Tuesday, December 26, 2017

PCE Game 5 - Masho Denki La Valeur

Masho Denki La Valeur (魔晶伝記 ラ・ヴァルー)
Released 3/22/1991, published by Kolgado Software

This is another port of a PC game. Unlike in the US, many PC games in Japan were of the JRPG style, but it always seems like there's something slightly off about them. The game was released for PC in 1989, and although this port adds some voices and maybe music off the CD, it really doesn't add enough to make it worthwhile.
Alan, our hero

The game's backstory is pretty typical -- gather the crystals to save the world. The game immediately starts you at the beginning with no title screen. Your main character, Alan, is in a hobbit village and has to rescue the chief's daughter from the dark cave to the north. Alan will be the only controllable character throughout the whole game, so the game hearkens back to the style of Dragon Quest 1. 
The status screen

Alan starts with no money, and the chief gives him a sword. The first task, as in most games of this era, is to grind levels and get money. This is very hard in the beginning, but fortunately the inn is free. Alan is also told that if he can find some rings in the forest he can learn magic, although you won't actually be able to use it until you finish the first quest and save Sophia. Apparently there are magic spells you can learn from different sources (rings, books, etc) but you can only have one of each type at any one time.
The first area

The sound effects are irritating. Any choice produces this annoying buzz sound, and the effect that occurs when you get in a battle is harsh and much louder than the background music.
vs two Kobolds

Battles have a strangely abstract feel to them. Even if you encounter more than one monster they're treated as one. The game just tells you how much damage they all did to you. If you do some damage it will remove a monster and lower their damage, but your attack always hits everyone and can kill more than one monster per turn.
The weapon and armor store

You have three types of weapon -- slash, pierce, and bludgeon. Each enemy is weak against a particular type, and you can switch weapons during battle. I'm hard pressed to say this adds any real "strategy" to the game, though. It's just a 1-to-1 correspondence between monster and damage type, so there's no real strategic choices to be made.

There is a limit to how much you can level in each area before the enemies start giving you 0 exp. The first area has a level limit of 3. After reaching that point I fought the first boss, trying to get some moss to give to a treant in the area for a lantern as a reward. The boss is weak to piercing, but even at level 3 with all the equipment from the town I could not survive to defeat the boss. Eventually I found out there was a stronger shield near the boss, and with this I was able to beat the boss the turn before I would have died.
The first boss

This seems to turn the fights into more of a puzzle than an actual RPG combat. Since you have no real options in battle, it's entirely up to your stats vs the enemy stats whether you die or survive. Maybe when you can use magic it will free things up a bit more, but since it's always just you alone, and the level limit is strict, I imagine this sort of situation occurs in every boss fight.
At least dying doesn't send you back to your last save, it just sends you back to the last time you entered a new area.
Feeding the rats

With the lantern I could enter the cave. Here I had to find a mushroom to give to some rats, which required extinguishing the lantern to see it. The rats told me where to find a canoe, which let me explore the dungeon rivers. 
Exploring in a canoe

Enemies do enough damage that I had to stock up on 50+ of the heal items from town just to make a fair exploration of the cave. I didn't find the boss so I turned back to get more, and this is where I stopped. It's possible that this game might improve a bit with the introduction of magic, but I doubt it would improve enough to make it really worth playing. The ear-grating sound effects and the slow, forced grinding are a big pain. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

PCE Game 4 - Sol Bianca

Sol Bianca (ソルビアンカ)
Released on 6/30/1990, published by NEC Avenue

Sol Bianca is a franchise that resulted in several anime OVAs, including one revival of sorts in 1999. The only game in the franchise was released in mid-1990, for the PC Engine. Like the other games I've reviewed so far, it takes advantage of the CD format to include voicing and some semi-animated cutscenes, but does not use the Redbook audio to play music directly off the CD.
The main characters

The premise of the game is that in a universe beset by all kinds of conflicts and trouble, your main characters are five young women who fly around in the pirate spaceship Sol Bianca looking for adventure and treasure. The game consists of seven episodes, some of which are very short, but one of the criticisms of the game is that there's no overall story and so the game seems to just end.
Buying things in a store

The characters are all named after months: Feb, April, June, Jani, and Mayo. Giving the player five characters right off the bat is the exact opposite of Tengai Makyo and Cosmic Fantasy, which force you to muddle along with just one guy for a while.
A status screen

The game starts with a cutscene, where I could barely understand what the characters were saying because the voice level was too low compared to the music -- I wondered if this was just my non-native ears, but it's a universal complaint about this game. From what I can hear, they're going to a planet in search of a downed ship of the galactic Empire, and two of them also hope to do some monster hunting.
The initial cutscene

We touch down at the base colony. The women all start with no items or equipment, so I had to buy stuff for all 5 of them. Armor is equippable by anyone, but the weapons (and power suits) require certain skill levels. Characters have five skills: Attack, Shooting, Offensive ESP, Defensive ESP, and Power Suit. When you level up a character, they may gain some automatic points and then you get one point to spend wherever you want. Given the high requirements for some late game equipment it's good to concentrate most of your points in one skill for each person.
My first battle against ants

This is a very grindy game. There's no easy way to return to a city and a game over sends you back to your previous save, so you need to level up a lot just to explore, and before you can make it through a dungeon or fight a boss you have to be certain that you can do it. Most of the time I spent playing this game was grinding.
Base colony

Fortunately the battle system is quick; it's a semi-auto system where you set commands before a round and then choose "battle" and they all get carried out. The default is Fight so you can get through the battles quickly. Levelling also happens fairly quickly and you get a decent amount of money for each fight.
Jani's gun, which requires reloading ammo

Eventually I had the strength to go through a cave to the northern continent, where I heard there would be a psionic beast and perhaps more information about the downed carrier. But then the next continent required a ton of levelling and that's where I stopped. From what I've read the initial scenario is the most grindy and least interesting of them all, but it's also unlikely this game will improve significantly. I think it's better than Cosmic Fantasy but still not as good as Tengai Makyo.
Levelling up

There may not be an update next Saturday; it depends on how much time I have around the holidays. I probably should have spent a little more time on this game but I don't think it's worth devoting a whole extra week to it.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

PCE Game 3 - Death Bringer

Unfortunately I did not get my Metal Max 2 package yesterday so this will be a PC Engine blog until mid-January. Consider it a holiday special.

This is not really a full post since I'm not playing Death Bringer but I thought it was worth a quick description of the 30 minutes I did play. I'm not a fan of Western style RPGs on consoles; somehow I never think that they work. Even in cases like Might and Magic, where the NES version has better graphics and music, the PC version plays so much faster that I thought it worked better.

Death Bringer: Knight of Darkness is a Western-style first person CRPG that first came out on the various Japanese PCs, and was then ported to the PC Engine. It's hard to find much information about this game at all, and there's even less on the PCE port. I did find a 2ch thread; the consensus there was that the PC versions were nostalgic even if the game has flaws, but that the PC Engine port was awful.

Here's the opening screen when you turn on the game, which doesn't inspire confidence.
Hello World
After putting in your name, there's a short cutscene where the main character saves a woman from an Orc, which puts you in the first battle.
Main character vs. Orc
The battle system has you choose a target, then you automatically move to the target and attack. Often nothing happens, which I guess is a miss, but it would be nice to get some message. The Orc couldn't damage me.

After the fight, you're suddenly back in a town with no explanation. The stat screen shows a complicated system:
There are no levels. Instead you get HP and MP, I think at pre-determined times within the story. Everything else is based on skills, of which there are a whole bunch and you can buy more. Whether you can equip something or not depends on your skill, and I assume that's how the magic works too. There's no automap, so I used some maps I found online. The graphics are a travesty. Compare this:

The PCE version
To this:
One of the PC versions
I'm not sure why they changed the art style so drastically. The PC versions are also much easier to see than the PCE versions when you're in caves and forests; it's hard to tell in the PCE version where the gaps are. Also any time you are going to get a message, the main part of the screen goes black even though the message appears in the window at the bottom.

I headed out into the forest to the first location, an Orc cave. Most of the enemies couldn't hurt me much but I died against the boss, and got this great game over screen:
Move every ZIG
The PC version of this might be a decent game, especially if I had an instruction manual, but I don't think the PCE one is worth playing.

Friday, December 15, 2017

PCE Game 2 - Cosmic Fantasy

Cosmic Fantasy: Adventure Boy Yuu (コズミック・ファンタジー 冒険少年ユウ)
Released on 3/30/90, published by Telenet Japan

The PC Engine CD add-on had two early hits with Tengai Makyo in June of 1989 and then Ys I&II in December. The next RPG released for the system was Cosmic Fantasy, the first of four games in a series released between 1990 and 1994. The second game was localized by Working Designs.

This game provides an interesting contrast to Tengai Makyo. Both games are examples of the 80s early style of JRPGs, one that I associate most with the Famicom -- although I'm finding that many early Super Famicom RPGs are in this category as well. Tengai Makyo is a good example of this type of game, and Cosmic Fantasy is not. Zenic Reverie has already covered Cosmic Fantasy 2, making the following comment: 

It's the games like this: bland, mediocre, unpolished filler that makes it difficult to feel motivated to play another hour.
This is also an accurate description of Cosmic Fantasy, and it makes me relieved that for these PC Engine games I've made the decision to stop after a week unless I'm actually enjoying the game.
Part of the opening
The game opens with Yuu, a Cosmic Hunter, and his motorcycle-pet Monmo. Their spaceship crashlands on a planet, where the rest of the game takes place. Unlike GDLeen, this game seems to offer no explanation for why this planet is at sword-and-sorcery technology level but recognizes Yuu as a Cosmic Hunter and has no problem with his high tech stuff. Yuu has to explore the planet while his ship's self-repair process completes, and this is how he gets drawn into saving the world.
Yuu and his parents, from a photo in the ship
Apparently the #1 complaint against this game at the time was the long load times, which could reach 20+ seconds in some cases. Of course this is not an issue playing from an ISO but even from the ISO the voices take several seconds to start. Like Tengai Makyo, this game has a lot of voiced dialogue and semi-animated cutscenes like the ones above.
My first fight
The battle system is your basic early RPG, although you have an auto-battle option. Yuu has magic powers which are "psychic", but can only use them at pre-determined points in the story where some event makes him upset at a specific boss, and they go away after you beat the boss. That's why Yuu's MP are listed as 0/5 in the picture above. This is a poor way to implement the system because it means that most of the time Yuu has no options except for attacking. And so that means that early in the game before you get your second character, you have to grind, a lot. I spent a lot more time grinding in this game than I did in Tengai Makyo. Part of the problem is that a game over returns you to your last save, so you keep nothing that you gained. But there also tends to be a huge difficulty leap in the monsters in reaching a new area, and running away rarely if ever works against stronger monsters. So even after Saya joins you still have to grind a lot, and always have to be refilling your MP-restoring items.
The world map, rendered useless by a lack of indication of where you are
Zenic commented that Cosmic Fantasy 2 was far too easy. This certainly is not the case with CF1. Any random encounter can prove deadly because you can quickly get overwhelmed, especially when status effects come into play. Unless you do extensive grinding before entering each new area, you're going to have a lot of frustrating game overs.

After a few areas you pick up the second character, Saya. This starts a Cosmic Fantasy tradition of the heroine always being introduced through a shower or bathing scene.
For some reason, the PC Engine became the primary console for games with content like this. The situation was the same as now where genuine eroge only came out for PCs, but the PC Engine had a much higher tolerance for nudity than most other consoles did at the time (and do now). Saya is from the planet and can use magic regularly, which helps out a lot. Also you can actually buy MP restoring items for a cheap cost, and money is almost worthless because of how much you get in the requisite grinding. The only time you can spend more money is when you encounter this cat merchant character, who seems to show up in all the games.
Here they charge us all our money for a laser cutter
The cat sells things like bombs, guns, and force fields in the game but they're not that useful. The guns are expensive and quickly run out of bullets, and the force fields depend too much on luck to be a reliable strategy.

As far as I got, there wasn't a whole lot of story. The goal is to defeat Morgan, who is the tyrant of the world, although I can tell from the koryaku site that there is a further dungeon and boss after you defeat Morgan. You journey from place to place, taking care of whatever problem is happening in the town. Eventually I began to face the Four Generals of Morgan, and by the time I stopped playing I had beaten two of them. The bosses tend to be very easy because you have to grind so much just to survive the dungeons to reach them that by the time you actually get there, they go down easily.
Riding Momon lets you revisit any previous town.
There are some minor story touches, like returning a necklace from the ghost of a defeated warrior to his girlfriend. She gives you an ocarina which Saya then plays to pacify the ghost.
Saya and the ocarina
Overall this is not an unplayable game, but I think it's too dated, slow-moving, and grindy to appeal much to players now. As I said, Tengai Makyo is a much better example of this style of RPG. CF's world is not as interesting as TM's, and despite the designs being done by a manga artist, the enemies are bland and unmemorable, compared to the colorful, distinctive enemies of TM. CF does seem to have more cutscenes than TM, however.

As of this post I still have not gotten my package with Metal Max 2; it's supposed to arrive by Dec 21 but I'll be gone on holiday then so if I don't get it in the next couple of days I'll have to continue the PC Engine games through the new year. If that's the case, next up is Death Bringer, a port of a PC-88/98 first-person dungeon game. In the future I'll buy the SFC games several games in advance so I don't get this problem again.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

PCE Game 1 - Tengai Makyo Ziria

Tengai Makyo ZIRIA (天外魔境 ZIRIA)
Released on 6/30/89, published by Hudson Soft

This is the first entry in what became a popular RPG series of the time. The English title "Far East of Eden" refers to a (made-up) series of fictional novels by P.H. Chada. The idea was that the lang of Jipangu that the game takes place in would be a stereotypical Japan as viewed by foreigners. However, it's really more of a stereotypical Japanese view of medieval Japan.

The game was the first RPG released on a CD, I think for any platform, but definitely at least on console. Along with Ys I&II, it promoted the PC-Engine CD in the early days and helped its popularity. Some people complained about the load times but fortunately nowadays you're most likely to play these games as an ISO file (even if you legally buy them from the Game Archives) so that's not a problem.

I'm playing this game on the Mednafen emulator, which seems to offer the best and most accurate emulation of the PC Engine.

In 1989 when this came out, the first three Dragon Quests and the first two Final Fantasies were available, as well as Destiny of an Emperor, three Deep Dungeon games, Megami Tensei, and others that I'm not very familiar with. The first Tengai Makyo doesn't do much that those games don't do in terms of gameplay -- it ticks a lot of the boxes on that list of "bad early RPG features" that I mentioned in the previous post.

What sets it apart is the CD technology, which allowed for a number of innovations. The font uses kanji and kana. There is a large amount of voiced dialogue, drawing on a number of well-known seiyuu of the time period. The graphics are somewhat better than the Famicom, though not at the level of the Super Famicom (or even at the level of later PC Engine games). Unfortunately the music is not played off the CD -- this feature was used by a lot of games (including Ys I&II) because they had a lot of leftover space on the disc, so the music is recorded directly to CD tracks which can then be played from the game. This game just uses the internal PCE music chip.

I think that this is a decent 1980s RPG -- I would compare it most closely with Dragon Quest II in terms of system and playability. It doesn't really try any innovations on the level of the class system of DQ3 and FF1.

Our hero is Jiraya (or ZIRIA?) one of the three descendants of the Fire Clan, whose mission is to gather the other Fire Clan members and defeat Masakado, a demonic commander rebelling against Imperial rule (I guess).
The legendary Fire Clan, who opposed Masakado's rebellion
Jiraiya is given the mission by his grandfather. You can see that they use inset graphics to enhance the dialogue scenes. These are done not only for major story people but also for some of the random villagers as well.
Jiraya and his grandfather
For the first part of the game you're on your own, and at the very beginning you can't do anything but attack, so this part of the game just requires being at a high enough level and having the best equipment. The enemy monsters are colorful and detailed:

The first boss Tanuki
The first goal is to get past a cave, but Jiraiya gets tricked by tanuki. Once they're beaten, though, Jiraiya is able to use a whisker to bother the large catfish in the cave, who breaks down a boulder blocking his way.
The giant fish
Moving on, there is an old man who will teach Jiraiya a skill (basically the chance for critical attacks) if he's defeated. I needed a bunch of heal potions to deal with him. Then I found the first Kumogiri village. These are small villages dedicated to helping the Fire Clan, and there are identical ones all over the world. They have simple shops and inns, and you get a frog that can teleport you to any of the Kumogiri villages. Soon Jiraiya also gets the first spell, a healing spell. The spells are interesting in this game because you can switch them from character to character, so you can choose how to distribute the spells. This is one of the few innovations of this game compared to the classic NES-era RPG.
Boss tanuki
The next boss is a giant tanuki; once again since Jiraiya's healing is very limited it's just a matter of being at the right level and you win. The next town has the first of Masakado's 13 generals, named Gomon. He has turned all the people into stone and tanuki have taken over the town, so you can't use any of the stores until he's defeated. This boss required the most levelling so far.
The sprites are not as impressive

 Fortunately the game has the DQ "die and lose half your gold" feature so you can try the bosses even if you don't think you will win. There's also an auto battle if you hit select that helps a lot (especially coupled with emulator speedup).
Gomon, kicking my butt
After this fight we enter a new area and finally get the second party member, Tsunade. She's an axe-wielding young girl.

She has a battle command "pretend to cry"; I'm not entirely clear what it does but of course you can also give her spells. By this time I also had a fire damage spell, a sleep spell, and a lightining spell that hits all enemies. But because MP are so limited, one person is going to have to save MP for the heal spell against bosses.

One other interesting thing about the game is that you get XP not only for winning battles, but for accomplishing events like getting key items, new spells, characters, etc. That reduces the grinding time somewhat.

So that's where I'll leave this game. As I said, it's not bad for 1989. If you're a player who likes these really old console RPGs it's definitely worth a try. I could probably finish this for completion's sake and be OK about it, but I'd rather move on to something else.

Now what should my next game be? Metal Max 2 still hasn't gotten here and it sounds like a game that I really want the instruction booklet to. The next games on the list are:
  • Ihatovo Monogatari. This is not an RPG because it has no combat. It's based on the works of Miyazawa Kenji and is more like an adventure game. It seems to be praised for its music and story, but I'll skip it.
  • Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. I technically shouldn't skip this, but I will, for three reasons. First, it's widely considered one of the worst RPGs for the system. Second, it has some non-RPG things in its system (all the encounters are entirely fixed, meaning your level is always the same at any point in the game, and the battles are heavily dependent on luck). Third, there is an English patch so anyone can try it for themselves.
After that is Ogre Battle, which I think I am going to play despite it being questionable as an RPG (I'm not sure it fits my criteria for a strategy RPG) and it's available in English.

So this week I will either start Ogre Battle or play the next PCE game (Cosmic Fantasy: Adventure Boy Yu). Any preference?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The PC Engine

 (Image taken from Wikimedia Commons)

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, since I have yet to get my Metal Max 2 package yet, I'm playing Tengai Makyo Ziria for the PC Engine this week. Playing PC Engine games is actually a natural outgrowth of what I wanted to do with this blog, despite the name. The reason I chose the Super Famicom is that it's a nostalgic console for me that has a lot of RPGs never localized in the US that I wanted to play.

This is actually true of the PC Engine as well. I had a friend in middle school who was in one of those unfortunate situations with a rich stepdad trying to buy his affection. He had every video game console possible with tons of games for each one. At one point he lent me his Turbo Grafx CD with all his games, so I was able to play Ys 1-3, Exile, Valis, and a few other games. I've rarely been so blown away by a console. This was before the release of the Super Nintendo, and these games had voice acting, music played directly off the CD, and graphics that were somewhat better than the NES.

Alas, the Turbo Grafx failed in the US. In Japan it was a very popular console that rivaled Sega and Nintendo, and there were a lot of RPGs for it. Some of these I've always wanted to play (like the Tengai Makyo series and Ys IV).

I did not start this blog from the earliest Famicom games because I wanted to avoid that era of RPGs. I can play some old games, but there's a limit to how far I can go back. The old graphics don't bother me, but there are a number of gameplay and interface problems that were fine when I was a kid, but I find hard to deal with now. Some of these are:
  • A lack of strategic options in battle, so that grinding is often necessary
  • Slow walking
  • You can't see the stats of equipment when buying it in stores (or when equipping)
  • Magic users that can't use their magic freely because every point has to be saved for boss battles
  • Severely limited inventories
  • Cumbersome interfaces for equipping, viewing status screens, healing, etc.
  • Very high random encounter rate
  • Places with heavy dependence on luck -- e.g. monsters that can cast instant death spells when there's no revive spell or item
I'm finding far too many of these in early SFC games as well but I think by the end of the console's life it improved overall. Unfortunately the PC Engine library is closer to the Famicom than the Super Famicom in gaming style. That's why when I do one of these PCE games I'm only going to play it for a week, unless I actually think the game is good enough to keep playing.

Anyway it may seem odd to start doing PCE games here but the blog will still be primarily Super Famicom.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Game 19 - Albert Odyssey (Final/Review)

Albert Odyssey (アルバートオデッセイ)
Released on 3/5/93, published by Sunsoft

Western gamers may be familiar with Albert Odyssey from the Sega Saturn game. That was actually a "gaiden" title that was a normal RPG, in contrast to the two strategy RPGs released for the Super Famicom under that name. This is the first strategy RPG on this blog, so I will start with my own criteria for distinguishing a strategy RPG from a regular simulation or strategy game. I consider two factors important:
  • There must be a narrative you play through, and not just win conditions.
  • At least some of your force must be individual, named characters that can develop through levels, stat increases, equipment, etc.
Albert Odyssey is a pretty early SRPG. From what I can find, there are only a handful of strategy RPGs before this -- two Fire Emblems, two Shining Force games, and one Langrisser game might be it (for some reason all the sites I use classify Langrisser as a regular strategy game, but I can't see why.)

All of the previous strategy RPGs use the same technique of having individual maps that you clear in succession. Shining Force added some normal RPG style towns and exploration but basically stuck to the formula. Albert Odyssey's big change is that there aren't separate "chapters" or "battles" -- instead the entire world map is one large battlefield. There are bosses, usually placed in your next destination, but defeating a boss doesn't end a chapter or a map or anything like that. You just move on to the next place.
The world map

This is an interesting change, but it slows the game down a lot. Even if there are no monsters around, you have to move each character individually, turn by turn. Your party is much smaller than the other games -- only 4 characters at a time, with the option later in the game to switch out the main 4 for three other characters. Even so, moving all 4 characters one by one is tedious when you're not actually battling. Entering a town is frustrating -- you have to move one character in, then go to the party screen to switch back to the outside map, see the battle data, then move the next character in, etc.
A battle sequence

It also makes it really important to know where you are supposed to go next, because if you go the wrong way you're in for a lot of wasted time. Unfortunately the in-game directions are vague, and the map in the instruction booklet is very rough, making it hard to tell if you're on the right track. In most towns you can buy "Memories of [Town name]" to return there later, which does help a lot.

There isn't a whole lot of story, which is disappointing for a strategy RPG. Your characters never talk after the opening until the ending scene. The villains are barely sketched; they try at some sort of tragic backstory for one of the bad guys named Sin, but it's hard to feel anything since it's so abrupt and undeveloped.
Part of the opening

It starts off promising. The instruction booklet tells the story which is then shown in an opening cinema. Oswald the magician revives he magic of an ancient kingdom called Globas, and uses it to bring forth a bunch of monsters and take over the world. But after he kills the parents of a girl called Sophia in front of her, she calls on some mysterious power to defeat Oswald instantly. 10 years later, he's back, and trying to find the crystal he needs to call forth Globas' power again. Albert, who is descended from a hero (sigh) has to go find the crystal in order to save the world, along with Sophia, Noiman the priest, and a warrior named Slay. There's more backstory in the manual than actual story in the game, though.
Noiman the priest

The interface and gameplay have a lot of annoyances. The map constantly rotates around while a character is moving. You can't see what equipment does, and the instruction booklet actually says "Make sure you save before you shop since not everyone can equip each weapon or armor." This is unacceptable. Levels raise your stats so much that equipment barely matters. You can't walk through hexes that your characters are in, which is a huge annoyance.
A town protected by enemies
One other aspect I don't like is that your units never gain any additional powers or moves. There's also no MP or TP so you can use as many spells as you want -- this is better than spellcasters being worthless, but it results in the game being very easy, especially since just raising one level can result in you one-shotting the enemies. All in all even though the game is short I still found it getting dull and tedious by the end.
I don't think it's worth walking through the whole game since it's just going from place A to B until you find the crystal, then heading into the underworld to defeat Oswald and then Globas. There's really no character development or plot twists of any kind, until you get to the ending. The bosses are mostly generic monsters, just with more HP than the surrounding monsters. And because the game is so easy, walking through the gameplay isn't really interesting either -- the same techniques you use for the first monsters are the same you use against the final boss since you never gain any new powers or moves.
Globas, the final boss
The final boss is pretty easy, even though he has two forms. The main thing you have to watch out for is that a lot of the enemies can use "revive" to call forth other enemies, and that can become a chain reaction that can kill you pretty quickly. But I had enough items by this point to heal, and Globas only took two turns to take down.
The King congratulates you
The ending scene is bizarre. The mystery of how Sophia was able to destroy Oswald is answered: it's the power of magic. She's been using magic the entire game, how is that a surprise? What does it mean? Who knows. Then the writers decide that they better do something interesting, so as the four companions are leaving to go back home, Noiman suddenly gets killed. Albert goes to see what's outside and sees this:
Albert: "What! What's happening?"
A bunch of things that look like the final boss are there. Sophia once again calls on her mysterious power out of grief over Noiman, and she dies as well. The end. No explanation as to what those things were.
The instruction booklet ends with a 4-page backstory that gives you more information on the history of Globas and Gort (the above-ground kingdom), and the crystal. But nothing in there has anything to do with the story in the game.

So this is another disappointment. I swear there will be good game eventually on this blog. The next game I'm playing (after my detour), Metal Max 2, is highly regarded by Japanese fans so hopefully that will be a winner.