Saturday, August 1, 2020

Game 40 - Arc the Lad

Arc the Lad (アークザラッド)
Released 6/30/1995, developed by G Craft, published by Sony


  1. Turn type: Speed based system
  2. Maps: Medium, Terrain bonuses.
  3. Character Customization: None.
  4. Character Development: Standard XP/level system.
  5. Party Size: Max 8
  6. Equipment: 4 accessory-type items.
  7. Game Flow: A series of required stages in order, but there are free battles to fight as well.
  8. Saving: Outside of battle.
  9. Death: Defeated characters are removed from the battle but return afterwards.

This is the first SRPG for the Playstation, which had come out in 1994. It was the first in a trilogy of games; they were not released in English until 2003. It seems that this was not originally intended to be a series, but Sony felt that the Playstation needed more RPGs to compete with other consoles. So Arc the Lad was released in basically an unfinished state; the main quest is very short and ends in the middle of the story, to be continued in Arc the Lad II next year.


The graphics are quite good for the time; the sprite work looks like improved late-Super Famicom graphics, the backgrounds are lush and well done, and the small number of FMVs fit well into the whole. What I find interesting about these early Playstation RPGs is that they were clearly following the Super Famicom model rather than the PC Engine model. The PCE had to rely on a lot of voice work, orchestrated music, and visual cutscenes to make up for the inferior graphics capability of the system. But early games for the PS1 like this have no voicing in the story sequences at all. Arc the Lad has a limited amount of voicing in the battles when the characters act and use their moves, although other games like Suikoden and Final Fantasy VII have no voice at all. This is in contrast to the shortlived PC-FX, which built on the PCE's success -- games like Der Langrisser FX and Power Dolls FX are fully voiced.


I used the Mednafen emulator, which I have already been using for the PCE and Saturn games. The game ran flawlessly on my 4-year old laptop and used a modest amount of the CPU.


The battle interface is streamlined and overall easy to use. You can move directly with the D-pad, attack with the circle button, and end your turn with the X button. You only need to open menus to use items or spells. The X button ending turn is tricky for someone used to most other SRPGs -- I kept accidentally ending my turn when I intended to take back my move instead (you don't really "take back" a move in the game, you just move somewhere else).


Each character has a basic attack, but then also has a number of special abilities that they learn -- mostly by levelling but a few characters learn by finding them instead. Arc is a basic fighter, Kukuru is a healer, Gogen is a magician, Poco has mostly buffs and debuffs, etc. The abilities level up as they level. It's a nice system that keeps each character different. Chongara has summon abilities which produce units that can create platforms, heal, or do other things.


My biggest problem with the system is the balance. This shares a quality of several other SRPGs -- due to something about the damage and stat formulas, a character who falls behind by a few levels becomes nearly useless in battle. It is possible to simply ignore this and only use a few characters. This is what I did, relying almost entirely on Arc and Gogen, with Kukuru to heal. This works, but I don't like having to do this. I think that you basically have to grind to avoid this. To the developers' credit they did provide a number of things to do other than the story battles -- there's a 50 floor optional dungeon, an arena, and a training center. So if you do want to grind your characters, you don't have to just play the same maps over and over.



The game takes place in a steampunk type world, although the steampunk elements are somewhat muted. You have airships to take you around to different places, but none of the main characters use any guns or anything like that. For the most part you can't explore towns, and maybe if you could the steampunk elements would be more evident.



The story begins with the mayor of the starting town tricking Kukuru into extinguishing the Cion Flame, thus releasing the Ark Demon into the world. Later, the main character Arc tries to fight the demon but gets wasted. A mysterious spirit gives him the power of the guardian spirit, and he sets out on a quest to find out more about his father and hopefully stop the monsters who have come into the world. The story is fine and has some nice developments and twists, and the cast is limited enough that you get to know all your companions. It's hard to say too much about it because this is only the first part of the story -- although it does finish after a climax point, you could probably beat this game in 5 hours if you knew what you were doing. If you do all the extra stuff that's probably another 15-20.

Arc the Lad II was released the next year; it's game 72 on my list so I will be getting to it before too long. The game allows you to carry over some things from the first to the second game so there's a continuity -- this is a feature that was enabled by the use of memory cards to save games. Did the PC Engine or Sega CD have any games that used the internal memory to enable a carryover?

Friday, July 17, 2020

Game 39 - Shining Force Gaiden: Final Conflict

Shining Force Gaiden: Final Conflict (シャイニング・フォース外伝 ファイナルコンフリクト)
Released 6/30/1995, developed by Sonic, published by Sega Enterprise




  1. Turn type: Speed based system
  2. Maps: Small. Terrain gives bonuses.
  3. Character Customization: Promotion at level 10.
  4. Character Development: Standard XP/level system.
  5. Party Size: Max 12.
  6. Equipment: 4 items, including one equip weapon and one equip accessory.
  7. Game Flow: 22 stages in order, no repeats or optional
  8. Saving: Between battles.
  9. Death: Defeated characters can be revived between battles for cost. If the main character dies it's game over, but you keep the XP and items you earned in the battle.
This is the sixth Shining Force game released in four years. If you've played another Shining Force game this will be familiar territory. Like the other Gaiden games there are no explorable towns between the battles, just a camp where you can purchase things and revive characters. The plot takes place between Shining Force I and II (the main games, not the Gaidens), and provides a link to those games and also Shining In The Darkness. So it's probably most interesting to people who have played at least SF1 and 2, since a lot of characters return from those games or at least are mentioned.


Since I played the other Gaiden games on the CD remake, this is the first time I played one of the games on the Game Gear. While the graphics do not look as good as Royal Stone, they're still not bad. When you compare the Game Boy games that have come out so far, I think that they did a better job here of reducing the Shining Force experience to a handheld game that still preserves the essential gameplay and isn't too short.



This will be a fairly short post -- I don't want to spoil the story since there's a good fan translation patch, and the gameplay doesn't require a long description because it's just more of the same. The story begins with Max (the SF1 hero) going off to fight Mishaela (who was in SF1 with her dolls) who is trying to revive Darksol, the SF1 boss. Adam, the robot, is damaged, but manages to get working again -- he won't be able to fight but he can act as the tactician for the team. A new main character comes along, and a new set of characters who all occupy the familiar classes and roles that you know if you've played the previous games. There are no new classes, abilities, or anything like that.



I found the game to be quite easy; possibly the easiest of the SF games. The only reason I had any trouble was that I was determined to level up Cynthia (the healer) to try to teach her Aura. But leveling healers in SF in general is hard, and it's really hard in this game. She has low MP and can't earn much XP by that, and dies in one hit from everything in the later game. I did manage to get her to learn Aura level 1 but it was such a hassle I moved on, and it turned out I didn't need her at all to win the game. I didn't use any Healing Rains either.



The second to last battle has lasers shooting at you but I was able to mostly avoid them while climbing the stairs. The final battle is like Shining Force 1. The hands have nasty spells but their HP aren't that high, and once you beat them, the face doesn't do much. 




After all that Shining Force, the series rests for a while (at least on the SRPGs). We'll see it again in 2 years (game 110!) with Shining Force 3, part 1. Next up is Arc the Lad which I've already finished, so I'll try to get that post out soon.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Game 38 - Shin SD Gundam Sengokuden Taishogun Retsuden

Shin SD Gundam Sengokuden Taishogun Retsuden (新SD戦国伝 大将軍列伝)
Released 4/21/1995, developed by Beck and Tecnocite, published by Bandai 


  1. Turn type: Speed based system?
  2. Maps: Small to medium. Terrain gives bonuses.
  3. Character Customization: None.
  4. Character Development: Standard XP/level system.
  5. Party Size: Varies from stage to stage, but it can go as high as 18
  6. Equipment: One item.
  7. Game Flow: 30 stages plus 20 optional stages. A few stages can be repeated.
  8. Saving: Any time.
  9. Death: Defeated characters come back after the battle with no penalty.

SD Gundam is a huge, sprawling offshoot of the already huge Gundam franchise. Within the SD Gundam franchise itself, there are all kinds of sub-series. One is the "musha Gundam" series, with characters modeled after ninja, samurai, etc. The series here is Sengokuden, which does not refer to the Japan sengoku period, but rather the Warring States period of China. All of the Gundams are modeled after Gundams from the main Gundam series, but are written with Chinese characters to make them seem Chinese. For instance, one of the first main characters is 衛府弓銃壱, read as efu kyuujuichi, that is, F91. Other times it's a meaning translation, like 翔狼士 for Doven Wolf. I'm not sure what the setting has to do with the Warring States period, though, since all the characters are derived from Gundams rather than historical figures.


The series began as a manga with action figures and other property, then this game came out. It apparently centers on the story of the second Sengoku-den series, although through optional battles it incorporates elements of the other series as well. I will begin with the story and characters, which are the most disappointing part of the game.



They put quite a bit of effort into cramming as many of the series' mechs as they could, including over 100 of the mechs from all the Sengoku-den series. While this may have been a lot of fun for fans of the series, it means that if you don't know the franchise at all it tends to just be confusing. Only a few of the characters are even slightly fleshed out, and by the end I really didn't feel like I even knew who the main characters were. The story is bland -- you set out to defeat the Dark Emperor, and every battle is just showing up in a place and beating the Dark Emperor's forces. There are one or two small plot developments but nothing major.



In addition to the 30 main stages, there are 20 optional stages (including a secret final stage). These stages sometimes involve a magical time travel to the past to fight historic battles, which allows them to insert Gundams from the previous series. Once again probably delightful for fans, but is hard to appreciate for me.



One of the things I like about Super Robot Taisen is that they do a good job of trying to introduce and develop the characters even if you haven't seen the series. There are so many that it can become overwhelming if you aren't familiar with a large portion of them, but at least they try. Here they don't even try. The amount of content in the game means that this is more than just a cheap cash grab, but they weren't trying to reach out to anyone beyond people who were already fans.



But the designers' attempt to appeal to the fans of the franchise means that they put a lot of effort into the graphics, and it shows. The sprites of all the characters are quite good for Super Famicom, and when you compare them to Super Robot Taisen 4 which came out the same year, they're much better. They also took the time to put all the attacks for each unit as well as decent animations for each one. This is definitely a strong point of the game.

The design of the interface also fits the Chinese them. Instead of arabic numbers, which are used in every game, this uses the Chinese characters to display everything -- so 78 hp is 七八. Terms that would normally be done in English or Japanized English are done using Chinese-derived terms. So damage, rather than ダメージ (which is just the English word "damage") is 痛手.  All the option menu things like BGM and animations are also in Chinese. The Chinese numbers for the stats take a lot of getting used to but it contributes to the theme.



Next, the gameplay. I'm somewhat hampered in covering this. Due to the coronavirus I was not able to acquire the instruction manual, and there are parts of the system that are still opaque to me even after finishing the game.

The system runs on speed-based turns, although I don't know whether a unit can take more turns than another unit. I don't think so, but I'm not sure about this. A nice addition to this game is that there are numbers from 1-9 that show who is going next. Multiple people can have the same number so you can't be sure exactly who is going to go next, but this provides more clarity than a game like Shining Force where you can't always plan your moves fully.



The system is standard SRPG; units can move, and then use attacks (with varying ranges, including AOE attacks), special moves, and some units can cast spells. Spells use SP, and the special moves can each be used a certain number of times each map. Moves have an element like Fire or Ice, or non elemental. They can cause status effects, or take away enemy SP.

The main problem with all of this is that the game provides no indication of what the power of each move is. I often found that moves did surprisingly low, or surprisingly high damage. I assume this has to do with some kind of weakness or strength of the monsters, but without the instruction manual I had no idea what the affinities were other than obvious things like Fire->Ice. Ranged attacks are nice because the enemy doesn't get to counter, but I could never tell how the ranged attacks compared in damage to the melee -- often they didn't seem very different.



This also means I could not tell whether the last set of stages was poorly designed, or whether I just didn't know enough about the system to tackle them effectively. I found that by this point the grunts were so strong, and did so much damage with their range and AOE effects, that it was effectively impossible to beat them. I could take a few out, but the only way I managed to beat the final stages was that eventually the boss will move towards you, and he always did it early enough that I could send everyone up in a big suicide attack to beat him before he killed all my units. If these had been "destroy all enemies" or if the bosses had stayed put, I'm not sure I would have been able to win the game.

There is an overworld map that you move around on. You can stop and buy healing items and some equippable things. The money is also used to pay your guys to join each fight, so sometimes you have to choose to take fewer units into battle than you can. The higher level a character is, the more they cost.

This is the final secret stage, where you can send out 32 units from a field of 57.


So my overall view of the game is ambiguous. The design and graphics are nice, the story is poor, and the system is complex but I never fully understood it because I didn't have the instruction manual and the in-game assistance was not good enough.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Game 37 - Super Robot Taisen 4

As usual for the Super Robot Taisen games, I'm pasting my old forum comments from 13 years ago, so this will not be the usual kind of post.

Overall this is the best of the SRW games for Super Famicom and I think it has an impressive amount of content for a game of this era. It still can be quite difficult if you try to play it without any walkthroughs or help, and the system is still fairly rough compared to later SRW games. But if you like this era of SRPGs I would definitely recommend it.

----

===================
SRW 4 (Dai-4-ji Super Robot Taisen)
Super Famicom, 1994
===================

SRW 4 came out about a year after EX. After you beat each route of EX it says the story will be continued in 4, so they were planning it at that time. This represents a huge leap from 3 and EX, and is the pinnacle of SRW on the SF (not counting the Gaiden game) [Kurisu 2020 note: I now think Gaiden (Masou Kishin) is not as good as SRW 4].

All the series from 3 and EX reappear, with the addition of five new series: Zambot 3, L-Gaim, Dancougar, Daimos, and Shin Getter Robo. There are over 250 characters in the game.

The changes from EX:
- FINALLY you can choose on a per-attack basis whether to dodge, block, or counter.
- You can now upgrade the mobility of a mech.
- Pilots now have two states, shooting and melee, and the weapons are separated into those types.
- You can equip items on a mech, although items are found on secret spaces on the map rather than from defeating enemies.
- Barriers (I. Field, etc.) now stop only certain levels of damage, not any attack like in the previous games.
- The pilots have skills now like Newtype and Sword Cut.
- The storywriting is much better; the character development is integrated with the plot better, the plots from the anime are used more overtly, and there are more factions with individuality.
- You have a customizable original main character.
- You can now see the damage you do to enemies over 10,000 HP, and when you drop them below 10,000, you get to see their true max HP.
- There is a character and robot dictionary in the options menu.
- The system where losing an ally changes people's morale based on their personality is added in this game (always makes a bigger difference on the enemy side).
- You can no longer see the enemy stats until you fight them once.
- The designers started to think more about the seishin and match the seishin to the character's personality. New seishin were added as well.
- Some units (like Combattler) can now separate and combine.
- The difference between Real and Super robots really increases in this entry. This is the first game where the game actually mentions "real" and "super" in the game, and there are specific stages for each. Also, with the introduction of the Mobility stat for mechs, the difference in dodging between a real and super robot is much more extreme than it was in the previous games. The size modifier hit rate also enters the game with 4, which adds to this.

Stage 1 - The Beginning

I took Ring with the magic 9/2 O birthday setup.  Real Robot.



Interestingly enough, in this game, DC and Neue DC are different groups.  Here you get attacked by DC.  This is a pretty good starting map; there's a 10000 gold spot in easy reach (Fa is a good item getter), two items, and two bosses with good money if you use Luck.  I was able to beat both Brocken and Ashura (Brocken flees at turn 6) and beat the stage in 5 turns.  I made 43,000 so that's pretty good for stage 1 (I think for the first time ever I actually used Boss' explosion seishin to hit 4 guys at once). 

Where you go for stage 2 is determined by the turn count here; I finished under 7 so that I can get the L-Gaim units earlier.

Stage 2 - Mysterious Visitors

Heavy Metal L-Gaim enters the SRW franchise.


Of course, they have the great beam coating (which is so frustrating on the enemies)


If you didn't beat the previous stage in 7 turns or less, you don't get the L-Gaim units until a little later.  The Titans also make their first appearance on this stage.

I wonder if it's possible to beat Hardias, who runs at turn 5.  I think it might be, if you spend all your money upgrading Getter Beam and send every unit towards him as fast as possible.  Even then it might not be, though.

Stage 3 - A New Enemy

First Heavy Metal stage.  It's somewhat hard, although most of the enemies don't have the beam coats.  You can end the stage more quickly by going after Gablae first, but that might actually make it harder.  There are also a lot of good items on this map.

Stage 4 - Special training!  Daisetsuzan Oroshi

Unlike the other path, this stage has only the Getter Robo and Texas Mack.  Ashura's Bood gives good money so I defeated him with Mack instead of Getter (Mary King has the Luck seishin).

Stage 5 - Bright's Return

This is the "save the medeas" stage; it's much, much easier than the one in SRW F.  If you just take your fast guys up to the top (use Speed) and leave slower people down at the bottom to deal with the reinforcements, it shouldn't be too much trouble to save all three.  The Dancougar pilots join in this map -- the four pilots and Hazuki (I think) are the only Dancougar people to show up in this game; even Shapiro does not appear.

Stage 6 - Stampede

Interesting stage.  The Dragonasarus has gone berserk and you have to kill it before it reaches a town.  The Titans help you out a bit, and the main character's love interest appears.  The Dragonasaurus is most easily defeated by luring it onto land (just don't let it touch the city) and then kill it.  The problem is Ashura's Bood.  Ideally you would want to kill both the Bood and the D, but if you kill the D, Ashura retreats.  The problem is that Getter 1 is the most effective robot to attack the D (because once it wastes a few shots, it can't attack flying units), but you probably won't be able to beat the Bood without Getter 3.  I didn't want to waste too many turns so I just went ahead and took out the D, but you might be able to plan it better.

Stage 7 - Fighter Daimos

As the title suggests, Daimos enters the SRW franchise.


I'm disappointed that F removed Daimos from the lineup (they also took out Zambot 3 and the Daitarn 3 enemies...not Super Robot fans, I guess.)  Here's Richter and Koros from Daitarn talking -- this is also a rare instance of Daitarn's enemies appearing in the game:


Stage 8 - Love of the Battlefield

Everyone's favorite stages -- Heavy Metal enemies. I upgraded my super robot attacks pretty well so this wasn't too tough. Thankfully the beam coats now do not offer complete protection so Amuro in the Re-GZ can kill enemies with hot blood.

Stage 9 - Zambot 3 Appears

Zezenan talks to Koros to make an alliance with the DC:


Zambot 3 is a rare appearance in SRW; I think aside from 4 it only appears in Compact 2/Impact, but I could be wrong.

Stage 10 - Sorrowful Memories

Sara is here, but Scirocco is dead -- some continuity from 3.  It seems like they were a little more careful with the 3/EX->4 continuity than they were with the 2->3 (F torpedoes it all, though).

Stage 11 - Awaken, Dancougar!

Title tells it all.  Dancougar sucks in this game for the most part; it can't fly, it doesn't have the Beastly ability, and you have to choose between Combattler V and Dancougar (allegedly because of space issues on the save file).

Stage 12 - Guyzock's Terror

Roph appears here talking to Butcher:


Guest seems to have their hand in the whole pot much more than in F, although I haven't seen the end of FF yet.

Defeating Butcher here before turn 8 changes events later in the game; I just used upgraded super robot attacks, and finished him off with Ring:


Stage 13 - Surfacing

Dunbine appears.

Stage 14 - Mazinger, flying in the sky

Gilliam shows up here, and strangely gets Neppu! Shippu! Cybuster as his theme instead of Time to Come.

Stage 15 - Miia's Decision

The Combattler V plot is introduced and finished in two stages; quite abrupt.  Although most of this map is Richter attacking you, using all DC forces (I guess the "alliance" was more Richter joining DC).  Also, after this map is the first instance of technical limitations of this game; apparently there were problems with the size of the save file, so in a few cases you have to choose between characters.  Here you have to pick Nana or Kyoushiro, not a huge problem.

Stage 16 - Great General Garuda's Tragedy

Here's the end of the Combattler V plot (again).  Most of the map is just fighting DC; in F they at least allow this to be a whole stage to give Garuda some dignity.

Stage 17 - The Expansion of the Aura Battlers

You get one of the Dunbine battleships in this mission depending on whether you have Galaria or not (you get a better one if you don't have her; I should have killed her).  Then it's more Heavy Metal enemies, but they're not too bad if you've upgraded Super Robots enough.

Stage 18 - Intruder

You have 6 turns to get to the base.  Some people like to hang around until turn 6 and beat as many enemies as they can; I just rushed Amuro to the base in 3 turns.  The Guest units appear here:


The treatment of the Guest is interesting in 4; they take a long time to show up, but the heroes seem to immediately connect them with Inspectors way before they even know what's going on (as early as stage 1 or 2).  In F, Zeb and Seti show up (and call themselves "Guest") pretty early, but nobody seems to connect them with the Inspectors or even mention that as a possibility.

Stage 19 - The End of Baron Ashura

I sort of took a cheap way out on this stage.  Once you beat Ashura you have 6 turns to get out of the base.  What I did was just take Getter 1 and the Gespenst over to Ashura and kill him, and then let the enemies destroy both units to save turns (for some reason if you get defeated then you don't lose the map -- this would be much harder if the condition was to leave the base in 6 turns and nobody can get killed).

Stage 20 - Elegy for an Old Soldier

This is kind of a tough stage; there are a lot of MS enemies with high mobility (the super robots have a much tougher time hitting them than they did in EX and 3). I used Shou in the Zwarth as a decoy; he's even better here than in F because Hyper Aura Giri is free, and the Zwarth has HP recovery. Sara joins you on this stage if you convince her with Katsu.

Stage 21 - Dr. Hell's Ambition

Sharkin returns after being defeated in 3; they make a point to say in the dialogue that he was already defeated (and Garuda).  I don't know if they'll explain this -- my guess is that all this bizarre activity will be explained due to Guest at the end, but we'll see.

Stage 22 - Turning Point

This is a quick and easy stage; not much to say about it.  Afterwards you get to choose space or Earth; I want a change of pace so I took Space -- we're going to stop Neue DC from dropping a colony on Earth.

Stage 23 - Into Space

I thought this would be a hard level, since I was left with a lot of unupgraded and low level units; it was tough but I managed to do it just in time on turn 10.  My guys levelled up quite a bit from this fight.  (I had Amuro in the Z Gundam, which helped a lot.  Kou was in the Re-GZ; he sucks horribly, as usual.)

Stage 24 - Meeting with AEUG

Quattro and Grendizer come in here.

The plots of 4 and F are such that listing the similarities would be easier than listing the differences, but in very very rough terms, this is the point in the story that SRW F reaches.  (It's interesting that this is over halfway through 4, but only a little over a 1/3 of the way through F/FF combined.)

Stage 25 - Assault! Limit Intervention Point

You just have to get Bright to the colony to stop it, but I destroyed all the units on the map.  Go me.

You also get help from some AEUG units, including the great Ball:


Stage 26 - Londenion

Lots of new units here; the Nu Gundam and the L-Gaim Mk II.  This is also the first appearance in SRW history of the Huckebein:


It's kind of odd to see the Huckebein as the most powerful unit instead of one of the least powerful.

Stage 27 - Granzon's Enigma

The stage itself is unremarkable, but afterwards the backstory of Shu and Masaki is developed a lot (I assumed a lot of this development would be in EX, but EX hardly has anything).  Granzon is built using Guest technology, and Masaki mentions an event a lot like the one in OG1 when Shu causes the disruption in the Guest/Federation alliance.  At this point you still don't really know what Guest is, though.

Stage 28 - Neue DC

Everyone's favorite pink-haired villian shows up here:


But you make peace with Neue DC so no fighting.  This is mostly a Goshogun stage.

Stage 29 - Mars Connection

Lots going on here.  You have to fight three waves of enemies -- first DC, then Guest, then L-Gaim.  I made sure to head directly for the city so I could be there, and I used map attacks alot.  Unfortunately I lost my battleship and had to pay 60,000(!) for repairs...ouch.

This is the first chance to fight one of the Guest bosses.  But why worry?


Their difficulty is way, way overrated.

Looking forward a bit, there are three possible L-Gaim final stages.  People mentioned on an older thread that the hard ones are some of the hardest stages in any SRW game, so I will try to avoid those.  To do so, the first thing you have to do is convince Olibee with Daba in this stage (RR only...if you are on the SR route you automatically get the hardest Poseidal stage at the end.)

Stage 30 - Koros and Don Zauser

You come across the other Masou Kishin characters here, but they leave to chase after Shu, and you get a pretty generic fight.

Afterwords, Koros reveals herself as the leader of DC.  This section shows the older style of SRW writing -- Banjo mentions that his father created the meganoids but this is just sort of a throwaway line; nobody reacts to it or mentions it again.

Stage 31 - Storm of Kilimanjaro

This is a rare "sky" stage in SRW, where you can only send out flying units.

Stage 32 - The Day of Dakar

You have a choice here -- have Blex killed and lose Quattro, or keep Blex alive and keep Quattro.  If you lose Quattro, you can get Gato and the Atomic Bazooka later.  I chose to lose Quattro because he's in a lot more games than Gato is.  This stage has a lot of interspersed story in it; much more like the later SRWs.

Stage 33 - Total Balance

A Dunbine stage.  There seems to be a split within the Aura Battler enemies.

Stage 34 - A New Power

This is the final Guyzock stage (if you killed Butcher earlier so he couldn't abduct the kids).  You can beat it in 3 turns or so by sending the Huckebein at max speed and then hitting Butcher with Miracle + fully upgraded Rip Slasher a few times.

Stage 35 - Singularity Point Collapse

This stage contains the big backstory reveal.  The Granzon had a "black box" containing black hole technology from Guest.  The technology opened a singularity that increased the chance of strange events happening -- Zezernan planned this so that a lot of bad things would happen to the Earth, making it easier to come and take over.  But Shu unlocked the secrets of the technology and stops the singularity, which also prevents Zezernan from bringing more reinforcements (for some reason).

You also get the Shin Getter here.  This is a new entry in this game; here's the signature attack (Stoner Sunshine):


The Black Hole Cannon also gets added to the Huckebein.

Stage 36 - The Glorious Sunset

This is the final stage for the Titans and Aura Battlers, and it's a long, tough stage.  There are a total of 51 enemies, 23 of which are named.  Also, before this stage your group splits into two teams, so you probably don't even have a lot of your most powerful units here.

Someone was mentioning earlier that the named enemies had normal suits in the older games.  This is true, and it changes the strategy -- you can't really just save all your EN and SP for the "bosses" because that's a waste.  I usually use most of my stuff on the grunts instead.  For this stage I had to expend almost all my resources and send my units back into the ship multiple times to refill their weapons.  MAP attacks are a huge help here -- I made good use of Huckebein's Micro Missile, ZZ's Hyper Mega Cannon, and L-Gaim II's Buster Launcher.  (Only 5 more levels for Lilith and she gets Miracle, supposedly.)

Now everything on Earth is taken care of; time to go into space and finish off DC, Neue DC, Poseidal, and Guest.

Stage 37 - Guest and Inspector

This is a tough stage; like the last one, you just have half the team, and the Guest enemies are pretty strong.  I lost quite a few of the scrubs but I won in the end -- the repair costs aren't high enough to bother resetting.

Afterwards, Mekiboz explains the Guest/Inspector relationship.  Interestingly enough, he calls the group Zovork:




The Japanese wikipedia article has Zovorg, so maybe they changed it in F/FF.  But "Zuvorg" seems to be wrong; probably there aren't too many people who have played 4 or F/FF that know Japanese, so that spelling became established.

Stage 38 - Poseidal's Ambition

Another tough Guest/Poseidal stage; there aren't quite as many enemies as the last two, and with three MAP attackers it's not all that bad.

This is the second step in getting the easy Oldna Poseidal stage -- you have to convince Olibee with Daba (this only works if you did it once before) and then Gablae with Daba.

Stage 39 - Ryuune Cappricio

I thought SRW 4 was fairly easy for the most part, but ever since this team split and these Guest/DC/Poseidal stages, it's different -- I think this game might be harder than SRW 3.  There are always double move enemies that can go all over the place, and the combined attacks of a large number of enemies can often kill a super robot even upgraded.  Since you only have about half of your good units, your firepower is reduced as well.

I was unable to save Gato in this stage; the NPCs are stupid and will never dodge or block, even if they are out of range of the enemies.  This makes it really hard to keep them alive.  I guess I should have kept Quattro.

Valsione R makes its debut, with a much better sprite than the original Valsione:


Unfortunately Ryuune doesn't join you here.

287 turns with 5 stages left until the final stage, so I should have no problem getting the good ending.  (I had 720,000 money after this stage so I tried to spend a lot of it...)

It looks like in 4S they added a stage at this point where you go save Presia; here it just takes place off screen.

Stage 40 - The Dark Side of the Moon

This is a Guest/DC level but it's much easier than the previous ones.  L-Gaim II was really useful here because the enemies kept lining up -- one MAP took out 8 people, another took out 12 (the maximum).  ZZ's MAP was also useful; I didn't even have to use the Huckebein's.

This is the third and last step in avoiding the hard Poseidal stage -- you have to convince Puru or Puru II with Judau, and then agree to go with them to Sweet Water after the battle (first choice).

Stage 41 - Scatter to Axis

Another Guest level -- this one is decently hard but if you make good use of Zamjeed and Cybuster's MAP attacks it's manageable.  It looks like the Guest units don't have anything beyond Leige Gheios; the Org Baryu and such were added in F.

Stage 42 - Haman's Shadow

This is the end of Neue DC -- you can convince Haman with Judau and then kill some enemies, and she'll leave, entrusting the fight against Guest to Londo Bell.  Interestingly enough, you do not have to fight Haman at any point in 4.

Stage 43 - Oldna Poseidal

The final L-Gaim stage, but if you take this route it's quite easy.  All you have are three enemies:


You only have to kill Blood Temple.  He has a lot of HP and is on a 30% defense increase scale, but when you have every unit in your arsenal at full HP, EN, and SP, he doesn't stand a chance.  I can imagine this fight being extremely difficult if you take one of the other routes and have to fight all the armies, plus Original Auge, plus Blood Temple.

Stage 44 - Deathmatch in the Wastelands

The final DC stage.  I pulled a cheapo and just went after Korosu and Don Zauser, so this wasn't much of a fight (although I did lose a number of units).

I have 308 turns so that's enough whether it's 320 or 350, so Shuu joined my team (causing Ryuune, Yanlong, and Tytti to leave).

Stage 45 - Final Battle on Mars

Before this stage, Bright tells you that you only need to defeat Zezernan.  OK Bright, if you say so!  That only took 2 turns -- I just rocketed my guys there as fast as possible and used one Soul'ed Sun Attack (then Z recovers HP), two Miracled Black Hole Cannons, a Hot Blood Ion Cannon, and then one Miracle Slash Ripper (I used Zambot 3's seishin to give Ring two additional turns).


--

The end!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Game 36 - Another Bible

FACTS

  1. Turn type: Player/enemy turns.
  2. Maps: Small. Terrain gives bonuses.
  3. Character Customization: You get points to freely spend at level up.
  4. Character Development: Standard XP/level system. Monsters can transform into new monsters after a few levels.
  5. Party Size: Max 10 on a stage.
  6. Equipment: One item.
  7. Game Flow: 21 stages. No alternate paths or repeats.
  8. Saving: In battle only.
  9. Death: Monster death is permanent. Main character death is a game over. Other characters can be revived out of battle.

This game is another in the long running Megami Tensei franchise. In the way that Majin Tensei was a counterpart to the Shin Megami Tensei games, this is a counterpart to the Last Bible games. The three Last Bible games are all based on the MT idea of summoning and recruiting monsters, but they take place in fantasy worlds rather than the dark, post-apocalyptic settings of the MT games. The storylines are more simplistic good vs. evil fights rather than the more nuanced MTs. These statements apply equally well to Another Bible.


This is also the first of a few games that I will be playing on the Super Game Boy. This was a Super Famicom cart that you put a Game Boy game in. I recommend the series of posts Fuck The Super Game Boy to learn more about it.

For Another Bible, we get a custom border, as well as custom palettes for the character pictures (so that appropriate colors can be used for them). In the screenshot below, a separate palette coloring has been applied to the bottom left square to provide colors specific to the character.


You start out with a main character, and quickly acquire a number of other human characters, including the female main character (in the above illustration). She has the ability you need to recruit monsters to your side. Unlike all previous MT franchise games, this game has no talking process for recruiting the monsters -- you simply use the ability and they join. You can only have one monster of each type.



The monsters gain levels just like the humans, although they need more XP. When they reach level 3, they will upgrade to a new monster in the same type, to a limit of 3 or 4 transformations. They also get 5 bonus points for states instead of 2 when they level up, so they can be quite powerful. The human characters are pretty good too, although given the theme of the game I tried to use monsters as often as possible.


There is no monster combination system. Instead, there is a way you can combine monsters with robots. But I found this system underdeveloped -- I didn't even get a robot until very late in the game, and by that point my monsters were so good it was hard for me to see what the benefit was of combining them with the robots. I did one combination but I didn't notice anything special about the result.


Speed is the most important stat in this game; as in Majin Tensei 2 you get two attacks if your speed is high enough compared to the enemies.

My party was usually a full team of monsters, the main character, and the Freon/Ozone sisters because they can talk to each other to double their attack power, have healing magic, and a range 2 attack with their spear.

The story is quite simplistic; monsters from the Beast Cult are attacking and the hero decides to save the world. There is some complication later and a few small twists but it's a kiddie-grade plot that barely serves to move the narrative forward.


Between many stages you can stop at towns and gain information, as well as buy items. The most useful item is the Joy Coin, which gives the wearer 5 xp per turn.


One other point of interest is that some of the levels are multi-level, with the staircase leading to a new place. Unlike the other MT games, each unit has to move up the stairs individually. This leads to a very slow fight in some cases, especially a few stages with empty floors.

The game's difficulty is quite low until the very end. I don't know why so many SRPGs have this issue. The final boss can basically only be hurt by the main character (because he has a power that ignores defense), but the final boss can kill the main character with a single critical hit. So there's a lot of resetting and waiting for luck.

Overall, this is a fine game when you consider the period it came out and the fact that it came out for a handheld system. But I'll repeat the same thing I've said about the other handheld games I've played. The primary selling point of a game like this, that it can be played away from a TV, is no longer relevant in 2020. This means games like this have aged far more poorly than the console games, and I'm afraid for most people this game will not be worth playing. It's not bad, but it's not particularly good either.