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.

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