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.
I seem to vaguely recall hearing about the game, at least its name, though looking at the game, I struggle to see why. Do either of the remakes really fix the game’s issues? (there’s a PSX one too) Reading the descriptions of those they seem kind of weird, considering how little time passed between this and those games for such full-fledged changes.