Sunday, January 5, 2020

PCE Game 27 - Sol Moonarge

Sol Moonarge (ソル:モナージュ)
Released 1/7/1994, published by IREM


1994 begins with a PC Engine game. IREM created this game by soliciting ideas from fans in their magazine, but apparently due to problems with IREM, it was delayed several times. Wikipedia says that few copies were sold but it's available on ebay for a low price so I don't know if that's accurate.

The game begins with a montage showing various scenes and characters.





Then the game begins with the hero Soreil, the first one in that collage above. I don't know why his nose is so long; there's no explanation in the game but maybe in the instruction manual? Anyway, Soreil is a knight and his mother delivers a message from the king, who sends him on a mission to find Sarj, a seer who is missing from the castle along with the Sword of Light.


The graphics are large and colorful; I would say that's one of the strong points of this game despite the design of the main character. Unfortunately it suffers from the usual drawbacks of a very high random encounter rate and a cookie cutter AMID battle system.


One distinctive feature is that your level up bonuses are dependent on what you do in battle, but even so the magic users are so limited in MP that they basically can't be used outside of boss battles. You gain magic by equipping items on characters, and you can select how much MP to spend on the spell to control its power.

Soreil gets a lead on Sarj but then has to save some villagers from a thieves' tower. This requires a lot of grinding because Soreil is by himself. You need plenty of herbs and antidotes.

Oh, you can also peek in on someone bathing and get the 1990s style ero-graphics:

Do I need to censor this?

As a side note, I wonder when nipples became verboten? There are plenty of 80's and early 90s anime that have nipples in them but at some point during the 90s (I think) it was no longer acceptable in normal video games or manga/anime intended for kids.


The boss builds up power and then attacks, so you just defend a lot and heal/attack until you win. A girl named Mappy joins you, and she's able to read some writing in Sarj's room that says where he went, so we're off to the northern mountain.


We meet Sarj, who gives Soreil the Light Sword and tells him that they need to protect the Magic Seed because an evil person named Silver is trying to use it for nefarious purposes. Silver shows up and kills Sarj, but not before he can teleport us all away. Soreil is back alone, in the Moon Temple with two goddesses. They immediately get captured by Silver, and Soreil goes after them.


The dungeon design is pretty good; all the dungeons look different and have various special features about them (in this case the gears carry you around to different places).


Soreil beats Silver, but one of the goddesses is captured. Soreil has to nurse the other one back to health, and they fall in love and have a child. Now the story moves ahead 16 years to Soreil's son Sonia. Soreil has disappeared looking for the other goddess and Silver, who is apparently still trying to use the Magic Seed.


Sonia tries to go to the castle but is blocked; it seems that a seer named Black with the same long nose as Soreil and Sonia has bewitched the king. Sonia has to go to the thief tower again to get a chest that Black is interested in to get access to the castle, but once he does that, Black captures him and a girl, shrinks them, and leaves them as a plaything for the Princess, who turns out to be the other goddess.


She tells us that if we find the magic mirror that Black is using it can turn us back into full size.






The mirror reflects our characters, and when one is reflected that character takes half the damage that is dealt to the mirror. But a lot of healing herbs solve the problem.

Apparently this is about 1/3 through the game. The graphics and the dungeon design are interesting, and there are some notable things about the system. But overall it's just too grindy and the system fundamentals too basic.

Friday, December 20, 2019

1994 Game list (first half)

I'm going to start making lists of upcoming games that collect what I'll be playing, skipping, rejecting as not an RPG, etc. This post will cover the first 6 months of 1994. The bold games are ones I'll be playing.

Sol Moonarge (PCE)

Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblems (SRPG, I did this on my other blog)

Brain Lord (Questionable as RPG, came out in English)

Gaia Saver - This is supposedly a kusoge

Emerald Dragon (PCE) - This game is on the SNES as well, but the PC Engine version is supposedly better.

Star Breaker (PCE)

Majin Tensei (SRPG, already played)

Hiouden (SRPG, I did this on the other blog)

Xanadu (PCE) - An original action RPG developed directly for the PC Engine by Falcom

Uncharted Waters II (Questionable as an RPG, English release)

Kabuki Rocks

First Queen: Olnic War

Day of the Idea - By the same people that did Maka Maka, but this is supposedly much better.

Eye of the Beholder (Computer port, English release)

Shin Megami Tensei II

Kenyu Densetsu Yaiba (This is close to an action RPG but doesn't quite cross the bar for me.)

Kerokerokeroppi's Adventure Journal

Shadowrun (English release)

Super Robot Wars EX (SRPG, played)

Blue Crystal Rod (Not an RPG)

Princess Minerva (PCE)

Monster Maker - Dark Dragon Knight (PCE) - Another kusoge

Final Fantasy VI (I might actually play this, we'll see when I get there)

Great Fursuit Adventure: Dream Palace - Another kusoge

Dark Kingdom

Popful Mail (I might play this one; there's a PCE version as well but it's substantially different.)

Cosmic Fantasy 4 Part 1 (PCE) - This game got split into two parts; the other 3 CF games have been not great so I'm not expecting a lot out of this one either.

Ultima Gaiden: Plot of the Black Night (released in English as Runes of Virtue II)

Revival of Gaia (PCE)

Slayers

Zig Zag Cat - I assume this got put on a list because you can buy things and there are towns, but it's not an RPG.

Brandish (English release)

----

Quite a few PCE games here -- 1994 is really the end of the PCE's RPG life; there are a handful in 1995 and one in 1996.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Game 41 - Shin Momotaro Densetsu wrap-up

Overall I would say this is a pretty good game for this period, although it had the potential to be a great game if the designers had been less tied down by old NES-era standards.

The story and characters are fun; Momotaro doesn't talk and none of them have huge depth, but if you're familiar with the Japanese folktales it's fun to get all the people on your team. There are a lot of optional side characters to get too, although most of them aren't very useful. There are other optional things too like adding services to your castle. The animals that follow Momotaro can also be developed. I didn't do this much but I think they can be more useful if you take the time to feed them and such.

The battles are only so-so. With a few exceptions it's pretty standard AMID, and with this plus the slow walking I think a speedup key helps a lot. I absolutely hate the "main character hits 0 hp = game over" system that I've seen several times in previous games. This game is not as bad as some others about instant kill things, but the final boss takes some luck because of this system. If Momotaro gets hit by 3 attacks in a row he's gone unless you've done some serious overlevelling.

The enemies have a lot of variety and it's not just a bunch of palette swapped enemies. The graphics are serviceable -- the sprites are tiny NES type, but I guess that fits the somewhat cutesy mood of the game (despite the rather dark storyline at points).

The real downside is the interface. It's too cumbersome to do things like heal, trade items, or equip things. Final Fantasy VI is coming out in 4 months so it's annoying to see companies still clinging to the old ways.

On the whole I did enjoy the game and it's definitely one of the better games I've played on this blog so far.

Next week I'll post a list of games I'll be playing and skipping in the first half of 1994.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Game 41 - Shin Momotaro Densetsu (Finished)

Once you get the ship and diving castle, most of the game is open to you. The next section is fairly non-linear; your main goal first is to get the remaining eight star pieces. One has to be fished with a fishing rod. Another is in a cave. One is simply sitting on the ocean floor. One is in hope city, you just have to give a man some food and you get it in return. With the three I already had this puts me at seven. The mirror shows that the last one is on the Demon Island which I can't get to now.


So the next step is to save Lord Enma, the boss of the first game. To save him we need to be able to dive the castle even farther into the ocean, which requires the services of a man named Gennai Hidari. He needs the Mermaid Tear. Unfortunately Karla has attacked the Mermaid Village and slaughtered the mermaids.

But a few survived, and after healing them, they were able to show me where they hid the tear. So now with that, plus the help of the Wind and Thunder God, Gennai is able to rejigger the castle so it can go even deeper, leading us to where Enma is trapped.


To save Enma we have to lose 500 total HP. Each person goes in turn and loses HP until they die (why not switch out at 1 HP?) and Enma is freed. Karla tries to cause a cave-in to trap us underneath the ground, but we escape with the help of Shuten Doji, and end up on an island where Princess Kaguya's village is (we're still trying to save her). Enma also joins us. He has two moves a turn, which is pretty useful.

At this point the best place to level is underwater with invincibility. Level 41 is enough to beat the game with a few more level ups from the remaining dungeons.

Kaguya's grandfather gives Momotarou a mirror that will show the way to the Hero equipment that he lost at the beginning of the game. The sword is in the lake in the village, but it has lost all its power so it's useless right now. The armor is in a cave on the sea floor. I could not figure out how to get the helmet for quite a while -- it's on a small island that moves through the ocean, but even when I went to the place the mirror showed it wasn't there. Finally I found out from a walkthrough site that it won't appear without first visiting this place I thought was optional, that you need 90 popularity to enter.

This gets you into the Star Road, based on the Tanabata legend. I'm not sure why this allows the island to appear, but afterwards we get the Hero Helmet.

The Boots are in a tower where we also have to face Rashomon demon. But the tower itself is pretty good for levelling.

Apparently even if you win you continue on. Now Momotarou finds another warp to the moon, and we make our way back to the moon palace where the game started. The boss awaiting Momotarou is Daida, who stole our stuff at the beginning.


He's surprisingly easy given how often he beats you up throughout the game. Anyway after the fight he decides to join Momotarou but Karla just kills him instead, and of course goes whining back to Basara saying that Momotaro stabbed him in the back.

Now that Momotaro has the 8 moon pieces we can revive the Phoenix.


The Phoenix is able to carry Momotaro across the Styx River to Hell, where Karla awaits. He tricks Momotaro by promising to save Kaguya's life if he (or Ajase) tells him the truth about Kaguya. It turns out that Ajase is part Moon part Demon. I'm not sure why this is so important to Karla, but he afterwards goes back on his promise and kills Kaguya.


We take her back to her village where the grandparents look after her along with Ajase, while we go deal with Karla. The final dungeon is fairly long and in several parts. The most annoying is the first one.

If you take the wrong rope it breaks and you have to go back to the beginning across the lava and begin again. Next up are a cold hell, a burning hell, and several other floors. Along the way I found Enma's strongest equipment. Finally we reach Basara's area and fight Karla himself.


He goes down easily, and next up is Basara.


Basara's all attack makes it tough, but with steady healing and use of MP restoring Luck Mallets (which you can get from the sage mountain and chests), he's not too bad. Basara is ready to form an alliance with humans, but Karla reappears -- it was just an apparition that we killed. He goes to kill Basara but Ajase throws himself in front of Karla. Karla then takes Ajase's blood which turns him into a huge monster. He then poisons the seas and sinks most of the continents of the world. Fortunately at this point we get a chance to save and rest before taking on Karla, the final boss.


He's pretty tough mostly because he's unfair -- one of his moves attacks 4 times. If 3 or 4 of those attacks go to Momotaro, it's game over unless you have one of the auto-revive items. I lost the first time. After that I gave Momotaro two of the auto-revives and just kept using all my MP restore items on him so he could use his Rokkaku attack. As Karla loses HP he turns to stone, and eventually turns completely to stone.


Now Kaguya, who is back alive, gives Momotarou the Moon Bell, which he throws into the sea. This cleanses the ocean and apparently the continents will come back -- but isn't everyone on them dead? The game just ends at this point but it seems like 90% of humanity got wiped out at the end of the game and they don't really deal with that at all.

I guess as long as our party and the three animals survived it's OK.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Game 41 - Shin Momotaro Densetsu (Part 2)

This is quite a long game, but I hope I can have it finished by next week.

One other system I failed to mention last time is the "popularity". As you progress through the game you gain popularity, but you can also lose it by letting your comrades die in battle and making wrong choices. If you get over 80 you get discounts and over 90 or 100 you start getting other good things -- I can't keep it much above 80 though because it goes down 1-3 any time your guys hit 0 HP.

Last time I had just managed to wake up Netarou, who moves and lets me pass the bridge. Ajase, one of the sons of Basara, is growing increasingly suspicious of Karla and tries to fight Momotarou, but leaves seeing how honest his fighting is.

Now we progress to the odd Smile Village, which has an area with a lot of bizarre monsters.


They're worth a lot of XP but do strange things like ask you quizzes, feed you onigiri, and such. There is one good encounter, though -- a friend that makes you invincible for a short time. Normally this wears off quickly enough that you can only fight one or at most 2 battles. But, if you use the Demon Flute you can repeatedly call encounters without moving and level up easily. You can also go anywhere else on the map with Momotarou's warp spell.

Smile village has a strange singer menacing the town, but he goes down easily.

Next up is Hope Village, which is all in darkness which requires you to solve some puzzles to get access to the central tower, and then fight Ashura.


He'll join the party afterwards. Now Hope Town opens up; it's a huge town with a lot of shops. There's also a lot of slowdown; I recommend bsnes' overclock option to deal with that. There's also a secret woman's bath which lowers your popularity but gives you a special picture that I guess is a standby of this series.


Now a castle gets built for Momotarou very quickly, which becomes sort of a base to hold all your extra characters. But soon, we meet the Wind God:


He blows away all the characters, leaving me with just Momotarou. Kintarou can be recovered pretty quickly, but the rest take a while. It's actually better to switch around your party so Urashima isn't there because losing his healing for a long time hurts. I found the best party member to replace him is Mashira, that singing dude that fought us earlier.


His attack has the keyboard, and he can do various moves by playing songs. I don't know how you're supposed to figure these out without a walkthrough, but for me the most useful are:
  • Copy the attack stat of the strongest character (Bb, C, B)
  • Heal everyone (uses MP: C# G# E)
  • Attack all (D# F# A)
Next the party proceeds to the cold north, where Yasha Hime is injured. Healing her (with Ashura's help) requires an item from a cave.


 After the party is together, I proceeded to the southern continent through a cave, and then proceeded to the "new village", where Karla had crucified some of my characters.


Karla sends us on a quest to recover some item for him, but partway through Ajase appears and agrees to help us, and we head back to recover our party members. After some fighting, Karla just burns the city down and then sends Wind and Thunder God ahead to put poison rain all over the land.


Chasing them on, we arrive at Sarugani Town.


This is a difficult fight. Ashura can get a duplicate of himself out so that you can heal twice, and then if Mashira copies the attack power he will be a decent fighter. Once Thunder God is down it's much easier. After this, Wind and Thunder God decide that Momotarou is right and join the party. Meanwhile Karla continues to lie to Basara to trick him into to continuing his fight against the human world. We also get a ship here.

I still have 6 of the moon crystal parts to get. I got the third by getting a strange monster on my team and then going to a town with a bunch of other strange monsters. After this I went to the Mechanical Village and upgraded the castle so it can fly, and also dive in the water.


That's it for this update -- time to go seek out more of the moon crystals.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Game 41 - Shin Momotaro Densetsu

Shin Momotaro Densetsu (新桃太郎伝説)
Released 12/14/1993, published by Hudsonsoft



This is the final game of 1993. It's another entry in a series of games by Hudsonsoft, beginning with the 1987 Momotaro Densetsu for the Famicom. This one is apparently a remake of Momotaro Densetsu II for the PC Engine, thus a sequel to the original. The main character is based on the legendary Momotaro, or Peach Boy. The basic story is that an old man and woman who want children find a peach, and Peach Boy is born from it. When he grows up, he goes out to defeat demons that are troubling the area. Along the way he picks up three animal companions by giving them millet dumplings, and with their help he beats the demons.

The game begins after the first game, where Momotaro defeated King Enma, who then decided to try to bring love and friendship to the demon world. But King Basara, influenced by a demon Karla, decides to imprison Enma, and capture Princess Kaguya again. Momotaro goes to save her, but Basara's sun Daida steals all of Momotaro's equipment and powers, scattering them into 8 jewel parts around the world.

Momotaro wakes up in the old man and woman's house, and he has to set out to try once again to defeat the demons and save Kaguya.

I was pretty disappointed by this game at first. This is the end of 1993. Final Fantasy VI comes out in four months. And this is what Shin Momotaro Densetsu looks like:


It's basically an NES game. The interface is awkward, and there's an 8 item limit (with no doubling of items). Using powers, like healing, require way too many menus and button presses -- something that was common in earlier games but most developers have figured out by now. At least the damage numbers come up on screen instead of being communicated through text boxes. And in weapon shops you can exchange your weapons and armor for what they sell, seeing the numbers, so that's nice.

Ginji, a swordsman, joins up as a friend -- he has 4 different katanas that have different strengths or side abilities (e.g. healing after the attack).

By the way, the overworld is done with Mode 7 graphics and benefits greatly from bsnes' recent "Hires Mode 7" feature -- it looks a lot better at 720p.

The first thing we do is go see a Hermit. These are scattered throughout the game, and teach Momotaro his powers after fulfilling various conditions. For this one, you just have to beat him in a fight and get Kintan, the healing power.


The battle system, for the most part, is standard AMID. There is a system where the weather can change in battle, giving certain powers or monsters a boost or a nerf. Also Momotaro never kills the enemies, he こらしめるs them, which can be translated as "chasten" or "teach a lesson."

Next up Momotaro frees some cave dwelling rats from monsters, and then gets the first of the 8 moon crystals. The next power, escape from dungeons, is past that. To get this, you have to escape from a cellar in 5 minutes via secret passages (if you fail you can try as much as you want).

Momotaro then has to make his way through a mountain, which has some nice graphics.



In this area you have to learn the thunder technique to get through the rocks that block your way.


Eventually Momotaro defeats a demon and rescues the bird, who joins the party if you give him a millet dumpling. The animal companions don't fight directly. You feed them things you can find or buy, increasing their stats and teaching them different techniques, some of which are in battle, some out.

Next up is the Hanasaka Jiisan, although the demons destroy all of his flowers. When Momotaro defeats the main demon, Karla comes in and kills it, although a different horned demon seems to save him before he does so (this happens several times in successive boss battles).


After, the flowers are restored and the dog Pochi joins up, and in the next cave, the monkey (the last animal companion).

Next up in the traditional myths is Kintaro, who joins up on the adventure. He has various special attack moves that reduce his HP. In the next section Daida appears again but quickly leaves, frustrated at how weak Momotaro is.



After we beat Ryutoki, Karla once again kills him but he's rescued by the mysterious figure.

Next up is Urashima Taro, who is kind of the priest/spellcaster of the party. This part is really annoying because (following the myth), Karla opens a box that ages your entire party. You already walk slowly in dungeons, and now you walk even slower -- even with the speedup key on it's pretty slow, I can't imagine this on a real console.


This fight starts out hard but Urashima Taro comes in with the medicine to restore us to youth, and Karla is thwarted once again. Now underwater to save the Dragon King's palace from the demons. This also provides a way to the moon, where Momotaro is given a mirror that shows the locations of the remaining Crystals.


The next goal is to go up to the snowy area. Karla sets up a set of puzzles/traps in the Oe Mountain -- I don't like puzzle solving with a bunch of random encounters, but that's what you have to do. The boss in this area is Shuten Doji, who gives Momotaro the second moon crystal.


In the ice area, we go to the Netaro village, which I think is based on this legend. He's asleep blocking the bridge to the next area, and Karla's demons start attacking the town with ice.

The nearby ice tower has pegs that we need to cross using a hookshot given by the giant Dekataro.



The boss of this section is Princess Yasha. She joins the party after being defeated.


Now Dekataro gives us what we need to wake up Netaro.

This seems to be about a third of the game so it's pretty long. It's not bad, I just wish that they had put more effort into the interface to make it more like 1993 and less like 1989.