Traverse: Starlight & Prairie (トラバース スターライト&プレーリー), released 6/28/1996, developed by Pandora Box, released by Banpresto
This game is a spiritual sequel to Soul & Sword, which I played (much) earlier on the blog. Both games share the same general idea — virtually the entire game is open world and optional, and rather than having an “ending” you can stop the game at any time. In S&S you did this by leaving the island, and in this game you do it by marrying someone. There is no real storyline although both games have a sort of “best” ending that you can get by completing most or all of the events in the game. The idea is that each playthrough creates its own story, so I will tell the story of Kurisu, with some gameplay notes in brackets.
Kurisu’s mother died in childbirth and his dad then fell into drunkenness. When kurisu is 14, his dad sends him to get liquor from the bar. Sonia, a childhood friend who works there, is reluctant to give more alcohol to drunken dad, but she’ll do it if kurisu can bring her some flowers from a nearby mountain.
Kurisu fights his way up the mountain and finds the flower, but it starts talking and complains when he tries to pluck it. Feeling bad for the flower, Kurisu goes back without getting it, but Sonia gives him the liquor anyway.
Later in the night, a man breaks into the house, wanting to steal the “Holy Sword” that Kurisu has always had with him — he claims that he’s a prince of a defeated kingdom and that the sword belongs to him. Kurisu tries to fight him off but loses badly, but the guy isn’t able to get the sword away.
Kurisu wakes up in a cave — the guy (Bullmore) tried to bring Kurisu with him but fell into this cave. Kurisu is able to climb up the vines but Bullmore is too heavy, so Kurisu goes up to get help — eventually he pulls up Bullmore by a stronger vine.
Once he saves Bullmore, he decides that there’s no reason why he should stay in his village anymore, and decides to go on an adventure with Bullmore. Sonia tags along. [This is the end of the required stuff before the real game starts]
Kurisu reaches the main continent, and looks at a map showing all of the towns in the continent.
He decides to travel around the world to the towns, seeing what kind of adventures he can find there. [The game has a real-time system as you travel; apparently it ends in 10 years regardless. Once you find a town you can then choose to ‘teleport’ there (really just omit the actual walking, it still takes days)]
Kurisu travelled the world. He found one dying girl whose favorite toy musician set had come to life and gone on a journey, but she wanted to see them one more time. We agreed to try to find them. Kurisu also found a girl whose father made “fakes” of paintings to hang in other museums, but somehow a major painting had been replaced with the fake. So we had to sneak into the place and switch them back.
Other than that, the world seemed at peace — Kurisu did not encounter a single monster on his travels. Most of the towns he visited seemed to have no problems, and the villagers had little to tell them. Even going to the three parts on his map labeled “quest” did not good — the places were either closed or locked.
After travelling for nearly a year, Kurisu decided that the entire world had not much more to offer than his starting island — he had more adventure getting the flowers from the nearby mountain than he had in the 35 or so towns he had visited since then. And travelling all that way with Sonia, he decided that everything he needed for life was in his hometown. He proposed to Sonia, who accepted.
Bullmore wasn’t happy that we never helped him revive his kingdom, and went off on his own. And Kurisu lived happily ever after.
So that was my experience playing the game. It was boring as all hell — I am not exaggerating in that description above. I played the game for several days and found almost nothing to do. I barely know how the battle system works; the characters have skills but I never used them because I didn’t have a single fight after the first island.
I checked Japanese reviews and they all said the same thing — this game is impossible to play without a walkthrough because it’s so difficult to find any quests, and the quests themselves are often inscrutable without help. I couldn’t find a Japanese walkthrough but there is one on GameFAQs.
Not only are the quests hard to find, but there is a hidden “karma” value that cannot be seen, which affects quests you can get. If you want the true ending by completing all quests, you have to make sure your karma is at certain values (high or low) when you do certain things. Some quests won’t activate, others will activate but if you don’t have the right karma value you won’t be able to finish the quest in the right way to count for the true ending.
I could have followed the walkthrough, I suppose, and done all the stuff. But it seems silly to me that you should need that help just to find anything to do. Since I technically finished the game, I’m fine in putting this one aside and moving on to Star Ocean.