Shiki Eiyuden (史記英雄伝)
The “shiki” of the title is the Japanese pronunciation of Shǐjì, the first of the Imperial histories of China. The most common English translation is Records of the Grand Historian. It set the tone for the remaining 23 histories that came after it, particularly in its use of 列伝, usually translated “biographies” or “memoirs”. These sections focus on short anecdotes and illustrative scenes that show moral character.
The period that this game is concerned with is the Warring States period (4th-3rd century BCE), which is covered not only by the Shiji but also the Strategies of the Warring States. It is known not only for the stories from these works, but also for being the time when many of the famous philosophers lived, such as Meng Zi. Chinese and Japanese students still have to read parts of the Shiji, and learn the “4 character compounds” that are derived from stories in these works.
The page for the translation patch of this game claims the story is “100% historical” but that’s not really the case. It’s a pastiche of characters (some of whom were dead by the time the story supposedly takes place) with a few famous anecdotes from the period, but the main character is a fictional person and the story is basically fiction.
The main character has a pretty bad life; his parents are dead, his older brother has been conscripted, and his younger sister was sold. He lives in a tiny village with some old women and has no purpose in life. Suddenly a soldier appears in his house with a scroll, and gives it to Kurisu and tells him to run away. Kurisu runs out of the back of his house and gets in a fight with a soldier.
Before I started this blog, I would probably have been surprised to hear that in 1995 games were still using the Dragon Quest II battle system, but now I’ve come to expect it. The only two differences are that you can freely switch in and out party members before each turn, and running still gives you XP (half, I think).
Anyway, that soldier above did 22 damage with his first attack; I thought it might be a plot battle but no, I got sent back to the title screen with a game over. That’s not a promising start for a game. I don’t know if the designers thought you might level up outside of town first, but you can get past this part just by running from the three fixed soldier combats.
Kurisu heads to a nearby hut where the sage Chen lives; I don’t know if this is supposed to be a historical person — the other sages in the game are famous people but this guy may just be a creation of the game. He teaches Kurisu magic and tells him that the scroll he possesses can either end the world or save it, and sends him on an adventure…after playing some puzzle games.
The first puzzle you have to pull or push the lines to match up the colors with the initial state. The second is the game of Nim, and the third is a sliding square puzzle. I’m not a fan of things like this being required to win the game; fortunately the first one you can hold down B on the second controller to automatically win it. These puzzles recur several times throughout the game. The old man also gives Kurisu a stamp book where he can ask people for stamps throughout the game. You can press Y to ask people whether they will stamp your card; I think there are 60 people throughout the game that do it. The only purpose seems to be that you can unlock quizzes, and somehow that lets you go beyond the Great Wall to fight some optional hard bosses — I just ignored this.
Kurisu then heads to Luoyang, where he can meet up with Lu Buwei and Fan Li, both historical figures, although Fan Li should be dead by this point. There is a lot of mixing up of different historical eras here and it’s not entirely consistent with a single time period. Anyway, a nearby cave has 鬼先生, which I guess is “teacher demon” — he gives us more spells and a Demon Crest that you can use later to recruit mercenaries from Luoyang. The demon also tells us to visit all the sages in the various lands, and we get our first companion Lin Xiangru, who is another historical figure.
One of the peculiarities of this game is that what weapons and armor you can equip is determined not just by character but also their strength. The main character is really weak and often can’t equip new things. Overall the game balance in this game is poor; it’s one of those old style games where some encounters are easy, and others can kill you from full HP in a few moves (and game over sends you back to your last save). At least levelling up restores your HP and MP. Also, enemies do not drop gold, so the only money you get is from selling things.
At this point your goal becomes to stop the war between the 7 kingdoms. First we travel around the world, visiting the sages such as Confucius, Mengzi, and Zhuang zi (even though some of them should be dead at this point). Along the way we gain some more historical figure followers (including Jing Ke). Soon you can use the Demon Crest from earlier to recruit mercenaries. The best one to recruit is the level 99 old man; he has no fighting ability but if you put him up front he can run from every battle. Since you get XP from running this is a good way to level and you almost never have to fight a random battle again.
We also find Kurisu’s younger sister, who managed to become the Empress of Qin, giving birth to Sei, who will be the next Emperor. Kurisu’s older brother has become a mountain bandit, and Kurisu has to kill him at some point. There are other small events that are re-enactments of famous stories from this period
After meeting all the sages, we have to find three mirrors to open the way to a powerful sword, the Damascus Sword. By giving this to Sei he is able to unify the country and become Emperor of China. Kurisu decides to become a Sage himself, which requires a long dungeon by himself with no help — after several game overs I put in a no encounter code.
Now that Kurisu is a sage he starts to write down philosophical books, but it turns out that Sei has become evil and is oppressing the populace. So as the final act of the game he has to join with the old companions and defeat Sei.
Sei is pretty tough; some people on gamefaqs said he could be put to sleep but this never worked for me. Maybe I needed to be higher level. Instead of grinding more I just put on an invincibility code and beat him.
Overall this game is not especially good. The gameplay as usual is a boring mess, and the story is all over the place — there are some interesting parts, but it’s hard to know exactly what the designers were going for. There is a translation patch if you want to try it out.
I really need to think about what to do going forward with these Super Famicom games, because I’m getting burned out on games like this one to the point where I’m not sure I’m giving them a fair try. When I find a game bad, I do try to check around on Japanese sites to see what the opinion of Japanese players is; often they also think these games are not very good (this game, for instance).
I’m certainly not going to stop playing the SFC games; I’m too far along and there are still quite a few games I want to play on the list. But perhaps it is finally time to relax my rules more and allow myself to stop playing games like this — they’re not only boring to play, but they’re boring to write about also. I’m just tired of having fun with a strategy RPG, then sighing as I force my way through two more bad/boring SFC games, then back to having fun with a strategy RPG. We’ll see; I’m only going to play the first section of the next game because it’s a port of a computer game, and then Mystic Ark sounds good.
> gives it to Kurisu and tells him to run away.
> you can get past this part just by running from the three fixed soldier combats.
Sometimes following instructions is a good idea… (What chance would a common peasant have against an armed soldier anyway?)
For the last two posts, almost none of the images show up for me. E.g. for this one, only the third and eigth images load properly. For Xanadu 2 only the third image is missing, before that I never noticed any issues. I was wondering if it was a temporary thing on my end, as no one else commented about it, but when I try to load one of the missing images in a new tab I just get a blank page that says “We cannot complete this request, remote server returned an unexpected status code (400)”. Figured I’d let you know in case it’s not just me.
Hmm, that’s strange. I just tried loading this post in Edge, Chrome, and Firefox as well as on my phone, and the images loaded fine in all of them (whether I was trying to view the main blog page or the post specifically). Anyone else have this issue?
I can see them fine. No issues on my end. I’m using Brave.
Yeah, that’s weird. I should’ve tried before to confirm, but the same images fail to load for me on Chrome, Firefox and (yuck) Edge, with the same error message if I try to open them directly.
As I said, it only started with a single image on Xanadu 2 and then all but 2 images each on the last two posts.
Okay, now that I got more intrigued I tried another kinda obvious thing, and everything loads fine when I use a free US proxy (I’m in Germany). I suppose that’s a workaround, if nothing else. Never had a problem like that with any website, though.
That’s strange! I wonder if other people from outside the US are having this problem.
I’m from The Netherlands and I have the exact same issue with the images as Atantuo described.
I wonder if the 100% historical claim is something that was made by the translators or if the developers said that? Seems like a bizarre thing to claim either way.
I have a feeling it was just the translators, and I wonder if they were being a bit sarcastic in saying that.
Normally when a game has fan translation it means it at least decent of it has something interesting but even the people who translate it said that the game is boring and to play it a your own risk.