Esparks (エスパークス・異時空からの来訪者）Released 3/31/1995, developed by Tomy
This game is based on characters that originated on kids’ notebooks and other stationery, produced by the San-X company. Apparently the storylines were done in manga distributed with the stationery but I’m not clear on the details. There were 9 storylines, and this action RPG is based on the 7th and 8th stories. It was apparently intended to come out in 1993 but was delayed to 1995; despite this the game is very light on content, and it seems that even with the two year delay it didn’t come out with all the expectations.
The game begins with an unnamed boy at his house in Page Village, celebrating his birthday. His father is coming back from Sandoria Castle, but there are Protorude monsters causing havoc in the area. The boy has an older brother Saggitarius who is a ne’er-do-well. The first part you have to talk to everyone and then talk to Dr. Flipper (it’s hard to tell when you’ve talked to everyone).
Dr. Flipper is inventing time travel machines. Anyway, the father comes back and we celebrate the birthday, including a gift of a pendant from Dad. But an enemy called Barba comes, killing both parents and critically wounding Saggitarius.
Kurisu (who got his name on his birthday) is saved by someone named Key-suke who comes in and drives Barba away. Also then Dr. Flipper uses something called the ESP Seed to save Kurisu’s life, and it turns out that both he and Key-suke are “chosen” by the ESP seed. Key-suke himself came from a different time; he escaped Barba with the help of a friend Esparks who sacrificed himself to save Key-suke. The pendant also transforms Kurisu into a warrior. Now we can buy weapons, items, and ESP (spells) and then head out.
The game is top down action; you swing the sword with A and occasionally get critical hits. There are different types of weapons (bows, spears, swords, axes) that have different ranges and methods of attacking. When you level up you restore HP although the enemies never give much XP. The party members can be given commands by pressing L and R to choose from a set of AI commands.
Kurisu and Key-suke head to Clap Village. On the way I found a “god statue” of a mouse — these are scattered throughout the world but they don’t seem to do much. Occasionally they offer a clue for what to do next, often they just say useless things.
In Clap Village, the mayor tells us that we are the chosen ones to save this time and that there are three more ESP Seed chosen ones we need to find to drive off the Protorude.
Barba seems to be in the Eicha Cave to the E of Clap, so we go there and find him — before that, a mysterious “white knight” tells Kurisu to awaken his power; it turns out that Esparks gives Kurisu his power, including the magic of Soul Blade. Barba is at the end of the cave; I beat him at level 9.
Now we have to go all the way back to Page Village, through several caves and overworld areas. This introduces by far the worst aspect of this game — there are very few locations in the game, and you have to visit all of them over and over again, including a large amount of backtracking. Even the final boss is just in a location that you’ve already visited three times before (and fought three bosses in the same room).
Back at Page Village, we use the time machine to go back and try to save Kurisu’s parents. Unfortunately we go back too far, back to Key-suke’s time. Dr. Sashi, who we meet in the past, has a son that has gone to the desert, so that’s our next destination.
Unfortunately this requires going all the way through Tekken Cave, to Clap Village, through Eicha Cave, and then out to the Furui Fortress, where we fight the next set of bosses. Then you have to walk all the way back to Page Village through those locations. It turns out Sashi can repair the Time Machine to send us back to the present, but he needs an item that will only be found in Rich Village. Back to Tekken Cave where we blow up a rock, leading to a new area.
Rich Village has a junk dealer that can supply the item, but all his goods were stolen by Gobi, who is in the Tomtom Cave.
All the way back to Page Village, where Dr. Sashi is able to send us back to the present, slightly before the parents die. Now the brother Saggitarius joins (he’s the next of the ESP Seed Heroes). Now it’s back through Tekken cave, Clap Village, Eicha Cave, back through Furui Fortress again, through Furui to Sandria Castle. Here we see the origin of Barba’s arrival in the present time, but we’re too late — he heads back to Page and kills the parents before we can intervene. So we get to walk all the way back: Furui->Eicha->Clap->Tekken->Page Village. Back to the original present time, and we hear about disappearances in Rich Village.
There we meet the fourth ESP Seed warrior, Shira, and fight Barba yet again in the Tomtom Cave (he ate the villagers). Then it’s Tomtom->Rich->Tekken->Page->Tekken->Clap Village, where the elder tells us we have one more companion to get. He’s in Furui Ruins, so Eicha->Furui to fight the boss Prudence. This has to be done with Kurisu only, but he’s not too bad.
The items are fairly cheap so you can load your inventory with them — for some reason you can’t figure out how many of each item you have (you also don’t see damage for attacks, another interface issue).
Prudence tells Kurisu that his real father was Bariscros, a hero who fought with Prudence, Kurisu’s adopted father, and another warrior against the Protorude. Presence joins and tries to teleport us home but fails, and we get sent to Haga-chan island. There are pirates there, but they’re so weak and spineless that all we have to do is guess a correct barrel and they hand over the pirate ship. At this point you have visited all the locations in the game.
Finally with the ship we don’t have to do all the tedious backtracking anymore through so many areas. Back in Page Village we learn that people are getting sick mysteriously, and we head to Sandria Castle to see what’s going on — there we fight Troma and Guilty, other A-Rank Protorude. Guilty says something about trying to ease the suffering of the Protorude but there’s never any more dialogue about this.
Back at Page Village, Dr. Flipper tells us that the sickness is actually caused by miniature Protorude that are in everyone’s blood. At that moment Guilty reappears (he can revive himself endlessly) and sends Kurisu to the future (where the Protorude have taken over) and scatters the companions.
Shira can be found in Tomtom Cave, where she’s fighting Gobi. After another boss fight, we manage to get back to the present, where Dr. Flipper tells us that Guilty is in Future Sandoria Castle, and gives us a treasure box key. The time machine is also fixed so we can freely transport times. Now there are several things to do:
- Find the companions (in various times and places)
- Get the ultimate equipment (from locked chests)
- Get an upgraded pirate ship from the future that can time travel
Once all this has been done, it’s time to go to Sandoria. Guilty is there again, but even defeating him he will just get stronger again. Fortunately Dr. Flipper has figured out a chemical that can destroy the cells.
Back to Sandoria yet again, where Barba has appeared and absorbed the Guilty cells to change into a final boss form. I used a ton of items but in the end I did defeat him at level 29. Now in the ending everyone goes back to their places, and Kurisu goes off with Key-suke on new adventures (we never did save the parents).
This game is not really worth playing. As I said, by far the worst aspect is the extremely small amount of content — there are only 4 small dungeons that are used over and over again, and the amount of backtracking is the most I’ve seen in any game. Despite that it’s still a pretty short game. The story is nothing special, and the interface has a lot of frustrating features. The game had a lot of potential, but I guess they should have delayed it a few more years.