Sunday, August 29, 2021

Game 68 - Haou Taikei Ryu Knight

Hao Taikei Ryu Knight: Lord of Paladin (覇王大系リューナイト)
12/22/1994, released by Bandai

Ryu Knight is an anime series that started in early 1994 and was still running when this game came out. It's a mech anime that's based on fantasy role playing games, with "class changes" and class-ups, and clear RPG-style character classes for the main characters. I encountered the series in Super Robot Taisen NEO for the Wii but I don't remember a whole lot about it. The story of the game does not directly follow either the anime or OVA.

It begins with Adeu, a knight, receiving the Ryu mech from a mysterious sage who tells him to seek the Earth Blade and win a great tournament to become the Lord of Paladin. I'm not sure how the TV series works, but Adeu seems to already know the other characters (Paffy the mage, Izumi the priest, Sarutobi the ninja).

The game is an action RPG with some open world-style content. There are 12 areas you can go at the beginning, each one with an anime-style episode name. You can visit most of them right off the start, although you won't necessarily be able to do anything there -- sometimes to make events happen in one area you have to do something in another area. This can be confusing and it can be hard to know what to do to progress unless you're taking careful notes.

Some of the areas, quests, or dungeons are optional, but I'm not exactly sure what is required to win the game. There's a clear final event and there's at least one event you have to do before that, but one walkthrough I looked at said you needed to do "all events" before the final one will open -- I don't completely know what they mean by that, because there was one area I never found out how to get into and I didn't do everything.

I started off with the first area. One thing you notice immediately in the first town is how expensive the weapons and armor are -- the store is selling 10,000 gold equipment. You start with 1000 gold and get very little gold in the early areas. Enemies do not drop gold, you only get it from chests and finishing missions. This brings on immediate worry that you need to scrape together every coin, never stay at an inn or buy unnecessary stuff, etc.

But, this is a mistaken idea. The equipment the stores are selling are special weapons and armor that you never need to get. The main way you upgrade your equipment is by "fixing" your armor or "tempering" your weapon. This doesn't seem to do anything when you first do it, but when you reach level 11, 21, 31, etc. you "class change". At this point you can do the tempering/fixing and after 2-3 tries (at 100 gold each) it will upgrade to a stronger form (I think the GameFAQs faq author who never finished the game did not know this; I hope it was in the instruction manual). So you really don't have to save money as much as you might think; I never ended up buying the special weapons and had over 100,000 gold at the end of the game.

You can also buy items. Some of them are the usual cure items, but others are equippable things that give effects like periodic heal, walk on air, jump off platforms, etc.

I started out in the first place they put you. It's a western style town.

The sheriff wants me to deal with some bandits. When I left the town, I was almost immediately confronted with one of the 3D sections. These are action scenes where you have to try to kill the other mech. I lost 4 or 5 times and then looked for a web page to tell me how to play. It turns out you should charge up an attack, which does take a bit of HP off but it's easier to hit and does more damage. With that I defeated him and got an emblem on my status screen. I'm not sure what the purpose of these are; I think you can get 6 of them during the game for defeating various people but they have no clear effect.

Now that he's gone, I can experience the 2D action system.

It's a pretty basic ARPG; you have an attack and jump button. There are some special attacks you can do but I never used any of them (either I couldn't get them to activate or they seemed worse than the basic attack). When you defeat enemies, you get some XP and they give off a bunch of crystals that give more XP. An annoyance is that you can't see your current HP without going to the status screen.

As you can see in the above screenshot, you can also summon Ryu. This allows you to beat the enemies fairly easily. However, Ryu is large and often gets stuck in areas, and you get much less XP fighting as Ryu. So I tried to do it as little as possible.

Afterwards I headed up to the NE of this area where some more thieves attacked me, bringing up another 3D fight. This guy is pretty easy because he stops for a while and you can bash him with the charge attacks. Another emblem, and some rewards from the townsfolk.

The second area has just a few sidequests that are pretty easy and make you good money, including beating up some thieves and delivering a letter. Katse the merchant joins, but I don't see the point of her since she doesn't fight and leaves later.

The third area is just an elf village and nothing of interest, so I moved on to the fourth. In this area the Dwarves have lost their voice from a dragon. I had to go back to the first area to find a magician to release the dragon, and then beat it (with Ryu) to restore the dwarves.

The fifth area has Freedel and a secret magic guild; I have to find out who is hunting them and defeat them. Doing so has Izumi the priest join. I was never able to figure out how to get him (or Paffy) to use their spells. There's something in the menu that looks like you are able to select spells and it shows the MP cost, but no matter what buttons I pressed nothing would happen, and so all my party members just followed me for the whole game.

Place 6 and 7 have nothing right now.  I was never able to enter Place 8; there's apparently some frog town there but when I try to go to it, nothing happens.

Place 9 has the very rich Mithril Town, but the goblins have stolen their Mithril Ring. This quest has the first 3D battle in a while, and I earn another emblem for defeating the Goblin mech.

Place 10 is Paffy's kingdom, and she is missing. There's not much of a clue to where she is, but we'll try to find her. It turns out she's back in place 7, in a village with a bunch of big ape things (who don't attack, Paffy just joins up when I find her -- I must have actually done this before the mithril town as you can see above).

Sarutobi joins in place 11, giving me the full party. He's the best person to control because he has shurikens, and when they get upgraded they can go in multiple directions or home in on the enemy.

At this point there were still some things I hadn't done, but I headed back to Paffy's kingdom to start the final series of events. Paffy gets kidnapped by Galden, one of the villains from the series (I guess?). They're looking for the gem she has on the end of her staff, although they don't know that's what they're looking for (they just think she knows where it is). Galden is in Freedell Castle, and there's another 3D battle.

Now we return Paffy and the king opens up the way to the tournament area (why is it so hard to reach?) I misunderstood the dialogue and ended up in an optional castle where I could never find a warp tile that you can see in there but not reach. But the XP is really good here so I managed to get up to level 58 (well beyond the final armor/weapon upgrade). Finally I figured out the warp you're supposed to use is actually back in Pafresia castle. This sends you to the clouds, where you need an item to walk around.
This whale thing takes us to the teleporter up to the tournament area, which is in a featureless room with no spectators (does this make more sense in the anime?)

There are 5 3D fights in a row here. I think because I had levelled up so much in that castle, I was overpowered and they were all pretty easy. Then Ryu becomes the Lord of Paladin and has to fight the final boss, a dragon that threatens the whole world. He was easy too.

The closing sequence has the longest list of "special thanks to" I've ever seen in a game credits -- I don't know who all these people are but there are at least 100 names on the list, so many that they have to divide it into sections based on spelling.

Then you get a results sheet that shows the emblems you got, the damage received and dealt out, and which special moves you used in the 3D battles.


Overall this game was OK but seemed half-baked in a lot of places. It does allow for a large amount of freedom, although that does come with the downside that sometimes it can be hard to tell what you're supposed to do, and the flags that enable you to do events or quests are sometimes obscure. The story is a little confusing and seems to assume that you already know the basics of the anime (which is common in these IP games). 

Next up is Fangs of Alnam, a notoriously bug-ridden PC Engine game.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Game 67 - Daikaiju Monogatari (Part 2, finished)

So at the end of the last post we had beaten Fat Badger but now the alien Gyab Far has appeared to take his place as the villain. With the help of Dr. Deep and the Great Gnome, we learn that Gyab Far really wants the Aura Ball (the real one, not the fake one that was holding the robot). To get the Aura Ball we have a nested fetch quest -- get the Combo Shell from the Aura Dragon in the Valley of Eternity, which we can get by finding the four Shell Dragons in the world. But to get there we need a submarine, which unfortunately has been stolen.

Also the robot is able to get a vision of what's happening on Gyab Far's ship, which is pretty gruesome:


First up I recovered my companions and reequipped them, and went back to the Seaman village to find the stolen submarine. It was just stolen by some random pirates that are easy to beat.

Now with the Submarine we can go anywhere in the water, including Guardian Island in the SW (there are some other places you can go now as well -- there are a lot of hidden items and optional content in the game but the high random encounter rate often discouraged me from getting it.)

Underneath the Guardian Island, the Red Dragon marks the four locations of the elemental dragons on our map. They're near the four corners of the map, and each one requires doing some kind of dungeon and then beating the dragon.

Once you beat a dragon, you can then summon it for 60 MP, which is quite helpful in beating the other dragons (anyone can summon them). The last one is Red Dragon, but when I returned to him, monsters have killed everyone in the island. I beat Red Dragon and then he tells me about the Valley of Eternity, which is below the earth. It also turns out that this woman Kushura who has been appearing here and there in the game is actually Gyab Far's daughter, Gujo, who was tailing us to find out about the Valley. She manages to capture Kurisu, so the next part of the game has to be done without him.

I replaced him with Mag, who is the only other character with the town warp spell. The goal is to save Kurisu from the Bio Base where Gujo is keeping him to run experiments on him and perhaps sap his life force for food for Gyab Far and his minions.

By recovering a bug from the northern cold area and bringing it back, it will eat all the nasty plants blocking the Bio Base.

The Bio Base is a grisly place; as you go through it you find trapped humans, many of whom beg you to kill them because they're being tortured and kept for food.

Gujo herself comes out, and has to be beaten without magic.

She's confused by why we care so much about Kurisu, but after she runs away we can rescue him and get rid of Mag. The bug also grows into a moth that can fly around and carry us -- allowing us to return back to Shell Island where the game started.

Here we have to fight the Great Shell Dragon, but with all the four summons (and Linda's heal all full spell) he doesn't put up much of a fight. He joins as well (only Kurisu can use him) and we go down into the earth as Gyab Far's forces attack the town.

This area has a series of puzzles you have to solve to move on, which is a nice break from the usual dungeons (unfortunately there are still random encounters, and the enemies here are quite annoying -- they have all kinds of weird, nasty attacks and you have to heal a lot. Fortunately there are heal fountains.)

Now we are in the Lost Continent. We have to find passwords from the two villages here to enter the Valley. The best thing is one of the villages sells Magic Cubes (restore all MP) for very cheap; buying 99 of these lets you continuously restore Kurisu's MP to cast Grand Shell Dragon over and over again, which was my main tactic for the remaining fights.

Once we get the passwords and open the Valley, Aura Dragon appears and challenges us.

He's strong, but with the 99 magic cubes it's not too hard to beat him. Now we have the real Aura Ball! Dr Deep upgrades the sub to go down to the deepest areas, and we can finally visit Gyab Far's lair.

As is usual for final dungeons, this one is fairly long and has multiple sub bosses in it.

Gujo takes her final stand, but then regrets her actions and discovers the power of love! Only to have Gyab Far kill her. Gyab Far himself is a huge bug, so I guess all the "sucking out the life force of humans" makes sense.

He has two forms. I used the same strategy -- Grand Shell Dragon with Kurisu, Zardon attacks (with Powered), Bub mostly restores Kurisu's MP, and Linda defends until she needs to do a heal all. 

The world (universe?) is saved and everyone returns to their lives. Everyone wants Kurisu to stay but the fire shell transports him away (back to his home I guess).

Overall this is pretty good. The random encounter rate did get to be a problem for me, and I avoided a lot of the hidden items and some optional areas because I didn't want to deal with it. But the story is decent and everything plays smoothly. We'll be back for the second entry near the end of the blog. Next up is the ARPG Ryu Knight (which I actually just finished before I wrote this post).

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Game 67 - Daikaiju Monogatari (Part 1)

Daikaiju Monogatari (大貝獣物語)
Released 12/22/1994, published by Hudson

This is a followup to the 1988 Famicom game Kaiju Monogatari. The title is probably meant to play on 怪獣 (e.g. Godzilla, Mothra), but the first kanji is replaced with the kanji for "shell". It looks like it is set up as a direct sequel, with a new "fire shell" hero but some of the same supporting characters, and the same villain Fat Badger. (The Wikipedia article claims this is not a direct sequel, so it may just be that the names and setting are reused). There's a sequel (Daikaiju Monogatari II) which will be one of the last games I play for this blog.

There is a fan patch for the game, unfortunately it's marred by an excessive freedom -- there are numerous references to pop culture, as well as multiple right-wing rants against the Affordable Care Act, taxes, regulations, Socialism, etc. It's a shame because (so far) this is one of the better games I've played on the system and it deserves a better translation than the one we got.

The game begins with something coming down from space, causing tsunami sweeping the world as well as other natural disasters (comets, etc.). It also appears that Fat Badger will return.

So a wise man calls forth the Fire Shell Hero, who you name (Kurisu). Despite being summoned out of nowhere he decides to take on the task. The man sent out some other people too but they get separated. Kurisu takes a ship but is immediately wrecked at Chikri Village, which is then attacked by robot soldiers. Kurisu hides while the town is destroyed (great start for the hero!)

Afterwards, Kurisu sets out. The villagers remaining have some basic stuff to sell you, and then we begin. One complaint about this game is the high encounter rate -- it's nowhere near as bad as Last Battle, Monster Maker 3, and some of the other games I've played. I'm conditioned to accept mediocre as great, I guess?


The battle system is basic but works fine. One nice feature is that you can set up four strategies where you pick a command for each character and then they will execute it. So I made a "fight" strategy that picks fight for everyone, which speeds things up -- along with the emulator speedup it makes the encounter rate not so bad.

The battle graphics look nice too. Unfortunately I got poisoned in the first battle and didn't have enough money for an antidote so I had to reset -- levelling is quick in the beginning. I headed down to Sandside.

In Sandside we learn that the Aura Ball, which we need, is in possession of Doglar. Also here you can form a party with various characters. I took Zardon (basically a fighter), Linda (priest), and Babu (can use boomerangs which hit all people, and some buff magic). Linda has the incredibly useful Angel Song ability, which costs no MP and uses sleep on all enemies plus kills undead. I'm over halfway through the game as I type this and I'm still using it constantly (I have a 3 fight + angel song strategy set up).

The interface on the whole is OK. There's no item limit, you can see the stats of equipment and who will benefit when you buy it, and there is a "best" option in equip. The only wrinkle to me is that you can't see who can equip an item from the item menu, and you can't L and R to switch characters in the equip screen. But compared to the horrid interfaces in a lot of these games this is a minor complaint.

I also rescued a thief from a well. In addition to the party members you can get "helpers" that perform various tasks -- let you climb areas with a rope, view the surrounding area, increase the encounter rate (haha), and other things.

We set out for an underground passage to other parts of the continent (the asteroids and tsunami have destroyed a lot of the bridges). Coming to Bridgetown, we learn that Doglar definitely has the Aura Ball, and continue on to the waterfall cave. An herbalist joins up and has a special potion; very suspicious but I drank it. We came across Piggy, who can get rid of boulders, but then the herbalist turns out to be a follower of Doglar and attacks. We start poisoned, but he's not too hard.

Doglar himself is in the next dungeon; we overhear him talking to a mysterious woman. But she's not actually there so we fight Doglar.

He's got a pretty nasty all attack, but with speed/defense buffs and some healing I took him down. Now I have the Aura Ball, and freed all the girls that Doglar captured. Continuing on, I came to Lamir, which is one of the outlying towns of Dorado City where we can probably find Fat Badger. But all the bridges are broken and there's no way to get there. Lamir itself was totally destroyed by asteroids. You can free a slave here for 5000 pearls (I didn't have the money then but I came back later. She just leaves on her own; I don't know if this does anything later).

The next actual destination is the Seaman Temple.

A huge fish comes in and captures the chieftan, but once we beat the fish, we receive the Water Shell (we started with the Fire Shell so that's 2 of the 4; these are somehow connected to defeating Fat Badger but it's not clear yet how.)

My notes aren't clear here so I don't know why this opens up a new area -- I know you have to find a crystal in the next mountain area and get a blacksmith to forge a sword to free people from the cocoons that the robot attackers put them in. Anyway, once you do this, one of the people freed is Milmy. She's one of four sisters that is the daughter of the Great Gnome and a human. We need to seek out the Great Gnome to find out more about Dorado City.

In the next area, we come across a tree full of mask-wearing people. The tree is sick, and the medicine needed to cure it is in Sandler city to the south. There, Zenim (a former underling of Doglar) has made himself rich off the backs of the people. He offers us a nice place to stay but of course it's another trap. I was not clear on how we escape this, but the screen goes black and we find ourselves in the poor area of town. From here it's time to put an end to Zenim. Apparently he has a magic book and armor that protects him. His mansion dungeon is fairly long, and the key item comes from a little kid who gives us a water pistol. For some reason this nullifies Zenim's armor.

Zenim begs for his life after being defeated, but when I spared it he just attacked again. This time he dies for good. We get the medicine for the tree (healing it doesn't seem to have any immediate effect on the story). Perhaps more importantly, Zenim had the shell ship that Kurisu sailed out on in the beginning. With that, we can sail around the shallow areas of the world map.

I jumped to the next continent, where one of the other Four Sisters in Mosswood makes me some protective equipment to cross the snowy mountains to where Great Gnome lives.

Oh right, you can also found your own town and build stuff in it, and name it.

Great Gnome's house is across the mountains, but unfortunately he's sick. The person that can heal him is Fairy -- I had apparently missed her all the way back in the second dungeon, where I took a right instead of a left and missed the chest she was in. She also gives the hero use of special abilities. But with her help, Great Gnome has the potential of being healed, but we have to get a remedy from a bird village. There, five stone heads send me on a quest to get 5 items (just basic items you can buy at shops).

Once Great Gnome is back up, he gives us an item to melt a snowdrift that will let us pass through a dungeon to Dorad City. On the way, the Aura Ball breaks, releasing a robot that immediately bonds to Kurisu. Also along the way, Korikot, another one of the sisters, heads back to Great Gnome's house. There, Great Gnome tells us we can combine the 4 shells into a Combine Shell that will help us defeat Fat Badger. He gives me a map that shows where the other shells are. One can be gotten just by getting Genji, the fisherman, to dive into a lake and grab it. The other involves a dungeon.

This is a prison island, where one of the prisoners found the Earth Shell and used it to gain power. But he's pretty easy to beat up.

Now with the 4 shells, Great Gnome creates the Combine Shell. We also learn that the Love Sword will be necessary to defeat Fat Badger, but fortunately it's in Dorad City, where we can finally reach now. Dorad City has encounters in it, and just an inn for services.

This is another relatively long dungeon. It's filled with creepy statues and pink goo. We need the Love Sword to remove a barrier before the throne, and finally Fat Badger appears.

You can't hurt him until you use the Combine Shell. He's pretty easy, actually, although you do have to fight him twice. I think in general the high random encounter rate and relatively quick advancement make the bosses pretty easy.

So that's the end of the game!

No, of course not. Now a UFO comes down and Gyag Far declares himself the ruler of the universe. He tried to revive Fat Badger and will now show us just a bit of his power.

He fires a huge beam at Shellland which destroys continents and sinks much of the world underwater. How will we defeat Gyag Far!?!? Join us next time.


So this is actually a good game! The story is surprisingly dark (at least in what happens; all the characters are pretty cutesy) and it's easy to play. I'm looking forward to the second half(?) of the game to see how it concludes. School is starting again so I may have a bit less time to play than I did during the summer, but I'll keep the weekly updates going.