Monday, December 24, 2018

Game 32 - Ranma 1/2 (Finished)

[Updates may be sporadic over the holidays. I should be able to return to regular Saturday updates on Jan. 13]

This game reminds me a lot of Villgust. It has the same feeling of a development team assigned a game as a money making venture without any real idea or passion for the task, and making the most basic, unimaginative game they can. This game is not as bad as Villgust, but it's just as methodical and cookie-cutter. Like some of the other games I've played, I think a step-by-step account of the entire game would be just as boring as it is to play it, so I will hit the highlights.

The game is entirely one path, always obvious where to go next. There are only one or two places where you have to do anything but just walk to the next place on the map. The dungeons have a bit of exploration but it's mostly just for treasure chests that often aren't that useful -- one other lazy aspect of the game is that all the equipment in the game is buyable. There are no optional quests, events, dungeons, or anything of that nature.

The story also lacks the humor and interest of the original manga. The credits indicate that Rumiko Takahashi had nothing to do with the project, so basically the scenario writers were just trying to copy her style, and it shows.

I still had two treasures to get. The next one is the Sakura Sword, and we have to fight through Mousse, who is being controlled by the enemies, and Ranma's father, who has just joined the enemy because he was promised a harem.
One thing I did forget to mention about the battle system last time is that you can hit X to go into a "brawl" auto battle; it seems to prevent the enemies from using their special moves, which can sometimes be useful since they do a lot of damage to all PCs. But you can't get out of it and it can't be used against bosses.

My basic party was usually Shampoo (for buffs), Akane (for healing), Ranma (for damage), and then a fourth character to do more damage, but you can't pick the party until the end of the game.

In the course of getting the last treasure, we fight other characters from the show who are controlled by the enemies, and then Suzaku, the second of the four kings of the enemy group. The principal of the school then takes all the students back to the real world and takes us to the next area. Here after a sequence of dungeons we end up bringing the three treasures to an altar that gives us the Star Crystal, but the leader of the Red Cat Gang uses it to become a god instead. So that will be the final boss.

The last dungeon first has us fighting previous bosses again in powered-up form, then the final boss.
This was the first game over I got. You first have to use an item to remove the crown and cape (temporarily), then you can hurt him. I used a powered-up Ranma and items to heal and restore his technique power. He has a lot of HP and in the end I had lost most of my units and items, but I did manage to beat him.

Then Ranma goes home, the end.

As may be clear now, I do not recommend this game. It's not likely to appeal to fans of Ranma, or fans of RPGs. It's definitely not the worst game I've played, as it doesn't have any serious bugs or major design flaws that make the game hard to play. It's just dull, methodical, and shows very little spark of originality.

Next up on the list is Arcus Spirits, but this is not an RPG, so the next actual game will be Super Chinese World 2 (a game in the series that was localized as Ninja Boy).

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Game 32 - Ranma 1/2 Akanekodan teki hihou

Ranma 1/2: Hidden Treasure of the Red Cat Gang (らんま1/2 朱猫団的秘宝)
Released 10/22/1993, published by Toho and Shogakukan Productions

This is another game based on an anime -- so far on this blog I've played games based on Dragon Ball Z (just for a bit), Fist of the North Star, and 3x3 Eyes. They've been pretty bad on the whole -- I did give DBZ some credit for at least trying to implement a system that represented the atmosphere of the source material. The other two were just straight RPGs, and it was hard to avoid the feeling that they were just relying on the name to sell the game.

Unfortunately I feel like this game is also just riding on the name value -- it's nowhere near as bad as 3x3 Eyes or Fist of the North Star 5, but there's essentially no attempt to make it stand out from any other cookie cutter RPG released in this era. There are still a number of anime-based games to come on this blog (among them Sailor Moon, Slayers, and Magic Knight Rayearth) so it will be interesting to see how this thread develops.

If you're not familiar with Ranma 1/2, the premise is that Ranma (and many of the side characters) fell into a cursed spring in China. All the people who fell into the springs change into something else when doused with cold water, and revert to normal with warm water. Ranma changes into a girl, and his father Genma into a panda (in the image above). Ranma lives with his "fiancee" Akane and her family.

The game begins with the Cursed Spring Guide accidentally releasing the spirit of Nekmaoh, a ghost cat. At the Tendo Dojo (where Ranma lives), after a morning spar with Akane, people from the Red Cat Gang show up and capture Genma.

We spring to the rescue, and the first place to investigate is the nearby high school. The town is overrun with Red Cat Gang enemies. Shampoo, a Chinese girl who turns into a cat, joins us after a bit. Unfortunately the walking is very slow, with no run/speed up button.

The battle system is standard AMID. The only difference from usual is that the M part is martial arts special moves, which drain your 闘気 (touki, "fighting spirit") meter. The meter refills as you walk around, or if you defend in battle or use a refill item. This is appreciated because it means you can actually use the moves without just having to save all your touki for boss fights.Using a bucket or a kettle you can turn the characters back and forth from their human and changed forms, but this isn't as useful as it could have been. I think part of the laziness of the designers shows in the fact that even characters like Shampoo and Ryoga, who turn into little animals, retain all their stats in their changed forms but just can't use some techniques. So most of the time you don't want to be in the changed form unless you have to for the story. Ranma is exactly the same either way. I guess this does match the anime for Ranma at least.

Soon we learn from Shampoo's grandmother (Cologne) that the Red Cat Gang is a legendary group, and to stop them we will need three items: the Peach Gem, the Cherry Blossom Sword, and the Forest Mirror.
Ucchan, Ranma's other fiancee, sells healing items
At the school, the principal (who was paid off by the gang) ambushes us and knocks us unconscious with a pineapple bomb. Ranma wakes up alone in a separate world in a jail cell. He quickly breaks free and makes it to the nearby Strawberry Village. There's a Peach Village nearby which sounds like it might have the peach gem, but first we have to rescue Akane from the Apple Village. Ryoga (who turns into a pig) joins up.
The principal
To save Akane we have to sneak into a women's bath (by having Ranma as a girl and Ryoga as the pig) and make our way through an underground cave. Since this party has no healing techniques it's important to have a lot of healing items to make it through, especially since you have to fight a tough boss at the end. Fortunately we get Akane back at the end, who brings along some nice healing arts.

Now we head south to the Chestnut Village, where we learn that Peach and Persimmon Villages have been taken over by the Red Cats. The Peach Gem is in the White Tree Shrine, which we can get to with a Hajutsu paper. Unfortunately a villain arrives and steals the mayor's daughter, and we have to rescue her from the tower to the south.

The boss in the tower is Rasetsume, who takes the paper and gives it to Genbu. But of course she refuses to give the kid back, so we have to beat her up. Now it's off to Peach Village to see if we can get the gem back.

Since I started late in the week that's all I did. There is a translation patch for this game, but even if you're a Ranma fan this really isn't that good of a game. It does seem to be short, though, so maybe I can finish it in another week.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

PCE Game 23 - Startling Odyssey

Startling Odyssey (スタートリングオデッセイ)
Released 10/22/1993, developed by Ray Force 

As I've said before, this blog is still primarily a Super Famicom blog, so I have stricter standards for continuing to play the PC Engine games. Startling Odyssey is a perfect example of a cookie cutter RPG put together with a string of cliches and standard RPG gameplay. If this were on the SFC I would play it through, but for the PC Engine I'm fine playing it for a few hours and moving on.

The opening scene is familiar territory. Long ago there were evil forces in the world, but beings of light came to save humanity, and then left, but there are still descendants of those beings of light, and darkness is once again appearing in the world.

The opening scene has some nice orchestrated music, but then of course you go from the voiced cutscenes to this:

The main character, Leon, is a sword user who also studies magic under an old man in town. His friend Sophia has recently returned from three years of study in a seminary.

 There are a lot of earthquakes lately, and increased monsters. On the day the game starts, an evil guy named Zowder comes to the town, looking for descendants of the beings of light. It turns out Leon's mother is one of them, and she fights the enemies off with spells, but Zowder uses a hostage to capture her and turn her into stone. Thus begins Leon's quest to save her.

The battles are completely normal AMID, and the encounter rate is high. However, it is nice that the MP values are high enough that you can frequently use spells, and the "escape dungeon" items are cheap enough that you can explore the dungeons and then leave when you're weak rather than grinding until you can survive.

The first quest is to find gunpowder in a tower so that we can blow up the rocks blocking a tunnel to the mainland. This will also help the island which is suffering since ships are no longer able to come to the island (due to the monsters and earthquakes).
A boss
When I reached the mainland, I then had to make it through a mountain pass that was supposedly guarded by thieves, but instead it was just monsters. After making it through that, the king in the next castle charged me with clearing out monsters nearby.

So that's where I stopped. Everything I read about this game says it's a completely average, playable RPG from this era. So it's not bad, but there's no reason to play it anymore.

Next up will be Ranma 1/2 for the SFC, after Little Master 2 for the Game Boy on my other blog. Ranma should be interesting and rather nostalgic.