Saturday, February 25, 2017

Game 2 - SD Gundam Knight Gundam Story: The Great Legacy


SD Gundam Knight Gundam Story: The Great Legacy (SDガンダム外伝 ナイトガンダム物語 大いなる遺産いなる遺産)

Released on 12/21/1991, published by Angel



I will start this post with a summary: this is a crappy Dragon Quest clone with barely updated Famicom graphics and interface. Fortunately I can skip it on a technicality, so this will be the only post for this game.

The basis for this game is rather complicated, so bear with me. You may be familiar with Gundam, the long-running robot anime that started in 1979. The sprawling franchise involves numerous anime, manga, novels, games, movies, and such. The franchise has spawned sub-franchises, and in this case even a sub-sub-franchise.

In the mid-80s, they started to release various toys under the name "SD Gundam," which referred to a "super-deformed" and anthropomorphic style, which you can see in the box cover above. From there, a line of SD Gundam Knight Gundam mechs and characters were released in the Carddass system, a vending machine that dispenses collectible cards. These were intentionally based on Dragon Quest and featured various Gundams and characters redone as fantasy-world heroes. This was followed by manga and games featuring these characters. Three SD Gundam Knight Gundam games came out for the Famicom.

The game under discussion here is essentially a Super Famicom compilation-remake of the Famicom games. It's not a straight port because it makes changes and adds additional content from the OVAs and such, but at its core, it's a remake.

The game has (to me) a strange feeling because it's so derivative of Dragon Quest in almost every aspect of the game. Even the music reminds me of Dragon Quest. But this is partly because the original materials were intentionally based on Dragon Quest.

But this also embodies the worst aspects of the tedium of many Famicom-era RPGs. Your characters can only hold 8 items each (including their equipment), and there is no bag to hold extras. Items don't stack, so each herb or antidote takes one slot. You meet enemies that poison you right off the bat, and it's hard to make it back to town with your low HP if you get poisoned. Tank learns cure poison at level 4, but until then it's rough. You can't see the stats of equipment without buying them. Despite the 8 buttons on the controller there's no search/talk default button, so you have to do that from the menu every time.

Another Famicom-like feature is the brutal difficulty. You basically have no choice but to grind levels near the first town. If you venture too far north or south, or try the cave to the northwest, the first encounter you meet will slaughter you. At the beginning even many of the fights around the town are hard, because of the poisoning enemies and the slimes that split into multiple slimes.

It's amateur hour

The opening scene has a story introduction in English. You see this in old Famicom games sometimes (Zelda is a good example), partly because displaying Japanese characters was still in a primitive state. As you can see, Satan Gundam wants not only to kill all humans, but to deport them as well.
The title screen
The game is divided into 4 chapters, each one roughly corresponding to one of the OVAs or Famicom games. The game begins with King Revil and his daughter Frau (both characters from the original Gundam) watching a meteor land, which turns out to be the Gundam, who has lost his memory. Revil makes him a knight and sends him out to defeat Satan Gundam.

Knight Gundam's status screen, with a full inventory
You also get Tank (based on the Guntank) who is a magician. Since the game gives you no direction, you wander out of the castle and begin fighting enemies.




Three Goblin Zakus

The battle system is essentially Dragon Quest, with Dragon Quest-like enemies and spells, just renamed. The one unique system is the Carddass system, where you can go to vending machines in item stores and get cards, which then can be used in battle. But you have to get through some of the game before you can actually call out the cards, so I wasn't able to see this. For some reason they removed some cards that were in the Famicom game but left space in the collection album, so you can't collect 100% of cards.

I'm not sure what happened to my character sprites
The caves work like they did in Dragon Quest I, with darkness obscuring much of your view unless you have a torch or light spell. I was not able to venture very far into the cave without getting slaughtered.

So as I said at the beginning, this is a remake and thus I am going to use that excuse to skip it -- I'm not planning on skipping all remakes/ports but this one is really bad. There is an SD Gundam Gaiden 2 in 1992 which looks somewhat better, so hopefully I can stick that one out.

The next game after this is Super Chinese World, which was released in the US as Super Ninja Boy, so that will be a skip as well. Zenic Reverie has a post about it. After that is a Dragon Ball Z RPG, so that's what I'll be playing next.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Five skipped games

The next five games on the list are:


Ys III - Wanderers From Ys: This is not a good game, but it does have a nostalgic value for me. I was able to borrow a Turbo CD from a friend and played a bunch of games, but Ys 1-3 blew me away. This was pre-Super Nintendo and here was a game with unbelievable music played directly off the CD, and animated voiced cutscenes. The voice acting in retrospect is not great, but as an 11 year old it was good enough. Ys III is the worst of the bunch though, and the SFC port is worse than either the original PC game or the Turbo CD one. Play Oath in Felghana instead.

Zenic Reverie covered this game.


Final Fantasy IV/Easy Type: I loved this game as a kid. The storyline was like nothing I had seen in any other RPG -- it's honestly not that great, but it impressed me as a kid. We of course got the "Easy Type" version with some additional simplifications of the system. I played the DS remake a few years ago, which was OK.

Zenic Reverie covered this game.

Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Gods: Is this an RPG? At one time I was sure it wasn't, but I think the line between action RPGs and "adventure" games has been blurred. Either way, this is a SNES classic. I remember eagerly awaiting its release. One of the best games for the system.

Lagoon: Except for the music, this is not a great game, but I played it several times as a kid. Symptom of not having money to buy your own games so having to deal with whatever you get for Christmas and birthday.

Zenic Reverie covered this game.

Dungeon Master: I haven't played this, but I never think much of the console ports of Western-style computer RPGs. CRPG addict did a review of the computer version.

Feel free to share your thoughts about any of these games.

Saturday I'll do the first post for game 2: SD Gundam Knight Gundam Monogatari: The Great Legacy.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Game 1 - GDLeen Review

Story/Characters: I suppose by the standards of the Famicom games that came before it, this isn't bad. But it promises so much and delivers so little. The characters are thin. Most of them barely have any dialogue, and the ones that join you have almost no motivation or characterization. Only Fana gets some dialogue and story, but it's very basic.The story has some development but with such a potentially interesting setting, they could have done better. This is especially disappointing because from what I can tell, the PC-98 game that preceded this (Digan no Maseki) was heavy on story and character.

World: The world is a constructed ship-planet with a mysterious god and two warring races that don't know why they're fighting. Once again this is an interesting setting that was mostly squandered. The explorable world is quite small, and you don't learn that much about the different races even if you talk to everyone. Perhaps they meant for players to be familiar with the novels? I don't know how popular they were in 1991.

Game Flow: You make decent progress until the latter half, when the game pads out the length by requiring you to go back to many previous areas twice. Revisiting old places isn't always bad, but when there's nothing new to find there but a single locked door, it gets old quickly. 

System: The system is best described as a bare bones RPG system with a veneer of complexity. There are a lot of unusual options -- you can capture monsters and then call them up later, you can do a counterattack, and there are three different ways to run. But none of these really have any purpose since they are less effective than simply attacking, or too much trouble. 

The game shares a problem with many RPGs of this era -- magic is generally pointless except for healing and in some boss fights. The magic users have too few MP to use magic in the random encounters, and MP heal items are very rare. Even in the boss battles, you have to save your MP for healing, and the magic users do OK damage with their attacks.

What all this means is that just for fun you can try to do various things, but in the end the most effective tactic tends to be just mashing attack.

I also complained enough about the status effects in earlier posts as well.

By far the worst thing about the system is the critical hits. I don't know what they were thinking giving any monster the ability to potentially do more damage than your characters' max HP. Anyone can beat the final boss just by getting lucky and doing 4000 damage with one hit. This is a mess.


Side Quests/Optional Content: As far as I know there is none.

Interface: I complained about the interface enough in the actual posts -- the short version, it sucks. For the long version refer back to my rants at the top of posts 4 and 2.

Graphics/Sound: This is one area where this game is actually pretty good. As you can see for yourself in the many screenshots I posted, the graphics are not simply the slightly upgraded Famicom graphics we'll see in several upcoming games. The world could have used more color variation, but other than that I don't have much complaint. The music is also a high point of the game. I posed the title music in the last post, but here are a few other good tracks:




Despite my harsh evaluation, this game must have made an impression on early Super Famicom players because it seems like a lot of Japanese players who grew up in that era have a fond memory of this game. Maybe it would have been worth it in 1991 when it came out, but in 2017 there's no real reason to play it.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review Criteria

Although I'm not going to award numerical scores, I do want to have some kind of criteria for a final review of each game, following the pattern of CRPGAddict, AllconsoleRPGs, and Inconsolable. These are what I'm considering now, as things that I personally like to see in RPGs:

Story/Characters: I'm not as big on story as a lot of RPG players are, but it's still nice to see a decent one, and interesting characters.

World: This is the general feel of the game world. Is it generic fantasy? Does it just seem like random towns and dungeons slapped together for the game?

Game Flow: Does it feel like you're progressing through the story? Things that would subtract from this category would be large difficulty spikes requiring grinding, or long dungeons/fetch quests that get tedious.

System: What is there to do in the battles besides mash A for "attack"? Can magic users actually do anything? Is there anything outside the battles other than standard town/dungeon exploring (minigames, puzzles, complex NPC interaction, etc.)?

Side Quests/Optional Content: In the SFC era this wasn't the mainstay of RPGs that it later became, but there are still plenty of RPGs that have some.

Interface: Is it easy to navigate the menus? Equip things, use spells, etc?

Graphics/Sound: Judged by the standard of the SNES, of course.

Am I missing anything?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Game 1 - GDLeen Part 5 (Final)

My first game on this blog comes to an end. Once I was using a walkthrough and lots of emulator speedup and Monster Repellent, it was fairly smooth sailing.

At the end of the last post I had been given the task of finding 5 orbs to enter Coldan. One was in the cave of treasures, 3 are in previous dungeons and towns, and the last is in the Bavaris capital. There, you have to help a random mother who is giving birth:
I don't really know what purpose this serves.

But then you can get the last orb and head down into the temple to open the door. Once there, General Doran, who let you rescue Fana earlier, joins you. He wants to know the truth about why Bavaris and Mayoor have to fight each other.


Finally, a non-magic user! Also this is what the Bavalis look like.

After fighting an easy boss, we finally reach Coldan. It's a futuristic place with small androids and robots running around. There are hints as to what GDLeen is and who Gavana is -- I had thought that Gavana was going to turn out to be Zuul, but that's not where the story is going.


Coldan


The door to the control room

Now, what do bad RPGs do? Send you on yet another backtracking fetch quest. In order to reach Gavana, you need 12 pieces of equipment, which are in locked doors in all the places you've been previously. So it's time to hike back to all the other places again, and find these pieces of equipment. They're the strongest weapons and armor in the game.  As far as I can tell there are no hints as to where these things are (or the orbs in the previous section). You just have to remember the doors from earlier.

You also have to fight Golbas, who is some sort of part of Zuul that you need to beat in order to be able to damage Zuul himself. Golbas injures General Doran, who has to be taken off to heal, and you get a replacement character, the android Array Blue. This seems pointless, since Array Blue is essentially the same character as Doran just with a different face picture.


A two part battle, here's the second part
Array Blue
Eventually we gather all 12 pieces of equipment, and it's time to go to the final dungeon to meet Zuul. This dungeon requires not only the rope hooks from before, but also "hand bridges" that need to be placed to cross open points. I'm really not sure what the designers thought this added to the game.
A gap spannable by a hand bridge
The monsters in the final dungeon are strange ghost or ghoul like enemies.




After a trip through this dungeon, we reach the final boss, who has three forms. The final battle was a perfect microcosm of GDLeen's battle system. It took me three tries, although the first two forms are very easy. On my winning run, Zuul got a super critical that did 3800 damage to Array (max HP 500). Next turn, Ryuu did a super critical for 3600 that killed Zuul (a normal hit is 150-200). Fana and Tal Ho were useless on damage in the fight, so I just cast buff and heal spells with them.  
Zuul form 1

Zuul form 2

Zuul final form

Once Zuul is defeated, we enter the room behind him to finally meet Gavana:
Gavana
What Gavana says is hard to understand, but apparently it's explained better in the novels and Digan no Maseki, from what I saw on the Internet. GDLeen was originally essentially a travelling theme park, with different types of animals, sentient beings, and plants taken from various worlds. But those worlds were destroyed by Zuul and so GDLeen became a kind of Ark, holding the remnants of those civilizations. It is heading towards Earth, because humans are the ones destined to defeat Zuul and control the galaxy -- apparently the Zuul we defeated is just one avatar of Zuul himself, whose goal is to destroy everything. Gavana has lost control over GDLeen because of Zuul's interference. This doesn't really explain why the Bavaris and Mayoor are fighting, though.

Now Ryuu has the choice to leave GDLeen and return to Earth, or stay. Fana asks if you're really going to leave her -- you have a choice, but until you choose to stay, she just stares at you and you get the choice again.

And thus, Ryuu became a dweller of GDLeen.
The game then abruptly ends, identifying this as "GDLeen Episode 4". I don't know if the books are supposed to be the first three episodes?

So that's GDLeen. It's not a great game. I'll write some sort of conclusion/review post in a few days, and then write a little bit about the games I'm skipping on the list.

By the way, the music is quite good. Here's the opening BGM.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Game 1 - GDLeen Part 4

I've thought more about how long I'm going to play each game. Here's one rule I'm going to use -- normally I am not going to make use of walkthroughs (unless absolutely stuck) or emulator features. But if I've played a decent amount of a game and it's getting boring or frustrating to the point where I'm wanting to move on, I'll first switch to using a walkthrough more and even some save states if necessary. Which is where I am with GDLeen. I detailed some of the problems with this game in the last post, here are some more:

  • Your inventory is extremely limited, particularly the usable items like healing salves, stat restorers, etc. You can only carry 6 types, and even among those types you're limited in the total number of what you can carry. One space has to be taken by "cliff ropes" to progress in some of the caves, so you're down to 5 types of items.
  • When you take an item from a chest, the game will tell you you're carrying too much, and you have the option to discard something. But there's no indication what type of item you just picked up, and it's not always clear whether something is a "various", a "combat", or a "tool". You only get one chance -- if you discard something and you still don't have space, you lose the item permanently.
  • Because of these factors, status effects can be brutal. If Ryuu is asleep, petrified, etc., you can't run from the fight. It can be hard to heal the status effect because you might not have enough items to heal him. You can use a Mole Call to escape from the entire dungeon. If you finish the fight and Ryuu is dead or petrified, you have one chance to heal him, if you can't do it, the game treats it as a game over.
  • So with these status effects added to the instadeath criticals, any fight can result in a game over regardless of your stats or preparation. And the encounter rate is very high, with a slow walking speed.

Anyway, at the end of the last post Fana had left to tend to her mother. Unfortunately that village gets attacked and she is (once again) captured, so we have to go after her. We go to the Temple of the Sun in the capital of the Euredona, where a priest named Luna joins our party.


She has the same spells as everyone else
Luna is necessary because we need her power to open the Cave of Darkness, where Fana and several other women have been taken by followers of Zuul. The Cave is long and has a lot of treasures, as well as places where the ceiling falls in on you. This can result in gold, enemies, damage, or even healing (via water that comes out).


The worst part is the slowness of the messages telling you what happened

At least the cave has some different views to add some atmosphere.

You have to use ropes to descend through holes in the cave as you go. The monsters aren't all that hard, unless they come out with the status effects I was talking about earlier. Here's an example:



End of the first round of this fight. Ryuu is petrified, and Tao Ho and Luna are confused. So it's hard to even cure Ryuu's petrification because the confusion makes it hard to use items successfully. I tended to run from this particular fight whenever I saw it come up, and this is also where I started using Monster Repellent as often as possible. It doesn't last very long, but it avoids a good number of the encounters.

Eventually we reach a room with 4 Zuul Priests, who get an unusually graphical battle sequence, where they went through the trouble of making four separate sprites for each priest. Now this is the fight I was talking about in my previous post, where the first hit was a super critical for 985 damage. I reloaded a save state after this.

Who dares to meddle with the sacred sacrifice!
Is this the only fight in the game with a background?

Unfortunately even after defeating them, the girls fall through a hole, leading you to another boss fight against a dragon with three heads, which must be defeated one by one.


Oh no, this fight has a background as well.

And then we save Fana and the others. Luna leaves the party, so she was just a Fana substitute. Are we ever going to get a party member who is not a magic user?



Returning to the village, we learn more about what we have to do next -- it's a multi-part fetch quest.

We must recover 5 heavenly stones to get to Coldarn
Now what do bad RPGs do in order to increase the play time without putting in extra work? Make you revisit previous dungeons. The first heavenly stone is in a Cave of Treasures, which is a lot like the Cave of Darkness with slightly different graphics:


But after this, we next have to go back through all the previous dungeons. I had noticed locked doors in them, and now with the magic key I can go back to each one and open the door to get one of the orbs. There may be one new dungeon in the Bavaris capital, which I did accidentally go to when I was blundering around looking for the Cave of Treasure. But my next destination will be three previous dungeons to pick up the orbs. Time to replenish my supply of Monster Repellent and get going.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Game list finished

I finished going through the Super Famicom game videos and noting the RPGs. Here's the list, although there may be some mistakes. It was sometimes hard to tell what was an RPG from the 15-second video clips, and I may not have correctly taken down all the info.

This is a bigger project than I thought. I had watched these videos before and was thinking there were maybe 50-70 games that would fit my criteria. Instead I have 122.

I had always known that many RPGs were only released in Japan, but I didn't realize how bad the situation actually was. I came up with 218 games, only 41 of which were released in English, and that includes about 10 bad ports of computer games, and a few more games that are questionable as RPGs (e.g. Zelda III and Brain Lord). It also seemed to get worse as the system life went on -- from 1995 on, there were nearly 100 RPGs released in Japan, and only four of them were released in English (Lufia 2, Terranigma, Super Mario RPG, and Chrono Trigger, and Terranigma only came out in Europe). I wonder if that's partly why I lost interest in consoles around that time and started playing mostly computer RPGs.

Now that's not to say all of these unreleased games are good -- I'm sure there's a lot of crap in there. But we didn't exactly get the cream of the crop either.

Meanwhile I'm still working on GDLeen. In the last boss fight I did, the first attack the enemy made was a super critical that did 985 damage, three times the max HP.

(As a side note, two things always stick out at me whenever I watch these videos: Probably 1/3 of the games that came out for the SFC are Mahjong, Go, Shogi, Pachinko, or horse racing. Also, the last SFC game came out in November 2000, nearly 9 months after the Playstation 2 went on sale in Japan.)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Game 1 - GDLeen Part 3

At the end of the last post I had just gotten a second magician, Rood. We've been tasked with going to a temple to Gavana, where a follower of Zuul, an evil god of some sort, has taken over along with the Bavalis. Unfortunately Fana is immediately captured when you reach there, so it's good the game gave me this extra guy, although I still know nothing about him except his name.


Oooooooooooooooo

One nice thing about the game is that the escape dungeon and "warp to town" items are very cheap, so it's easy to go off to the next place without grinding and get away if you're hurt. In the temple there are a bunch of ghosts; former followers of Gavana who are wondering if he really exists. You can quickly beat the Zuul follower but then you have to head down to the basement to find Fana. You do find her, and the Bavalis soldier isn't happy about having to capture her as a sacrifice. Another Bavalis soldier, a commander, lets you pass without attacking so you can find the truth about what's going on. The truth is a computer called Zegma, which has come to believe itself to be Gavana.

The second boss fight

This isn't a very hard fight; Zegma doesn't do much damage so as long as he doesn't critical you to death you can use Rood's magic to heal and beat him up quickly. Once he's beaten he realizes he's not actually Gavana, but just a computer. He tells Ryuu that if he can make it to Coldarn he can escape back into space. We take the "gate of time" to the Gavana Temple in Edona, the capital of the Mayoor.
The Gate of Time
We must find Tal Ho!
 In Edona we learn that in order to meet Gavana we have to make it through Coldarn, but the Messenger of Gavana there will block us if we don't have the qualifications. The only one who has those in the area is Tao Ho the magician (another one!?), so it's off to find him. Edona is pretty big and has a number of shops, so I made sure to upgrade everyone's equipment and buy a lot of Monster Repellent to cut down on the random encounters somewhat. A bizarre feature of this town is that there are random encounters in it -- GDLeen doesn't seem to believe in safe places.
The only shop with a toilet.

I had forgotten about the old RPG problem of townspeople blocking your way.


Tao Ho is in the Grande Ruins, so it's off to find him. The dungeon is run of the mill, but once we fight through a lot of encounters and grab treasure chests, Tao Ho is there...and sends us on a fetch quest back to the town for a magic book in a tower that's in Edona. He's trying to save a girl beyond the door but can't get through.

Thanks a lot, Tal Ho.

 The tower is another monster-filled dungeon that has more chests and random encounters, but eventually we reach a boss guarding the Spellbook:

"Foopy"? Presumably there's a better way to romanize that.
The boss doesn't really have much threat; with two magic users capable of casting powerful heal spells, the only potential problem is an unlucky critical. Barring that you just beat him up and then take the Spellbook. Time to head back through the whole Grande Ruins to reach Tao Ho again. Once there, Tao Ho pronounces Rood to be useless, and he leaves, so I guess he was just a placeholder character until Tao Ho joins:
Tao Ho
He's at a lower level and knows fewer spells than Rood. I recognize him from the image in Digan no Maseki, the prior game based on the novels, so I guess he's probably a prominent character in those books. Now with the spellbook we can open the door and go in to fight Hatty:


These names sound better in Japanese, I think.
Hatty's a little harder than the prior bosses. He casts defensive and healing spells, and hits pretty hard -- I died the first time because I wasn't healing enough, but the second time I used strength up spells on Ryuu and got luckier with Hatty's actions, so he went down. He does mention that Zuul followers have stolen the secret treasure of Edona. Now we save the girl and go back to town. Apparently the secret treasure was a Heavenly Rudder, necessary to control the ship, so now even if we can get to Gavana, Ryuu won't be able to return to Earth. The Edona priest suggests we go find Oro, who knows more about the Gavana legend and might be able to give us another way. Meanwhile someone comes in to tell Fana that her mother is sick, so she has to leave the party for a while to go care for her -- she promises to follow us.

The graphics of this game are very dreary, as you might be able to tell from the screenshots. There's a lot of dull green, brown, and grey. It makes walking through the various areas more tedious than it otherwise might be. From glancing at a walkthrough just to see my progress it looks like this is around the halfway point in the game.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A couple of quick notes

I've started a list of games; I'm updating it slowly while watching the Nicovideos. The ones in red are the "definite play" games, otherwise I will probably skip it but may play some of the classics I missed.

For updates, my goal is to always update on Saturday, and hopefully do one more post in the middle of the week, depending on how busy I am and how much I've managed to play.

Thanks to everyone who has commented so far. I'm plugging away at GDLeen; that critical hit thing is as annoying as the Japanese players were saying. You can go from full HP to dead with one attack by a random grunt if you get unlucky.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Game 1 - GDLeen Part 2

Before getting into the meat of the post, I want to make a few complaints about the interface. At this point we've already had many years of RPGs for the regular Famicom, so there's really no excuse for things like the following:

  • You can't buy multiple items at a time, so for buying a bunch of healing salves you're back to the FF1 turbo-controller thing.
  • The only time you can see the stat value of a weapon or armor is when you equip it. You can't see it in the stores, or on your status screen. This makes it really hard to know what to buy or equip; I said in my initial post that I wasn't going to use walkthroughs but I'll make an exception for dealing with bad interface issues like this.
  • This game has the FF1-style "ineffective" system where if you kill an enemy, other characters won't automatically attack the next one -- I suppose this isn't necessarily an interface issue, it could be a deliberate design decision. But I don't like it.
On to the post. At the end of the last post, I had just gotten Fana. She has quite a selection of magic spells, although it's mostly the usual cure/cause status effects, heal HP, and do damage. Unfortunately this game has a very common issue in RPGs. The magicians in this game have too few MP, and there are too many random encounters, to make magic useful outside of major battles. MP-restoring items are rare to non-existent, at least at this point in the game.

They're suspicious. Capture them!
 



We hear about a war between the Bavalis and Mayoor, and are immediately captured by Bavalis. Fortunately the Bavalis are stupid, and make it fairly easy to escape their prison -- it's a small puzzle, but it just involves breaking the prison bed and tying a cloth into a rope to escape. Ryuu loses his laser gun and space equipment, but the Bavalis helpfully leave a chest of weapons and armor outside their prison for him to use.
The not-very-well-guarded prison.

The way the Bavalis camp works is strange too. If you talk to any of the soldiers they attack you, but otherwise they just walk around and do nothing. Inside the buildings there are random encounters, but outside there's nothing. It seems like they should have at least made it if you touch an enemy there's a battle, but maybe that was too annoying for them to code.

Ineffective guards
At the exit of the Bavalis camp there's a Mayoor battalion leader named Kalon, He tells us to go to the Mayoor camp, and gives a pass to let us in. Once there, they are quite trusting as they tell us to join the Mayoor army in fighting the Bavalis -- I suppose since they just captured us they think we're allies. They also give us another party member, Rood, who unfortunately is another magic user.
One is enough...
The camp also has the first shops, so I was able to upgrade everyone's equipment and buy some healing salves and antidotes.

That's all for this post; after this I was somewhat lost and spent time wandering around; I gained some levels but made no progress. One small note I forgot to mention is that you can gain a level during a battle because XP is awarded immediately after each kill. That's not really important but it's a small oddity.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Game 1 - GDLeen

GDLeen (ガデュリン)

Released on 5/28/1991, published by Seta.

 




The first RPG for the Super Famicom was Drakkhen, which is a computer game port. My memory of this game is renting it soon after I got a Super Nintendo and being confused and disappointed by it. Fortunately the CRPGAddict already played it (and it fails all three of my criteria).

The first Japanese-made RPG is called GDLeen, which the katakana helpfully tell us is pronounced something like "Gadyureen." It's based on a series of novels by Ramon Yuto called "The Self-Navigating Planet GDLeen," about a constructed planet-ship, which you can see in the back cover of the box. There was an OVA based on the books, as well as a PC-98 game called "The Magic Stone of Digan." I was able to grab a few pictures of it off a Nicovideo playthrough of the game.
The battles are fairly simple, graphically.

Lilifa is wounded, and even magic may not help her.



Judging from the gameplay I saw and these screenshots, it seems to be fairly heavy on story and dialogue, with some impressive graphics in the cutscenes. The battles look similar to Ultima III.

The Super Famicom game has nothing to do with this, however. It's in the tradition of the Dragon Quest style of RPGs. You begin the game right in the thick of things, as Ryuu, our main character, is crash-landing onto the planet. Apparently he's just a regular office worker; this isn't clear in the game itself but was probably given as background in the instruction manual.
"What!? There's an unidentified object in the warp-out zone!!"





Fortunately he is able to eject from the craft in an escape pod, but he's still stranded on this mysterious planet -- as he was crashing, he could clearly see this was a constructed ship of some kind.
A level-up screen, but the same as the status screen itself.


Ryuu grabs his laser gun, a space suit, and a space helmet from the escape pod, as well as a few medicines, and starts walking to find out where he is. Immediately you start having random encounters. The battles are Dragon Quest style, with a black background, enemy sprites, and your own characters just represented by stat boxes.
Ryuu's first fight against 2 Ghouls.
The enemy sprites are fairly well detailed. The battle menu is somewhat complex -- we have the normal Fight, Run, Item, and Defend. But there is also "yuugeki," which is waiting for the enemy to attack and countering, and "talk," which lets you try to convince the monsters to join your side. I haven't tried this yet, and from the little information I could glean online, it doesn't seem like either of these options are that useful. I think you need monster food to do the "talk", so I'll try it later when I get some. Other than that you just shoot the monsters with your laser gun.
Defend!
One aspect I'm not sure about is the defending -- often when either you or the opponent attack, it will say "You didn't let them defend!" but sometimes your HP box turns red and it says "Defend!" for a few seconds. I've tried pressing buttons and nothing happens, it just says "Can't defend!" This is another time I wish I had the instruction manual, although I found Japanese players asking about this online as well.

The most problematic aspect of the battle system, which is the most common complaint I've seen about this game, is the critical hit system. Any attack has a chance to do a critical hit, and the criticals can reach absurd levels of damage, to the point where you can be one-shotted by any random encounter. It's not common, but the random encounter rate is fairly high, so this can be a problem. Fortunately they've borrowed from Dragon Quest in sending you back to the previous save point with your XP, and in this case your money, intact. Any dead party members will still be dead, but at least you don't lose all your progress. Back to the critical hits -- I've read that you can kill the final boss in one hit if you get lucky and get the 12x damage critical (which also ignores defense).


Anyway, Ryuu walks a bit and finds himself in a semi-abandoned outpost; there are a few people, including one who heals you and another who lets you save, but no shops. We do begin to learn a little bit about the world, though. "Gavana" is the name of a god who reportedly created the world of GDLeen. There is a book of history in the outpost, but it needs an Euradona to read it. Unfortunately to pass the outpost Ryuu must deal with a giant spider. After adventuring around a bit and grabbing a few chests, I encountered the Tarant:
The game's first boss
At this point in the game you don't really have any options but to keep attacking until it dies. It has two moves that essentially waste its turn -- one that poisons you, which has little effect during the battle (and none if you're already poisoned), and another that cancels your action, but has no effect if you go before it. So basically you just have to rely on luck; I died once, but on the second try I was able to finish him off and move through the dungeon.
Many enemies can appear in one battle, you can only attack those in the front.

Arriving on the other side of the outpost
After coming out on the other side, Ryuu soon finds himself at a spring, where the scene occurs that's probably most memorable for the young boys who played this game when it first came out:


From what I've read, this is the only "cut-scene" like sequence in the entire game.
This is Fana, a member of the Euradona, who gives you a ring so that you can understand her. She then is able to read your history book: "Gavana is an almighty god, who led everyone and created GDLeen. In ancient times, the gods traveled across the galaxy to various planets with a ship. Gevana also created other ships for the visitors who would come from other stars. Travelers must come to GDLeen. The people will break into good and evil, and the Travelers will become involved. Those who are good will help the Travelers, and those who are evil will oppose the Travelers. Eventually the Travelers will gain the right to meet Gavana." Fana assumes Ryuu must be a Traveler and decides to follow him. She is a magic user:
Starting equipment: Small katana, light clothing.





I stopped at the next save point, so I'll end my first post here.