Terra Phantastica (テラ ファンタスティカ), released 12/27/1996, developed by Chime, released by Sega
So this is the final game of 1996 on my list. The game’s presentation reminds me of Tactics Ogre in that it has a more realistic art style and focuses on politics, and the setting seems more European than the typical high-fantasy world. The story is not as dark as TO, though. This first post is mostly going to describe the system since it’s rather complicated, but first I will cover the opening story.
The Duchy of Mais is one of the parts of the larger Seleshion empire, which has the oldest temple in the world. The ruler is Alexis, and he has a son Alexis II. The child Alexis visits the old temple and sees a statue; he’s told this is a statue of the Nameless Goddess. He feels sorry for her and gives her a name, Dine.
Meanwhile, the monster kingdom Bofon to the west invades Seleshion, destroying the Duchy of Vershen and continuing east. The Emperor gathers together the forces of the various lands and attacks, but fails to stop them, and Alexis I is killed. The forces, led by one of the four generals Zaitan, reaches the Mais duchy and even the capital. But a mysterious woman appears and drives off Zaitan. She remembers nothing except her name (Dine), and is immediately installed as General of the Armies to lead the Mais forces.
Each chapter begins with a Council, where the current situation is discussed, and they make various decisions. At certain points you can ask the members their opinions on a question. If the decision doesn’t go their way, they will get upset. This to me is the most opaque part of the game; even looking at a walkthrough it doesn’t seem like it really affects the game that much. I wonder if this was a part of the game that they had planned to play a bigger role but ran out of time to implement it — perhaps the designers had wanted to make this affect branching story paths or something like that. (I did later find a different page that said there were big story branches, but I wonder — most of the time you don’t even get to choose Dine’s response, and the original page I was looking at was basing their walkthrough on an official strategy guide.)
Next, Alexis will come to Diene with a question or problem, and they’ll talk about what’s going on. You’ll get a choice at some point, and this will raise certain attributes for Alexis like Benevolence and Wisdom. This is another aspect of the game that doesn’t really affect much; it apparently has a small effect on the ending and there’s at least one other part of the game where you can recruit a character if Alexis has certain attributes.
Next you outfit everyone for the chapter. You can choose what kind of troops they will use and the item they equip. You can have Claude do it automatically for you, which is usually what I did. Otherwise you have to consider which type of troops work well with each person (there will be a 適 or 不 at the top) and the items. The one thing I did often change is to give one of the ranked officers an item that gives them Moon or Sun vision since they’re the only ones that can search, and you sometimes need one of those types of vision to find an item. Once you leave this screen you cannot change the troop type for each unit until the next chapter, but you can equip different items by using an action in battle.
Now you move to the area map. Some chapters only have one battle, but most have at least 3. You can often choose which path to take towards a goal; sometimes that switches the order of the battles, other times there are two different battles you can fight.
Finally we move to the actual battle map.
On the map, you can only see the troops that are within the field of view of your characters; otherwise they show up as shadows. (The triangle there is a heal spot). The game works on a player turn-enemy turn system. You can choose any order to make your moves, and you don’t have to take a character’s moves all at once.
A character can make as many moves as they have AP. Characters generally have 2-4 AP. Also, if a character does not start within one of the ranked officers’ leadership fields at the beginning of a turn, they have one fewer AP for that turn. The actions you can take are:
- Cast spell (this is only for healing spells and the like), for offensive spells you have to attack
- Tactic – each unit can switch between several tactical styles. They default to a move style that has fairly low attack/defense but high move. You can switch to two other styles which will emphasize various stats (and usually lower move).
- Rest – this restores ELAN. ELAN is a stat that goes down as you take actions, and the lower it is, the less effective the unit is in combat.
- Search – only available to officers, this lets you talk to people in houses or get items, etc.
Once you attack a unit, you get taken to the attack screen.
In the attack screen, each unit has several turns (represented by their CP). Your options are:
- Charge (does more damage and may critical, but takes more ELAN and shifts your tactic to “movement” style)
- Tactic (changing tactics in battle sometimes fails and you lose your turn)
- Retreat (sometimes fails, and you cannot do it if the unit cannot move back a space)
The battle ends when one side loses all their SP (Soldier Points) or when everyone has taken all their actions. As far as I can tell, having lower SP does not lower the attack of the unit — this doesn’t make much logical sense but it’s probably better from a gameplay standpoint. If Dine or Alexis II go to 0 SP, you get a game over. A ranked officer will retreat from the battle. Anyone else will die permanently, although there are several chances during the game to revive fallen members. (The instruction manual seems to indicate that non-ranked officers can survive, but I never saw this)
You want to attack from the back or side, but after the first action the unit will turn towards the attacker. This stays outside of battle, so if you have a pincer attack going you can then attack from behind with someone else.
One of the big issues with the game is that you cannot save in battle. The pace of battle is pretty slow, and this must have been a serious issue playing on an actual console.
In the next post I will cover more of the story and the actual battles. I just finished the game a few hours ago, so I’ll put the second post up on Tuesday or Wednesday, then do the 1996 wrapup and 1997 preview next weekend. (My quick overall view of the game is that it’s a mid-tier game; overall the pace of the battles is too slow and there are too many parts of the game that seem like they never quite got finished. But it’s by no means a bad game and the story is decent.)