Rather than category review posts, I'm going to make "wrap-up" posts like I'm doing on my other blog where I just write whatever I feel like about the game.
I'm also thinking possibly about a three tiered ranking system that's just based on my subjective experience playing the game. I have resisted numerical rankings or objective systems, but perhaps this can express my general feelings towards each game. It would go like this:
A - These games were truly enjoyable, I had fun playing them just as games, not for the blog.
B - These games were average. I found them boring at times, and it was mostly the fulfillment of completing the game for the blog that carried me through. My overall experience with the game wasn't terrible, it's just not a game I would have finished all the way through for fun.
C - These games were painful to finish, to the point where I wanted to give up despite the blog, and had to force myself to play through (sometimes using cheats) just to move on to the next game.
I think the B rank could also be given plus and minus:
B+ These games are almost in the A rank, but have one or two bad gameplay decisions that knock them down. A good example would be Jungle Wars 2, which would have been A if not for the insane random encounter rate (even by early 1990s standards) in the second part of the game.
B- These games are almost in the C rank, but are saved only by virtue of being easy and short. A good example of this is Villgust.
This is how I would rank the games I have played so far:
[A] Dragon Quest V, Breath of Fire, Sword World SFC
[B+] Glory of Heracles III, Jungle Wars 2
[B] GD Leen, Benkei Gaiden, Elfaria, Xak, Metal Max 2, Danzarb, Odysselya, Silva Saga II, MADARA 2, Ranma 1/2, Super Chinese World 2, Seiken Densetsu 2
[B-] Maka Maka, Villgust, 3x3 Eyes*, SD Gundam Gaiden 2, Albert Odyssey
[C] Light Fantasy, Hokuto no Ken 5, Cyber Knight, Hero Senki, Song Master, Dual Orb, Bazoe!
*3x3 Eyes is a special case because the game has a ridiculous glitch at the end of the game that makes it nearly impossible to finish without exploiting another glitch or cheating. My rank of B- is assuming you use a cheat or glitch to get around the problem. If you're playing this on real hardware it's a C.
Romancing SaGa is hard to place. I was not able to finish the game and because of that I'm tempted to give it a C, but I don't feel like the game is as bad as the other games I have in that rank.
There have been distressingly few games in the A rank so far, but as I keep saying, I have high hopes as we continue forward.
Now, on to Aretha, which I think gets a solid B rank.
The story is OK. It's nothing amazing, but for 1993 it has more dialogue and a bit more character development than the average game, despite the short ending. Aretha 2 is a direct sequel, so it will be interesting to see whether it does any better.
The gameplay is also OK. As I said in the first post, I am always appreciative of any combat system where the magic users can actually use their magic. A big problem with games of this era is that MP is so limited, and MP recovery items so hard (or impossible) to get, that magic users tend to be reduced to one role -- healing and buffing in boss battles. This game has cheap MP restoration items and high MP. The fighters are less useful but later in the game you get swords that hit multiple enemies at once, which helps.
By far the biggest problem is the baffling decision not to display damage numbers. I'm not sure what the designers were trying to do with this, but it's incredibly frustrating to not know if your attacks are doing 5 or 500 damage. Are Ariel and Doll's regular attacks effective? Even after beating the game I have no idea. How much better is Force B than Force A? Who knows. Is Force A doing more damage than Ariel's damage spell? Anyone's guess. Fortunately I think the designers realized their mistake, because in Aretha 2 the damage number is displayed.
The use of enemies on different sides is not especially meaningful. Enemies don't do any more damage from the back or sides, so it's just about group spells only hitting enemies in front of you.
The dungeons are not especially interesting, and there are a lot of one-path dungeons.
Finally, the item crafting system is poorly implemented. The idea of putting different elemental "souls" into the items and mixing them sounds good, but it's impossible to predict what you're going to get, and there's no relation between the number of souls you put in and the item you get. 3 Fire souls may get you a better weapon than 90 fire souls. It's also possible to get ridiculously powerful equipment early on in the game.
So overall this is yet another game that's average for 1993, but doesn't really rise above the pack in any meaningful way.
Now I am excited for the games that are coming up. Soul & Sword and Romancing SaGa 2 have unusual gameplay, Dokapon IV is a completely different type of game (board game RPG), and Illusion of Gaia is fun. So maybe you'll see more positivity from me in the coming weeks?
In any case, Just Breed for the Famicom is next on my other blog, an Enix strategy RPG that's actually quite good.