Friday, March 31, 2017


I'll make a full update tomorrow, but RS is really pissing me off. I'm in the 800+ battle point. I have several open quests that I can do, but every time I try one, I run into some monster that does more damage than my max HP, to all characters, with one attack (e.g. breath attack or a spell). Not all the monsters do that so I can just keep saving and loading, but I sure hope I don't have to do this from now until the end of the game. I have the best armor that I can buy at this stage, but it doesn't seem to help. This game is a mess overall, but I hope I can at least find some way to finish it.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Game 4 - Romancing SaGa Part 4

I've been busy this week so I haven't been able to make as much progress as I had hoped. But I did manage to complete a few more quests and I feel like I am moving forward.

My current party is Katarina, Grey, and Shif. I've been trying to outfit them with the best stuff I can find -- generally the best buyable armor and weapons are "Garral", with one additional more powerful type you get by some other means. One really annoying facet of this game is the way money works. 9999 money is the maximum you can hold. The only way to go beyond that is to sell something that puts your money over 9999, and then you'll get a Jewel worth 10,000. I don't understand why they did this at all. It surely is not a technical limitation, but I don't see what they wanted to accomplish by setting that limit. I'm now at the point where the enemies are giving me more money, so I'm usually at 9999 by the time I finish a dungeon.

I did two major quests this time. The first involved curing a sick Emperor. We find out that he can be healed by the Moonstone, but this requires getting several symbols. Annoyingly you need Hawk to start this quest so you have to go around until you find him in a pub. But from there it's smooth sailing. One of the symbols is back at Katarina's forest, where a mystical stag appears:

Now that we have the symbols we can go to an ancient temple in the jungle. I actually had a tough time with this dungeon. This was my situation when I finished it:
9999 money, of course.
Fortunately the dungeons usually give you exits at the end so you don't have to climb all the way back through the dungeon.

The second quest I started was finding a dragon in the lake to save a maiden. This dungeon took me a couple of attempts. The problem is that most enemies are weak, but every so often a really strong enemy appears. The easiest way to deal with enemies is usually to find some passage where you can't be attacked from the side or back, and deal with the enemies as they come:
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Initially I had a lot of trouble with this fight:
Wind and fire "fandams"
The enemies can cast spells that hurt all your guys. I had to go back and upgrade my armor; after that they only did 1 a piece. You can also use several weapon techniques that hit multiple enemies -- the second Iron Sword technique hits a whole row, which is useful.

Eventually you reach some guys who are trying to sacrifice a maiden to the dragon. They go down very easily, and then the Dragon sends you on a quest to find a Storm Bracelet to exchange for the maiden (you can fight him, but that probably is not advisable.)

I think I have more time this week so hopefully I can make more progress.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Game 4 - Romancing SaGa Part 3

I like the idea of this game. An open-world RPG where you can choose a character and start different places in the world, and you can freely go around, accepting quests, and then eventually reaching the end of the game without any fixed progression. The big problem is that this game really needed more content. I've read that the Wonderswan Color remake added some additional content that had to be cut for the SFC version, but I'm not sure that would be enough.

The big problem is that you can travel anywhere in the world, but there's very little going on. There are so few available quests that in effect, there are specific places you have to go to advance the game, there's just no way in-game to find out where those places are. If you fight enough battles, eventually more things will open up, but a game like this needs hundreds of quests, not less than 30. Even if a lot of them were generic fetch quests or "kill 10 slimes," at least you would have something to do.

In addition, you often need specific characters to do quests, but they move around the pubs of the world depending on your battles. All this travelling takes money, and at the beginning you don't have much. I don't know, maybe I just get too frustrated with vagueness in my old age, but I've started using a walkthrough more.

The first quest I went for this week was to defeat a vampire. Pretty much all the quests I've done so far in this game involve the same basic process. First you have to find a person who will give you the information you need for the location to appear on the map. The vampire quest doesn't require any specific party members; you just have to talk to the right person in West End. Last time I got a holy grail which isn't necessary but gives you some additional dialogue and maybe makes the fight easier.

Once you reach the dungeon, you fight through many monsters. One big annoyance with this part is the way encounters work. Enemies wander around on the map, some fast, some slow. When you run into them or they run into you, a fight starts. If they get you from the side or the back, your party order is scrambled:
This is especially frustrating because you can't use certain weapons or skills unless you're in the right row. You can move forward and back during the fight, but it's still annoying. I think if they had changed it so only back attacks (not side attacks) scrambled the order, that would have been fine.

The vampire dungeon has an interesting feature in that normal people appear as subordinate vampires. At first I thought these might be townspeople that were captured, but then they attacked me. 
Deep in the vampire dungeon
Usually want you want to do here is find a place where you can only be attacked from the front and then whittle down the enemies. Finally you can head up to the boss, who is just a palette-swapped version of the regular vampire and not very strong.

Katarina the Vampire Slayer
Next I headed out to Weip to finish a quest associated with the Gecko people. I had found some information on this before, but couldn't progress -- this is because you have to go to a different town and find a Gecko in a pub who will join you. Then the Gecko leader will talk to you. I may have missed a clue to this, I don't know.
All those fires burning in a cave, is that a good idea?
With the information from the Gecko chief you can free some enslaved Geckos from Weip. This unlocks two further quests; one I haven't done yet because there is a hard boss that I don't want to try yet. The other one requires a specific character in a pub that I haven't come across yet.

Now I made a Katarina-specific detour -- the witch in the forest is dying.
"You've finally returned, Katarina. I'm going to die soon."
This doesn't really do anything at the moment, although I understand that we'll be back here later on a different quest. Next up is rescuing a woman named Constance. You first have to go into a tower where a woman is, who gives some indication of where the overall story is leading. Saruin, an evil god of sorts, will return, and she believes that you have the ability to stop him. If you accept this as your destiny she'll let you take all her treasures (which actually include some non-money treasure chests)
"You must stop Saruin from reviving. To accomplish that you must make efforts to win the trust of many people."
Constance herself is just in a dungeon, and wasn't too hard to save. I still haven't seen any real boost in the strength of the enemies. Once you complete this quest you get knighted.

Next up I'm going for two quests that look doable; one dealing with ancient manuscripts and another with a dragon temple. At some point I'll have to head back and try to get the dragon treasure that required beating a tough boss. I've also started to have a little bit of extra money to buy spells -- I bought a few buff and heal spells from various magic types, and I'll have to start using them in battle or dismissing people to get the magic levels up. Although I dismissed the fire magic user and when she showed up again in another pub she had lost spells.

But at least now I feel like I'm making progress instead of just wandering around the world hoping to find something. I'll try to put another update up in the middle of the week.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Game 4 - Romancing SaGa Part 2

I feel like I've been spinning my wheels a bit on this game. It can be hard to find out what quests you can access. There's no real place you're "supposed" to go; you just have to blunder around until you can find something. As I mentioned in the last post, you can't freely travel. You can only go to spots on the world map that you've heard about, and you can't travel between regions without paying for ships to take you there. This is particularly troublesome when it comes to equipment -- shops have very limited inventories, and it can be weak or strong stuff. So it's easy to get stuck in a place where everything is way too expensive.

Money is very limited in the beginning so I haven't bought much yet. I've been trying to get some spears and bows so that I can have 6 people (2 per row) all able to attack. The only magic I've bought are two basic heal spells.

The way your characters advance doesn't make much sense to me. The only clear aspect is that if you attack with a weapon, you will eventually level up the weapon, which gives you special attacks with it. Am I right that the weapon levels are tied to individual weapons, and not to weapon types? Maybe I'm wrong about that. In any case, beyond the weapon levels, advancement seems totally random. I had one character at the back of the formation, guarding every time, and she got gains in all of the stats.

So last time I had just finished my first quest, defeating a cultist group under Merubiru. After this, I didn't see any other quests in the area so I tried taking ships around to various places. It took a few tries because several of the ships took me nowhere interesting.
This jungle area had really strong dinosaur monsters

Eventually I came to Crystal City, where I finally had some luck. First off, the Pub had 4 recruitable characters, so I was able to ditch the bear and wolf and fill out my party.
Spread out a little, maybe?
The other characters have no real character or backstory, they just give you a little line or two about who they are, and then they join.
My party
I now have Katarina, Grey, Albert, Shif, Jamil, and Aisha. Shif and Albert come with swords; Albert is weak but I stuck him up in front with Shif and Grey. Katarina now has a spear so she's in the middle part, and Aisha and Jamil are in the back until I can find a place that sells bows.

Crystal City also had a quest; to go to Crystal Lake and recover an Aquamarine gem. This was a fairly simple quest that involved walking through a huge lake and then a small cave where there was a chest. It took a few tries, though, because it was easy to get swarmed by fish monsters and lose too many HP to proceed.
After I finished this quest, it was time to look around again for something else to do. Although the Crystal City continent had a number of towns, I couldn't find any quests, so I once again headed out on ship, where I found West End. Here I got a magician to replace Jamil, and was able to buy bows for Aisha and the magician. So now everyone can attack, at least.
West End
West End is a very annoying town, though. There are all these thugs and kids wandering around who accost you, wasting your time. I ventured under the sewers where I found a catacombs with a number of graves. After fighting a bunch of dead spirits I found a holy grail, and was told to defeat a vampire. The townspeople mentioned a vampire but I don't know if I talked to the right person because there's nowhere I can go on the world map related to that.

The tombs of West End
I'll stop there for this post. Right now all the enemies are really easy so I imagine there will be a strength boost coming soon.

Also I'm still a little worried that the person who wrote the FAQ on GameFAQs was unable to beat the final boss without cheating.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Game 4 - Romancing SaGa

Note: I am not skipping Dragon Ball Z. I'm going to have to start the game over but rather than do that immediately I'm going to start the next game and come back to this either during RS or after it.

Romancing Saga (ロマンシング サ・ガ)

Released 1/28/1992, published by Square

When I was a kid I had a Game Boy. Two of the games that I have the strongest memories of on that system are Final Fantasy Legend I and II (I never played III). They were different from the other RPGs I had played in eschewing the level system. Instead, you had different types of characters that advanced in different ways. Humans bought HP (at least in 1). Robots gained stats by equipping items or equipment. Monsters would eat dead creatures to morph. Mutants gained skills and stats after battles, seemingly randomly.

Much later I learned that these games were not Final Fantasy at all, but part of the SaGa series. The FF name was slapped on in the US to bank on the name. After the Game Boy, English-speakers next saw the series in SaGa Frontier for the Playstation. Meanwhile, three of the games had come out for the Super Famicom under the title Romancing SaGa.

As you can see in the box art, there are 8 characters to choose from. They have different backstories and slightly different beginnings to the game, but quickly they all basically reach the same point. It's a very open game where you have no real direction or specific tasks. Instead you go around looking for quests. Now, this is hard to do well. There has to be some progression where you can do more difficult things as your characters develop. But it's bad if this is done by simply having some easy areas and just not telling you what they are. That is, if you have to blunder around the whole world to find the one or two dungeons that beginning characters can actually survive, with no direction, that's bad.

What Romancing SaGa does is base everything on how many battles you've fought. The more battles you fight, the stronger the enemies are in any given area, and the more events open up. This allows you to go most places in the game right away. Apparently you could theoretically fight tons of battles in the first area you arrive at, and the event leading to the last boss would appear.

Apparently the final boss's strength is also based on your number of battles. I was seeing some English stuff about this game where people were saying the final boss was nearly impossible and required savefile hex editing to even stand a chance; I can't imagine this is true, so it must be some aspect of the game that was lost in translation or without access to the instruction manual.

The female choices
I went with the female hunter (the second choice), who was raised in the Lost Forest by a witch. The game gives no default name so I named her Katarina; evidently her "real" name is Claudia but I don't know if this is in the instruction booklet or in other materials. I didn't know at the time that in the PS2 remake she's played by Minaguchi Yuko, who is one of my favorite seiyuu.
A beary good friend
You start off with two animal companions: Silven the wolf and Brau the bear.

Cutest starting party in any RPG?
The only character-specific event for Katarina happens right at the beginning, when you have to save Jean from Orcs, thus giving you your first fight.

The Tolkien estate can't sue if they can't read the text
As you can see, the battles look a lot like the Final Fantasy tradition, and especially like IV. There are some important differences, though. There are three lines for both the enemies and allies. Only certain weapons or spells can hit to and from different rows, and spells may target an entire row. You can move back and forth in the rows. You can also equip multiple weapons and choose between them -- fortunately they got rid of the system from the GB games where weapons only have a limited number of uses before they break. 

After you rescue Jean, you progress to the nearby castle town. This is the end of Katarina's specific events, so from here on out it's total freedom. One immediate problem is money. Everything costs a lot, and enemies drop very little money. I've read this gets better as you progress, but for now I can't even afford basic armor or spells.

If you can read Japanese you know how annoying this text is
So far I've accomplished two things: I got a second party member (Grey) and went to a mining town, killing some monsters who were trying to steal the gold. Back in town, I recovered some money that had been stolen by thieves (which I had a chance to take for myself), and also defeated some cultists under the town that had captured a girl for sacrifice. That seems to have exhausted everything I can do in the first town at least for now, so I took a boat to several other places but haven't found much of interest yet.
One of the maps
Travel works by leaving a location, and then being presented with a map. You can only go to places once you hear about them from a person or party member -- this does limit the freedom that the game gives you quite a bit. Also the boats to different areas cost a lot of money. I suppose they had to make the choice between this and aimless wandering in an outside wilderness.
Brau, don't sleep!
If anyone has general tips for this game, I would welcome them. I feel like knowing that fighting battles advances events helped me out a lot -- even if I'm just wandering aimlessly at least I will eventually cause some new events or characters to appear.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Game 3 - Dragon Ball Z - Super Saiyan Legend

Dragon Ball Z: Super Saiyan Legend (ドラゴンボールzスーパーサイヤ伝説)

Released 1/25/1992, published by Bandai

I'm at a disadvantage here; unlike a lot of people of my generation, I have never seen Dragon Ball Z. It started on US TV when I was 16, and by then I had the idea that it was a mindless kiddy show with nothing but fighting and so didn't watch it. This game was clearly aimed at people who were fans of the show, and parts of it are hard to understand without some knowledge of the series. At some points you're meant to re-enact stuff that happened in the show, but the game's hints are a bit too vague to deal with this if you haven't. 

The game begins with a recap of the Dragon Ball storyline prior to Z, and then you control Goku. There's not much direction for what you're supposed to do, so you start flying around looking for houses, and talking to people. Meanwhile, enemies pop up:
The generic enemy that is in every random battle
The way random encounters work is interesting. The higher level you are, the more likely the enemies are to run away from you. If your level is high enough for a particular area, there are no more random encounters. This prevents grinding, but I rarely grind anyway so I like this feature a lot.

The battles try to graphically recreate the feel of the series, by having every attack animated:

Piccolo fighting an alien

I would find this much more annoying if I didn't have the emulator speedup key, since the animations can be rather long. The battle system is rather creative; I understand it's borrowed from the Famicom games:

Choosing battle cards
You are presented with 5 cards (I already used one in this image). The dots on the top of the card are the attack, and the kanji number on the bottom of the card is the defense. The kanji in the middle is the type -- if it matches the type of the character, they attack all the enemies and have a boost for that turn. If you use a card with the 必 kanji (on the right of the above image), you can use one of your Ki powers. The dots on the top of the card also determine the order of fighting. Sometimes when you attack you take damage from the enemy instead, but I'm not clear on why this happens.

In addition to those, there are "help cards" which are basically items. They can deal you a new hand of battle cards, heal HP or Ki, and there are some special ones that either have huge effects or are story related.

The houses on the map are card shops, healing, random people, and a training house where you can get gold or increase your Ki points. One problem with the game is that the map has no recognizable features like towns, countries, etc. I assume this is a feature of the original anime as well, but it makes it hard to find your way around or know where you're supposed to be going. But the explorable area is fairly small so I eventually found a cave where I'm supposed to face the first enemy Saiyan, Radditz. You fight a fake version of him and then the real one.
First boss battle
One complaint I have about the boss battles is that you mostly do little to no damage to the boss, and have to use 必 cards (which come up by luck), or some story gimmick. In this case it's a story gimmick -- you use several cards which I understand mimic what happened in the anime, but having never seen it I had to use a walkthrough to figure out what to do. Since the game has no equipment and raising your level has a limit, you have to know about these to win.

Goku dies after the fight, and then you actually play as him in heaven, doing an incomprehensible gravity minigame.
Goku with a halo
Afterwards you're back to Earth, this time as Gohan, After picking up a bunch of companions, it's time to fight the next boss, Nappa.
From 2 party members to 6

Nappa is not too bad as long as you can get some good 必 cards to come up. The problem comes next, when Goku has to fight Vegeta alone, and then Gohan and pals come to save him. I cannot beat this fight -- I've gotten about 9 game overs without even reducing him to half HP.  None of the walkthroughs I've consulted offer any advice, and the youtube video I saw somehow had a Goku that's about 4 times as powerful as the one I have. So I'm not sure what to do. Has anyone played this game? I wonder if I'm missing something about the system, because I've seen some people on Gamefaqs wondering how they can stop from killing Vegeta too quickly for him to use his transformation effect. Whereas when I just tried it another time, Goku died on the first round (game over).

I imagine this game is a lot more enjoyable for fans of the anime. I have all these characters on my team but I don't know who they are beyond their names.

(EDIT: I am not going to return to this game. It seems like I might have to start over in order to pass this point, and I'm not enjoying the game enough to do that. In general I don't intend to abandon games this quickly, but this game is fairly well known -- it has multiple translation patches and GameFAQs walkthroughs, so I don't feel as obligated to "document" it as I might with other games.)