Monday, March 19, 2018

PCE Game 9 - Tenshi no Uta

Tenshi no Uta (天使の詩)
Released 10/25/1991, published by Nihon Telnet

Hey look, I actually completed a PCE game. It's not especially good but it's short, and since the second game continues off the first I thought it was worth finishing. It's what you would expect from a game of this era -- standard, DQ-style RPG with little to distinguish it from other games. The title means "Song of the Angel."
The art is not the greatest -- Claire's hair is big.

It also follows the pattern of a lot of the CD RPGs I've been playing in that it has some cinematic scenes and voiced dialog, but not much. Tengai Makyo and Cosmic Fantasy seem to have put a lot of effort in that area whereas the games since then have not. The music of this game is fairly good, although there's still the common problem that the music not being played off the CD (e.g. the battle theme) is significantly lower quality than the CD music, and has a harsh sound in comparison. It also seems like the volume isn't consistent and the harsh battle music is much louder than the map music being played off the CD.
The figures on the map are very small.

The most distinctive feature of the game is that it takes place in something similar to the real world. You begin on "Erin" (i.e. Ireland) and then go to Brittania. Many of the locations are at least based on real world locations (like Portsmouth or Glastonbury Hill), but I was not able to tell whether the map actually looks like Great Britain. This also comes with an intriguing setup where Christianity has gotten a strong foothold in the region but the druids and ancient gods are still around. Unfortunately this aspect isn't developed very well and it was never clear to me how the "angels" of the title and the heavenly beings related to either of these real world religions.
A battle

The main character is Kearu (Cure in Final Fantasy), who wants to go to the castle with his fiance Claire to have their wedding blessed. Along the way she gets captured by a demon, who Kearu learns is working for Lucifer. So the first task is to save her. Along the way we pick up some of the other members of the party. Buzen is an older magician, Enya a young celtic woman, and Jito, a swordsman. The party is unbalanced because Jito is only there for part of the time, so for much of the game your party is a fighter and three magic people. Like most games of this era you have to save a good amount of your MP for boss fights.
Claire captured by Kaim

Eventually we make it into the tower where Kaim (the demon that stole Claire) is. Even though the first fight against Kaim is an automatic story event loss, when you actually fight him for real he's easy.
A boss fight

After saving Claire, we learn that Claire is the descendant of the heavenly beings, which is why Lucifer wants her. Now the game turns into the normal idea of defeating Lucifer, but that requires travelling around to find various angel artifacts. First we need two mirrors, then the Angel's whisper which allows us to activate four shrines around the world, opening the way to the heavenly kingdom.
The full party

Up there Kurea receives the strongest equipment, and we meet Claire's mother Maria. She gives us the Angel's Tear.
Claire's mother, who looks more evil than she's supposed to

Heading back to the surface we find a way to convert the ship into an airship, and then we can go to the final dungeon.
A spiderweb in the final dungeon

The final dungeon has all the previous bosses, but they're all the same strength they were when I fought them the first time. So they're pushovers.

Lucifer himself is not that hard -- you can seal his magic with Buzen's spells, which helps a lot, and from there it's just a matter of buffing and healing. He's got a lot of HP but his attacks aren't that bad.

In the conclusion, Claire sacrifices herself to seal Lucifer away, and Kurea walks away in sorrow...the end.
Maria takes Claire to the heavenly kingdom
For 1991 this certainly is not a bad game but it seems like it has more potential than actual quality. I'll be interested to see if they improve on the system in Tenshi no Uta II, and then in the eventual Super Famicom third game.

Next up is Breath of Fire, a game I imagine some readers have played.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Game 22 - Jungle Wars 2 Review

Story/Characters: Don't expect much from this area. The story is a pretty simple A->B->C affair with little in the way of twists or surprises. The characters are also just sketches, with virtually no character development and only the slightest backstory.
World: The world is a lot of fun. It's based on things like Tarzan or the Jungle Book, although they throw in technology, robots, and other stuff. Each area has a lot of personality, whether it's the penguin kingdoms, the large City, or the "lake of tears."

Game Flow: You have a lot of freedom in the order to do certain events, and you can nearly always find something to do just by exploring ahead. In this case it's a very easy game to play and keep interested in. However, as I mentioned in the last post, the random encounter rate is a huge problem. Even cutting the rate in half it would still be too high. My feeling is always that if the encounter rate is too high, it makes exploring a chore rather than the fun it should be. It also throws off the game balance because even though I ran from a huge number of the fights, I was still clearly overlevelled for the boss fights.

System: Standard attack-item-defense-magic for the most part. Mio's MP are high enough that you can actually use her spells in random battles, which is always appreciated. Sasuke has special moves involving tree nuts and fruits, and he can also do random things to help in battle. The 4th character you can choose, and they also often have pseudo-AI and random stuff.

Side Quests/Optional Content:There are several optional dungeons and events you can do, as well as an auction, a tournament, and paying money to rebuild the railroad. You can even do all this stuff after you beat the game.

Interface: These games continue to baffle me. Final Fantasy IV is now two years old, and games are still being made that lack a unified "action" button, and where it's cumbersome to see what the stats of equipment are in stores. This doesn't seem like it should be that hard. Even if the games are copying Dragon Quest, DQV had all this stuff. I just don't get it.
Graphics/Sound: The graphics are still basically NES-style with upgraded colors and such. The enemy sprites are varied and creative, and there are few (if any) palette swap monsters. The music is servicable and sounds Jungle-ish but isn't too memorable.

On the whole this is another Average game. I might have been able to push it to Good if it weren't for the random encounter rate. Perhaps it's a testament to the game's quality that even with that significant flaw, I was still interested in playing the game and was rarely forcing myself to play it.

Next on the list is Dorabocchan Cho Makai Taisen. This game is debatable as an RPG. I think it fits my definitions but just barely -- however, since it came out in English (as Twisted Tales of Spike McFang) I will skip it.

After that is Neugeir, which is not an RPG by my definition.

So skipping those, the next SFC game is Breath of Fire. Even though this did come out in English, it's such a famous game that I'll at least give it a try.

I also made some changes to the rules (on the rule page) but it's basically just clarifying what I was already doing. Basically it just says that if I try a game that has been released in English or that I've played before, I can stop if I want for whatever reason.

Finally, I'm going to be out of town the next two weekends, so updates could be sporadic until April 1.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Game 22 - Jungle Wars 2 Part 2 (Final)

This game has two issues that make it considerably less fun than it could otherwise be. The first is the encounter rate, which may be the highest I've seen in any game to this point. In some dungeons you get encounters every 2-3 steps. The second problem is that once again, designers have decided to make it a game over if the main character's HP ever get to 0. Since there are monsters that use instant death spells and do critical hits and spells that do more than your max HP, this means that at least a few times during the game you're going to get a game over just by pure luck. It's not as bad as some games since "game over" sends you back to your last hospital with some money subtracted. But it's still frustrating, and there are some bosses that require luck to beat just to avoid this instant game over.

With that said, let's see how the rest of the game goes.
Riding the train

In the last post I had gotten 4 of the 7 items necessary to revive Atimos, and headed north. There's a railroad on this continent that you can ride to various destinations. At the top of the land is the railroad office, which accepts donations to finish the rail line. Instead I just went to the airport and flew to The City, a big place at the NW of the map.
Riding the train in the city
The City is where Thomas is from, and we need to help him take on his nemesis Dr. Pochi, who has built a mech and is hiding under the city. Mio's father is also here, but he doesn't say much. This quest doesn't have anything to do with the overall story but you have to do it to be able to leave The City and go to the next area. This is also where I found the random encounter rate to get really frustrating. The sewers here have encounters about every 1-4 steps. From here on out my basic strategy was to fight battles until Sasuke has enough speed to go first in every fight, and then run from everything (running is 100% effective).
Dr. Pochi
Finally I found Dr. Pochi and his mech under the city, and since I was so overlevelled from all the encounters he went down easily. Like most of the villains in this game he apologizes and he and Thomas clear up their misunderstanding. Apparently Pochi thought that Thomas had stolen his robot but he was just trying to help, or something.

Now in the Zoo (yes, there's a zoo, with talking animals), we meet a whale who tells us about the trouble the penguin land is having. The Emperor and King Penguin are fighting a war against each other. Since the 5th magic item is there, I'm happy to accept the whale's offer to take me there.
Doo doo doo
In the icy kingdom, we meet the penguin magician Marin, who says that the Emperor and King Penguin each think the other stole his crown, and that's why they're fighting. Kabura, the keeper of the Atimos item, has been imprisoned and we'll have to end the war to free him.
Marin the penguin
At this point I just couldn't take the encounter rate and used a walkthrough -- there are two mines with enemies, and the Emperor's town and castle also have encounters. Basically what's going on is that two members of the Uruuru group have stolen the crowns themselves and blamed the penguins. I had to unmask each Uruuru group member, fight them in the mine, and return the crowns. That stops the war and Kabura is able to give us not an item, but a word of control that we can use to control Atimos once he's been summoned. Unfortunately, the Uruuru group people overhear it.
This is one of the Uruuru members
Now Kabura gets a friend of his, an old man with a reindeer, to take us to the next continent, where the last two items are waiting.
Yes, this is exactly what you think.
I arrived in a mountainous area, where the Uruuru members were hard at work -- they had apparently made a machine to replace the Dream Gem for opening the chests with the Atimos items. Also now if you lose a fight against some of them you also lose one of the items; I'm not sure how you get it back.
The two Uruuru factions fighting each other
The panther Ranba tells us he hid his item in the Mist Tower, which I found to be the most tedious dungeon in the game. It's a long dungeon, and you're facing an encounter every 2 or 3 steps. There are also these bone monkeys that have very high speed so you can't run immediately, and they have annoying MP sapping attacks and a critical hit that killed my main character from full HP. I got a number of game overs on this tower, and had levels in the high 50s by the end.
Mist Tower
But, I did find the item eventually, and fought off the Uruuru group who came to try to take it. Now just one left, in the northern desert. There's a lake in the middle of the desert that has been made by some natural process involving an earthquake, that sank the ancient city of Atimos. There are a lot of little villages around the desert, and after upgrading my equipment and gathering information I was able to get the last item from a turtle -- after fighting both Uruuru factions in a row. Fortunately they're not that hard because Mio's lighting magic is extremely damaging and she also now has an attack up spell.
I also got a trumpet to call this elephant, but I never figured out what his purpose was...

...except to cause graphical glitches.

Now with all the Atimos items, it's time to revive Atimos. Sailing out to the center of the lake, I found a little temple jutting up from the bottom. Using one of the items restored the entire city. Now I could go in each small building and use one of the Atimos items, which opened up the way to Atimos himself.
The city restored
I used the remaining items in the temple, which revived Atimos.

Speaking the word of command, he followed me (sort of like a genie) and fixed the lake so that the water would return to the desert area. But then the leader of the Uruuru group comes in and uses the word of command to take control of Atimos, heading back to their base. Thus comes the last dungeon. First I had to fight the Uruuru group members again, but they're still not very hard. In the base itself, they helpfully provided chests with most of the strongest weapons and armor in the game. At the top, we have to fight Atimos.
The first "wish" of the enemy is that he doesn't listen to the command word anymore
He has two forms. The first is easy, but the second has a quake spell that takes everyone's HP down to single digits, and a lightning attack that often did over 1000 damage to my main character, which is an instant loss. It took 4 or 5 tries to beat him; I just tried again until I didn't get killed.

The last fight is against the Uruuru group leader. First his human form.
He's not hard. This is the last chance to heal and save, but I just went on to the last fight, which has two forms.

I found both of these easier than Atimos. I just had Mio buff everyone's attack and then healed when I needed to. He does have an instant death attack but it failed every time he used it.

Once he's defeated, like most of the enemies, he apologizes and accepts punishment. Atimos disappears, saying that he will return when strife and war are among the humans again. We lead him back to the jungle, where there's some backstory -- apparently he was friends with Jungle Papa and his wife at one point. I'm not sure whether I could have learned this via a side event. That's basically the ending, and then you still have control so you can participate in the jungle tournament, or finish the railroad building sidequest or play around with the auction. I should have seen whether different towns have unique dialogue after you beat the game.

So that's Jungle Wars 2. I'll do a review later this week, but this is potentially a good game with a huge flaw in the random encounter rate. It's still not a bad game, but it's disappointing.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Game 22 - Jungle Wars 2

Jungle Wars 2: Mystery of the Ancient Atimos Magic (ジャングルウォーズ2 〜古代魔法アティモスの謎〜)
Released 3/19/1993, published by Pony Canyon

This game is a sequel to Jungle Wars, which came out on Game Boy in 1991. I don't know if this is an actual story sequel but it seems to have many of the same characters as the first game. The "Jungle" of the title is really more of a reference to Tarzan or Jungle Book-like media than anything else; the game takes place across an entire world. But it's a world full of talking animals who make towns.

Pictured on the box above are the three main characters. The main guy, Jungle Boy (who you give a name to) is the son of Jungle Papa, a sort of Tarzan like figure who patrols the jungle. The girl is Mio, a magic user. Sasuke, the monkey, can use various fruits in battle to cause effects, or can do random things. The fourth character in your party switches in and out during the game.
This art reminds me of the NES Final Fantasy games.

The game starts with the classic "mom wakes up the hero" Dragon Quest III reference. Kurisu's father, Jungle Papa, is now the president of the new railroad company, and leaves Kurisu in charge of patrolling the forest. He suggests a visit to the western area to look for suspicious activity.

As Kurisu walks around there are enemy encounters -- the battles are standard attack/item/defend, although you quickly get Sasuke who is able to find fruits and nuts to use in battle for various effects. When you defeat enemies, rather than killing them, they are "chastised", apologize, and run away. Some enemies just get knocked out.

The western area turns out to have a rat syndicate called the Uruuru Group, who are about to kill Kurisu when an earthquake ruins the area. Returning home, Kurisu discovers that Jungle Papa was buried by the quake -- time to save him.

Along the way we pick up Mio, who needs to re-learn the magic she forgot, including a frost spell which will burn up the fire around her village. She wants Kurisu to help her find the Snake King to return rain to the area. Fortunately Mio actually has enough MP to make regular magic use worthwhile, and since some of Sasuke's fruits heal, it's not necessary to save all her spells for healing.

We come across Kurisu's dad in a cave; during his work on the railroad he found a tablet that talks about the ancient magic of Atimos. It can supposedly do all kinds of destructive or helpful things, and Kurisu needs to find the seven people who are holders of the Atimos secret in order to keep the secrets away from the enemies. Thus the name of the game. At this point we don't really know who or where they are, though.

So for now I continued on to Mio's home, where we were able to use her magic to help the village out, and also save the Snake King, who is just in a cave. Once both of these are accomplished I continued to the next island, where a mouse named D'Artagnan lived. Fortunately D'Artagnan was able to tell me all about the 7 magic holders. It turned out I had already encountered one and found the first of the seven items -- a dream gem in a waterfall near his town.

And with the dream gem, we can open a treasure chest that contains the second item. That's 2/7!
A mushroom forest

The third turned out to be in the Sun Tower, along with a bunch of other treasures.
The world map

After that I met up with Leon, who joined my party, wanting to compete in a tournament. I took time out to try that but lost to Leon himself. There's also an auction I can participate in but I skipped that for now. Leon is a werewolf at night, and has different attacks then.

 After the tournament I found a boat which I could just board and start going. Along the way there was a guy in a cave who wanted to take me on solo. I tried it but couldn't beat him, but when I loaded my save and went back to the boat everyone else was gone -- I don't know if this is a glitch or not, but when I went down a nearby waterfall in the boat I washed up at a different town and now the dialogue acknowledged that everyone had disappeared. This seems like a bug but the boss is difficult enough that it's hard to believe the designers assumed you would beat him. In any case he's optional so I just went on. I quickly found Mio and took on a new fourth character, Thomas, who uses mecha.

I also found the fourth magic person, who told me the next item was in the Moon Tower. I faced a boss at the top.
 After beating him, I had the 4th item. Only three more!

The other three are a shark in the "shark village", a penguin in the ice country (which I assume is at the bottom right of the map) and a panther in the high mountains. I don't exactly know where any of these people are but I'm going to head north from the moon tower and see what I can find.

So far this is an enjoyable game. It has a nice auto battle, it plays fairly quickly, has nice enemy designs, and the world is fun. We'll see if it keeps up the quality throughout the game.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

PCE Game 8 - Seiryu Densetsu Monbit

Seiryu Densetsu Monbit (聖竜伝説モンビット)
Released 8/30/1991, published by Hudson

This is a familiar sight on the PCE side of this blog, another fairly standard RPG that follows the Dragon Quest model closely. Out of all of these that have some along, I still think Tengai Makyo is the best. This game has pretty much everything you would expect from this area -- few strategic options in combat, very limited inventory, and primitive interface. The leveling is faster than other games and there's a run button so it plays more quickly -- also you can hold down the button to keep choosing attack, which, coupled with the emulator speedup, makes fights go very quickly.

The main feature of this game is the dragon, which I'll say more about as I describe the game.

The opening scene is accompanied by voice acting, pictures, and slight animation. We learn that a comet has come to this planet and then monsters arose, headed by Dark Emperor Geel.

The Monbit tribe opposes Geel but they are all killed except for one baby (Kurisu), who gets taken by a priest to a small village to grow up.

Of course this is the hero of the game -- this plot is pretty cookie cutter. You have to go around to five continents to find five fragments of a Monbit Seal, which will help the last dragon grow up. The final boss seems to be Geel, so there aren't any big twists.

At first the dragon is just an egg, which consumes a spot in your very limited inventory (along with a letter from Kurisu's father). Adding in 5 pieces of equipment, that leaves very little space for anything else.

The combat system is your standard "hold down attack until the enemy dies" style. MP are very limited so you have to save it all for healing. Thankfully dying just takes half your gold, so you can progress quickly through the game.

The battle scenes are pretty boring, with no background and little animation except for the bosses. The monster designs often seem inspired by Dragon Quest, although not quite with the charm of Toriyama's monster designs. The spells also have nonsense names; another Dragon Quest-inspired feature.
After grabbing the egg, it's time to hunt down the first of Geel's five underlings, who will have the first fragment of the Monbit symbol for me. Immediately the area grows dark. Kurisu must recover a stone statue from a boss in a cave that restores the light to the area.
As you may be able to see from some of these pictures, the world design is interesting. Rather than humans, there are these animal-humanoids. Some are piglike, some doglike, etc. The Monbit clan is apparently bunny-like.

Once Kurisu restores the light, a few more fetch quests brings him to the castle where the first major boss, Eroe, resides. There's nothing special about the dungeon, and Eroe himself is not very hard. It's a common quality of these games that the random encounter rate is so high that you have to be pretty strong just to make it to the boss, and by that point the boss is a pushover.
Once Eroe is defeated, Kurisu gains the first fragment of the Monbit symbol. I returned to a shrine and placed the egg on the altar, activating the symbol.
The egg hatches, and I have my dragon. Unfortunately the dragon is just a baby and can't fight, although he gains levels. I named him Yoshi. However, as a baby he is often hungry. He emits high pitched squeals constantly, and the random encounter rate goes up. You can stop this by giving him milk, but the effect barely lasts any time, and inventory space is too limited. So I just muted the sound and ignored him -- this would have been far more annoying if I weren't emulator-speeding through battles.
The tiny dragon is able to open a door that was blocking me from accessing the second continent. Here, the pattern is basically the same as the first -- I had to find a statue in a dungeon to stop the lava that had flowed over the whole land. Somehow the towns instantly revive after that, and then I was able to go to the next boss' castle.
Because of the encounter rate with Yoshi, by the time I reached the boss I was so overleveled that his attacks all did 1 damage, and he was very easy to beat. Now with the second fragment of the Monbit seal I can grow the dragon to a child, and he can fight.
At this point I can also start feeding Yoshi fruits and then choosing various attributes to put points into, which will affect the skills and spells he can use.
Bravery, sense, guts, luck, wisdom, and love
This is where I stopped playing. The dragon system is interesting, but isn't really enough to make up for the generic mediocrity of the rest of the game.