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 battle system is simple, but also confusing.
|A boss battle|
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.
|They're not sleeping|
|The Goblin King|
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|
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.