Seikon no Joka (聖痕のジョカ), released 4/25/1997, developed by Takara
The next two SRPGs I only played the first few stages of, so there will be another post on Wednesday this week with Sparkling Feather.
This game’s title means “Joka of the Sacred Scar”, although elsewhere in the game and instructions, 聖痕 is read as “rune” instead. The game is based off a light novel series, although one site I saw said it takes place 100 years after the novels, although that’s not clear from the backstory in the instructions.
The background story is that thousands of years before, the 24 Runes were sealed away in the Earth’s Navel by a girl named Joka, thus removing them from influencing the world. But now, an unknown person has unsealed the runes from the Navel. In an effort to stop this, the Angel Topuka tried to reincarnate Joka, who had the Blank Rune that could unify all the runes. But Topuka messed up and split Joka into two parts, one of whom is born as a princess, the other as an orphan in the wilds.
One immediate issue with this game is the offputting character designs.
Now you name the main character, including his title (I used Scarlet Lightning Kurisu). He’s trying to get a treasure from ruins, but thieves attack on his way out.
The system is pretty typical although rather than a grid, it’s a sphere of movement. You can move, and then attack or use a special attack. Some of the attacks have “reverse” versions that apparently can be used once you get to the point in the game where your characters get the Runes.
However, I encountered the first huge problem with the game during and after this stage. Whenever you are in any kind of status menu or shop menu, the background spins around quickly behind the windows (which are semi-transparent). I get motion sick pretty easily and while I can’t recall ever getting it from a video game, the spinning background made me queasy — even if it didn’t it’s really distracting to try to be reading text in the foreground while the background is spinning around at a pretty high speed. This is the primary reason I gave up on the game after a few missions.
There’s not much about this game on the Internet, but I did find a few criticisms of the camera spinning including one Japanese player who also got sick from it.
Kurisu reaches town to try to sell what he got, but it turns out that “cute Topuka” (the angel from the opening) is in it, although with no memory. All he knows is that he needs to get to the town of Silver. Kurisu and he join up with a merchant who wants some bodyguards to help them go through a forest.
In the second stage ghosts attack in the forest, and here we find the second big problem with this game — you can only control Kurisu. Everyone else moves on AI. This is an odd decision for an SRPG; it’s true that there are games like Ogre Battle that don’t allow direct control of the characters but the system is set up for that. Here it’s basically a normal SRPG but you can only control one character. Also while the other characters (and enemies) are moving, the camera is spinning around 360 degrees just like it does when you have the menu open.
After the fight we meet up with the wild orphan Joka.
In the next town we meet the princess Joka who is supposed to marry a prince from another land to unify the alliance between their countries, but she has no desire to do that. She feels a connection with the wild Joka and with Kurisu’s help they escape the palace.
This is where I stopped; I just couldn’t play any more with the spinning camera, and even without that why play an SRPG where you can’t control most of your party? There are apparently two endings based on various choices you make throughout the game; it seems to have to do with which Joka the main character gets closer to. But I won’t be seeing either of them.