Released on 1/3/93, published by Hudson
With this game the blog enters 1993. This is the year that SFC RPG production really ramped up, although not quite as heavy as 1994-5.
Elfaria has actually been reviewed by two other bloggers, Boxed Pixels (which is still active), and Random Encounters (which is not). Both of them hated the game. I can understand why, although I'm actually enjoying it so far. It's possible I like it more than I should because of all the crap I've played, but it seems to have had a pretty decent reputation in Japan and got a sequel in 1995. The biggest roadblocks for most players are going to be the battle system (which is almost completely automatic) and the lack of experience and gold. It reminds me a bit of Ogre Battle although it's been so long since I've played that I don't have a clear memory of how much control you had over the battles.
The characters have a distinctive style, done by the artist Susumu Matsushita. He is known for an American comic-influenced style, which reminds me somehow of the Foglio's work even though it doesn't look exactly like it. In any case it's not the usual anime art.
|From the instruction manual
The game begins with a cinematic opening and then the introductory story.
|Ell fleeing from danger
|The first two parties
The story so far is not especially detailed -- there's not much else to say beyond that opening story. I've completed chapter 1 and there was a bit of development with the mysterious Zora on the enemy side, but not much. After the initial scene you then start the game.
|Chapter 1 - The water country Kanarna
The basic gameplay involves recapturing towns from the evil forces. The game is divided into chapters, with each chapter being a different continent of the world. You start with just Pyne's party, and move him to the next town where there's a boss.
|The world map
Once you reach a town, you can enter it and then walk around an area with random encounters and chests until you find the boss and defeat it, which then frees the town.
|The town recaptured
|Razel the mage, who currently has Rod 3, Mail 2, and Rod 2
The sticking point for a lot of players is going to be the auto-battle system.
|An early battle
If you die in a battle, you just get sent back to a previous town. You can also choose "outside" at any point in a town/dungeon and you'll be returned to the world map with full HP/MP. This was a good choice by the designers because it makes exploring ahead less risky, although I guess it means a game over is impossible? The only disadvantage I've seen of taking a long time is that sometimes a boss will come out of a town to try to retake the towns you've already captured. If you're there it's not too bad because you'll be at full HP/MP, but if you died a lot and got knocked back to the starting town you might not be able to get up there quickly enough.
I remember the controversy over FF12's AI system, but these kind of things have never bothered me that much. This is an abstraction of the usual RPG system of this era, which gives the illusion of more choice than you normally have. Yeah it's frustrating when the healer doesn't get the heal spell off in time, but that happens in other RPGs too.
After freeing several towns, you get the second party.
|Aldis' party (fire)
|The forest to the right, cave to the left
|Restoring the Blue Gem
|The useless king
|The final boss?