Saturday, September 30, 2017

Game 15 - Benkei Gaiden: Suna no Sho

Benkei Gaiden: Suna no Sho (弁慶外伝:沙の章)
Released on 12/11/92, published by Sunsoft

Sunsoft released Benkei Gaiden for the PC-Engine (Turbo Grafx 16) in 1989 and then followed up with this game in 1992. It's not a remake or a direct sequel, but from what I saw on youtube of the first game, it seems to be very similar in gameplay.

The title is a reference to Musashibo Benkei, the famous warrior monk who served Yoshitsune during and after the Genpei Wars. However, this game takes place in 1274, 80 years after the death of Yoshitsune and Benkei. Kublai Khan has just attempted his first invasion of Japan, which was repelled by the "kamikaze" hurricane. Immediately Japan begins to prepare for his next invasion (which happened in 1281). There are various legends about Yoshitsune, claiming that he didn't commit seppuku but instead escaped and lived in Hokkaido, or even that he went to China and became Genghis Khan. Someone in the game did mention this legend so maybe it will end up being part of the story.

According to the instruction manual, the kamikaze was called up by ancient magic, and once Genghis Khan realized this he sent one of his generals Jugon (呪魂) to Japan. The current shogun, Hojo Tokimune, has started to collect and send out his own magic uses to counter the Jugon and their spirit army.

The main character's default name is Fudo, which you can change to anything and even draw your own kanji (or pictures) if you want. You can also choose between a male or female, which is the first game so far on this blog that lets you do that.
Girl Fudo
Fudo is training at the Shumon fort in Shikoku under the guidance of Saizo. She has the lineage of Suna. I'm not yet sure what this means -- 沙 is just an alternate character for 砂, which means "sand." As far as I know this isn't a reference to anything in Japanese history or literature, and the game hasn't explained it yet. Your other party members, Mikage and Tokoyo, also have special powers because of this Suna lineage.

As you can probably tell, this game is very Japanese themed. No Western loan words are used, even for things like the settings (instead of the usual "stereo" and "mono" for sound it's 双 and 一). The one exception seems to be "level" for experience level. Perhaps this is why there's no walkthrough up on GameFAQs: if you can't read kanji at a pretty high level this is going to be a tough game to play.

The world map is based on Japan, and the towns you visit are actual towns roughly in their correct places.
The world map
The gameplay is standard RPG, with only a couple of unique aspects. The battles show your characters on the bottom with animations for their attacks (the damage is written in kanji instead of arabic numerals like usual).
Fudo vs. a monster
The game begins in Shumon Fort. Lightning hits the town, and Fudo is called to a nearby tower, where she meets Rakan (someone serving under Jugon). She's able to power up to level 50 and defeat him, but then returns to normal.
Fudo vs. Rakan
Shumon Fort is destroyed, and Fudo has to flee to Tosa village. There she meets up with Mikage and Tokoyo.
Tokoyo, the swordsman

Mikage, also a swordsman
Saizo has also escaped to Tosa, but he's dying. He tells us that we need to get to the capital (Heian/Kyoto) to meet the Emperor. This is probably Emperor Kameyama; he'll abdicate this year in favor of the 7 year old Go-Uda. We need to make sure that the tower nearby is activated so that when Khan attacks again, Japan can call the kamikaze to defeat him. We're also supposed to find five Spirit Rings, but the purpose of that is not clear yet.

In a nearby shrine, Fudo meets Jugon himself. 

He wipes the floor with our heroes, but Saizo appears and sacrifices his life to save them. They wake up on the mainland, in Dewa Sanzan. In order to reach Kyoto we'll have to go south through the Echigo pass, but they won't let us go past without the Green Ring.
Fudo and Dewa Sanzan
In the mountains Fudo receives a key to a dungeon which contains the ring. There we fight the first actual boss.
Fudo has a power of being able to use these "shikifu" items to call out various spirits. As she levels up she can use more of them at once, calling out different things. Using a few of these plus Tokoyo's sword techniques made quick work of the boss, and I was on my way to Kyoto.

The random encounter rate is fairly high, but the battles go quickly. A lot of enemies flee, for some reason.

At the capital we learn that we have to find the Tensho Ryubu book to call forth the tower. This involves going to the Road to Yomi (Hades), and there are a few fetch quests necessary to open up the road. Once in there, there are a bunch of annoying enemies that cast instant death spells, but the dungeon's not very long. Once we find the book, it's time to go back to the capital to call forth the tower.
The Shuko Tower
At the top of the Shuko Tower, we try to activate it, but Rakaku appears. He's the brother of Rakan who Fudo killed in the opening sequence, and he's back for revenge. Before we can actually fight him, though, a mysterious girl's spirit appears. We're knocked out of the tower and the tower is destroyed. Now what will we do against Khan? The only solution is to go see the Shogun in Kamakura.

In Kamakura, we find that the Shogun is with Meisa, the mysterious spirit girl that saved us in the tower. She came from China, but has lost her memories due to an accident on the boat. The Shogun wants us to go to the Kasumi Clan and get their help.
Meisa's spirit again
That's where I am. This game doesn't seem very long, and so far it's not bad. There's nothing about it that especially stands out, but I'm grateful just to be able to play an average game at this point.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Game 14 - Song Master Review

Story/Characters: Overall the story is not bad for this period, although by even later SNES standards it's not very good (or even compared to FF4). The twist partway through comes out of nowhere but is all right, and the conclusion is acceptable. It could have used a little more dialogue and some more believable development in the "romance", but I guess this is 1992.
World: The world is mostly standard fantasy. My biggest issue is that the whole "song" theme has virtually no effect on anything. It's just a skin over a standard magic system, seemingly without even a slight attempt to introduce any music or song-based elements. The song guilds might as well be magic guilds. Perhaps I'm being overly critical because Ar Tonelico II is one of my favorite PS2 games, but they could have at least tried.

Game Flow: Most of the flow problems stem from the very slow battle system. I soon began to run from any fight that had more than 2 enemies because it just took so damn long to fight anything higher than that.

The biggest problem with progression through the game is the parts where you have to backtrack to previous towns. In the earlier parts of the game this involves walking through these long paths with random encounters every few steps. The game isn't that long but the tedious battle system and this annoying backtracking make most of the time you spend in the game wasted.

But the game is quite easy overall. The buff spells are overpowered, and the 3-note ultimate spells you get later kill almost anything in 1 or 2 hits other than bosses. The last bosses do barely any damage.

This game is very similar to Light Fantasy in that overall the game is not that bad but it's torpedoed by a horrible battle system. This game doesn't have the severe balance problems of LF, though.

System: The battle system presents an illusion of complexity because it looks like it incorporates tactical RPG elements, but it really doesn't. There are only two rows and it's just like the front and back ranks of any other game (where you place on the horizontal row makes no difference). You can attack any enemy on the board.

Everything else about the system is standard RPG. Instead of giving you a more powerful healing spell you just get the ability to use the basic healing spell at power level 2 (and then 3), but that's basically the same as having separate spells.

Side Quests/Optional Content: The instruction manual mentions jobs you can take at rumor houses in towns. There is one in the first town (retrieving a pendant from a cave and then beating a spirit that has taken over a guy in town), but that's it. I assume they intended to have more of these but ran out of development time. There are rumor houses in each town but they just give rumors, no jobs.

Interface: Overall this isn't that bad compared to other games in this period. There's a unified command button and the menus are easy to navigate. You still can't see equipment stats -- I don't understand why so many developers were so slow to add this.

Graphics/Sound: You would think given the title of the game that the music would be good, but it's just normal music. Using songs in battle (i.e. spells) doesn't change the music.

The graphics are average as well.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Game 14 - Song Master Part 2 (Final)

The two best things I can say about this game is that it's short, and there aren't any chokepoints where you have to grind to get past a dungeon or boss. But it reminds me of Light Fantasy in a number of ways, and that's not a good thing.

I found another site where someone has reviews of almost all the Super Famicom RPGs. He has them divided into sections based on their quality. One of the sections is "9 Kusoge gods" (named after the egypt gods from Jojo part 3). I've already played five of them: Maka Maka, Villgust, Cyber Knight, Light Fantasy, and Song Master. I'll be skipping another one (Burai), so that leaves only three remaining.

Anyway, here's how the rest of the game went.

After meeting the fairy queen, we headed to Lancafan where we heard about King Eric fighting thieves, and about a thief city Dorfas. There's an annoying part here where you have to talk to a guy three times before he'll tell you how to proceed -- the manual mentions doing that but nobody else says more than 1 thing. Anyway, after that we learn that we need to order Griffon's Tear at the bar at the next full moon. That's not for a while so let's go look for Ferion in another town.

This sequence is mostly useless, but we do meet an important person, Selena, the daughter of King Coleman.
She's on the left
She joins the team and then suddenly she and Yuri are in love, with no buildup for that at all. King Coleman is the target of a failed assassination, and we have to find the assassin. It turns out to be a black panther, who is a transformed human.
The panther gets away, but we find a crest from the thieves' town. Since we're already going there, that's very convenient! Also, it's full moon time, so we get a guy named Sam to lead us to Dorfas, the hidden city of thieves.

In Dorfas we meet Jack again, who no longer has Yuri's circlet -- he had to give it to Eleus, the leader, because he failed to get the Red Orb from the goblins. A knight named Ragnas is trying to get the orbs, but since Jack doesn't like him, he rejoins you to fight them. Sam also turns on the guild, forcing Ragnas to run away and we fight a transformed version of Eleus. Oh also Sam is really King Eric.
The conspirator thieves
One annoying thing about this game is the travel; you're constantly having to walk back and forth through these passes and roads that have nothing but tons of random encounters. The battle system is so slow that I started running from any fights with more than 2 enemies.

If I summarize the entire plot this entry will be too long (if you're interested, read the GameFAQs walkthrough which has a full summary). Basically the empire of Clouador is trying to collect the orbs to revive Achal, the evil god. We finally find Ferion who joins up after Clouador burns down the village he's in. We try and fail to save several of the orbs, and eventually end up visiting Ellus Noah to find the truth behind Yuri's origin. Along the way, El Ran is old and dying, so we take him to the elf village so he can do a transmigration ritual to get a new body. It turns out this will be his 4th body, and it gets more dangerous each time -- he should do the other ritual that sends his spirit on to the next world, but he's determined to try again. So we leave him in Tir na Nog.
The party at this point
The fights aren't very hard except for a few bosses that can use spells that hit everyone and do enormous damage. The only way to beat those bosses is just to hope they don't use it more than once. As is typical with kusoge there are no easily available revive items, although there is a Resurrection spell.

At Ellus Noah, Yuri is told that he needs to go to the Tiamat, and that the circlet he has is proof he's descended from the Excelion.

What is the Tiamat?
A spaceship. I don't know if the writers were influenced by their obvious like for the Pern series, but this kind of sci-fi/fantasy mix is pretty common in RPGs (Shen Nung over at Inconsolable just finished a 1987 RPG that had the same thing). Yuri goes alone to Tiamat and finds robots who call him "master" and say he's a "Matrix". Now the backstory is revealed, which I will quote from the GameFAQs walkthrough:

A long time ago, humans colonized space and created the Galactic Empire.
However, the Empire would not last forever. When it seemed the end was drawing
near, the emperor, Alan Zeigfried, began a final project. His goal was to a new
race of humans, free from outside influences. Emperor Alan entrusted the protect
to 6 people, including his successor, Julian Zeigfried. Julian and hid group
picked a planet named Avalon and began terraforming it so that it could support
life. Avalon was eventually filled with new lifeforms, starting with bacteria,
and evolving plants, animals, and eventually new humans, elves and dwarves.

When the project was coming to an end, its creators were fated to die out.
However, one of them, Achal, refused to accept this, and tried to use the
project to make himself emperor. He used Avalon to create evil lifeforms, which
he used as soldiers in his rebellion. However, he was defeated, and fled back to
Avalon. Soon after this, Emperor Alan died, and the Galactic Empire

Julian and the others returned to Avalon to prevent Achal from regaining power.
In a war known as the First Jihad, Julian joined forces with the people of
Avalon to fight Achal. During this war, he gave the Holy Song to King Cain.
Although there were many casualties, Achal was eventually defeated.

Not wanting to accept defeat, Achal abandoned his physical body, and implanted
his consciousness in Avalon's control system. However, Julian had anticipated
this and was able to trap him in the system. Although trapped, Achal was not
dead, and could presumably be revived. To prevent this, Julian created another
system to keep Achal from escaping, using clones of himself as keys to its
activation. The people who carried the key were called Matrixes. Whenever there
was a danger of Achal returning, the system would create a new Matrix to stop

This time, however, Achal managed to use Zenon to take over the system before
the new Matrix could be activated, and steal the Matrix for himself. That Matrix
was Ragnas. In response to this, the system created yet another Matrix, namely
you. However, your home was destroyed in a war, and you disappeared right after
you were created. The system then awoke Hilda, in order to find you and Ragnas.
Unfortunately, Ragnas has already turned to the dark side, but you still have
the power to defeat Achal.
Hilda, another Matrix, telling Yuri the above story
Our goal for the rest of the game then is to stop Zenon, and defeat Achal. Yuri now has a different picture and icon since he has remembered his true backstory:
Song Master?
Yuri and the team meet Ragnas in the next dungeon. The fights in this part are nice because they give a lot of XP and you can beat them easily with the strong spells everyone has now (a full 3-note water pillar does ~4500 to everyone).

Yuri tries to convince Ragnas he's being used, but Ragnas doesn't care. Fortunately he's an easy boss as usual, but then Nimmens (the hero with one eye in the above screenshot) and Lamia (the black panther from earlier) kill each other while Ragnas uses the distraction to get away. What's more, the Forn ship has been activated. We go back to the Tiamat and start fighting the Forn with lasers, but the Tiamat's not an attack ship, so it doesn't work.
I couldn't get a shot of the actual laser beams
So what do we do? Ram Tiamat into Forn!
This opens a way to get into Forn and defeat Zenon and Achan. This is the final party:
Yuri, Shion, Selena, Arthur (a priest), and Hilda (the other Matrix)
Zenon and Achal are similar in that they take almost no damage from anything. There are a few tricks to beating them: first, use poison darts since they can be poisoned. Second, use Burning repeatedly on the fighters until it says their attack is maxed; now they'll do good damage. Third, use the "pavlov" items to do 1003. The attacks of the bosses barely hurt my guys (I got more hurt in the random fights in Forn), so overall it wasn't hard.
Zenon (poisoned)
After Zenon is defeated, Ragnas decides he can control Achal for his own purposes, but Achal doesn't like that idea and strikes him down.
Achal (50,000 HP)
Once Achal is defeated, he tries to possess Ragnas as a last resort, and tries to kill Yuri, but Selena jumps in to block it.
It's too late to save her.
Yuri and Selena
Yuri attacks Achal, and Ragnas' spirit rejects Achal's possession of him, so Achal is defeated. Unfortunately Forn is self-destructing and the heroes can't escape. El Ran to the rescue!
The transmigration worked
So the heroes have won, but Selena is dead...unless Yuri can use the holy song of Auran to make a miracle happen.
Yes, it works.
And that's the end.
Screw you
So this game sucks pretty bad. It's not quite at the level of Fist of the North Star or Light Fantasy, but it's close. By the way, what happened to the side quests at the rumor places? They're mentioned in the instruction manual but there was only one, in the first town. Maybe they ran out of development time.

Review to follow, then it's on to Benkei Gaiden after skipping Final Fantasy V.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Game 14 - Song Master

Song Master (ソングマスター)
Released on 11/27/92, published by Yanoman

This game has a bad reputation, but so far I don't think it's terrible -- this is a sign of how low my expectations have gotten. If a game can just be played normally that already puts it above the bottom 25% of the games so far. It's really not that good, though, still suffering from a lot of the problems that early RPGs have -- slow battles, poor balance, clunky interface, etc.

The instruction manual gives the general background for the game. Tiris, an island in Limerick Kingdom of Albion continent, is known for its Singers Guild. King Kain, who founded the kingdom, passed down the secret of the Sacred Song after defeating the powers of darkness. These songs can drive away evil, heal, etc. So Kain was called the Song Master. The main character is Yuri, the grandson of the Song Master Robinton (I assume named after the Masterharper from the Pern novels). He has trouble with controlling his song magic, although he seems to be quite powerful, and so Robinton sends him out to find his one-time rival Ferion, who he hopes will be able to help Yuri out.
Robinton and Yuri

He is joined by Shion, a warrior who was once studying Song magic and can't return to his village because of the shame, and an elf king El Ran. Robinton also gives Yuri some surprising news -- he's not really Robinton's grandson, but an orphan picked up from a burned down village.
Yuri, El Ran, and Shion

Unfortunately the whole "song magic" system doesn't have a real effect on the game, it's just a veneer over a standard magic system. It has a few unique qualities, but when I think of song magic I can't avoid thinking of Ar Tonelico.

 Yuri leaves Tiris for Tiris Noa, a larger city, by ship. Once there, I went to the rumor guild and got a sidequest, to recover a lost pendant in a nearby cave. You can't explore the world map; leaving a location by an exit automatically takes you to the next place.
The world map
 The cave was fairly easy with level 10 El Ran around. Levelling up recovers all your HP and MP, and this is the first game I've played for this blog where MP restoring items are affordable and easily available. This means that you can actually use the characters' magic freely, which makes sense since your main character is supposed to be a magician.

The battle system is simple, but also confusing.
A boss battle
The system looks like it has some element of strategy RPG in it -- you can set up your people in three lines, and move them around in battle. But it's hard to tell what this actually does. You can attack anyone from anywhere on the screen. The manual says that you can increase a character's defense by moving them to the back of the formation but I can't tell what penalties they might occur for doing that (lower attack?)

The song magic is the usual array of attack and healing spells, but there are also summons. You can summon a spirit (like the little gnomes in the screenshot above). They become actual characters and will attack and use spells, although you can't control them. If they lose all their HP they die but that has no permanent effect on anything (as far as I know).

As is common for games of this age, the battles are quite slow, and the random encounter rate is relatively high (though not the highest I've had). I'm looking forward to Tuesday when I can start using the speedup key.

I easily found the pendant, although it also had a magic circle nearby. Returning to town, we found out that Davy was the one who set it, although he was under the influence of a dark spirit, who is the next boss.
Evil spirit
Afterwards it's time to move on with the main story. Our ultimate goal is Bernisia, but right now we want to get to Meritus to visit the singer guild there. Yuri decides it's a good idea to travel with a caravan, but unfortunately we all oversleep and the caravan is gone. Pursuing the caravan we come across a grisly sight:
They're not sleeping
Goblins have attacked the caravan, and we are soon taken captive. But then it turns out that it was actually mountain bandits who attacked: they've been trying to get the goblins and humans to fight to further their own goals.
The captives
Also with us are the mayor's daughter of a nearby town, and Cat-eye Jack. Along with them we escape, and then have to convince the townspeople not to attack the goblins. The mayor lets us go on a diplomacy mission to talk to them.
The Goblin King
Of course the goblins are suspicious, and even more so when humans capture the goblin prince. Of course it's the mountain bandits, but El Ran is able to convince the king to let us go save him, as long as the mayor's daughter stays as a hostage. Once we catch up to them, the bandits want to run away, but a random cyclops comes in and finishes them off.
This boss is somewhat tough, but with a summoned Flame Bird I was able to keep up the healing enough to outlast him.

The equipment system in this game is unusual in that anyone can equip anything. But some people are not proficient in certain weapons. Armor seems open to everyone, though. All equipment increases all four attributes generally (attack, defense, speed, and "rhythm"). It's odd for a sword or hat to increase your spellcasting power, and the instruction manual offers no justification for that.

After saving the prince, we are able to use an abandoned tunnel in the goblin cave to reach the next destination -- unfortunately Jack steals Yuri's circlet and runs away, so we'll have to get that back. First, El Ran wants to make a detour to the fairy kingdom.
The Queen of Fairies
El Ran seems to be in love with the fairy queen. That night Yuri overhears them talking about something; it sounds like they're talking about some destiny that Yuri has to face that he's not ready for. Probably a cliche "chosen hero" plot, but we'll see.

We now set off for Lankafan to find Jack and/or the circlet. The enemies in the next section are hard, and I had to run from a lot of battles because the enemy spellcasters did way too much damage. At some point I get the ability to increase the number of musical notes for a spell, which increases its power (at the cost of more MP) but I guess I'm not high enough level for that yet.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Game 13 - Hero Senki Review

Story/Characters: The main problem with this category is that the game assumes too much knowledge. It was clearly intended for people who are fans of all three franchises (Gundam, Ultraman, and Kamen Rider). Characters are barely introduced, backstories are assumed, and a lot of what goes on is either a parody or combination of elements from the source franchises. If you don't know each franchise, you're going to be confused a lot of the time. The main plot is run of the mill.

World: There are three continents, one for Kamen Rider, one for Ultraman, and one for Gundam. Unfortunately they all look the same. Every town looks the same, and the dungeons are all almost the same as well. You can't tell which continent you're in just by the look of the area.

Game Flow: For the most part this isn't a problem. It's usually obvious where to go next, and the difficulty is fairly steady. Even in the annoying single-character parts of the game I only had to do a little bit of grinding.

That being said, it does get repetitive. All the dungeons feel the same, and because the plot is largely a series of episodes, it doesn't necessarily feel like you're making narrative progress.

System: This is a basic attack-technique-item-defend system. Each character has a variety of techs they can use in battle taken from the shows. Unfortunately they're poorly balanced and the higher level ones cost too much TP; there's also a lack of variety. One unique feature is that TP can only be recovered by using items (non-buyable until the end of the game) or by attacking in battle. Even resting at the hospital doesn't heal TP. This can be a little annoying when you need to refill TP after a boss battle, but it does allow you to use your techs in battle without feeling like you need to save it all up for a boss.

You cannot revive a character defeated in battle, which means that lucky critical hits or enemies with multiple attacks per round can screw up your chances. They'll come back after the battle with 1 HP but that's no good in a boss fight.

Side Quests/Optional Content: There are a few hidden things at the end, but that's it.

Interface: An average mix of annoyances and decent things -- you can't see the strength of items in the shop but the more expensive thing is better. At least they do have one button control for talk, open chest, etc.

Graphics/Sound: The graphics remind me of RPG maker -- as I said above, they don't distinguish between the cities at all, and the Kamen Rider and Ultra characters all looked the same to me. Average for this time, I guess.

The music is not good. The entire OST has only 16 songs, and 5 of those are for the title screen and ending sequence. 1 is the game over music, 1 is used only in a single story scene, and 1 is for the final boss. That means that 8 songs are the majority of the game's music, and you'll be hearing the same tunes over and over again.

Overall, bleh.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Game 13 - Hero Senki Part 3 (Final)

The heroes have now made it into Solomon City by a back way, and the first task is to take care of traitor Jared, who comes out with his new mech, the Psycho Gundam
He shouldn't be able to use this
One annoyance of the battle system is that there's no way to revive a character in battle. Many bosses have multiple attacks per round, and so you can get unlucky with critical hits and have a character defeated with no way to bring them back. This happened to me in this battle with Ultra Seven (the healer), and I was just mashing buttons to get the game over but somehow I won instead.

While I'm at it, the special moves are not very well balanced. For instance, Kamen Rider's Rider Kick costs 25 TP. His ZX Shooting Star costs 440. The ZX Shooting Star only does at most 4 times the damage of the Rider Kick but costs 17 times at much TP. Kamen Rider's TP at the end of the game for me was around 1500, and TP restoring items are rare and not buyable until the end of the game. What's worse, the special attacks can miss. So if you use the higher attacks you quickly run out of TP and run the risk of blowing 1/3 of your TP on a miss. Bosses often take virtually no damage from regular attacks. This means that the higher level attacks are rarely useful, and you mostly just want to use the cheap moves.

After beating Jerid, the group goes through a series of events to get them into A Bao Qu city. Once there, they fight Scirocco.
Ji O
He's not especially hard, but after he's defeated, Gilliam returns! Unfortunately he's now working for the enemy, having recovered his memories. He won't kill us (of course) but he gets us out of the way with a teleporting attack.
Auf Widersehen!
This means that once again the team splits in 3. I don't like these portions of the game. It's not fun to have 1 vs 3 or 4 when the 1 has no healing and has to rely on items. Each section involves the hero trying to get back to Dakar City to rejoin the group.

First up is Kamen Rider, who wakes up in a coffin. His goal is to stop some missiles from being launched, which I assume is based on some storyline from the series. Along the way he learns the weak spot for Kaiser Grow, a monster that seemed to be immune.

Ultra 7's story is confusing. He begins in a city that looks like Zeit City but the mayor is a robot. Escaping from this he follows a boy through the forest to the real Zeit City only to find out the boy was a ghost or something like that. This was really hard to follow and I was never really clear about what was going on with the fake Zeit City. Ultra 7's ultimate goal is to stop the enemies from using a bomb to make lava flow down and destroy Zeit.

Finally, Amuro needs to get money to repair the road from Shangri-La City back to Dakar. He meets Char who joins him to find some hidden Zabi money, promising to give Amuro (and Judau) some of it. He also encounters Shuu Shirakawa (Masaki's counterpart from Super Robot Wars).
The boss of this section is annoying because neither Char nor Amuro have any healing; fortunately the best healing items are soon buyable so I was able to use up a bunch of items to get by.

Around this time there's a little cutscene that shows the goals of the enemies, but it's a cookie cutter "Destroy the world to rebuild and save it" plot.

Now the group has reassembled in Dakar, and this is the final portion of the game. First we have to sneak into A Bao Qu (along with Seabook Arno from Gundam F91). Before that, there are some optional things you can do that ritchie doesn't list in his walkthrough on GameFAQs. On the off chance that anyone ever checks this who is playing the game, I'll list them since they help a lot.
  • If you go back to Shangri-La, Judau has opened a store that sells the best equipment and TP restore items. You can find all the equipment in the last dungeon so don't waste your money on that, but the TP items are useful.
  • Go back to Lido City and talk to an old man who gives you a choice. The top choice gives you Shuu, the second choice Masaki. After that you need to look at a wall in the final dungeon (This site gives you a picture of where), and then Shuu or Masaki will be in a room in the next area. They join at level 99 so this helps a lot.
  • In Zeit City, at the city hall, Ultra 7 can learn his ultimate move (which often does 9999 even to bosses).
After you beat the Lafressia there are a few more things you can do:
  • In Mousa, talk to the nurse on 2F of the hospital and pick "Yes". She will show up in the last dungeon to heal you and sell you healing items (including TP recovery).
  • In Shaoyan city, find an old man who will give you a message from Ultra King. In the final dungeon, he'll show up and give you Ultra 7's best equipment.
All of this backtracking is annoying given the method of travel in the game, but it's worth it.

The final dungeon is fairly long, but at least the nurse is there to heal us.
The final dungeon
At the end of the dungeon we fight six bosses -- Birdon, Yapool, Ji O, Kaiser Grow, Shadow Moon, and XN Geist. Fortunately they don't have to be fought back to back. With Ultra 7's Ryuusei Kick and Shuu's Granzon the fights aren't very hard except for Kaiser Grow. Only Kamen Rider can hurt him and he can heal himself, so it's a bit tedious but ultimately not too bad. After the first five I returned to heal up.
Does she get hazard pay?
The final boss is Apollo, in the XN Geist.
Looks like something from Super Robot Wars
XN Geist was quite easy; I thought he was easier than some of the previous bosses. Afterwards, it turns out that Apollo was actually Gilliam. With his future sense he thought the world was heading into destruction so decided to do the "wipe out everything to save humanity" deal. But now he can see a brighter future with ZEUS fighting for good, so he's not sad to die. The epilogue then shows some of the side characters during the game, and also indicates that Gilliam may have survived the final fight.

Now that I've played this I'd like to see Gilliam's first appearances in 4 and Original Generation again to see what connections are made. I know they make him a dimension jumper that actually exists in the different universes.

My final levels and time before the boss
Ultimately I was really disappointed by this game. It turned out to be a below-average button masher with a confusing story that seemed made mostly for fans of the series. Unfortunately the next game on my list (Song Master) is also known as a kusoge. I assume I'll reach good games eventually? It's a little disheartening that out of 13 games I've played so far, the only good ones are Heracles III and Dragon Quest V.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Game 13 - Hero Senki Part 2

One thing that separates good RPGs from average/bad RPGs is memorable locations. In Dragon Quest V, each dungeon and town has its own personality. Sometimes it's just aesthetic, like the underground waterway with its streams and moss, or the haunted castle with the dancing ghosts and torn hangings. Other times it affects the gameplay, like the mine carts or the pits. The goals are also different -- sometimes you need to find an item, sometimes beat a boss, sometimes get through to the other side.

The flip side is Hokuto no Ken 5, where every dungeon looks and feels exactly the same. You wander through featureless corridors fighting random monsters and finding useless treasure chests, until you fight the boss at the top. Repeat for the whole game.

Unfortunately Hero Senki is more like the latter. The dungeons are a bit more varied than HnK, but they're still pretty cookie cutter. The random encounter rate is not as high as HnK and you walk faster, so it's more bearable, but it still gets boring after a while.

I said last time I was going to give more plot information, but the plot is hard to follow and not very organized. Unlike SRW, this game doesn't make it easy to follow things if you're not familiar with the source material. New characters get very little introduction, and there are a lot of in-jokes and parodies that don't make much sense. They want to let you use as many characters from Kamen Rider, Ultraman, and Gundam as they can -- this is probably nice for fans but is confusing to me. I can tell from the Gundam parts of the game that I would appreciate this a lot more if I knew more about Kamen Rider and Ultraman.

A conversation

One interesting feature is "discuss", where your guys will talk to each other and tell you what you have to do next if you forgot. This occurs soon after I broke off the post last time; a villian steals Dan's Ultra Eye, rendering him unable to transform into Ultra Seven. Another being named Windam comes in to fight for him instead.
What's wrong with Kamille as a boy's name!?
Soon after, the Kamille-Jerid eternal rivalry begins the same way as it does in Z Gundam, and Kamille joins up for a while. We're working with the Titans (at least for now) to protect towns. Fortunately the original Ultraman joins and with him along it's easy to beat up the enemies and recover Dan's Ultra Eye, restoring Ultra 7 to our team. Meanwhile we hear rumors of a revolt in Axis City, and also come to understand that behind the three leaders of the various enemy groups (Scirocco, Shadow Moon, and the Ultraman villain) seems to be a single unknown leader.

I'm going to gloss over the next couple of sections because it's mostly just dealing with various Ultraman and Kamen Rider enemies with the help of Kamen Rider V3, X Rider, and other characters.

Eventually the group decides that they need to power up if they're going to deal with the terrorist organization, and the three heroes split up. This is a tough part of the game because you are often fighting with just 1 guy. First up is Amuro, who has to go get the Nu Gundam, stolen by the Black Tristars.
The Tristars again
This is the kind of battle I don't like in these RPGs. The 3 vs 1 style, where your 1 has no healing power, makes the entire thing just depend on your level. If you haven't done enough grinding, you're never going to win. Fortunately you don't have to do that much, but I think battles with severely limited strategic options should be fairly easy to win.

Afterwards, a big surprise: Masaki Ando, an original character from Super Robot Taisen.
He lost his way again
So far he's only been in Super Robot Taisen 2 (for NES). What surprised me is that he mentions Langran, has his familiars Shiro and Kuro with him, and gives his "knight" name from Langran -- all of these elements aren't in Super Robot Taisen until EX, which doesn't come out for another 2 years. I don't know if these things were in other materials beyond the games, or whether this really is the first mention of what would later become the Masou Kishin franchise. Anyway, all he does is help you take on a boss and then leaves, chasing after Shuu. We'll see if he shows up again or if that's his only cameo appearance.

Next up is Ultra 7, who is looking for Ultra King to get a powerup. After getting the runaround for a while, he eventually comes to Yapool and Ace Killer. After fighting a losing battle, Ultra King appears and powers the Ultras up so they can defeat the enemies.
Yapool and his hostages
Finally, Kamen Rider, who is going to power up to Kamen Rider RX. There's another losing battle against Shadow Moon, and once they throw him in a trash chute somehow the sun powers him up? I'm not sure what's going on. Anyway, RX makes his way back to the town, and now the game commits the unforgivable sin of an RPG.
4 General Shadows (one is dead)
This game allows you to save anywhere. When RX enters this building, he has to fight three battles. You can save after the first one, but can't leave the building until all three are beaten. The final battle is impossible unless you have 5 or 6 of the most expensive healing item (or are grossly overlevelled). It's 4 vs 1 and the enemies do way too much damage to beat them any other way -- what's worse, they can blind you, making your attacks miss. This means that you can save in an unwinnable position and have to restart from the beginning of the game -- this should never be allowed in any game. I know you have multiple save files, but in my opinion that's no excuse. Fortunately I had a save outside of the the building, since I had been warned by ritchie's walkthrough about this.

Once this screwover part is over, the three heroes rejoin. Now Zeon has started a war against Axis. Dakar is under Titan control which means we can't get back to headquarters, and Emma and Kamille have been stranded in Zeon territory.

Sneaking in requires the help of Haman Karn:
Looking for Mineva Zabi
We have to fight her because of a misunderstanding, but after that she's willing to show us a secret way into Solomon City. Unfortunately, Jerid is in the passage, and we find out that the Titans have predictably joined up with the terrorists, blocking that way. Thanks to an ex-Zeon soldier (and Haman's help again) we find a second way in, and that's where I've stopped.

I'm still only at about the halfway point of this game. I feel like I should start looking up who all these Kamen Rider and Ultraman people are, but I guess I'm too lazy.