Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Game 37 - Romancing SaGa 2 wrap-up

After staring at this game for a while, playing another game, going on vacation, and staring at the game for a while more, I finally decided to move on. The game is available with a translation patch and in an official version (through a remake) so everyone can try it themselves.

As I said in the last post, I was at the point where I was going to have to do a large amount of grinding to beat the final boss, and I just wasn't in the mood. So I'll talk about my impressions of the game here and then move on.

--

Romancing SaGa 2 is definitely a better game than 1. It fixes a large number of the problems that I mentioned about that game, and is generally a more enjoyable experience.

SaGa games aren't known for their stories. This game has a really interesting concept -- the world is waiting for the return of 7 legendary heroes to save the world, but when they do return, they seem to be villains instead. That's about the limit of the story, though. I never saw an explanation for why this happened (although I didn't go to a village where supposedly some of the backstory would be explained).

There are a lot of fun aspects to the game system. Your main character is an Emperor or Empress, and will pass on their skills through successive generations. This system is a bit scattershot because it's not like the generation systems of other games. You can start a quest, 260 years pass, and the same NPCs are sitting around waiting for you to finish the quest. I like the idea that if you lose your party you move on to the next generation, but it takes too long to set up a new generation with the skills and magic.

The graphics are quite good, as to be expected from Square. The music is well done too, and the interface is (mostly) clean and usable.

My ultimate criticisms of this game are twofold, and I've mentioned them before. The first is that the game system is too opaque. Hardly anything about the system is explained either in the instruction manual or the game itself. This makes it hard to make intelligent decisions about which classes to use, what weapons and skills, which magic, etc.  Now, this wouldn't necessarily be a huge problem, except for my second complaint -- the game is too difficult.

Right from the start the difficulty is brutal. You spend the entire game with the danger of getting wiped out by a random encounter. Fortunately you can save any time you want, but it's frustrating to constantly feel like the monsters overpower you to the point where it feels like you may not even complete the dungeons.

That being said, with knowledge of the system from the discord and walkthroughs, I was able to make it to the end of the game with very little grinding. However, the final boss represents a massive increase in difficulty from anything that comes before. There is a cheap way to beat the boss and a more "legitimate" way, but both ways require long hours of grinding to get the right skills and spells necessary. I just don't find that appealing.

Everything I've said may make it sound like I disliked the game, but as with RS1, my feelings were mixed. I enjoyed the game at many points but got annoyed with it at many others. I have no desire to complete the game, which is not a good sign. Plenty of people enjoy this game a lot, though, so it's probably worth a try, especially in the enhanced remake.

I have five more games to go in 1993: Yumemaboroshi no Gotoku, Wondrous Magic, Monster Maker III, and Shin Momotaro Densetsu. As far as I can tell, none of these have translation patches. There is also the PC Engine version of Ys IV, which I am looking forward to quite a bit.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Romancing SaGa update

Sorry I haven't posted on RS2. I've reached the final dungeon, but I'm too weak to actually take on the final boss. I also got annoyed that I missed the Elixir spell because I didn't know fusion magic takes a generation shift to learn.

I'm not a huge fan of grinding, and it looks like I'm going to have to do a fair amount to stand a chance against the final boss. I'm not sure what to do -- I'm considering using cheat codes to give a few people Elixir and raise my weapon and spell levels to 40, which is apparently a reasonable (but not excessive) point to take on the final boss. Or I could just move on to the next game.

I just finished Sword Master on my other blog and I'm going on vacation for 4th of July week, but I'll hopefully have some sort of RS2 update within the next week or two and then move on to the next game, Yume Maboroshi no Gotoku.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Game 37 - Romancing SaGa 2 (Part 4)

The Reign of the 10th Empress Emerald

Emerald had a short reign; I made a mostly female party to try the Rocbouquet quest, but after getting through the tower the Stone guardian slaughtered me.


 
The Reign of the 11th Empress Gertrude

I then decided that my best bet was to go back and try Dantarg again. At this point I started noticing a pattern to some of these bosses -- if you just try them several times, eventually they might not use their high damage spells too many times. I also made sure that everyone had a healing spell so I could at least partially recover from getting hit.

With this in mind I was able to beat Dantarg on my 5th or 6th try. This caused a generation shift.

The Reign of the 12th Emperor Tesshu 

And now Tesshu was able to go do the Volcano quest to open up Dark Magic.


This makes a new tower that teaches Dark Magic, which I hope is useful -- I've already started researching some combo magics.

With my success against Dantarg, I decided that Rocboquet was probably the next best bet, since you want to wait for the bridge to break for Subier so that he's not in his more powerful form. Someone on the discord told me that it's fine to just skip the whole ruins quest and fight Rocbouquet at the beginning, which is what I did.



This was basically the same as Dantarg; I just had to try it 5 or 6 times until she didn't use her "hit all" magic attack too many times. Unfortunately I didn't learn the defense against Temptation, which is apparently good for the final boss.



The Reign of the 13th Emperor Aurora 

Aurora was short lived because before I beat Subier I wanted to get as many formations as I could (since after you get the Final Emperor you can't learn anymore). This involved suiciding 5 or 6 Emperors but I guess they don't count in the line. Finally Epaminondas appeared, who is basically the same Imperial Guard as Tesshu.

The Reign of the 14th Emperor Epaminondas


Subier took me about 10 tries, but eventually he didn't use his worst attacks and I beat him.

Now it's time for Kurisu, the Final Emperor. Unfortunately I was not aware that fusion magic research required a generation shift, and that means I don't have Elixir.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Game 37 - Romancing SaGa 2 (Part 3)

The Reign of the Seventh Emperor, Tampuku

I decided to go with another Tactician (actually the next Emperor is a Tactician too, three in a row -- probably a bad idea but oh well.) Tampuku's first idea was to head out to the island of Komulune, where he easily solved a volcano problem by throwing an ice seed into the lava.



Two short missions followed next; clearing a desert tower to join the desert area to our Empire, and then destroying a big gem in a mine that was causing problems.

Tampuku's reign came to an end in an interesting way. He saw a beautiful woman dancing at a bar and was determined to seek her out -- she turned out to be a mermaid! He went on a quest to collect items to make a potion letting him breathe underwater. It would only work three times, but after three steamy nights with the mermaid, he decided he wanted to stay underwater.


And thus Tampuku was lost.

The Reign of the Eighth Emperor, Koukin

Koukin immediately received the long awaited news that the Privateer quest was open.


This is a pretty short quest that has us once again dealing with the pirates that we had dealt with before.

After doing this, Koukin seemed strangely suicidal, and went out to fight strong monsters for no purpose -- almost as if he knew that the Emperor coming after him would be much better. He quickly died.

The Reign of the Ninth Emperor, Mazeran 

Mazeran is a Privateer, and thus I can finally learn the Rapid Stream formation, which lets everyone go first before the monsters. This seems to be generally considered the best formation in the game, with other formations being useful in some specific areas. After getting this the game got considerably easier, at least with respect to the random battles.

I kept building up my magic levels and finally began to research the first few Fusion spells.


Mazeran's first act was to go after another one of the Heroes, Bokuohn. He is on a Landship, which requires sneaking on to (I went the route where you get the help of a Tactician, otherwise you have to lose all your equipment). Bokuohn himself was not that hard, because his main Marionette technique has no effect if you have the Rapid Stream formation.


After this I was limited in what I could do:
  • There's another quest on the Volcano island but it hasn't opened up yet. 
  • Rocbouqet requires a female Emperor (I think)
  • I tried Dantarg and he wiped the floor with me
  • The quest leading to Subier seemed not to be open yet
This left Wagnas. The quest leading to him is long and involves several dungeons, but with Rapid Stream and a steady supply of JP/MP healing items, it wasn't too bad...until I got to Wagnas himself.



Wagnas uses a move called Psycho Bind that does more damage than the max HP of three of my characters, and leaves the other two below 100 hp. Seeing no chance of victory, I let this Emperor die.

This game is frustrating me in much the same way that RS1 did -- it's just not fun to me to go against these bosses that have these ridiculously powerful attacks. I'm at the point where I have no confidence of being able to do any of the events that are open to me, just because the bosses are punishingly hard and the system is so difficult to figure out. I'm also getting tired of every random battle being a potential game over. I was really hoping not to have to give up on this game like I did RS1, but if I keep having these experiences I think at some point I will have to move on. Or at least take a break and play a SRPG on my other blog.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Game 37 - Romancing SaGa 2 (Part 2)

The Reign of the Second Emperor, Gerard

Now that Kujinshi has been defeated, Gerard decides to add the southern area to his empire. This first involves helping some monks by taking out a creature that is weak to magic.


This guy sucks, and it sucks even more once it starts showing up in random encounters. Having the free formation like this helps against a lot of bosses because if they have any horizontal range attacks they won't hit more than one person. But with regeneration this guy is rough.

On the whole I think this game is too difficult; it's even harder than RS1, and the game gives you so little information about what everything does (and how to get stronger) that it can be frustrating just to fight random battles. Maybe I'm just a wimp, but I'm using more walkthrough and guide help than I normally do just to figure out the system.

Next up is a fortress that is blocking the way to the next area. There are apparently a number of ways around this part; I just paid the dude to let me in but there's a more intricate way that works out better in the end (I learned later).

In any case, beating the boss added the next area to my empire!


For some reason Gerard decided that was all he wanted to do in his reign, and it was 145 years until the story progresses -- I guess probably there were multiple emperors between Gerard and the next one, but I'll pretend that the witch's power also gives the emperors longer life.


The Reign of the Third Empress, Onyx 

I chose a mage, Onyx, to take the throne next. She immediately decided that building a magic research guild was a great idea.


Now I can teach everyone magic, which helps out a lot, especially in raising the magic levels. It's also nice that now the strategists in the castle can teach any skill that has been learned to any character -- that makes it feel like you're accomplishing things even if everyone dies.

Onyx decided that it was time to add to her empire, and went first to southern lands. This turned out to be quite simple; all she did was clear one mine of enemies and the entire region joined up.

Now Onyx heard also about some troubles in Cumberland to the east, and went there. This was a tough part and I had to kill off one guy who only had 1 LP before I left -- if you leave the area before you finish the quest you get a "bad" ending and it affects things later on. I could have let this happen anyway but I decided to try to do it -- which ended up being really difficult. I reloaded a lot, but I did manage to save Cumberland in the end, and they joined up.

Onyx was exhausted after this and decided she'd had enough of adventuring. She returned to Avalon to rule over her empire for another century.

The Reign of the Fourth Emperor, Theseus 

Next in line is Theseus. He actually went back to finish a quest that his ancestor had started -- dealing with pirates. First, to even get a ship to go to the pirate HQ, Theseus had to do the villagers' request to free a mine from monsters.

The boss exhibited the inconsistent difficulty of this game. When I tried it the first time I got this fight, which slaughtered me:


The second time I got this fight:


which was no problem. This was a big issue in RS1 as well, where random encounters could range from "mash A and win automatically" to "enemies do more than your max HP in damage, sometimes to more than one unit". That didn't start happening in RS1 until much later in the game, here it started happening very early.

Theseus next decided to venture to North Nazelle, which turned out to be a pretty easy quest (just beat a few dungeons and add to the empire).

But the next quest was the end of Theseus' reign. The Steppe dwellers were having trouble with ants. Theseus made his way down to the bottom of a hole and found this boss, the Hive Queen:


And was summarily slaughtered, thus ending his reign.

The Reign of the Fifth Emperor, William

His successor, William, suffered the same fate.

At this point I wasn't sure what to do -- I had probably tried this boss 10 times and not even gotten close. I got some advice from Discord and a Japanese walkthrough to rely on Stun, but this requires having a unit faster than the Queen. Fortunately I had just built the Academy, which can give you a Tactician unit. I believe that once you recruit a unit you can then become that in the next generation, so we move on to the next Emperor.


The Reign of the Sixth Emperor, Shigen

Shigen took his party down to the Queen. At first this didn't seem to be working but it turns out that armor slows you down. Once i took off Shigen's armor, he was able to go first. Stun is not 100%, but it worked often enough that she didn't wipe out my party, even when Shigen got paralyzed for a few rounds.

Once the Queen was defeated, Shigen decided that his single mission was enough for his reign, and 115 years passed before another ruler continued the quest.

On the whole I really think this game is just too difficult, and the system too opaque. But we'll see if I can beat it. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

Game 37 - Romancing SaGa 2

Romancing SaGa 2
12/10/1993, Square

 

This is the 5th game in Square's long running SaGa series. The hallmark of the series is to go against standard RPG gameplay; in the Game Boy games this was mostly in the way level ups were handled, but starting with Romancing SaGa, there is also a "free quest" system that introduces a lot of non-linearity to the games.

RS1 was one of the first games I played on the blog. Overall I really appreciated the idea behind the game, but I found the implementation of it was poor and ultimately I didn't like the game much. I reached the point where random enemies were one-shotting my entire party despite them having the best buyable equipment in the game, and I gave up.

I have always heard RS2 described as one of the most punishing, hardest old games from this era, so I'm expecting to possibly get stuck again. I typically don't make a lot of use of walkthroughs but I at least read the basic gameplay and browsed through the GameFAQs forum to see if I could get any general tips on not getting stuck. We'll see.

The basic idea behind the game is that the "Seven Legendary Heroes" have returned, but in fact they seem to be evil. You are the Emperor of Avalon, trying to fight against the neighboring kingdoms held by these "heroes". One peculiar aspect of the game is that you are supposed to die -- every character has HP and LP. HP are restored at the end of each battle. If they hit 0, the character loses an LP, and loses an additional LP if any damage is taken beyond that. If the LP hit 0 they are dead. If your Emperor's LP hits 0 or if the entire party is wiped out, a new Emperor takes the throne and inherits the old Emperor's skills. The game is intentionally designed so that you will be losing characters and replacing them with new ones.

The game begins with Emperor Leon taking his son Gerard and some other minions on several local quests.  The system is the same "symbol encounter" system as RS1 but the vast improvement is that your formation now only gets messed up if you get attacked from behind, not the sides. Also, they got rid of the system where certain weapons can't be used in certain positions. It's also easier to avoid enemies, so all of that is a big improvement.


The battle system is much like RS1. You can equip 4 attack items (either weapons or heal/etc items). As you use the weapons you level them up. Unlike RS1 you don't automatically learn skills on levelling up; instead you have to "spark" them in battle, which seems to be highly random. A huge improvement is that the skills are now associated with a type of weapon rather than individual weapons, so it's no longer the case that unequipping a weapon forgets all the skills, or that a stronger weapon comes with 0 skills. You get a specific number of "tech points" at the end of a battle but I'm not sure why since there's no way to check what that number actually means for your characters. I really don't understand that -- is there a reason they can't show us how many points our characters have?

Anyway, the first dungeon is short and simple. Gerard has nothing, but he sits at the back of the formation, making him easy to protect. The enemies have resistances vs. different types of weapons, which takes some testing. One difficulty I had was getting trapped by slimes, which take almost no damage from anything -- eventually I found out that Light Ball hurts them, and hits everyone, so they can be taken out.

Chests give you enormous amounts of GP; one of the other interesting things about this game is that your empire has a treasury that gets filled as you go -- each battle gives you "taxes" based on how big the empire is. Your personal wallet can only go up to 10,000 gp but the treasury can hold millions; apparently this money can be used for things like researching magic and weapons, and building new parts of your capital city.

After a few more initial quests, the first of the 7 heroes, Kujinshi, shows up and attacks Avalon, killing Gerard's brother. Leon leads us out to defeat him, but is himself killed by the same Soul Steal attack. Fortunately a witch helps him transfer his skills to Gerard.


With Gerard, I first went to defeat the goblins that attacked Avalon, and then on to fighting Kujinshi himself. Fortunately Leon figured out a way to dodge the Soul Steal attack before dying, and passed that on to Gerard. I still found Kujinshi fairly difficult because after a while he regenerates HP every round, and he can use some nasty attacks. On the third try I managed to beat him.


Afterwards Gerard moves on to the next kingdom over to solve its problem.

I wanted to make this first update just to talk generally about the game; I should have more to write about with this because each dungeon isn't just "Mash A in every battle".

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.