Saturday, February 10, 2018

PCE Game 7 - Burai

Burai: Legend of the Eight Jewel Heroes (ブライ 八玉の勇士伝説)
Released 8/9/1991, published by River Hill Soft

This is a familiar theme in this era of games: originally a game released for several different computers, then ported to several consoles (PC Engine, Super Famicom, and Sega CD). However, it was released in two parts and only the PC Engine got both parts ported. It has a common feel to these kind of RPGs -- it's not a Dragon Quest clone and has a lot of odd aspects to the system that set it apart from the original games for the system.
Shiozawa Kaneto, who died in 1999

Clearly the game is inspired by the classic novel Nanso Satomi Hakkenden, which in turn is inspired by Water Margin. The idea is that eight heroes are called by magic orbs to save the world. You play through introductory storylines with each hero (sort of like Dragon Quest IV), then they join together, get some special weapons, and beat one of the major enemies. That's the end of the first game, and then in the second game the heroes will defeat the final boss. One reason why the Super Famicom version is so disliked is that it only has the first part of the story.

The opening scene tells you that Bido has summoned the power of the dark god Dal to gain control over the world of Giplos. Some heroes manage to smuggle the last surviving child of the Giplos family out of the castle, who is the priestess of light. Bido sends assassins after her, but her guardians manage to sacrifice their life to make a barrier around the child, and send out eight gems to recruit chosen heroes to save her.
Gonza and Maimai

In the PC version you could choose the order you played the stories, but in the console versions the order is fixed. We start with Gonza and his younger sister Maimai. All of the stories proceed in basically the same way -- they're quite short but you have to do some levelling and grinding for money before going to the one town or dungeon, and then moving on to the next hero.
Most of the screen is taken up with static information; typical of PC games of the time to save memory.

The game doesn't use a standard XP system. Instead, your stats seem to level up as you play. You can set one ability for the character to work on, which will then rise as you wander around and fight, but other stats level up seemingly at random (including HP and MP). I don't really like this -- just use a standard XP system rather than hiding the stats from the player.
The status screen

The equipment system is also strange. Weapons and armor don't have fixed stats; it depends on which character equips it -- if the character has an "affinity" with the weapon or armor it's better. Of course the game gives you no indication of who has good affinity with what weapon so you either have to use a walkthrough or save and load a lot.
A battle

The battle system is your standard attack/defend/magic. One annoyance is that there's no inns. Instead you have to heal at a hospital which only heals some HP, or use items that frequently get dropped by enemies. This becomes really tedious once you get all 8 guys.
This is what it looks like with the full party

Soon Maimai gets captured so Gonza goes after her. Maimai pretends to get killed to encourage Gonza to follow their destiny as the jewel heroes rather than going after their parents' killers. This part doesn't really make much sense.
The tearful (fake) goodbye
Each section is bookended by a fully voiced scene -- the speech is really fast and sometimes hard to understand. Apparently they had to speed up the dialogue to fit everything on the CD tracks (they play the speech directly off the CD rather than as files).

The remaining heroes are the following:

  • Maboroshi Sakyo, an alien with two dragons who comes to visit the grave of his former lover, but has his strength drained by enemies.
  • Kook Lo Tam, a 9 year old boy whose parents try to protect him but die. He befriends a bunch of animals.
  • Alec Heston, an old hermit and fortuneteller who gets sent to the world of death by a rival and has to escape.
  • Lillian Lancelot, a girl who can use needles to compel people to tell the truth. Her chapter involves solving a murder mystery.
  • Zan Hayate, the leader of a pirate crew who is imprisoned for rebellion against Bido. He has to escape from prison.
  • Romal Sebastian the 7th, the heir to a rich family who went to join the circus, but comes back to his house after the death of his father and has to defend the house against enemies.
The sections have a nice variety of things to do so that it doesn't feel repetitive. After finishing all of these sections, the heroes unite and the rest of the game is finding legendary weapons for the people and then defeating Bido. I stopped here though -- the story and characters are pretty entertaining but the gameplay is not very good. There's too much mandatory grinding, and money is too scarce and healing is too time-consuming (especially with 8 characters). I will try Burai II when it comes up though, to see if they improve on the system at all.
The full party


Regarding the PCE games, my intention is to alternate back and forth between SFC and PCE until I catch up, and then play the PCE and SFC games chronologically. I will add in the PSX and Saturn games when I reach that point. However, I'm going to continue to follow the pattern of only giving the non-SFC games one week unless they're actually good games, whereas I will play the SFC games until the end unless I really have to abandon them.

This is a busy week and I'll be out of town next weekend -- I'm going to try to make an Ogre Battle update tomorrow or Monday but then things could be irregular for a bit.

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