Saturday, May 11, 2019

PCE Game 25 - Aurora Quest Otaku no Seiza IN ANOTHER WORLD

Aurora Quest Otaku no Seiza IN ANOTHER WORLD
Released 12/10/1993, published by Pack In Video



This is a complete remake of a Famicom game. It was designed by two mangaka, one of them (Motomiya Hiroshi) is well known for Salaryman Kintaro, a popular series in Japan. From what I can tell, the original Famicom game was not well received or liked, partly because it came out in the waning days of the system. But somehow there was a pachinko machine based on it, and then an idol group (pop singers) as well, thus spurring the remake.

Unfortunately the remake also seems to have been poorly received. It looks to me that by the end of 1993, even hardcore Japanese RPG players had gotten tired of basic RPGs that offered the same battle system unchanged from Dragon Quest II.



The story is a little embarrassing for 2019 -- the idea is that somehow five women have come to Earth, devastated by a world war, and taken control. They live in a floating city and are representatives of the goddess Maria. The world is ruled by women, and men have become marginalized and are all called "otaku". The main character was found unconscious near a teleportation device between the Earth and the floating city, and his goal is to make the 5 goddesses recognize his strength as a man.

You start out on the Earth, and have to beat a monster to open up the transport area that can start transporting you to the floating cities where the five women are.


The battle system is completely standard AMID, with a high encounter rate. It even has the old "ineffective" thing from FF1 where if you attack a monster that then gets killed, your attack is wasted.

At least the monster graphics are detailed, although this aspect reminds me a lot of Maka Maka. As I said back then, I've never found Japanese gag manga particularly funny. Although the above bat might look good, the vast majority of enemies you fight are more along these lines:




Once you reach the floating platform, there's a small overworld where you travel to several towns. The towns all have music themes, with the mayor being a "manager" and the city halls being discos or live music houses. The goddesses are all dancing at the top of disco buildings with followers, while the men (all named "otaku") are wandering below.


To reach the first goddess helper, Yang, you have to clear some monsters out of a flower shop and an antique store, and get three entry tickets (one from each town). With those you can enter the disco. Yang herself wants you to show her your kindness, which involves bringing her a rose from the flower store you saved earlier. After that she says she'll recognize you if you defeat her.


Once you defeat Yang, she regains her memory and tells you to "awaken" the other four women as well. She also gives Jonjon a plasma crystal that lets him use spells.

The second world is basically the same thing; this time I had to get three sets of armor to let me withstand the attacks of Rin's bodyguards, then show Rin herself my "beauty" by bringing the right set of clothes.


Rin also regains her memory upon being defeated, and remembers that they came to Earth to find a man who would save the world by defeating the forces of darkness (sigh). She gives another crystal, so now Nekketsu can use spells.

I think this is where I will stop -- it's clear from looking at the walkthrough that after you save the five women the story changes to a more standard "save the world" plot.

This game is probably worth a try if you don't mind the old gameplay. At least the world concept is different, and it has a retro vibe (maybe an out-of-date vibe?) The enemy graphics are detailed and colorful, albeit offputting sometimes. There's a lot of equipment, and it looks like the story is OK. Apparently there's a translation patch for the original Famicom game coming out soon.

Next up will be Romancing SaGa 2 -- I put it back a bit because I wanted to get the instruction manual, but I still don't have it. I'm playing Shining Force II on my other blog, but once I finish that I'll start RS2 whether I have the instructions or not.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Game 36 - Soul & Sword (wrap-up)

This game is another attempt at a "free mission" system where there is no set order to do the various events and quests. Obviously the closest comparison is going to be with the Romancing SaGa series. In comparison to RS1 I think this game wins in a number of aspects.

First of all, it's much easier to find quests than it was in RS1. You don't have to pay to travel around the world, and the quests don't involve talking to random people in specific towns at specific times. If you just take good notes, you'll probably find almost all of the events and quests in the game.

The scaling of the monster difficulty is done much better as well. RS1 had this problem where you would suddenly start fighting ridiculously hard monsters, whereas the S&S difficulty is much more graded. On the whole it's a pretty easy game, with only a few parts that require special tactics or equipment.

One interesting decision the S&S designers made was not to have any sort of overarching story. There really is no final boss and certainly no "save the world" plot. There is one quest that does seem intended to be the last quest, but even that isn't hugely epic. The use of multiple endings was an interesting choice as well, with the ability to leave the island any time you want to end the game.

The battle system is pretty boring, as is typical for games of this era. The random encounter rate is way too high, and you have to walk out of dungeons, which makes the quests more tedious than they should be. Even well-designed quests like the horror themed doll quest or the satirical fairyland quest are undermined by the constant heaps of random encounters that detract from the experience. This last part is why it took me so long to get through the game.

At least the magic users can make good use of their spells because MP restoring stuff is so cheap. The lack of healing spells is odd. I never made much use of the "waza" (tech) abilities.

Ultimately I would give this game a B rank -- a game that's not terrible, but I did have to force myself to finish it. I may need to re-evaluate the criteria for abandoning a game. I'm not sure it benefits anyone to have almost a month be taken up by posts about one game that's only being stretched out that much because I have to force myself to play it.

Next up is a PCE game, "Aurora Quest", which I'm not expecting good things from.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Game 36 - Soul & Sword (Finished)

Finally done!

Quest 30

This is not so much a quest as an event -- a yearly festival in Sultan. It's a pretty sad affair, with no visitors or patrons to enjoy it. Just a band, a few stores, and the "plate hunt" where you go in and fight monsters looking for plates of various metals that can be sold afterwards. Barely worth it.




Quest 31

I found a mask on an earlier quest; with this, I can go to one of the villages and revive a demon, who I then have to kill. Balmar is unusable because the mask took him over.




Quest 32

There's a town with the winged guys in it called Lachwald; before they would refuse to talk to me, but now that I won the tournament they let me in. The king immediately dies when I arrive, and there's a succession dispute between the son of the Minister and the son of the deceased king. I supported the King's son, but in either case you just lead the guy down to the basement so he can recover a tablet proving he's King.



Quest 33

This quest gives us the 4th bead. Around this point I discovered that the Tiara is the best equipment in the game because physical attacks heal you; I had already sold 2 of them by this point because I didn't know what they did, but the last one helped. If you play this, don't sell them!



Quest 34 

There is no real "final" quest but this is probably the closest thing. Once we get the 4th bead, a voice calls us to the mountain at the center of the map. This is a long stage with an outer area and then a cave. The monsters aren't that hard except for this one and its palette swaps:


They can explode and do big damage to all your guys, which is tough if there are a bunch of them. I used the "flee battle" items for any fights with these guys. Other than that, it wasn't that bad even though I still didn't have the stats for a lot of people's ultimate equipment.

There's a boss, but as long as you have the lightning-absorb item and the resist confusion item, he can't really do anything.

Kurisu gets the Hero Sword, making him a true hero!

Now I left the island. After a long scene where many of the people we helped come to say bye, Runna decides to go with Kurisu, and Balmar initially hangs back but decides he wants to go on his own journey and follows. Runna and Kurisu declare their love for each other and Balmar heads out on his own.

So that's Soul&Sword. It's OK; the high encounter rate is a big problem but that's typical for games of this era. I'll post a fuller wrap-up later.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Game 36 - Soul & Sword (Part 3)

Unfortunately I didn't quite finish the game this week.

Quest 17

This was a convenient time to do another timed quest, where you have to go to a village between 2/1-2/10. They need sacrifices to give to a pirate gang, although it's not really clear why they want them -- just to sell into slavery or something like that, but that seems like a strange thing to ask for once a year. In any case, we agree to "get captured" and then break out and beat everyone up.






Once the thieves are beaten, we find their treasure as well as a map to their hidden treasure down south. I headed down to the town where I can get a ship to the island, but first I decided to take out the thieves in a nearby forest.

 

Quest 18

The thieves steal all our clothes, which makes Runna so mad that even when you beat the leader and he asks for forgiveness, you have to fight him 5 times (because Runna refuses to accept his apology) before you can move on. Coming back to the area reveals some new treasure, including something for the Collector quest and a "black box" which opens up a new quest with an upside-down castle that I had visited before but couldn't enter.




Quest 19

Before going to the castle, I headed out for the pirate's treasure. It turns out to be an Ocean Bead, which has no obvious function now. There was also a Fairy Doll in the cave, which the kids want to keep -- it sounds like this will also be something important. But we do have to fight both pirates again:


This is actually kind of hard because the guy on the right uses high-damage spells and attacks that hit everyone, and he heals. I did finally get enough stats to use one of the healing weapons, so that attacking someone on our team with it heals them (there's no healing spells or techs so this is quite helpful).

Now on to the upside down castle. I'm hoping to beat the fighting tournament in the next cycle (year 3).

Quest 20

This is a long dungeon with a bunch of strange levels; it turns out the "castle" is a spaceship and we help the guy by returning his black box so he can leave.


Quest 21

Now I headed up to the desert near the starting town. Here, the two kids find some ants that they think are in trouble -- sounds silly but it turns out they are, and the magic of the queen turns us small so we can solve their problem with the Antlions.

Once we solve their problem, it's back to the surface, and the Queen rewards us by telling us how to get the treasure in the nearby tomb.


Quest 22

This is a short dungeon, and after fighting some mummies I got the Air Bead -- I now have two beads, presumably there's a fire and earth one as well.

Quest 23

This is a quest I probably would not have found without a walkthrough. You have to borrow the maximum amount from the lender (50000 gp) and then return it with 10% interest. You get an Antique Doll as a reward. I read that I had to do this but didn't know what the ultimate quest would be, so I was surprised when I rested at the Istray inn and woke up in a ghostly house.

This is a creepy, atmospheric quest that tells a ghost story -- the main problem is the high encounter rate. It's impossible to sustain the creepy mood when every 5 steps you're thrown into another battle. This was a fun quest but I wish they had disabled encounters for here, at least.
Yeesh
Quest 24

This quest takes 50,000 gold to pay a guy to tell you the location of the Wyvern's mountain. Once there you have to beat some enemies in a certain order, and then the path to the Wyvern itself opens.

The Wyvern's treasure turns out to be the Rainbow Bead, the third of the four beads I need for what seems to be the "final" quest (in a sense).

The Wyvern's dungeon had an Elixir DX in it so I was able to go back and finish the Collector quest, which gave me 300,000 gold! (Quest 25)

Quest 26

Like Quest 23, this one could have been really good. It's a humorous parody of "beat the demon king" RPGs that actually is pretty funny in parts. The big problem is that it's by far the longest quest, with relatively large dungeons that you have to walk out of after you do your task there. The very high encounter rate saps most of the humor that you feel in the quest itself.


But it's still enjoyable in parts. There's a lot of good equipment that you can only buy during this question, so I was happy for the 300K I got from the collector.

Quest 27

Finally I went back to do the fighting tournament, which is necessary to unlock several other quests. I don't think they scaled the enemies in the tournament to your stats, because I completely demolished the fighters -- maybe they didn't do that because it's an important quest. I forgot to even get any screenshots. The guy you beat in the last round gives you a treasure map, and also there was a person in Istory who wanted help but wouldn't talk to anyone but the tournament winner. I'll go there first.

Quest 28

The guy wanted me to train his son, which just involves fighting monsters in a tower until his strength gets to 25. Then he can open a door and please his father.




I realized that I forgot to include an earlier quest where you find a criminal in a random pub around the world, so that's Quest 29.

There are five more quests left. I'm getting a little tired of the game but I just upgraded to bsnes 107.3 which has a faster speedup, so that will help with the random encounters at least. The game is much easier when you get a healing weapon.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Game 36 - Soul & Sword (Part 2)

Quest 9

Now that I have 10K gold I can buy the cooler device that lets me explore the fire mountain. I also made sure to track down the second level freeze spell, and buy a lot of healing items. The dungeon was fairly long, but the boss was easy.


By the time I got there, three of my guys could use the Freeze spell, and he did very little damage.

Now I'm going to take the firebird feathers back to the collector, but I may follow up on a lead or two on my way back. Only 9 months have passed so far despite me wandering a lot and using up a month to wait for the beauty contest, so I can see why people say the 10 year limit doesn't really matter.

I traveled around and tried various things before happening on a few more events.

Quest 10

The idea here is to beat enemies in a drinking battle -- this just means that you and the enemy both lose HP every round. I used Balmore and was able to outlast them all. I probably was drinking an actual beer while doing this part...

Next I tried to win a magic battle in a town up north but was not able to do it (you can't use items, so no healing). So I headed to a mountain.

Quest 11

Here a town was being terrorized by bandits; they wanted to move off the mountain but was unable. I beat up the bandits and escorted them out (also discovering spies in the process).


I'm wondering now if I can beat that magic battle.

Quest 12

I managed to do it. You have to fight 4 guys each of whom has a magic weakness and casts spells that affect everyone. Then there's the boss, who has a fair amount of HP and does various things, including all-attack spells. At some point I acquired a ring that absorbs lightning damage. So it was a matter of doing as much damage as possible before everyone but that ring wearer died, and hoping I had enough MP left and that he cast the spell often enough to not die. This happened, and I won.

Now he wants me to go help him make peace with his wife, a powerful witch, so that's where I'll go next.

Quest 13

This is not especially difficult. There are a lot of monster trapped chests but the dungeon is short -- even though you have to do it twice (you have to go back and bring Rukiman the mage), it's not bad.


Now I have Rukiman as my 6th and final character, so I'll be able to do a quest from earlier where the guy wanted 3 men. First I tried the fighting tournament since that unlocks at least one other quest, but I failed. So I decided to buy a boat for 30,000 and go to the lake I had visited earlier.

Quest 14 

This quest is based on the Aesop's fable about the woodcutter and the golden axe. It's really long; this is the first time the high encounter rate was a bother. You have to go through a long underground area, then a castle, and you have to do the castle twice because you have to bring this angel back to the castle after you recover her robe. I gained a lot of stats, though, and started being able to actually equip some of the things I had found earlier.



Now after travelling a bit to buy better stuff I will try the mission requiring 3 men.

Quest 15

The women and children stay in the bar while we accompany the other three men to a valley that's supposed to be full of gold. They need 6 strong people to twist this skull to open a secret passage.


 We do end up finding the gold, but there's a trap that the men set for us -- we escape, but with no gold, and Rukiman seals up the cave for good.

I found a feature I hadn't noticed before, "search" in the menu. This brings up a list of leads or quests you've heard about, which is useful, although not comprehensive. It only records firm quests, not vague things like "Don't come in this village on 2/10" which is obviously the start of a quest event but won't be recorded.

Quest 16

Next up I bought a magic compass from a village up north so that I could go into the Jukkai forest, which supposedly has man eating trees. It turns out that there are 10 devil trees, and the main large tree at the center sends us out to beat them up.


Afterwards, we learn those were the large tree's children, and a monster living at the top of the trees is messing everything up, so time to take that monster down.
Once we beat that monster, he reveals that he's so connected to the tree now, that the main tree can't live without him. The big tree already knew this, though, and asks us to burn him as his last wish.

I think the idea is that by burning him, his ash will revive or protect the forest, or something along those lines.

I'm almost halfway through the quests; I hope this game will not take me another two weeks to beat, though. Next up I'm heading north to a town where they warned me not to come from 2/1-2/10; obviously I'm going during that time.

There doesn't seem to be any big storyline -- I don't know whether eventually there's a "final" quest or any sort of story development, but it doesn't look like it so far.

Also I'm taking Dokapon Kingdom IV off the list; I was hoping to cover it because it does look interesting despite not really being an RPG. But it requires at least 3 people and you have to use two controllers even if you have computer players. I'll keep an eye on some of the other board game RPGs on my list and see if any of them can be played with less annoyance.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Game 36 - Soul & Sword

Soul&Sword
Released 11/30/1993, published by Banpresto



This is an attempt at a freestyle RPG in the tradition of Romancing SaGa. Like RS, you have a choice of a bunch of different quests to do and the strength of the monsters is based on the strength of your characters. The basic idea is that your character goes to the island of Volcanov, an island that's known for attracting adventurers.

S&S has an unusual feature of having a bunch of different endings. You end the game by leaving the island on a ship, and the ending you get is based on how many of the quests you've completed. If you leave as soon as you gain access to the world map, the hero realizes he's not cut out to be an adventurer and heads back to normal life. There are other "gimmick" endings; if you rest for a year in the first town without doing any quests, the hero decides he likes the town so much he's going to get a job and live there.

Time passes as you stay in inns or travel to different places, and there are events that can only be done at certain seasons or specific days. There is a 10 year time limit but from what I've read that's way more time than you need to do all the events and quests in the game. My idea is to see if I can at least get the "normal" ending without a walkthrough and then I can use a walkthrough to finish any quests I missed for the "true" ending. But if that would require starting from the beginning I'll just move on to the next game.


The graphics are pretty underwhelming.

There are 6 stats that each have there own experience level; it doesn't tell you how much experience you get for a fight, though. In theory, attacking should increase strength and so on, but every stat seems to get experience from any battle. Equipment is based on your stats (so you need a certain strength to use the next powerful weapon, etc.)

There are apparently 34 quests, and they can don't have any specific order (although some apparently only open after you do other quests). I'm not following a walkthrough so my numbering of the quests is just the order I did them in.

I tried the first question and got my butt kicked badly; I looked at a Japanese guide to see if I was missing something about the system -- there is another quest in town that's much easier to do first, so that's what I did.

Quest 1





The school is haunted! It turns out a teacher at the school is doing experiments on people to make ghosts. You beat a possessed adventurer and then the teacher himself, and the quest is over. One oddity in this game is that there are no healing spells, but the healing items are quite cheap.

Finishing a quest can get you money and items; in this case I also got a second adventurer in the party, Lenna, who makes the other quest much easier.

Quest 2

The thug son of a rich man in town has taken over the pub with his gang. Finishing this quest just requires beating him (twice). Then his father makes him join your party.

Now the pub is open for business, and I got several leads there for future quests. Two are events that only occur on specific days, so I decided to head out to one of the other towns first. First I went to the collector's house; he sent me on a fetch errand to make sure I was trustworthy, and then requested an Elixir. From there I set off for the Mirror Castle, finding a new town along the way. I learned about a festival in this town (Sultan) from 11/11-11/20, which is still some time away.

Before doing the Mirror Castle, since it was the beginning of April I decided to go down to Madock, where there's a beauty contest on 5/10.

A stat menu

Quest 3

Before the beauty contest I found a guy in town who is having a problem with an "endless stairway" in his basement. This quest just involves going down the stairs and fighting random encounters until you meet the boss. The first time I lost because I didn't have any paralyze healing items -- I can tell from this quest and another one that stat restoring items are essential to the game. The second time I had enough of them and won.

Quest 4

Runna, our party member, enters the beauty contest. You have to pick how to make her behave in the contest to get big points -- I think it's just random, but I won (if you can lose, I'm not sure).

Quest 5

In Madock there were also kids that a guy wanted us to escort to a northern town. While I was going there I passed through a number of other towns and got some leads on additional quests that I can't do right now. Several of them cost too much money, or require me to do something else first. In one town you can join a cult, which ends the game.

In the north town it turned out the house we were supposed to escort the kids to is the wrong house, and going back to Madock, it turns out the guy there just wanted to get rid of the kids and he's gone. The kids join the party...that might seem bad but they have a lot of MP and don't do that poorly in battle.

Quest 6

After this I wandered again; eventually I came to a western-themed town where I have to pick a side between Clint and Giuliano (named after famous Spaghetti Western actors). I chose Clint. You then have to save him from Giuliano and fight G. one-on-one. The first time I lost because I picked Balmore to fight him. He uses an attack that causes broken bones (disabling the fight command), and he does it every round so you pretty much can't beat him without magic. So I lost that time.



Second time I used Runna and it was easy; I got kicked out of town afterwards but at least with 10K. I was also able to pick up an Elixir, which the collector guy wants.

Quest 7

The next town over was supposedly guarded by a big monster. He tricks you into a contract where you have to talk to 16 people to find out the single one telling the truth. Of course once you solve the puzzle he just attacks. I messed up at first because I didn't know the yellow numbers coming out from physical attack damage meant he was getting healed -- once I switched to magic it was over quickly.

Now I will head back to give the Elixir to the collector, and perhaps I can head back to the volcano now that I have 10,000 to buy the cooling unit. My guys still don't have high enough stats for the next level up of weapons/armor.

Quest 8

On the way, I decided to pay the 10K for entry to the Mirror Castle. This is just a bunch of tricks and traps with treasure chests to find -- when you find them all, you "win". Some of the equipment can be sold for more than 10K so it may be worth it early in the game, especially since I still can't equip any of this stuff.

Now on to the fire mountain.

The oddest thing about the game so far is that I've completed 8 of the 34 quests and my stats still aren't good enough to upgrade my equipment. There's also magic and techs that can be bought -- these also require certain stats to use. If you buy it, anyone (with the requisite stats) can use it. I was able to buy the second Fire magic which a few people can use; that's helped quite a bit. The techs (which cost HP) I haven't done much with.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Game 35 - Illusion of Gaia

Illusion of Gaia (ガイア幻想紀)
Released 11/27/1993, developed by Quintet, published by Enix



This is a spiritual successor to Soul Blader (Blazer in English), and the second in the loose trilogy that ends with Tenchi Sozo (Terranigma). I played this game when it was first out in the US and really liked it, and I played it again some time ago and liked it then too. I still liked it after this replay, and the storyline that I always liked is especially impressive now that I've seen what else was coming out around it.

I did some spot checking vs. the English game script, and the translation seemed reasonably accurate. There is the usual Nintendo censorship, with references to alcohol and religion removed. Some names are changed (for instance, Tem->Will, Peggy->Hamlet, Rob->Lance). The ending sequence seems very slow in the English version. This happens a lot in localizations because Japanese requires fewer symbols than English does to express the same thing, so a reasonable text speed for Japan becomes a crawl in English if they don't do any changes.

One thing I wanted to do in this playthrough is get all the 50 red jewels -- this opens an optional dungeon that features a boss from Soul Blazer. I had never done this in any of my previous plays; it's very difficult to do without a walkthrough. I believe this is only the second game I've played on this blog (after Dragon Quest V) that had an optional "superboss" dungeon.

I'm going to write this post more as a review than a step-by-step playthrough; this is a game that I think everyone should try, and it's not especially long.


The game begins with Tem (Will) and his friends. Tem's father went out adventuring, seeking the Tower of Babel, and never returned. Tem has some sort of psychic power. Soon he is called to Edward Castle to surrender a ring his father had left him, and once there, he gets thrown into prison. The voice of his father calls to him, telling him to seek out the six Mystery Dolls (Mystic Statues in the localization) and then come to Babel. After the princess Karen rescues him from the dungeon, you face the first dungeon.


For the most part the game is very linear. Tem attacks with his flute, and gains several power ups during the adventure. Beating all the enemies on a screen gets you a stat upgrade (HP, Strength, or Defense). This means that dungeon areas are often quite tough when you first get to them, but once you clear a few areas and get some of the stat ups, they get much more manageable. Soon Tem is able to transform into the dark warrior Freedan.


Freedan gets his own powers throughout the game. Although he is more powerful than Tem, sometimes you need Tem's abilities to progress through the game, and you can only transform between characters at certain specific save points.

One great thing about the game is the variety of locations. The world seems oddly Earthlike without actually being Earth, and you visit the ruins of ancient civilizations like Angkor Wat and the Nazca line drawings.



There are also extended story sequences, like when Tem and Karen spend many days on a raft floating at sea.


All of this gives the game a much bigger scope and richer experience than other RPGs were offering at the time, even if it isn't great by later standards. The ending stayed with me for many years after I played it, especially with the great BGM:


The gameplay is a bit light on the RPG elements; there are no experience levels or money, and no equippable items. You just progress in stats by clearing rooms. This, plus the relatively linear gameplay and almost total lack of backtracking, sometimes make it seem more like an action game than an RPG, but it's still a lot of fun.

This is a game I suspect some people reading this have played, so let me know about your memories or thoughts on the game. 

Quintet would follow this game up with Tenchi Sozo (Terranigma), which is a masterpiece by any standards; one of my favorite RPGs of all time. I'll get to that eventually, but up next (after I finish Just Breed on the other blog) is Soul & Sword, an RPG that seems somewhat Romancing Saga-like.