PCE Game 32 – Monster Maker: Dragon Knight of Darkness

Monster Maker: The Dark Dragon Knight (モンスターメーカー 闇の竜騎士)
Released 3/30/1994, published by NEC Avenue

Monster Maker is a franchise that started out as a card game but grew to include a CCG, a tabletop RPG, manga, and such. There were a number of video games based on the franchise as well. The first couple of games used card mechanics and apparently were somewhat innovative, but after that they switched to a regular RPG format. I previous covered the third game in the series, for SNES. I thought it had a lot of potential but was hampered by some poor design decisions, and I was hoping for an improvement.

Unfortunately this game is much worse, and is an infamous kusoge for the PCE. It was hampered by a long development delay of 2 years. Even then, when it finally came out it was riddled with bugs, including ones that delete your save games or stick you in impossible to win situations. They even had to include a flyer in the package warning you about one of them. There are also freezes, combats ending for no reason, not being able to move on the world map, and others. Furthermore, the game ends suddenly in the middle of the story with “To Be Continued,” but the sequel was never made. One contemporary reviewer for a PC Engine magazine refused to give it a score because of how unfinished it was.

The early games had a card-based battle system. Monster Maker 3 changed this to regular RPG but did have some positioning elements that made it a bit different. This game goes back to just Dragon Quest II style.

The main character, Laia, is a half-elf who was abandoned and raised in the village of Ferund. She likes talking to the fairies outside of town, but is chased out of town when the town is attacked by other dark-haired elves like her. She is given her mother’s circlet and has to go on a quest to find the truth of what happened and her background.

She quickly gets two kobolds and a fighter named Mary in her party — the Monster Maker title means that there is some monster recruiting element, but like MM3 it’s poorly implemented and not necessary to use.

There’s a fair amount of voiced dialogue with some big name actors, so that’s probably the high point of the game.

In order to reach the elven village, she first has to pass a barrier station. But the leader of the station won’t let her pass until she investigates what’s going on in Derius Castle. At the same time, a dragon egg she got in the mountains hatches, giving a baby dragon.

This is basically where I stopped. The Derius Castle part requires you to go through 3 dungeons with no opportunity to heal or save. Healing items and spells do very little and I could see this was going to take a fair amount of grinding just to get through this introductory part, and with the game’s reputation I see no reason to do that.

After this game, it was 8 more years before Monster Maker 4 came out for GBA. I don’t know how that game was, but this is the last we’ll be seeing of MM on this blog.

5 thoughts on “PCE Game 32 – Monster Maker: Dragon Knight of Darkness

  1. Carlos

    *Sorry, had to delete the post and write it anew because I clicked the "send" button by accident when I still was writting it.

    It's a pity, this game looked fun and called my attention at first, but then I started to read about it and all its bugs, etc, and realized it was at a kusoge of "Stargazers" proportions.

    I just hope nobody tries to translate it, as it would be a waste of time and effort that could be put into much better games (kind of like the "Hero Chronicles – Project Olympus" recent translation was. I don't want to sound ungrateful and I thank the effort to the Aeon Genesis team, but surely there were better games that are still untranslated, or in an unfinished state like Madara 2 or GD-Leen).

  2. monju

    It really is a pity. The environments have that cute RPG-maker quality to them, and the UI looks clean and simple. It was worth a try.

  3. PK Thunder

    I just hope nobody tries to translate it, as it would be a waste of time and effort that could be put into much better games (kind of like the "Hero Chronicles – Project Olympus" recent translation was. I don't want to sound ungrateful and I thank the effort to the Aeon Genesis team, but surely there were better games that are still untranslated, or in an unfinished state like Madara 2 or GD-Leen).

    Respectfully, I don't think it's ever helpful to tell anyone what is or isn't a "waste of time and effort" to translate, or try to dictate what games do or don't deserve translation. I wish people would purge that phrase from their vocabularies, as it has more than a whiff of entitlement. And that goes triple for games you haven't actually played, but are just reading about via third parties!

    The games you find interesting and fun, and the games I find interesting and fun, may be totally different. Some of the most rewarding games I've played have a kusoge reputation, and some games with an A+ reputation bore me to tears and feel like the gaming equivalent of a Disney ride on rails. When people hack or translate games (and I've done a few), they tend to finish projects they find interesting, and tend to bail on ones they don't. What third parties think has no relevance — no one is the Grand Coordinator of Fan Translation Patches, dictating what games are next on the collective agenda — and opining that some games are "a waste of time and effort [to translate]" can only discourage people who, after all, are giving their time for free.

    I've also noticed that a lot of the time, when people say a game is "worth translating", what they mean is that it has attractive presentation, aesthetics that are appealing to Japanophiles, and an easy learning curve. But we don't actually know a game's value or substance until we experience it for ourselves (not that I'm questioning kurisu's decision to bail on this one, especially as it's a PCE game). Plenty of awful games look sexy and start out by flattering the player, but turn into a disastrous, incomplete, poorly- or unfairly-designed horrorshow in the second half — and you wouldn't know any of that if you only play it for an hour.

    Now, if you've done any translations yourself or as part of a team, then of course you can decide what's worth your own time. But I would hope we'd all agree that the ideal outcome is for all games to be translated, so that non-Japanese speakers can decide for themselves about the merits and rewards of each game.

    (Tons of simple games that were officially released in English have really screwed-up, ignorant, high-profile reviews out there, courtesy of reviewers who couldn't be bothered to take the time to learn the game properly or even read the manual before sharing their "hot take". What hope would an untranslated Japanese game have if its fate is to be decided by a tribunal of people who fire it up in an emulator for five minutes and dismiss it?)

  4. Kurisu

    I basically agree with you, although I do think that romhacking groups should think twice about games like this — it's not so much that the game is boring, it's more the show-stopping bugs and "to be continued" that make the game not worth playing.

    A group is doing the 3×3 Eyes game I covered early in the blog, and I question the wisdom of that project because of the game-breaking bug at the end of the game that makes it horrendous to finish without exploiting another glitch.

  5. PK Thunder

    That gets into something I thought about mentioning in my previous post but didn't want to get longer than it already was: when people get into the innards of a game enough to give it a technically-polished translation, they're also often in a position to fix bugs like that, so it can be a win-win!

    Plus a translation puts more eyes on a game and allows for easier hacking by non-Japanese speakers, so it can get patched further by enterprising folks (there's generally a lower barrier to entry for XP hacking, etc. than for doing a full translation).

    I do prefer those sorts of patches to be optional or addendums (or to have two different versions, one with bugfixes and one without), just because I've seen things labeled as "game-breaking bugs" that turn out to be intentional mechanics that aren't fully understood. But generally speaking, a translation makes a game — and possible fixes — far more accessible and visible to people who potentially have the skill set to fix its issues.


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