SFC Game 102 – Tengai Makyo Zero (Finished)

I did finish the game this week. After the Fire Bear Nation, you essentially go through the other five nations sequentially with a similar pattern — go to the nation, learn what is happening to it, and then make your way to the boss and defeat it.

The most annoying thing about all this is the very high random encounter rate. These aren’t encounters you can just hold down attack to beat — it’s appreciated that you should be using elemental attacks and such, but when there are so many of them it becomes quite tedious.

Peacock Nation

Blood is raining from the sky here, making everyone get sick. But to get to the tower with the boss we need a flying machine. This guy named Akamaru tries to trick you into giving him the key to the machine, but it turns out he’s the villain of this land. Fortunately Subaru, your second companion, shows up to help you out.

Some of her skills involve this egg/animal raising minigame, but it can’t be done if the clock is not working so I didn’t get any of those skills.

Once we get the ship we go to the bloodshed tower and finish off Akamaru.

Crane Nation

This land has suffered a severe drought that has turned everything into desert. You walk slowly through the desert but can hire a Sand Rat Cart to help out.

The boss here is Sara, the third of Ninigi’s underlings. We also get our third companion, Tenjin, who was one of the fire clan 600 years ago. He was in love with one of the Hell people Mizuki, but was cursed to have Mizuki inside him. He and Mizuki can switch who is in the real world but they can never meet.

Once Sara is beaten, the next person Juri absorbs Sara inside herself and then goes to the next world.

Turtle Nation

Juri has caused everything to be overgrown with forest. She’s a weird person who leads you through the world, putting up a lot of games, quizzes, signposts, and such.

Eventually though, she’s forced to fight — you fight her twice, once in the main form and then she combines with Sara and you have to fight her again.

Canine Nation

Here, some scientist has taken over and everyone has turned greedy, going after gold.

The first task is to deal with his big cat giant robot…this involves mining some gold ourselves and doing some other tasks to revive an ancient robot.

After a minigame we can get into the main castle, and beat the boss.

There’s a minigame in this nation that gives you a 1 in 3 chance to double your money, so you can save a few times and easily have several million gold which is enough to buy anything in the game.

Dragon Nation

We now have freed five of the six divine gods, the final one is the dragon in dragon nation. In a break from the past nations, we actually revive the Dragon as the first task. But this is also the land where the Gates of Hell is, so we’ll have to deal with that too.

The Dragon tells us that to beat Ninigi we’ll need Agni’s sword, which was what originally sealed him. It’s beyond the gates of Hell, and using the six stones of the divine gods we can open Ninigi’s barrier long enough to recover the Agni Sword. Higan has to do this on his own, but after going through a few tricks and traps he recovers it.

Now we go take on Ninigi in the Dragon Castle, but despite the Agni sword he wipes the floor with us and breaks the sword. So what do we do now? The Dragon tells us our only option is to go to Takamagahara in the heavens and ask Agni directly to help us. We need to use Ark’s Mirror to activate the divine ark that will take us to the heavens.

In Tamagahara, Agni is pissed off that we came to the heavens and brought conflict with us — she never liked the fact that the Fire Clan and the six nation gods rebelled against the heavens. She’ll help us if we show our strength by dealing with some of Ninigi’s monsters that have come to the heavens.

This just involves going around the heavens and beating three bosses in various towns. Higan’s “Dragon Strike” attack is helpful. The random enemies get much harder at this point.

Back at Agni’s place, one of Ninigi’s minions, the Atramentous Alabaster, is trying to break in, but we drive him off.

    Higan has to go through another solo dungeon to get the Fire of Agni in his sword, and then Agni also gives the other two their ultimate weapons. Now it’s time to take on Ninigi.

    I thought this was a tough fight. Higan needs a lot of health to use his Dragon Strike, and my basic strategy was to have Subaru and Tenjin mostly healing and buffing (Tenjin gets a skill at level 50 that lets him use any spell), but I kept getting Higan’s turn right after Ninigi’s — some speed manipulation helped here.

    But the game still is not over, we have to go to the Dragon Palace and fight Ninigi one more time.

    This was an easier battle, I thought, but the same strategy.

    Once Ninigi is beaten and sealed, Higan can choose to become the new king. I chose to become king, which seemed like a good idea.

    In the end this isn’t a bad game, but it’s really hampered by two things — the ridiculous random encounter rate, and the inability to do any of the clock-based events on an emulator (which is not the fault of the original game). There are a lot of other minigames and random stuff that I didn’t cover in the post. It of course suffers with comparison to the PC Engine games with the lack of speech and CD-quality music, but it’s a decent late-SFC period game.

    SFC Game 102 – Tengai Makyo Zero (Part 1)

    Tengai Makyo Zero (天外魔境ZERO), released 12/22/1995, published by Hudson

    This is the fourth RPG in the Tengai Makyo series. The first three games were for the PC Engine, and I covered them all earlier, although I didn’t finish any of them. (See the posts on Tengai Makyo, Tengai Makyo II, and Tengai Makyo Kabuki-Den.) One of the big draws for the PC Engine games were the voice, CD-quality music, and cutscenes, which can’t really be carried over to the Super Famicom. Instead, they added a real-time clock chip that keeps track of the date and time, allowing for special events based on either the time of day or even the season of the year. The game is also one of the largest games on the SFC, using a special compression chip to allow for 72 megabits of data.

    Unfortunately the clock chip creates a problem for emulation that I’m not sure can be fixed. The game of course had no way of knowing what the actual time and date was since the Super Famicom had no internal clock. Instead you set the clock/date on your first play and the chip will continue to update it even when the game is off (apparently this drained the save battery faster than other games). But in an emulator the clock can’t advance while the emulator is closed, so unless you’re willing to leave the game running when you’re not playing it, you’ll finish the game before 2 or at most 3 days have passed. I googled to see if anyone had a solution for this; the fact that I couldn’t even find many complaints about it make me wonder if there is a way people got around this. (EDIT: I think this is simply my own ignorance of how to get the clock working — other people have reported that it worked for them.)

    I decided to go against my usual practice and play the English patch. Byuu/near, who developed the bsnes emulator that I’ve been using for this whole process, counted this as one of their favorite games. I don’t know exactly what involvement byuu had in this patch — it may just be that they were able to create an emulator that would actually run the game, but they may have also contributed some hacking to the patch as well. In any case, it’s interesting to play in English once in a while.

    As you can see above, this once again takes place in Jipang, but in a time many centuries before the other TM games. Here the Eternal Flame has chosen a new king for the Fire Bear Nation, which turns out to be the younger brother. The older brother is so upset that he unseals the Hell Door to seek power from Ninigi who is trapped there. It’s interesting that Ninigi is the villain since in Japanese history, Ninigi is the god who becomes the great-grandfather of the first Emperor (Jimmu) and thus the ancestor of the Imperial line.

    In any case, this causes the demons to come forth from Hell, and one of the underlings of Ninigi goes to each of the six countries and causes problems there. The main character Higan is a 12-year old person from Fire Shadow Village. His grandfather was a hero who fought against evil, and now he’s trying to prove himself as well.

    Higan is trying to beat the “Coal Hermit” at the bottom of a nearby mine, but he’s been defeated a few times.

    The battle system is pretty standard. “Scrolls” are the spells you get from hermits, just like in the other games. This time you don’t equip scrolls to specific people, but there are certain spells that can only be used by certain characters. The “skills” are also acquired by various events; these are specific to each character. Some are free to use, others cost tech points or HP. The game lets you set 4 “plans” that autobattle with specific commands for each person. (The two other people in the above screenshot are Higan’s friends who don’t stick around for long).

    Once Higan beats the Coal Hermit and gets the Blaze Cutter skill, he heads back to the village and finds that the first of Ninigi’s underlings, Zettai Reido (“Absolute Zero”) has frozen the town and kills his grandfather. But since the Eternal Flame has now chosen Higan as the Hero of Fire, he’s able to fight off Zettai Reido, who retreats to his castle.

    The basic gameplay is to visit each of the 6 areas and solve the problems that Ninigi’s underlings are causing there. Then there’s a final area (I assume) where you beat Ninigi? We’ll see.

    In the Fire Bear Kingdom you have to free the Fire Bear god, who has been frozen by Zettai Reido. This involves first having Hisui forge your rusty sword back into the Fire Bear Sword, and then going to the Ice Castle.

    He’s pretty easy; you can just cast Singe over and over again and have Hisui heal. After this, Hisui puts the rest of her life force into the next fairy that will be born (named Subaru), but she won’t join you yet. Now with things unfrozen you can move on to the next land.

    One major sidequest I haven’t been doing at all is the Tea House events. I think these are based on the Yoshiwara (red light) district in Edo, which was commonly depicted in literature. Basically you can talk to different women in the tea houses and try to get in their good graces by bringing them gifts and other things. They’ll repay you with various things — good items, or love scenes where you get your HP/MP restored, they can write you love letters, and such.

    This is an interesting sidequest but the main character is 12! Why would they include this event with such a young main character? In any case a lot of the events depend on the clock also, so unless I can figure out how to get the clock to match the real world clock I wouldn’t be able to do a significant chunk of these events anyway.

    I’ll end here; this is basically as far as I had gotten because it took me so long to finish Mouri Motonari. It seems like a pretty short game so I’ll probably have the finishing post up next week.

    SRPG Game 82 – Mouri Motonari (Final)

    Stage 26

    Thanks to the action of our ninjas we’re able to uncover a plot by the remaining major warlords to attack Mouri all at once. Meanwhile Motoharu (one of Motonari’s sons) is seriously injured by another ninja; this seems to be an invention of the game since the historical Motoharu retired after participating in one of Hideyoshi’s campaigns and then died of cancer.

    The initial way I did this map turned out to be a mistake; the reinforcements at the top come out and then head for your base. The problem is that the island at the bottom center and the place with the main boss at the right have endless reinforcements until you kill the boss associated with the place. The island isn’t a big problem because the boss heads towards you. So what I eventually did is take part of my force down there with Terumoto, beat the enemies in the castle, and then moved Terumoto forward to force the reinforcements to come out. Then I dispatched the other half of my force and had them go north. I was able to kill all the enemies on the right just with my partial force.

    Stage 27

    This is a two battle stage. First, Sekigahara.

    This is not an especially difficult stage. Some reinforcements at the NW but this is a stage where steady progress is enough to win (I used some of the slower units to deal with the reinforcements.)

    The final stage, on the other hand, is annoying. Tokugawa Ieyasu is in the castle at the NE. You only have to beat him to win, but there are four places with endless reinforcements. I split my party in two and sent one N and one E. It took a long time but eventually I took out the 4 places and was left just with the upper part. But that part was very long too;

    Eventually you come near the castle, which also has endless reinforcements. My goal was just to brute force forward enough to let Terumoto use the hissatsu move (x4 damage); this wasn’t enough to kill Ieyasu but I had one of the flute players give Terumoto another turn, which was enough.

    The ending is pretty short. Tokugawa escapes but is killed by people hunting the remnants. Terumoto becomes the Shogun, and the game ends with him heading out again to beat some of the remnants of those who oppose him (this may be based on the Shimabara Rebellion, or some other conflict).

    This is a hard game for me to give a rating to. It was very long (duckstation says I spent 65 hours on it; that’s including resets and reloads, so I think this game was still shorter than FE4 which I finished with a 65 hour in-game timer.)

    On the whole I enjoyed it, but the game is quite slow moving and feels long. You spend a lot of time moving your forces to get within range of the enemies. The stuff you do between battles can take a long time (easily an hour or more). I’m conflicted whether to give this an A or B rating — I feel like it’s between the two but I don’t have that option.

    This series will make one more appearance with Oda Nobunaga-den, which I believe is based on the system from this game.

    SRPG Game 82 – Mouri Motonari Part 2 (PS)

    I should have kept better notes for the earlier stages but for the last part of the game I have stage writeups. This will take one more post later in the week.

    This part of the game is a mix of historical and ahistorical content; the historical content goes up to stage 24.

    Stage 21

    This is the first stage without Motonari, although Terumoto inherits all his equipment. The stage begins with a few enemies to the right and a wide open space on top; of course reinforcements will come in there. There are two groups, one to the left and one to the right, plus sea units. I sent my main force right to deal with the initial enemies, and then had them go up while the backup units sat near the main castle to deal with the sea guys and some of the left units, although I was able to wipe out the right units and bring my main force to the left side of the map before they seriously threatened the castle.

    Stage 22

    This is based on a historical sea battle that took place as part of the Ishiyama Hongan-ji war. In the game you have to protect 3 supply units that are getting food to Honganji. They start out in the sea but will end up on land. There are a ton of sea units but the Wave ability is so powerful that I was able to kill them all with 4 pirates, losing only one. I sent one ninja SW for the villages, two bandits into the mountains for the mines, and everyone else just went forward. There’s one set of reinforcements near the end but they can be easily dealt with.

    Stage 23

    So far we’re still following history, this is the Siege of Kozuki Castle. Hideyoshi starts with some guys at the NE and they will have endless reinforcements until you take him out so that’s the first target (although I didn’t realize this so had to split my team). After that there’s an annoying middle section with cannons and gun units, but once they’re all dealt with it’s smooth sailing after that.

    The tactician units have a very useful heal all units tech; it costs 90 points but that’s enough for two uses even without heal TP items.

    Stage 24

    The beginning of this stage has the last of the historical content. Oda Nobunaga is killed by Akechi Mitsuhide in the Honnoji Incident, and Hideyoshi makes peace (more of a partial surrender) with the Mouri clan so he can go after Mitsuhide. Terumoto accepts the terms. In history the Mouri clan then became one of Hideyoshi’s most loyal supporters and even joined in the failed invasion of Korea. After Hideyoshi’s death, Terumoto opposed Tokugawa Ieyasu and after Ieyasu’s victory, Terumoto surrendered to him and was reduced to the Choshu Domain, where the Mouri clan remained for the rest of the Edo period. Like other domain heads, the Mouri clan leader became a “duke” in the post-Meiji system. The current head of the clan is Mori Motohide, who works for Hitachi Metals (which became Proteria earlier this year).

    In this game, Terumoto decides to take advantage of the confusion surrounding Nobunaga’s death to attack Hideyoshi from behind as he’s leaving to deal with Mitsuhide. Hideyoshi flees for Himeji Castle — I don’t think it’s possible to stop him from reaching the castle and you have to deal with reinforcements along the way. The second group started going for the home base; I sent out some trash units to guard it but they didn’t end up reaching it soon enough before Hideyoshi was killed. So much for his dream.

    Stage 25

    Next up Terumoto decides that the best thing to do is to enter Kyoto (being allowed to enter Kyoto as a warlord means you have the direct support of the Shogun and thus the Emperor); he gets the support of Shogun Yoshiaki. On the way he meets Akechi Mitsuhide, and this is the first of two fights in this chapter.

    There’s not much to it — two sets of reinforcements appear but they are strangely light (I assumed endless reinforcements would come out of the forts but they didn’t — given how few units are in the reinforcement castles I wonder if this is a bug). Akechi’s castle has a lot of cannon units which are dangerous, but you get 80 turns to beat the stage so it’s easy just to approach slowly and use healing from the tacticians and supply carts.

    The second part of the stage has Terumoto going after Mitsuhide after establishing himself in the capital. This stage only has some water reinforcements, but after getting across the water with the help of pirates, the rest of the stage is much easier than the last few. Now Mitsuhide is dead (in history he was killed in a different place by an attack of Hideyoshi’s).

    Three more stages, hopefully I can have the last post up by Tuesday.

    Qualities of good and bad SRPGs

    I’m still working my way through Mouri Motonari; the next post after this will be the conclusion of that game, although it may not come out next weekend (perhaps a few days after that).

    I was thinking of doing a filler post of some other game, but I didn’t want to take away any time from MM. Instead, I thought of writing this reflection post — I’ve now played 82 strategy RPGs for this blog, which is far more than I had ever played before I started writing it. I’m getting a better picture of the kind of SRPGs I like, at least when it comes to these older titles. So here are some qualities that seem to make a game enjoyable, or not enjoyable, for me. I’m trying to pick categories here that don’t apply to just a single game.

    Character Differentiation and Growth

    I like when the characters have significant differences between them (or at least characters of different classes). A bad example is Farland Story, where everyone just attacks either 1 or 2 range (even the mages), and the cleric heals 1 range. You can use different weapons but it just makes the numbers go up, and they don’t learn any skills or powers as they level. The game doesn’t necessarily have to be a full-on FFT job system but I like to have a party that feels different on stage 20 than on stage 2.

    Map size

    A big map is not a problem — FE4 was a good game and it had maps that were quite large. What I don’t like is when the maps are needlessly large, and you have to spend a significant amount of your time on the map just moving your characters forward until they get close enough to fight the enemies. If there is some strategic value in this that’s fine (although I’m not sure I can think of an example), but in many of these cases there isn’t. It’s even more annoying when overall movement rates are slow, or when different characters have such different movement rates that you have to deliberately move the faster ones more slowly so they don’t get too far ahead.

    Map construction

    Memorable maps that are constructed with some thought are a good thing. Generic enemies on generic maps (e.g. Shining Force II) are not good. I like to have a situation where you can remember stage 11 because it’s the one where you have to deal with the initial onslaught of horsemen, then defeat General McAdams in the fort before you can move on to the narrow mountain pass with the archers, etc.

    Level difference between combatants

    I don’t like it when characters cannot fight well if they are below the defender in levels. This just forces grinding or focusing your party on a few people. This was a big problem with Tactics Ogre and Arc the Lad. Although strangely, Summon Night 3 and 4 have this but they are two of my favorite SRPGs

    Opaque systems

    For some reason it took designers a long time to figure out that it was OK to give the player a lot of information about how the system works. You can show how much damage the attackers will do, specify exactly what having elemental compatibility will do, and such. Few games I’ve played so far have had this, unfortunately.

    Any thing you all dislike or like in SRPGs?

    SRPG Game 82 – Mouri Motonari Part 1 (PS)

    Mouri Motonari – Chikai no Sanshi (毛利元就 誓いの三矢), developed by Koei, released 10/12/1997 [Saturn version]

    This is the third game in Koei’s Eiketsuden series, after Sangokushi Eiketsuden and Sangokushi Koumeiden, both of which I played earlier. This game moves the action from the Three Kingdoms period of China to the Sengoku period of Japan (15th and 16th centuries). The settings are similar in that you have a lot of local warlords attempting to extend their own territory, and a lot of shifting alliances, betrayals, and such. It also has a strong pop culture presence with the various warlords. Like the first two games, this was originally released for computers and then ported to consoles (in this case Playstation and Saturn — from what I can tell, the Saturn and PS versions are identical).

    Mouri Motonari is known for being a calculating, intelligent, and perhaps ruthless warlord who expanded his territory from a tiny province. He’s a bit like Liu Bei in that he had a lot of initial success, but suffered some later setbacks and then died of illness before the end of the war. As with the previous games, the last third of this game is a “what if” scenario where Motonari struggles through and unifies Japan, defeating Tokugawa Ieyasu and Hideyoshi (who were the historical victors of the conflict). Unlike the previous games, there are no alternate scenarios here — there’s no “bad” historical ending, just one path through the the game. The title “Pledge of the three arrows” refers to a possibly apocryphal story in which Motonari shows his three sons that three single arrows are easy to break, but a bundle of three arrows cannot be broken.

    Because of the nature of the story I’m not going to do a summary; like the first two games there are just too many names and the constantly shifting alliances and events are complicated. You can read the Mouri Motonari wikipedia article to see a basic summary of the game at least for the first two parts, as well as the Sengoku article for a historical background. The basic idea is that Motonari grows his power from a small local clan to a major player in the Sengoku period (and in the game, at least, eventually unifies Japan). He does this through a combination of alliances, marriages, and warfare.

    The gameplay in the battles is a slightly refined version of the system in the first two games. Because of the time period, there are now guns and cannon units. The biggest change is that different weapons have different attack ranges even within a category — for instance, there are at least three ranges that a spear can have. A big part of the strategy in the game is to have a variety of weapon types so that you can attack enemies from places they can’t counter. There are a lot more villages and mines on the map that you can visit for resources and items. Units also get a bonus from standing next to Motonari himself, or a tactician — I don’t remember if that was the case in previous games.

    What is quite different is the pre-battle stuff. You can visit various buildings in the castles and towns you have control over, and talk to people, buy things, and such. You can also train your characters who are behind in levels (a nice feature), and craft items. All of this takes a really long time, especially if you aren’t looking at a guide and actually talking to every single person.

    The item crafting is the major way you get new items and equipment (you can also buy them at stores). You hire craftsmen from the towns and then level them up by crafting items. Some of the resources you need to make the items you can buy, others you cannot. I’m not completely sure what having multiple craftsmen of the same type does; maybe there’s a maximum you can level up or things you can’t make, or maybe you level faster with more guys? The manual doesn’t make it clear. In any case, you can upgrade your weapons pretty easily early in the game, and also get money by selling the things you make in town for more than the materials are worth.

    I’ve played the first 12 battles so far out of 29; this is a rather long game and it may take me another 2 weeks or so to finish. This is “part one” of the game that covers from Motonari’s youth up to to the Battle of Miyajima in 1555. Some notes on a few of the stages:

    Battle 7 has you trying to escape. You might be able to kill all the units here if you really work at it but I just followed the story and sacrificed most of my troops to secure Motonari’s exit from the map.

    Battle 8 — enemy reinforcements will come in from the top right

    Battle 8 is tough because you really have to go fast to save the NPC characters that are guarding a fort, but on the way you also have to make sure to send some people aside to help guard a different fort. Even moving a lot of my horsemen and ninjas at top speed, I was only barely able to save the fort by sacrificing all my ninjas to draw off their attacks until enough decent units could get there to stave off the attacks.

    Battle 12 (Miyajima) is interesting; if you go into it straight it’s very hard, but you can do various plots beforehand to get allies or put the enemies in bad positions. The best result is to get a fleet of ships to help you kill the sea units (so they don’t reach the NE castle) and then have the Sue attacks start out on the land near Motonari.

    I may not want to do three posts on this game, so next week could be a filler post since I doubt I will finish the remaining stages in a week.

    SFC Game 101 – Seiju Maden Beasts and Blades

    Seiju Maden Beasts and Blades (聖獣魔伝ビースト&ブレイド), released 12/15/1995, developed by BPS

    This game began as a reader participation game in a magazine. These were very popular in the 80s and 90s although I don’t fully understand how they worked even after reading up on them. You sent in a postcard each “turn” to participate and then somehow things were handled through magazine articles. I know that Play by Mail games were popular here too in the pre-Internet era (I remember them being advertised in Dragon Magazine); maybe they worked in a similar way. I vaguely recall that a previous game I played also began as one of these reader participation games but I can’t find the details.

    In any case, the Super Famicom game was based on the franchise; some places say the game came out December 1996 but I think the 1995 date given by other sources is probably correct.

    The basic underlying story is that the world is repeatedly fighting battles between the Light and Dark Goddesses. Each time a war starts, one of the races will be chosen to split into two sides and fight for control of the world. The purpose of these wars is unknown; there is a legend that the Goddesses are fighting to become the wife of the supreme God, but why the war would have to be repeated if that is the case is unclear. The reader participation game was planned to have 5 total segments, but it ended after the first 4, so if there was going to be an answer to why the wars were actually being fought, it was never revealed. Both the magazine game and the SFC game start at the beginning of the Fifth War, when humans are the chosen race.

    The game is a curious mix of strategy and RPG elements that I think some people would classify as an SRPG — it’s right on the dividing line of my criteria; I think that it may technically qualify as an SRPG under my rules but since I’m playing it either way, it’s not that important. More importantly, I feel like the game is not fully implemented, which I’ll say more about as we go along.

    The game begins actually before the war has started. The main character wants to be a “beast master”; the beasts in the title refer to monsters that can be controlled by the characters. You can get beasts from a shop in town, some characters come with beasts, and the Beast Kings get their own special beasts. Over time beasts will become upset and you either have to take them to the shop to fix them (which never worked for me), or use an item that increases their friendliness. (The Beast King special beasts always stay at max friendliness).

    This is an area of the game I found confusing. Every character I recruited either came with a beast that could not be changed, or couldn’t control beasts. I never bought a beast from the store or used the services because it never seemed to be allowed — I read the instruction manual but don’t see anything I was doing wrong.

    The way you get companions is by using the “friend” command in town until you find someone who can join. You can’t see what type of character they are before you get them on your team which is frustrating. Each character only differs in the type of weapon they use, and whether they can have a beast or not. Weapons can be bought at the shop and also refined into better versions. I believe that each weapon has a fixed maximum it can be levelled when you buy it (maybe randomly chosen?) and if you exceed that it breaks. If you can get a level 4 weapon you can sell it for an enormous sum that will fund all your purchases for the rest of the game. I got one by luck very early in the game so after that I had no money issues.

    The game doesn’t really have a strongly developing story. There are a lot of events you can activate — some of them are optional, and some you have multiple choices for which event to do in order to get the next one to open. There’s no real feeling of story progression. Some reviews I saw in Japanese complained that it was difficult to figure out what to do next (I used a walkthrough for this), and I can see that being an issue.

    Kurisu accepts a request to go to the west cave to save a little girl. You move on an Ogre Battle like map where you send your guy in real time across the map. The “food” goes down as you move but is very easy to replenish in town. There are random encounters as you go, but most can be easily escaped from.

    Battles are done on an SRPG-style grid. Each character starts their turn with a number of points, and each action takes a certain number. You can do as much as you want until you lack the points to do anything else, then that’s the end of your turn.

    Inside caves and dungeons, you explore on an isometric style map. The battles in here are fixed (which is why I said that it may technically qualify as an SRPG by my rules).

    As Kurisu does the first few events, he meets some of the Dark Kings who recognize that Kurisu is one of the light kings (even though he doesn’t yet) — because the war hasn’t officially started they can’t oppose Kurisu directly, though.

    After doing a few of these events, Kurisu eventually learns that he is the First King of Light and heads out to Meishilva Castle to join the other Kings as the war officially starts.

    The game now changes once the war starts. You can send out multiple parties at once, each headed by one of the 11 Kings (you don’t have them all at the beginning). In addition, Dark parties will appear on the world map as well and head towards towns or towards the hero parties. The game’s text indicates you should be sending out the parties to protect the towns around the world, and by selecting a town you can see how closely associated the town is with the Dark or the Light. Each town also has a defense rating.

    So this seems like it should add some strategy aspects to it, but from what I can tell the system was not actually implemented. From what I saw, any time a dark unit reaches a town the town’s defense always repels it. If heroes are defeated they return to Melshiva castle and the dark unit disappears — this even happens if the hero is already on Melshiva castle. There seems to be no difference between entering a town that is aligned with the Dark or the Light. The only thing that changes is that sometimes when you go to a town you’ll have to join the defense force to fight an attacking unit before you can enter.

    So for the most part there is no real purpose in using any unit but the main character, except for one story required event where you have to be using a female unit for it to activate. There are some optional events involving the individual heroes, though.

    At this point your goal is simply to go around to places in the world activating various events. As I said earlier there is no feeling of any kind of forward story progression, and the dungeon that basically acts as the “final dungeon” has no feel of finality at all, it just seems like another dungeon. Once you finish that everyone goes back to Melshiva castle, and the castle itself becomes a floating palace to take on the stronghold of the Dark Kings.

    This part is annoying because they take away your companions and stick you with two specific Light Kings and give you no opportunity to equip them. Even so this succession of battles was not very hard. If you have the beast masters use the “beast” command they strengthen the beasts who can then use moves that hit all enemies on screen. If you lose these fights for the first time in the game you actually get a game over (in this case I guess an ending where the Dark Goddess wins the war).

    At this point the heroes go to a gate where the Light Goddess says it’s time to send the Light Dragon into the world to cleanse it of all the dark people and win the war for Light. If you accept this it apparently leads to another bad ending, so you should refuse. The main God himself then thinks this is interesting and you fight a three headed dragon.

    You use all the Kings here but without their beasts. This was kind of a long fight and I lost about half the (unlevelled) Kings but in the end I won. The God decides that the people of the world can now decide their fate for themselves, and that (perhaps) the wars won’t happen again.

    As far as I know there isn’t a B&B II

    I don’t know about this game. It has a lot of interesting components but the actual implementation of them is kind of a mess. If you were playing this just to mess around and send out your people to various towns without worrying about making a lot of progress you might enjoy it, but it’s hard to feel that there’s any kind of story development or whether you’re doing anything productive or not. And as I said earlier, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that the designers had bigger plans for the game that they were not able to implement for whatever reason.

    SFC Game 100 – Tales of Phantasia

    Game 100! Although if you include the SRPGs I played it’s actually game 128. Also, last week was 6 years since I started the blog. I have approximately 30 games left so probably it will take another 2 years or so to finish the Super Famicom games.

    Today’s game is one that I played some years back. Since I did everything in the game I won’t play it again, but I wanted to mention it because it’s such an important game. It was developed by Wolf Team, which made Hiouden, a game I played before. I noted at the time that many of the spells in that game reappear in Tales of Phantasia.

    This is, of course, the first game in the long running and popular “Tales of” series. I’ve played all of the games through Vesperia. I tend to like the 2D ones better — my favorite entries in what I have played are Destiny 2 (the Japanese one) and the DS version of Hearts.

    The game pushed the limits of what the Super Famicom was capable of, with a 48 megabit cart. This is one of the largest carts of any SFC game, beaten or tied by only a few other games (Tengai Makyo Zero and Star Ocean are two of them, which I will be playing). This space was used for things like the vocal opening song and voice clips for the characters using their various moves and a few lines of dialogue. The music was done by Motoi Sakuraba, who had done Hiouden’s music.

    The character designs were done by Fujishima Kosuke, a popular manga artist who also did designs for the Sakura Taisen series and would go on to design characters for some of the other Tales Of games.

    The battle system is action-ish, but in a way it’s more of a real-time command entering system than a true action game. When you make an attack, Cless (the only character you can control) runs forward to attack an enemy. As you level you will learn new moves that can be used either close to the enemy or far away (you equip different types for each). When you use a move enough you master it, and by mastering multiple abilities you learn combination “ougi” moves as well. All of these abilities take TP.

    You will get other characters who essentially stand behind Cless and either cast spells or shoot a bow. You can order them to cast spells through a command menu. I found that a lot of the game was spent in the menus queuing up the spells; you have to be fast and aggressive because if you let the enemies get too far on your side, they will start attacking the defenseless magic users and you’re in trouble.

    One common complaint is the very high random encounter rate. You can buy holy bottles to cut the rate which helps a lot (even if you use a holy bottle all the time, you will still fight more than enough enemies).

    The story involves a group of heroes who sealed away a powerful sorceror called Dhaos, who can time travel. The descendants of those heroes have to team up to once again defeat Dhaos and restore peace to the world.

    Here’s a video I made when I played it (14 years ago!) of the final battle, with my Moria-beefed party. I was playing on an actual Super Famicom thus the video quality. The SFC later got donated to byuu/near.

    The game has been remade many times — the Playstation and GBA versions were basically enhanced ports but the two PSP versions were full remakes. I played the first PSP version and didn’t like it as much because it seemed like there were way too many pincer and back attacks, which doesn’t work well with this system where Cless is the only one who can really fight.

    All in all this game is fine, but the later Tales games are much better; playing this one (especially in the SFC version) is probably mostly interesting to people who are big fans of the series or who just like the Super Famicom.

    SRPG Game 81 – Front Mission 2 (PS)

    Front Mission 2 (フロントミッション セカンド), released 9/25/1997, developed and published by Square

    This is the second main game in the Front Mission series (Front Mission Gun Hazard, a non-SRPG, was released before it). As I said in my original post, I was disappointed in the first game for a number of reasons, and was hoping the second game would improve on various issues.

    I feel like it did, while at the same time having its own flaws and drawbacks. One that is criticized by almost everyone is how slow the game plays. Load times are long (even playing off an ISO), everything is sluggish, and there are unskippable long battle animations. Setting up your Wanzer units is frustrating because of how long it takes the images to render. When FM2 was re-packaged in the “Front Mission History” set, they hacked in a battle animation skip feature (thanks to Harvey for letting me know about this). However, this is only a hacky patch; you get little to no information about what happened in the battle and have to check the status afterwards — all you see from the overhead map is the total HP of a unit, which is a virtually irrelevant statistic (the HP of each part is much more important).

    The game is the same basic system as FM1, with each “wanzer” (mech) having HP divided into body, two arms, and legs. If you lose parts you also lose the ability to move or use that weapon, and if the body goes you’re dead. This game no longer has the ability to aim at specific parts, but that introduces more luck into the game because an attack might miss, or spread damage around to parts, or it might take out your arms or body. Current total HP is no guarantee of anything.

    The skills are implemented better in this game. One of the complaints I had about FM1 was that the skill learning seemed random, whereas this time you get specific skills at specific levels (which are still divided into Fight, Short, and Long).

    One big change is the AP system. Each character has a certain number of AP (starting at 7 but going up as you level). You use the AP to move (1 point per space, up to your move limit) and to make attacks (from 3-6 AP). You also then need AP in the enemy phase to be able to counterattack.

    In principle you recover all AP at the beginning of each round. But each enemy that is adjacent to you reduces the AP recovery, and each Ally increases it again. So this incentivizes you to move as a group — the same rules apply to the enemy as well, so if you surround an enemy they will likely be unable to act on their turn.

    There are also “honor levels” that get you skills which help out your surrounding allies; I know you get them from beating enemies or attacking but neither the instruction manual nor the in-game help really explain how the system works.

    There is a lot of English in the game

    One of the main complaints was the slow speed, but another one is the balance issues. This is one of those games where differences in levels between attacker and defender make a huge difference, particularly in hit rates. So if you have a guy who falls behind a bit they are ineffective in combat, and there is no real way to catch them up. More problematic, a common issue I saw is that if you try to use your whole team (you can dispatch up to 11 people later), you will get to a point where none of your characters can match the enemies in levels and you’re stuck. What you should do instead is focus on 5-7 characters and have the rest just use items for healing, without “stealing” any of the XP.

    On the good side, Amano’s designs are good as usual and overall the graphics are strong. This game benefits from the increased internal resolution options of emulators which sharpens the mech polygons as well as the buildings and other objects on the map.

    And also on the good side, there are a number of people who consider this the best game in the series because of the difficulty level and strategic challenge — it seems like if you start out knowing what you are doing (or are willing to restart from the beginning once you figure things out) you can enjoy the game. Although it is telling that all of the positive reviews I saw spent the first paragraph reassuring people that the game was not as bad as everyone says it is.

    The story takes place 12 years after the first game, in Alordesh. The military overthrows the pro-OCU (Union) government and declares independence, led by Ven Mackarge. The main character Ash Faruk escapes Alordesh with his companions from the Muddy Otters, but then decides to return to Alordesh to save his friend Griff who was left behind.

    Ash comes across Thomas Norland, a survivor of the OCU, as well as Lisa Stanley, an intelligence officer. At first the story switches between Ash and Lisa. Lisa is trying to figure out what is going on with the coup — who might be behind it from the outside. Here’s some nice fanart of her companion Sayuri, and the battler champion Cordy who joins their team: (courtesy of Autumn Sacura on deviantart)

    I played the first 11 of 31 stages — some of the stages are quite challenging, others are relatively easy if you move slowly forward and surround the enemies. The hardest one was stage 5 where you have to protect a weak helicopter as it escapes the stage. I had to restart this stage four times to finally be able to beat it.

    But, I’m really not having that much fun with the game. I’m having to force myself to play it, and even when I sit down to play it I often watch youtube videos to procrastinate starting the emulator, which is not a good sign. So I think I’m tentatively deciding to move on to the next game. It does bother me a bit to skip a game because it’s hard, although I feel like in this case it’s a combination of the difficulty, the slow pace of the game, and the worrying possibility that I would reach a point where I could not progress further. However, a remake is currently in progress for the Switch, which hopefully will fix some of the issues without completely changing the game to something unrecognizable.

    Let me know if you played this game and enjoyed it!

    SFC Game 99 – Dragon Quest VI (Finished)

    At the end of the last post I had restored the Hero’s memories as well as the Zenith Castle, so it’s time to visit the Zenethian King.

    Here we learn that Deathtamoor is in the “hazama no sekai”, which means something like “In-between world” but is apparently “Dark World” in the official translations. To get there, though, we have to revive the Pegasus. The Pegasus is in a tower guarded by some of Deathtamoor’s monsters, but the boss fight was fairly easy — the spirit enemy here can use a multi-hit death spell that could be bad but I killed him before he used it.

    Now with the Pegasus, we can go anywhere in the world as well as to the Between World.

    We get locked into the Between world, and everyone’s HP is set to 1 and MP to 0. This cannot be healed or cured by any means (even if you leave the between world). This is because you’ve fallen into the despair of Despair Town, the first destination. Everyone there just lies around doing nothing. There is a man Clarke Ende, who came from the town of Zaxon in the real world. He once forged good armor but he’s too depressed now — however, he gives us his pipe to show his wife and child if we ever find them.

    We can return to the real world from a spring to the west of the town, and show the pipe; his wife gives us Ende’s tools. When we show Ende the tools he knows we can actually travel between the worlds and this perks him up enough to forge him some armor. This also restores the spirits of the other townspeople and allows us to heal our HP/MP.

    Next up is Greed Town, where everyone tries to selfishly cheat, and they’re all obsessed with this treasure that’s supposedly in the mine. All we find in the mine is a note saying that a rich man in town knows where the treasure is — he tells us it’s in a nearby lake. A bunch of townspeople gather there and start fighting over the chest, but we open it and reveal that it’s empty, the townspeople realize they were fighting over nothing and the greed of the town vanishes. It also turns out that the rich man was serving Deathtamoor.

    The last of the towns here is the Prison Town, where we have to do a lot of sneaking around in soldier costumes — eventually there’s a revolt from the prisoners and we manage to take out Akbar. Akbar himself is somewhat difficult, but Hustle Dance from the hero helps a lot in healing, as does Mireyu’s Bikilt spell.

    Solving this area also releases Krimut and Masarl, two magicians who are able to open the way to Deathtamoor’s Castle, the final dungeon.

    The castle itself has a lot of difficult enemies, but with Hustle Dance I was able to keep up my HP. When I reached Deathtamoor, the main character still was on level 7 Superstar so I had not even unlocked the Hero job yet. I was around level 30-31, and Deathtamoor kicked my butt.

    I decided to master Battlemaster for Hassan and switch him to a Dragon, then try again (originally I was going to master Dragon but that takes way too many battles). Actually Hassan’s job didn’t help very much; it was the general levels and being able to get some Hero levels that really helped.

    Deathtamoor has three forms. My basic strategy for all of them was the same — attack with Drango (dragon) and Hassan, use Hustle Dance or Gigaslash with Kurisu, and have Mireyu use Bikilt on Drango/Hassan if they need it (since Deathtamoor frequently eliminates our buffs), heal if necessary, and just guard if neither of those are needed. The second form uses def+ a lot so I used Kurisu’s hero ability that removes the buffs. Sometimes I used Drango’s breath attack but in general I found just attacking with both was more effective. I also had World Tree Leafs on each person in case someone needed to be revived.

    For the third form, the Left Hand has to be taken out first since it can revive the others (in the DS version they made both hands revive). I swapped in Barbara here so that she could use Madante which did 650 damage to each part. From there the same basic technique as the other bosses worked, and he went down faster than I expected. I probably overlevelled.

    After Deathtamoor dies, the Between World vanishes, and there’s a long ending scene where everyone goes back to their lives. I was a little confused because I thought they said the Dream World was disappearing and Barbara does vanish, but then there’s a later scene where she’s still there. Maybe Kurisu’s ability to go to the Dream World was just removed.

    If I load my clear save, I can go get the Hagure Metal job book and then fight about 150 battles to unlock the bonus dungeon but I’m not going to do that. If you can beat the boss in the bonus dungeon in 20 turns you can wish for something that will change the ending, but I wasn’t able to find any description of what it actually changes (perhaps Barbara doesn’t disappear)?

    In the end this is definitely a strong game and one of the best I’ve played so far, but it’s not as good as DQ5. The job system is fun but I think the battle numbers are too high, and they had to create a lot of abilities to fill out the jobs, most of which seem fairly useless. I also never recruited a single monster even though I had a maxed Monster Tamer in my party for a good chunk of the game. The dungeon design is inferior to 5 and I really liked 5’s storytelling.

    DQ will show up one more time near the end, with the SNES remake of DQ3.