems to have recovered back to the original countries (Persia, Greece, etc.)

The game begins in Persia, where the Persian king tries to make peace with Greece, but is killed by one of his generals for being weak. A priest named Lahan seizes power as regent for Darius, and destroys Zion. The queen escapes and sacrifices her own life to save Erg, the prince, who goes to Sparta and is raised there.

This game uses the same high-res mode for text that Seiken Densetsu 3 did

The game takes place over 9 chapters. Chapter 1 is the above prologue. In Chapter 2, 14 years have passed and Erg is training under a space bounty hunter trainer named Samus. The final test is to prove your worth in a training cave.

Each character has weapon and magic levels. The magic level for each type of magic determines how powerful the spell is — as in the first game, most elements have an offensive and defensive version. The weapon levels are more mysterious; they may affect hit rate but they don’t seem to affect damage. The battles are typical RPG style.

In addition to innate spells, characters can equip talismans to use magic of that type. I never found these very useful. There’s also a weapon crafting system as in the first game but I also found this mostly useless; the game is pretty easy for the most part and I didn’t have much trouble except in a few places.

After the training ends, Erg uses Athenian allies to defeat the Persian ships, and then goes to Persia and forces Lahan to flee. It turns out that Erg is the son of Loos, one of the characters from the first game and the prince of Persia. But rather than becoming king of Persia himself, Erg leaves Darius in charge and goes after Lahan through a warp circle.

Chapter 3 switches to another character Iria, in South America. She is not human (for now we don’t know exactly what she is). She goes in search of a witch that she hopes can make her human, but they can’t, and then a cyclops drags her through another time portal. That bottom character is a Doppelganger, one of the Familiars (tsukaima) you can get in the game; I didn’t find this a very useful system either but I didn’t explore it a whole lot.

Chapter 4 switches to another character, Talkus. He’s a roman gladiator. The chapter has you go to a training tower, fight a coliseum battle, back to the tower, and repeat until you become the champion. Talkus asks Nero for freedom, but instead Nero frames him for the fire of Rome, supposedly as a secret Christian. Lahan is with Nero as well; the chapter ends with Lahan capturing a girl named Lauren and leaving as Talkus is ready to be executed.

Chapter 5 goes back to Erg, who finds himself in Australia. In the Great Barrier Reef he comes across Iria and the Cyclops; the Cyclops actually joins the party as a familiar. They follow a warp through to Rome, where they save Talkas from execution. They’re apparently 500 years in the future from where they started. They head to the palace to overthrow Nero, who is being controlled by Lahan. Lahan transforms Nero into a monster and then runs through another portal to the future, which is apparently Lahan’s original time.

Chapter 6 switches to Leila and Garuda, two of the earth gods. This takes place before Chapter 1 and Samus is also there as one of the gods, saying that he will train the descendants of the Drakken (this is from the first game; Loos is a reincarnation from a dragon-human people that inhabited the world before humans). They are trying to oppose the 冥界 (Underworld), and seem uncertain that the decision to flood the world was correct.

I found this part of the plot hard to follow — I also had a hard time following Odysselia 1’s plot. I found one review by a Japanese player who said they were confused also so maybe it’s not just me. I believe the situation is this: the gods now believe that the Underworld King tricked them into flooding the world to destroy the beasts, when it was actually the underworld forces controlling them. So now they need to revive the beasts and defeat the underworld king. But the king has the seeds necessary to revive the beasts, and (for some reason) they feel that they need to power of the Drakken descendants to do this. Zion joins Leila and Garuda but eventually goes to the underworld herself, hearing a voice calling for her.

Chapter 7 presents us with yet another character, the knight Meyer. He lives in 12th century Prussia, where an epidemic is devastating the country, and girls are disappearing. A priest from the castle named Bain sends Meyer to defeat a witch who is causing the illness, but it turns out that she has the cure and Bain doesn’t want it to be known. Meanwhile a dude named Gustav is experimenting on the captured girls to discover eternal life. Meyer loses his wife to these experiments; eventually they expose the plot but the Emperor refuses to believe that Bain is responsible. He sends Meyer out to the crusades as punishment, where his two companions are killed — one of the companions is the son of Lord Vandark. Vandark becomes so upset and grief-stricken that he curses God and decides to get revenge on everyone (this is Lahan’s origin).

Chapter 8 finally returns to Erg and companions, who have shown up in 12th century middle east and are the prisoners of Saladin, suspected to be spies from the Crusaders. Saladin eventually uses them to make peace with King Richard, and then they escape back to Prussia where Lahan is still controlling things. The gods Garuda and Leila show up and say that Lahan has gotten his power from the underworld, and is trying to destroy humanity by destroying the “core” (which for some reason is Erg’s dad Loos, I don’t remember if this is something from the first game).

Erg and friends have to defend four seals in the world from Lahan, but of course he manages to break them all, opening the way to the underworld. Lahan hopes to gain power through the blood of Lauren (the girl he captured earlier) but is unwilling to kill her for some reason, showing his remaining humanity — he breaks free of the underworld control but becomes a demon so we have to kill him. Then it’s into the underworld to find a way to sever the underworld from the surface forever.

In Chapter 9 we learn that Iria is the daughter of Zion (the god who went to the underworld many years ago) and Deus, the son of the Underworld King, who was bred to be the opposition to the gods. It’s not clear to me why they fell in love instead of Deus killing Zion. They sent Iria to the surface in secret to avoid the king finding out. Loos’ power to keep the core intact is weakening, and Iria has the power to sever the surface and underworld.

The final bosses are a series of demons we’ve never heard of, and then Iria manages to sever the worlds — but she has to stay behind. There’s a tearful ending, but then Iria suddenly reappears with Leila who says there’s actually still a way to travel between the worlds (why??) and the game ends.

Thank you

So I guess this game is OK; the system is underdeveloped at points and I don’t fully understand the story. But the historical periods are fun and the game plays relatively smoothly.

SFC Game List end of 1995

Time for the end of 1995, and it’s a pretty stacked list. Here’s the full list with the games I will actually be playing:

  • Odysselia 2 – I played the first one quite a while back.
  • Tactics Ogre – Already done.
  • Linda Cubed (PCE) – One of the three remaining PCE games on the list.
  • World Creation (Terranigma) – This is one of my favorite games so I’m looking forward to playing it again.
  • Light Fantasy II – Sequel to a kusoge, unfortunately this one doesn’t have a much better reputation.
  • Maten Densetsu
  • Tenchi-Muyo Game-hen – Already done.
  • Romancing Saga 3 – I hope this is better than 1 and 2.
  • Dokapon Gaiden – This is another one of those board game-RPG hybrids.
  • Mystery Dungeon 2 – I don’t consider these real RPGs.
  • Dragon Quest VI – Yay!
  • Seiya Monogatari (PCE) – The penultimate PCE game.
  • Beast and Blade
  • Tales of Phantasia – I have already played this but I’ll make a post about it.
  • Tengai Makyo Zero – Will probably use the English patch in honor of byuu/near.
  • Farland Story II – Already done.
  • Record of Lodoss War
  • Super Chinese World 3
  • Sangokushi Eiketsuden – Already done.
  • Ys V – I think I will play the Expert version.