Friday, February 15, 2019

Game 13 - Macross: Eien no Love Song wrap-up

Macross: Eternal Love Song (マクロス 永遠のラブソング)
Release Date:
12/4/1992
System:
PC Engine
Developer:
Masaya Games
Publisher:
Nihon Computer

  1. Turn type: Player turn/enemy turn.
  2. Maps: Small to medium. Terrain gives bonuses.
  3. Character customization: For some characters, you can choose between two mechs at certain upgrade points, but the choice is permanent.
  4. Character development: Standard XP/level system. At certain levels, the character's mech upgrades, sometimes with a choice between units.
  5. Party: You always get to use all your units in each map. In addition to a number of named characters, you get a decent number of nameless enemies that can level up and stay with you for the rest of the game.
  6. Equipment: The game has no items or equipment.
  7. Game flow: 29 stages, one after the other. A code can be used to repeat maps if necessary.
  8. Saving: Any time.
  9. Death: Not permanent

I believe this is the only Macross franchise game that will appear on this blog. Macross appears in a number of Super Robot Wars games, but this is the only SRPG for Macross alone. I'm afraid that Macross fans will not find a great deal to like in the story. The story elements are mostly borrowed from the original Macross series and Macross II, and the format of the game makes the characters underdeveloped. 

On the other hand, the story is pretty good for a 1992 RPG. Masaya used the same technique as in Lady Phantom (and that they'll later repeat in the PCE remake of Langrisser) of using one short voiced cutscene before each stage. This is followed by a description of the situation and stage, and then some pre-battle dialogue. The crucial thing missing is dialogue between the missions, which would have fleshed out the characters more -- but once again, few games have that in 1992. The use of the vocal song (Ai Oboeteimasu ka) near the end of the game is a nice touch. 

I wonder why the only characters from the original series to appear in the game are Britai and Exsedol. 

From a gameplay standpoint, they did a good job of integrating the 3 forms of the Valkyries into the game. The idea that the plane fighter form has the lowest evade rate doesn't really make sense, but I found that all three forms were useful at different times. The level-based upgrades also add some interest and give you some new things to play with as the stages progress. The stages also have a huge number of NPCs, and they become part of the strategic calculations in each stage even if they die quickly. The decision to give you permanent grunt units is interesting as well; even though they are way behind your main characters in ability, they can actually accomplish a fair amount.

My main criticism about the gameplay is the lack of variety. This is to some extent dictated by the franchise, but it gets a little boring to fight the same Zentradi and Meltrandi units for 29 stages. Your player characters are also mostly the same. At least the win conditions and nature of the maps are distinct, so it's not just "kill all enemies" in every stage.

Of course the visuals and audio are great; this is the period where the PC Engine could run circles around all the other consoles when it came to graphics and sound.

Overall I had fun with this game.

Next up is the last original Famicom game on my list -- Just Breed, which has a recent fan translation.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Game 13 - Macross: Eien no Love Song (Stages 21-29)

Stage 21

The enemies are somewhat strong, but they're weak enough that area-effect grenades tear them apart.

Stage 22

Nothing too tough here. There's a wall of NPCs in front of you but just advancing slowly and taking out the units squad by squad is easy.

Stage 23

You can either beat all enemies or have Quamzin's ship escape to the right. I just let him escape; it takes a while but then it's not necessary to beat all the enemies.


Stage 24

I finally got Misty's final unit in this stage, where she can send out two funnels. The funnels don't do a lot of damage, but they are basically impossible to hit and their low HP attract enemy fire, so they're incredibly useful. Getting Misty and Kiryuu to level 18 as quickly as possible makes this game much easier.

Stage 25

Kiryuu's funnels came here. This is the first of a few inside maps; the Prometheus can't move from the initial spot but it's still not too tough. The funnels have such high move that even if the reinforcements surprise you, they can distract them enough that the ship won't get taken out.



Stage 26

Quamzin's new mech is the target; with most of the upgraded mechs this wasn't that hard.


Stage 27

This stage is fairly challenging. You have 20 turns to survive, or beat the enemies. I started off by moving down and sending the funnels up. This distracted the enemies enough that I could clean up the bottom of the map and then move up and take out the rest. Brittai shows up but is no help.

Stage 28

I believe reinforcements are endless on this stage so all you can do is head to the right and get the Prometheus to the right side of the screen. 

Stage 29

For the last stage you only get Kiryuu and Misty, which would be bad if they're not in their final forms. The funnels can distract the enemies long enough for you to beat Quamzin, which is the real goal. I got confused because after you beat Quamzin, he appears again in a weak grunt unit, and you have to kill that to finish the stage. I didn't notice this and just headed up to where the supposed boss is, but there's nothing you can do there. 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Game 13 - Macross: Eien no Love Song (Stages 11-20)

As I said in the last entry, this is probably the only time I will do a full stream playthrough -- in the future I will stream one or two sessions and the blog the rest.

Stage 11

They keep increasing the number of grunt player units you have. They're not great, but they can take some hits, draw enemy fire, and often have one or two shots of a decent weapon they can fire off. Using them well can make the stages a bit easier.

The Meltrandi in this stage are tough, but Misty comes in to help out after a while.

Stage 12

One interesting thing about this game is how few of the stages are just your guys vs. an enemy force. Most of the time there are NPC federation units, or a double enemy (Meltrandi and Zentradi, fighting each other and you).


Stage 13

This is another stage where we have to prevent the enemies from getting to the town. The enemies are somewhat strong, but overall the mission was OK.

Stage 14

This is more fighting against Lyle. It's a short mission because all you have to do is get Kiryuu to the edge of the map. I killed some of the units but then just bailed out when things looked bad.


Stage 15

Now Misty has officially joined the team. She and Kiryuu have the best final upgrade mechs at level 18, but that won't happen for a while. Incidentally, this game gets much easier when people get to their final upgrades (particularly Misty, Kiryuu, Guy, and Grey). A lot of people have Armored Valkyrie as a final upgrade choice but they're not very good.

Stage 16

Another relatively easy stage, with both Zentradi and Meltrandi.



Stage 17

This is it for the Meltrandi, another three way fight with tons of NPC units. Not a hard stage because of everything going on.


Stage 18

The traitor Lyle is back to fight us again. Maria has joined, a daughter of Max and Milia. I think she may have been in the previous Macross 2036 game; there's really no development of her character at all.

The video also contains a failure of stage 19.



Stage 19

This is the hardest stage so far (I'm up to 26 now). The problem is that there are a lot of tough units in the initial set, and then there are reinforcements with tough units as well. Getting Kiryuu or Misty to level 18 before this stage would help a lot. As it is, I stayed near the center of the map and fought the units as they got close. This let things go slowly enough that I was able to use all my PC grunts to absorb hits and do a little damage, and even though I lost some units, I did win in the end.

Stage 20 

Lyle has now joined the team. He's the best unit after Kiryuu and Misty, and also gets a nice upgrade at level 18. Those three can usually be sent into the middle of the units and they'll be OK.

9 more stages.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Game 13 - Macross: Eien no Love Song (Stages 1-10)

Macross: Eternal Love Song (マクロス 永遠のラブソング)
Release Date: 12/4/1992
System: PC Engine
Developer: Masaya Games
Publisher: Nihon Computer

Another game from Masaya. This one is developed by both Masaya and Big West. After Studio Nue did the original Macross, Big West followed it up with Macross II and a few games (including this one), before Nue returned to Macross production with Macross Plus. So this is a non-canonical game.

I have been streaming the stages for this game, so I'm going to link the videos and then just briefly summarize them -- in the future I will probably only stream once for each game, to introduce it, and then just blog post the rest. But let me know what you think I should do.


 (The microphone audio starts off too low, but I fix it within the first 8 minutes or so).

Stage 1

After an opening scene that just summarizes the original Macross, we start with two main characters -- Kiryuu and Letradi, who are test pilots for new Valkyries. Of course Zentradi attack and we have to take them on.

The Valkyries can change into three forms, just like in the show.
  • The plane fighters, which have the best movement but crappy stats in everything else (even dodge, which is odd)
  • The Gerwalks, which have medium stats and do not take movement penalty for terrain, and get terrain bonuses
  • The Batroids, which have the best stats, and are affected by terrain for both movement and the stat bonus.
The game does a pretty good job of making the various forms useful. The fighter is definitely the least useful form, but it's sometimes necessary when you have to move far. It can't be relied on at all for combat, though.

The first stage is easy as long as you go to Batroid form and sit on the base.

Stage 2

Kiryuu and Letradi are now part of an actual squad, and they have to go after some Zentradi. They try the Minmay Attack (song) but it doesn't work.

This is a tough stage! Our squad is very small, there aren't many NPCs, and there are a fair number of enemies. I actually thought this was one of the hardest stages of the first 14. Beating the ship will finish the stage. I used the mothership a lot.

Stage 3

Qwamzin from the original Macross is back, on the enemy side, although he's not the commander. They're trying to use the Minmay Attack to take over the galaxy, and have developed a defense.

This stage is much easier than the last one. Meltrandi appear and help you out with some of the Zentradi.

This game takes from Langrisser the idea of changing classes on level up, although in this case it's changing to different types of units. This makes a huge difference. 


Stage 4

One interesting aspect of this game is that you often have a lot of NPCs on the stage, and they aren't completely useless. They often soften up or even kill some of the units before you get there. Not a hard stage.

Stage 5

In this stage there's a time limit, but it's extremely generous. I had no trouble beating it in the time given. We also meet the Meltrandi pilot Misty, who is occupying the role of Milia from the original Macross (she's the one on the cover image).

Stage 6

Misty enters the battlefield for the first time here. She's tough, and I had to restart once because I moved my guys forward too aggressively. I was not able to beat her -- I had to rely on NPCs, unfortunately.

Stage 7

Vs. Meltrandi. Once again there are a lot of fairly useful NPCs, and we also start getting some grunt units that actually stay with the team and can level up. Misty goes into the human towns to spy, so we know what that means.

Stage 8

I actually got a game over in this stage because I took the Prometheus too far forward and got it killed by a bunch of enemies who all attacked it together.

This stage has a lot of useful NPCs but they can't all die or it's game over, so this is somewhat tricky -- what makes it doable is that the goal is just to beat the enemy commander's ship, which can be done before everyone dies even if you hang back at the beginning and let the enemies come to you.

After this stage I started getting the chooseable upgrades. Usually there's one unit with a short range weapon and then missiles or grenades (so you have to go back to the ship a lot to resupply) and the other one with a beam weapon that lasts longer.

Stage 9

Misty and Kiryu have a date.

I was afraid this would be a hard mission because you lose if enemies enter the city, but it takes them a long time to get there and I don't think it's a big concern.

Stage 10 

This is not a hard stage because the NPCs are so effective. I actually restarted once to try to get XP from Misty for my own guys, but I couldn't do it on the second try either.

So far the game's not bad for 1992; it compares favorably with the Super Robot Wars games that were out around this time (at least SRW 2). 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Game 12 - Vixen 357 (Stages 9-14)

Scene 9

On this stage we get a new member, Reiko Machida, as well as a ship that can carry another mech -- I didn't find this all that useful. On the whole, the missions are getting trickier simply because the grunts are so strong. I was able to beat this and the next scene without any deaths or game overs, but it's a little annoying having to go through the mission at a snail's pace, killing 1 or at most 2 grunts a turn.

Scene 10

Main thing on this stage is getting Kiel, one of the enemy units, who is a good pilot and comes with a good mech. 

Scene 11

This is another slow stage with pillboxes that shoot at your guys -- the dialogue indicates it will be tough but they don't do that much damage. It was another very slow stage as I took out one at a time, but after a while the boss sends the rest of the units at you, and then I just retreated and fought them out of the pillbox range.





Scene 12

The "fairy trick" is becoming more and more useful. This is done with Harry, Nina, and Chay. Basically you have one of them out in the Fairy, use the Marb Clamp to do damage, then return to the ship, and send one of the other pilots out to repeat it. This does a lot of damage to many units, but since the Fairy is weak it takes some time.

I notice that here and there the walkthrough author recommends levelling up by intentionally equipping weak weapons. I didn't do this, but I probably should have.

Scene 13

This is a difficult, long stage.


There's a wall of shield defended units, and then two bases at the back that spit out one unit a turn. Since the grunts are so strong I failed the first time actually trying to fight them all. The better strategy is an all out attack, moving forward as quickly as possible and destroying the bases as fast as you can.

Scene 14

This is where my playthrough ended. I notice that the youtube guy who was uploading videos of this game didn't finish this stage, and the walkthrough author said it was the hardest stage he had ever played in an SRPG. After an easy initial group, the boss comes in with reinforcements and gets your guys in a pincer attack. The grunts are even stronger than the ones in the past stages, and the boss is very strong and heals himself too. I failed a number of times and then tried following the exact strategy in the GameFAQs walkthrough and still couldn't do it.

This may be because my guys were underlevelled, and I might have been able to beat it if I used codes to increase the levels or started over and levelled more. But I'm only going to do that on games that are really fun, and this one is not (to me). Also there's a translation patch so anyone reading this can try the game for themselves. It has promise, but for me it was too slow and hard in a way that wasn't fun.

Next up is a Macross game, from the abandoned Macross II continuity.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Game 12 - Vixen 357 (Stages 1-8)

Vixen 357 (ヴィクセン357)
Release Date: 10/23/1992
System: Mega Drive
Developer: Masaya Games
Publisher: Nihon Computer


This is a mecha game by Masaya, the same company that did the Langrisser series. This is not much like Langrisser, though. It's the sequel to a 1990 PC Engine game called Hisou Kihei X-SERD (see a review and information here). I had rejected X-SERD as being an SRPG but that review mentions that the mechs can gain experience so it might actually qualify. In any case, this one definitely does

The opening sequence shows the various pilots with some animation and their names.


The instruction manual gives the backstory (also given before stage 1). In 2384, there was a war against an alien invasion, beaten back by the help of the new robot units called X-SERD. Earth took a lot of damage, and in order to deal with any future invasions, lots of time and money was poured into new weapons. But this also increased people's greed and ambition as well. In 2396, a new country called Merismahap developed VECTOR units, and created a battle squad composed only of these new units to test them (called Slash). The goal is to have the robots operate on their own, but for now pilots are necessary.

Murasawa Takuya, along with other pilots, is part of Slash and practicing at a test base. One day away from the base, they receive word that it's being attacked by an unknown squadron of Vectors. They return to the base to protect it, and that's where the game starts.

I'm conflicted on whether to say a lot about the story or not. Since Vixen 357 has a translation patch, you can experience the story for yourself -- on the other hand, some people might just be reading the entries without ever intending to play the game, and then could find story information useful.

Stage 1

The game starts out easy; you have three allies and then a bunch of NPCs attacking the enemies.


The "10" may remind you of Langrisser but it just represents the percentage of total HP the unit has left. The A and M show that the unit can still Attack or Move (or S for Special ability). I like that they displayed all that information in a clear, non-intrusive way.

Each unit has a melee and ranged attack. The dots next to the pilot show their ability in Hit and Evade for melee and shooting. Levelling the pilots up doesn't seem to do a whole lot; it adds a few points to their stats but takes quite a while to even gain one extra circle. Takuya is good at both melee and shooting, although the starting configuration for his mech has a much better melee weapon. Melee fights allow for counterattacks, ranged weapons do not.


Each battle has a short fighting sequence which can be turned off via options, but (as with Lady Phantom) they don't display any information about the result of the battle. If you are playing on an actual console it's probably worth doing in some of the later missions with lots of enemies, but on an emulator I found it better just to hold down the speedup button so I could better see what was happening.

The NPCs soak up enough hits that this first stage is fairly easy; the game does have permadeath so you have to be careful, but you can save at any time.

Stage 2

In Stage 2 we get the ship, Dread. Now units can return to the ship to heal, and also to switch mechs, or to switch weapons on a mech (although you have to wait until the next turn to leave again). Having this flexibility is nice, particularly with some of the more specialized units (like the one that's good in water).

Standing on the castle areas gives you +50% terrain bonus which is nice.

Stage 3

Lots of water on this stage, which is bad (-20% terrain).


The Dread has the special ability to heal itself, but it can only be used 5 times. Other pilots can use their special abilities as long as they have MP and then refill their MP in the ship, but once the Dread runs out of healing it's out until the next stage. There is no way to heal other than the ship or these special abilities, so you have to be careful about how much you let the ship get damaged.


Stage 4

Another big water stage, but this time at least the game gives you one mech that's good in water. There are also a lot of NPC units that help. This game is probably the most generous SRPG I've played in terms of NPCs that are actually somewhat effective.


The game still is not very difficult.


Stage 5

This stage has a lot of enemies, but I didn't find it that difficult -- the ship barely took any damage, and the counter attacks devastated the enemies. As the game progresses, more heroes and mechs join, and new weapon choices become available.



Stage 6

There's a trick to this stage because one of the new "allies" turns traitor along with some of his units. If you went forward too quickly you get pincered and can take a lot of hits, but as long as everyone is on the right of you the new units don't present that much of a concern.

This stage also introduces two annoying special abilities that will be around for the remainder of the game: Vacuum Wall, which gives every unit in range a shield that blocks several attacks. The second (which may actually show up next time) is Marb Clamp, which damages all units in range (and gets through the Vacuum Wall shield).



Stage 7

Here we get our own special mechs -- two girls piloting the Fairy and Panacea, which have the special abilities I described in the last stage. They are NPCs under attack, but they actually head for your ship and dock to heal, which is nice given the common AI in these SRPGs.
The team

Stage 8


I found this stage fairly difficult. Several enemies have the special abilities -- fortunately they can't recover their MP so it is a viable strategy to just send one or two units in to waste their abilities. There is apparently a 100 turn limit on every stage but that's hard to reach even if you take your time.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Game 11 - Shining Force Gaiden

(This post will not be quite as detailed as some of the others; I played the game over vacation and wasn't as careful about taking notes as usual.)

A mere six months after the release of Shining Force, Sega put out another Shining Force game, this one for their handheld the Game Gear. The Game Gear was one of several systems that tried to challenge the Game Boy, but really couldn't. I never had one, but I remember a few friends who did -- although it had the advantage of being in color, it ate up batteries much faster than the GB (and used more of them), and didn't have as good a game library. There are only 4 SRPGs for it on my list.

The graphics are serviceable, and not bad for the era it came out.





The interface is basically the same as Shining Force, but has some improvements -- for instance, you can actually see your character stats during battle.

However, I didn't play the game on the Game Gear. In 1994, Sega remade both Gaiden and Gaiden II as Shining Force CD, and added a short third scenario as well as a bonus "Museum" battle where you fight all the old bosses. So I'll be playing Gaiden 1 and 2 on the remake.


The Sega CD, like the PC Engine CD, was attempting to compete with Nintendo's products by offering the CD technology to improve the games. However, it had a persistent problem that the underlying hardware was not as good as the Super Famicom. So you had much better music and voiced dialogue, but worse graphics, and a generally poorer library (although PC Engine was much better in that regard). I don't know how much SFCD upgraded the gameplay and interface from Gaiden, but it seems fairly similar.

The game opens with a sequence narrated by Mitsuishi Kotono (Sailor Moon and others). The only voiced dialogue in the game are these opening and ending sequences. Like the PCE, the images are static pictures or pictures with minor animation.
For some reason they have English subtitles
The game takes place 20 years after the original Shining Force. Anri, who is now Queen, is put to sleep by a trick of the ruler Woldol of the kingdom of Surplice. The heroes, who are almost all children or disciples/friends of the heroes from Shining Force 1, have to go find a way to restore Anri and defeat Woldol.
Anri

The gameplay is almost identical to Shining Force. I only noticed two changes. The big one is that the game has no town exploration; instead, between battles, Larg (from the original SF) offers services that the towns offered before. The second is that the level ups seem more consistent than the original, and the promotion problem I talked about in the SF1 review is gone.


Your party is smaller than SF, but the characters are basically the same. 


The game is also a lot easier than SF, which was already not that hard, which is partly why I don't have that much to write about it. Since CD did come out in English, you can play to see the story for yourself -- it's basically a retread of SF1. I'm going to hold off a complete review until I finish the entire SFCD.

Sorry for the short post but I don't want to get hung up on this game -- I'm already more than halfway through Vixen 357 and I have more to say about that game.