Lady Stalker (レディストーカー 〜過去からの挑戦〜), released 4/1/1995, developed by Climax
In 1992, Climax released a game for the Mega Drive called Landstalker. It wasn’t really an RPG, it was more of an action/adventure game that used the same isolinear perspective as Solstice and other games like that. The title is rather odd because the word ストーカー in Japanese has the same meaning as “stalker” in English. I imagine the designers were trying to evoke other meanings of English “stalk”, as someone moving around sneakily. But I’m not sure. In any case this accounts for the dubious name of the sequel — the main character is a woman named Lady, so the game is a lady “stalking” around the land, not a stalker of women.
This 1995 game is based on Landstalker, which I never played (I was a Nintendo kid). If anyone did play this let me know your thoughts in the comments. They removed the ability to jump but added XP and levels, making it a full-fledged RPG. (Dark Savior for the Saturn and Alundra for the Playstation are additional games with the same basic developers.)
The beginning story is that this girl named Lady, who is the daughter of a rich person, causes so much trouble that her dad shuts her up in a house with a tutor Yoshio and a cook Cooks (spelled “Cocks” in the instruction manual but I’ll use “Cooks” instead). She manages to break out and heads to Destrand Island, where she’s heard rumors of great treasure. When she gets there, she learns that the island was ruled by King Baron long ago, a genius scientists who did all kinds of experiments, especially on his fellow monsters. But to learn more and further explore, Lady needs a visa, which she can only get by going through a training area.
The movement takes some getting used to. The up arrow is NW; I always felt like it should be the NE instead. I did get used to it after the first dungeon or so but it is really frustrating until you do.
Inside the training areas Lady meets her first combats. These are done in a random encounter style, but the encounter takes place on the same map where you are. Thankfully, not every place has random encounters, and in particular, the rooms that have puzzles usually do not have any enemies.
You swing the sword by pressing A. By holding down A she charges up a move. These moves depend on your equipped weapon, either a Whip or a Glove. There’s supposed to be a tradeoff where the whip has longer range but weaker strength. In practice, since the basic attack is always the short-range sword, I think the whip is useless.
One thing I did not find out until way too late in the game is that attacking from behind or the side does more damage. This is easier once Lady gets companions. You also can’t just hold down a turbo button because the enemies will block your attacks if you do that. I thought the battle system on the whole was well done.
The purpose of the first dungeon is just to teach you some of the basic features of the game — picking up blocks to make stairways (since you can’t jump), solving basic puzzles, easy fights, and dashing with the B button to cross gaps. At the end, Lady watches a film in the museum and learns that King Baron developed a machine to make monsters huge, but then somehow was defeated. An archaeologist named Sajik went to try to find the machine but nobody has heard from him.
Now Lady can leave the town, and she heads for Rivertown, the largest city on the island. It’s next to Baron Castle, but nobody goes there because there are too many traps and tricks — of course that’s our next destination.
There are a lot of traps in the castle, including fireball shooting heads. But the main thing is when the monsters trap Lady and force her to do various kinds of torture games before she can leave.
Here Lady learns about Jumbo BabyBaron (JB) who seems to be controlling things. There’s also the first boss, JB’s pet, but he’s not very hard. It seems like the monsters’ goal is to make some way to eat human meat every day — this turns out to be canned humans, which Lady finds out in the next town where a bunch of enslaved humans are laboring, and JB is trying to find an ancient relic of some kind. Lady needs to escape through the sewer to reach the next area.
The sewer has some areas where you have to swim underwater, losing health, but if you go to areas with bubbles you can breathe air and restore HP (even HP lost in combats, which is nice).
Coming out of the sewer, Lady reaches Deathvegas. There’s a casino which will open later, as well as Meg, Sajik’s wife. Lady tells someone she’ll work in the mines and she gets a ticket to ride the cable car there.
As soon as Lady reaches here she gets thrown in prison by JB, but Yoshio is there as well. Yoshio joins, and Cooks is apparently in the area as well. Yoshio and Cooks work on AI control; at the beginning they’re a liability because they’re so weak and there’s no way to revive allies except by visiting a church. But once you get them better equipment so they can survive a few hits, they do well at distracting the monsters while you go in for a back or side hit. Cooks can cast healing spells which is nice too, as the 5 healing items you can carry don’t last very long. Escaping the cell, Lady overhears that JB has found some ancient machine that can make monsters big.
This dungeon is based mostly on riding mine cards around, and you can change the direction by pressing the arrow keys and slow it down with B.
Eventually we find that JB is going to execute Cooks, but when JB reads what’s on a stone tablet in the box in front of him, he leaves, allowing us to rescue Cooks and put him in our party. The tablet tells us that we need to use a white ball to revive the ancient machine, so that’s probably what JB is going to try to find.
You fight the boss here on a minecart that shoots fireballs, so you have to shoot the opponent while racing around on the cars.
Next up is a monster village — Lady goes back to Deathvegas to get Monster Extract to become monsters. Here we also find the Shining Ball man who will take Shining Balls and exchange them for good items throughout the game. The Casino is also open.
The monsters there tell us that the mayor was trapped in the Volcano; we need to reach the interior machine and put the bolts back in to stop it.
I found this to be the hardest dungeon in the game in terms of the monster difficulty, partly because the companions were so weak. It’s possible I could have gotten better equipment before here, I’m not sure. In any case, Lady finds the mayor, but he’s dying. JB has been using a machine to make them bigger, but those bigger bodies age faster and die quicker. He warns Lady-monster not to be fooled by JB. After the Volcano is fixed we can take the mine car on to the next era, snow valley.
This is another mine car area, as well as ice-sliding puzzles. Eventually Lady reaches a machine that turns her into an ice block, and you actually have to fight a boss as the ice.
Afterwards there’s a hammer that can break the ice, and it also breaks the ice of another person who turns out to be Sajik the archeologist. He heads back to Rivertown, and we go on to Ramus Tower. (This area has some enemies that are like metal slimes in DQ that give huge XP but run away easily. The end area has ones that are clearly based on the king slimes as well.)
We can’t get in to Ramus Tower so back to the towns to find new equipment and various things — it also turns out that a lot of the townspeople have left, now that they’ve heard the treasure rumors were fake and that they were just lured here to become canned food. But the museum in port town has the Ramus Statue, which opens up the tower.
There are spirits in the tower that tell the story of King Ramus, who made this tower to try to steal King Baron’s machine. Ramus tried to reach Baron Rock by air, but never could. The King himself is at the top, and begs us to take him to Baron Rock…maybe this old rug we found in the tower can help? Yes, it’s a flying carpet, and the king accompanies us to Baron Rock and then disappears, having fulfilled his dream.
Unfortunately Baron Rock has places we would need to jump up — Lady can’t jump, so it’s back to Deathvegas again. There we get gas powered shoes that allow limited jumps, and the power can be restored by going to gas vents.
This part of the game was tricky because as you can see from the picture, the way the graphics are done does not make it very clear where the platforms are. I fell a lot just because I could not tell if the next platform was in front of me or to a side. The dungeon also requires you to use Stone Shoes to walk over spikes, and find the Ganubis Proof to walk over a holy area.
At Angel Rock, the next area, we learn the King Baron was devoured by his own monsters, who evidently then tried to seal the machine away.
There’s a puzzle to solve that opens the door to King Baron’s mansion — unfortunately we were tricked into doing this by JB, who could not solve the puzzle himself and so used us to gain access. In King Baron’s mansion, we have to prove that we are the worthy successor to King Baron in order to progress — as usual this is more puzzles. The boss of this area is copies of ourselves, who really aren’t that hard.
Now it’s on to Baron Tower, where we learn more about JB and King Baron’s experiments on monsters. There’s a weird area here where we shrink to miniature size and have to go around this monster’s body. Finally at the end, JB breaks a bridge and sends us down into the Gates of Hell…where there’s more rocket shoe jumping puzzles, worse than the ones in the previous area.
But after this it’s basically the end of the game. JB finally fights us, but he’s not particularly difficult. JB then tells his story — he was a little Baby Baron until he was thrown into the machine and turned into a giant.
JB then had to capture more monsters to use as experiments, but none of them survived. Even JB’s body is unstable…and he then changes into a dragon. After beating the dragon, JB is finally dead. But now the machine comes alive, apparently still possessed by the spirit of King Baron (or maybe King Baron is the machine).
The boss has three forms. The first two are heads that come from the machine, and Lady can get behind them and attack. But the final form is bullshit — it’s stationary at the back of the room, and uses spells that damage everyone no matter where they are. So there’s no strategy or finesse possible, it’s just a question of whether you are high enough level to survive. I think you have to be in the 29-31 area to do it.
The ending scene is short, and just has the island being turned into an amusement park. Lady makes sure there is a statue of JB at the top (I guess she feels sorry for him being used by King Baron? He still killed a lot of people…)
The final image is the photograph that Lady got taken earlier in the game (one of those “put your head through the hole”) pictures.
Overall this was a pretty enjoyable game once I got used to the controls. It’s fairly short but that’s probably a good thing. The occasional interface issues and the stupid final boss are disappointing, but I had fun with it overall.