Saturday, October 30, 2021

Game 72 - Last Bible III

Last Bible III (ラストバイブルIII)
Released 3/4/1995, developed and published by Atlas

This is another game in the long running Megami Tensei franchise. By this point, there were five main Megami Tensei games plus the two Majin Tensei strategy RPGs. The Last Bible series was a spinoff that started on the Game Boy in 1992. The idea was to take the core idea of monster recruiting and combining, but put it into a more kid-friendly fantasy setting that eschewed the usual darker, post-apocalyptic settings of the main games. (The first two games were remade for the Game Boy Color, and the first one was released in English in 1999 as Revelations: Demon Slayer.) The games are also standard top-down RPGs rather than the first-person games of the main series.

This game has an English patch, so you can try it yourself.

1995 actually had three games released in the Bible series -- Last Bible III, Another Bible (a strategy RPG which I covered on my other blog), and Last Bible Special, a game gear game that went back to the first-person dungeon style. This was a busy year for the franchise; 1995 is also when SNES remake of the first two games came out, as well as Devil Summoner for the Saturn.

I played the first two LB games quite a while back, but I don't remember much about them. Of course because this is on Super Nintendo (and released in 1995) the graphics are much better:

The text can be annoying to read at times because they have mixed kanji and hiragana in words -- I've played enough of these old games that I'm used to reading all hiragana text now, but having a mix of the two really throws off my speed. 


The story overall is much more developed than the previous games. It begins with a flashback to a group of "Shadow Walkers" who were heroes of a big war 15 years prior. One of them is Glen, the main character's father. Another, Alec, is about to die in the snow but reaches a gate to the Makai (demon world). Now 15 years later, the Shadow Walkers are being targeted by the government of Megapolis, who has made a perpetual energy machine but at the same time outlawed the use of Gaia (a kind of magic power) by anyone. At the moment, Kurisu (the main character) is outside their purview, attending a school where he is taught to use his Gaia along with his friends. Soon, the Megapolis soldiers attack the town, and Kurisu is forced to flee. The story takes Kurisu through a fight against Megapolis while at the same time trying to figure out the mystery of the Shadow Walkers.

(The main character gains Gaia techniques from the school at the beginning, but I never found out how to actually use them. I was obviously missing something in the system because for me they always did 0-5 damage but I saw videos where people were using them for 400+ at the end of the game.)


The battle system is normal, but as is so often the case in these games, the game is virtually ruined by the unbelievable random encounter rate. This is my 72nd SFC game on this blog so I've seen a lot of games with high encounter rates, but this is one of the worst. The saving grace is that once you recruit monsters to your side, you can then talk to the monster type and the battle will end -- even with this, though, it's very tedious to go through the dungeons. And there are several places in the game where you only fight human enemies you can't talk to -- these places really sapped my will to play.


This is coupled by a poor balance throughout the game. The game goes from being very difficult to very easy. I reached the final boss around level 34 and got obliterated. I did grinding up to level 43 and tried again, and got obliterated. At this point I was so tired of the game I used a cheat to beat the final boss; I then went looking for guides and videos and found that most people recommended levels in the low to mid-50s (and they actually knew how to use the Gaia techniques of the main character). So I was supposed to grind 20 levels to beat the final boss, which is absurd.

The high random encounter rate coupled with rare/expensive MP restore items means that, as usual, magic is nearly worthless other than heal spells. I also found that in general the magic didn't work very well.

As this is a Megami Tensei game, you can recruit monsters to your side. I think this is the best implementation yet of monster recruitment. You are still doing the usual "answer questions" system, but you can see both the mood of the monster and the connection level change as you answer, which means you can actually see what your answers are doing and it feels much less random. There's also the normal monster combining. As with Shin MT2 and If..., I found usually the preset characters were better than the monsters.

This is a pretty harsh review, but I think it's deserved. I was really disappointed by this game; I was expected another decent entry from Atlas. The world is interesting and the story is pretty good, which is a good basis, but the absurd random encounter rate and the sheer amount of grinding required makes the game a chore to play, and I got to the point where I was no longer caring about the story that much because I just wanted to get the game over with.

Now after I wrote this, I went looking for more information on the main character's techniques, which I probably should have done during the game. Apparently you can increase the MP cost to do more damage. I wonder if I can go back and beat the final boss without cheating now, although it was mostly that I couldn't survive his turns where he would attack 6-8 times doing several hundred damage to each person.

Anyway, if any of you have played this game maybe you can tell me how to suck less at it -- I don't think it will change my opinion on the encounter rate but maybe at least the balance won't be such a problem then.

Next up is Vandal Hearts on my other blog, then we'll come back here to an odd looking game, Love Quest.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Game 71 - Eternal Filerna (Finished)

Last time I was heading into the Imperial capital, Bow. Bow is kind of odd because it seems like it's just a big building -- maybe we're supposed to imagine it's bigger or has more structures, but I'm not sure. In any case, the goal of reaching here was to find the great smith Uto, who had the secret of the Sword of Filerna.

Uto is in the basement, but he doesn't believe Filerna's story, until he fights her and sees her sword style. Then he reveals what he has been keeping -- the Sword of Filerna can cleanse the sea that the Empire fouled, and will restore the kingdom of Firosela. So that's now our goal, but the Black Demons have caught up with the party as well and once again we have to escape out of a secret underground passage.

Incidentally, a problem a lot of games and anime have with story consistency is how to have powerful villains that don't just instantly crush the heroes. Most of the time this is done by making the villains incompetent for no reason, or they use nonsensical things like "Let's not kill him now, let's see how he progresses. Mwahaha." or "There would be no point in killing you, you're too weak. Mwahaha." This game definitely leans on the incompetent villains trope. 

Better stories like Lord of the Rings use more coherent reasoning -- Sauron doesn't have the ability to warp anywhere in the world or make meteors strike Frodo. That quest succeeds partly because they play on Sauron's blind spot (not thinking anyone would try to destroy the Ring), and using a small party that wasn't based on combat ability. Sauron never quite learns where Frodo is or what he's doing until the last moment.

So we escape through the basement, and fight yet another Black Demon (#22). The next goal is to head south to where Firosela was. We pass through a town and near a locked windmill shed, eventually reaching an empire military base.

We have to head back to the windmill and get some imperial clothing disguises; it also turns out that Yakos, the man there, was a Firoselan, and is happy to see that Filerna lived. He's sick and probably won't live to see the revival of Firosela, but at least he can help us proceed. Unfortunately the soldiers find us out pretty quickly, and we have to fight. Two of the top-tier Black Demons appear here; this was a big chokepoint for me where I had to move up about 6 levels to proceed (until I learned a better Crystal attack). Fortunately there is a heal spot in the barracks.

Afterwards there's a strange looking baby creature in a bubble that flies away, but no explanation for that now. But now we can pass the military base and finally reach the place where Firosela was. Filerna tries to cleanse the sea with the Filerna sword.

 It makes the castle rise up that we saw in the flashback earlier. The door won't open unless two Firoselans touch the statues, but if a non-Firoselan touches them they will die. We head back to the windmill to talk to Yakos -- the rest of the game contains an annoying amount of backtracking. Yakos is too sick to go help us, but he notices that Lila reminds him of a Firoselan, and a fortune teller seems to confirm that she is Firoselan. It's dangerous, but they try having Lila open the door, and it works.

Inside, Filerna learns that she needs to revive 6 lighthouses to be able to proceed and make a miracle happen. This part is mostly just wandering around, backtracking, and some fetch quests to make the lighthouses activate. Midway through, we head back to Bow having heard that the High Priest there is the true ruler of the Empire, and if we beat him it will severely cripple the Empire. On the way, we learn that the Resistance Armies have grown by a lot, all of them being inspired by this unknown "Filerna" that they're hearing about. It turns out that this is all being spurred by Nest, the scenario writer we met at the beginning, who has been publishing an underground newspaper. He joins up to go deal with the high priest.

The high priest is underground in Bow, and we also find a place where they are experimenting on people (this is what they were doing to Fis much earlier). And in fact Fis is here, and fights us, but stops after a few rounds and instead decides to sacrifice himself to destroy the lab. We continue on to beat up the high priest, who actually is very easy to beat.

Once we activate all the lighthouses, the miracle is an ice boat that comes up.

We need to use this to go to the final area, the place where the Black Demons have their command HQ.

The final dungeon is a tower, and the final bosses were another chokepoint so it was time to grind (I was tired of these chokepoints and used a code this time to move up 4 levels).

After beating the last of the black demons, the story takes a strange turn:

 The fetus(?) tells us that it's already destroyed the Empire for creating the abominations, and that now it's just looking for a place to be born -- the Heart of Hatred has captured the Pot of Life, and so we need to beat the Heart to allow this thing to be born. I don't know what this has to do with the rest of the story (I checked another blogger who did this game and he also had no idea where this came from, so I didn't miss anything).

The boss is not especially hard at the levels I was at (I think it's easier than the final Black Demon fights). Upon being the boss's two forms, we restore the Pot of Life, the source of all life of the planet. 

Now Filerna goes back to restore Firosela. We're followed by some last remnant of the Black Demons, but when Filerna uses her sword in the ocean, Firosela is reborn and the thing dies.

Now Firosela is destroyed, and Lila seems to become the queen with Filerna. Is this the first lesbian relationship in an RPG? There's no dialogue here but Lila is pretty insistent that she's Filerna's wife, throughout the whole game. I found a post of someone talking about the original novel and it does seem to imply that Lila is in love with Filerna.

Overall it's an OK game. Interface annoyances and chokepoints are troublesome, but the skill system is interesting and the story is overall well done for a game of this period.

Next up is Last Bible III.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Game 71 - Eternal Filerna (Part 1)

Eternal Filena (永遠のフィレーナ)
Released 2/25/1995, developed by Intermedia)
Eternal Filerna was a novel serialized in Animage from 1984 to 1994 by Shudo Takeshi. I think that his main work was in anime scripts; he wrote many of the early Pokemon scripts, Nadesico, and other things. This game came out after the end of the novels -- I wasn't able to find any certain information on this, but judging from the titles of the novel volumes, it looks like this game follows the story of the novel from start to finish.

The story is fairly high quality in the game; IP titles haven't always had a good transition from the source anime, manga, or game, but in this case it looks like they did a decent job of keeping the original story in a fair amount of detail. It's not one of those games where if you don't know the original story or characters you're totally confused. 

The background is that the entire world has been taken over by an Empire, who have divided the people into Imperial Citizens, Associated Peoples, and then the Krechia, who are slaves. The main character is Filerna ("Spirit of the Sea"), a Krechia girl who is living as a boy, fighting as a Battler in the arena for the enjoyment of the Imperial Citizens. She's been trained by her mentor Zena, who says he feels some hidden destiny in her. For now, she just has to win 10 battles in the arena so she can become a Megalo Battler. Tomorrow is her debut.

We can walk around the area and buy stuff, leave the town (although you can't go anywhere, just fight random battles). The right part of the town is where the Imperial Citizens live; they all just insult you and yell at you for being Krechia. The graphics are reminiscent of FF5 (4 years ago now). There are a number of interface issues in the game that really become an annoyance. You can't see what abilities the accessories have from the equip menu, only the item screen. You can't see the effects of items or skills in battle. When you use a healing spell or item, you can't see the current HP of anyone when you're asked to select the target. There are other little things like this that are really frustrating over the run of the whole game.

The day before the debut, all the new battlers are given wives from women Krechia who have been bred for this purpose. Each person selects their wife, and Filerna takes the last one left over, Lila. Lila tries to initiate sex but Filerna turns her down -- Lila protests that this is her role, and then wonders if she isn't pretty enough. But then she tries to get in bed with Filerna and finds out she's a girl, but they have to keep up the pretense of being "married" to hide Filerna's identity. (This is pretty explicit for a super famicom game!)

Next morning is Filerna's first fight.

The battle system is fairly standard, but you have skills associated with each type of weapon (thrust, slash, hammer, crystal, and medical box). You learn skills as you level up, and can have 3 types of weapons equipped at a time, although hammers and some of the stronger spears take up 2 slots. These skills all take TP. The battle system is ATB like FF4/5/6, and you can see the meter fill up for your turn. Skills then take a certain amount of time to use (which will be shown as a yellow bar above the turn gauge). Overall it's not a bad system, although you need an item to find out the weaknesses of monsters and on the whole I think the balance is not as good as it could be (the random encounters are too difficult for the resources you have).

After winning the first battle, Filerna gets a house with Lila and continues to fight the other battlers. As she beats them, she becomes better known. The second fight was annoying because the guy can use healing for 300 HP, and once you run out of TP it becomes impossible to keep up with that. I had to level a bit until I could defeat him before he started using heal. Meanwhile she can train with Zena. She also meets Nest, a "story writer" for the battles. After beating all the debut people, Filerna hears that she's going to be fighting her long-lost brother. But Nest tells her that's just for the story, it's not actually her brother.

Ficos may not be the brother, but when Filerna kills her, it turns out that his wife Milika and son Fis were watching the whole time. This creates a lot of drama for the crowd. Next up Filerna has to fight her teacher Zena, also for the enjoyment of the crowd. As Zena dies, he gives Filerna a necklace, the "Hope of Firosera," telling her that by going to the central command area she can unlock the secret of her past with it. With the help of Nest (who decides he's tired of writing battler stories), she's able to gain access to the command center.

Filerna sees an image of 16 years ago when the Firosera kingdom was conquered by the Empire. The King and Queen of Firosera sent away their daughter Filerna as well as the Sword of Filerna, and then they sink the palace into the ocean. But after seeing this, the computer warns that they've seen a top secret Imperial information, and alarms begin to go off. Nest and Filerna have to escape the command center. There is a healing spot -- because I found the random encounters fairly unbalanced, I tended to grind near these healing spots and then run away from other encounters. That's never a good sign for a game.

Reaching the bottom of the command center area, we meet the first of the Black Demons who are a major threat throughout the first part of the game. This is Balba #2.

At first I thought this was an auto-lose story fight, but it's just hard -- Crystal attacks do extra damage, but I did have to grind a few levels to beat him. Now Filerna heads back to her house to collect Lila, but Milika (the widow) is waiting for her there. She throws some kind of acid in Filerna's face, blinding her. Don't put her at the head of the party after this because every step will make this annoying graphical change and she's going to be blind for quite a while.

Apparently Milika did this because Fis (her son) is held hostage (and because she wants revenge), but of course the soldiers have no intention of returning Fis. It's time to escape the town, although the Black Demons have a transmitter in the acid bottle so they can hear our conversation. Milika wants to stay to save Fis, but Nest convinces her to run away. We escape through the battler residence, which the Black Demons try to burn down. But Nest knows a secret way out.

We come out in a different town, and have to find an eye doctor for Filerna. Here we have someone named Dr. Kill, which doesn't inspire confidence. But he does surgery on Filerna's eyes which I guess help, but she still has to keep the bandages on until her eyes completely heal. Now it's time to set out for the Empire's capital, Bow. Since they're being hunted, the way they decide to try this is for the women to pretend to be Mimezu, who are strange cult members that do a religious dance to the capital in these cat costumes. Nest stays behind.

Although they manage to get in the group, the Black Demons are still aware of where they are and have one of their number ready to attack. The party tries to escape over a bridge, but Balba #7 has a bomb ready to blow it up. Milika had lagged behind, though, and is able to come up from behind and push him off a cliff. Unfortunately the bridge blows up too, and Milika falls to her death, leaving behind her flute. Filerna and Lila are sad of course, but they continue on (this is a dark story!)

Next they come to a snowy place and a cave which is inhabited by a resistance army of Krechia fighting against the Empire.

But the Empire is still on to our trail, and we soon have to fight Barba #8 as the Empire forces attack.

Afterwards, we escape through the back of the cave and continue to the hidden village in the middle. Here, the resistance lives. They grow a lot of herbs and Filerna is able to get more help with her eyes from the herbalists here. After some fetch quests the herbalist is able to heal Filerna's eyes (I guess the previous surgery didn't work?) but she still has to have the bandage on until it's completely healed. Meanwhile the Black Demons are still chasing us (they're not very good at their job). As the Empire attacks, Filerna finally decides it's time to take off the bandage, and she can see again.

While the resistance group takes on the Empire, Filerna flees through the back on some mine tracks.

They're pursued by more Barabas, and eventually have to fight #14. After that the mine truck goes off the rails and sends Filerna and Lila get knocked unconscious but are picked up by a friendly old man. Now we continue our journey to the capital bow, although this requires taking a ship across the sea. Apparently the Empire isn't very good at ships, but we'll have to sneak on to this one to get across a small channel. The plan works, and we're continuing on. (Another Japanese blogger pointed out that the Krechia seem to have a lot more freedom after that initial town -- they're not really slaves outside of there. People insult you, but you can freely enter and exit places, buy equipment, etc.)

Our next goal is to make it through a mining town. The mine area is poisonous so we have to wear special clothes to not die.

Here we just have to fool the soldiers into thinking we work in the mine, to be able to pass. But, in Toma (the poison town) we come face to face with Fis again (the son of the widow Milika from before). He's being used by the Empire for some kind of scientific experiments. But the Barabas reappear and we have to escape (yet again) through an underground passage while they burn a house down.

This is a chokepoint where I had to raise a bunch of levels, but there's a healing pool and the enemies give a lot of XP. Eventually I had enough levels for the next Crystal power which helped against the next boss, Baraba #17.